Posts Tagged ‘Miliband’

Time for a second referendum on whether Britain should leave the European Union — End the politics of grievance — Former British foreign minister David Miliband

August 13, 2017


LONDON (Reuters) – Former British foreign minister David Miliband called on Saturday for voters to be given a second referendum on whether Britain should leave the European Union.

Writing in the Observer newspaper Miliband, foreign minister under a Labour government between 2007 and 2010, called Brexit an “unparalleled act of economic self-harm” and said there should be another public vote once the final terms of Britain’s exit are known.

Although no longer a serving British politician, Miliband – brother of former Labour leader Ed Miliband – is still seen as an influential centrist voice.

His criticism joins that of a growing number of pro-EU figures from across the political spectrum who say Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit strategy is economically damaging and that voters should be given a chance to halt the process.

Reporting by William James, editing by David Evans



Tory Brexit policy is chaotic: the fightback against this stitch-up must begin at once


Democracy did not end in June last year. It is essential MPs have a say on the future or the country may be driven off a cliff
David Miliband

David Miliband says Brexit was an “unparalleled act of economic self-harm”  GETTY IMAGE

For many years Britons and Americans have been proud of the quality of their governance. Yet today our politics and government are setting new standards for dysfunction. Rather than stability and global leadership there is confusion.

The US is suffering from a serious inability to legislate. There is a genuine risk of the country defaulting on its debts. Jeb Bush called Donald Trump the “chaos candidate”, but as the American writer Jonathan Rauch has pointed out the Trump candidacy was the product of political chaos – in campaign finance, for example – not its cause.

Meanwhile, Britain is suffering its own governability crisis. Leaving the EU was mis-sold as a quick fix. Now it looks like a decade-long process of unscrambling the eggs of national and European legislation. Ministers cannot even agree among themselves the destination, the route map or the vehicles to get us there.

This transatlantic malaise has a common root: politics based on what you are against, not what you are for. Look at the campaigns against the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and against the EU. There is a common trope: the politics of grievance.

Complaints about individual policies became attacks against a whole institutional architecture. There were outright lies in both campaigns. And there was a complete (and effective) refusal to describe, never mind debate, what would replace the status quo.

Healthcare makes up nearly a fifth of the US economy – about $1tn larger than the whole UK economy. Support for Obamacare is growing, dramatically, because the alternative has finally been spelled out. It turns out that populism is popular until it has to make decisions.

In Britain, the implementation of the EU referendum decision has been rash and chaotic. The timing and content has been governed by factions in the Tory party. Our negotiating position is a mystery – even on immigration.

So the fightback against the worst consequences of the referendum has the opportunity and responsibility to get its bearings fast. Recent calls from Stephen Kinnock, Heidi Alexander and William Hague for Britain to embrace the European Economic Area are sensible. Nick Clegg’s point that a reformed Europe centred on the euro implies outer rings which Britain should consider also makes sense.

I never thought I would say this, but the chancellor, Philip Hammond, is also playing a valiant role. The transition he supports is vital. However, a transition postpones a rupture rather than avoiding it. Slow Brexit does not mean soft Brexit. Steve Baker, minister in the department leading the negotiations, has been refreshingly honest in saying the transition period is a “soft landing for a hard Brexit”. We have been warned.

The case against the EU depends on avoiding a discussion of the alternative. It is the equivalent of voting to repeal Obamacare without knowing the replacement. It is a stitch-up. That is one reason it is essential that parliament or the public are given the chance to have a straight vote between EU membership and the negotiated alternative. That is a democratic demand, not just a prudent one.

People say we must respect the referendum. We should. But democracy did not end on 23 June 2016. The referendum will be no excuse if the country is driven off a cliff. MPs are there to exercise judgment. Delegating to Theresa May and David Davis, never mind Boris Johnson and Liam Fox, the settlement of a workable alternative to EU membership is a delusion, not just an abdication.

Brexit is an unparalleled act of economic self-harm. But it was a big mistake to reduce the referendum to this question. The EU represents a vision of society and politics, not just economics. We need to fight on this ground too.

The Europe of Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel stands for pluralism, minority rights, the rule of law, international co-operation – and not just a single market. In fact, the real truth about the single market has been lost in translation.

It is not just a market. It is a vision of the good society. Rights (and holidays) for employees, limits on oligopolies, standards for the environment are there to serve the vision. The single market stands against a market society.

This is all the more important in a world where autocratic leadership is on the march. This is not just about China or Russia. The democratic world is itself splitting into authoritarian and pluralist camps. We can see Venezuela has taken a repressive turn. Within the EU, there is a battle to hold Hungary and Poland to their commitments, and Brexit weakens that effort.

And the US is not immune. John Cassidy of the New Yorker has coined the notion of “democratic erosion” – gerrymandered congressional districts, voter suppression and attacks on the media. Half of Republican voters say they would support the decision if President Trump postponed the next election.

The EU is not just a group of neighbouring countries. It is a coalition of democratic states which pledge to advance human rights, the rule of law and democratic rules. That is not a threat to Britain; it is the team we should be in.

So Britain’s choice about its institutional future is not just about pounds and pence. I favour the closest possible relationship with the EU, not only for economic reasons. The EEA does not just make business sense. Europe represents a vital and historic alliance of democracies, founded on the idea that social, economic and political rights go together and that countries best defend them in unison not isolation.

History makes the point. The post-second world war commitments to rights for individuals have their immediate political origins in the Atlantic Charter, agreed between Churchill and Roosevelt in Newfoundland in 1941. It set out the terms of postwar peace – notably human rights, national self-determination and international co-operation. It was called the “birth certificate of the west” by the former German foreign minister Joschka Fischer.

The insight was simple. Globalisation without rules and institutions would not mean more control for ordinary citizens. It would mean less. And less control means more risk to the living standards of those in greatest need. International co-operation was and is a force for social justice and against turbo-capitalism.

President Eisenhower said when you had an insoluble problem, enlarge it. The debate about transitional arrangements and institutional design of our relationship with the EU craves a broader framework. There is nothing more fundamental than the economic, social and political rights that looked like the norm at the end of the cold war. Now they are in retreat. Europe is their bastion. And that is the side we should be on.

David Miliband is president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, a humanitarian aid, relief and development NGO based in New York. He is writing in a personal capacity


David Cameron, liberal agenda to blame for ISIS — former head of Britain’s Armed Forces says

August 30, 2015

  • General Sir David Richards launches attack on Cameron’s Libya record
  • Said PM was too interested in pursuing a ‘Notting Hill liberal agenda’
  • Revelations come in an explosive new biography by Sir Anthony Seldon
  • Book provides dramatic account of behind-the-scenes rows in Cameron’s Government

The former head of Britain’s Armed Forces has blamed David Cameron for the rise of Islamic State, saying he lacked ‘the balls’ to crush them militarily when they first emerged as a threat.

In a scathing attack on Cameron’s record on Libya and Syria, General Sir David Richards, ex-chief of the defence staff, said the Prime Minister was more interested in pursuing a ‘Notting Hill liberal agenda’ than showing serious ‘statecraft’. Richards was backed by Britain’s spy chief, who delivered an astonishing personal slap-down to Cameron in a bitter Downing Street clash over Libya.

The revelations come in an explosive new biography of Cameron by Britain’s leading political biographer Sir Anthony Seldon, which is serialised in The Mail on Sunday starting today.

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Taking different sides: Cameron and Chief of Defence Staff General Sir David Richards in 2010

Taking different sides: Cameron and Chief of Defence Staff General Sir David Richards in 2010

Seldon’s book, based on unprecedented access to Cameron, George Osborne, fellow Ministers, military and diplomatic chiefs, Downing Street officials and mandarins, provides a dramatic account of behind-the-scenes rows in Cameron’s Government.

The book, Cameron At 10, reveals that:

  • The Prime Minister was in a bitter feud with Sir David over how to deal with ISIS and over his ‘half-baked’ campaign to oust Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi.
  • The general was echoed by the then head of MI6 John Sawers who told a shocked Cameron to his face that his plan to attack Libya was not in the ‘national interest’ but was purely for ‘humanitarian reasons’.
  • Barack Obama repeatedly refused to take Cameron’s calls, leading to a rift between the PM and the President. Cameron regards him as ‘too rational and considered’ and Obama is cruelly nicknamed ‘Spock’ by the Foreign Office.

An extraordinary bid by Tony Blair to arrange a ‘deal’ for Gaddafi to get out of Libya is also revealed by Seldon.

He says the former Prime Minister approached No 10, but the proposal was turned down by Cameron.

Cameron has vehemently defended his decision to lead the attack on Libya, though some experts say the fall of Gaddafi is linked to the huge rise in migrants trying to reach Europe by boat from Libya.

An extraordinary bid by Tony Blair to arrange a ‘deal’ for Gaddafi to get out of Libya is also revealed by Seldon

An extraordinary bid by Tony Blair to arrange a ‘deal’ for Gaddafi to get out of Libya is also revealed by Seldon

Critics are divided over whether earlier intervention in Syria would have halted the rise of Islamic State.

Seldon reveals a series of clashes between Cameron and the general over Cameron’s stance on Libya and Syria.

During lengthy interviews with Seldon for the book, Sir David castigates Cameron for failing to back plans for tougher military action when the Syrian crisis erupted in 2012.

The general tells the author: ‘If they had the balls they would have gone through with it… if they’d done what I’d argued, they wouldn’t be where they are with ISIS.’

He adds: ‘In Ukraine, as in Syria and Libya, there is a clear lack of strategy and statecraft. The problem is the inability to think things through. Too often it seems to be more about the Notting Hill liberal agenda rather than statecraft.’

In a showdown over Libya at a meeting of the National Security Council, headed by the PM, Sir David and MI6 chief Sawers challenge him head on.

Told bluntly by Cameron that his call for military action to depose Gaddafi is ‘in the British national interest, speak now or hold your peace’, they take up the gauntlet. Using the most direct language, Sawers delivers an astonishing personal rebuke to the Prime Minister, telling him it has nothing to do with ‘the national interest’ and saying Cameron is acting for ‘humanitarian reasons,’ pointedly drawing attention to the gulf between the two political motives.

Seldon also discloses a series of disputes between Cameron and Osborne. The author suggests Osborne initially resisted Cameron’s plan for an EU referendum because he feared it would damage him if he succeeded Cameron as Prime Minister of a UK that had left EU.

According to the book, Cameron was ‘angry’ with Osborne over the notorious ‘omnishambles’ Budget of 2012 and insisted on a bigger say in future Budgets.

Seldon lifts the lid on new details of personal squabbles between other senior Tories. He says furious Cameron warned Boris Johnson he risked helping Ed Miliband become Prime Minister and told Johnson to ‘f****** shut up’.

And he writes that Osborne regards Theresa May’s leadership ambitions as ‘ludicrous’ as tempers fray over immigration. Seldon and co-author Peter Snowdon do not pull punches.

Seldon writes that Osborne regards Theresa May’s leadership ambitions as ‘ludicrous’ as tempers fray over immigration

Seldon writes that Osborne regards Theresa May’s leadership ambitions as ‘ludicrous’ as tempers fray over immigration

They lambast Cameron’s ‘abject judgment’ in ignoring warnings not to appoint former News Of The World editor Andy Coulson, later jailed in the phone hacking trial, as his Downing Street spin doctor.

The book also provides a fresh insight into the dramatic events of Election Day on May 7.

The authors have obtained the contents of a pre-prepared speech conceding defeat to Miliband, delivered by Cameron to tearful Tory aides on the patio of his Oxfordshire home hours before he learned that, in fact, he would be heading back to No 10.

The book is the latest in a series of biographies by Seldon. His accounts of the Premierships of John Major, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, and now Cameron, have cemented his reputation as the most influential and respected political author in modern times.

Sir Anthony Seldon has had unprecedented access to David Cameron and George Osborne

Sir Anthony Seldon has had unprecedented access to David Cameron and George Osborne

If Cameron and his Notting Hill liberals had balls they would not be where they are with I.S.

Authoritative yet uncompromisingly tough, Sir Anthony Seldon is our leading political biographer. His books on Major, Blair and Brown have established an unrivalled reputation. Now, with co-author Peter Snowdon, he has had unprecedented access to David Cameron and George Osborne. Today we publish their compelling new biography of the Prime Minister – a gripping and at times astonishing account of the people who rule us…

During the Libyan uprising against Colonel Gaddafi in 2011, David Cameron works particularly closely with his chief of staff, Ed Llewellyn, who could draw on his experience as an adviser to Paddy Ashdown, when he was high representative to Bosnia in the early 2000s.

Cameron is full of zeal: weighing heavily in his mind is the human cost of inaction.

General Sir David Richards, chief of the defence staff, believes Llewellyn is egging on Cameron. He believes they have a model of the Balkans in their heads. By acting now, they think they can prevent another Srebrenica massacre in Benghazi.

The National Security Council, a body set up after the election to co-ordinate defence and security policy, meets daily and a split opens up. Richards and John Sawers, head of MI6, warn of the risks of ‘half-baked’ military intervention. Other NSC members – including Cameron, Nick Clegg and Llewellyn – are all in favour of action.

Some military and intelligence officials believe Cameron’s team are ‘20 years out of date when it comes to dealing with conflict’, having not been immersed in the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns.


Close bond: Cameron pushes Ivan as he goes shopping with his family in 2006 

Close bond: Cameron pushes Ivan as he goes shopping with his family in 2006

Cameron’s profoundly disabled son, Ivan, died at the age of six in 2009. Nothing in the Prime Minister’s life has affected him as deeply as the birth, life and death of his son.

‘David was just another talented Etonian until Ivan,’ says Andrew Feldman, chairman of the Conservative Party and one of Cameron’s oldest friends.

‘What Ivan gave him was compassion and humanity,’ says Feldman.

Cameron spoke movingly of Ivan in his 2012 conference speech, regarded as one of his best.

Feldman takes some credit for persuading him to open up.

‘I’m always telling him to bring out his inner Semite,’ he says, referring to Cameron’s Jewish ancestry (his great-great-grandfather was the Jewish financier Emile Levita), which Feldman thinks explains Cameron’s inner warmth.

Cameron becomes impatient with the Whitehall machine. At an NSC meeting in March, he declares that ‘intervention in Libya is in the British national interest, speak now or hold your peace’.

He is confronted by Sawers who tells him bluntly it is not a matter of ‘national interest’ and that Cameron is acting purely for ‘humanitarian reasons’. Cameron is surprised by the challenge, but quickly answers somewhat unsatisfactorily, ‘Yes, yes, but it is important that we do these things.’

It is statements like this that lead many in the intelligence and defence community to worry that the whole situation is ‘not clearly thought through’.

Progress against Gaddafi becomes bogged down and when Benghazi is secure, Richards says hostilities should cease and talks be opened with Gaddafi. Cameron rules out the suggestion.

Richards complains that he is not being listened to. Number 10 suspects he is talking to the press. Cameron’s frustration is rising by the week.

Whitehall is placed on a war footing, and what William Hague dubs the ‘anaconda strategy’ – squeezing Gaddafi to death – is launched.

Number 10 argues that they should be denying oil to forces loyal to Gaddafi, and taking out fuel lines and depots. Cameron agrees.

The military reply is that this is a NATO-led campaign and that these actions are inconsistent with the UN resolution. Cameron is frustrated and in favour of cutting loose from NATO and taking action unilaterally.

Tony Blair telephones Number 10 to say he’s been contacted by a key individual close to Gaddafi, and that the Libyan leader wants to cut a deal with the British. Blair is a respected voice in the building and his suggestion is examined seriously.

Cameron had been repulsed by Blair’s decision to rehabilitate Gaddafi, and as opposition leader had argued strongly in 2009 against the Scottish government’s return of the Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi to Libya on the grounds of illness.

Policewoman Yvonne Fletcher was killed by a Libyan outside their embassy in London in 1984, when Cameron was still at Eton. Four years later came the Lockerbie bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 killing 270 people. When the bomb was proven to be planted by a Libyan, Cameron became still more angry.

Gordon Brown claimed the Scottish government took the decision on al-Megrahi. Cameron did not believe him, and once inside Number 10, ordered a review into the episode. It concluded that the previous government ‘did all it could to facilitate’ the release of al-Megrahi’.

Cameron decides not to follow up Blair’s approach regarding a deal with Gaddafi: he wants to avoid doing anything which might be seen to give the Libyan leader succour. Richards’ complaints do not let up: he feels Cameron and the NSC are interfering with the military operation even down to the most tactical level.

Libya is a formative experience for Cameron. Rose-tinted spectacles have been removed from his eyes about fellow world leaders.

He cannot rely on Obama, nor Merkel, and Sarkozy’s ego knows no bounds.

Plan rejected: IS fighters march through the streets in Raqqa, the terrorist group's de facto capital

Plan rejected: IS fighters march through the streets in Raqqa, the terrorist group’s de facto capital

He is more sceptical of the MoD and the service chiefs than before. At the conclusion of hostilities, in an attempt to show that there are no hard feelings, he presents Richards with a signed photograph, and a first edition of T. E. Lawrence’s book, Seven Pillars of Wisdom.

But it is not the last of their battles. They differ again in 2012, over Syria, when the British military considers using Western ‘boots on the ground’ and air power.

When Richards presents his plan to the NSC, the response from Number 10 is that it would be unsellable to Washington as well as contrary to Parliamentary and public opinion.

Richards says: ‘If they had the balls they would have gone through with it… if they’d done what I argued, they wouldn’t be where they are with ISIS.’

Cameron’s foreign policy is becoming roundly criticised.

To Richards, the reasons are clear: ‘In Ukraine, as in Syria and Libya, there is a lack of strategy and statesmanship.

‘The problem is the inability to think things through. Too often it seems to be more about the Notting Hill liberal agenda rather than statecraft.’


Star trekkie: Obama gives Spock’s V-sign with Nichelle Nichols, who was Lt Uhura

Star trekkie: Obama gives Spock’s V-sign with Nichelle Nichols, who was Lt Uhura

‘It’s amazing to think they are doing this for us,’ says George Osborne to David Cameron’s communications chief, Craig Oliver, as they stand on a White House lawn in March 2012.

President Obama’s team is telling the world that Cameron is their friend, and that they are giving him the biggest party for an overseas leader of Obama’s first administration.

A senior White House aide says: ‘David Cameron is the first person the President wants to talk to on any issue.’ Number 10 doesn’t always see the relationship in such roseate hues. Obama’s business-like tone gives the impression of a lack of warmth and collegiality. If Cameron comes up with a good idea, Obama might say: ‘We’ve already thought of that,’ or ‘We will come back to you on it.’

Even Cameron often finds Obama too rational and considered. Obama loves the emotionless, logical Mr Spock from Star Trek and there is more than a passing resemblance between the two. His nickname at the Foreign Office has been Spock for years.

There is not the warmth between him and Cameron that existed between Thatcher and Reagan. It had started promisingly. Obama was the first foreign leader to phone the new Prime Minister on May 11, 2010. When they met, in Canada in June, Cameron had travelled in Obama’s helicopter and was boyishly excited. But Libya is to teach Cameron that he cannot fully rely on Obama.

Cameron and the French president Nicolas Sarkozy want to act militarily, but not without US support. However, Obama is sitting on the fence and won’t play ball. By March, it seems that Obama has had a change of heart, although it is still unclear whether the US would take part.

Obama’s unclear position causes anxiety in Downing Street.

‘He won’t take our calls because he doesn’t know where he stands. It’s not very impressive,’ spits out one aide.

The British ambassador tells Obama there will be military action from the British and the French with or without the Americans. Then, at last, Number 10 receives the message that Obama wants to speak to Cameron. America will help for the first week of action. ‘After that, it’s a British and French operation.’

On the weekend of March 19-20, 2011, UK, US and French forces launch air strikes in Libya. But by the end of July there is no conclusion in sight.

Both Cameron and Sarkozy are frustrated. ‘David, we are not schoolboys in short trousers. We are men,’ Sarkozy tells Cameron, to contrast their resolve with that of the fickle Americans. Eventually, Gaddafi is killed and NATO operations cease. Cameron feels vindicated but his relationship with the US president has taken a knock.

In May 2013, growing unrest in Syria prompts Cameron to travel to Russia to see Vladimir Putin to propose a peace conference.

Putin seems open to the idea. But Number 10 is disquieted to hear that US Secretary of State John Kerry has been in Moscow two days before. Cameron’s pitch is diminished. Then, on August 21, reports come in of a chemical attack on Damascus with as many as 1,300 killed.

But for the next three days, Cameron is unable to reach the President. On the evening of Saturday August 24, Obama eventually calls. Cameron speaks to him at Chequers.

Typically, Obama has spent three days deliberating and is now simply informing Cameron that the US will be making a cruise missile strike on Monday. Cameron writes to Obama to welcome this ‘decisive action’ but asks for reassurances. Cameron’s advisers are uncertain whether the US will strike the next day. No one knows exactly what is happening in the White House. Parliament is recalled but the Commons votes against military action in Syria.

Cameron camp ire is directed at Obama: they blame him for his prevarication which put them in an almost impossible position. A message is received that Obama wants to speak to Cameron. He calls and says: ‘Hey brother, I know you had a tough few days. I totally get it.’

But there is also deep American frustration with the British.

Had the vote not been lost, US missiles could have been fired against chemical weapons targets in Syria the following day. History would have been different. Assad and IS might not have been emboldened. The debacle causes the relationship between the White House and Number 10 to fracture.

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Conservatives claim decisive win in British election, defying predictions

May 8, 2015

By Giffe Witte, Dan Balz and Karla Adam
The Washington Post

LONDON — British Prime Minister David Cameron prepared to form a new government Friday morning while an ashen Labor Party leader Ed Miliband conceded defeat after voters defied predictions of a deadlocked election and put the Conservative Party on the cusp of a majority in Parliament.

The results, Miliband acknowledged in a dawn speech, were “very disappointing and difficult.” Minutes later, Cameron celebrated “what is clearly a very strong night for the Conservative Party.”

The results upended virtually all pre-election polls, which forecast a virtual tie between the Tories and the opposition ­Labor Party in the popular vote. Both main parties had been expected to fall well short of the majority needed to claim power outright.

But as the counting continued through the night and well into Friday, all signs pointed to an emphatic margin in favor of the Conservatives and Cameron, who is expected to return for another term at 10 Downing Street.

The result was a major disappointment for ­Labor, which had thought it was within striking distance of ousting Cameron after five years of Tory rule. It was also a bitter blow for the Liberal Democrats, who paid a steep price for having entered into a coalition with the Conservatives.

Ed Balls, Labor’s shadow Chancellor or finance minister, lost his House of Commons seat in what was seen as the highest profile casualty of the election when it was announced Friday morning, symbolizing the routing of the Labor Party by voters and showing that Britons were not confident of the party’s ability to run the British economy.

Ian Watson, of the BBC, reports that Ed Miliband is about to address Labour HQ where he will announce he will resign.

Douglas Alexander, who would have been Britain’s foreign secretary under a Labor government, also lost his seat, defeated by a 20-year-old student from the Scottish National Party.

The election’s other stunning development, one that had been predicted, was the overpowering win by the Scottish National Party (SNP) , which is redrawing the map of Scotland with a historic rout in what has long been one of Labor’s most reliable strongholds .

All seats in Scotland were counted by Friday morning, making clear the scale of the overwhelming landslide by the SNP there. The party won a staggering 56 of the region’s 59 seats, which makes it a key player in the new British parliament and could renew calls for Scottish independence.

Exit polls released by the BBC just after voting ended predicted that the Conservatives would win 316 seats in the 650-member Parliament, compared with just 239 for Labor. The results shocked most political analysts, and party leaders greeted the numbers with considerable caution, if not outright ­disdain.

But as one after another of the individual races reported results, there was growing acceptance that the exit polls had caught the mood of the voters far better than had the pre-election polls. With most seats accounted for, the BBC forecast Friday morning that the Conservatives would win 325 total seats. Because six members of the House of Commons do not traditionally vote, that would be enough for a working majority.

If they fall short, they would need the support of others to govern. But either way, they were expected to emerge in a far stronger position to begin to form a new government than nearly anyone had ­predicted.

Another Conservative-led ­government likely would mean doubling down on austerity for the British economy after years of belt-tightening, as well as a potentially divisive debate over Britain’s membership in the European Union ahead of a possible referendum in 2017. With the rise of the SNP, the results also presaged increased tensions between England and Scotland and renewed calls for Scottish independence.

[A new political order in Scotland threatens to upend the British election ]

Cameron spoke to those issues in Friday morning’s victory speech. He promised to continue his government’s efforts to eliminate the deficit and said a referendum on EU membership was one that “we must hold to decide Britain’s future in Europe.” He also promised to stand for “one nation, one United Kingdom. That is how I will govern.”

Leading Tories, as the Conservatives are known, had cautiously declared victory when the exit poll was announced late Thursday, saying their record in bringing the economy back from the depths of recession had been validated. ­Labor Party leaders, meanwhile, attempted to put the best face on what looked to be a deeply disappointing result.

Such a wide Tory margin will leave Labor in an extremely difficult position. Miliband, who had won plaudits for his conduct during the campaign, had hoped to be able to form a minority government, even if it came in second in total seats, by relying on the votes of the SNP and possibly others.

But with Labor running poorly, Miliband was already facing serious questions about whether he can continue as the leader of the party. In his Friday speech, he called on the next government to “keep our country together,” noting the surge of nationalist sentiment in Scotland.

The counting continued into the early morning hours Friday, with final numbers not likely to be tabulated until midday. But the Tory expressions of delight with the result began Thursday evening.

“I’m celebrating,” said ­Lawrence Worsley, a 48-year-old project manager, as he held a pint of beer high in the air at the Blue Boar, a swanky restaurant close to the Conservative headquarters in London.

“I think people who were undecided came to the polls and made their mind up at the last minute that it’s best to stick with what you know, something that has worked,” he said.

When the exit poll was announced on the BBC, a cluster of suited patrons watching on the restaurant’s big-screen televisions cheered, while others gasped audibly.

If the Tories fall short of an absolute majority, they will face a choice of whether to go into a formal coalition with other parties or to try to forge ahead with a minority government that wins support from allies on key votes. Whatever the final results, the Conservatives will find themselves trying to govern a country that is more regionally divided than it has been in many years.

Pre-election polls had predicted problems for the Liberal Democrats, but the collapse was even greater than anticipated. The exit poll projected that the party would end up with just 10 seats, down from 57 in 2010. Party leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg was one of the few to retain his seat, but he called it “a cruel and punishing night” for his party and hinted that he might step down.

The anti-immigration U.K. ­Independence Party (UKIP) was running third in the overall national vote, but it was struggling under Britain’s first-past-the-post voting system to turn support into seats. The party had won just a single seat by 6 a.m., and party leader Nigel Farage was in an extremely tough race to claim a second. Farage has said he will step down as party leader if he loses.

The Green Party was predicted to win two seats.

Thursday’s results followed a campaign that laid bare fundamental questions about Britain’s identity that could become even more divisive in the years ahead. At a time of growing U.S. frustration with its closest ally, Britain may be drawn even further inward and away from global affairs.

The Scottish nationalists, suddenly a major player in London after Thursday’s vote, want to break up the United Kingdom — and have often used a Tory government that is unpopular among Scots as their strongest argument for independence.

UKIP has campaigned to take Britain out of the E.U. and is likely to use its toehold in the House of Commons to force the issue.

[11 weird memes that help explain the British election ]

Before the campaign began, most analysts had expected that Cameron would coast to a relatively easy reelection, boosted by a recovering economy and a significantly higher favorability rating than Miliband.

But Miliband performed better than many expected in the harsh glare of the campaign, emphasizing the growing divide between rich and poor at a time of minimal wage growth and deep cuts to government assistance programs.

In the final days of the campaign, with the polls still tied, Cameron became more passionate on the campaign trail. He also became more negative, predicting that Labor would lead the country to economic calamity if voted into office.

That message appeared to have resonated, and may have turned the tide in his favor after weeks of political trench warfare that appeared to do little to move the polls.

After voting Tory in the tony North London neighborhood of Hampstead on Thursday, Norma Bainbridge said her decision came down to a single word: “money.”

“The Conservatives are quite clever with it,” said the 80-year-old. “Labor got rid of it. We were broke.”

Daniela Deane contributed to this report from London.

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David Cameron: British lives at risk unless we attack Isil — ‘These People Want to Kill Us’

September 24, 2014


The Prime Minister says Britain cannot ‘opt out’ of the fight against the extremists as he prepares to authorize air strikes in northern Iraq


Islamist terrorists are out to “kill and maim” UK citizens, David Cameron said on Tuesday, as he disclosed that a number of Isil terrorism plots have been foiled.

The Prime Minister said Britain cannot “opt out” of the fight against the extremists as he prepares to authorise air strikes in northern Iraq.

Mr Cameron will meet with Haider al-Abadi, the new Iraqi prime minister, who is expected to request British air strikes on Islamist targets. The bombing campaign against Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (Isil) could begin within days after Parliament is recalled to allow MPs to vote on the issue.

The Prime Minister warned that British citizens could be killed unless the terrorists are destroyed.

Mr Cameron’s comments came as it emerged that a dangerous new Syrian jihadist cell, known as the Khorasan group, was behind the terrorism plot which earlier this year led to a tightening of security at UK airports.

The group, made up of al-Qaeda fighters was targeting American and European airports using new, hard-to-detect explosives that could be disguised in toiletries, sources have disclosed.

In a separate development the family of Alan Henning, one of two Britons still held by Isil in Iraq, issued a new plea for his release. His wife Barbara said in the statement that she had received “an audio file of Alan pleading for his life” and urged his captors to “open their hearts and minds”.

Speaking on American television, Mr Cameron said: “There is no doubt in my mind it has already undertaken and is planning further plots in Europe and elsewhere, specifically in Belgium, in Brussels. It was an Isil plot that went into a Jewish museum [in Brussels] and killed entirely innocent people.

“And there are other plots they have been attempting including in my own country — in order to kill and maim innocent people. And the same applies to the United States of America. So this is a fight you cannot opt out of.”

Mr Cameron has faced criticism after he was blindsided on Monday night when Barack Obama launched air strikes against jihadist targets in Syria alongside a coalition of Arab countries.

Conservative MPs have warned that Mr Cameron’s failure to act in Syria has left the UK weakened.

More than 130 jihadists were killed in the US-led attacks, which were focused on the Isil stronghold of Raqqa in Syria.

It was reported that a British jihadist was killed during the air strikes.

The Khorasan group is reportedly led by Muhsin al-Fadhli (Rewards for Justice)

Speaking from the White House, Mr Obama pledged “to do what’s necessary” to deal with the threat of Isil.

He said that the backing of five Arab states — Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates — underlined the support he was building for international action to defeat Isil.

Downing Street said that Mr Cameron was made aware of the American air strikes before Mr Obama gave the go-ahead.

Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, said that the fight against the jihadists in Syria and Iraq was the “new Battle of Britain”. He told the Spectator magazine: “We’ve had attacks on the streets of London, on our transport system, at Glasgow Airport, the murder of Lee Rigby – how much more evidence do you need that this is a very clear and dangerous threat to our way of life and to all the democracies of the West? This is a new Battle of Britain.”

Mr Fallon also indicated that he believes Britain could take part in air strikes in Syria.

However, it is understood Mr Cameron will stop short of an intervention in Syria, amid concerns that he would not be able to get Parliament’s approval.

Mr Cameron is hopeful of securing support from Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, for military strikes on Iraq. He has said that he wants a UN Security Council resolution before strikes take place.

A resolution is considered to be an impossibility because of Russian and Chinese opposition to military action in Syria. But Mr Miliband’s aides said that Labour’s position on air strikes will not be conditional on getting a UN resolution.

Asked when Britain knew about the strikes on Syria, Mr Fallon said: “We knew before. We knew by the weekend that the window for air strikes on Syria had opened given the intelligence available.”

Liam Fox, the former defence secretary, criticised Mr Cameron’s failure to intervene in Syria.

Alan Henning (AFP)

He said: “If our allies act and we do not, we now risk exacerbating the idea, first achieved by the Syria vote, that we have opted out of any leadership role in global affairs.”

Gerald Howarth, a former defence minister, said the decision not to act alongside the Americans risked Britain being seen as a “national embarrassment”.

It has now been confirmed that the Khorasan group was behind the threats to planes earlier this year that prompted a major security alert which led to delays for tens of thousands of holiday makers.

Khorasan was “working on new improvised explosive devices that would be hard to detect, including common hand-held electronic devices and aeroplane carry-on items such as toiletries”, it was reported.

Mr Cameron also disclosed that UK forces are now close to identifying the Isil terrorist known as “Jihadi John”, who was responsible for the murders of two American journalists and David Haines, a British aid worker.

Two other British hostages — Mr Henning, an aid worker, and John Cantlie, a journalist — are also being held by the terrorists.

Asked by NBC whether British forces have “identified” the terrorist responsible for the killings, Mr Cameron said: “We have done a lot of work and we are very close to that.”

He added: “The key thing is making sure that we find them and make sure they do not escape justice. It is an absolutely hideous thing that these people have done.”

• Police in Australia have killed a terrorist suspect who had reportedly made death threats against Tony Abbott, Australia’s prime minister.

The man stabbed two counter-terrorism agents and was then shot dead after he was pulled over in his car in Melbourne. He had been under surveillance and is believed to be one of several suspects to have their passports cancelled in recent weeks amid concerns about Australians joining jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq.


From NBC News


British Prime Minister David Cameron told NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams Tuesday that he is certain ISIS is plotting attacks in Europe. “These people want to kill us,” Cameron said. “They’ve got us in their sights and we have to put together this coalition … to make sure that we ultimately destroy this evil organization.”

For more from Williams’s interview with Cameron, watch NBC Nightly News at 6:30pm ET.

“It has oil, it has money, it has territory, it has weapons. And there’s no doubt in my mind it has already undertaken and is planning further plots in Europe and elsewhere, specifically in Belgium, in Brussels,” Cameron said. “There are other plots they have been attempting including in my own country in order to kill and maim innocent people. And the same applies to the United States of America.’

His warning came as the U.S. and five Arab countries launched airstrikes on ISIS targets in Syria. Cameron said he hasn’t “ruled out” British airstrikes.

“We very much support the actions the Americans and others have taken. But we need to recognize this is going to take time, it’s gonna take real resolution and resolve,” he said. “And we need to make sure we are working very closely with those on the ground, the Iraqi forces, the Kurdish Peshmerga forces, and actually the Syrian national opposition — who in the end are the ones who will help to destroy and get rid of this appalling organization.”

Cameron also spoke about his planned meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the United Nations General Assembly, the first by a British prime minister since 1979. “I will do it not having softened in any way my views about the things that Iran has done and continues to do. I will be very clear. We think they are wrong to have this nuclear weapon program. We think they are wrong to support terrorist organizations.”

Iran says it is enriching uranium for energy purposes and is not pursuing nuclear weapons.

“It’ll be a tough conversation,” he said. “I’m not saying that my enemy’s enemy is my friend. I don’t believe that. But the fact is if we want to have a successful, democratic, pluralistic Iraq and if we want to have a successful, democratic, pluralistic Syria —Iran can play a constructive role in helping to bring that about.”

Closer to home, Cameron said that he had been “extremely nervous and worried” about the outcome of last week’s referendum on Scottish independence, which ended with a no vote. “And thank heavens in the end the result was very decisive — keep the United Kingdom together,” he said. “And this question is now settled for a generation or possibly, as the leader of the separatists put it, for a lifetime.”


Why Teddy Roosevelt was a great man — and modern politicians can’t get it

January 21, 2014


Photo: Alamy

Ed Miliband is suddenly very taken with the idea of competition. Over the weekend the Labour leader defended his plans to break-up Britain’s banks on the basis that they need to feel the “hot breath of competition”. He now invokes the Republican President, Theodore Roosevelt, who was a believer in “trustbusting” to challenge vested interests.

Eventually, someone may ask Miliband why if more competition is so essential in terms of delivering financial services or providing the energy with which we heat our homes – because it forces producers to consider the needs of customers, drives innovation and encourages the efficient use of resources – it is in contrast so terrible when applied in areas as important as providing good schools or health care.

I presume that Miliband’s answer would be that there are certain areas of public policy that are ring-fenced, that are too important to be exposed to competition of provision because they involve education and illness. This has always struck me as an odd argument. For too long education or health care that isn’t good enough has been the fate of many of the poorest in this country (I’m talking about England here, in Scotland sadly there is no interest in reform). But there are scarce resources. Why not encourage diversity of provision to encourage innovation and improvement, gaining the maximum improvement for as many people as possible and in effect making scarce resources go further? I don’t see why this should be regarded as uncaring; quite the opposite in fact. It is far worse, surely, to condemn people to a poor education because you are determined to maintain adherence to the abstract idea that competition is bad, and profit is bad, when it is connected to services we value.

It was on this basis that Tony Blair had his epiphany late in his first term in government. It led to him launching the hugely successful academy programme in England, which Michael Gove has continued and tried to build upon with free schools.

Incidentally, I remember Blair’s zeal (of the convert) when he explained, when I was interviewing him in 2006 on one of those trips to Scotland he hated, that competition was really great because it challenged providers to produce improvements. I spluttered. As a pro-market person I felt like shouting: welcome aboard.

Blair’s conversion on the importance of markets and competition was total. In fact, because he was so enthusiastic, having arrived at the idea late, after he became PM, he was far too starry-eyed on the subject. In the epic expansion of UK banking in a global market he saw only the upside. He even made a speech condemning the FSA, the light-touch financial regulator when it tried to make some pitiful efforts to check the bankers.

As he comes from further Left than Blair, Ed Miliband’s conversion to competition is possibly more wondrous, although it does seem to involve quite a lot of new bureaucracy and power for “consumer bodies” (which are not the same as consumers). But let’s not carp too much. Let’s overlook the contradiction for the moment. Miliband is a Labour leader prepared to use the c-word (competition). And he has reintroduced the name of Teddy Roosevelt, a great president, to British public discourse.

Not everyone is convinced. My colleague Tim Stanley wrote a fascinating essay, published in yesterday’s Telegraph, on the perils of Miliband seeking to latch on to Roosevelt.

Tim says that Miliband is only talking about Roosevelt because Labour has messed up its own relationship with its history, thanks to the ahistorical New Labour years. This is a good point. But Miliband is attempting to promote the need for consumer-driven competition. There is only a limited amount of that stuff to draw on in Labour’s history, it being by definition a party more interested in class struggle and labour fighting the forces of capital to secure safeguards or higher wages. So Miliband is, to his credit, looking somewhere else for inspiration. He could have cited Labour mutualism and the growth of self-help societies, although the work of the Reverend Paul Flowers and the Co-op Bank have made it somewhat unfashionable.

Tim also described President Roosevelt as a “racist, imperialist, power-hungry megalomaniac”, and thus not the model that Miliband thinks he is.

Here I cannot agree. Such a description – racist, imperialist, power-hungry megalomaniac – could just as easily apply to Winston Churchill, who in the mid-1930s defied his party’s leadership and foolishly staked his career on a mad effort to deny India even a modicum of freedom. Views on race or empire that are outlandish now were commonplace among statesmen and the public at large a century or less ago. It should not rule out a figure such as Churchill, or Roosevelt, from greatness in other areas if their ideas on empire do not fit our contemporary notion of acceptability. And if hunger for power and megalomania are to be banned in politics then the House of Commons and the US Congress will be half empty.

More on politics: It’s time for Labour to just shut up about welfare Why Labour should be terrified of Ukip Taxpayers face a loss of up to £10bn on RBS privatisation

I am an admirer of “Teddy” and for years, on innumerable occasions, have bored good people rigid with the idea that the Roosevelt we have most to learn from post-financial crisis, and in the era of giant tech companies with huge amounts of power, is not FDR but Theodore (he hated being called Teddy). He was hardly perfect. Indeed, one of his great enemies, the journalist H.L. Menken, described him on his death as “a liar, a braggart, a bully, and a fraud … but let us not speak evil of the dead.”

Roosevelt’s legacy is contested. Although he was a Republican, who eventually set-up his own party, libertarians and free-market fundamentalists tend to dislike him because they believe that the trustbusting he carried out against large corporate interests cleared the way for the expansion of the American state with its bossiness and intrusions. His fixation on masculinity and veneration of conflict also bordered on the creepy. Against that, remember he was a man of his time and lived most of his life before the horrors of the 20th century. By 1919 he was dead, completely crushed his friends believe by the loss of his son, a pilot shot down in France in the First World War.

He was no narrow isolationist. It had been his advocacy of the case for the US entering the First World War – the war that took his son’s life – that was so influential in ensuring that America did join to help ensure the defeat of Germany.

Before he became president he was a reformer of the police in New York, and of the civil service nationally. A determination to drive out corruption brought him popularity.

He was also an early environmentalist and conservationist. Not in the modern sense of knitting his own yogurt and putting a windmill on top of his house. According to Roosevelt, the natural environment needed to be nurtured and protected for future generations to enjoy, and not always sacrificed to the rapacious developer. America’s national parks were, in large part, the result of efforts he led.

Where his foremost claim for greatness lies is in the field of competition and the defence of the public realm. Initially he had doubts about the wisdom of trustbusting, meaning the government acting to break-up monopolies such as Standard Oil to introduce competition. Then as president he became convinced.

These were not monopolies that developed naturally, with bosses who happened to just get a little boisterous in their pursuit of profit. They were monstrous conspiracies against the public, run by tiny groups of industrialists and bankers who constructed “trusts” or cartels, sometimes in secret, designed to destroy any competitors and to protect a monopoly position. These were vastly wealthy capitalists who wanted to pull the ladder up behind them, to stifle competition and protect their position.

Roosevelt seemed to realise that after the rapid expansion of American capitalism in the 19th century, excessive power was concentrated in the hands of a few, people with names such as Rockefeller. In the America of the 1890s and earliest years of the 20th century it was as though the spirit of the original Wild West, tamed by that point, had transmitted itself into the industrial and financial sphere.

On behalf of his countrymen, with vigour, using wonderful rhetoric, Roosevelt sought to bring some order to the chaos. For capitalism to function and do its vital work of creating wealth in the interests of more than a small minority there needed to be “rules of the road”, otherwise trust in the basic ideas of capitalism fails and capitalism itself will come under threat. Anti-trust cases were brought, many under a successor he came to hate, and some industrialists were humbled.

Roosevelt took some strange turns after he left the White House and not all of what he did in office worked. However, he understood that if capitalism comes to be seen as the preserve of a selfish elite, pursuing its agenda with no care for the public realm or the treatment of their fellow citizens, then in time it – and the rest of us – will be stuffed. Some of these ideas were updated for a magnificent book published a few years ago by the economist Luigi Zingales. In Capitalism for the People: Recapturing the lost genius of American prosperity, he shows how in the age of globalisation – with enormous companies seeing themselves as being above nation states and banks that are global giants until their local taxpayers need to stump up for a rescue – these themes are more relevant than ever.

What is most extraordinary is that it is a Labour leader – the son of a Marxist academic – who is showing some interest in these ideas, while the British Conservative party and the Republican party in the US seem incapable of seeing it.

More by Iain Martin:

Osborne gives the Tories some meat on the EU

Time for Labour to bash the bankers again

Hague is right to dismiss Tory MPs’ plan for an EU veto


“It is not the critic who counts, nor the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly…who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” –Teddy Roosevelt





Christians Under Attack in Almost All Parts of the World: Herod’s massacre of the innocents is a living tradition

December 27, 2013

People stand among debris at the site of a bomb attack at a marketplace in Baghdad’s Doura District December 25, 2013.  Credit: Reuters/Ahmed Malik

The Washington Post

In some parts of the world, Herod’s massacre of the innocents is a living tradition. On Christmas Day in Iraq, 37 people were killed in bomb attacks in Christian districts of Baghdad. Radical Islamists mark — and stain — the season with brutality and intolerance.The violence, of course, is not restricted by the calendar. In recent months, we’ve seen Coptic Christians gunned down in Cairo and churches burned. Thousands of Syrian Christians have fled to Turkey. “Where we live,” said one refugee, “10 churches have been burned down. . . . When the local priest was executed, we decided to leave.”

Across North Africa and the greater Middle East, anti-Christian pressure has grown during the past few decades, sometimes subtle, sometimes overt. This persecution has gained recent attention from the archbishop of Canterbury and the pope. “We won’t resign ourselves,” says Pope Francis, “to a Middle East without Christians.”

The most passionate advocate has been Prince Charles — an often underestimated, consistently thoughtful figure. “For 20 years,” he said in a recent speech, “I have tried to build bridges between Islam and Christianity and to dispel ignorance and misunderstanding. The point though, surely, is that we have now reached a crisis where the bridges are rapidly being deliberately destroyed by those with a vested interest in doing so.”

The growth of this persecution is sometimes used as a club against the very idea of democracy promotion. Middle East democracy, the argument goes, often results in oppressive Sunni religious ascendancy. Majority rule will bring the harsh imposition of the majority faith.

But this is the criticism of a caricature. Democracy promotion — as embraced by the National Democratic Institute or the International Republican Institute or Freedom House — is about human liberty protected by democratic institutions. Securing institutional respect for minority rights is particularly difficult in transitioning societies, as we’ve recently seen. But clinging to authoritarianism further hollows out civil society, making the results even more chaotic and dangerous when a dictator falls. And even marginally more favorable dictators can’t be propped up forever, as we’ve also recently witnessed. So it matters greatly whether America and other democracies can help pluralism survive and shape the emerging political order.

This is a priority for both humanitarian and strategic reasons. As William Inboden of the University of Texas notes, there is a robust correlation between religious persecution and national security threats. “Including World War II,” argues Inboden, “every major war the United States has fought over the past 70 years has been against an enemy that also severely violated religious freedom.” The reverse is equally true. “There is not a single nation in the world,” he says, “that both respects religious freedom and poses a security threat to the United States.”

There are a number of possible explanations for this strong correlation. The most compelling is that religious freedom involves the full and final internalization of democratic values — the right to be a heretic or infidel. It requires the state to recognize the existence of binding loyalties that reach beyond the state’s official views.

It took many centuries for Christendom to achieve this thick form of pluralism. Whether the Islamic world can move toward its own, culturally distinctive version of this democratic virtue is now one of the largest geopolitical questions of the 21st century.

Some argue that Muslim theology — emphasizing fidelity to its conception of divine law — makes this unlikely (or impossible). Others point to past centuries when Muslim majorities and rulers coexisted with large Arab-Christian populations — a thin form of pluralism in which Christians were second-class citizens but not subject to violent intolerance. Every major religious faith contains elements of tribal exclusivity and teachings of respect for the other. The emergence of social pluralism depends on emphasizing the latter above the former.

Promoting democratic institutions is no easy task in the midst of revolution and civil war. But even limited levers — stronger condemnation of abuses, conditioning aid on the protection of minorities, supporting moderate forces in the region — are worth employing when the stakes are so high. America, however, seems strangely disengaged. “One of America’s oddest failures in recent years,” argue Economist editors John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge, “is its inability to draw any global lessons from its unique success in dealing with religion at home. It is a mystery why a country so rooted in pluralism has made so little of religious freedom.”

A recovery of that emphasis might begin with a simple commitment: not to resign ourselves to a Middle East without Christians.


Survivors of Super Typhoon  “Yolanda” march during a religious procession in Tolosa in Leyte on November 18,  over one week after the supertyphoon devastated the area. AFP/Philippe Lopez

An Iraqi Christian lights a candle at the Mother of Continuous Aid Church in the ​​Christian village of Ankawa, on September 22, 3013

An Iraqi Christian lights a candle at the Mother of Continuous Aid Church in the Christian village of Ankawa, on September 22, 3013 (AFP/File, Ahmad Al-Rubaye)

ap egypt church burning lt 130815 16x9 608 Egyptian Protesters Turn Fury on Coptic Christians

Damage to a Coptic Church in Egypt. AP Photo/Roger Anis, El Shorouk Newspaper

Christians 'face extinction' amid sectarian terror, minister warns

Pakistani Christians protest against the suicide bombing in All Saints church in the northwestern city of Peshawar in September Photo: A MAJEED/AFP

Vietnam Christians protest government persecution

Vietnam Christians protest government persecution

St. Mary Church in Fayoum attacked, looted

St. Mary Church in Fayoum, Egypt attacked and looted last August

7 DW:M Smyank


People gather at the site of suicide attack on a church in Peshawar, Pakistan, Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013. A suicide bomb attack on a historic church in northwestern Pakistan killed scores of people Sunday, officials said, in one of the worst assaults on the country’s Christian minority in years. (AP Photo/Mohammad Sajjad) AP

The vigorous, voracious press that keeps our country honest

October 14, 2013

Britain: Regulating the media would undermine its ferocious ability to highlight wrongdoing, writes Boris Johnson

I hope the press will tell the Privy Council to stick it in the privy Photo: Alamy

Good for Fraser Nelson. It strikes me that he is 100 per cent right. The   editor of The Spectator has announced that his ancient and illustrious   publication will have nothing whatever to do with any new system of press regulation. He will neither bow nor truckle to any kind of control. He will   not “sign up”. He will politely tell the new bossyboots institution to mind   its own beeswax, and he will continue to publish without fear or favour.

I think the whole of the media should do the same. Stuff all this malarkey   about the Privy Council and a Royal Charter. Who are the Privy Council, for   goodness’ sake? They are just a bunch of politicians, a glorified version of   the government of the day. We are on the verge of eroding the freedom of the press. We are undermining the work of everyone from John Milton to John   Wilkes – men who fought for the right to say and publish things of which   politicians disapproved.

Why are we embarking on this monstrous folly? Because of a string of   essentially political embarrassments that led to the Leveson Inquiry – and   at the beginning of it all was the expenses scandal, and the sense among MPs   that they had been brutally treated by the press.

It is true: they were mercilessly kicked for what they thought was a venial   sin – padding out their pay with expenses claims that did not stand up well   to scrutiny. But then it should have occurred to Parliament – collectively –    that they were not being entirely frank with the public about the way the   system worked. They were allowing the world to think their salaries were   relatively modest, when in fact they had found ways of inflating them – and   some of those ways were innocent, some were baroque, and some were criminal.

Yes, it is true that many good and honourable people (and their spouses) were   made to feel like lepers. But you could not seriously argue that the story   should have been suppressed, or that the actions of the media were in any   way improper, or invited some new legislative curb. That was the political   context in which Leveson was called into being, with MPs seething for   revenge. It was the hacking cases that gave them their pretext, the deep   public revulsion against what appeared to have been done in the case of   Milly Dowler by the News of the World – and the sensational potential   implications for the No 10 spokesman, Andy Coulson, a former editor of that   paper.

A public inquiry became inevitable, and before that inquiry there trooped a   succession of famous people who felt that the media had been not so much   wrong as plain beastly; just horrid in the way they behaved, the kinds of   questions they asked, the appalling things they wrote. By the end of the   whole fandango – and it was a long time coming – it was obvious that we   would have some kind of attempt at regulation; and it was also obvious that   any such regulation was a nonsense.

We already have abundant law against obscenity, or breach of official secrets.   We have laws against libel and defamation, against bugging, hacking, theft,   bribery of public officials. We have a growing tort of breach of privacy. We   have no need of some new body backed by statute, or the Privy Council, and   it is wrong in principle. You either have a free press or you don’t. You   can’t sell the pass, and admit the principle of regulation – because it is   in the nature of regulation that it swells and grows. You can’t be a little   bit pregnant.

Every day I see signs of investor confidence in London – and why do   international companies and individuals want to put their money in the   British capital? It is not just because of our bikes and our beautiful new   buses. It is because of the rule of law, the absolute certainty over title,   the virtual absence of corruption. They know that the British system is as   transparent and honest as any on earth, and I am afraid that is not just   because of the natural purity of the British soul: it is because we have a   vigorous, voracious and sometimes venomous media. And that is why the ruling   classes don’t dare bend the rules, in the way they do in other countries;   because no one wants to be dangled before that great media beast and look   into its bloodshot yellow eyes and feel the hot carnivorous breath of its   displeasure.

I am afraid it is inevitable that a vigorous media will cause occasional   heartache, and dish out the odd uncalled-for insult. It strikes me that Ed   Miliband was well within his rights to stick up for his father, for   instance. But you can’t regulate the press just because they are insulting,   or subversive, or find stories in tainted sources. We need someone to tell   us that we are all being spied on by the American security services – that   strikes me as being an invaluable bit of news, if hardly surprising. And if   papers are genuinely at risk of compromising our national security by their   revelations, then we have the D-notice system – to which all editors   subscribe – to keep them in order.

The last and most powerful point against any new regulation of papers is that   it is so completely pointless. We live in a world in which vast quantities   of news can be instantly disseminated across the internet, and by companies   way beyond any conceivable reach of parliament or government.

So I hope the press will tell the Privy Council to stick it in the privy; and   if you are bothered by those nasty people from the media, and they won’t go   away, and they continue to sit outside your house asking questions to which   you have already told them the answer, may I recommend that you do as my   children and I once did years ago. We imitated Eddie Murphy in Beverly Hills   Cop, and we stuffed bananas secretly up the reporter’s tailpipe, and I   remember us laughing helplessly at her air of puzzlement as she kaboing-ed   up the road. Far better than regulation.

U.K. Tabloid Daily Mail Attacks Opposition Leader’s Father, Riles Up British Public

October 4, 2013

British tabloid newspaper the Daily Mail — which runs the most  read online newspaper in the world, Mail Online — is facing criticism from  parts of the British press and politicians following its story criticizing the  late father of the leader of the opposition Labour Party, Ed Miliband.

The paper published an article on Sept. 28 by journalist Geoffrey Levy  questioning whether the beliefs of Miliband’s father — Ralph Miliband, a  Belgian-born Jewish academic and a leading Marxist thinker who died in 1994 —  influenced the Labour leader.

Labour Leader Ed Miliband Gives His Keynote Speech At the Annual Party Conference

U.K. leader of the opposition Ed Miliband  delivers his keynote speech at the annual Labour Party conference in Brighton on  Sept. 24, 2013.  Photo: Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images

In the article, headlined “The Man Who Hated Britain,” Levy  picked up on a diary entry written by Ralph when he was 17. “The Englishman is a  rabid nationalist. They are perhaps the most nationalist people in the world …   you sometimes want them almost to lose [World War II] to show them how things  are. They have the greatest contempt for the Continent … To lose their empire  would be the worst possible humiliation.” The article went on to suggest that Ed  was “determined” to bring about his father’s socialist vision.

The 43-year-old Miliband responded by accusing the Mail of lying  about his father. In an unusual move, according to some media analysts, the  paper featured the Labour leader’s response to the story on Tuesday. “There is no credible  argument in the article or evidence from [Ralph’s] life which can remotely  justify the lurid headline and its accompanying claim that it would ‘disturb  everyone who loves this country,’” wrote Miliband.

He wrote about how his father had joined the navy because he “was determined  to be part of the fight against the Nazis and to help his family hidden in  Belgium. He was fighting for Britain.”

Rather than withdrawing its original piece when it published Miliband’s  reply, the Mail, which is known for its nationalist, right-wing views,  republished it together with an editorial headlined: “An Evil Legacy and Why We Won’t  Apologize.”

The spat has continued as senior political figures from both the left and  right have either defended Miliband or defended the Mail’s right to  free comment. Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron commented: “All I know  is that if anyone had a go at my father, I would want to respond very  vigorously.” Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, speaking out on LBC radio, said,  “If anyone excels in denigrating and vilifying modern Britain, it is the  Daily Mail.” Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, argued that  newspapers should not have to apologize for being an “effective check on the  arrogance of politicians” and that politicians should not “tell editors how to  do their job.”

The Mail’s editor, Paul Dacre, is known in media circles for the  level of editorial independence he has in running the paper, writes media expert Roy Greenslade. According to Greenslade,  for Dacre, “the political is the personal” and the paper’s targeting of the  Milibands reflects its bullying methods.

Perhaps the most vociferous criticism has come from former Prime Minister  Tony Blair’s former director of communications Alastair Campbell. During a  debate on BBC’s Newsnight on Tuesday, Campbell confronted Jon Steafel, the deputy editor of the  Daily Mail, over the article. He said the Mail represented  “the worst of British values pretending to be the best” and that Dacre was “a  bully and a coward.”

Though the Daily Mail continues to stand by its original piece  criticizing the elder Miliband, its sister paper, the Mail on Sunday, has  issued an apology to Ed after one of its reporters intruded on a private  memorial service for his uncle on Wednesday. Miliband wrote to the paper’s  owner, Lord Rothermere, on Thursday saying that a common line of decency had  been crossed. He urged him to look into “who is responsible for the culture  and practices of these newspapers which jar so badly with the values of your  readers.”

Read more:


By  Tim Shipman and Sam Greenhill

The Mail on Sunday apologised ‘unreservedly’  to Ed Miliband yesterday after one of its reporters turned up uninvited at a  memorial service to his late uncle.

The Labour leader, who was giving a speech at  the service, said he was ‘appalled and shocked’ by the intrusion.

Geordie Greig, the editor of the Mail on  Sunday, issued an apology for what he called the newspaper’s ‘terrible lapse of  judgment’.

'Shocked': Ed Miliband‘Shocked’: Ed Miliband

And last night Lord Rothermere, the chairman  of Daily Mail and General Trust, which owns the Mail and the Mail on Sunday,  also apologised in a personal letter to Mr Miliband.

The reporter concerned and an assistant  editor have both been suspended and an investigation is being held.

The Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday are  autonomous papers with their own editors and separate staff.

Labour said the apology was ‘an important  step’ but insisted there was a need for a wider inquiry at the newspaper group  in the wake of the continuing row over the Daily Mail’s description of Mr  Miliband’s father, the Marxist intellectual Ralph Miliband, as a man ‘who hated  Britain’.

On Tuesday, the Daily Mail ran an article by  Mr Miliband dismissing the claim but has maintained that it was justified to  carry the original piece on his father’s political views.

The paper said it respected the right of Mr  Miliband to defend his father but that Ralph Miliband – to whom the Labour  leader constantly referred in his speeches – was a prominent academic who had  devoted his life to promoting a Marxist dogma that caused misery.

The paper’s position on the Ralph Miliband  article was defended by John Whittingdale, chairman of the Commons Culture  Select Committee, who said the Daily Mail’s robust stance was part of a healthy  press.

The memorial service for Professor Harry  Keen, an expert on diabetes, was held at Guy’s Hospital in London on Wednesday.  He was married to Ralph Miliband’s sister, Anna.

In a letter to Lord Rothermere yesterday, Mr  Miliband said: ‘My wider family, who are not in public life, feel understandably  appalled and shocked that this can have happened.

‘Sending a reporter to my late uncle’s  memorial crosses a line of common decency. I believe it is a symptom of the  culture and practices of both the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday.’

In a statement, Mail on Sunday editor Mr  Greig said the decision to send a reporter had been taken without his  knowledge.

‘I unreservedly apologise for a reporter  intruding into a private memorial service for a relative of Ed Miliband,’ he  said.

‘I would further like to apologise to members  of the family and friends attending the service for this deplorable intrusion.’

Mr Miliband said he would not be submitting a  complaint to the Press Complaints Commission.

Mr Whittingdale condemned the ‘clearly  unacceptable’ incident at the memorial service and said the articles on Ralph  Miliband were ‘somewhat offensive’ but he defended the right of the Daily Mail  to publish them.

He said: ‘The Daily Mail has a very robust  stance and that is part of a healthy press and I don’t in any way suggest the  Daily Mail should not be allowed to publish articles like the one that they  did.

‘We have a free press, the Daily Mail is  entitled to express a view. It will ultimately be up to the Daily Mail’s readers  if they think it was right that they print the piece, and obviously Ed Miliband  was entitled to respond, which he did so very robustly.

‘I think that is completely different to what  is clearly unacceptable behaviour invading a private family memorial service and  that shouldn’t be condoned.’

Lord Hunt, chairman of the Press Complaints  Commission, said he was ‘deeply concerned’ to hear about the incident at the  memorial service and would ‘continue to follow this matter’.

‘We would, of course, take forward a  complaint from the Miliband family, should we receive one,’ he said.

The PCC has received 767 complaints about the  articles on Ralph Miliband.

Bob Satchwell, Executive Director of the  Society of Editors, also defended the Daily Mail, pointing out that the  newspaper has also apologised for a picture of Ralph Miliband’s grave which ran  only on its website.

He said: ‘What we are dealing with is  essentially a political row between two camps.

‘What the Daily Mail did was to report the  row that was developing. They indeed did apologise for one part of that story,  and that was the picture of the gravestone.

‘They then gave a right of reply to Ed  Miliband. It’s essentially a freedom of expression issue as both Ed Miliband and  the paper have freedom of expression.

‘It’s not for me to second-guess an editor.  An editor should be free to edit the papers in the way that he wants to and then  deal with the consequences.

‘The readers are their judges – they are  there every day of the week, unlike politicians who are judged every five years.

‘The Daily Mail will attack any politician,  including the Prime Minister, and that is the role of a free press.’

A letter from Lord Rothermere was delivered  to Mr Miliband last night, but the Labour leader continued to demand an  inquiry.

A Labour spokesman said: ‘Lord Rothermere has  repeated the apology for the behaviour of the Mail on Sunday. This is an  important step.

‘However, he says he does not believe it  reflected the culture and practices of the Mail or Mail on Sunday, and also he  does not address the treatment of Ed Miliband’s dad over the last few  days.

‘We continue to believe these issues need  addressing and until they do so, many people will continue to believe that these  newspapers are not upholding the values and decency of the British  people.’

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Verbal Chellenge in British Politics: “Grow Up!”

August 18, 2013

Britain: Ed Miliband must “grow up” and show political leadership if the Labour Party is to get “out of the lay-by” and win the next election, one of his most senior allies has warned.

Ed Miliband, the Labour leader. Photo: PA

By , Senior Political  Correspondent

Lord Glasman, the Labour “guru” who was rewarded with a peerage by Mr Miliband, said that the party “does not know which way to turn” and is missing “open goals”.

His intervention comes amid growing concern that Labour has failed to make an impact this summer, when almost all the senior members of the shadow cabinet has been away on holiday.

Lord Prescott, the former Deputy Prime Minister, said that Labour has “massively failed” to hold the Conservatives to account.

He suggested that Mr Miliband needs to give his shadow cabinet the “hairdryer treatment” and threaten to sack them if they don’t improve their performance.

The party’s bad run culminated in Mr Miliband being pelted with eggs during a walkabout last week on his first public appearance since returning from holiday.

Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Lord Glasman said: “When Labour should be showing the way ahead, it gives the impression of not knowing which way to turn.

“When the Labour battle bus should be revving up, it is parked in the lay-by of introspection. It is time for Ed to show he is a grown-up politician big enough to lead this county.”

Lord Glasman, 52, was billed as his party’s “guru” after inventing the “Blue Labour” movement, aimed at winning back working-class support.

He suggested that while Mr Miliband has “great ideas” such as the living wage and a cap on interest rates, he needed to admit to the economic mistakes made by Gordon Brown’s government.

He warns: “All of this will count for nothing unless there is clarity on what went wrong under the last Labour government and what we now need to do to make things better.”

Lord Prescott, writing in the Sunday Mirror, suggested that Mr Miliband has been let down by his shadow cabinet. “This summer, we massively failed to get our case over to the public and hold the Tories to account,” he said. “We missed open goals.”

He added: “If shadow cabinet members aren’t pulling their weight, then give them the hairdryer treatment and kick them out. Time is running out. We can still turn it around and win in the second half. But we need the very best team, weak in, weak out.”

According to poll ratings released last week, Mr Miliband is the most unpopular leader of Britain’s three main political parties.

However Caroline Flint, the shadow energy secretary, claimed his unpopularity was not an issue. She told the Observer: “Individual popularity poll ratings are always given prominence, but the truth is that’s not always a significant factor.

“Think back to Labour leaders in the past who were popular but couldn’t win elections. Margaret Thatcher was unpopular but won elections. Sometimes these things are overplayed.”

Scandal that exposes Miliband’s weakness

July 7, 2013

By  Daily Mail Comment

It has been another wretched week for Labour leader Ed Miliband It has been another wretched week for Labour leader Ed  Miliband

For Ed Miliband, so desperately unimpressive  in the past few months, particularly in response to the spending review ten days  ago, it has been another wretched week.

He could never have guessed that a   Westminster barroom brawl involving Falkirk MP Eric Joyce would have such  seismic repercussions.

But the decision of Mr Joyce to stand down –  triggering a poisonous battle to become the next Labour candidate in this safe  Scottish seat – is now threatening to engulf the Labour leader, who has never  looked weaker or more indecisive.

The first allegations to emerge were that  Unite – whose block vote was crucial in winning Mr Miliband his job – had  swamped the local party with new members, so they could vote for the union’s  preferred Left-wing candidate.

Worse, we then discovered that ‘Red’ Len  McCluskey’s Unite was itself paying the new members’ subscription fees and in  some cases – in a potentially criminal act of identity theft – had even signed  up people without their knowledge.

A strong leader would have recognised the  huge political danger in allowing a militant trade union, which wants Labour to  wreck the economy all over again with more spending and more debt, to tighten  its already vice-like grip on the party.

Yet, for weeks, Mr Miliband knew about the  Falkirk allegations and did nothing.

It took the deeply suspicious resignation of  his election chief Tom Watson over the row, and the revelation that Unite had  tried to influence the outcome in a further 40 selection contests, to wake him  from this pathetic dithering.



But still his response has been  feeble.

Yesterday, Mr Miliband made much of the fact  he has referred Labour’s internal report into Falkirk to the police.

In reality, however, this was an act of  weakness, coming 24 hours after the Tory MP Henry Smith wrote a public letter to  the Chief Constable of Scotland calling for a full fraud inquiry.

Nor is Mr Miliband – that supposed champion  of openness and transparency – prepared to make the report public, despite  demands from a string of senior figures to do so.

This from a man who wants to shackle with  statutory regulation the free Press – without which the murky vote-rigging  within his party would probably have never been exposed.

In a carefully-crafted soundbite, Mr Miliband  – whose father, of course, was a Marxist – says he wants Mr McCluskey to turn  his back on ‘machine politics’.

Yet, as the Mail revealed yesterday, he has  quietly changed the party’s rules to make it a condition that any candidate in a  council or Parliamentary election must be a union member.

The truth is that, even if he wanted to, Mr  Miliband is in no position to confront Mr McCluskey over his bid to drag Labour  back to the bad old days of the Militant Tendency in the 1980s.

For if Unite (which has given Labour  £8million over the past three years) withdrew its financial support, the party  would go bust.

So Mr Miliband and Ed Balls stagger on,  desperately trying to sound convincing on the economy, yet unable to commit  properly to spending cuts, for fear Mr McCluskey might not like it.

Commendably, the Conservatives are being  ruthless in exploiting Mr  Miliband’s misery.

Yesterday, in stark contrast to Labour’s  civil war, they put on an impressively united front by voting 304-0 in favour of  the EU Referendum Bill.

They must maintain this newfound momentum and  discipline until general election day.

The alternative – the two Eds and their union  paymasters sat round the Cabinet table – is nothing short of  terrifying.

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