Garvan Walshe: The burkini ban is an attack on Western values

By Garvan Walshe

Garvan Walshe is a former National and International Security Policy Adviser to the Conservative Party

Never interrupt the enemy when he’s making a mistake, said Napoleon. Nothing short of violence is as likely to spur the outrage of radicalised young men as heavily armed French police ordering a Muslim woman to take off clothes deemed insufficiently immodest to wear on the beach.

The mayors of Nice and Cannes have been goaded into a culture war without the least clue about the culture they’re attempting to defend. They reflect their voters’ anxiety at what they believe is a strong, determined, Muslim culture, confident in itself, on the rise and capable of extreme violence against people like themselves. Not for them the distinctions between political Islam and the Muslim religion, quietist Tablighis and militant Wahhabis, let alone the gossamer that separates Islamic State, which stones women, chops off thieves’ hands and conducts military operations against civilians, from Saudi Arabia, which stones women, chops off thieves’ hands and conducts military operations against civilians (in Yemen).

They feel their culture is under attack and that the authorities, hemmed in by political correctness, won’t defend them. It’s the same kind of feeling that motivated Leave voters in the referendum and if it isn’t somehow addressed could get Marine Le Pen elected next year.

The authorities are failing because they’ve forgotten that the defining Western value is freedom. We believe that our system of government is superior to that practiced in Iran or Saudi Arabia or by ISIL because we’re supposed to allow people to do what they want as long as they don’t prevent anyone else from doing the same.

This liberty has never sat well with religion. Thorough-going Christianity and Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism, all try and control women’s behaviour, and all misinterpret the idea of religious tolerance to impose their views on the rest of us. It’s no surprise that thorough-going Islam, generously supported by our allies in Saudi Arabia, should try the same.

Political Islam is most dangerous to freedom not when it mounts a frontal attack on the West in the form of terrorism, but when it claims that the values we profess require us to accommodate its project to impose itself on Muslims who live here, and in the end bring about radical change to our whole society.

The wrong way to meet this challenge is to defend Western values because they are “ours” — to say, in effect, you’ve come to our house so play by our rules. This leads to the indefensible on French beaches. They may have their religious police, telling women to cover up. But now, at last, we have our secular police telling them to take clothes off instead. By descending to this level we give up the freedom that makes liberal civilisation special.

The right way is a good deal harder. There are some women who put on headscarves as as an assertion of identity not unlike like dying one’s hair black and getting tattoos of pentagrams in prominent places. But it isn’t only a phase people grow out of. Nor is it quite right to say that it’s just an assertion of identity, like wearing a cross or Star of David.

A symbolic assertion of identity wouldn’t cause the discomfort and alarm that the growth and increasing severity of Islamic dress codes for women provokes. A few eccentrics wearing weird stuff because they think their religion requires it isn’t enough to perturb a society. But the concept of hijab – Islamically derived rules of modesty for women – does. It’s a concept with Western equivalents (not long ago even piano legs were given petticoats lest they titillated Victorian men) and now, as then, it’s about controlling women and their sexuality.

The doctrine disturbs because it insists that of all the different ways to be a woman in modern society only one is allowed. All that power, self-expression, experimentation, emotional growth and sexual enjoyment that modern society permits women is denied by this doctrine of modesty, which is about so much more than dress: it covers a range of behaviour from physical contact with non-family members to being verbally assertive in public (both, unsurprisingly, frowned upon).

We should find this Victorian doctrine of control, which threatens the progress women have made in the last hundred years, disturbing (as I think we also do when similar doctrines are imposed on ultra-orthodox Jewish women). It co-opts the desire to assert identity into a sexist doctrine that advances itself, shielded by an appeal to religious tolerance. But we need to argue against its content, not coerce people who display its symbols.

There are plenty of forms of Islam compatible with life in Western Europe today: Saudi-inspired sexism is not one of them, any more than the ultramontane Catholicism of De Valera’s Ireland or Franco’s Spain would be. But if you do want to wear a burkini to the beach in searing summer heat, the police should protect your right to do so, not threaten to fine you for the privilege. Anything else betrays the liberty for which the West is supposed to stand.

Source:: Conservative Home

Rebecca Coulson: Ten reflections on a Momentum rally

By Rebecca Coulson

Rebecca Coulson is a freelance writer, and was Parliamentary Candidate for the City of Durham at the 2015 General Election.

As it seemed remiss to miss revisionist history in the making, I caught the Corbyn-Comeback-Not-That-He’d-Gone-Away Tour (starring John McDonnell) live at Redbridge town hall, last week.

There I am, groupie stash in hand: three socialist newspapers, a set of Stop the War flyers, and a poster-size memento, which I might frame. I’m through security successfully (a lady glancing politely in my handbag; no need for membership). And I’m into the Labour’s den…

1) Is this it?

I’d been hoping (against better judgement and awareness) for something more exciting. The audience wasn’t exactly militant: mostly middle-class older people, and families — dragged-along children were about the only ones younger than me. The evening’s ‘convener’ started by saying she knew the place from dropping off her sons for orchestra practice. So far, so familiar — for a Tory event. The hall must seat 700 — soft-backed chairs, heavy stage-curtains, and name all matching the Momentum colour scheme — but, with five minutes to go, there were maybe 200, sitting sparsely, some hanging at the back. When it began — quite late, no shadow chancellor yet — the room was just over half full, no change in demographics.

2) Where’s this ‘new’ politics?

It’s on the t-shirts, but it certainly wasn’t in the dreamy, funk-laced air — Marvin Gaye, Sly and the Family Stone — a post-civil-rights ’70s liberation vibe. The speakers weren’t new, either: ‘standard lefty Village People line-up,’ a friend said. The Teacher (‘I’m a bit nervous — I might’ve taught some of you!’), The Junior Doctor (Liz-Kendall-lookalike), The Area Representative (from next-door’s Momentum), and The Trade Union Officer (young, confident). Then, there he was: old John McDonnell, his dashing stories of the Corbyn Selection Wars peppered with the humour the modern left love to troll: ‘I offered to sleep with people’ to get Jeremy on the ballot, he reflected, looking wistful at the thought. And the policies — the few — were also unsurprisingly old-school. The reintroduction of rent control, and the repealing of ‘Thatcher’s anti-TU legislation’: ‘This is not revolutionary. It’s one of those basic human rights we should all aspire to.’

3) It’s shinier, though

Endless helpers — one in Tom Watson glasses — taking photos on iPhones, and a suited guy shouldering a press camera marked ATN Bangla. The helpers in blood-red t-shirts, Metroesque M-leg dangling down. There was even a short film, artfully shot, featuring their recent Liverpool rally — to make, the convener said, ‘an exiled [sic] Scouser feel more at home in Ilford’. Scenes of a (bigger) crowd; a well-spoken clergyman; faded interjections of Tony Benn declaring the NHS ‘the most socialist thing’; and Corbyn himself, ending his speech: ‘Thank you very much, Liverpool!’ A slurred ‘and goodnight’, and he could’ve been Elvis.

4) He may not have been there, but…

It’s ‘Jeremy’, with a smile and self-hug, as in: ‘I know him! It’s Jeremy. Who doesn’t?’ Or, it’s ‘JeremyCorbyn’ — dactyl trochee, Beatrix Potter — whom no-one can touch, yet everyone rates. And, in Redbridge, they clearly did: this was no attempt to persuade; no complaints at lack of Q&A. ‘He will be reelected, and he will be Prime Minister!’ shouted (ok, emphatically said) the area representative. McDonnell focused on the mandarin martyr: ‘He’s not a leader in a traditional way’ (Is Our Jeremy!). And, ‘I’m under strict instructions… I’m not allowed to go anywhere near small red books!’ (Is that a blush? He knows best, I know best, we all know best, isn’t this fab?) Jezza ‘opted’ for a Supermac ‘open-door policy’, don’t you know? ‘Every Wednesday’. Lunchtime? The only awkward moment came when the area representative got carried away in her praise of the Shadow Chancellor, having met him on the conference circuit ‘lots of times’: ‘I’ve often wondered why he wasn’t the Labour leader,’ she said brightly. Momentarily, everybody looked puzzled. Apart from one.

5) The bingo phrases are alive and well…

The junior doctor was particularly good: ‘The NHS is being sold off for profit’; ‘The NHS actually no longer exists’. And the teacher tried: ‘I’m a happy teacher because I’m a retired teacher! That is…all teachers love teaching…but we don’t teach any more’. The TU chap was a pro: ‘Jeremy is a man of dignity. He’s not doing this campaign for himself’ — unlike the ‘Punch and Judy nonsense that goes on in Westminster’. Full house, for sure.

6) …as are the contradictions

Tough, but here are my picks of the night:

i. The junior doctor saying the NHS was at breaking point (people phoning me up, ‘bleeding’ because they ‘can’t get beds’), minutes after: ‘Not to worry’, my colleague who was originally going to speak this evening has broken her ankle, but she’s ‘getting excellent care on the NHS!’

ii. Having stressed the need to ‘recognise democracy’, the area representative concluding: ‘Support Jeremy, or clear off!’

iii. McDonnell: ‘Government dominated by one person and a small group is unaccountable’… (See section 7.)

iv. ‘There was ‘no other way but to sack him’ — McDonnell referring to some ex-minister, before claiming: Jeremy ‘doesn’t like conflict. He’s a conflict resolver.’

v. McDonnell, again: ‘I liked Ed Miliband, to be frank.’

7) They still hate Blair much more than they hate the Tories

Predictably, Jeremy being touted as ‘the only person who can heal the wounds of TonyBlair’ gained a satisfied audience sigh. As did the TU guy’s opening anecdote about his Muslim mate, who — during the ‘crescendo of the Iraq war’ — felt uncomfortable riding the Central Line, because of ‘the way this government has made me feel’. (Yes, that’s Blair’s government, not the Conservatives’.) Then (oh so neat), McDonnell describing the former Prime Minister’s actions in Northern Ireland as ‘heroic’. Continuing, of course, with ‘then Iraq happened’. Bare ‘Iraq’ — the shorthand self-centre of a gap-yearing teenager ‘doing Chile’. Or Venezuela, perhaps. It’s not simply preaching to the converted‚ it’s skillful preaching to those who think they might be, too.

8) They don’t care about Owen Smith, either

A rare name-check came when the area representative criticised him for supporting Prevent, which she explained as ‘state-sponsored Islamophobia and racism’.

9) They’re making history, don’t you know?

And so we return to McDonnell’s warrior tales — his party bonfire entertainments. ‘Attlee and Bevan are remembered for the NHS. Corbyn and Rayner [he clarified who] will be remembered for the National Education Service: free education from the cradle to the grave.’ And the plots. The ‘very British coup’, which didn’t, amazingly, begin after the referendum. No. There was Oldham. And the mayors. And others, it turns out. Followed by the take-home line that, when The Establishment attacks him, ‘We are all JeremyCorbyn’. Nous sommes, indeed.

10) Anything more?

So much has been written about Momentum — since Mark Wallace’s original-and-unbeaten entryism exposé, here, last December — what’s left to say? Now, they don’t even have to hammer Umunna: none of that lot’s names were mentioned explicitly. We know where they stand. And McDonnell remains McDonnell — calculated style and little else, as long as you don’t go too deep. Maybe it’d have been different if JeremyCorbyn had been there. Maybe it wouldn’t. Dismissive acceptance is somehow complicit, but, hey, it’s just momentum — and it’s building up nicely.

Source:: Conservative Home

Rebecca Coulson: Ten reflections on a Momentum rally

By Rebecca Coulson

Rebecca Coulson is a freelance writer, and was Parliamentary Candidate for the City of Durham at the 2015 General Election.

As it seemed remiss to miss revisionist history in the making, I caught the Corbyn-Comeback-Not-That-He’d-Gone-Away Tour (starring John McDonnell) live at Redbridge town hall, last week.

There I am, groupie stash in hand: three socialist newspapers, a set of Stop the War flyers, and a poster-size memento, which I might frame. I’m through security successfully (a lady glancing politely in my handbag; no need for membership). And I’m into the Labour’s den…

1) Is this it?

I’d been hoping (against better judgement and awareness) for something more exciting. The audience wasn’t exactly militant: mostly middle-class older people, and families — dragged-along children were about the only ones younger than me. The evening’s ‘convener’ started by saying she knew the place from dropping off her sons for orchestra practice. So far, so familiar — for a Tory event. The hall must seat 700 — soft-backed chairs, heavy stage-curtains, and name all matching the Momentum colour scheme — but, with five minutes to go, there were maybe 200, sitting sparsely, some hanging at the back. When it began — quite late, no shadow chancellor yet — the room was just over half full, no change in demographics.

2) Where’s this ‘new’ politics?

It’s on the t-shirts, but it certainly wasn’t in the dreamy, funk-laced air — Marvin Gaye, Sly and the Family Stone — a post-civil-rights ’70s liberation vibe. The speakers weren’t new, either: ‘standard lefty Village People line-up,’ a friend said. The Teacher (‘I’m a bit nervous — I might’ve taught some of you!’), The Junior Doctor (Liz-Kendall-lookalike), The Area Representative (from next-door’s Momentum), and The Trade Union Officer (young, confident). Then, there he was: old John McDonnell, his dashing stories of the Corbyn Selection Wars peppered with the humour the modern left love to troll: ‘I offered to sleep with people’ to get Jeremy on the ballot, he reflected, looking wistful at the thought. And the policies — the few — were also unsurprisingly old-school. The reintroduction of rent control, and the repealing of ‘Thatcher’s anti-TU legislation’: ‘This is not revolutionary. It’s one of those basic human rights we should all aspire to.’

3) It’s shinier, though

Endless helpers — one in Tom Watson glasses — taking photos on iPhones, and a suited guy shouldering a press camera marked ATN Bangla. The helpers in blood-red t-shirts, Metroesque M-leg dangling down. There was even a short film, artfully shot, featuring their recent Liverpool rally — to make, the convener said, ‘an exiled [sic] Scouser feel more at home in Ilford’. Scenes of a (bigger) crowd; a well-spoken clergyman; faded interjections of Tony Benn declaring the NHS ‘the most socialist thing’; and Corbyn himself, ending his speech: ‘Thank you very much, Liverpool!’ A slurred ‘and goodnight’, and he could’ve been Elvis.

4) He may not have been there, but…

It’s ‘Jeremy’, with a smile and self-hug, as in: ‘I know him! It’s Jeremy. Who doesn’t?’ Or, it’s ‘JeremyCorbyn’ — dactyl trochee, Beatrix Potter — whom no-one can touch, yet everyone rates. And, in Redbridge, they clearly did: this was no attempt to persuade; no complaints at lack of Q&A. ‘He will be reelected, and he will be Prime Minister!’ shouted (ok, emphatically said) the area representative. McDonnell focused on the mandarin martyr: ‘He’s not a leader in a traditional way’ (Is Our Jeremy!). And, ‘I’m under strict instructions… I’m not allowed to go anywhere near small red books!’ (Is that a blush? He knows best, I know best, we all know best, isn’t this fab?) Jezza ‘opted’ for a Supermac ‘open-door policy’, don’t you know? ‘Every Wednesday’. Lunchtime? The only awkward moment came when the area representative got carried away in her praise of the Shadow Chancellor, having met him on the conference circuit ‘lots of times’: ‘I’ve often wondered why he wasn’t the Labour leader,’ she said brightly. Momentarily, everybody looked puzzled. Apart from one.

5) The bingo phrases are alive and well…

The junior doctor was particularly good: ‘The NHS is being sold off for profit’; ‘The NHS actually no longer exists’. And the teacher tried: ‘I’m a happy teacher because I’m a retired teacher! That is…all teachers love teaching…but we don’t teach any more’. The TU chap was a pro: ‘Jeremy is a man of dignity. He’s not doing this campaign for himself’ — unlike the ‘Punch and Judy nonsense that goes on in Westminster’. Full house, for sure.

6) …as are the contradictions

Tough, but here are my picks of the night:

i. The junior doctor saying the NHS was at breaking point (people phoning me up, ‘bleeding’ because they ‘can’t get beds’), minutes after: ‘Not to worry’, my colleague who was originally going to speak this evening has broken her ankle, but she’s ‘getting excellent care on the NHS!’

ii. Having stressed the need to ‘recognise democracy’, the area representative concluding: ‘Support Jeremy, or clear off!’

iii. McDonnell: ‘Government dominated by one person and a small group is unaccountable’… (See section 7.)

iv. ‘There was ‘no other way but to sack him’ — McDonnell referring to some ex-minister, before claiming: Jeremy ‘doesn’t like conflict. He’s a conflict resolver.’

v. McDonnell, again: ‘I liked Ed Miliband, to be frank.’

7) They still hate Blair much more than they hate the Tories

Predictably, Jeremy being touted as ‘the only person who can heal the wounds of TonyBlair’ gained a satisfied audience sigh. As did the TU guy’s opening anecdote about his Muslim mate, who — during the ‘crescendo of the Iraq war’ — felt uncomfortable riding the Central Line, because of ‘the way this government has made me feel’. (Yes, that’s Blair’s government, not the Conservatives’.) Then (oh so neat), McDonnell describing the former Prime Minister’s actions in Northern Ireland as ‘heroic’. Continuing, of course, with ‘then Iraq happened’. Bare ‘Iraq’ — the shorthand self-centre of a gap-yearing teenager ‘doing Chile’. Or Venezuela, perhaps. It’s not simply preaching to the converted‚ it’s skillful preaching to those who think they might be, too.

8) They don’t care about Owen Smith, either

A rare name-check came when the area representative criticised him for supporting Prevent, which she explained as ‘state-sponsored Islamophobia and racism’.

9) They’re making history, don’t you know?

And so we return to McDonnell’s warrior tales — his party bonfire entertainments. ‘Attlee and Bevan are remembered for the NHS. Corbyn and Rayner [he clarified who] will be remembered for the National Education Service: free education from the cradle to the grave.’ And the plots. The ‘very British coup’, which didn’t, amazingly, begin after the referendum. No. There was Oldham. And the mayors. And others, it turns out. Followed by the take-home line that, when The Establishment attacks him, ‘We are all JeremyCorbyn’. Nous sommes, indeed.

10) Anything more?

So much has been written about Momentum — since Mark Wallace’s original-and-unbeaten entryism exposé, here, last December — what’s left to say? Now, they don’t even have to hammer Umunna: none of that lot’s names were mentioned explicitly. We know where they stand. And McDonnell remains McDonnell — calculated style and little else, as long as you don’t go too deep. Maybe it’d have been different if JeremyCorbyn had been there. Maybe it wouldn’t. Dismissive acceptance is somehow complicit, but, hey, it’s just momentum — and it’s building up nicely.

Source:: Conservative Home

Henry Hill: Davidson accuses Sturgeon of distorting EU vote to sow discord

By Henry Hill

Davidson accuses Sturgeon of distorting EU referendum vote…

The leader of the Scottish Conservatives has attacked the First Minister for putting the political priorities of the SNP ahead of her duty to represent all of Scotland in the aftermath of the EU referendum.

In an interview with The Guardian, Ruth Davidson explained why she thought that Scots have not – as many pro-EU commentators and Nicola Sturgeon seemed to expect – shifted towards separation after voting differently to the UK as a whole in June.*

She later told Buzzfeed that there was a “clear will” for the referendum in the country, pushing back against claims that David Cameron had “imperilled the Union” by calling it.

Meanwhile Professor Adam Tomkins, a unionist legal scholar who was elected as one of the Conservative MSPs for Glasgow in May, has told the Evening Times that he believes the party has every chance of expanding its support in the city if it has the grace and patience to earn a fair hearing.

And Sir Malcolm Rifkind took up a theme advanced previously on this site, arguing that the SNP’s fixation on independence would eventually cost it support in ex-Conservative, strongly unionist parts of the country that backed it as a bulwark against Labour.

…as Corbyn moves to rule out Lab-Nat alliance

Politics Home reports that a ‘key ally’ of the Labour leader claims he will rule out a coalition with the Scottish Nationalists following a fierce row stoked by his Shadow Scottish Secretary.

As we relayed last week David Anderson, the English MP from the North East who currently holds the brief, refused to rule out such a pact, despite clear opposition from the party in Scotland.

A spokesman for Jeremy Corbyn is quoted as accusing the SNP of talking progressive in Westminster but not governing progressively in Edinburgh.

Meanwhile, some of Scotland’s biggest Labour-run local authorities have taken the Party’s new ‘resist through local government’ maxim to heart and threatened the Scottish Government with legal action over budget cuts, the Herald reports.

The Scottish Local Government Partnership (SLGP) broke away from Cosla, the primary local government body last year, insists that the SNP has to include it in budget talks.

More than 1,000 of the Party’s councillors backed Owen Smith for the leadership this week, citing the prospect of a second vote.

Brokenshire plans two-week tour of Northern Ireland to take soundings on Brexit

The Northern Ireland Secretary has announced his intention to canvass public opinion in the aftermath of the Brexit vote, according to the Belfast Telegraph.

James Brokenshire, who was promoted to the Ulster brief after serving as Immigration Minister in Theresa May’s Home Office, will aim to meet local businesses, politicians, and community leaders to make sure the Province’s interests are properly represented during the negotiations.

His experience with the immigration brief will come in handy as the Secretary of State tackles Northern Ireland’s greatest Brexit concern: the status of the border with the Republic of Ireland.

SNP criticised for ‘gagging’ journalist and putting payroll MSPs on committees

Two illustrations of the Scottish Nationalists’ authoritarian style of governing made the news this week. First was the startling revelation that two of their MPs had got STV to ‘muzzle’ Stephen Daisley, a popular and very active (and unionist-inclined) commentator.

Both Alex Massie and Iain Martin have good takes, but the gist is that Daisley’s articles seem to have stopped coming and his Twitter is much quieter than once it was. The two MPs apparently involved are Pete Wishart and John Nicolson, the latter of whom sits on the Culture, Media, and Sport select committee in Westminster.

Meanwhile, this article on Common Space reveals how a change to the Holyrood rules brought in by Alex Salmond (of course) has allowed the SNP administration to appoint so-called ‘Parliamentary Liaison Officers’ (PLOs) to Holyrood’s scrutiny committees, despite them being de facto members of the payroll vote.

The Nationalists have form in subverting the Scottish Parliament’s committee system, as the party’s constitution forbids its MSPs from criticising the Party – and thus, from scrutinising its policies.

Sinn Fein at centre of witness-coaching scandal

The Irish News reports that an up-and-coming member of the Northern Ireland Assembly has resigned following allegations that he coached a witness who gave “explosive” evidence to the committee he chaired.

Daithí McKay, who has resigned his North Antrim seat and been suspended from Sinn Fein, was chair of the finance committee when it was investigating NAMA, the province’s largest-ever property deal. It is claimed that he and a colleague communicated with Jamie Bryson, a loyalist blogger, before he gave evidence.

Now the committee – chaired by Emma Little-Pengelly of the Democratic Unionists – is calling for the suspension of Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, the Finance Minister, whilst the allegations are investigated. However Martin McGuinness, the Deputy First Minister, has resisted this, and the Times (£) reports that the DUP are trying not to let the scandal disrupt their coalition.

Welsh Labour accused of making stealth cuts as Smith attacked on devolution

The Labour administration in Cardiff Bay has quietly halved the level of support provided by its “flagship job creation programme”, Jobs Growth Wales, according to Wales Online.

Until recently it subsidised 100 per cent of a young person’s wages for six months, but now it is only 50 per cent. No announcement to this effect was made, and Wales Online say they only picked up on it thanks to a tip-off from the business community.

Russell George, the economic spokesman for the Welsh Conservatives, attached the Jones administration for sneaking out a major change to a high-profile policy without informing anybody.

In other news, Owen Smith’s leadership campaign rolled into Wales again this week – Guido Fawkes has described it as “Welsh-centric”. For all that, he managed to again land himself in hot water when Plaid Cymru tore into his claim to be an enthusiastic devolutionary, highlighting his poor attendance record at relevant Westminster votes.

—–

*One small post-script this week: before the EU referendum I made that case that it was unlikely to lead to Scottish independence which drew a sceptical response from Alex Massie. He now has a piece in The Times (£) explaining why Sturgeon is rowing back from her initial bullishness about a second referendum.

For those without a subscription, the key paragraph:

“Be that as it may, I still think a referendum unlikely. I base that on six factors. First, Ms Sturgeon is a cautious creature. Second, she appreciates she may only get one shot at winning a referendum. Third, outside the already committed there is no evident enthusiasm for another referendum. Fourth, there is, as yet, no convincing sign Scotland would vote Yes if the question were asked again. Fifth, the imminent publication of the government’s latest Gers figures will reinforce the weakness of the current economic case for independence. Sixth, Brexit does not simplify the argument, it complicates it.”

Many unionists voted Remain in no small part because of a serious fear that Brexit might give separatism the push it needed to do what it could not in 2014. Happily, that does not look likely thus far.

Source:: Conservative Home

Henry Hill: Davidson accuses Sturgeon of distorting EU vote to sow discord

By Henry Hill

Davidson accuses Sturgeon of distorting EU referendum vote…

The leader of the Scottish Conservatives has attacked the First Minister for putting the political priorities of the SNP ahead of her duty to represent all of Scotland in the aftermath of the EU referendum.

In an interview with The Guardian, Ruth Davidson explained why she thought that Scots have not – as many pro-EU commentators and Nicola Sturgeon seemed to expect – shifted towards separation after voting differently to the UK as a whole in June.*

She later told Buzzfeed that there was a “clear will” for the referendum in the country, pushing back against claims that David Cameron had “imperilled the Union” by calling it.

Meanwhile Professor Adam Tomkins, a unionist legal scholar who was elected as one of the Conservative MSPs for Glasgow in May, has told the Evening Times that he believes the party has every chance of expanding its support in the city if it has the grace and patience to earn a fair hearing.

And Sir Malcolm Rifkind took up a theme advanced previously on this site, arguing that the SNP’s fixation on independence would eventually cost it support in ex-Conservative, strongly unionist parts of the country that backed it as a bulwark against Labour.

…as Corbyn moves to rule out Lab-Nat alliance

Politics Home reports that a ‘key ally’ of the Labour leader claims he will rule out a coalition with the Scottish Nationalists following a fierce row stoked by his Shadow Scottish Secretary.

As we relayed last week David Anderson, the English MP from the North East who currently holds the brief, refused to rule out such a pact, despite clear opposition from the party in Scotland.

A spokesman for Jeremy Corbyn is quoted as accusing the SNP of talking progressive in Westminster but not governing progressively in Edinburgh.

Meanwhile, some of Scotland’s biggest Labour-run local authorities have taken the Party’s new ‘resist through local government’ maxim to heart and threatened the Scottish Government with legal action over budget cuts, the Herald reports.

The Scottish Local Government Partnership (SLGP) broke away from Cosla, the primary local government body last year, insists that the SNP has to include it in budget talks.

More than 1,000 of the Party’s councillors backed Owen Smith for the leadership this week, citing the prospect of a second vote.

Brokenshire plans two-week tour of Northern Ireland to take soundings on Brexit

The Northern Ireland Secretary has announced his intention to canvass public opinion in the aftermath of the Brexit vote, according to the Belfast Telegraph.

James Brokenshire, who was promoted to the Ulster brief after serving as Immigration Minister in Theresa May’s Home Office, will aim to meet local businesses, politicians, and community leaders to make sure the Province’s interests are properly represented during the negotiations.

His experience with the immigration brief will come in handy as the Secretary of State tackles Northern Ireland’s greatest Brexit concern: the status of the border with the Republic of Ireland.

SNP criticised for ‘gagging’ journalist and putting payroll MSPs on committees

Two illustrations of the Scottish Nationalists’ authoritarian style of governing made the news this week. First was the startling revelation that two of their MPs had got STV to ‘muzzle’ Stephen Daisley, a popular and very active (and unionist-inclined) commentator.

Both Alex Massie and Iain Martin have good takes, but the gist is that Daisley’s articles seem to have stopped coming and his Twitter is much quieter than once it was. The two MPs apparently involved are Pete Wishart and John Nicolson, the latter of whom sits on the Culture, Media, and Sport select committee in Westminster.

Meanwhile, this article on Common Space reveals how a change to the Holyrood rules brought in by Alex Salmond (of course) has allowed the SNP administration to appoint so-called ‘Parliamentary Liaison Officers’ (PLOs) to Holyrood’s scrutiny committees, despite them being de facto members of the payroll vote.

The Nationalists have form in subverting the Scottish Parliament’s committee system, as the party’s constitution forbids its MSPs from criticising the Party – and thus, from scrutinising its policies.

Sinn Fein at centre of witness-coaching scandal

The Irish News reports that an up-and-coming member of the Northern Ireland Assembly has resigned following allegations that he coached a witness who gave “explosive” evidence to the committee he chaired.

Daithí McKay, who has resigned his North Antrim seat and been suspended from Sinn Fein, was chair of the finance committee when it was investigating NAMA, the province’s largest-ever property deal. It is claimed that he and a colleague communicated with Jamie Bryson, a loyalist blogger, before he gave evidence.

Now the committee – chaired by Emma Little-Pengelly of the Democratic Unionists – is calling for the suspension of Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, the Finance Minister, whilst the allegations are investigated. However Martin McGuinness, the Deputy First Minister, has resisted this, and the Times (£) reports that the DUP are trying not to let the scandal disrupt their coalition.

Welsh Labour accused of making stealth cuts as Smith attacked on devolution

The Labour administration in Cardiff Bay has quietly halved the level of support provided by its “flagship job creation programme”, Jobs Growth Wales, according to Wales Online.

Until recently it subsidised 100 per cent of a young person’s wages for six months, but now it is only 50 per cent. No announcement to this effect was made, and Wales Online say they only picked up on it thanks to a tip-off from the business community.

Russell George, the economic spokesman for the Welsh Conservatives, attached the Jones administration for sneaking out a major change to a high-profile policy without informing anybody.

In other news, Owen Smith’s leadership campaign rolled into Wales again this week – Guido Fawkes has described it as “Welsh-centric”. For all that, he managed to again land himself in hot water when Plaid Cymru tore into his claim to be an enthusiastic devolutionary, highlighting his poor attendance record at relevant Westminster votes.

—–

*One small post-script this week: before the EU referendum I made that case that it was unlikely to lead to Scottish independence which drew a sceptical response from Alex Massie. He now has a piece in The Times (£) explaining why Sturgeon is rowing back from her initial bullishness about a second referendum.

For those without a subscription, the key paragraph:

“Be that as it may, I still think a referendum unlikely. I base that on six factors. First, Ms Sturgeon is a cautious creature. Second, she appreciates she may only get one shot at winning a referendum. Third, outside the already committed there is no evident enthusiasm for another referendum. Fourth, there is, as yet, no convincing sign Scotland would vote Yes if the question were asked again. Fifth, the imminent publication of the government’s latest Gers figures will reinforce the weakness of the current economic case for independence. Sixth, Brexit does not simplify the argument, it complicates it.”

Many unionists voted Remain in no small part because of a serious fear that Brexit might give separatism the push it needed to do what it could not in 2014. Happily, that does not look likely thus far.

Source:: Conservative Home

Nadhim Zahawi: Both men vying for the Labour leadership pose a threat to our national security

By Nadhim Zahawi MP

Nadhim Zahawi is a member of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee and MP for Stratford On Avon.

We live in an age of hyperbole of which politics is only one of many victims, but our political discourse in particular has become increasingly adversarial, aggressive and exaggerated. Tiny differences become inflamed into moral battles, small variations in opinion are evidence of treachery. This has left us not just with an inability to find strong enough words, but a credibility gap when identifying the scale of an opponent’s error on an issue of real seriousness. Perhaps we describe politicians and parties as increasing the danger to our country too readily, but such a description is terrifyingly apt for the current direction of the Labour Party, and its naïve current and potential leadership.

We first saw hints of this on the issue of renewing Trident. In reality there is the potential for a reasonable economic argument about other alternative options for our nuclear deterrent, and whether we have achieved best value for money, as there always is with any public expenditure. There are also reasonable moral arguments against holding nuclear weapons, the most terrible manifestation of mankind’s overwhelming ability to kill itself.

But nuclear weapons exist, and you cannot just hope they’ll disappear. To make an argument that if we removed our nuclear deterrent unilaterally that this would in any way change the world is utterly naïve. Does anyone seriously believe that taking the moral high ground and preaching to Russia and the Americans would convince them to disarm faster? Instead our voice would be silenced and Putin would feel even more comfortable meddling in European affairs, either militarily in the Baltic Region, economically through switching off gas to Eastern Europe, or politically with his propaganda stations already based in the UK. Our nuclear deterrent maintains an equilibrium, a status quo. Any sudden change in that balance would be dangerous. It would signal an increasing disinterest in protecting ourselves or our European allies, just as the USA is discussing drawing back its protection on our behalf. We would sacrifice so much to gain nothing but a feeling of being morally right and virtuous.

But the most immediate danger is the comments their candidates have made in the current leadership contest about ISIL and NATO. When Jeremy Corbyn was asked what his response would be if Russia attacked a NATO ally, he refused to confirm he would come to their aid. Instead he prefers to “achieve a world in which we don’t need to go to war”. That is all very well and good, but once again we must expect our leaders to do slightly more than just wish bad things away.

One of the many inherent flaws in Corbyn’s thinking, is his lack of understanding that no one ever hopes for war. He genuinely seems to believe that every problem in the world is caused by Britain and America desiring war, going out of our way to find it. In short he thinks we are the bad guys, that if he was in charge we could just stop meddling and everything would be sunshine and rainbows. In reality we go to war when it is deemed necessary to protect our country and our allies. It is painstakingly debated by everyone involved, the security services, the military, the Government and Parliament. Each person that has a voice in the process knows the grave nature of their decision. Each person knows the impact it would have on so many lives, both in our military and among local civilians. But each must also balance this against the evil that has forced us to act. It is difficult but worse things often happen when we step away. Corbyn hopes that if we ignore that evil it will disappear. I hope we will not see the added danger that policy would place us in.

Reasonable Labour supporters hope for change from this catastrophic leader, and have placed their faith in the ‘moderate’ Owen Smith. However he only has a slightly different form of naivety to offer to the British people. Instead of ignoring problems like ISIL, he would like to have a chat with them, and bring them into negotiations. His clarification that this would only be if they gave up violence merely displays more stunning ignorance about the organisation. ISIL are not the IRA. We cannot wait for them to give up armed struggle, and then negotiate a political solution with them, because it will not happen. They are not going to end their ardent wish to purge apostates, ethnic minorities and gay people in order to negotiate with Owen Smith. There is no negotiation, there is no give and take. When they believe God has commanded everything they do, to negotiate with us would be betrayal of their ideology. Syria requires a political solution, that is undeniable, but it cannot involve a group such as ISIL.

I know such warnings will be ignored by those in the Labour Party because they come from the voice of, evil of all evils, an actual Tory – and not even a red one, a legitimate blue one. But we cannot allow the fundamental safety of the British people and our role in increasing global security to be voluntarily compromised in this way. Labour has gone too far. We cannot have political leaders who proudly proclaim that if they become leader their foreign policy will be to just hope for a nuclear free, war free, ISIL free world. These are terrible and difficult problems and threats to our nation, but they only become graver if we ignore them. If Labour wants to survive it must quickly reassess, but if it does not it doesn’t deserve to.

Source:: Conservative Home

Iain Dale: I watch Loughton become the second most popular Conservative in Scotland

By Iain Dale

Iain Dale is Presenter of LBC Drive, Managing Director of Biteback Publishing, a columnist and broadcaster and a former Conservative Parliamentary candidate.

Since the election I’ve felt a bit sorry for the Liberal Democrats. They didn’t deserve to lose 49 of their MPs and only be left with eight. OK, I did take a little vicarious pleasure in the electoral demise of one or two of their number, I admit. However, I do think a third (or, in their case, fourth) party is necessary in our political system. They performed a role which whatever its frustrations was, at times, valuable.

Since their electoral demise you’d think they’d be happy to get any sort of attention. Yes – but at a price, it seems. They’ve now hit on the novel idea of charging publishers to do book signings at their party conference. Pay them £500, and they will graciously allow your authors to sign their books.

It’s an interesting form of licensed extortion. And this is how it will work: a publisher will give the conference bookshop a 55-60 per cent discount on the cover price of the book, and then have to pay £500 on top. Given all the other costs involved in the publishing process, the publisher will almost certainly make a loss unless a booksigning results in unexpectedly massive sales.

I ran the bookshop at the LibDem conference for five years, so I know that if you sell 20 copies at a booksigning, you’re doing well. Of all the different party members, I can tell you that LibDems are the most uninterested in books. They’re not buyers. A book that would sell 100 copies at a Labour conference would sell 30 at the LibDems – and that was in the days when their conference actually mattered.

So this particular publisher has told them what they can do with their demands for £500. No doubt other bigger, richer publishers will bow down and pay over the money. Well, shame on them.

Mind you, the LibDems do have an eye for a bargain. I well remember the beardy LibDem delegate who asked for a discount on a 50p postcard. He was told in no uncertain terms to go back to his constituency and…well, you can guess the rest.

– – – – – – – – – –

Anjem Choudhary is being sent to prison. Good. About bloody time. I interviewed him on my LBC show several years ago. Afterwards, I vowed never again to allow him onto the airwaves. He joined a select little band of extremists and nutters banned from my show. What a pity that Newsnight and Today didn’t adopt a similar approach. These people thrive on the oxygen of publicity. Whip that away and they preach to a small band of deranged acolytes.

– – – – – – – – – –

As Owen Smith warns us of yet another secret Tory plan to privatise the NHS – so secret that only he seems to know about it – there is one question that neither he nor Jeremy Corbyn seem at all interested in addressing. At the last election Labour got 9,347,304 votes. In 1997, Tony Blair (at this point any Corbynista should boo and hiss, or face being excommunicated from the cult) got 13,518,167. Why is no one asking where those 4.2 million voters have gone? And why?

– – – – – – – – – –

So Smith thinks we should “get around the table” with ISIS. Jesus, I think even I’d vote for Corbyn on the basis of that one idiotic remark. I know he thinks he has to move to the extreme left to attract support, but surely there are limits.

– – – – – – – – – –

If you have nothing better to do this evening, I am spending the last day of my two week summer holiday from my radio show, well, on a busman’s holiday appearing on Any Questions. The other three panellists are James Brokenshire, Chuka Umunna and Lindsey German from Stop the War! 8pm, then – or the repeat tomorrow at 1.10pm.

– – – – – – – – – –

I’ve spent this week at the Edinburgh Festival. Last year virtually everything I saw was a comedy or had some political tinge to it. Several of my friends said I should spread my wings this year and go to some plays too. So I booked to see the Chronicles of Narnia. Oh dear. A truly dreadful experience.

Rather better was a one-off performance by David Benson reprising his Kenneth Williams one man play, which he first performed 20 ago. Close your eyes and you could truly believe you were in the company of Kenneth Williams. Apart from the occasions when he lapsed into Frankie Howerd. Nay, nay and thrice nay!

I then went to see Guardian columnist Viv Groskop do a stand-up routine in a very bijou little venue. Her show was called How to be more Margo, ostensibly a celebration of the middle classes. My enjoyment was somewhat hindered by the middle-aged couple in front of me who spent the entire hour shaking their heads and tutting. I’m not sure what they were expecting, but what they got was clearly not it. The constant sneering at anyone who voted for Brexit got a bit wearisome and not really very funny, but I suppose it proved you can take the girl to Edinburgh, but you can’t take the girl out of the Guardian. Viv had some good lines, though, my favourite being a Waitrose supermarket tannoy announcement: “Would the owner of the Red Astra in the car park, please remove it and take it to Asda where it belongs.” A genuine Lol moment.

Show of the week so far has been Margaret Thatcher: Queen of the Game Shows. Starring Matt Tedford as the Magster, this followed on from his hugely successful Margaret Thatcher: Queen of Soho.

His great ability in writing the latter enabling to it appeal to people who idolise Lady T and to people who loathe her. Quite a feat. In this new musical extravaganza, Maggie becomes a Saturday night game show host, having grown exasperated at the state of Saturday night TV. It’s rather more pointedly anti-Thatcher than its previous incarnation. But still very enjoyable.

Tedford is joined by two other cast members who play a variety of characters from Bruce Forsyth and Cilla Black to Owen Jones and Angela Merkel. It really is a laugh a minute performance, some of it improvised, and at the end there was a deserved standing ovation, something that doesn’t happen very often in Edinburgh.

Thursday began with a double dose of Matt Forde. First off it was an hour of fast paced political standup. It was very good and very funny stuff. Even when he has slightly weak material he escapes from it through his brilliant mimicry. His David Cameron impression is the best I have ever heard, and he has Boris off to a tee.

A lot of the act concerned Brexit, and like Viv Groskop the day before, and Ayesha Hazirika later, his entire act consisted of barbed comments about racist Leave voters. They. Just. Don’t. Get. It. And probably never will. They all look at life through their soft, liberal lens without ever really venturing beyond the limits of the M25. That’s fine, it’s good for a comedy act – but all three of them demonstrate a total lack of comprehension as to what is happening in the country.

Forde’s second hour was an In Conversation with Tim Loughton. I did wonder (sorry, Tim) if he was a big enough name to fill the venue ,but I needn’t have feared. It was sold out. Tim was brilliant and extremely funny- so he has just become the second most popular Tory in Scotland. Forde does monthly interviews on stage with London and he adopts the very conversational approach, with humour, which tends to get the best out of interviewees. Tim was hilariously indiscreet on occasion. OK, on lots of occasions.

I had hoped to get along to see Geoff Norcott, one of the very few right-wing comedians in the UK, but my schedule wouldn’t allow. So later I moved on to a show called the Gayest Show You’ve Ever Seen. Well, in some ways I suppose it was, since it was hosted by a 26 year old wearing a pink T-shirt and high heels. The audience, shall we say, was not very numerous. Rather bizarrely, ten sat on one side and women sat on the other side of the aisle. Apart from me.

The show consisted of a ramble through our host’s coming out and series of sexual disasters. I’m sure he had a script, but judging from the number of ‘ers’ and ‘ums’ it was difficult to discern how rigid it was. As opposed to stiff. Nay, nay and thrice nay! If I was giving this show stars, it would struggle for a three. I didn’t not enjoy it; it was just a tad disappointing.

The evening finished with former Labour SPAD and stand-up comedian Ayesha Hazirika with her show Tales from the Pink Bus. She was genuinely laugh out loud funny, regaling her audience (which included Kezia Dugdale and Labour’s sole MP in Scotland, Ian Murray), with a torrent of anecdotes from her time working for Gordon Brown (whom she outed as a complete sexist), Harriet Harman and Ed Miliband. We learned a lot about Harriet Harman’s sense of humour and Ed Miliband’s moments of the Black Dog. We also learned that he was worried he was a badger. You had to be there, I guess.

There’s more from my Edinburgh diary on my blog at www.iaindale.com.

Source:: Conservative Home

Iain Dale: I watch Loughton become the second most popular Conservative in Scotland

By Iain Dale

Iain Dale is Presenter of LBC Drive, Managing Director of Biteback Publishing, a columnist and broadcaster and a former Conservative Parliamentary candidate.

Since the election I’ve felt a bit sorry for the Liberal Democrats. They didn’t deserve to lose 49 of their MPs and only be left with eight. OK, I did take a little vicarious pleasure in the electoral demise of one or two of their number, I admit. However, I do think a third (or, in their case, fourth) party is necessary in our political system. They performed a role which whatever its frustrations was, at times, valuable.

Since their electoral demise you’d think they’d be happy to get any sort of attention. Yes – but at a price, it seems. They’ve now hit on the novel idea of charging publishers to do book signings at their party conference. Pay them £500, and they will graciously allow your authors to sign their books.

It’s an interesting form of licensed extortion. And this is how it will work: a publisher will give the conference bookshop a 55-60 per cent discount on the cover price of the book, and then have to pay £500 on top. Given all the other costs involved in the publishing process, the publisher will almost certainly make a loss unless a booksigning results in unexpectedly massive sales.

I ran the bookshop at the LibDem conference for five years, so I know that if you sell 20 copies at a booksigning, you’re doing well. Of all the different party members, I can tell you that LibDems are the most uninterested in books. They’re not buyers. A book that would sell 100 copies at a Labour conference would sell 30 at the LibDems – and that was in the days when their conference actually mattered.

So this particular publisher has told them what they can do with their demands for £500. No doubt other bigger, richer publishers will bow down and pay over the money. Well, shame on them.

Mind you, the LibDems do have an eye for a bargain. I well remember the beardy LibDem delegate who asked for a discount on a 50p postcard. He was told in no uncertain terms to go back to his constituency and…well, you can guess the rest.

– – – – – – – – – –

Anjem Choudhary is being sent to prison. Good. About bloody time. I interviewed him on my LBC show several years ago. Afterwards, I vowed never again to allow him onto the airwaves. He joined a select little band of extremists and nutters banned from my show. What a pity that Newsnight and Today didn’t adopt a similar approach. These people thrive on the oxygen of publicity. Whip that away and they preach to a small band of deranged acolytes.

– – – – – – – – – –

As Owen Smith warns us of yet another secret Tory plan to privatise the NHS – so secret that only he seems to know about it – there is one question that neither he nor Jeremy Corbyn seem at all interested in addressing. At the last election Labour got 9,347,304 votes. In 1997, Tony Blair (at this point any Corbynista should boo and hiss, or face being excommunicated from the cult) got 13,518,167. Why is no one asking where those 4.2 million voters have gone? And why?

– – – – – – – – – –

So Smith thinks we should “get around the table” with ISIS. Jesus, I think even I’d vote for Corbyn on the basis of that one idiotic remark. I know he thinks he has to move to the extreme left to attract support, but surely there are limits.

– – – – – – – – – –

If you have nothing better to do this evening, I am spending the last day of my two week summer holiday from my radio show, well, on a busman’s holiday appearing on Any Questions. The other three panellists are James Brokenshire, Chuka Umunna and Lindsey German from Stop the War! 8pm, then – or the repeat tomorrow at 1.10pm.

– – – – – – – – – –

I’ve spent this week at the Edinburgh Festival. Last year virtually everything I saw was a comedy or had some political tinge to it. Several of my friends said I should spread my wings this year and go to some plays too. So I booked to see the Chronicles of Narnia. Oh dear. A truly dreadful experience.

Rather better was a one-off performance by David Benson reprising his Kenneth Williams one man play, which he first performed 20 ago. Close your eyes and you could truly believe you were in the company of Kenneth Williams. Apart from the occasions when he lapsed into Frankie Howerd. Nay, nay and thrice nay!

I then went to see Guardian columnist Viv Groskop do a stand-up routine in a very bijou little venue. Her show was called How to be more Margo, ostensibly a celebration of the middle classes. My enjoyment was somewhat hindered by the middle-aged couple in front of me who spent the entire hour shaking their heads and tutting. I’m not sure what they were expecting, but what they got was clearly not it. The constant sneering at anyone who voted for Brexit got a bit wearisome and not really very funny, but I suppose it proved you can take the girl to Edinburgh, but you can’t take the girl out of the Guardian. Viv had some good lines, though, my favourite being a Waitrose supermarket tannoy announcement: “Would the owner of the Red Astra in the car park, please remove it and take it to Asda where it belongs.” A genuine Lol moment.

Show of the week so far has been Margaret Thatcher: Queen of the Game Shows. Starring Matt Tedford as the Magster, this followed on from his hugely successful Margaret Thatcher: Queen of Soho.

His great ability in writing the latter enabling to it appeal to people who idolise Lady T and to people who loathe her. Quite a feat. In this new musical extravaganza, Maggie becomes a Saturday night game show host, having grown exasperated at the state of Saturday night TV. It’s rather more pointedly anti-Thatcher than its previous incarnation. But still very enjoyable.

Tedford is joined by two other cast members who play a variety of characters from Bruce Forsyth and Cilla Black to Owen Jones and Angela Merkel. It really is a laugh a minute performance, some of it improvised, and at the end there was a deserved standing ovation, something that doesn’t happen very often in Edinburgh.

Thursday began with a double dose of Matt Forde. First off it was an hour of fast paced political standup. It was very good and very funny stuff. Even when he has slightly weak material he escapes from it through his brilliant mimicry. His David Cameron impression is the best I have ever heard, and he has Boris off to a tee.

A lot of the act concerned Brexit, and like Viv Groskop the day before, and Ayesha Hazirika later, his entire act consisted of barbed comments about racist Leave voters. They. Just. Don’t. Get. It. And probably never will. They all look at life through their soft, liberal lens without ever really venturing beyond the limits of the M25. That’s fine, it’s good for a comedy act – but all three of them demonstrate a total lack of comprehension as to what is happening in the country.

Forde’s second hour was an In Conversation with Tim Loughton. I did wonder (sorry, Tim) if he was a big enough name to fill the venue ,but I needn’t have feared. It was sold out. Tim was brilliant and extremely funny- so he has just become the second most popular Tory in Scotland. Forde does monthly interviews on stage with London and he adopts the very conversational approach, with humour, which tends to get the best out of interviewees. Tim was hilariously indiscreet on occasion. OK, on lots of occasions.

I had hoped to get along to see Geoff Norcott, one of the very few right-wing comedians in the UK, but my schedule wouldn’t allow. So later I moved on to a show called the Gayest Show You’ve Ever Seen. Well, in some ways I suppose it was, since it was hosted by a 26 year old wearing a pink T-shirt and high heels. The audience, shall we say, was not very numerous. Rather bizarrely, ten sat on one side and women sat on the other side of the aisle. Apart from me.

The show consisted of a ramble through our host’s coming out and series of sexual disasters. I’m sure he had a script, but judging from the number of ‘ers’ and ‘ums’ it was difficult to discern how rigid it was. As opposed to stiff. Nay, nay and thrice nay! If I was giving this show stars, it would struggle for a three. I didn’t not enjoy it; it was just a tad disappointing.

The evening finished with former Labour SPAD and stand-up comedian Ayesha Hazirika with her show Tales from the Pink Bus. She was genuinely laugh out loud funny, regaling her audience (which included Kezia Dugdale and Labour’s sole MP in Scotland, Ian Murray), with a torrent of anecdotes from her time working for Gordon Brown (whom she outed as a complete sexist), Harriet Harman and Ed Miliband. We learned a lot about Harriet Harman’s sense of humour and Ed Miliband’s moments of the Black Dog. We also learned that he was worried he was a badger. You had to be there, I guess.

There’s more from my Edinburgh diary on my blog at www.iaindale.com.

Source:: Conservative Home

Daniel Hannan: All the wonders of human civilisation can be found in a chicken sandwich

By Daniel Hannan MEP

Daniel Hannan is an MEP for South-East England, and a journalist, author and broadcaster.

Last year, a chap decided to make himself a chicken sandwich. Nothing unusual there, you might think; but this chap decided to do the whole thing from scratch. He milked a cow, curdled the milk to make cheese, killed a chicken, pickled a cucumber, boiled seawater to get salt, ground grain to bake bread. It took him six months, and you can watch the video he made about it here.

If I were an ‘A’-level economics teacher – and I’ll be looking for work in a year or two, so who knows – I’d show that video as part of my introductory lesson each September. It dramatises, in a way that everyone can understand, the breath-taking splendour of the capitalist system.

Imagine what life would be like if, instead of being able to trade for the things we wanted, we had to make them all ourselves. The simplest things would be unattainable. We’re not talking here about toasters or smartphones. We’re talking about a chicken sandwich.

Even the six months that it took the chap in the video is, in a sense, a cheat. He didn’t raise the cow or the chicken or the wheat himself; he flew to the sea-side to gather his brine. He was, in other words, making use of the structures of an advanced market economy. To feed himself while growing all his ingredients from scratch – let alone while trying to design and build an aeroplane to carry him to the coast for the salt – would have been impossible.

Truly the market is a thing of beauty. The next time you buy a chicken sandwich in Boots or Tesco, consider what has gone into it. Think, not just of the effort of producing the bread and the lettuce and the mayonnaise; think, too, of the lumberjack who felled the tree that made the cardboard wrapper; think of the lorry-driver who brought the sandwich from the depot to your street; think of the woman who keeps the accounts for that haulage company. And then contemplate the almost miraculous fact that that sandwich, instead of taking you six months to assemble, can be purchased for the equivalent of 19 minutes’ work on the minimum wage.

In that shrinkage – six months to 19 minutes – lies human civilisation. That freeing up of time is what has given us symphonies and space travel and smallpox vaccines and Snapchat. And here’s the best part. As the nexus expands, and more people are drawn into the production of sandwiches (and everything else), goods and services become cheaper, freeing up yet more time to invent further marvels.

How many times have you heard Left-wing friends argue that the market, while it may be efficient, is soulless? How often have they told you that material prosperity is no substitute for visiting friends or playing with your kids or reading poetry? Well, the next time people try that line with you, tell them about the six-month sandwich.

Our ancestors, whose supply networks were limited, and who were perforce relatively self-sufficient, needed to work around the clock simply to keep their families fed. They had very little time to visit friends, play with their kids or read poetry. Before global markets developed, hardly any human beings could read at all. Life was a constant struggle against disease, malnutrition and violence.

Open your eyes to the gorgeousness of what is around us. The choice you exercise when you buy a chicken sandwich is what elevates and ennobles our species. Far from being inhuman, trade is the defining characteristic of humanity. As the seer of Kirkcaldy, Adam Smith, put it: “Nobody ever saw a dog make a fair and deliberate exchange of one bone for another with another dog.”

While we’re about it, far from being oppressive, markets are what toppled the oligarchic states that had held sway from the earliest Bronze Age empires to the monarchical despotisms of the early modern period. Far from making us selfish, markets draw us into networks of mutual dependency, forcing us into empathy with our customers and colleagues. Far from hurting the poor, markets have raised the living standards of the masses to a pinnacle that previous generations could barely have imagined.

The most self-sufficient state in the world is North Korea, which pursues import-substitution as the supreme goal of economic policy. South Korea, by contrast, is an open economy, concentrating on what it does well and buying in everything else. Where would you rather live?

Outside a remaining handful of autarkic North Korea-like states, global poverty is tumbling at an unprecedented rate. The world isn’t just getting richer faster; its rate of acceleration is accelerating. Life is becoming, in every sense, more wonderful.

Source:: Conservative Home

Henry Hill: Labour raise the prospect of a pact with the SNP

By Henry Hill

Labour raise prospects of pact with the SNP…

One might not have thought that there was much more that Jeremy Corbyn’s party could do to boost the prospects of the Conservatives at this point, but STV reports that his shadow Scottish Secretary has found a way.

According to The Herald, Dave Anderson, an English MP from the North East who also holds the Ulster brief, has since doubled down on his refusal to rule out a Lab-Nat pact after the next election – despite Kezia Dugdale, the party’s Scottish leader, being opposed.

Raising the prospect of having the SNP pulling the strings of a minority Labour administration is widely credited with finally breaking the poll deadlock and delivering the Conservatives’ shock majority last year.

…as Mundell warns Sturgeon not to let ‘fanatics’ get out of control

The Scottish Secretary has urged the First Minister of Scotland not to allow the hard-line wing of her party to push her into touting a second referendum, according to The Scotsman.

David Mundell’s message comes amidst fears that the extra dimension of uncertainty created by speculation about an accelerated re-run of 2014′s independence referendum is damaging Scottish businesses.

Nicola Sturgeon’s own party also spoke up this week: Angus Robertson warned that the SNP risked a second defeat if Scots felt a ‘Yes’ vote would make then poorer, and former Cabinet minister Alex Neil also warned against a Brexit-inspired rematch.

The Nationalists’ fixation on separation continues to distort domestic policy: the GMB union has alleged that Scotland is missing out on oil decommissioning contracts because the SNP won’t admit the industry is in decline.

On a personal note, Sturgeon’s father suffered an unexpected defeat when he sought to defend a Nationalist council seat this week, apparently because of unionist transfers from the Tories to Labour which cost the Nats control of the council.

Smith challenged by Bevan Foundation over Pfizer career

The Welsh Labour MP, who is challenging Corbyn for the leadership of the national party, has been challenged on his work for the pharmaceutical industry by the head of a left-wing think-tank.

Wales Online tells us that Paul Starling, who founded the “social justice think-tank” the Bevan Foundation, has laid down the gauntlet for a public debate after Owen Smith cited Aneurin Bevan as one of his heroes.

The challenger contends that the NHS needs such companies as it cannot make its own medicines, but opponents have latched onto a critical reporting on Pfizer in the Welsh media during the 2006 Blaenau Gwent by-election – in which Smith was the losing Labour candidate.

Democratic Unionists defend Brexit support

Arlene Foster, the First Minister of Northern Ireland, has defended her party’s decision to campaign for Brexit after attacks by their smaller rival, the Ulster Unionists.

The UUP have claimed that the reality of Britain’s decision “only appears to be dawning now” on the DUP, which they allege only supported Vote Leave in the expectation of defeat, according to the News Letter.

Foster described one would-be Ulster Unionist attack dog as a ‘chihuahua’, the Sun reports, after he accused her of a u-turn for writing to Theresa May to express her concerns about the Brexit process.

Meanwhile the farming unions of all four home nations have joined together to campaign to protect agricultural funding after Britain leaves the EU.

Welsh Labour accused of ‘cronyism’ over special adviser appointments

Peter Black, one of the Liberal Democrat assemblymen who lost their seats during the party’s near-wipe out in May, has accused Labour of ‘cronyism’ for appointing several special advisers without advertising the posts.

Wales Online reports that the recruitment process used to include external advertisement, but that this has not been the case since 2011.

In response, Labour pointed out that: special advisers are political appointments unlike other public jobs; the Lib Dems used the same practises at Westminster during the Coalition; and indeed the Welsh branch did the same when they were in government between 2000 and 2003.

Meanwhile, the Welsh Conservatives have accused Plaid Cymru, the separatists, of wanting to “have their cake and eat it” by simultaneously campaigning both for more UK money and independence.

Ulster Unionist attacks NI Executive on Military Covenant

Doug Beattie, a UUP MLA for Upper Bann who has published a best-selling book on his Armed Forces experiences, has criticised the Northern Ireland Executive for resiling from the UK’s commitment to the Military Covenant, according to the BBC.

After writing to the Executive to ask if they would appoint an Ulster representative to the group that oversees the Covenant, the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) replied that it had “not been adopted here”.

Beattie argues that this is impossible, as military issues are reserved to Westminster and therefore applied on a UK-wide basis.

Source:: Conservative Home