Archive for April, 2018

Authorising a single bombing raid is not the same as war. It was right there wasn’t a vote on Syria

17/04/2018, 12:43:48 PM

by Atul Hatwal

To listen to Labour’s frontbench yesterday would be to think parliamentary democracy lay in ruins because the government had not called a vote on Syria before intervention.

A frequent refrain in the House is that there is no more serious issue than that of war or peace. Few would disagree that Parliament should be central in these matters, but the unasked question yesterday (certainly by Jeremy Corbyn) was whether the Syrian mission constituted war.

Labour’s leader drew the parallel with Iraq, where there was a vote before deployment. But is Labour really saying that a single bombing raid is the same as a war?

Iraq entailed an air, sea and ground operation involving thousands of armed personnel on a mission that was planned to go on for months into years. Syria involved four planes on a sortie that took minutes.

One of the worst aspects of parliamentary practice is the way precedent is so rapidly ossified into hallowed practice and wreathed in constitutional piety.

After the precedent of the Iraq vote in 2003, now every action, no matter big or small, is subject to the same threshold for assent.

It was right that there was a vote on Iraq just as it was right that there was a vote on the operation in Libya, but not the interventions in Kosovo, Sierra Leone or the bombing of Iraq in 1998 in operation Desert Fox. These latter three were much nearer to Syria and in no way comparable to the Iraq war or even Libya.

The one anomaly in recent times has been the response to 9/11 with the invasion of Afghanistan – there wasn’t a vote but should have been for the same reasons there was a vote before Iraq and in 2011 before Libya.

Jeremy Corbyn was right in his speech yesterday – the Convention which was articulated by the Tories in 2011 and accepts the need for a Commons vote before military action on the basis of the 2003 Iraq precedent, is broken.

But not because it needs to be hardened from what is effectively an accepted guideline, into a fully-fledged War Powers Act as Labour will propose in the debate today. Instead the parliamentary process should reflect the reality that a raid is not a war and not every action merits a full vote in the Commons, complete with fevered build-up, publicity, vote wrangling and contentious discourse.

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Corbyn’s position on Syria is the product of a lifetime in the hard left echo chamber

15/04/2018, 08:00:09 AM

by John Wall

It’ll soon be 35 years since Corbyn became an MP – more than half his life. During that time he’s never experienced a government he agreed with – as his record of voting against New Labour showed – and never had to make a decision.

Although I’m sure Corbynistas will disagree, I – and I’m not alone – see him, and his ilk, as primarily defined by what they’re against as evidenced by his involvement with the Campaign Group, CND, Stop The War, etc.

His position on the bombing of Syria is an inevitable product of a lifetime in this type of politics.

He spent decades in the hard left echo chamber, only associating with those who share his worldview which, as I recently outlined is that they ‘hate markets and competition and despise the private sector. To them America is the “Great Satan,” and Russia – whether Communist or under Putin – is an ally.’

Since he became leader he’s encountered, possibly for the first time, those who disagree, sometimes fundamentally, with his positions and undergone scrutiny from the media; at the risk of mixing metaphors he’s been found out and the chickens are coming home to roost.

His unwillingness, or maybe inability, to condemn the IRA was telling.

A lot can be learned by listening to him and others such as Diane Abbott. Under questioning they develop a slightly exasperated, weary tone as if they find it difficult to comprehend that anybody could possibly disagree with them.

This can also be seen by looking at his responses to the attempt to murder Sergei and Yulia Skripal, the response to Assad’s atrocities in Syria and the issues around anti-Semitism in the Labour party.

Pointing the finger at Russia on the Skripal affair easily passes the “beyond reasonable doubt” test and – although Trump is yet to tweet it – even the US expelled 60 spies, sorry, diplomats! However, when you backed the losers in the cold war and have appointed apologists for Stalin and Putin to your inner circle….

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Labour’s current situation with anti-Semitism is unsustainable

13/04/2018, 11:10:42 PM

by Rob Marchant

Let’s try an experiment. Since anti-Semitism is a form of racism, let’s simply use the word “racism” as we outline the following facts.

In the last three weeks, a British mainstream political party has:

  • Received a letter, addressed to its leader by two well-respected national community groups, protesting perceived institutional racism within it;
  • Been demonstrated against, twice, by anti-racism campaigners, the first of which demos was attended a number of its own MPs;
  • Had various members threatening those same MPs with deselection and abusing them online over their attendance of said anti-racism demo, including a celebrity member demanding their expulsion;
  • Had hundreds of members attending a counter-demo, against the anti-racism demo, which included a banner from the country’s biggest trade union;
  • Had its leader attend a controversial event with a radical left-wing group who also criticised the first anti-racism demo;
  • Had its leader found to be a member of a number of Facebook groups infested with racists, ultimately forcing him to close his Facebook account;
  • Had its leader support in an online Facebook comment the painter of a racist mural;
  • Had its Head of Compliance resign, after his department had already been significantly beefed up to deal with a flood of disciplinary issues connected with racism;
  • Appointed a leader to the party machine – ultimately in charge of dealing with first-level disciplinary issues – who had previously been in controversy over remarks that many perceived as downplaying racism;
  • Had to remove the chair of its Disputes Panel for championing an activist suspended for posting about the “Holocaust Hoax”, and only after public outcry was said chair actually removed from its National Executive Committee;
  • Replaced said chair with NEC member who worked for, and has in the past defended, former London mayor Ken Livingstone, also currently suspended for alleged racism;
  • Had another NEC member write a piece in the Guardian criticising MPs who attended the anti-racism demos;
  • Had a cross-party group of peers ask the Met to investigate various Facebook posts by its members for inciting racial hatred;
  • Had a sister party in another country suspend relations with it over perceived tolerance to racism.

It’s not pretty, is it?

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Dominic Raab has been caught fiddling the figures on house prices and immigration

13/04/2018, 06:37:49 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Dominic Raab is a fool.

He’s a fool for thinking he could say house prices have risen by 21% because of immigration over the past 25 years and not have to answer follow-up questions on the provenance of this number. It’s a striking figure, of course people are going to ask for the source data.

To not anticipate that his Sunday Times interview would generate a chorus of questions from opposition politicians, journalists and think tankers, shows an amazing inability to think through the political consequences of his actions.

He’s a fool for not understanding that the UK Statistics Authority has a remit to police the misuse of government statistics and that his department, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) is mandated to comply with their rigorous code of practice.

A scintilla of comprehension about the role of the Authority would have meant he’d have known that they would publicly slap him down ,as the questions rained down, for not publishing the data and force the department to make it available.

Most of all though, he’s a fool for cherry-picking this figure from research which, now the department has published it, makes the exact opposite point to the one he aired in his interview – immigration actually has a comparatively small impact on house prices.

The research ascribes three factors as driving house price rises: domestic population growth, population growth from net migration and increasing real incomes.

Out of a total increase of £97,000 1991-2016, £80,000 is from increasing real incomes, £11,000 is from population growth driven by net migration and £6,000 from domestic population growth.

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Corbyn must commit to being a leader of the many and not just the few

10/04/2018, 07:00:31 AM

by Andy Howell

By any measure Jeremy Corbyn has had a bad month or two. He was far too slow to react to the controversy over Anti-Semitism and, perhaps, even indifferent to it. On the Skripal front Corbyn’s anti cold war instincts may be understandable, indeed admirable, but the tone and manner of his interventions over Russia simply struck a wrong chord. The perception of those outside of the Party’s membership is that Corbyn only took a ‘proper’ line when dragged to it by the press, public opinion and the views of most of the world’s political powers.

Let us not also forget three high profile sackings. First off, Corbyn’s office announced that Debbie Abrahams had stepped down as shadow Work and Pensions Secretary as a result of allegations of bullying made by her office staff. Abrahams herself made it very clear that she considered she had been sacked and countered by claiming that she herself was the victim of bullying from the leader’s office. Owen Smith was sacked over calls for a further referendum on Brexit despite the Party’s conference policy still holding this out as a possibility if the May’s eventual deal proves to be unacceptable. Officially General Secretary Ian McNicol resigned, but effectively he went when the leadership told him his time was up.

On leftist social media channels Corbyn’s supporters remained out in force, defending their leader’s stance, until the Leadership itself was forced to reposition itself. In the narrow and rarified world of Facebook and Twitter, loyalists are convinced that Corbyn and his team have been dragged into these new positions by the dark forces of the press when, in reality, they have been responding to the concerns of the wider electorate.

This weekend YouGov’s polling — taken during this turbulent period — shows that only 31% of the public think Corbyn is doing a good job as leader of the Opposition; 56% think that he is doing a bad job.

In many ways the greatest frustration over the last couple of months is that so many of our problems have been self-inflicted. On Russia Corbyn could have better defended his position if his statements had been more measured or more statesman like. In talking to a number of younger, and newer, Labour members over the last few weeks I have sensed a growing confusion or disenchantment with his Leadership. Some of Corbyn’s most fanatical supporters still refer to him as ‘magic grandad’ but you don’t have to search very hard to find many who are becoming more muted.

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