Tag Archives: Cameron

Update on Outraged Question Time Tory

She’s now a member of the Labour Party and for once, the Labour Party has managed to get some decent press out of something.

“No sane, logical or moral person within the UK in 2016, would ever want the conditions of inequality growing at such a pace as to break the back of society, with disastrous consequences for those with limited opportunities. The malice and contempt shown by this government in their attempts to undermine and oppress societies poorest and most vulnerable citizens is inexcusable.

“But if someone has a passion to show the country a new political direction with the commitment to social justice and high standards that Jeremy Corbyn and his colleagues represent, then now is the time to create some momentum to bring about change.” – Michelle Dorrell

On another note, while Labour is focused on the EU campaign and everyone is (more or less) happy with Corbyn’s stance – by which I mean the vocal, furious right-wing disrupters are momentarily distracted – it’s a nice, quiet period in which Labour seems to actually be getting on with its job in Opposition instead of burning its own house down.

 

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Look!

North Korea’s Kim Jong-un has a whole tumblr dedicated to him looking at things.

David Cameron has his own (definitely more benign) tumblr dedicated to him looking at fish while on holiday.

Something that’s not so benign (though from a media perspective, somewhat clever I suppose) is David Cameron’s habit of pointing at things and making policy announcements. Lots and lots of them.

What’s missing is details on exactly how he’s going to get this all done. Case in point: This weekend he (rightly) slammed institutional racism in the UK, warning “educational institutions, the police, the military and the courts they were the focus of a new effort to tackle social inequality fuelled by “ingrained, institutional and insidious” racism.” So far, so good. And you could say that the details will come.

But what’s also missing is some joined up thinking. Today, alongside figures that showed a 23% pay gap for Black graduates, measures came into force requiring private landlords to check the immigration status of their potential tenants. Predictably, industry experts (as immigration experts have been saying since this idea was first mooted) have warned that these measures will discriminate against those with foreign names, the young and less well-off.

The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) said its members faced a difficult choice: they could “take a restrictive view with prospective tenants, potentially causing difficulties for the 12 million UK citizens without a passport” or “target certain individuals to conduct the checks, opening themselves up to accusations of racism”.

Incidentally, this is in a rental market where there is already a problem for ethnic minorities, who are routinely discriminated against.

The Guardian reports: “Dr David Smith, policy director at the RLA, said: “The government argues that its ‘right to rent’ plans form part of a package to make the UK a more hostile environment for illegal immigrants. The evidence shows that it is creating a more hostile environment for good landlords and legitimate tenants.”

These are policies that Cameron has actually implemented.

Enough looking. We should be joining the dots.

 

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Swarms and Marauders

It’s summer and just like every summer since the Tories were in power (first in the coalition and now with a slim majority) it’s immigration time.

To be fair, the situation at the migrant camps in Calais has been high on the media agenda (and to be clear, this is a humanitarian crisis, despite the British media’s preoccupation with holidaymakers and truckers being disturbed by desperate people inconveniencing their respective holidays and commutes).

Nevertheless, the Tory Party is adept at seizing the agenda over the summer, which is traditionally the silly season and a time which Labour has consistently been MIA in recent years. One year, most of the shadow cabinet just went on holiday (not a bad thing in itself but there was  no one taking the airwaves to respond to anything really); this summer it’s the moribund and never ending leadership contest* that has Labour distracted by its own navel.

First it was Cameron and his “swarms” comment; now Phillip Hammond has characterised the people in Calais as “marauding migrants” out to destroy the British way of life. Although he sees that the standard of living is low in many African countries, he appears to be labouring under the illusion that Europe has to absorb “millions” of African migrants. So…let’s do this again:

  1. Newsflash: Migrants and refugees are people. Giles Fraser did a moving and all too necessary report from St Michael’s Church in the refugee camp in Calais.
  2. Europe takes nowhere near as many refugees and migrants as developing nations. Millions? That’s a figure for Kenya. Or Lebanon. Or Turkey. Not Europe.
  3. If the standard of living in Africa is low….it’s worth considering why. (hint: Empire, Western multinational tax dodgers, corrupt regimes propped up by Europe and other nations…)
  4. Empire. Worth a look, mate.
  5. Syria. So…that’s still a thing.
  6. Empire. Seriously, dude. Check it out.

*with the exception of Corbyn. Watching increasingly hysterical media types from left and right, as well as politicians and Labour grandees scream that the man is unelectable and dangerous and/or stupid has become my summer past time. If he’s so ridiculous, why the noise, guys?

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The Immigration Speech Cameron should give

Tomorrow Cameron is going to seek to deflect from the news that he has spectacularly missed his arbitrary and nonsensical immigration target. I expect it will be ghost written by Migration Watch and aimed at UKIP supporters. There will no doubt be references to “common sense” and will be laced throughout with lots of “every man” metaphors (a bit like his flashing lights on the dashboard of the global economy). It will be a sop to the Eurosceptic wing of his party and he’ll bang the drum about leaving the EU.

We’ll see.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Portes has written an excellent, frank and honest article on the speech Cameron should give – would give, if he had some courage.

“We need to return to a migration policy that is no longer driven by arbitrary targets better suited to a centrally planned economy – and an immigration systemthat doesn’t assume bureaucrats in the Home Office are best placed to assess the needs of a flexible labour market in an increasingly knowledge-driven economy. Even more importantly, we need to stop pretending to young people excluded from the labour market, or communities left behind by economic recovery, that restricting migration – as opposed to the hard work of real policies to improve skills or invest in infrastructure – is somehow a magic solution.

And politicians must have the courage to try to explain this to the public, and to convince them that an open, outward-looking Britain may not be the best of all possible worlds. This is better than any of the options on offer.”

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On Invisible Power structures

David Cameron announced that the “red warning lights” are on for the global economy. Bob Geldof amassed an array of stars to re-record Band Aid for Ebola. Apart from the fact that both of these things are linked by the fact that they annoy me greatly, they are also connected by a (naive?) disregard for structural power.

So…Cameron, who warns that “a dangerous backdrop of instability and uncertainty presents a real risk to the UK recovery,” adding that “the eurozone slowdown is already having an impact on British exports and manufacturing.” These things have not happened by accident. Without donning my tin foil hat and Wonder Woman bracelets, I think it’s safe to say that he fails to address the fact that we can’t go back to business as usual because capitalism (at least the way we’ve practised it) is broken. Instead of a real analysis, we get that odd car dashboard metaphor (so awkward when politicians grasp for “genuine” turns of phrase to appear normal) that warns of impending doom but proffers little in the way of a proper analysis of it. Perhaps because a proper analysis would show that welfare and immigrants aren’t the problem, and austerity is not the answer. Also worth mentioning that this is an elaborate exercise in crafting a fig leaf to put over the hiccoughing recovery, given the deep cynicism and unbelievable brass neck it takes to declare that we might be on the verge of a second global financial crisis (second!) when Cameron and every minister in the Coalition government has spent the last five years denying that the first one never happened but instead it was all Labour’s fault, that they crashed the car.

And.. Geldof. I think everything I feel about Band Aid is explained perfectly over on Al Jazeera and the Washington Post, but suffice to say that well-meaning a gesture though it may be, and generous the government’s offer to double whatever is raised certainly is, this sort of charity endeavour (celebrities give their time, you give your money) overlooks structural problems. Like the failures of neoliberal economics (sort of like the above) and the under-resourcing of the very agencies that are trying to help. We shouldn’t have to rely on this sort of endeavour to get the cash where it is needed. The UN and WHO  have repeatedly appealed for funds. That’s before we get to the problems of governance that left health systems in these countries a shambles to begin with. We can sticky plaster all we want, but there’s some hard graft to be done when the crisis is over. And yes, Africans do know it’s Christmas, for goodness sake. (Could they not have at least written a less patronising and more intelligent song? Or just amplified the work that Africans are already doing?)

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A Question of Substance

this_is_what_a_feminist_looks_like_tshirtSome days, I don’t tweet at all. Other days, I explode. Today was one of those days.

Let’s cast our minds back to September, when Ed Miliband was roundly mocked for refusing to pose with a “Help for Heroes” wristband for the Sun newspaper’s campaign backing the charity for ex-servicemen. He refused because he has staked his reputation on standing up to the Murdoch press, and had been roundly lambasted for posing with a special copy of the Sun backing England’s World Cup football team in June. Now, it’s October, and David Cameron has been slammed because he refused (five times!) to pose with Elle Magazine’s “This is What a Feminist Look Like” T shirt.

I’m with David on this, as I was with Ed Miliband last month. A t-shirt, or a special edition of a newspaper, or a wristband – does nothing to advance the causes in question. Nothing. And no, “raising awareness” doesn’t count. Instead of badgering Miliband to pose with a wristband, why not press him to adopt policies to improve the lot of former soldiers in Labour’s next manifesto, and holding Ed and his party to it if they win the election? And do we need Cameron to put on a fancy T-shirt or to address the fact that cuts are falling disproportionately on women and ethnic minorities?

Furthermore, the Sun’s campaign for ex-servicemen does a lot of admirable work, no doubt, but it also benefits… The Sun. They can get the party leaders to jump when they ask, and they can punish them if they refuse. That’s another subtext to their “empty chairing” of Miliband the next day. The fact that he didn’t pose with them became the story and another useful stick to beat him with. As for Elle – they have been occupied trying to “rebrand” feminism. It doesn’t need it. It’s necessarily confrontational and difficult because you’re challenging power structures. In many ways, given his policies, Cameron refusing to wear the T-shirt is actually somewhat honest. Elle wanted their feature spread, and they didn’t get it. Good causes are becoming entwined with corporate interests. Neither Elle nor the Sun are impartial – otherwise we’d hear less about the alleged slight of being rebuffed for a photoshoot and more about what concrete policies could be enacted to further the cause or end inequality between men and women.

And the second thing that had me frothing at the mouth before 10am was Defence Secretary Michael Fallon’s non-apology for his earlier comment on British towns being “swamped” by immigration. He has said that his comments were “reckless”, and the BBC this morning said that he had been “slapped down” by No 10, but I have two issues with this.

Firstly, this dominated the weekend papers. Sure, he retracted, after dominating the news cycle over the weekend and this morning. So… the message got through, make no mistake. Secondly, No 10 never rebutted what he said. It looks like he has been (reluctantly and very slowly) shushed. Which fuels the conspiracy theorists who believe the immigrant invasion of Britain is being covered up by a liberal elite. For that matter, when he said it, not one journalist asked him to justify the claim. No facts, no figures. Boring, you might say. Yes, but in such an inflammatory debate that is fuelled by fear and xenophobia, facts matter more than ever. The average person may say such a thing, but Fallon is a Minister, he has a pulpit and he has staff to fact check for him. Either he didn’t, or he ignored the facts (that this is patently untrue). So either he is incompetent or deliberately stirring the pot. Whichever it is, it’s a case of style over substance. And he got all the PR he needed. Thanks, media, for not interrogating this at all.

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Party On

We’re just emerging from party conference season. Today David Cameron promised tax cuts for those who earn the most and the least, hot on the heels of George Osborne’s pledge to cut even more from welfare – but not pensioners, who make up the bulk of those on welfare (and who happen to vote), and not the disabled (though they’re still getting slammed by the bedroom tax. So…cuts will hit those who are already struggling so that “welfare doesn’t pay more than work” but there is nothing to address in-work poverty, which the Joseph Rowntree Trust has pointed out has grown. And for ethnic minorities, they found, it’s even worse.

Miliband forgot some stuff, but remembered some other stuff. Labour’s message, which emerged from the fog of conference, sounded to me like something-something mansion tax something-something hard choices something-something cutting child benefits. See…the problem here is, when the Tories are mean, they at least throw some tax cut candy in there. Labour just looks like it’s aping them. But what’s the point? As Sunny Hundal pointed out today, they are doing so to win credibility from a section of the press that won’t give them any, while sounding unconvincing and uninspired to the rest of us:

“The media’s attitude to Labour on austerity has been akin to Eurosceptics Tories with Cameron: forever demanding more concessions without giving an inch.”

UKIP meanwhile, were batshit crazy as always. Farage claimed that Cameron raised the terror threat level and recalled MPs to vote on bombing the “Islamic State” to distract from their conference. Yeah. But he still managed to make the political weather with Reckless’ defection and nabbing a Tory donor too. I still think that UKIP are allowed to influence the agenda in a way that is disproportionate to their number of MPs (to date, zero) compared to, say, the Greens. They will probably win in Clacton, but for a party that’s meant to be a grassroots insurrection, they seem to rely heavily on poaching MPs with ready-made support bases.

So far, so establishment.

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Taking Names and Busting Chops

Sayeeda Warsi is on fire. After resigning over the government’s (lack of a) stance on Gaza, she has shown that she is most definitely not going quietly. Her resignation got a lot of coverage, but was soon eclipsed by the Boris show (will he be both MP and Mayor? So much ankle for the press to nibble on).

However, she has spoken frankly to the Independent on Sunday about the Tory party’s shortcoming with regards to ethnic minorities and other issues, ensuring no doubt that this will lead news coverage on Monday morning. There’s a lot in there. Like:

“I don’t hold the fact that someone went to public school against them. I don’t hold the fact that they haven’t had the breadth of experience that some of us who didn’t go to public school have had. I don’t hold against them that they haven’t had to fight as hard to get the jobs that we have had to fight as hard to get. I hope that if I can be so understanding about their background, they can be understanding to those of us that haven’t had those opportunities.”

Every party has its problems, but on this issue, I can’t help thinking that this isn’t surprising given the party she chose to join. She’s right to point this out, but – surprised, much?!

 

 

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Let’s Stick Together

It was a bit weird watching David Cameron make a speech in favour of the Union….from the Olympic Stadium in East London…addressing everyone else but the Scots.

I also saw Alex Salmond’s rebuttal, in which he pointed out that one of the most compelling arguments in favour of independence is that Scotland keeps voting left and getting Tory governments in Westminster.

I don’t have a dog in this fight and I understand both sides of the argument. Perhaps it’s because I live in England, but it seems like everyone is hell-bent on scolding or frightening the Scots into making the “right” decision. The BBC presenter’s response to Salmond was to point out that “business” wasn’t in favour of a split. Cameron is asking the rest of the UK to….what exactly? Pressure the nearest Scot?

Speaking as an African, I know that independence is as much an emotional issue as a practical one. Facts about the consequences of independence aside (and those are heavily disputed as it is), there is Scotland’s national story. No one has yet addressed this issue with a historical context, acknowledging that this is about more than just economics or brand UK. Or the rest of us that Cameron addressed today. It’s Scotland’s choice, and we would do well to start talking to people, rather than down at or about them.

 

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Dip Dye

When I watch the Tories froth and foam over Europe (95 MP’s wrote to the PM demanding the power to veto EU legislation this week), I sometimes wonder if there is a complete breakdown of discipline or if this is part of an elaborately orchestrated plan to undercut UKIP and win the election.

Europe never features as high on the list of voter priorities as it does for the Tory Party. And in fact, Lord Ashcroft’s 2012 report on UKIP voters showed that they are less concerned by Europe than by immigration and their pull factor to UKIP is their outspokenness rather than their policies:

“The single biggest misconception about the UKIP phenomenon is that it is all about policies: that potential UKIP voters are dissatisfied with another party’s policy in a particular area (usually Europe or immigration), prefer UKIP’s policy instead, and would return to their original party if only its original policy changed. In fact, in the mix of things that attract voters to UKIP, policies are secondary. It is much more to do with outlook.”

Immigration is the toxic well in which all issues become radioactively charged. I can’t help thinking that the inflammatory rhetoric around immigration in general, and EU immigration in particular – with regards to Romania and Bulgaria – has given the topic of Europe (usually an issue of annoyance and frustration but not a top priority) a good charge of radioactive brilliance. Politicians have shamelessly stoked people’s fears about benefit tourism and conjured up that oxymoronic immigrant trope – the welfare-claiming job-stealing hardworking freeloader migrant.

The result? Yougov has found that restricting migrant benefits is the voter’s top issue for 2014. So maybe the Tory MPs are onto a winner. And, with Cameron being forced into concession after concession on Europe by his MPs, (as Janan Ganesh outlines in the FT – the referendum promise did not stake the issue, if anything they keep demanding more), who knows? They may yet win the election and succeed in pulling Britain out of the EU altogether.

“Of course, the spectacle of Mr Cameron fighting for Brexit is utterly fanciful – as was the prospect of him calling a referendum when he first became prime minister.” – Janan Ganesh

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