Alexei Navalny

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Just looking at reports this afternoon which are alarming indeed. Navalny’s effective bid 4 days’ ago to wobble the “United Russia” ruling Party’s overall majority in the Russian Duma has been met with a speed, scope and national ferocity that he says could only have been orchestrated by Putin himself. He says “the state has two tasks- to frighten and to steal.” Today, homes of those connected with his opposition party were raided in searches now spread across 36 towns and cities. The police carrying out these raids are masked and asked reporters to stop filming. Ironically, the excuse for the raids was given as alleged corruption in Navalny’s “Anti-corruption foundation”.

Facebook and google were directly accused by the Government of interference in the elections.

Navalny, who had encouraged tactical voting in the election after many of his own party’s candidates were barred from standing, says he is used to fighting and that he won’t give up against “crooks and thieves”. There will be national and presidential elections in 2012 so the atmosphere is unlikely to get any better in the near future but evidently the opposition is mobilised and will not go away.

Therefore, poor old Putin may soon have to put on his glasses and read the smallprint more carefully- oh! But wait: he has been told it would be “unmanly” to be seen in public wearing his glasses. Pasha, Verni, Buffy and Yummi must be barking mad at the thought that their master might ever have his eyesight questioned, let alone his judgement.

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Nigel Farage deal

Deeply concerned to read of potential deals with Nigel Farage as the way to secure a Conservative victory in any General election.

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My concerns go beyond the issue of “deal or no deal”, a mantra that seems to come from a TV game show anyway. I am much more concerned about what bothered me in the past and that has never been properly addressed- specifically, the way the debate over Europe was hijacked by extremists who wanted to promote a racist agenda of their own. In many ways, they succeeded, partly because it suited Mrs May to continue her “hostile environment” and partly, because it was so popular, but it was still racist at its core.

Three moments spring to mind that highlight the racism- the first is the event in 2015 which led to my resignation and to a small moment on TV sparring with Mr Farage – who claimed I was out of my depth- not at all, Nigel! The story was about a nasty racist slur cast by the UKIP MEP David Coburn who confused the name of the Scottish Minister for Europe, Humza Yousaf, with the name of a convicted handless terrorist serving time in a gaol in New York, Abu Hamza. There was never any apology because Farage insisted it was “just a joke- can’t you take a joke?”

No amount of massaging words can disguise the casual racism of the original remark and, moreover, the savage cowardice of doing so, when Humza was actually late and, therefore, not in the studio to respond. This was cheap and nasty and needed to be called out.

The point is that the same joke has come up more than once in UKIP, and, because it was tolerated then, even celebrated by Farage and his cronies, it was taken then as acceptable and remains so in their eyes. Its latest outing was to confuse Sadiq Khan with the leader of the 7/7 bombers. The person who made this joke, the new leader, Richard Braine apparently takes offence when people mock him with the name “Dick-Brain”. Double standards? But again, he does not get it at all.

Whether we accept what elected ministers and Mayors are doing or not, we cannot deliberately confuse these elected leaders in a democratic country with common convicted terrorists and certainly not because we think it funny to mix up one Muslim name with another. This is not Islamophobia or a “fear of Islam”. It is pure hatred and contempt. The fact that Farage did not join me in condemning Coburn tells me that he did not see this as wrong, and the fact that it continues in the party he led, tells me that he must, therefore, continue to take responsibility for something he started.

Beyond this, yet another UKIP leader, Gerald Batten said that Carl Benjamin’s racist tweet to Labour MP Jess Phillips, was also a joke, specifically “I think that was satire” and an example of “free speech”. Batten went on to identify Islam as a “death cult” and to forge greater links, or rather more open links, with Tommy Robinson and the DFLA.

I have always conceded that Farage is a consummate politician and one of the greatest orators at work in politics today.

But, it would be wholly wrong to give a national office to a man who has sired this sort of racist nastiness. To have an election pact is the first step to granting ministerial office. If a pact is necessary, then it must be on the clear understanding that ministerial office will not be an outcome. To see Farage in a British Cabinet would be worse than seeing Corbyn leading it.

 

 

Boris

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rehashing the old letterbox issue again, but rather well this time. The applause that greeted Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi was deserved and his question impassioned, precise and elegant. Boris was fairly good in response too, to his credit, making reference to his own Muslim ancestors. He might also have added that his maternal grandmother was Jewish which I am pretty sure under the rules of the Beth Din makes him Jewish as well – though as I write this, I have someone calling me on the phone and he says that Boris’s grandmother, Frances Beatrice Loew, was only half Jewish- and her mother was actually Scottish. So his great grandfather, Elias, was Ashkenazi and a former Oxford academic, which puts pay to my theory there, but still- it gives a bit more weight to his comment about cleaning up anti-semitism in the Augean stables that is Labour.

An as for Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, he is a Cambridge Mathematician, so one expects something pretty impressive there! A meeting of giants across the floor of the House.

Jo Swinson on EU nationals

 

 

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Articulating the problem of getting through horrendous home office bureaucracy that has been ill-fit for purpose for many years now and that has led me to encounters including a unpleasant hectoring from Andrea Leadsom and an exchange with Theresa May before she became Prime Minister. We must stop this nonsense of parading bureaucracy as a fix-all, esp when the assurances we give in public are contradicted by the paperwork people are required to fill out and the opaque “investigations” that then take place which effectively cannot be challenged. Too much money and respect is wasted on this sort of nonsense.

What we promise, we simply need to deliver. No ifs, no buts, and no mindless pen-pushing.

Lara Spencer

Quite shocking to see the story about a tv anchor mocking Prince George for taking and enjoying ballet classes. What is more shocking perhaps is the degree of acceptance that is given to Lara Spencer’s apology. It is almost as cheap and insulting as the original joke.

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Her joke is sexist, probably homophobic, certainly arrogant, bullying and insensitive. It is also at the expense of a child. But it took a day or two before she and her tv station  cronies realised how crass and wrong it was. Is this a reflection of the new spirit that Trump has ushered into the US? it is deeply disappointing.