A gift at the end of Ramadan!

Turkey has been variously criticised by the EU and pilloried in the recent Referendum debates, but as Ramadan ends, it has announced that over 3 million Syrian refugees are to get automatic Turkish citizenship: this goes much further than Merkel’s demands for harbouring returned migrants and it is a statement of solidarity with the dispossessed that should make the whingers in our own referendum debate hold their heads in shame.

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The care for victims of warfare is a feature of all three of the great religions that come from the middle east and it has been shocking how slowly we have dragged our feet while still whittering on about Christian values.

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As Ramadan finishes tomorrow, therefore, we can celebrate with some satisfaction that at last there is a proper response.

More worryingly, there is news coming from Athens that former German Transport Minister, Peter Ramsauer, part of a delegation headed by the German Vice Chancellor, and already linked to allegations of anti-semitism, apparently told a photographer, I understand, both in German and in english, “don’t touch me, you filthy Greek”. I suppose his bilingual effort was to ensure no one thought this was an accidental bit of racism.

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Peter Ramsauer is known to want to refuse Greek any further bailout money, and he is also famous for making a fuss, rather like the French have occasionally done, about borrowed english words used in modern german, so it is odd he should have translated his bilious comments, if indeed he ever uttered them. He went on to facebook yesterday to claim that he had said nothing. It is all the fault of the photographer “who later appeared to be obviously Greek” and who had pushed him. I wonder how this photographer can have appeared so obviously greek at a later stage? had he not appeared so Greek earlier? The good Dr Ramsauer would be well advised to avoid using the word “obviously” in all instances- as a rule of thumb, if something is “obvious”, it does not need to be mentioned and if it is not “obvious”, then the word is inappropriate.

I had dinner a few nights ago with a German minister who is married to a Greek. Both deeply charming! I wonder how Herr Ramsauer deals with that couple in the vaulted corridors of the Reichstag? The story of this exchange makes some of our own British bigots look positively cuddly.

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Importance of History

I attended an exhibition day on Wednesday at my old school, Ratcliffe College, and I was able to publicly thank the outgoing headmaster Gareth Lloyd for the spectacular turnaround in the School’s fortunes over the 7 years he has held the post. I will post some of my talk at a later date but the key point in all the speeches throughout the day made by the Headmaster, Fr President, the Chairman of the Governors and coincidentally by me too, was the importance of kindness. That is something that has been conspicuously absent in the referendum debate and the subsequent and chaotic fallout as politicians have scrambled over one another to sabotage the future.

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The occasion at Ratcliffe was, of course, dominated by talk of Brexit and quite alot of discussion about UKIP and my role in the UKIP story. (I think some people had rather cleverly checked me out on the internet) I was fairly honest in my response: while there are many good people attracted to UKIP and while its leader remains one of the few great orators in the country, it is, nevertheless, controlled by a balding militant thuggery snatched from the BNP and NF. This may have been a party ruled by bullies and twits, but it also attracted spectacular and honourable people like Douglas Carswell and Councillor Sean Connors. I count Sean as a good friend and a very honourable man. I also have time for Mark Reckless, now a member of the Welsh assembly. Credit where credit is due.farage ukipper flat

I joined UKIP with the intention of playing a leading role in the way it developed, or identifying and exposing the racism that everyone told me was there. In fact, I was offered both opportunities at about the same time. I chose to expose the racism.

The rise in racist and extremist abuse since the Referendum means that there are many who believe the racism in UKIP is endorsed by the “Leave” result. It is not, and there are many people in UKIP, who would be appalled by the suggestion that they have anything to do with, or would ever condone racism. More than that, there is extremism on both sides: my point is that it feels it has been sanctioned, and that is a message that needs to be addressed and condemned.

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As a Conservative, I find the libertarian aims of UKIP fairly laudable, but this is mixed with long-standing and often ill-considered ravings about the EU that in the end informed and dictated the tone of the recent referendum as well as giving structure to Conservative euro-scepticism, whether Farage was part of the official Leave campaign or not. I was in some difficulty throughout the campaign because I believed and continue to believe that, while the EU is seriously damaged, the European project, nevertheless, and because of our shared history, remains a fundamentally sound one. I felt that the Remain campaign was emphasising the wrong things (fear and greed), appealing to the wrong people (experts) and singing to a songsheet promoted by Farage. In the few debates I attended, the “remain” pitch was made by people peddling weak claims about something that had long since been dismissed as folly. In contrast some brilliant people, particularly our local MP Chris Heaton Harris, made a reasoned and impassioned case for “Leave”. And Chris was fairly unique in specifically saying he would not play the immigration card. If Chris had dictated the terms of the debate, I would have been a “Be-Leaver”. Indeed, at Chris’s encouragement, I contributed animated adverts at no cost specifically to draw attention to the appalling treatment by Europe of our fishing industry, something we must address whether we are “in” or “out”.

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I was also appalled and have spoken and written about the abuse of Greece by Germany in particular (Greece had a referendum and Europe made it have another when the result was judged to be “wrong”). Our debate about Sovereignty was made clearer by seeing the sovereignty of Greece ripped away.

But it was Farage’s silence over racism and his indulgence of the powerful thugs in his party that convinced me this campaign would head in the wrong direction and that we might threaten or might leave Europe for the wrong reasons sending a very confused message. This has proven to be the case. The overall debate was controlled by Farage, and while Boris fought hard to wrestle the mantle from his shoulders, he must have found it tough to swallow the nonsense about Turkey’s accession and the £350 million that now Farage says he never endorsed (It was, nevertheless, in the literature I was given a year ago by UKIP). Believe me, I would have done the same thing – Boris had no choice and to his credit, I think, and in the end, Boris made the Leave campaign his own. More than that, he managed personally to avoid any hint of racism and indeed, as far as he was able, temper the debate.

I feared that whoever brought down a man as powerful as Farage was unfortunately doomed. And my fears have been fulfilled. Boris is a brave and noble man. He has taken one for the team.

BECAUSE there could have been nothing worse than giving Farage a place at the negotiating table or rewarding him with a role in government. Knight him and let him leave!

Farage demonstrated to me last year very clearly that he is a man wholly without honour and that those who follow his lead, also abandon honour and integrity. When one of his elected cronies made a foul and public racist comment against a sitting politician, Farage dismissed it as a joke.

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More than that, when I took a stand to support Humza Yousaf, the Scottish minister for Europe, my family was attacked by a sinister local UKIP councillor who thought that a smear and a distortion of facts was an effective and proper response to my resignation. He offered no apology, and nor did his master, Farage.

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Both promised to write to me after the election and neither did. Both promised to resign and neither did. Both said exactly what they thought the public wanted to hear at the time and then they did their own thing. This is demagogy and not democracy.

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Referendums

People do not always read the lessons of history. For example, both Napoleon and Hitler turned to the Plebiscite, today’s “referendum” to justify their actions. It may be a tool for democracy but it is also a weapon of tyranny. Today, the web is filled with cries of “foul”, and whimpers from people who felt they voted the wrong way, and now regret their vote, or claim that 63% of the youth vote simply did not bother to vote. Some people blame Jeremy Corbyn and others blame the Glastonbury festival for that!

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A blueprint for tomorrow

But the Leave vote has happened and we should be looking forward to finding solutions that reflect the reality – ensuring at the same time that Scotland, Ireland and Gibraltar are fully anchored to the UK, and also keep their place in Europe. There is even a case for London to retain its place as the financial hub of the EU while at the same time, pulling back the tide of EU bureaucracy from the shires. The EU is either a supra-national entity or it is dependent on the Nation-state. I think this is an opportunity to show the way the EU can work around Nationality and work with rather than against National and regional sovereignty. It should not be a case of choosing the EU over our nation but of accommodating both if necessary and at various levels of association. This is also a blueprint for establishing fully devolved and fully accountable local parliaments. I wrote a few days ago about the absurdity of pitching Nationalism against Federalism. Actually, with some flexibility and some grace, we can embrace the best of both.

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Our contribution to the EU

There are points to be made in favour of Europe and we may have to visit these over the negotiations. We need to look at ways to effect reconciliation rather than to drive a hard-bargain and we need to emphasise our overall contribution to the European project rather than posture as Farage has done and claim that European ministers have never had proper jobs. At the top of the list of contributions we have made to Europe is the Charter of human rights, the very thing that irritated so many people in my own party. The draft for this was written by a man called Maxwell Fyfe who became the Conservative Home secretary in Churchill’s peace-time cabinet. This was seen as the bedrock of a new EU-wide set of values, and it became our own in time. It was a British vision that anticipated the repeal of hanging, the institution of equality laws and the eradication of torture. This is a cornerstone to the modern Europe and I have successfully taken a case through the ECHR and helped to redefine the way the law is interpreted both internationally and nationally. I have a personal stake in this Charter.

Our role in History

More than that, I believe we have consistently gone to the aid of Europe in crisis, and to that end, fought two wars in Europe. Today, the Greek sovereignty issue is demonstration enough of the depth of crisis in Europe. Immigrants come and go and the immigration issue is actually a passing problem while the sovereignty issue drives to the heart of current EU abuse. It is not a time to be turning our back on Brussels but a time to engage fully with what happens across the channel and ensure that a long term-view, and that fairness, common-sense and goodwill are paramount. When Lord Fyfe wrote the charter, we were not a member of the EU. That clearly did not prevent us from playing a decisive role in the way the EU was established and the values it promoted.

Our Future

Whatever our legal relationship with the EU project, I think we should be determined to  play a pivotal role in securing the values we hold dear. It is in Europe’s interest and in ours to see that Europe works properly. It is not working properly now and nor are we. We can both do better and we need to work together.

Ubiquitous Mann

A few weeks’ ago, I wrote about the appalling Ken Livingstone’s rewrite of history and the failure of the BBC to correct the faulty facts. The BBC is unrepentant but Livingstone looks set to explore the wilderness at last. The man behind the exposure was John Mann, who called Livingstone a “nazi apologist”, and who had also attacked Livingstone earlier as a “bigot” when the ex-Mayor had pointed out that he thought the shadow Defence Minister Kevan Jones might “need psychiatric help”. This is what Livingstone said, “I think he might need some psychiatric help. He’s obviously very depressed and disturbed … He should pop off and see his GP before he makes these offensive comments.” It is very much a Livingstone put-down. Livingstone suggested that his spat with Mann, however, went back to his failure to campaign for Mann in Oldham during the general election. Another typical swipe. But well done, Mann!

It all seems a bit personal, of course. When the two of them were on the radio, Livingstone said, “You’re on the radio and TV all the time, criticising what this party leadership is doing. All the time.” mm. It is an Edward Lear instance of the pot bashing the kettle.

And in response, Mann said this,

“You are a bully attacking Kevan Jones. Your language is appalling. You’re a bigot. You’ve failed to apologise … Even today, you’re failing to do so.” whereupon David Mellor butted in and added, “Can listeners kindly be reminded that these are two members of the Labour party who’ve been discussing their love for one another.”

However, Livingstone has a point. Whenever he knocks him down, Mr Mann keeps popping up like some sort of puppet- but the issues are so much bigger than a punch and judy booth.

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I think Mann looks alot like Neil Morrissey of “Men Behaving Badly” fame.

Mr Mann is also the MP who blew the whistle on abuse in Westminster, amid lurid tales of child strangulation in the 1980s. This, in turn, led to the hounding of Leon Brittan and Edward Heath. Unfortunate: stories have been leaking for years about the former PM but I think the idea that such an introverted man was involved in any groups is absurd, lurid and foundless. De Mortuis nil nisi bonum. Today, Mr Mann has announced that he is voting against his party for Brexit. I suppose that says rather more about Mr Corbyn’s lacklustre leadership than it says about Mr Mann’s ability to grab headlines.

It pains me to say

Much of what Farage says here is right, particularly about his reservations and warnings about the Euro- “through massive ambition and hubris, you ploughed on.”

I was in Greece in the run-up to the Millenium and the Euro project there was clearly a disaster hidden beneath a carpet of half-truths. But while Farage thinks we should walk away now the damage has been done, I think we should hang around and clear up the mess.

So much of what Farage says is reasonable, and of course brilliantly done- from a rhetorical point of view, he is a master of the verbal put-down and the jocular aside. But then he does a typically Farage thing and says he is walking out, never to return. But we know Farage from last year, when his resignation then turned out to be just a two week holiday following his unplanned defeat in the elections. Time to lick his wounds perhaps but not time enough to reflect on what the electorate had told him.

While I accept his comments about the hubris of those who drove the Euro, and while I share his concerns about the EU and its future, I hasten to add I have drawn different conclusions, partly because of his failure to eradicate racism in his own party, his endorsement of views that might well be taken to be racist, and his inability to control the thugs in his own backyard.

UKIP is the only party in the UK to embrace a libertarian view, and that is attractive, – more than that, there are excellent people in the party (not least Douglas Carswell, but I hope the option remains for him to return to the fold) – but it is too wide a church and the BPMers who infiltrated its ranks have been both tolerated and advanced to the detriment of others. (What was Sajjid Karim thinking of when he talked about “dealing” with Farage- I hope he was not suggesting violence and I am sure he was not- but no doubt that’s the way Farage would interpret it! We do not want to encourage the thuggery surely!)  If Farage is walking out of the EU, then, thank God, but recent history suggests he is not to be trusted to follow-through with this!

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Trump needs a trim

We live in a world dominated by peculiarly dull politicians, so it ought to make sense that those with a little eccentricity get support. Trump, sadly goes too far. He is an engaging speaker but he is not a politician: he is more of a fairground bouncer, a barnum and bailey carousel barker, but the joke has worn thin as I suggest has his hair, and it is time to call time on this playground parody. He needs a trim.

I have issues with The new Mayor, Khan, but I like the way he has responded to Trump’s offer that Khan might be the new Jesse Owens, the single blessed exception to his pernicious anti-Muslim rule. Khan knows the concession validates the underlying rule -and we can never dignify the ravings of a man hiding beneath a bird’s nest. Heaven forbid that he might win- that would be one weird cuckoo taking over the Whitehouse!

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Hair and history

History has often savaged political leaders blessed with a luxuriant mane. Heseltine, Foot and Alexander the Great all tripped up and lost the game when they seemed to be winning, and Boris’s mop may well prove to be his downfall too. The spectre of Samson looms large but we cannot go too far with this imagery because it was undue criticism of Trudeau’s hair that gave him some sort of advantage and La Clinton’s hair barely merits a mention these days which may well usher her back into the Whitehouse.

At the beginning of the current US campaign, the Obama team tried to rubbish Trump’s hair with claims that it was all fake. There has been talk about Trump’s use of an ointment called Rogaine (he handed it out to one of his employees apparently who was suffering hair loss), of his having had a surgical flap (a form of hair transplant) and grafts like some sort of cranial rose. But surely we are beyond that now- can floppy hair ever explain his rudeness, racism and bigotry? can so many wives and girlfriends be combed away so easily? I am with Cameron and Khan in sniffing at his bonce. Can these teflon locks really explain why Trump gets away with the worst excesses of follicular audacity? Is it hair, or does Trump conceal some sort of blond rodent presumably whispering inanities into his hidden ear – a bit like the rat in “Ratatoille” – is he in short, the Davy crocket of the 21st century-  It may not be a hairpiece- it may be an earpiece, or maybe Trump believes it is the word of God. Moses had long hair too, remember?

And is that Trumping racoon dangerous?

The answer regrettably is yes, and if Trump says we need to get out of Europe, there can be only one sane response. We need to stay, but we need to make sure we’ve got a sturdy pair of scissors to hand for all the trimming we will need to do. We have to remember the History of Europe- but we have to be mindful of recent scissoring too. Can we ever forget the haircuts given to Greece? Unless Mrs Merkel wants to present herself as a modern-day Dalilah, a trip to the barber should be a joy, not a punishment.

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Roman soldiers had short hair- probably a reason why St Paul promoted haircuts in the New Testament, though, of course, the rabbis might tell a different story- and certainly in Hassidic Judaism, it would be the women (the wig wearers) who shave their hair while the men still grow it in elegant tassles, as indeed do Orthodox monks (the man bun is not just for John Snow). British history, meanwhile, pitches the long-haired Royalists against the sturdy Roundheads, suggesting that short hair means business (Nicola Sturgeon?). But short hair historically has also been associated with slavery and long hair has been tied up with liberation and the urge to rebel (remember the musical “Hair”?).

Moving from politics, there have been some notable long haired men, often scientists- Robert Boyle (as in Boyle’s law), Dmitri Mendeleev, the periodic table man, Carl Linnaeus (the “Gorilla Gorilla” man from Biology), Da Vinci, Ben Franklin, Albert Einstein of course and Isaac Newton, but also artists like Jim Morrison, Bob Marley, Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp, Oscar Wilde, Franz Liszt, Leif Segerstam (who puts me to shame) Stokowski, Jesus, Brian May and so on. But then there is Richard Branson, and immediately we start to think again of Mr Trump and of the desperate need for both a decisive tonsure and a monastic vow of silence.

Whatever nonsense might be in his head, whatever words he utters, the curse of Trump’s excessive hair never really goes away. It has becoming an icon of insanity, whether ours or his I suppose will be decided at the Presidential election.

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Andrew Marr

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I was horrified by the story that Andrew Marr had been abused in the Daily Mail. Quentin Letts should have known better and it should not have been down to Roy Greenslade to get him to apologise, but that is the world we are living in. We are back to the same discussion we have had before (Jonathan Ross, for instance)- when is a joke no longer funny?

There have been many times when I have drawn something I later decided was too direct or simply did not work. Trying to be topical and humorous can often get us all into trouble, but there are some lines we should never cross. Racism is of course an absolute, but I think also we have to salute those people who are brave enough to stand up in public – Marr is particularly brave, to come back to prime time TV after suffering a stroke. He shows that this is possible. But that wider thought about public life is what makes me pause to admire even those public figures with whom I disagree- I am delighted Sadiq Khan, for example is now the first Muslim Mayor of London: it sends out a tremendous message, though I disapprove of many things Khan and his supporters have said and done (as I hope is clear from previous blogs). Nigel Farage might espouse views I dislike and behave in an appalling way (he still owes me a letter incidentally) but he must be saluted as one of the three great orators in the UK today (the other two are Nicola Sturgeon and Boris Johnson).

Here is the best Farage speech: brilliant, cruel, and probably not something I would say (I balk at the reference to Belgium, for instance) but certainly not poking fun at someone with a disability:

Jeremy Corbyn may not be a man who leads from the front, but I recall on the Andrew Marr show, what a convincing and positive performance he gave. I salute that too, while at the same time bemoaning his inability to control his own cabinet and form a decisive and genuinely loyal opposition. In the absence of real political leadership, we in the conservative party have begun to form our own loyal opposition on our own backbenches! Not good for the Conservatives, not good for Labour and certainly not good for our wider parliamentary democracy.

But praise where praise is due, and frankly, I cannot find a word to say against Andrew Marr. It is fairly shameful that the Daily Mail peddles this sort of filth.

Another example of UKIP racism

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The day before the election and another story explodes of UKIP racism. I am not hugely surprised but I am a bit shocked at the failure of other UKIP candidates to speak out against this, or indeed, as I did over Humza Yousaf, to resign. It is not enough to have this man suspended. He contaminates the brand as much as David Coburn did.

UKIP in other words is not just racist, it is aggressively so. Councillor Ranil Jayawardena is a fellow of the RSA and a Freeman of the City of London. He is a natural successor to James Arbuthnot and I imagine he will do well tomorrow.

The issue with UKIP goes deeper than the news we read today. This is a group that is thoroughly infiltrated by BNP thugs, may well retain links with the National Front, became buddies with Lega Nord, and seems to tolerate holocaust deniers. This is a party where the simple fact is misrepresented again and again- EU migrants are not an economic liability. They are NET contributors. We need to wake up to this fact. The absurd idea that underpins UKIP thinking is that the more migrants we get rid of, the more access we will have to public services. But the simple fact remains that many of these migrants contribute significantly to the upkeep of these self-same services and more than that, often staff the services. The NHS for instance would be a pitiful shell of an institution without the migrant labour force of nurses and cleaners and doctors.

At the point of writing, Farage has not spoken out and apologised to Rabil as he did not apologise to Humza. I suppose he regards this as just another joke, which is why UKIP candidates clearly feel there is licence to overstep the mark.