The Lib Dems’ despicable bargain

A clipping from the Daily Mail showing the headline "At last! Plastic bags will be banished" and in smaller type: "Victory for Mail's six-year campaign as Ministers force reluctant supermarkets to impose 5p charge". Above the clipping is the slogan "Banish the bags" and the Daily Mail's name in its usual masthead font.I sometimes regret the fact that I still live in a fairly affluent part of outer London which has been, for most of the past generation, a Lib Dem stronghold, particularly when I see people elsewhere get enthusiastic about the Corbyn project and realise that I won’t have a chance to vote for him, because there aren’t enough Labour voters round here to do more than split the anti-Tory vote. Generally speaking, Edward Davey was a good and responsive constituency MP for decades, only to throw away years of building up people’s trust to throw in his lot with David Cameron’s Tories in 2010. He lost his seat (to a Tory) in 2015, only to win it back in 2017. This past week, during the “plastic straws” debate, a former Lib Dem strategist (now director of Demos) named Polly Mackenzie boasted of how they had managed to get David Cameron to agree to their “5p tax on carrier bags” idea while in government: Cameron wanted their support to tighten up the rules for benefit claimants, and got it (though the rule change found to be illegal and never went ahead; whether the Lib Dems knew that would happen or not, I don’t know). The full thread on Twitter starts here and ends here. Incidentally, the Daily Mail had been campaigning for a ban on plastic bags since 2008.

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Animal rights are no excuse for racism

A meal on two plates: a large piece of chicken surrounded by fried onions and with a mushroom sauce on top, on a black plate on top of a wooden plate; behind it is a portion of potato chips in a metal mesh container with a long handle, on a plate with a small portion of salad. A glass of water to the left with a bottle of water behind the plate with the chips on. Behind the glass of water is a container with three pairs of knives and forks wrapped in a red paper tissue.The other day the 80’s pop star Morrissey, best known for being the frontman for the Smiths, gave an interview in which he backed the far-right party called For Britain, set up by a former UKIP member called Anne Marie Waters, and condemned halal (and kosher) slaughter, calling it ‘evil’ and ‘cruel’ and claiming that “if you use the term ‘humane slaughter’ then you might as well talk in terms of ‘humane rape’”, also claiming that “halal slaughter requires certification that can only be given by supporters of ISIS”. He also poked fun at various politicians, claiming that “even Tesco wouldn’t employ Diane Abbott” and that Sadiq Khan “tells us about neighbourhood policin’” and on that basis “cannot talk properly”. I made a point of going to one of my favourite HMC halal restaurants in Tooting and having their chicken steak (their red-meat steaks are rather too expensive for me at the moment) but it exposes a familiar problem in our society: people who think racism is acceptable in the name of animal rights or animal welfare.

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Who really loses out here?

A sign with letters in black on glass, fixed by metal bolts to the wall behind. There are arrows pointing left with the room number 716, underneath which it says "Male washroom" with a man symbol and a circle with a wheelchair with a line through it. Next to the right arrow are the room numbers 714 and 722 and underneath that is "Universal washroom with hoist and adult change table", with signs representing men, women, wheelchairs and the hoist.This is a sign which, allegedly, appeared on a college hall of residence in Toronto, Canada. It points left to a non-accessible bathroom for men, and right for an accessible one with a hoist and an adult changing table, for everyone else including all women and any men who want to use it. Feminists of a certain sect have been sharing this image with the suggestion that it requires women to share a toilet with men, and when I pointed out to one of them yesterday that it really (very seriously) inconveniences many disabled people, she accused me of glossing over the implications to women’s safety of having to share a bathroom with men. In fact, such toilets are always single cubicles, so this will not happen.

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Does it matter where the term ‘Islamophobia’ comes from?

Picture of Julie Bindel, a middle-aged white woman with short, greying brown hair, wearing thick-rimmed glasses and a grey suit jacket with a name badge pinned to it and a low-cut top underneath, sitting typing on an Apple laptop.Why are so many left-wing progressives silent about Islam’s totalitarian tendencies? by Julie Bindel (free registration required)

This article is on Unherd, a right-leaning opinion site edited by Tim Montgomerie (founder of ConservativeHome), and filed in a section called “Flyover Country”. Julie Bindel proclaims herself to be a “lifelong feminist, and firmly on the political left”. The notion of “flyover country” comes from the American Right, who spent years proclaiming on talk radio and blogs, etc., that (white) provincials were being ignored by the chattering classes who were overwhelmingly located on the two coasts. The fact that the Electoral College delivered the presidency to two extreme right-wing, incompetent Republican candidates (in 2000 and 2016) precisely by privileging their votes over votes cast in populous coastal states such as New York and California never seems to occur to them. They just repeat the “republic not a democracy!” mantra.

The blog’s name is UnHerd — a pun on “unheard”, obviously, when their opinions are regularly ‘heard’ on talk radio, on BBC panel shows, in magazines like Standpoint (where Bindel has been publishing for years, alongside the rather more blunt bigot Douglas Murray) and major newspapers like the Daily Mail and the Times. So, her claim to be “firmly on the political Left” rings rather hollow, as she has no problem rubbing shoulders with members of the extreme political Right and echoing their persecution fantasies.

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About those free rides …

A still from a Labour election video, showing the statement "The next Labour government will provide free bus travel to under 25s in England" with a bus stop that reads "U25 bus stop"Some friends of mine have been sharing a Labour election video on Facebook. The 15-second video claims that the next Labour government will make bus travel free for under-25s in England before telling people, “Get on board and vote Labour on Thursday 3 May”. This is a misleading advert, for a number of reasons, because it makes promises that Labour cannot deliver in the forthcoming election and may not still be part of their policy by the time of the next general election.

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On DIY SOS and accessibility

Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, a 50-year-old white man with a beard and moustache and shoulder-length hair, wearing an open-necked white shirt with a green suit jacket over it, holding a hat decorated with white skulls under his left arm, standing next to Nick Knowles, a middle-aged, clean-shaven white man wearing a purple polo-neck T-shirt with a white hard hat on his head; a red-brick house can be seen in the background with workmen with flourescent jackets and hard hats can be seen behind the the two men.The other day I watched a repeat of an episode of the BBC series DIY SOS: The Big Build. It’s where the BBC get some architects, designers and local builders and other workers and they all pitch in to drastically modify someone’s house for the benefit of a disabled person. Last week it was a young lady with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, Antonia Payne-Cheney, who had been trapped in hospital for four years because her family home was unsuitable for her wheelchair. (You may remember that the same series also helped another young woman with the same condition and in a similar situation, Chloe Print-Lambert, a couple of years ago.) In both cases, they built a large downstairs extension with an accessible bedroom and bathroom for the disabled person, with a ceiling track hoist to get them between, and into the living room which is shared with other family members; they also hire designers (or they work for free, I’m not sure) who design furnishings and wallpapers and modify existing furniture to personalise it for them. In the episode that was on last week, that included a zebra-themed wallpaper for Antonia; the zebra is a symbol associated with EDS.

What’s the problem? In many of their big builds, the bedrooms of the non-disabled members of the family remain upstairs and inaccessible to the wheelchair user. Worse, in some episodes the presenter talks with the non-disabled family members about how the new arrangements give them a space where they can be themselves — it’s almost as if the inaccessibility of “their space” to their disabled relative is a good thing, a feature, not an unavoidable necessity (if that is even what it is). Of course, it’s a good thing that a disabled person can escape from hospital and live more independently with their family, but how is it that a huge project spearheaded by a major broadcaster always leaves this out, when it is actually possible to obtain lifts that would enable a wheelchair user to get upstairs so their whole home is accessible? When the disabled person is not the child but the parent, this would be vital, as you cannot have a section of the house, let alone the children’s bedrooms, accessible to a child but not a parent.

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Keeping Corbyn out is not enough

A cartoon of what looks like a red-faced adult sitting in a pram and throwing a mobile phone, laptop, camera and other electronic devices out of it. The signature "Adams" is in the top right-hand cornerYesterday I came across a blog post by Nora Mulready, one of the most sanctimonious anti-Corbyn agitators among the centre-Left, welcoming the announcement of a “new party” in last Sunday’s Observer — which, as you might discover if you read the whole article rather than just the headline, hasn’t been founded yet. The same article was tweeted out by John Rentoul, a columnist for the Independent and biographer of Tony Blair, with a quote which really sums up the attitudes of many of the supporters of this “new party”:

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Centrists must learn that it’s not 1997 anymore

A picture of Jeremy Corbyn, a white man with thinning white hair and a short white beard, with his hand up to his chin, wearing a light blue shirt and no tie. The date (June 2017) is barely visible at the top. The NME logo is in the top left and at the bottom is written "We offer HOPE": Jeremy Corbyn on the election that will define our futures.According to a report in today’s Observer (effectively the Guardian on Sunday), a group of “entrepreneurs, philanthropists and donors” have been developing plans for a new centrist party for about a year. The foundation, Project One Movement for the UK, which has attracted former Labour and Tory donors and has plans to run candidates in the next election, due in 2022 (unless something happens before then, which is thought likely), was set up by Simon Franks, founder of LoveFilm, and its policies are supposed to appeal to a “liberal, centre-left audience”:

Potential policy proposals include asking the rich to pay a fairer share of tax, better funding for the NHS and improved social mobility. However, it also backs centre-right ideas on wealth creation and entrepreneurship, and is keen to explore tighter immigration controls. A source said some Brexit supporters are involved.

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Review: The Silent Child

A still from The Silent Child showing Libby and Joanne, a woman and girl, silhoutted under a tree, signing to each other.The Silent Child is a 20-minute film which won an Oscar at the recent Academy Awards (for the best Live Action Short Film) which focuses on a four-year-old deaf girl named Libby who comes from a hearing family and who has not developed enough speech as she approaches school. The family brings in a ‘help’ named Joanne, who we are told in the descriptions is a social worker but appears to be simply a tutor, to try to improve her communication skills and she immediately begins teaching Libby sign language, of which she learns the basics quickly and begins to enjoy talking, playing and going to the park with Joanne. However, the mother gets cold feet and decides that it would be best for Libby to concentrate on developing her speech and cuts off her contact with Joanne. In the final scene, Libby is seen standing alone in the playground while other children play; Joanne stands across the fence and they sign “I love you” to each other. It finishes with some statistics about deaf children from hearing families and how many do not have any support when they go to school. The film can be seen here for the next few weeks and has mandatory subtitles.

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Why Egyptian TV covers American police violence

Earlier today I saw a tweet by Shaun King, an American race activist, about Egyptian media coverage and popular interest in American police shootings and resulting protests:

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How (not) to argue with Brexiteers

A picture of Nigel Farage, a white man in a black suit jacket with a white shirt and dark grey, pink and light purple striped tie, against the blue and pink backdrop of the BBC's weekly Question Time panel show.Last Friday Nick Cohen posted a series of tweets about what he described as the tendency of Labour Remainers to “snuggle down in the soft warm bed of conspiracy theory” in explaining why the Leave vote won the 2016 referendum; he accuses Andrew Adonis and Alastair Campbell of attributing it to BBC bias rather than “examining his [Adonis’s] own faults, and acknowledging where he went wrong”. Cohen concluded “Despite stiff competition, the Brexit vote is the stupidest thing Britain has done in my lifetime. But it won’t be reversed unless my side argues with leave voters respectfully.”

He’s right in that we cannot reverse the vote by arguing with leave voters and calling them dumb bigots. But not for the reasons he thinks.

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Why are service stations a rip-off?

An overhead view of the Cobham service area on the M25 motorway. A junction has been built to allow traffic from both sides of the motorway to access the services.Today the transport secretary, Chris Grayling, called for an investigation into what he called “exploitative” fuel prices at motorway service stations, which are typically 20p per litre above prices elsewhere (and the gap between service stations and supermarkets is even bigger). This has been the case for years; most products available at motorway service stations (and stations run by the same companies off motorways) are priced considerably higher than they are elsewhere, except for a few categories of items which are fixed, such as newspapers. Service station operators blame the ‘complexities’ of motorway trading, such as the need for 24-hour staffing. I am surprised, though, that this needs any investigation as the causes of overpricing at service stations are obvious.

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When racists rage against racism

A Facebook post showing a mural, the centrepiece of which is an image of a number of old, grey-beareded, stiff-collared men playing a Monopoly game where the board rests on the naked bodies of men. Above the image of the mural it says "It's happening again! Get the full story on davidicke.com where I defend against the false accusations and gross misinterpretations of my mural by self-interested British politicians and the mainstream media. #FreedomforHumaniy".The controversy that started last week when someone dug up a five-year-old Facebook comment by Jeremy Corbyn on a picture of an anti-Semitic mural by an obscure London artist has not gone away. What is surprising is that he is still leader. The number of MPs who have spoken out is small; they have not threatened to defect to any other party or resign as of the next general election, or made a challenge to Corbyn’s leadership. There are a lot of supporters who have criticised his stance and called on him to take a stronger stand, but others who remain convinced that he can do no wrong and that this is all a conspiracy to undermine his leadership and others who believe it is quite consistent with his previous behaviour, that he may not be an anti-Semite as such but he does not mind rubbing shoulders with people who are. I have a couple of theories as to why the response to this has been so limited compared to even previous rows about the same issue.

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‘Sloven Health’ fined £2m

A black and white picture of a white teenage boy wearing an open-necked white shirt with a dark coloured jacket over it, standing in front of some railings behind which a man is walking; there are trees (presumably those of Hyde Park) in the background.Today, the Hampshire based NHS trust Southern Health was fined nearly £2,000,000 for health and safety breaches in regard to the preventable deaths of two patients: Connor Sparrowhawk, the “Laughing Boy” of the Justice for LB campaign who died in the bath as a result of an epileptic seizure in 2013 in the now-closed Slade House unit in Oxfordshire, and Teresa “TJ” Colvin, who killed herself in a Southampton mental health unit where she was receiving treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder following childhood abuse. The case was the result of several years of campaigning by the families of the two victims in which Connor’s family in particular were vilified in internal memos in the trust and subjected to whispering campaigns and personal abuse by both Trust and county council employees, but the campaign resulted in being vindicated in court on multiple occasions, notably at Connor’s inquest in 2005 which found that his death was preventable and contributed to by neglect. (Today’s sentencing remarks can be found here in PDF form.)

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Thinking of becoming a Tory?

Front cover of the Spectator from November 2005, headlined 'Eurabian nightmare', with a crescent linking various cities and a star at LondonThis week someone dug up a Facebook post from October 2012 by a muralist called “Mear One” which shows a mural of a bunch of bearded figures (which he explains as representing Jewish bankers) playing monopoly over a group of huddled human bodies, underneath a pyramid-and-eye symbol (the one that appears on the American Great Seal and on the one-dollar bill). The Facebook post with a picture of the mural has approving comments from Yvonne Ridley and Jeremy Corbyn (who was not considered by anyone a potential party leader at the time); the latter said “you are in good company; Rockerfeller (sic) destroyed Diego Viera’s mural because it includes a picture of Lenin”. Corbyn has claimed, through a spokesperson, that he “was responding to concerns about the removal of public art on the grounds of freedom of speech” but that the mural “was offensive, used antisemitic imagery which has no place in our society, and it is right it was removed”. This does not really chime with the sentiments he expressed in the comment — his first sentence was “why?”, as in “why would they want to remove it?”. I’d not be surprised if his leadership does not survive this, but anyone thinking of defecting to the Tories over this needs to look at their record of supporting and promoting bigotry.

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Why I’m not closing my Facebook account (yet)

A red billboard with the claim "Turkey (population 76 million) is joining the EU. Vote leave". The poster has an image of a British passport with footsteps leading to it.Since the scandal broke about Facebook data being leaked to Cambridge Analytica, a New York-based political consultancy which served the Trump and Brexit campaigns and used the data to channel propaganda to susceptible voters, I’ve seen at least two people I follow on social media suggest that it’s time to close our Facebook accounts and it’s become fashionable to ask the question as a matter of when I’ll delete my account, not if. Yet I’ve not seen many people close their accounts (although, if they were not on chat, I would not notice it immediately) and my feed is as lively as it was before. I’m not planning to close my account just yet and this is why. (More: Philippa Willitts, Dean Burnett.)

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Why disrupt a picket line?

A white woman wearing a black puffy jacket with orange trimmings, with her finger pointing in the direction of the cameraFootage has emerged of a group of trans activists, all women, one of them perhaps trans, protesting at a Bectu union picket line outside a cinema in Brixton (where there is a long-running pay dispute) on the grounds that one of the women on the picket line is a TERF (trans exclusionary radical feminist) who attended the same meeting I went to last month organised by Woman’s Place UK. The women chanted “TERF, TERF” and shouted that she was not there in solidarity with anyone. The incident took place on International Women’s Day (8th March) and the focus of the protest has been named in the Morning Star as Paula Lamont, an elected member of the union’s Sector Executive Committee (SEC) who was visiting as an elected official. The accusation that she was “not in solidarity with anyone” is curious; she was there in solidarity with workers who were striking for a living wage, an issue not directly connected to the matter they were protesting about. (Note: ‘sector’ refers to BECTU itself, a media and entertainment workers’ union, within the wider Prospect union.)

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Enough of the naivety about Putin

A picture of an English cathedral with a tall spire, with a large two-storey red-brick house in front, across a large lawn.Last week the British prime minister, Theresa May, took most of the action she had promised to do after the Russian government did not answer for the attempted murder of a former spy and his daughter in Salisbury two weeks earlier. The attack used a nerve agent developed in Soviet Russia, an organophosphate compound of military grade (that is, much stronger and purer than the organophosphates that are notorious for making sheep farmers very ill), which it is thought no state other than Russia still has stocks of, and the victim is someone it is thought nobody other than his former homeland would want to harm. The action consisted of expelling 23 diplomats on the grounds that they were undeclared ‘security’ personnel. There was a suggestion that the Kremlin-backed TV channel RT (originally Russia Today) may have its licence to operate in the UK revoked and that England may not send a squad to next year’s World Cup in Moscow, but there is absolutely no talk of military reprisals.

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Silent liberals?

An image of Maajid Nawaz, a middle-aged South Asian man with greying hair, moustache and (short) beard, wearing a white, open-necked shirt, sitting in front of an LBC microphone and against the backdrop of a backlit LBC logo. Above the caption reads, "The uncomfortable truth about UK grooming gangs".Last week a half-hour feature by Nick Cohen of the Observer on the supposed “silence of the liberals” on the ‘plight’ of liberal Muslims in the UK who are, he alleges, facing death threats and being called unbelievers (which he claims is effectively a death warrant) for supporting women’s rights and advocating the same liberal vision they themselves do. He accuses them of a colonial attitude, preferring to speak to ‘leaders’, and accuses left-wing politicians of relying on those leaders to procure Asian votes through the ‘biraderi’ block-vote system. He interviews Amina Lone, Fiyaz Mughal of Tell MAMA/Faith Matters, Maajid Nawaz of Quilliam and the LBC radio station, and Maryam Namazie, an Iranian communist exile who runs “One Law for All” which opposes religious tribunals for settling personal and marital disputes. He makes much of the fact that no Labour MP would appear on the programme and claims he asked a wide section of the parliamentary party, including people for and against Corbyn’s leadership.

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The myth of the “conference of 72 sects”

The other day on Twitter someone retweeted a Qadiani (a member of the so-called Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam) repeating a much-rehearsed claim: that according to a newspaper report at the time, 72 sects of Muslims had a conference so as to denounce the 73rd, namely them. They claim that this was foretold by the Prophet Muhammad (sall’ Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) in a hadith and thus the conference was the fulfilment of a prophecy and proof of the authenticity of their so-called prophet, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who lived in then British India in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

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