Category Archives: Government

The ex-Islamist, the million pounds grant and the big-mouthed Minister

IF YOU haven’t already read The Islamist by Ed Husain, then I recommend you do so.

It tells the very true and moving story of a British-born Muslim and his recruitment into – and subsequent disillusionment with –  the radical Islamist group, Hizb ut-Tahrir. It offers a fascinating insight into the Islamist, as well as the Muslim, mindset in the UK. Husain is painfully honest about his experiences; I physically winced at the part where he describes encouraging fellow Muslims to celebrate the events of 9/11, and his confusion when he was reprimanded by those same people.

Now Husain and another former Islamist, Maajid Nawaz, a former political prisoner in Egypt, have formed the Quilliam Foundation, aimed at combating the Islamist tendency in the UK. Only an ex-Islamist can effectively fight the current ones, the logic goes.

Government grants of nearly a million pounds have been put at the foundation’s disposal, whcih seems to have irked some, not least The Times and an unnamed government minister who, hiding, inevitably, behind the shield of anonymity, described the giving of the money as “outrageous”. He (let’s assume it’s a “he”) also warned that Britain is becoming home to “the ex-Islamist industry.”

Well, we can only hope. Or would he prefer for us to be home to the Islamist industry?

Once again, we are revealed as a nation obsessed with the cost of everything and the value of nothing. The Times reports its supposition that the two directors of the Quilliam Foundation are receiving salaries of “about £85,000”. The same report states that its offices have no sign, for security reasons, but doesn’t make the logical link that if people are doing dangerous work to protect other people, they should be finacially rewarded.

I had a discussion recently where I told a friend that Islamism represented the greatest threat to our nation. “No,” he replied, “global warming is the biggest threat to our nation.”

Not sure those aboard any of the Underground trains on 7 July 2005, or any of their friends or relatives, would necessarily agree with that.

The Quilliam Foundation will produce its first report soon. It may well do some vital work on behalf of our country. If it results in saving lives, these government grants can be considered money well spent.  If it doesn’t deliver the goods, then we can always try another approach. But for crying out loud, can we just for once see past the headlines and the salary figures, past the snide little comments about “state of the art computers” (“Golly! They’re using up to date IT? Outrageous!”) and plush offices and judge such organisations on results? Or would that be too logical for our talkative ministerial colleague?

Presumably, the fact of the awarding of these grants suggests that the Quilliam Foundation has the support of the government. That being the case, maybe the minister in question should shut his mouth and get back to supporting the government.



Filed under Government, Society

Dehumanising? Glad you’re not prone to melodrama, M’Lord

I WAS invited on to Radio 5 Live earlier today to respond or comment on Digby Jones’s statement that being a junior minister is “one of the most dehumanising and depersonalising experiences” anyone could have.

I was asked my own perspective which, you will be unsurprised to know, is rather different from Digby’s.

The key thing for any junior minister (or Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, as it’s formally known) to understand is his or her place in the scheme of things which is, by definition, at the bottom of the ministerial chain of command in any department. Is it perhaps conceivable that Lord Jones’s disappointment with his former role stems from an inability to accept that he was the “new boy” at the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform? Maybe he felt the job was beneath him.

His comments about there being too many civil servants and that they are overpaid are entirely predictable and hardly worth commenting upon, but they did make me wonder if DG has been posting on this site under a pseudonym…


Filed under Government

Stick, carrot or finger-pointing and laughing?

MY PREVIOUS post about the politically-incorrect use of red ink on weans’ jotters provoked some amount of the usual abuse but also a rather useful and informed debate in the comments thread. I love it when that happens (not very often, if you must ask).

The Devil pointed out, (not without some justification, I should confess) by way of suggesting a solution to my red mist dilemma, that, since I am a member of the governing party, then the remedy is in my own hands.

Oh, if only ’twere so easy…

Do we really think that the way to prevent this kind of waste of time and energy is to pass a law prescribing the language that can be used in schools and by local authorities? Sounds a bit authoritarian to me, and ultimately unenforceable.

No, surely better to mock and ridicule education providers teachers and local services and equality facilitators council staff and to shame them into coming to their senses.


Filed under Blogging, Government, Society

Warning by H.M. Government: Christmas can seriously damage your health

BARONESS Morgan, the children’s minister, has issued some timely Christmas advice on how to avoid accidents in the home this Christmas. Beware exploding gravy in the microwave seems to be top of the list.

Well intentioned, I’m sure, but when you’re looking for home safety advice, would a government-issue advent calendar be your first port of call? Or, as an alternative, would you perhaps use some common sense? Hmm, difficult choice…

So here are my own top tips for avoiding Christmas carnage this year:

  • When cooking Christmas dinner, you will be working with boiling liquids and red-hot cooking rings or gas burners, so avoid wearing roller skates in the kitchen. This kind of footwear is more likely to make you trip and fall than good old-fashioned slippers.
  • Laughter can put you at risk from an asthma attack, so try to avoid watching anything funny on the telly. Stick with repeats of ‘Ello, ‘Ello, or Last of the Summer Wine.
  • When carving the turkey, remember to remove any blindfolds that you may have been wearing during party games – knives can slice through you as easily as a turkey!
  • Party-poppers are lethal weapons in the wrong hands! Always make sure a local council official has surveyed the firing area in advance of any launch. And do make sure your “victims” are wearing British Standard safety glasses before you pull the string. Ear plugs should also be worn.
  • You can avoid serious lacerations to your hands by using thick gardening gloves when opening presents – this will help prevent near-lethal paper cuts and the resulting copious loss of blood.
  •  Sexually-transmitted diseases are rife at this time of year, so avoid kissing Aunty Gladys on the lips when she gives you this year’s Viz annual and half a pound of Dairy Milk – a firm shake of the hand is just as festive and refreshingly British!
  • If, after Christmas lunch, you start to feel drowsy in front of the television, you’re probably suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning. Don’t panic! Simply get everyone out of the house, alert all your neighbours to the danger and call the police, fire brigade and ambulance service.
  • If grandad wants to light up his pipe, shove him out into the garden, whatever the weather. Remember, if he smokes even one pipe or cigar in the same house as you, you will die of cancer within a month. Probably.
  • Enjoy a festive drink, but don’t go overboard – as a rule of thumb, when you start to feel a bit relaxed, you’ve already had too much and should go to the local A&E to get your stomach pumped, you filthy alcoholic!
  • And remember – Christmas is a special time of year, when you and your family can enjoy some much-needed time together, as long as you can avoid murder, blood loss, deafness, industrial blindness, cancer, suffocation, and scalding. And gonorrhea.

And remember to have a wonderful, carefree Merry Christmas!


Filed under Government, Whimsy

An Iraq inquiry will change nothing

ACCORDING to TheyWorkForYou, I voted “strongly against” an inquiry into the war in Iraq. Apparently.

Now that a date has been set for withdrawal of British troops from Iraq, an inquiry is back on the agenda. But an inquiry into what? Nick Clegg says he wants an inquiry into “an illegal war“. So, no prejudging the outcome there, then.

And if Nick doesn’t think the legality or otherwise of the war needs to be looked at, what does he want to be examined? An inquiry into the conduct of the war, or of events leading up to the start of the war, would be fair enough. But I would not support an inquiry seeking to make judgments about political decisions made in February and March 2003 by ministers and MPs. Yes, MPs sometimes make mistakes, and when that occurs, they are responsible for those misjudgments to their electorates, not to an inquiry headed up by some judge or other who isn’t accountable to anyone.

Similarly, ministers should be responsible to parliament, not to an inquiry. Supposing Judge Whoever decides that the decision to go to war should not have been made. He or she is entitled to his or her view. But my judgment, and the judgment of most MPs, was that it should. The electorate have since had an opportunity to make their own judgment.

Whenever an inquiry is held, and whatever its structure, it will be a huge disappointment to many people. Many of those calling for an inquiry are doing so only because they expect it will bolster their own view on Iraq.

But I doubt if there is a single person in the UK (among those who care one way or the other) whose mind is not already made up about the justification, or lack of it, for the invasion of Iraq. Personally, I’m not about to change my mind just because an inquiry tells me I should. And before you start fulminating at my arrogance, just remember that the same goes for those who opposed, and still oppose, the occupation: will any of them change their mind if the inquiry concludes the invasion was justified? Of course not.

An inquiry will happen; an inquiry should happen. Just don’t expect it to draw a line under this particular episode.


Filed under Government, International, LibDems, Nick Clegg, Parliament

Major loses the class war

FORMER political leaders should command a certain respect, even from those who opposed them during their time in office.

I did not, and do not, like Margaret Thatcher, but I can nevertheless admit to respecting, even admiring her. I respect anyone who has had the skill to reach the highest (indirectly) elected office in the land, whatever their party.

With one exception.

Because I’m finding it awfully difficult to feel any respect for John Major these days. Every time he opens his mouth it is to criticise his successor(s). Maybe I’m old fashioned but shouldn’t former PMs be statesmanlike?

He was at it again today, criticising the government’s economic policy. I’ll say that again for those of you who are unable to suspend disbelief: John Major is criticising the government’s economic policy.

Yeah, I know.

The man who, as chancellor, pressured Margaret Thatcher into joining the euro European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) at an unsustainable rate, the man who then, as prime minister, presided over the chaos of Black Wednesday, the man who led his party to its greatest electoral defeat in nearly a century… is criticising the government’s economic policy.

What a joke. The man’s got no class.

Can you imagine Tony Blair behaving like that – touring the studios, pathetically eager for someone to pay him some attention?

I guess he’s still bitter, and no-one can blame him for that. But it’s bad form for former prime ministers to behave as a second rate attack dog – leave that to back bench bloggers and nurture your legacy…


John Major's proudest achievement. Yet, unbelievably, he still lost!


Filed under Conservative Party, Economy, Government, Politics

IDS may well have some answers on asylum

PEOPLE seem to have a lot more time for Iain Duncan Smith now than they ever did while he was Conservative leader.

This morning, for instance, he was on the Today programme talking about the new report by his think tank, the Centre for Social Justice, into the asylum system. He made a number of good points and I’m going to have to get a copy.

As a Glasgow MP, I have always had to deal with a large number of asylum cases. Glasgow was the only local authority in Scotland to volunteer to be part of the Home Office’s asylum seeker dispersal programme, aimed at encouraging areas other than London to share responsiblity for supporting asylum seekers.

In the past seven years I have gained a reputation of being hardline on the issue. If someone applies for asylum and that application is approved, they should be welcomed with open arms. If rejected, they should return to their home country. There is no doubt in my mind that the asylum system is being used more by those wishing – for perfectly understandable reasons – to come to the UK to improve the standard of living for themselves and their families, than by those genuinely in need of refuge from an oppressive state.

On more occasions than I care to remember, I have been approached by asylum seekers who tell me, at our first meeting, that despite being in the UK for six or seven years, they still haven’t received a response to their initial application. What they mean is that they still haven’t received a positive decision to their numerous appeals against the initial rejection.

If you’re single and have no children, you lose your state support once you’ve exhausted your appeal rights. Families continue to get support until they leave – voluntarily or involuntarily. But voluntary repatriations don’t happen as frequently as necessary, and involuntary removals of families – leading, occasionally, to the so-called “dawn raids” – aren’t exactly ideal levers for enforcing policy.

Even after early day removals are carried out, courts often delay or prevent a family’s actual removal if a judicial review is lodged at the last minute. And JRs are almost always lodged at the very last minute. This kind of circumstance is distressing for the family, frustrating for immigration and police officers and politically difficult for MPs and the government. Surely, any new policy initiative that would make the initial application for refugee status more robust – and therefore less vulnerable to being subsequently overturned on appeal – should be considered? 

IDS (his real name is plain George Smith, you know) has thought carefully about this issue because it is an important one. He has resisted the temptation to parrot the Daily Mail dog whistle line of “send them all back and the sooner the better” and has opted instead for some measured and considered analysis.

I hope the government is listening.


Filed under Government