Saturday, 1 June 2013

Tolerance is the weapon that will defeat terrorism.

It didn’t take long, a little less than a week in fact, for the Woolwich murders to become a bandwagon to be jumped on by politicians with a policy to sell.

Step forward Prime Minster David Cameron and Home Secretary Theresa May, both of whom are mad keen to use public outrage to revive the ‘snooper’s charter’ that would give draconian powers to the security services. These would include the power to prevent extremist clerics from speaking at colleges and other venues where they might radicalise vulnerable young people.

This seems reasonable enough, particularly if similar measures are put in place to curtail the activities of the EDL who have been trying to stir up tensions since the killing.

The security services would also be empowered to force internet providers to give up details of individuals search history and have access to details of phone calls and text messages too, all this without anything in the way of public accountability. Speaking on the BBC Mrs May said the ‘intelligence agencies need access to communications data, it is essential to do their job.’

There seems, on the surface, to be public support for her stance, in a poll conducted for the Daily Mail 64% of the people questioned said more needs to be done to prevent young people from being radicalized; 63% said they though terrorists should face the death penalty.

These are frightened times, what happened in Woolwich has further heightened feelings of fear and insecurity, which is why this is no time to be making important decisions on the hoof. There is no more important decision that that relating to how much of our freedom we are willing to surrender in the name of security.

The people who told the Daily Mail’s pollsters they wanted something; anything to be done to protect us from terrorism are also same people who fill its letters pages with angry missives about the state poking its nose into their private lives. To adapt a phrase there are few things more contradictory than the British public in one of its fits of insecurity.

The security services don’t need any new powers, the ones they’ve got are more than enough to deal with the threats we face. To their credit the nation’s spooks don’t have much enthusiasm for having their powers increased, perhaps because not being bound by political expediency they know that any curtailment of freedom enacted now, even for the best of reasons, presents a risk of the same powers being misused at some time in the future.

Anyway as a weapon for defeating terrorism turning Britain into the sort of country where everyone spies on everyone else is all but useless. In fact it makes us into just the sort of crabbed, paranoid society where extremism whether religious or political flourishes.

A better example to follow is that of Norway following the awful shooting outrage carried out by right wing fanatic Anders Brevik. They responded not with spies listening to every phone call and hatchet faced armed policemen on every street corner, but with more openness, more tolerance and stronger communities.

That is what we need now, a concerted effort to celebrate the things that bring us together. After the awful events in Woolwich ordinary people, of every creed and none, didn’t riot; they came together in shared grief.

This is what will always beat extremism of any kind into the ground, faced by the solidarity of ordinary people who just want to live quiet lives terrorists are revealed for what they really are. Not rebels just deluded malcontents making a lot of noise to hide their inadequacy and inability to link meaningfully with society.


Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown has been conspicuous for his absence from parliament since leaving office; he has spoken in the commons just four times since 2010; now we know why. He has been busy making loads and loads of wonga.

He has made £1.37million speaking at the sort of dinners where the guests expect a former world leader as the cabaret. To his credit Gordon Brown has given £600,000 of this to charity and used the remainder to support his ‘ongoing involvement in public life.’

His earnings eclipse those of his former cabinet colleagues, of whom only Alistair Darling and Jack Straw come even close, earning, respectively, £263,000 and £183,000.

It is one of the stranger rules of political life that it is usually the least accomplished leaders who make the best fist out of being out of office. Consider the case of John Major, he was a truly inept prime minister, but has carved out a second career as an author of popular books about cricket and the history of music hall.

How very different from the latter days of Margaret Thatcher, who long before illness sent her sailing into darkness cut a rather tragic figure, a titan who had lost office and failed to find a role.

Now gloomy Gordon, who during his three year tenure in Downing Street was hardly a great communicator, is raking in the dosh on the after dinner circuit. Life is filled with such ironies; it must certainly bring a smile to even his stony visage to think of Tony Blair following the same road of gilded irrelevance trodden by the iron lady.


Half a million Britons are forced to use food banks every week because they can’t make ends meet thanks to benefit cuts and the sluggish economy. A sensible government would find in this pause for thought, but not this one; perhaps you can’t see the breadlines from Notting Hill. History will not be kind to a government that scrabbles around to placate the prejudices of UKIP and the sillier tabloids whilst the people it patronises with fatuous talk about ‘alarm clock Britain’ go hungry.

Scientists in the US and here in the UK are said to be working on a project to create ‘autonomous lethal robots’; real life killing machines. If so the worst nightmare of science fiction disguised as the ultimate boy’s toy could soon be clanking towards us shooting laser bolts from its cold red eyes as it goes. Given the amount of trouble they have caused over the past decade with the conventional forces at their disposal the thought of the harm the boobies in charge on either side of the Atlantic will do with an army of killer automata to play with is enough to keep anyone with an ounce of imagination awake until the stars go out one after another.

And finally, Tory MP Patrick Mercer has resigned from the party to prevent ‘embarrassment’ as he faces allegations of improper lobbying. That thud you can hear is the stable door being slammed shut as Neddy away gallops over the horizon.

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