Monday, 6 July 2015

Folk Left To Fight For It

The redoubtable Dr Kailash Chand writes:

Yesterday, the NHS  celebrated its 67th anniversary, but, now faces one of the most difficult periods in its history. Government policy and privatisation mean the NHS as we know it will be gone in as little as five years.

The way this NHS is being managed by Jeremy Hunt and the government is a stunning example of how not to do things.

The roadmap of its policies is leading to the complete privatisation of the NHS, a process that has deep roots in Thatcherite ideology.

Aneurin Bevan once said: ‘No society can legitimately call itself civilised if a sick person is denied medical aid because of a lack of means.’

The whole service can be taken over by private companies

The new NHS Act has not just repealed society's contract with the health service, but it has made the NHS a repository of privateers with the mindset of venture capitalists.

I believe it will be a completely different healthcare system in five years’ time – one which will be much worse in terms of access, equity, health outcomes and cost.

The 2012 NHS Act was a dismantling, not a reorganisation.

We are inexorably moving toward a system ruled by bogus choice, competition, market forces and diversity of suppliers.

By opening every NHS corner to any qualified provider, the whole service can be taken over by private companies, with a few token charities and mutuals.

NHS hospitals, faced with the consequences of cherry-picking by private consortia, risk bankruptcy when left to deal only with complex cases.

A recent survey by Londonwide LMCs reveals up to 140 of the capital’s 1,400 GP surgeries could close over the next three years due to staff shortage and financial difficulties.

Dr Michelle Drage, chief executive of Londonwide LMCs, warns: ‘This is a three-year time bomb. In the next three years London could lose as many as 10% of its GP practices.’

There are now 7,962 GP practices in England – one in 20 has disappeared since 2010. The rate of loss of local surgeries has speeded up – 79 closed and 55 opened in 2010 but in 2013, 126 closed and only 13 opened.

By the time of next election in five years, the general practice model of the last 67 years will see revolutionary changes, we might begin to see GPs working as part of a broader non-acute sector, in larger teams, in different settings, and for new employers.

A new tier of physician associates is planned, along with more nurses and pharmacists. These skilled non-medical professionals could be allowed to take on bulk of work traditionally only associated with GPs.

All of this would be unrecognisable to our GP from 1948.

Private sector providers want to de-professionalise and down-skill the practice of medicine in this country, so as to make staff more interchangeable, easier to fire, more biddable, and above all, cheaper.

On its 67th birthday we need to pledge to unite as a profession, irrespective of branch or speciality, to save the NHS in general and general practice in particular.

The NHS's greatest strength has been the NHS family - the employees who have shown resilience at difficult times, who have innovated to find new cures and treatments, who have provided quality care as their professional code has demanded.

They should be allowed to get on with the good and the great things they are capable of doing, and politicians must allow them to do this by giving them appropriate resources and by not playing politics with the NHS.

The culture of the NHS has been damaged by spurious targets, marketisation which is causing fragmentation, and competition which is drawing well needed resources away from front line services.

It is not too late to limit the damaging effects of the last three years of the new NHS Act; but politicians need to listen, and staff need to be empowered to carry on doing what they do best - provide excellence in care across the health service.

‘The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it.’ (Aneurin Bevan, 1948).

Accordion Times

I have not read the NME in years and years. But I remember it as a kind of parallel curriculum.

It should have awarded a diploma to anyone who passed an exam on the cultural, historical and political references in the articles that were ostensibly about pop music.

Any decent university would have insisted on that diploma along with your A-levels.

Ready To Fight Back

Cat Hobbs writes:

On Wednesday it’s the chancellor’s ’emergency budget’.

We don’t know exactly what he’s planning. But we do know he seems to be in a hurry to sell off our public services to the private sector as quickly as possible.

That’s why we’ve launched our Top Trumps campaign to draw attention to some of the great public assets that we believe are on Osborne’s hit list.

If it has a proud history of success, provides a vital service and makes a profit – we’ve got to keep a close eye on it.

The chancellor is probably about to go in for the kill.

1) In May, Osborne announced that he would be selling off £23 billion of our public assets at a CBI dinner.

The government is creating a new company to streamline the privatisation process: UK Government Investments (UKGI).

UKGI brings together UK Financial Investments (which includes government shares in Lloyds and RBS) with the shareholder executive. 

The Shareholder Executive is in charge of a portfolio of government owned or part owned businesses, including the Met Office, Ordnance Survey and the Royal Mint, amongst many others.

We don’t know for sure whether all or just some of these assets are up for grabs.

2) Under the coalition government, the Liberal Democrats held back some of George Osborne’s plans to sell off public assets.

Vince Cable vetoed plans to privatise Channel 4, the Land Registry and the rest of the student loan book.

3) Mark Russell, the head of the Shareholder Executive, is on the record as saying ‘only one or two companies’ owned by the government will never be privatised and that the government is looking at wholly or partly-privatising Companies House, the Land Registry, the Met Office and Ordnance Survey over the lifetime of this parliament.

“Mr Russell makes clear that, unless there is a policy reason for government to own a business, it should look to divest its shareholding if it can realise value for money,” the FT reported.

Meanwhile, private investors are already starting to eye up the potential of our profitable public assets.

4) The chancellor has already said that he is selling off the remaining public shares in RBS, and Lloyds.

Business secretary Sajid Javid recently announced plans to privatise the Green Investment Bank, and the press is now reporting that privatisation of Channel 4 is back on the table.

5) We know George Osborne won’t wait for our permission or consult us. He doesn’t seem to mind what the public thinks.

This government has already sold off a whole range of our services including Eurostar, the search and rescue service, blood plasma – not to mention opening the doors for wholesale privatisation of the NHS and encouraging councils to outsource as much as possible.

We know we’ll be the last to hear about our services being sold off.

Did you spot George Osborne selling off 15 per cent of Royal Mail shares overnight to bankers? It’ll happen again.

When Osborne goes in for the kill on Wednesday, let’s be ready.

Ready to explain why he’s wrong. Ready to fight back.

Let’s tell the positive stories about public institutions working well in our hands, making a profit and doing fantastic work.

Changing The Atmosphere

Zoe Williams writes:

High earners will no longer be eligible for “subsidised” social housing, and will instead have to pay “market rates”, the chancellor has announced.

George Osborne speaks directly to the nation from the pages of the Sun on Sunday in a column that doesn’t actually use the words “clampdown” or “crackdown”, but those are the terms that crop up in all the reports, so we can assume a briefing note somewhere, in which the jargon of tackling crime is deployed to describe people who have the brass neck to rent social housing and have jobs.

This is the first strand of the narrative: that social housing is for the vulnerable, and anybody not vulnerable has no business with it.

It follows that aspirational people, hard-working families, strivers – real people – wouldn’t ever want to be socially housed, because they would know it wasn’t intended for them.

The language is all about support (“In times of economic hardship it is more important than ever that social housing helps the most vulnerable in society,” began the consultation paper in 2012), but the underpinning principle is that the state has no business being a provider of ordinary, decent housing to ordinary, decent people

It should instead be thought of as the houser of last resort.

That’s a pretty standard Thatcherite line, but there’s more: what counts as “high income” is a household wage of £40,000 (in London) or £30,000 (elsewhere).

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation last week released their minimum income standard figures for 2015. The MIS is reached in a citizen’s jury style: a sequence of small groups are asked to figure out the least a person would need to live an acceptable life.

It’s not intended as a poverty threshold, and it’s not as basic as food, clothes and shelter (it includes the category, “social and cultural participation”), but there’s also no frivolity on it.

The most recent calculation was that a couple with two children would need to be earning £20,024 each in order to reach the minimum.

In other words, what Osborne calls a high-earning household is actually, in London, one that is only just managing to get by – and outside London, £10,000 per annum shy of an acceptable life.

This is a pretty extraordinary manoeuvre, an apparently serious attempt to persuade the nation that a little money is actually a lot of money.

A rather pompous idea in the consultation document is that servicemen and women should take priority on social housing lists; but anybody above the rank of level-three private would, if married to someone on the same salary, immediately be “clamped down upon” and required to pay “market rent”.

The third element of Osborne’s story is this “market” of his: social housing is subsidised, while the price of private rental stock is the true price, the natural one, reached by the irresistible logic of the market.

Of course, social housing is only subsidised in the cost of its creation: it then pays for itself in two or three decades of rents.

It only looks cheap in comparison with private rents, which themselves aren’t arrived at by market imperatives at all, but are the result of three decades of governments subsidising landlords with housing benefit.

The chancellor’s tableaux, in which high-earning chancers, who shouldn’t be in social housing in the first place, must have their rents brought into line with the private rents around them – otherwise, and this is the best bit, it is not fair on those hardworking private tenants – is wrong, in all the usual, useful ways.

The message is to forget the state (unless you are a loser); resent your neighbour (he is probably a high earner masquerading as a low earner, to get that social flat you’re subsidising with your taxes); and trust the market (where prices are created elegantly, neutrally, perfectly, like physics).

Like so many of these measures – the closure of the independent living fund, even the bedroom tax – I sincerely doubt that this will save the money they claim it will, and sometimes doubt that it will save any money at all.

Rather, it’s about changing the atmosphere, the commonly held assumptions: life is hard and you’re on your own.

I spent the entire coalition complaining about things on practical and/or human terms: whatever they say they’ll save, they won’t, and this hits the wrong people, and that is inhumane, and what are we punishing disabled people for anyway, and how much is this parsimony going to cost when it explodes down the line?

All of that served, by some strange jiu jitsu, to reinforce the Conservatives’ opening proposition, that the country had been mired in a project of human kindness for far too long, which the state could no longer afford.

So while it is useful to critique the bones of this plan, in the way a crossword is useful to pass the time, the vital bit is to refute the underlying principles: the state isn’t over; your neighbour isn’t a crook; the market isn’t magic; life doesn’t have to be hard; we’re not on our own.

A Lion Has Roared

As he prepares for another triumphant appearance at the Durham Miners' Gala, Owen Jones writes:

From the cradle of democracy, a lion has roaredIt is difficult to overstate the pressure the Greek people have both endured and defied.

A country that has already experienced an austerity-induced economic disaster with few precedents among developed nations in peacetime has suffered a sustained campaign of economic and political warfare.

The European Central Bank – which has only recently deigned to publish some of the minutes of its meetings  – capped liquidity for Greek banks, driving them to the verge of collapse.

There were stringent capital controls, and desperate queues outside banks followed. A country desperate to stay within the euro was told it would be ejected, and with calamitous results.

Martin Schulz, the European parliament’s president and a so-called social democrat, whose attitude towards democracy can be generously described as ambiguous, called for the removal of Greece’s elected government in favour of a technocratic government.

It wasn’t bluster. That’s what the EU and the markets previously pulled off in Greece and, yes, in Italy: however much justifiable distaste exists for Silvio Berlusconi, it should have been his own people who removed him.

In Greece itself, the oligarch-owned “free media” acted as a political machine (sound familiar?), pumping out relentless propaganda in favour of capitulating to the creditors’ demands.

An alliance between Greece’s economic elite and the EU great powers told the Greek people: however tough your lives have been in the last few years, your world will cave in unless you acquiesce.

And still the Greek people voted no – not narrowly, but overwhelmingly.

The referendum was, of course, a rejection of an austerity programme that has unleashed what is commonly described in Greece as a humanitarian crisis.

Since Lehman Brothers crashed in 2008, austerity has always relied on the displacement of blame from elites to elsewhere.

It was Goldman Sachs who helped the then Greek government to cook the country’s books to win entry into the euro.

It was German and French banks who profitably and recklessly lent to Greece, just as US banks disastrously showered subprime mortgages on low-paid Americans.

It was Germany who benefited from being able to export its consumer goods to peripheral European countries such as Greece.

After the crash, Greece was forced to implement measures that sent debt hurtling to 180% of GDP, doubled poverty, left a quarter of Greeks and over half of young people without work, raised the suicide and infant mortality rate, left many without healthcare, and shrunk the economy by a quarter.

Precious little of the bailouts went to Greece; instead they went to the European banks that had recklessly lent in the first place.

While Germany’s postwar economic renaissance owed everything to debt relief – including from war-devastated countries such as Greece – Athens was denied the write-offs it desperately needed.

As French economist Thomas Piketty points out , “Germany is the single best example of a country that, throughout its history, has never repaid its external debt”, and Berlin is “profiting from Greece” because of its high-interest loans.

The weak euro makes German goods so internationally competitive, and has been a linchpin of the country’s recent economic success.

But this revolt was about something much bigger, and that is why Greece remains in great danger. This is about the very nature of the European Union itself.

The European project was founded in the rubble of a war of annihilation, genocide and totalitarianism. It was intended to secure peace, prosperity and democracy for the people of Europe.

This dream has become something of a nightmare for a growing number of Europeans.

A democratic deficit is unaddressed. The Transatlantic Treaty Investment Partnership is negotiated in secret with large corporations, conspiring to give them the power to sue elected governments in secret courts to try to stop policies they believe hit their profits.

The EU treaty negotiated in 2011 effectively forbade any future eurozone government from pursuing an expansionary fiscal policy. Other treaties and directives enshrine free-market dogma in law.

Austerity is mindlessly implemented across the eurozone with terrible human consequences: in Spain, too, around half of young people are out of work.

Syriza was a revolt against this Europe of austerity and corporate power, in favour of a democratic, socially progressive Europe.

Podemos in Spain is part of this revolt, as is Sinn Féin in Ireland [well, only in the part where it is not in government].

If the referendum had produced a yes, then it would have represented a potentially terminal defeat for this gathering pan-European revolt.

Instead, it has now been emboldened. Unfortunately the EU elites are not stupid, and realise this. They fear – justifiably – that if Syriza is seen to win concessions, the rebellion will spread.

The resignation of Yanis Varoufakis is almost certainly part of an attempt to allow them to save face and do a deal. But the EU is in a genuine bind.

If Greece is ejected from the eurozone, the currency is no longer an indivisible union and a precedent will be set for the ejection of its members.

If the ECB abandons Greece, the eurozone’s reputation will not recover.

This is why Greece has bargaining power in its quest for debt relief and for an abandonment of austerity that has already ravaged the country.

The EU still wishes to make an example of the country: by forcing Syriza to implement policies that will destroy the government, by making “the economy scream” (to quote Henry Kissinger) until it is ejected from office, or even a disastrous default and removal from the eurozone.

It may still succeed.

And that is why Greece desperately needs support.

Can Common Law Human Rights Save A Nation?

Keir Baker writes:

The case of the Chagossians originates from the forced eviction of the islanders, who were required to leave their homes to make space for the construction of a US naval base on the archipelago’s main island of Diego Garcia, seen as a strategically-important location in the Indian Ocean. 

Around 2,000 people were forced to leave their homes and have lived in exile for over 30 years. They and their descendants - who now number 5,000 - have submitted numerous legal challenges to this forced emigration, without success.

In 2008, the House of Lords dismissed their appeal by a 3:2 majority.

However, fresh evidence emerged and the main appellant, Olivier Bancoult, launched a bid to gain an order for a further appeal to (one would assume) definitively end the case.

He claimed a feasibility study questioning whether the Chagossians would be able to live effectively on the islands had not been made available to his lawyers, and may have created a different outcome had it been available.

As the Chagossians’ advocate David Fitzgerald QC argued, something had gone wrong in the legal procedure if the claimants had been deprived of an opportunity to challenge the reliability of this report.

Looking at the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) –transposed into UK legislation by the now-threatened Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA) - it would seem that Article 6 of the ECHR, which provides all citizens within its jurisdiction a right to ‘a fair and public hearing,’ has here been compromised.

In order to ensure they received the hearing, the Chagossians needed to prove that this was the case.

If the Chagossians use of Article 6 were successful, the legal rights contained within Article 8 of the ECHR (‘private and family life, his home and his correspondence’) would act as the main grounds on which they could base their appeal, given that the Chagossians had been forced from their homeland to the nearby island of Mauritius, where they live in slum conditions, suffer high unemployment and complain of racist treatment by the indigenous population.

As a result, this whole affair provides an interesting context in which issues regarding common law human rights and their ability to shape and influence the law can be examined.

This is an increasingly important issue, with Conservative proposals to scrap the HRA raising questions about whether Human Rights will be sufficiently protected by the common law.

If the HRA is repealed, to continue their battle against their forced eviction, the Chagossians may have to rely solely on common law human rights, relying on precedent and jurisprudence that may not effectively and comprehensively cover the space that would be left behind.

In general, the common law as a whole is talked about positively, subject to the caveat of its subservience to Parliamentary sovereignty.

For example, writing extra-judicially, Lord Justice Laws argued that it is the unifying principle of the ‘constitution’ and that ‘its distinctive method has endowed the British State with profoundly beneficial effects.’

But the extent to which the case law runs sufficiently in parallel with the statutory causes of action from the HRA is an issue that has been examined and debated by the courts and academics alike.

On one hand, many suggest that the common law can effectively protect human rights thanks to the approach articulated by Lord Bingham in the pre-HRA case of R v Secretary of State for Defence, ex parte Smith [1995] EWCA Civ 22.

Here, he said:

The court may not interfere with the exercise of an administrative discretion on substantive grounds save where the court is satisfied that the decision is unreasonable in the sense that it is beyond the range of responses open to a reasonable decision-maker.

But in judging whether the decision-maker has exceeded this margin of appreciation the human rights context is important.

The more substantial the interference with human rights, the more the court will require by way of justification before it is satisfied that the decision is reasonable in the sense outlined above.

Indeed, in the more-recent Supreme Court decision in R (Osborn) v Parole Board [2013] UKSC 61, Lord Reed described how this approach had been effectively adopted into the Common law, thereby in his view demonstrating how the UK’s domestic law can successfully protect and promote human rights issues, regardless of the existence of the HRA:

The Human Rights Act has however given domestic effect, for the purposes of the Act, to the guarantees described as Convention rights.

It requires public authorities generally to act compatibly with those guarantees, and provides remedies to persons affected by their failure to do so...

It does not however supersede the protection of human rights under the common law or statute...

Human rights continue to be protected by our domestic law, interpreted and developed in accordance with the Act when appropriate.

That approach is now well established.

However, so far as the Chagossians’ case is concerned, Lord Reed’s assessment of the state of the Common law is only partly true.

His evaluation is indeed accurate in terms of the protection of Article 6 rights; with the case of Ridge v Baldwin (No. 1) [1963] UKHL 2 illustrating how the courts have consistently tried to interpret legislation and reach decisions in compliance with what jurists such as Trevor Allan may deem substantive Rule of Law principles.

In Ridge, the principle in question was the right to a fair hearing, thereby supplying a Common law precedent on which the Chagossians may be able to rely for their case.

Indeed, this case, along with others such as R v Secretary of State for the Home Department, Ex Parte Simms [2000] UKHL 33 (the right of freedom of expression) or R v Secretary of State For The Home Department, Ex Parte Daly [2001] UKHL 26 (the right to access to confidential legal advice) shows how important human rights have been augmented by the HRA.

However, as Lord Bingham described in Daly, these cases also independently recognise those rights found within the HRA via the ‘orthodox application of common law principles.’

Nevertheless, there are a variety of decisions that project a picture of common law complacency - most likely stemming from the existence of the statutory sources - regarding human rights, including judicial adherence to the ‘mirror principle’, which follows Lord Bingham’s suggesting in R v Special Adjudicator, ex parte Ullah [2004] UKHL 26 that domestic courts should do ‘no more and no less’ than the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg when protecting Convention rights.

Others too include judicial refusal to apply the HRA horizontally, and judicial affirmation that public authorities can ignore human rights when making decisions so long as the ultimate decision does not violate the ECHR.

Combined, these instances appear to show, that Lord Neuberger was correct when he said that the introduction of the HRA is when ‘human rights started to leak into the judicial cerebellum.’

Furthermore, there are very few examples that may be helpful for the Chagossians of this supposed effectiveness of the common law in terms of Article 8 of the ECHR, with current legal precedents based entirely on the common law seeming either constraining or unhelpful to their case.

In certain cases, such as that of Smith v Chief Constable of Sussex Police [2008] UKHL 50, the courts have explicitly refused to develop discrete causes of action in relation to the scenarios that would otherwise be covered by Article 8 of the ECHR – via the HRA.

In other instances, the courts have allowed the concept of privacy to begin to seep into the English common law.

Most notably, in Campbell v MGN Ltd [2004] UKHL 22 the law of confidentiality was extended to cover some privacy rights (albeit motivated by the HRA).

In the more recently-decided Google Inc v Vidal-Hall & Ors [2015] EWCA Civ 311 the High Court and the Court of Appeal created a tort of misuse of private information, underived from the Article 8 (for more on this, see ‘Vidal-Hall v Google: Can Big Brother Be Defeated’).

However, whilst the common law in regard to privacy is clearly on the move, particularly thanks to the Google case, there still remains no overarching principle or cause of action that is as comprehensive as that which is found in Article 8.

This is both problematic and demonstrative of the deficiencies of common law human rights, because as described by Lord Hoffman in Wainwright & Anor v. Home Office [2003] UKHL 53:

What the courts have so far refused to do is to formulate a general principle of "invasion of privacy”...

Furthermore, the coming into force of the Human Rights Act 1998 weakens the argument for saying that a general tort of invasion of privacy is needed to fill gaps in the existing remedies.

Sections 6 and 7 of the Act are in themselves substantial gap fillers; if it is indeed the case that a person's rights...have been infringed by a public authority, he will have a statutory remedy...

The creation of a general tort will... pre-empt the controversial question of the extent, if any, to which the Convention requires the state to provide remedies for invasions of privacy by persons who are not public authorities...

There seems to me a great difference between identifying privacy as a value which underlies the existence of a rule of law (and may point the direction in which the law should develop) and privacy as a principle of law in itself. 

he English common law is familiar with the notion of underlying values - principles only in the broadest sense - which direct its development....

This is an area which requires a detailed approach which can be achieved only by legislation rather than the broad brush of common law principle.

All the problems described by Lord Hoffman conspire to ensure that the common law still lacks the breadth of the ECHR.

Certainly, for a case such as that of the Chagossians, there is nothing definitive, no applicable ratio that would be sufficient for ensuring success in their appeal.

In conclusion then, the case of the Chagossians suggests that the UK’s Common law human rights are not sufficiently comprehensive to act as a suitable replacement for the HRA.

Dinah Rose QC (the barrister behind The Guardian’s successful appeal for the release of Prince Charles’ advocacy correspondence) seems to evaluate the situation most accurately in a recent tweet, in which she said ‘there are fundamental common law rights (but) they have limitations.’

Importantly for the Chagossians however, it may be those limitations, which represent the (according to the current Common law precedents) hitherto irreplaceable elements of the HRA, that cost them their home, their community and their country.

Wages Will Not Fill The Tax Credit Gap

Gavin Kelly writes:

Recent high-profile converts are bringing headlines and new vim to the debate on working poverty. Good.

But with this comes a cacophony of confusion about the National Minimum Wage (NMW), Living Wage, the role of tax credits and the likelihood that a recovery in earnings will compensate for cuts to in-work support.

And this risks obscuring both the implications of what the Budget might mean for working poverty as well as alternative, practical, policy solutions.

The first muddle concerns the idea that in one bold gesture we could merge the NMW and Living Wage.

From its conception, the NMW has acted as a wage floor that takes account of potential risks to employment.

In contrast, the Living Wage is unencumbered by any job considerations: it is driven by changes in the cost of living (and the public’s perception of what a minimum standard of living looks like).

That’s a big difference.

It’s for this reason that the Living Wage Foundation opposes making it mandatory as many firms, particularly small ones, would struggle to adapt.

Equally, those who’d like to see a more ambitious remit for the Low Pay Commission don’t propose making it chase the Living Wage. The NMW and Living Wage are, and will remain, distinct.

Nor – contrary to endless media repetition – is the Living Wage set at a level that would permit households to cope without in-work support.

Its calculation is predicated on full take-up of tax credits, housing benefit and so on. If in-work support is cut then, as night follows day, the Living Wage will rise.

For example, if we exclude in-work support then the level of the London Living Wage leaps from £9.15 to £11.65; 80 per cent higher than the current minimum wage.

Anyone thinking that something like this might happen anytime soon needs to take a long walk.

Bear in mind, too, that the Living Wage is itself a composite of different wage rates that, together with in-work support, are required to ensure a minimum living standard for a variety of household types.

The rate for a lone parent with two kids would need to be over £14, while for a childless couple it falls to well below the NMW at under £5.

Even in the unlikely event that the ‘official’ Living Wage (£7.85) was mandatory – and let’s not forget that over 5 million workers still get less than it – it wouldn’t guarantee families a decent standard of living.

Perhaps the biggest misconception is the voguish notion that if tax credits are cut, employers will somehow decide to offer pay rises to fill the gap.

This is saloon-bar economics espoused by some on both left and right.

The available evidence  suggests that the great majority of the gains from tax credits flow through to employees, not employers.

What about the claim that those working families should be able to absorb cuts in tax credits and other benefits by securing a commensurate pay rise? It doesn’t wash either.

To illustrate, consider the idea that’s been floated of  cutting Child Tax Credit  by £5 billion (accounting for under half of the proposed welfare cuts).

A single parent with one child, working 16 hours a week on the NMW could experience a cut in annual income of £845.

To prevent this income fall they would need to boost their earnings by nearly £1,500 (due to high effective tax rates) ­– equivalent to a 26 per cent pay rise.

Alternatively, it would take 12 years of incremental 2 per cent real pay rises (well above the pre-downturn trend) simply for this family to recover their position.

If the family had two children then we can practically double the figures in this particular example.

We should also bear in mind that under Universal Credit it will become harder, not easier, for this sort of family to claw their way back to today’s position as the effective tax rate they face will rise.

And are tax cuts going to fill the gap? No. As  we’ve often pointed out, a higher personal tax allowance (PTA) won’t give a penny to almost 6 million of the lowest earners.

Only about 1 per cent of the cost of the planned increases in the PTA will actually be spent lifting the lowest earners out of income tax (the rest is spread between all tax-payers).

The measure that would be most useful – raising the National Insurance threshold – has hitherto been shunned.

So as we head into the Budget week, let’s be clear-eyed about quite how severe the consequences could be for the working poor.

But let’s do so while also acknowledging that the status quo needs changing.

It’s true that in some important respects our policy architecture has worked well: several decades of blending steady welfare reform, in-work support and the NMW have left our labour market  in a far stronger position than some of our key competitors (notably the US).

Yet there are big shortcomings to be tackled not least on low pay, work incentives and training. New ideas capable of courting support across the political spectrum are needed.

First, we could prioritise progress on poverty-pay in those sectors that are largely in the government’s gift and that will clear the path to a higher NMW.

For instance, a move towards a Living Wage for care workers would offer a pay rise to almost a million of the worst-paid, most overlooked workers in the country and remove one of the biggest road-blocks to a higher wage floor for all workers.

Year after year the Low Pay Commission highlights that the care sector works as an anchor on the NMW.

Action here would also give the government much greater moral authority to lean on other key low-paying sectors like retail and hospitality, and would cost less than many realise due to the scale of savings from in-work support.

Good policy, good politics.

Second, Universal Credit needs to be overhauled so it becomes a significant part of the solution to persistent low pay rather than reinforcing the problem – encouraging people to work more hours and making earning more worthwhile.

This is eminently achievable and fully in keeping with the government’s rhetoric. Political will from the Treasury, and an open mind from DWP, are what’s needed.

Third, as part of the push on productivity, it’s high time that the state demanded more from employers on training.

Debates on training levies and employer contributions are as old as the hills – all governments examine them only to shy away – but they now have real urgency due to the perilious decline of the adult skills budget.

The new government should use its mandate, and its strong hand vis-à-vis employers, to act.

It would be a meaningful sign that, amidst the hardship, it is seeking to inch the economy towards shared and sustainable wage growth over the medium term.

It seems that working poverty is about to be made worse.

Let’s hope that there is also some clear thinking about long-term improvements too.

Voices and Choices

In order to safeguard pluralism and thus informed democracy, each member of the House of Commons ought to be given an allowance transferable to the political media outlet or outlets of his or her choice.

A newspaper, a magazine, a radio station, a television station, a news agency, a website, a freelance journalist, whatever.

Obviously, something like Tribune or the Morning Star does not, you know, "need" this money.

But just as obviously, the BBC does.

Likewise, any MP, and nobody else, ought to be able to certify a journalist as a member of the Press Gallery, with only the same access rights as were enjoyed by a member of an MP's staff. Who's in charge?

Is it technically possible to be a member both of Parliament itself and of the Press Gallery? I only ask.

Hardline Clerics Dominate Middle Eastern State

The conversion of Netanyahu's second wife would not have counted under this.

Even of a kind that is a very long way from this, Orthodox Judaism is extremely rare among neoconservatives on either side of the Atlantic. What say they?

Wishful thinking nostalgists for the liberal-Left Israel of an increasingly distant past need to get over it.

With however much difficulty, but there were are.

No Bar Blues

Unlike Norman "Sorry, But I Had To Be Somewhere Else That Evening" Lamb, Tim Farron makes no bones about the fact that he abstained on principle at Third Reading of the same-sex marriage legislation.

Farron is going to become the Leader of the Liberal Democrats.

Andy Burnham went so far as to vote against IVF for same-sex couples. That is a matter of record. He has never remotely recanted that vote. Look at what he has said in recent weeks. He has used no form of words to anything like that effect.

He retained his Cabinet seat, so he could not have voted against party policy. In fact, he was one of three Cabinet Ministers to vote that way.

Burnham is far and away the candidate most likely to become the Leader of the Labour Party.

No one much seems to mind, or even to have noticed, except a few people below, and very occasionally above, the line on Comment is Free. But who asked them?

In any case, there does in fact exist a major political party in which failure to have supported Third Reading of the same-sex marriage legislation, never mind a full-blown vote against lesbian IVF, would be an absolute bar to the Leadership.

Those objecting on such grounds to Farron and Burnham ought to make their way into that party. They would find themselves entirely at home there.

For, although much play was made of people's leaving the Conservative Party over same-sex marriage, much less has been made of people's joining it, quite conceivably in larger numbers, since with the former in the camp that party failed to win in 2010 the overall majority that it secured with the latter in 2015.

At least a quarter and possibly a third of the Conservative Party's members, probably rising to over half of its activists and to a long way over half of its activists below quite a high age of 40 or even above, have joined that party specifically because of same-sex marriage.

That party, which has just won an overall majority over the party that is about to be led by Tim Farron, and over the party that is most probably about to be led by Andy Burnham.

Calling Time

This letter appears in this week's New Statesman:

Helen Lewis's column about abortion time limits (Out of the Ordinary, 26 June) was a textbook example of how you have to keep your wits about you when reading feminist scare stories. We were told that "most members of the cabinet" supported lowering the time limit on terminations from the current 24 weeks to 20, or even 12 weeks.

The clear implication was that this as part of a growing attack on women's rights and thus unacceptable. What we were not told was that Britain had almost the highest time limit in Europe  –  only Cyprus exceeds it, with 28 weeks.

Countries that manage with a 12-week limit include Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany and Italy. Slovenia has a 10-week limit, and women do not seem to be taking to the streets of Ljubljana.

Will Lewis revisit this subject soon, to tell us what agitation was under way in those countries for a doubling of the limit, and what unbearable privations women in those countries suffered as a result of their current systems?

Would she explain what it was about a British pregnancy that required twice the limit for the termination of a French one  – or, as I understand it, an even higher limit than that?

James Gourley
Faversham, Kent

In stating the views of the late John Smith and Charles Kennedy, of the very much alive Alex Salmond and George Galloway, of Tim Farron and of several of the most left-wing Labour MPs, and of 2015's loyal Labour voters from the old Irish strongholds to the newer Pakistani strongholds, James Gourley might have added that the Czech Republic, with a 12-week limit on abortion, was probably the most secular country in the world. Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark and France, also with 12-week limits, are all less religious than the United Kingdom is. As is Slovenia, with a 10-week limit.

Moreover, most, if not all, of those countries are also rather less belligerent. Abortion more-or-less on demand is a neoliberal concept, so to speak, and it is thus a feature of the American Empire as surely as it was not a feature of the old American Republic. That is why we have it here. It is part and parcel of that which is "neo" in everything that neoconservatives seek, not merely to conserve, but to spread across the whole wide earth by the force of arms.

We Will Recall

Peter Hitchens writes:

I still don’t understand why we need a gigantic airport sprawled across South East England.

What does it gain us, compared with the misery of noise, pollution and congestion it causes in our cramped country? Would it really be so bad if we had to take a train to Paris or Amsterdam to fly to the USA?

Why the obsession with grandiose projects, such as new runways and the mad, useless HS2, when the shocking scandal of the broken promise on electrifying our decrepit, low-speed railways passes without scandal

The abandoned plans were specifically promised in a Tory manifesto published only a few weeks ago (pages 11, 13 and 14, if you want to check).

I know politicians lie habitually, but this is surely the most blatant false prospectus of modern times. Yet nobody has even resigned.

They might not have noticed Down South. But we have certainly noticed up here.

Opposed though I am to any provision for the recall of MPs between General Elections, the Government does look fairly set on bringing it in.

There are 44 Conservative MPs sitting for constituencies in the North of England, one for a constituency in the South of Scotland (slap bang between Berwick and Carlisle stations), and three for constituencies in North Wales.

What is union money for?

This is a way of reintegrating the RMT. That remains disaffiliated from the Labour Party. But, being affiliated to the Labour Representation Committee, it is constitutionally committed to the election of a Labour Government.

ASLEF and the TSSA, meanwhile, remain affiliated to the party.

Full Spectrum Response

John Prescott writes:

As I observed the minute’s silence for the Britons who died in Tunisia, I thought back to July 7, 2005.

We’d just won the Olympics, Tony Blair was having a successful G8 conference in Gleneagles and we were even gearing up to win the Ashes. The country was on a roll.

I was chairing the Cabinet when we were told there had been an ­explosion on the Tube. We were told it was caused by a power surge.

With Tony in Scotland, I was in charge of the initial response and convened the first emergency COBRA meeting (innocently named after the room, Committee Briefing Room A).

But then we heard a bus had been blown up. Just like 9/11, a perceived accident turned into a terrorist atrocity.

Fifty-two people died at the hands of home-grown suicide bombers, the worst loss of British lives since the 9/11 attacks.

It became clear their grievance was with our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. But it was crucial our response didn’t inflame the Muslim community.

We set up seven community-led working groups under the banner of Preventing Extremism Together (PET) to develop practical ­recommendations for tackling violent extremism. Community involvement was vital.

Ten years on, al-Qaeda has been replaced by Islamic State. But this government has failed to learn the lessons.

The Tunisia gunman crafted his deadly skills at an IS training camp in an “ungoverned part of Libya”. Ungoverned because Gaddafi had been deposed by Cameron’s airstrikes, leading to a power vacuum and civil war.

We faced the same situation after removing the Taliban and Saddam Hussein. Because of our interventions, hundreds of thousands now flee these countries to make their way to the UK.

When will we realise that our military ­involvement in the Middle East only make matters worse?

Cameron even wanted to take us into Syria, which would have led to us fighting on the same side as IS.

Thankfully Labour, the Lib Dems and rebel Tory MPs stopped Cameron and US President Obama from turning a desperate regional dispute into a major ­international war.

But now the PM’s planned “Full Spectrum Response” could put UK and US airstrikes in Syria back on the table.

And what are we doing to prevent another 2,000 British Muslim men and women going to Syria to help IS?

The Government has passed a law to compel teachers and lecturers to report students they suspect might have “extremist views”.

Surely ­engagement with the Muslim ­community is far more important than encouraging teachers to become an army of spies.

This government wants to impose Western values and democracy abroad but seeks to abolish human rights and snoop on our emails, social media and phone calls at home.

It also wants to strengthen links with undemocratic Saudi Arabia and the military ­government of Egypt, which deposed the last elected Prime Minister.

It’s no wonder British Muslims who fled to Syria felt more allegiance to IS than the UK. It’s not their parents’ fault, it’s the Government’s policies that help to radicalise them.

Airstrikes and sending in the SAS cannot guarantee Brits will be safe from IS attacks on every beach and in every city.

Our continued ­intervention in the Middle East means this Arab Spring has turned into a long and bloody winter.

This is a regional dispute that requires a regional solution.

We should put more pressure on Israel to commit to recognising Palestine, ending an injustice which still fans the flames in the Middle East.

From the Crusades [well, that is another story] to Iraq and Syria, Western intervention never works. It didn’t a thousand years ago and it doesn’t now.

Until we recognise that, Britons will never be truly safe in Arab countries – or even on the streets of the UK.

Globalists v Localists: The New Reality

Ed West writes:

Tonight it looks like the Oxi’s have it, and Greece’s fraught relationship with the Franks has reached a new phase, with possible Grexit coming; that’s assuming the exit polls are correct and that this whole torturous episode doesn’t continue.

Whether Grexit takes place or not, though, the whole episode has fundamentally damaged the European Union by undermining the very idea it was built on – solidarity.

If you ever get Irish people on the subject of the Great Famine, the essential point they always make is that had the potato blight hit Yorkshire, no one would have starved because London would have come to its aid.

Yorkshire is the example used, because it’s far away enough  from London but the people are regarded as being the same. The people of Ireland were not, clearly.

Likewise when you look at the hardships facing the Greeks, and wherever blame is portioned, do you think the moneymen in Frankfurt would stand for that if it was happening in Brandenburg or Saxony? Would Parisians allow such misery to afflict Provence?

This is not to compare the Greek tragedy with the Irish famine in terms of size or blame – it’s nothing like it, and the Greek ruling class was complicit in this disaster.

And yet the EU has started behaving like an ineffectual empire dealing with a rebellious colony.

It is in Greece’s best interests to leave the euro as soon as possible, and a benevolent European Union would try to help it move to the drachma as painlessly as possible.

The only logical explanation for why the EU is trying to keep it in is because Grexit would damage the EU; not just the economic stability of the eurozone, but the very momentum of the union itself.

Once the EU starts to shrink then, with other empires, it will gather its own momentum.

Ultimately the euro is a failing idea because it lacks what the medieval Islamic historian Ibn Khaldun defined as the all-important factor of human history - asabiyya, or ‘group feeling’.

The strength of any state, and any institution, lies in its ability to inspire asabiyya, without which it crumbles, for as the historian wrote: ‘Strength is obtained only through group feeling which means affection and willingness to fight and die for each other.’

Where is the affection for Greece? Without asabiyyah, he wrote, there could be no sovereignty or legitimacy; instead people could only be ruled by force or fear.

In the case of empires, fear of physical harm; in Greece’s case fear of economic ruin.

What’s interesting about the 5 July referendum is that it emphasises a key reality of 21st century politics, that the divide is not so much Left v Right but one of globalists v localists.

On the one hand the global financial authorities, the EU, the banks and big business and the pro free-trade economists; on the other a strange combination [not in fact strange at all] of radical leftists opposed to austerity and ‘neoliberalism’ (whatever that means), as well as nationalists (both decent and deranged) and Burkean conservatives.

The difference these days is that the former also go in for utopian ideals, whether it’s the euro or immigration, because they ignore the social implications of group feeling and think only in terms of economics not history; capitalism as the new Communism.

In fact one reason it’s difficult for commentators not to use mythology as a standard cliché template for the crisis is because, like a Greek tragedy, the whole European project has ended up causing the very conflict it was designed to end – conflict and disharmony between nations.

It’s like Oedipus deciding to avoid his fate of marrying his mother by leaving town and shacking up with a woman twice his age. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Not to 66 Labour MPs at the time of Maastricht, it didn't. Nor did it to Gordon Brown and Ed Balls.

The Extremism of David Cameron

Dan Glazebrook writes:

UK Prime Minister David Cameron is not only in complete denial about his role in facilitating the rise of ISIS, but his “response” to last Friday’s attacks will facilitate it even further.

Last week’s attacks by Islamic State (formerly ISIS/ISIL) and Al-Qaeda killed almost 300 people across six countries: Syria (145), Somalia (over 50), Tunisia (37), Kuwait (30), China (18) and France (1).

Another 70 were killed in Egypt earlier this week.

That ISIS is now in a position to launch such coordinated attacks is a direct consequence of the policies pursued by Cameron and his predecessors in Syria, in Iraq, in Somalia, and most of all in Libya.

Unsurprisingly, his article in the Telegraph the following Monday reflected on none of this. Instead, he suggested a series of measures that will boost their capacity even further.

Firstly, he said, we must give our police and security services the tools they need to root out this poison.”

This might make sense if the police and security services were genuinely committed to tackling the death squads.

Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly clear that it is precisely the security services that have been facilitating the passage of fighters to Syria.

Moazzam Begg’s trial for terrorism offences collapsed spectacularly last year when MI5 admitted they had given him the “green light” for his training of fighters in Syria.

The Guardian noted that MI5 had “extensive contacts with him before and after his trips to Syria” during which “he discussed his travel plans and explained he was assisting opposition fighters in their war against Bashar al-Assad’s regime.”

MI5 then assured Begg that “no attempt would be made to hinder him if he wanted to return to Syria.”

According to Begg, around half a dozen other trials have collapsed since then, and for the same reason – that the fighters had left with the full approval of the security services.

That the intelligence services should be playing the role of facilitating British Muslims to fight in Syria is, of course, no surprise, given that it was government policy to support the Syrian insurgency from the very beginning, providing it with diplomatic support, finance, training and military equipment, and downplaying the brutality and sectarianism of the fighters.

In November 2012, William Hague, then British Foreign Secretary, met with rebel leader Moaz al-Khatb, an anti-Shia sectarian who has described Al Qaeda’s Syrian wing, Jabhat al-Nusra, as an important ally in the struggle to destroy the Syrian government.

Four days later, the British government officially recognized Khatb’s organization, the Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces, as the sole legitimate representatives of the Syrian people, despite overwhelming hostility to the insurgency across large swathes of Syria.

There is no way that Britain was unaware of Al Qaeda’s leading role in the insurgency they were supporting and arming.

Last month, US courts ordered the declassification of documents issued by the Defence Intelligence Agency – widely distributed within the US at the time and almost certainly shared with the British government - which highlighted the leading role of Al Qaeda in the Syrian insurgency back in August 2012.

The documents even predicted the rise of a “Salafist principality” stretching from Syria into Mosul and Ramadi in Iraq – predicting, in other words, not only the formation of Islamic State, but also the precise extent of its territorial conquests.

It also noted that such a principality was “precisely what the supporting powers to the opposition want.”

Yet, following this report, the British state greatly increased its support to the rebels.

Since then, the British government has been implicated in the supply of 75 planeloads of heavy weaponry to the insurgents via Croatia, much of which has ended up in the hands of Al Qaeda.

Britain later successfully lobbied the EU to end its arms embargo on Syrian rebels, and directly provided millions of pounds worth of military equipmentas well as contributing to a joint British-US$30 million program to train the rebels in public relations.

If anyone ever wondered where ISIS learnt their slick video production techniques, this program may provide part of the answer.

It should be no surprise, then, that another terrorism trial collapsed last month when Bherlin Gildo’s lawyers pointed out that the groups he was fighting for in Syria were being armed and trained by British intelligence.

But it is not just British intelligence that has been supporting terrorism in Syria.

Lawyers for the families of three sisters from Bradford who were suspected of joining ISIS last month claimed that the North-East Counter Terror Unit of the British police were “complicit” in the “grooming and radicalizing” of the sisters by “allowing, encouraging and promoting contact with somebody believed to be in Syria”.

All this adds up to nothing less than a scandalous level of collusion between British security services and police and the various terror cells in Syria.

Quite how giving “increased powers” to these agencies is supposed to help stem the rise of the terror groups they have been supporting is unclear.

Indeed, what is more likely is that the security services and police will be able to use their ever-more draconian powers as tools of entrapment to aid their recruitment of young British Muslims into the death squads.

After all, it is already known that MI5 use existing anti-terror laws to blackmail British Muslims into working for them: The Independent reported back in 2009 that MI5 have been threatening to treat those they approached as “terror suspects” unless they worked for the organization, and it has subsequently been revealed that they had tried to recruit both “Jihadi John” and Michael Adebolajo, one of the killers of Lee Rigby.

Giving more power to the police and security will simply make it easier for them to continue with their recruitment of young Muslims as tools of Britain’s foreign policy of destabilizing the independent states of the Arab world.

Cameron’s next concern is with the “ungoverned spaces…in which the terrorist groups thrive”. This requires governments, he argues, to “strengthen weak political institutions and tackle political instability.”

Once again, to someone from Mars without the faintest knowledge of Cameron’s actual political record, this might sound quite plausible.

But the undisputed, universally known and blindingly obvious reality is that it is precisely British wars or British-backed insurgencies – every one supported or even led by Cameron – that have created these “ungoverned spaces” from Afghanistan, to Iraq, to Syria, to Libya.

So is this admission a sign of humility from the prime minister, an admission that his policies of destabilization have been a disastrous failure which have paved the way for ISIS? Not a bit of it.

Rather, he is proposing more of the same.

Just this January, he announced that 400 British troops would be sent to help train another 5,000 Syrian insurgents, which even the BBC admits are likely to be “linked to… extremist groups such as the al-Qaeda affiliate the Nusra Front.”

Cameron is also pushing for a further bombardment of Libya, under the guise of a “war against people smugglers.”

Following the model of the war against drugs”  a militarized approach to the supply of a criminal enterprise for which there is an almost limitless demand  it is likely to have much the same effects: namely, the monopolization of the trade by the most vicious and well-armed groups; the sky-rocketing of the prices and profits of the enterprise; and its widespread geographic dispersal.

In other words, the war on “people smuggling” is likely to massively increase the violence, capacity and spread of ISIS and Al Qaeda throughout North Africa.

Thoroughly in line with the last decade and a half of British foreign policy, this is a recipe for spreading, not stemming, the “ungoverned spaces…in which terrorism thrives.”

Cameron’s final and “perhaps…most important” proposal is “confronting the poisonous ideology that is driving terrible actions like those we saw on Friday.”

One might suspect he is referring to Wahhabism, the viciously sectarian ideology followed by both ISIS and Al Qaeda that considers the Shia – 10 percent of the world’s Muslim population  to be infidels, and largely blames them for all the woes of the Arab and Muslim world.

The sect is named after its 18th century founder, Abd al-Wahhab, who wrote that any doubt or hesitation” by a Muslim over Wahhab’s personal interpretation of Islam should deprive a man of immunity of his property and his life.

According to Alistair Crooke, al-Wahhab “argued that all Muslims must individually pledge their allegiance to a single Muslim leader (a Caliph, if there were one).

Those who would not conform to this view should be killed, their wives and daughters violated, and their possessions confiscated, he wrote.

 The list of apostates meriting death included the Shiite, Sufis and other Muslim denominations, whom Abd al-Wahhab did not consider to be Muslim at all.

In many ways, Wahhabism is the mirror image of European fascism – a supremacist response to military defeat and humiliation, which blames defeat on an internal enemy weakening society from within, which must therefore be purged in order for that society to rebuild its strength.

“Confronting” this “poisonous ideology” is indeed an excellent idea.

Once again, however, Cameron’s words are the exact polar opposite of his actions. The world’s biggest sponsor of Wahhabism is Britain’s number Arab ally, Saudi Arabia.

This state – established between the wars with the help of Winston Churchill – has spent no less than $70 billion promoting Wahhabism worldwide over 25 years, according to a US Congressional Committee.

Every conceivable means has been adopted to spread the Wahhabi message of vicious sectarianism to as many Muslims as possible, and from the youngest age possible – from the creation of satellite channels, radio stations and magazines, to the establishment of mosques and madrassas.

Is Cameron, then, proposing an end to the alliance with Saudi Arabia? Of course not.

Indeed, his government has surpassed even its predecessor in the spectacular quantities of weaponry it sends to the Saudis every year, last year reaching £1.75 billion.

And the Saudis remain honored VIPs at every exclusive event held by the British royal family, from weddings to birthday parties.

As it turns out, Cameron was not talking about Wahhabism.

Indeed, what is notably absent from his definition of extremism is anything relating to hostility to Shias: that is, the actual supremacism that drove not only the suicide bombing in Shia mosque in Kuwait, but is also a major driving force of the entire British-supported insurgency in Syria (the very insurgency which, as it happens, also radicalized the Tunisian gunman).

Nor does Cameron mention anything about violent hostility toward black Africans, one of the prime motivations of the rebel movement he brought to power in Libya.

His definition of “extremism” is in fact extremely vague: the first indicator of extremism he mentioned, for example, is – I kid you not – saying “that the West is bad.”

Other indicators include saying that “freedom is wrong,” that “women are inferior” or that homosexuality is evil,” particularly ironic given that these last two criteria would probably apply to half of his own backbenchers.

Indeed, this vagueness is precisely the point; by keeping the definitions vague enough, it gives the government blanket authority to act against almost anyone they choose; after all who has not criticized at least some aspect of “the West” at some point?

And only anarchists believe in total, unrestricted freedom. The other 99 percent of the country, then, do indeed believe that at least in some cases, that “freedom is wrong.”

This sloppy definition, then, is nothing less than a blank check for cracking down on dissidents.

And what happens once the Home Office labels you an extremist? Here are some of the things that have been proposed:
• The ‘blacklisting’ of extremists by the Home Office – meaning they will be banned from publishing, broadcasting or speaking at Universities.
• ‘Extremist disruption orders’ to restrict the movement of ‘extremists’.
• Powers to close down premises used to host extremist meetings (likely to intimidate venues into shying away from hosting political meetings at all).
• TV programs to be “vetted for extremist content” before they are broadcast.
• Local authorities, prisons, NHS trusts, schools, universities and further education institutions to be placed under a new statutory duty to prevent extremist radicalization taking place within their walls.
• Universities to give the government “sufficient notice of booking [of external speakers] (generally at least 14 days) to allow for checks to be made and cancellation to take place if necessary”, including the submission of any talks to be given and any presentations to be shown.
• A ‘snoopers charter’ to allow the government blanket access to all online activity of the entire population.

This raft of measures to use against extremists, then, could potentially be used against anyone; it is a blatant attempt by the government to use public revulsion at the very terrorism it itself has sponsored, to ram through measures giving it unprecedented power to repress views it does not want to be aired.

At the same time, it will give that much more leverage to the very security agencies recruiting vulnerable Muslims to the Syrian insurgency.

A greater cynicism would be hard to imagine.