By: Mehdi Hasan

From the Sunday People:

“Margaret Thatcher personally covered up child abuse allegations made against one of her senior ministers, according to explosive new claims. The Tory Prime Minister is said to have held a high-powered meeting with the rising star, who was being tipped for promotion, and told him: ‘You have to clean up your sexual act.’ It followed an allegation that the minister had sexually abused young boys at the home of one of his political allies in 1982. However the minister apparently ignored the warnings. It is claimed that four years later he was spotted by police seeking young boys for sex at Victoria railway station in London. But no action was taken. The extraordinary claims – made to the Sunday People by a source with inside knowledge of Scotland Yard in the early 1980s – are now expected to be put before the Westminster child abuse inquiry announced last week by the Prime Minister.”


Is this what the Israelis mean by a ‘targeted’ air campaign against Gaza? From the Independent on Sunday:

“The residents of the Mobarat Felestin centre for the disabled had just finished suhoor, the early morning meal before a long day of fasting during Ramadan, when the first missile hit the roof. It may have been the standard warning issued by the Israeli military that a major attack was coming. But the people inside did not know that. And, with all but one of them suffering from mental and physical disability, it is highly unlikely they would have been able to escape in any event. The ensuing air strike..demolished a large part of the structure.. leaving two dead and four others horrifically injured from shrapnel and burns. As the victims were carried out of the ruined building in Beit Lahia, through the charred debris, twisted metal and shards of glass, the mood was one of despondency – and anger.”

Meanwhile, the BBC this morning reports that “at least 159 Palestinians have died in the air strikes, Gaza officials say. They are said to include 17 members of one family who died in an Israeli missile strike on Saturday evening.”

Is any western government going to demand a ceasefire? Put any pressure on Prime Minister Netanyahu?


That’s the rather loaded and offensive headline in the Sun on Sunday, which covers the latest chapter of the coalition’s war on benefit claimants:

“Benefit claimants with anxiety and depression like TV’s White Dee may be forced to get counselling or lose handouts. Ministers are considering the move due to the high numbers signed off sick with “treatable” conditions. Four pilot projects have been ordered to probe links between providing mental health support and getting people back to work.. Sources said around 260,000 on ESA — about half — who are meant to be preparing for work have mental health problems. They get handouts worth around £1.3billion a year.”

Yet, as Dr Sarah Wollaston, former GP and Tory chair of the Commons health select committee, tweeted this morning: “Just imagining the increase in prescriptions for antidepressants to ‘prove’ compliance with treatment. Unethical, unworkable nonsense.”


Watch this video of an awkward stand-off on the stairs between a dog and a cat.


It’s a Christian obligation, apparently. The Archbishop of Canterbury told BBC1′s Andrew Marr show this morning that the wealthiest members of our society had a “duty to make a proper contribution to society”.

“There have to be serious questions about some of these tax avoidance schemes,” said Justin Welby, before adding that it was the responsibility of governments to close the various tax loopholes that are exploited by (legal) tax avoiders.

He also criticised the “hysterical” coverage of British Muslims and the issue of extremism.


Those so-called “comfort letters”, in which almost 200 IRA terrorism suspects were told they were not wanted by police, are now causing a bit of a problem for the former prime minister who oversaw their issuance. From the Sunday Telegraph:

“Tony Blair faces being summoned before Parliament to explain the secret deals he made with Sinn Fein to assure IRA suspects “on the run” that they were not wanted by the police, The Sunday Telegraph can disclose. The former prime minister has been accused of dodging a Commons select committee investigating the affair. MPs on the committee are to consider issuing a formal parliamentary order compelling Mr Blair to attend a hearing to give evidence — a highly embarrassing prospect for the former Labour leader.”

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Isn’t it odd that the Tories say they support the right to strike but never support any actual strikes? From the Telegraph’s splash:

“A million pupils face being turned away from classes on Thursday as teachers go on strike based on a poll of just a quarter of union members two years ago. The Prime Minister pledged to overhaul an archaic law that has allowed members of the National Union of Teachers to disrupt children’s education without any fresh ballots. The move would put an end to union powers to hold an unlimited number of ‘rolling’ strikes based on a single vote that has enabled the NUT to take action three times this academic year alone.”

The papers tend not to be sympathetic to any strikes either so it’s remarkable that the latest ComRes poll shows the public split on whether they think these current public sector strikes are justified. Maybe voters have noticed what Tory MPs refuse to: the biggest fall in living standards in more than 100 years.


The cabinet has been meeting this morning and David Cameron and Nick Clegg are expected to hold a joint press conference later today. Why? From the Daily Mail:

“Emergency legislation will today be announced at Westminster to allow Britain’s spies to access data about the public’s phone calls, texts and internet use. The laws will be rushed through Parliament amid mounting concern about the threat posed to the UK by jihadists returning from fighting in Syria… The law will force mobile phone and internet companies to store information relating to all recent telephone calls, emails and internet searches, so they can be accessed by security officials. There are long-standing Coalition tensions over the issue of communications data. But officials insist the legislation is not intended to give the security services and police any new powers.”

The Sun’s Tom Newton Dunn reports that the Tories have secured cross-party support for the new legislation.


From the Sun:

“A Tory last night announced he is quitting his safe seat — paving the way for Boris Johnson’s return as an MP. Sir John Randall will stand down at next May’s election, leaving a 11,216 majority. BoJo Continued on Page Two Continued from Page One is eyeing Sir John’s seat in Uxbridge, West London — paving the way for a future Tory leadership bid. Its location would let BoJo, 50, serve as an MP — while keeping his promise to see out his full second term as London Mayor until May 2016. A friend revealed last night: ‘Uxbridge is a terrific constituency. Who wouldn’t be tempted to go for it? Boris is intrigued and will certainly make his thoughts known by September.’”


Check out this Vine of the rather awkward silence between Victoria Beckham and Samuel L. Jackson in the Wimbledon crowd a few years ago.


It isn’t just the Home Office that seems to have a problem keeping hold of important files – from the Guardian front page:

“The government’s problems with missing files deepened dramatically when the Foreign Office claimed documents on the UK’s role in the CIA’s global abduction operation had been destroyed accidentally when they became soaked with water. In a statement that human rights groups said ‘smacked of a cover-up’, the department maintained that records of post-9/11 flights in and out of Diego Garcia, the British territory in the Indian Ocean, were ‘incomplete due to water damage’. The claim comes amid media reports in the US that a Senate report due to be published later this year identifies Diego Garcia as a location where the CIA established a secret prison as part of its extraordinary rendition programme.”


How many innocent Palestinians in Gaza have to die to compensate for the three Israeli teenagers murdered in the West Bank? From the Guardian:

“Even this early in Israel’s campaign against Hamas and other militant factions in Gaza the bodies of the civilian victims are beginning to pile up, children and an 80-year-old woman among the dead from the past two days… In all, 43 Palestinians are reported to have been killed by Israeli strikes on Gaza. Many, hospital officials claim, have been civilians. Among the total are 15 women and children, amid claims that in four air strikes only women and children were killed.”

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By: Mehdi Hasan

Will we see full disclosure? From the Times:

“Westminster’s main parties were last night forced to agree to review their whips’ ‘dirt books’ and disclose any evidence of child abuse. The Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties all said that they would trawl disciplinary records of current and former MPs and pass any relevant material to a new inquiry into a possible institutional failure to protect children from paedophiles. That inquiry, set to be one of the largest ever held, will be carried out by Baroness Butler-Sloss, the former president of the family division of the high court, it was announced yesterday.”

Speaking on the Today programme this morning, Peter Wanless, the chief executive of the NSPCC who is heading the separate review into the Home Office’s handling of documents relating to these alleged historic sex crimes, told the Today programme he believed that a person who is told about child abuse and “does nothing about it” should face prosecution.

Meanwhile, the Independent’s veteran political correspondent Andy McSmith reminds us of the historical context:

“Thirty years ago last month, speculation about a paedophile ring inside the British political establishment went global – not for the first time. The Toronto Globe and Mail was one of the newspapers to report on it… In those days, it would seem that adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and the abuse of children were all lumped under one heading of things people really should not do, some of which were illegal.”


Gaza continues its descent into hell, with Israeli jets pounding the strip on Tuesday, killing at least 25 people and injuring more than 70. According to the BBC, “four women and three children were among the dead”.

The Israelis say they’re hitting back against Hamas, which has fired hundreds of rockets across the border over the past 24 hours. The Palestinians, however, point out that, in recent weeks, and since the kidnap and murder of the three Israeli teenagers, the Israeli military has been rounding up and detaining hundreds of Palestinians, killing Palestinian teenagers in the process, and blowing up Palestinian homes, too – oh, and lest we forget, the Israelis have also been blockading Gaza from land, air and sea for several years now.

So what is the point of Israel’s latest military attack on Gaza? Did the moral and political failure of Operation Cast Lead teach the Israelis nothing? Bombing and besieging Gaza only increases the pain, suffering and, yes, anger of the Palestinians who continue to be penned inside the world’s largest open-air prison.
Check out this quote from the parent of a wounded Gazan child, as reported in the Guardian:

“In a room a few doors down, Bashir Abu Tawliah was bending over his unconscious son Muhammad, 16, dabbing a dribble of blood from his son’s broken nose. “He was with his friends in the street when the strike occurred. They were very close. They weren’t involved in firing rockets. What did my son do? What do I want? I want it to escalate. I want them to feel the same pain as we do. Gaza is Hamas. They can’t dismantle Hamas without dismantling Gaza.”


Has Harriet Harman completely undermined Ed Miliband’s attempts to suggest David Cameron has a ‘woman problem’? From the Guardian:

“The deputy Labour leader, Harriet Harman, has spoken of how she felt sidelined as a woman in Gordon Brown’s government as she was passed over for the role of deputy prime minister and told her involvement in a G20 summit was to be limited to dinner with leaders’ wives. In a speech at Westminster on Tuesday night about equality in politics, Harman revealed her experiences of sexism at the very top of government… Harman, deputy to both Brown and Ed Miliband, said: ‘The truth is that even getting to the top of the political structures is no guarantee of equality. Imagine my surprise when having won a hard-fought election to succeed John Prescott as deputy leader of the Labour party, I discovered that I was not to succeed him as deputy prime minister. If one of the men had won the deputy leadership would that have happened? Would they have put up with it? I doubt it.’”

The paper adds:

“Her comments about the G20 summit were rejected by Damian McBride, a former spin doctor to Brown, who was involved at the time. He tweeted: ‘It’s utter bilge from Harriet, done to make her attack on Dave look non-partisan. And shameful timing given the work GB is doing in Nigeria.’”


Are you a good liar? Watch this video which can tell you whether you are or not in just 5 seconds.


Tory Treasury minister Andrea Leadsom won’t be best-pleased with this ‘scoop’ in the Guardian, just a week ahead of an expected ministerial reshuffle:

“An offshore financier who is the brother-in-law of financial services minister Andrea Leadsom has donated £816,000 to the Conservative party since she first successfully ran for parliament at the last election. Peter de Putron, a banker who lives in Guernsey and is married to Leadsom’s sister Hayley, also made a further £1m of donations to a party-backed campaign and a rightwing thinktank. Leadsom herself said that she was unaware of the donations made by a member of her own family, but a Labour MP asked whether the payments in effect amounted to a ‘cash for political office’ arrangement.”

5) ’50 FEET APART’

A fascinating piece from the Times’ Tom Coghlan on the ground in northern Iraq:

“Just 50 feet of paved road and a line of sandbags separate the fighters of the Kurdish peshmerga army from Isis fighters whose black flags flap above the canal bridge at Mullah Abdullah. The town is probably as close as it is possible for a Western reporter to get to the new “caliphate” declared by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of Isis, whose jihadist fighters have taken Iraq and Syria by storm. Thirty kilometres south of the oil city of Kirkuk two would-be states — the caliphate and Kurdistan — confront each other within the borders of what might soon cease to be Iraq.”

Meanwhile, Reuters reports on a potential ‘rift’ in the ‘Sunni alliance’ of anti-government militants:

“Sunni militants who overran the city of Mosul last month have rounded up between 25 and 60 senior ex-military officers and members of former dictator Saddam Hussein’s banned Baath party, residents and relatives say. The crackdown potentially signals a rift in the Sunni alliance that helped secure Islamic State fighters swift victory when they rode in from the desert to capture Mosul last month.”

As former Pentagon official Colin Kahl asked on Twitter last night: “When US forces rounded up ex-Baathists in Iraq, it caused an insurgency. Will ISIL’s tactics produce the same result?”

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The Church of England, an institution whose origins date back to the sixth century A.D., has far more modern views about the rights of women than Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, experts said today.

“In recognizing that women are the equals of men, the Church of England has embraced a position that is centuries ahead of Scalia’s,” Davis Logsdon, a professor of religion at the University of Minnesota, said. “This is a remarkable achievement, given that Scalia was born in 1936 and the Church began in the late five hundreds.”

But Dr. Carol Foyler, a history professor at the University of Sussex, took issue with that assessment. “I date the beginning of the Church of England to 1534, when it was officially established under Henry VIII,” she said. “But regardless of whether the Church is fourteen centuries old or five centuries old, it’s unquestionably more modern than Scalia.”

As for Justice Scalia, he seemed to dismiss the controversy, issuing a terse official statement Monday afternoon. “I do not keep up with the goings on of every newfangled institution,” he said.

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Up To 20 ‘Establishment’ Paedophiles? Really?



From the Daily Mail:

“Failure to report suspected child sex abuse could become a criminal offence, Theresa May revealed yesterday. The Home Secretary’s announcement came as, bowing to growing pressure, she agreed to a sweeping inquiry into allegations of paedophilia in Establishment circles… Mrs May also announced that a separate inquiry, led by NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless, will review an investigation conducted last year into the Home Office’s handling of historical child abuse allegations. It has been prompted by claims of a cover-up after it emerged that 114 files had been lost by Home Office officials.”

The paper adds:

“There is evidence that at least 20 prominent paedophiles – including former MPs and ministers – abused children for decades, a former child protection manager told BBC Newsnight last night. The claim came from Peter McKelvie, the whistleblower whose claims prompted Operation Fernbridge, the Scotland Yard investigation into allegations of a paedophile network with links to Downing Street.”

Meanwhile, the most senior civil servant at the Home Office, permanent secretary Mark Sedwill, is to appear before MPs on the Home Affairs select committee later today to answer questions about the department’s handling of historic child abuse claims.


Forget Iraq for a moment, how’s the Afghan war going? The Sun reveals:

“British troops are being pulled out of the Afghan badlands two months early. The vast majority of the 5,000-strong fighting force in Helmand will have been airlifted out by the end of October. But the agreed deadline for combat operations to end is not until December 31… The pullout leaves a skeleton force at Camp Bastion, big enough to defend itself but unable to take the fight to the Taliban. The MoD says it is possible because they are ahead of the plan and local forces are able to take on their own security. A senior source said: ‘We’re getting out early because we believe we can.’ But ex-Chief of Defence Staff Lord Richards told The Sun: ‘I am very disappointed. This is not what we committed ourselves to.’”

He may be disappointed, but the British public – which gave up on this pointless, self-defeating conflict a while ago – will be delighted.


Forget that now-notorious ‘blank sheet of paper’, the Labour leader unveils another – yes, another – policy today in a speech to the Sutton Trust charity. From the Telegraph:

“Top universities will be encouraged to offer vocational degrees alongside academic courses under a Labour government, Ed Miliband will announce today. The Labour leader will outline plans to urge universities, including the Russell Group of colleges, to offer technical degrees for people still in employment. The degree–level qualifications, based on certificates common in Germany, would be partly designed and run by employers. Courses would focus on industries such as construction and engineering. Mr Miliband will say that the qualifications will be the “priority” for Labour’s higher education policy. Even the most traditional colleges will be encouraged to offer them.”


Watch this video of a cat using some sort of magic to get through a window.


From the BBC:

“The Bank of England should not make any ‘hasty decisions’ on raising interest rates, warns the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC). In its quarterly survey it says an early rate rise “may mean more limited growth ambitions” among companies. The survey of 7,000 businesses showed that the growth rate had slowed in some industries between April and June.”


George Osborne is on a trip to India and he really knows how to impress his hosts – from the Telegraph:

“A statue of Mahatma Gandhi, the Indian civil rights leader, will be erected opposite the Houses of Parliament, Cabinet ministers have announced. Gandhi, who studied in London, will join Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela and Abraham Lincoln when a new statue is unveiled in Parliament Square early next year. The new statue was announced by William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, George Osborne, the Chancellor, and Sajid Javid, the Culture Secretary, on a visit to India. It will be in place in time for the centenary of Gandhi’s return to India to begin the non-violent struggle for self rule, as well as the seventieth anniversary of his death in 2018 and the 150th anniversary of his birth in 2019… Mr Osborne said: ‘As the father of the largest democracy in the world, it’s time for Gandhi to take his place in front of the mother of Parliaments.’”

How times change. Remember when the then Tory prime minister Winston Churchill referred to the Mahatma as a “half-naked fakir”?

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Dennis Skinner is no model, yet he has a lesson for Labour

Despite their popularity, individualist politicians are not the answer. But they do show that the party must be clear what it stands for
Satoshi Kambayashi illustration for Polly Toynbee piece on Westminster and politicians

‘The humiliating process of begging for votes seems to invite a kicking. Look how soon the disillusion sets in after a revolution.’ Illustration: Satoshi Kambayashi

A Twitter storm of indignation greeted news that Dennis Skinner has been voted off Labour’s national executive committee by his fellow MPs. How could they oust an original, a working-class hero, in a world of bland, robotic politicians? “The Labour party has never been further from its roots”, “Too scared of upsetting wealthy middle England”, they tweeted. Good grief, even Tory culture minister Ed Vaizey tweeted: “It beggars belief that a party would not have a man such as this on their executive”.

The 82-year-old jokester’s shout-outs when Black Rod enters are part of that insane ritual – not exactly Wildean wit, but anything remotely joke-shaped cracks up the Commons. Occasionally he’s deadly: “Tell her to pay her taxes!” to the Queen, and “It tolls for thee, Maggie!”, which it did. David Cameron doesn’t like it up him when Skinner blasts him with both working-class barrels, as at PMQs this week: “As a member of the Bullingdon Club, is he proud to be surrounded by this [NHS] wreckage?”

Age bestows benevolence, but some with 1980s memories don’t forgive him, Tony Benn and others for rendering Labour unelectable in the “no enemies on the left” days, blocking attempts to stop Militant’s invasion. Roy Hattersley calls him “an entirely destructive force”. But others say a mellowed Skinner often helped Blair and Brown out of difficulties. That is ancient history. Now, for those without rancorous memories, the man is a totem remnant of imaginary days when politics were better, MPs more authentic. Was there a plot to oust him? It’s hotly denied, but it looks to the world like yet another case of Westminster not getting it.

People like MPs who look and sound more like the population and who speak their mind, detesting whips and party obedience. Online comments and radio phone-ins call for referendums on everything, for independent MPs and for colourful characters like, say, Nigel Farage. But they never say how democracy is served by electing individuals without party to define what they stand for.

Our ICM poll shows 56% of people angry at broken promises, but at least a manifesto shapes the parameters of a party’s intent. A bunch of random individuals would mean less not more democracy. This spirit of individualism makes democracy impossible when every voter, with no party allegiance, expects to get exactly what they want, as if they were shopping.

With fewer than 1% belonging to a party, understanding why we need them is fading, as ICM found 44% complaining that MPs all “look and sound the same”. The Guardian revealed that half of Labour’s candidates in winnable seats arrived via Westminster jobs as special advisers or researchers. Labour is warned not to repeat 2010′s disgraceful parachuting of favourite sons and daughters just before the election.

But the great majority of selections are done by the local party – one member, one vote – often selecting someone with Westminster experience. Liverpool MP Andy Burnham says most MPs should come from the area they represent, as he does. The implication of all this is that southern carpetbaggers never look right in northern seats. But old hands remember the bad old days when unions and the local General Management Committee fixed it, often for dead-wood favourites.

Standing as a candidate needs to be made easier. They have to spend six weeks learning the patch, buttering up Labour members, sending out leaflets, every penny paid from their own purse. Anyone with no backer can only stand in a local seat, when paying fares and hotel bills is prohibitive. It may take three or four shots for even a very good candidate to get selected – and then they have to juggle day jobs with campaigning. Politics is not life on easy street. Before, Barbara Castle visited Blackburn once a month; Hugh Dalton went to his seat every six months. Now, MPs work in their constituencies every weekend, family life a struggle.

Social progress has changed the nature of MPs – now half the population goes to university. Skinner, John Prescott and Alan Johnson – workers who came up through the unions, all clever men – would certainly go to university these days. They would have joined the Labour club and sought work campaigning for Labour afterwards, just as full of conviction. To be a (low-paid) spad or researcher is not a dishonourable sign of cynical careerism. Maybe they should work elsewhere first, but all those barristers and financiers on the Tory side are no nearer the “real world”.

Politics was always a profession. Most MPs I meet, even those I disagree with profoundly, came into the Commons intending to make the country a better place, in the face of public contempt. But praising the practice of politics incites abuse for belonging to the same “Westminster elite”. It’s a curious near-universal phenomenon that democracy is worshipped but its practitioners reviled. The humiliating process of begging for votes seems to invite a kicking. Look how soon the disillusion sets in after a revolution.

Labour agonises about ways to reconnect, selecting more women, ethnic minorities and locals – all essential. But in the end you only connect with voters by planting a flag in the ground that draws people to rally round. Who you are fades beside what you stand for. Identity politics fills the vacuum where ideas, ideals and excitement should be. Labour is going through one of its periodic wobbles, torn between the great, bold ideas wanted by Jon Cruddas and a paralysing caution as they watch good policy turned into Red Ed-scare by the Tory press.

Remember Neil Kinnock’s passionate speeches? He lost. But each week it becomes clearer that relying on voters to loathe the Tories a little more than they are indifferent to Labour is not an option. The photo of Miliband with the Sun was so excruciating because it was craven and phoney – but it was, many say, a spine-stiffening jolt to remind them that without principle there’s no hope. Skinner is no model, but more Labour MPs need to find their own authentic voices.

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PAEDOS IN WESTMINSTER: ‘I’m Ready To Name Names’



“There must be a full inquiry” into claims of a Westminster paedophile ring, the former Tory children’s minister Tim Loughton declares today. Writing in the Daily Mail, Loughton says he is ready to ‘name names’ if an inquiry doesn’t happen:

“How long it will take before the Government is dragged, kicking and screaming, to agree to an inquiry, I don’t know… There will be those who will want to know why I and my colleagues do not use Parliamentary privilege to name and shame suspected paedophiles in the Commons. I call it the nuclear option, and it might come to that.”

Meanwhile, the Telegraph reports, on its front page:

“A senior Tory politician said to be part of a child sex ring was allegedly stopped by a customs officer with child pornography videos but got off scot-free, police have been told… He passed the material on to his superiors, but the MP was never arrested or charged. And, like a dossier of evidence compiled by the late Geoffrey Dickens MP, the videotapes and paperwork relating to the seizure have since gone missing. The latest disclosure will increase accusations of a cover-up, as no action was taken against the MP at the time the videos were seized. The same MP is understood to have been named in the Dickens dossier, which was handed to the then Home Secretary Lord Brittan but has since been lost or destroyed.”



From the Guardian’s splash:

“Labour is to raise the prospect of further parts of the rail network being taken back into public ownership when it announces plans to subject franchises to a competitive bid between the state and private sector as they come up for renewal. But Ed Miliband will anger rail unions and some Labour MPs in the announcement next week by ruling out proposals that all expired franchises under a Labour government be returned automatically to the public sector – which would amount to a form of staggered renationalisation. Senior shadow cabinet figures have agreed that a pragmatic choice between the state and private sector based on price, reliability and quality of service will provide a solution that allays commuter frustration, provides a fair deal for the taxpayer and does not amount to a return to British Rail.”

It’s classic Labour under Miliband – a radical move but not as radical as it could be. The Labour leader wants to be all things to all people…


Shadow chancellor Ed Balls may have said this week that it would be “silly” for Labour to match the Tories’ pledge to hold an in–out referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU but not all of his shadow cabinet colleagues think Labour is in the right place on this issue. From the Telegraph front page:

“Voters do not have ‘confidence’ that Labour has a ‘clear position’ on the issues of Europe and immigration, which will prove a ‘big hurdle’, Andy Burnham has said. The shadow health secretary suggested that Ed Miliband and his senior team need to ‘give people in the party a simple sense of confidence’ that Labour has strong immigration policies. His comments, made last month, come amid growing criticism of Mr Miliband’s leadership style.”

Meanwhile, loyal Milibandite Sadiq Khan, the shadow justice secretary, will say in a speech today that there will be a leadership contest next May… but it won’t be in the Labour Party.

“There WILL be a Leadership election after the general election,” he will tell Unison. “But you’ll only get to vote if you are a Tory or a Lib Dem. When we unceremoniously boot them out of office after just one term, the Tories and Lib Dems will dump their failed leaders and look for new ones.”

Khan, who ran Miliband’s leadership campaign in 2010, will call the Labour leader “a winner” in his speech.


Watch this week’s #mehdisminute video, my semi-serious take on the week’s big political stories, which sees me go up against the ‘dead hand’ of Miliband.


Chuka Umunna is taking a battering in the (Tory) papers for a simple mispronounciation – from the Express:

“Smoothie would-be Labour leader Chuka Umunna enlivened a dull radio interview – and turned himself into a laughing stock – with his comic failure to pronounce the word Worcester this week. Talking on the local BBC station about regional funding the shadow business secretary referred to ‘Hereford and Wichita’ – leaving listeners baffled as to why he was confusing the city with a place in Kansas 4,000 miles away.”


A Tory donor has forked out £160,000 for a game of tennis with Tory leadership rivals David Cameron and Boris Johnson. The Sun has the details:

“The match, auctioned at a summer fundraiser, will see the PM and London Mayor play doubles with the mystery donor. Mr Cameron seized the chance to tease an absent BoJo when he introduced the lot. He said: ‘Boris bends the rules, makes dodgy line calls and is renowned for his ability to psyche out opponents.’ Referring to their regular run-ins he added: ‘I’m really glad I’m on his side in this game.’”

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By: Mehdi Hasan
Say it ain’t so! From the Mail splash:

“A dossier detailing explosive claims of sex abuse by paedophiles within Westminster has gone missing. Given to Home Secretary Leon Brittan in 1983, the files allegedly exposed a vile network at Parliament and Whitehall. But there is no record of any subsequent criminal inquiry and the Home Office yesterday admitted the dossier is either lost or destroyed. Lord Brittan, 74, is now facing questions over his handling of the document and inconsistencies in his account of what he did with it. The Tory peer told journalists last year he had no recollection of being given the dossier. But in a statement yesterday morning, he changed his mind. He confirmed he was handed a ‘substantial bundle of papers’ by MP Geoffrey Dickens in November 1983 and passed them to his officials for further investigation.”

If true, it’ll be a rare case of a front-page Mail political story truly meriting the use of the word ‘explosive’.


If you were Jon Cruddas, you’d be a bit paranoid by now. Right? First the Sunday Times splash on his ‘dead hand’ remarks, secretly recorded at the supposedly ‘semi-private’ Compass meeting. Now, some new remarks from Labour’s policy chief, made at a Fabian Society event and, yes, secretly recorded, which could further undermine Labour leader Ed Miliband – the Telegraph has the details, on its front page:

“In a leaked recording passed to The Telegraph, Jon Cruddas, the Labour leader’s policy adviser, said ‘a lot of things haven’t really been reconciled’ and also warned that Mr Miliband was being ‘gamed out’ on a weekly basis.

The recording, said to have been made at last week’s Fabian conference is the second such warning to have been privately sounded by Mr Cruddas in recent weeks. Last month, he criticised ‘the dead hand’ of the Labour leader’s office on policy development… In the new recording passed to the Telegraph, Mr Cruddas said that Mr Miliband was battling to unite ‘different camps’ within the party, and struggling to manage the news cycle. ‘He’s actually trying to unpack it, he’s trying to unpack it,’ said Mr Cruddas. ‘But he just gets gamed out every day, every week because of the news cycle, the media, levels of intrusion, the party management side.’”

Cruddas can avoid further such ‘scandals’ by doing one of two things: (i) by avoiding giving talks at friendly thinktanks or (ii) by shutting his mouth. Either way, he needs to accept that there is (almost) always a tape recorder running.

Meanwhile, Miliband himself will hope tape recorders are covering his ‘big’ speech on the economy and infrastructure in London today – the BBC reports:

“Mr Miliband will say his vision for the country will not be achieved by ‘big spending by government, but with reform – reform of the way governments work and reform of the way markets work’. He will reiterate his call for more competition in the banking and energy markets, insisting Labour is ‘pro-competition’, but will overhaul markets that are not working so they are ‘better for the customer and better for businesses’.”


Is it my imagination or is Tony Blair in the headlines almost every other day? And almost every time for something bad and/or embarrassing? From the Guardian front page:

“Tony Blair has agreed to advise the Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who came to power in a military coup last year, as part of a programme funded by the United Arab Emirates that has promised to deliver huge “business opportunities” to those involved, the Guardian has learned.”

Sisi, lest we forget, has the blood of thousands of peaceful protesters on his hands. His regime has also locked up tens of thousands of others, sentenced hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood activists to death and imprisoned Al Jazeera journalists. Blair doesn’t seem to care.

“The former prime minister, now Middle East peace envoy, who supported the coup against Egypt’s elected president Mohamed Morsi, is to give Sisi advice on ‘economic reform’ in collaboration with a UAE-financed taskforce in Cairo – a decision criticised by one former ally.”

The Guardian quotes a former political associate of the ex-PM’s:

“Tony Blair has become Sisi’s éminence grise and is working on the economic plan that the UAE is paying for. For him, it combines both an existential battle against Islamism and mouth-watering business opportunities in return for the kind of persuasive advocacy he provided George Bush over Iraq.”


Watch this funny video of a groom and his friends surprising the bride with an *epic* dance routine.


Nicolas Sarkozy isn’t happy and he’s blaming the left – from the Times:

“Nicolas Sarkozy last night accused leftwing judges of mounting a politically motivated crusade against him after the former French president was placed under formal investigation on charges of trying to gain information on inquiries into his campaign financing. Appearing on television, Mr Sarkozy broke two years of media silence following his election defeat in 2012 to stage a spirited counter-attack against a case that has jeopardised his hopes of a political comeback.”

Meanwhile, the Independent reports that Sarko’s son has come out fighting on his dad’s behalf on – where else? – Twitter:

“Louis Sarkozy, the youngest son of former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, has claimed the corruption investigation against his father is part of a plan to sabotage his political comeback and keep France ‘in the sh*t’. In a series of tweets, the 17-year old expressed his outrage and defended his father, who was arrested for alleged influence peddling on Tuesday, suggesting the investigation is part of a ‘relentless’ plan ‘to ensure that he doesn’t return to politics’.”

Daddy must be so proud…


From the Guardian:

“Dennis Skinner, the scourge of Tory prime ministers from Ted Heath to David Cameron who was dubbed the ‘Beast of Bolsover’, has been voted off Labour’s governing national executive committee, prompting an outcry from across the party. Hours after the veteran MP for Bolsover had taunted the prime minister as a member of the Bullingdon Club responsible for wrecking the NHS, the party announced he had been unseated… The Labour party denied reports that Skinner had been unseated after irritating Miliband’s office. A spokesperson said: ‘There is absolutely no irritation from Ed or anyone in his office at Dennis. This was purely a matter for the parliamentary Labour party.’”

Either way, it’s the end of an era…


“Loving your country means wanting the best for it – and for Scotland that is staying in the UK.” – from a speech David Cameron plans to give in Scotland today, in which he will call on the “silent majority” who want Scotland to stay in the UK to speak out against the Nationalists.

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Acquiescing to Big Biotech: Relentless Drive to Force GMO Crops into Britain

Global Research

A report just published by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee on food security in Britain supports Environment Secretary Owen Paterson’s plan to push ahead with growing genetically modified (GM) crops in England. However, it doesnt mention which crops would actually be grown [1].

The Committee says that the Government should do more to inform the public about “potentially beneficial impacts” of GM crops under development, but, according to Genewatch UK, the report fails to inform the public that the commercial GM crops that would actually be grown commercially are tolerant to companies’ own-brand weedkillers, such as Monsanto’s RoundUp Ready crops.

The potentially beneficial impacts of GM crops just dont stack up. For instance, non-GM farming in Europe has outperformed GM farming in the USA [2] and poisonous pesticides, destructive fertilisers and patented GE seeds cant even match 1890 or even 1760 AD yields in India [3].

Director of GeneWatch UK, Dr Helen Wallace, says:

“RoundUp Ready GM crops are the crops which could be grown in England perhaps as early as next year. Blanket spraying of these crops with weedkiller would lead to massive loss of habitat for birds and butterflies and a plague of superweeds for farmers. The costs of segregating GM and non-GM would push up food prices for everyone, and non-GM farmers would lose out financially if their conventional or organic crops become contaminated”.

Monsanto’s or Syngenta’s RoundUp Ready GM maize (NK603 and GA21), which are blanket sprayed with the weedkiller glyphosate (brand name RoundUp), are in the commercial pipeline for EU cultivation approvals. Again, some of the potentially beneficial impacts of RoundUp Ready GM crops include the growth of herbicide-tolerant superweeds and the loss of habitat for birds and butterflies: leading, for example, to a crash in the population of the Monarch butterfly in the United States [4,5]. Aside from the environmental dangers, there are very strong links between glyphosate and a very wide range of serious human ailments and diseases [6].

In the UK, there are no national measures for co-existence of GM and non-GM crops and for liability for the costs of contamination incidents, which can cost conventional and organic farmers many millions of pounds in lost markets for their products [7]. Contamination seems of little concern to the global biotech sector, though. It has already recklessly contaminated the environment with its poison [8] and, as far as GMOs are concerned, it is more a case of the more contamination, the better [9].

The EU opt out proposal adopted by EU ministers in June, which will now go to the European Parliament, could speed up GM crop approvals in England by loosening Europe-wide regulations that are currently in place. Countries opposed to growing would opt out by imposing regional bans on the cultivation of specific crops. Scotland and Wales will opt out from growing GM crops, but the Government wants England to press ahead. This opt out proposal is regarded as constituting little more than part of a Monsanto-friendly [10] strategy, which is being facilitated by Minister Owen Paterson, who has worked closely with the GMO industry on UK policy, including on a PR strategy which seeks to avoid discussion of RoundUp Ready crops and the multinational companies that sell them [11]. Paterson appears little more than a misinformed puppet of the GMO sector [12] and seems content to be a part of that sectors multi-pronged political subterfuge to force GMO onto the British public [13]. Such a pity that Paterson and others are content to climb into bed with a company that has such a long history of duplicity and criminality [14].

One positive aspect of the Committee’s report is the recommendation that Government reduces dependence on imported soybean for animal feed, warning that increased demand for protein from emerging economies threatens current supply lines. Much of this imported soya is GM. The Committee also recommends that the UK takes steps to become more self-sufficient in fruit and vegetables, supermarkets shorten their supply chains to support more local food; and better long-term weather prediction for farmers is developed.

In response to this, Helen Wallace states:

“It is a pity that these valuable recommendations on food security are likely to be drowned out by this Committee’s misleading claims on GM crops. Reducing dependency on imported GM soya, used to feed animals in Britain, would be a big step forward in making our food supply more sustainable and secure.”

Food security and sustainability are nice sounding terms. However, acquiescing to big US biotech concerns does not guarantee either. It’s not meant to. Quite the opposite in fact [15,16].


[1] House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee. Food security. Second Report of Session 2014-15.

[2] Heinemann et al. (2013) Sustainability and innovation in staple crop production in the US Midwest. International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability. Published online: 14 Jun 2013.http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14735903.2013.806408#.Ub9AU5zXryU

[3] http://www.globalresearch.ca/india-genetically-modified-seeds-agricultural-productivity-and-political-fraud/5328227

[4] For superweeds see: Benbrook CM (2012) Impacts of genetically engineered crops on pesticide use in the U.S. – the first sixteen years. Environmental Sciences Europe 24(1):24.http://www.enveurope.com/content/24/1/24 ; BBC report 19th September 2012:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-19585341 ; GM crops: Farmer to Farmer:http://gmcropsfarmertofarmer.com/ ; Greenpeace “Growing Doubt” video, October 2012:http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/campaigns/agriculture/problem/genetic-engineering/Growing-Doubt/ ; more videos of superweeds on: http://www.gmfreeze.org/why-freeze/videos-and-clips/.

[5] For Monarch butterflies see: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/apr/18/tracking-causes-monarch-butterfly-decline ; Pleasants JM, Oberhauser KS (2013) Milkweed loss in agricultural fields because of herbicide use: effect on the monarch butterfly population. Insect Conservation and Diversity 6(2):135-144. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1752-4598.2012.00196.x/abstract

[6] http://www.gmoevidence.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Glyphosate-Destructor-of-Human-Health-and-Biodiversity.pdf

[7] GM Contamination Register: http://www.gmcontaminationregister.org/

[8] http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/roundup-weedkiller-found-75-air-and-rain-samples-gov-study-finds

[9] http://www.globalresearch.ca/contamination-and-bio-pollution-the-criminality-of-the-gm-biotech-iindustry/5371517

[10] http://corporateeurope.org/food-and-agriculture/2014/05/biotech-lobbys-fingerprints-over-new-eu-proposal-allow-national-gmo

[11] GeneWatch UK PR: UK Government and GM industry collusion exposed. Tuesday 6th May 2014. http://www.genewatch.org/article.shtml?als[cid]=492860&als[itemid]=574495

[12] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/tory-mp-says-progm-environment-secretary-owen-paterson-is-industry-puppet-8686133.html

[13] http://www.globalresearch.ca/monsanto-syngenta-and-bayer-cropscience-the-gmo-biotech-sector-cant-win-the-scientific-debate-the-options-are-co-option-deception-and-collusion/5381725

[14] http://www.wakingtimes.com/2014/06/20/complete-history-monsanto-worlds-evil-corporation/

[15] http://www.grain.org/article/entries/4929-hungry-for-land-small-farmers-feed-the-world-with-less-than-a-quarter-of-all-farmland


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Communities Protest That UK’s Equatorial Palm Oil Are Poised to Seize Land in Liberia



The UK-listed company, Equatorial Palm Oil (EPO), which is threatening to seize land owned by Liberians in defiance of commitments by Liberia’s President, will today receive a visit from affected communities. Members of the Jogbahn Clan, together with representatives from Liberian and international NGOs, will deliver a petition with over 90,000 signatures, reminding EPO that it does not have community consent to expand onto their lands, and that doing so could escalate violence. [1] EPO’s past operations in Liberia have triggered allegations of conflict and human rights abuses. The company has maintained that any expansion is legal. [2]

“EPO’s recent expansion efforts are a brazen example of a company defying international law, government orders and the rights of communities,” said Silas Kpanan’Ayoung Siakor, campaigner at the Sustainable Development Institute. “EPO has no claim to this land, it is owned by the communities who live on it.” [3]

Residents from the Jogbahn Clan in Liberia’s Grand Bassa County say that EPO has begun demarcating blocks of land in preparation for clearing, and have accused its security officers of threatening community members. These actions defy the March commitment by Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf that EPO could not expand onto the lands of the Joghban Clan without their permission. [4] The right of Liberian communities such as the Joghban Clan to give or withhold consent to projects that could have an impact on their land and resources is also provided under international human rights law, as well as the Principles and Criteria of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) of which EPO is a member. [5] The Joghban people have refused to give such consent.

EPO has a very poor track record in Grand Bassa County. In September of last year, officers from the EPO security team and the Liberian Police reportedly worked together to assault and beat Joghban community members who were peacefully protesting the company’s operations. Those arrested were soon released after it was determined by the government’s Grand Bassa attorney that there was no justification for continued detention. No government investigation report regarding this incident has been made public. [6]

EPO denied any involvement in the violence, saying that it had been “falsely accused”, and does not “condone or encourage such described behaviour,” and “never instructed or directed any of its staff or PSU officers to intimidate Jogbahn community members in September or at any time.” However, EPO admitted to Global Witness that it provided logistical support to the Liberian police who are accused of intimidating villagers on the plantation. The company further stated that it “respect[s] the Liberian community rights and land, and ha[s] followed the law and procedures laid out”, had taken “strict steps” to ensure that it only plants oil palm on its concession land and legally-acquired community land, and  is “a responsible company and committed to sustainable oil palm development.” [7]

EPO’s concessions in Liberia total 8,900 km2 of land, which the company believes gives it the legal right to use the land to develop a palm oil concession.  The company is listed on the London-based AIM stock market, and is now majority owned by Malaysian palm oil giant Kuala Lumpur Kepong Bhd (KLK). Major brands including Kellogg’s, Kraft, Nestle, Unilever, Procter & Gamble, and General Mills have been reported as direct or indirect consumers of KLK palm oil. [8]

“We demand that EPO stops inciting conflict by preparing to clear our land,” commented Jogbahn Elder Joseph Chio Johnson, “EPO must stop threatening our people and accept that our no means no.”

Notes to editor

  1. Sustainable Development Institute and Friends of the Earth International, Tell Equatorial Palm Oil NO means NO!, Rainforest Rescue, Wir stoppen die Walddiebe!, Friends of the Earth US, Stop an abusive palm oil company from grabbing Liberian land, Milieudefensie, Laat Equatorial Palm Oil weten dat NEE echt NEE betekent!
  2. Equatorial Palm Oil, Letter to Global Witness, 17 December 2013.  EPO’s full response can be found on Global Witness’ website at: www.globalwitness.org.
  3. Customary land rights are protected under a range of international human rights laws applicable to Liberia, including the African Charter on Human & Peoples’ Rights (1981), the International Covenant on Economic, Social & Cultural Rights (1966), the International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights (1966), the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (1965), as well as principles of customary international law expressed in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (1948) and UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007).
  4. Sustainable Development Institute, SDI welcomes President Sirleaf’s commitment to protecting Joghban clan’s land from further encroachment by British palm oil company Equatorial Palm Oil, 6 March 2014; Global Witness,NGOs welcome Liberian President’s commitment to stop British palm oil company “taking” community land, 10 March 2014.
  5. Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) is a key principle of Liberia’s Community Rights Law with respect to Forest Lands (2009), which provides communities with a right to give or withhold their consent to activities planned on community land or which may impact on that land and the community. Article 7 of the Liberian Constitution provides for the maximum feasible participation by citizens of Liberia, in the management of Liberia’s natural resources. FPIC is also an established legal principle supported by numerous regional and international legal instruments to which Liberia is legally bound, including the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR). The decision of the African Commission on Human & Peoples’ Rights in the case of Endorois Welfare Council v. Kenya (276/2003) e.g. at para 209, including with regard to right to property (Art. 14 ACHPR), as well we the right to development (Art. 22 ACHPR). See also ACHPR Resolution 224 on a Human Rights-Based Approach to Natural Resources Governance, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as well as numerous other provisions and jurisprudence elaborated under the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
  6. Sustainable Development Institute, SDI calls on Equatorial Palm Oil to immediately cease land survey in Grand Bassa District #4, 25 September 2013. Sustainable Development Institute, Global Witness, FoE EWNI, FERN, Save My Future Foundation, UK’s Equatorial Palm Oil accused of human rights abuses in Liberia, 20 December 2013.
  7. Equatorial Palm Oil, Letter to Global Witness, 17 December 2013.  EPO’s full response can be found on Global Witness’ website at: www.globalwitness.org. Meeting between Global Witness and EPO in London on 14 November, 2013. EPO, “Letter to Global Witness,” 17 December 2013.
  8. Rainforest Action Network, Conflict Palm Oil in Practice: Exposing KLK’s role in rainforest destruction, land grabbing and child labour, 2 April 2014.

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