Sir Andrew Green is Chairman of Migrationwatch UK
Readers of Conservative Home should be greatly encouraged by this week’s news that net migration is down by over a third. It now stands at 153,000 for the year ending September 2012. This gives the Government a fighting chance of getting close to their target of tens of thousands by the end of this Parliament.
Public opinion demands no less. The latest census reveals that four million immigrants arrived in a ten year period. This doubled our foreign-born population and leaves us with a massive task of integration. Looking ahead, the official population projections show that if the inflow is allowed to continue at its present average rate of 200,000 a year, the population of the UK will be driven up from 63 million to 70 million in 14 years. Five million of that total would be the result of immigration. That would be the equivalent of the cities of Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield, Bradford, Leeds, Glasgow and Bristol. Where on earth will we find the money to pay for that?
Chen receives his award from Fiona Bruce MP and Lord Alton of Liverpool.
Patrick Cusworth is Deputy Chair of Brentford and Isleworth Conservative Association. Follow Patrick on Twitter.
It is not often that one meets a hero – and this was no ordinary hero. Last Monday evening, a packed Grand Committee room rose in applause to greet Chen Guangcheng, the blind Chinese lawyer, who was presented with the inaugural Westminster Award by Fiona Bruce, the MP for Congleton, and the crossbench peer Lord Alton of Liverpool, for his work in promoting human rights, human life and human dignity.
Chen first drew the ire of the Communist authorities in his local province when he used class-action lawsuits to defend farmers in land disputes. This anger turned to outright aggression when, refusing to bow to intimidation, Chen exposed systematic forced abortions and sterilisations carried out under the China’s infamous one-child policy. For this, he was sentenced to four years imprisonment, at the conclusion of which he was placed under house arrest. During this time, both Chen and his wife were subjected to beatings, until his well-documented escape and sanctuary in the U.S embassy, and the subsequent negotiations under which China reluctantly allowed him to live in America.
Speaking through an interpreter, Chen began his acceptance speech by underlining what he sees as the biggest problem not only in China but in the world today, namely the ruling Chinese Communist Party:
“They are a dictatorship, and the nature of this dictatorship is the destruction of human life… they can take your life as well as your property”. This is expressed most viscerally in the one-child policy, which began in 1979 and “since then any respect for life has disappeared completely from China”. Those who dare speak out against the policy, let alone attempt to have a second child, are subject to penalties varying in severity. Those who, for example, “opposed the one-child policy can never get anywhere in their job, no matter how good they are”. Such punitive measures can take more extreme forms, however. “In 2005, in my city alone, there were over 120,000 forced abortions and sterilisations”. In extreme cases, “women who were 8 or 9 months pregnant were dragged through the hospital to have forced abortions performed on them. Their families, friends & even neighbours were dragged from their homes, tortured for days, and forcibly sterilised”.
Tameena Hussain is the Chairman of Maidenhead Conservative Future
First of all, my thoughts & prayers are with Lee Rigby’s family and friends and offer my sincere condolences to the family. I first heard about this horrific attack at 7.30pm on Wednesday, and watched the news coverage unfold. As a British citizen, I was angered & saddened by the attack on one of our armed forces. No innocent man deserves to have his life taken away from him - and no-one of any faith should carry out or have to witness such an inhumane act.
As a British Muslim, I was saddened to see a number of people - although a minority - abusing other Muslims and telling us to go back home. What I say to these people is that, like you, I was born Britain and, like you, I’ve been raised in Britain - and therefore the Britain is my home. My faith is about peace, so I preach about peace and will continue to do so. I was encouraged by the amount of support I received from my non-Muslim brothers and sisters in the aftermath of the attack, when I made these points on Twitter.
Graeme works as a statistician, and won the Orwell Prize for Political Blogging in 2011. He writes a column in Saturday's Daily Telegraph. Follow him on Twitter.
We have a new face of evil. I don't know - don't want to know - the name of the man with the axe and the bloody hands. But there he stands, all over the media, achieving his aim. His image is not one we'll forget.
(Neither will we forget his victim. Not forgotten. Not any of the fallen.)
It's fashionable (and was so, back then) to deride Margaret Thatcher's Government's decision, to ban the voices of Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness from the television news. The BBC worked itself into such an outrage about censorship that they continued to allow both Sinn Fein representatives full access to their pulpits, employing actors to read out their words over images of the men saying them, while displaying a banner at the bottom to remind viewers of the government's heartless autocracy.
So banning images doesn't work (though Sinn Fein's "director of publicity" at the time has admitted that the six year ban frustrated that party's electoral strategy while it was in place). And the world is much faster than it was in the 1980s, so full of mobile videophones and Twitter timelines and Youtube streaming; perhaps it's hopeless of me to regret the speed with which media ran to display the image - and message - of yesterday's (alleged) murderer.
But that doesn't mean that Douglas Hurd - hardly our most illiberal Home Secretary - was wrong in 1988 to seek to deny terrorists what he called (perhaps displaying the facility with words that fuels his "other life", as a novelist) the "oxygen of publicity". And it doesn't mean that it's wrong, now, to question whether we should rush to broadcast mobile phone footage from obscene acts of terror.
I've argued over the past year or so that the EU debate in the UK was rather behind the times, in that the real options we are likely to face aren't "renegotiate" vs "status quo" or "in" vs "out", but, rather, "out" vs "more out". It seems to me increasingly plausible that, far from hotting up, the UK's EU referendum debate will fizzle out, because by the time we actually have a referendum almost everyone serious in Britain will agree that we should leave. And that won't be because we'll all have changed out minds about the value of the EU. It will be because the EU itself has changed so much that there won't be any viable form of EU membership that does not involve being part of the Single European State.
To remind you, my argument for the "out" vs "more out" characterisation of the discussion has been as follows. In response to the Eurozone crisis, the EU is pressing ahead rapidly towards full political integration, in the form of an EU Federation. That is not some vague long-term aspiration. Earlier today President Hollande of France confirmed that France wants to see full political integration, including EU-level tax-raising, budgetary power and an elected President, by 2015.
Cllr Daniel Seal is a Barnet Borough Councillor and an Assistant Cabinet Member for Resources
With William Hague visiting Israel this week on the heels of a high-level UK trade delegation, this should be a good week for the Britain-Israel relationship. That’s not only a good thing for Britain and Israel, but it should be a good thing for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process also. The Foreign secretary’s visit to Israel will be part of an intensive three day trip which will also take in Jordan and the Palestinian Authority.
When he sits down with Israeli officials there will, be plenty of shared concerns to talk about. For Hague personally, a committed friend of Israel since his teens, this is another good opportunity to advance his agenda. As he made clear earlier this year, he is very concerned about the Israeli- Palestinian peace process, and is it therefore likely to feature prominently in his conversations with Israeli officials. His arrival is also preceded by important and helpful efforts to classify Hezbollah as a terrorist entity by the EU - a move thaty will be appreciated by his Israeli interlocutors, and which marks a fulfilment of one of our Government's policy objectives.
A host of other regional issues likely to be on the agenda too. The on-going violence in Syria is of clear concern to both countries. This will be a valuable opportunity for Hague to present to Israeli policy makers his latest thinking of assisting the Syrian resistance. Similarly, it will be important for Hague to understand Israel’s predicament over the volatility on Israel’s northern borders, including attempts by Hezbollah to get its hands on Syrian stocks of ‘game changing’ weapons.
Similarly, this will provide another opportunity for decision makers to share their latest assessments of Iran’s surge towards nuclear weapons, ahead of the latest IAEA report soon to be released. Intelligence cooperation between Britain and Israel in this field is believed to be extremely close.
Away from the diplomatic issues, these are dynamic times for Britain-Israel relations. In a variety of fields including commerce, education and innovation there are a range of exciting developments. Coinciding with Hague’s visit to the region, Rohan Silva, Senior Policy Adviser to David Cameron, is leading a high level UK business delegation being hosted by the UK Tech Hub, an offshoot of the British Embassy in Tel Aviv established to enable British industry to benefit from Israeli hi–tech ingenuity. This week’s delegation is seeking to wed UK’s world-leading retail industry with Israel’s advanced technological knowhow. It is projects like these which help to strengthen the bond between the two countries, whilst at the same time help stimulate the British economy.
In another positive development, Manuel Trajtenberg, a leading Israeli economist, was in London last week launching a new scholarship fund to increase Israeli-Arab participation in higher education. The plan is for the Israeli government to match the donations of international philanthropists. The first such partner will be the UK based Pears Foundation. Next month, the Governor of the Bank of Israel will also be visiting Britain as the keynote speaker at the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange London Conference, and as the guest of honour at the British Israeli Business Awards Gala Dinner, alongside Sir Mervyn King.
There is a clear connection between promoting the Britain-Israel relationship and Britain’s engagement in the peace process. As President Obama demonstrated on his recent trip to Israel, displaying a commitment to partnership with Israel and an understanding of its security concerns goes a long way when it comes to encouraging Israel to make painful territorial concessions necessary for the establishment of a Palestinian state. Hague would do well to echo these sentiments loudly and clearly.
The visit comes at an opportune moment for the peace process. Indeed, it coincides with the visit of John Kerry who will be in Israel and the Palestinian Authority for a fourth time in two months. The two men are expected to have similar messages for both Israeli and Palestinian leaders. Since the Israeli election earlier this year, the new Israeli government has shown quiet restraint on new settlement construction in an effort to stimulate talks. This is a sensitive issue for the Israeli government - balancing competing interests within the governing coalition even more convoluted and divided than our own.
Similarly, under US pressure the Palestinians have temporarily shelved plans to launch any further unilateral initiatives within international organisations. The hope is the sides can establish enough good faith to return to direct negotiations as soon as possible. The UK has an important role in leading other EU states in support of the US efforts. Kerry and Hague will no doubt be urging both sides to maintain this restraint and to think creatively about how to further promote trust and establish the basis for returning to bilateral negotiations.
The stronger Britain’s relationship is with both Israel and the Palestinians, the more loudly Hague’s messages will be heard in both Jerusalem and Ramallah.
Haras Rafiq is a Director of CENTRI, an organisation that specialises in countering extremism
It is clear that the horrific murder of a solider yesterday in Woolwich was an Islamist-inspired terror attack. A terrorist is defined by MI5 as "someone who uses or threatens action designed to influence the government...for the purposes of advancing a political, religious, racial or ideological cause." This morning's reports suggest that the terrorists clearly made political statements after the murder - which was corroborated by eyewitness reports. In the words of one onlooker: “they didn't run off. They just stood there as if they were waiting for the police.”
David Cameron described the incident as "truly shocking". But how much has he and the Coalition government done to try and combat Islamist extremism? I have praised the Prime Minister for rightly making the distinction between Islam and Islamism. In 2010, I urged the Coallition Government to overturn the failed policy of using extremists to combat violent extremists. I was heartened when the Prevent review, published in 2001, pledged to implement the change I hoped for. Has it really happened?
If Baroness Thatcher were still alive and well today, I am sure she would be speaking out strongly against the economic stupidity of continuing Eurozone policies, which have delivered unemployment of 19.2 million, and youth unemployment of 56% in Spain, 38% in Italy and 59% in Greece. Nor do I think she would like Angela Merkel being compared to her, where the one thing Mrs Merkel has not done is to provide the leadership and courage to address the Eurozone problems effectively.
To any self-respecting economist it is quite clear that the Euro has been an economic disaster, imposing “gold standard” depression on Southern Europe – now even extending to Holland. The essence of the problem is that Germany made itself super-competitive within the Eurozone, where, without the flexibility of currency adjustment, most of the other economies are locked into depression. What makes the problem worse is that the German imposed austerity measures are serving not only to depress the uncompetitive economies further, but also to increase their fiscal deficits and funding problems.
Enlightened German leadership should recognise the fundamental problem and exit Germany, (with Finland and Austria), from the Euro, creating a strong, Northern European currency, and leaving a weak Euro which would restore the competitiveness of Southern Europe.
Worst of all, Germany fails to recognise that it was similar austerity conditions, resulting from the post-World War I German reparations, which ended up, politically, with Hitler. Italian politics have already become unstable. It is to be hoped that if Germany is not willing to provide the leadership to break up the Eurozone, Italy will do this de facto – at the same time letting off the steam of what might otherwise be politically dangerous.
Nick Pickles is Director of civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch, and was the Conservative Parliamentary candidate for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford in 2010. Follow Nick on Twitter.
As you may have read on the internet, these are tough times for print journalists, not least local papers. However, a vibrant local press is an essential part of our democracy. With localism comes greater power for councils, but equally it reaffirms the importance for local accountability and scrutiny.
I am not calling for a subsidy, or a new state-backed lending scheme for newspapers. But I do think that it’s time that the state, in the form of local authorities, stop using taxpayers money to produce their own rival papers, undercutting genuine reporting of local issues with town hall propaganda. In my own patch, the pages of the Wakefield Citizen somehow managed to miss a major childcare scandal, the fact the leader of Wakefield Council had a chauffeur-driven Audi A8, and that a multi-million pound water feature on a busy junction might not be a brilliant use of public money. All is brilliant in Wakefield, nothing to worry about. Having lived there for most of my life, it would be generous to describe this as a rosy view.
Particularly for labour intensive and often quite dry beats like politics and court reporting, editors face very real challenges about cost-cutting and we are all worse off if local newspapers decide it is simply no longer viable to continue publishing. At a time when the local press is one of the most trusted sources of news, we need to protect our local press – and not allow councils to hijack this important medium.
Rightly, Eric Pickles has recognised that council produced newspapers (in the broadest possible sense of the word) are directly competing with local papers. A substantive local paper will never be able to sustain itself as a freesheet, yet councils are able to hand deliver thousands of copies of their own rag, free of the burden of needing to report actual news.
Nick de Bois is the Member of Parliament for Enfield North and a Secretary of the 1922 Committee. Follow Nick on Twitter.
It has on occasion been bruising in the Parliamentary Party, as it has been for the voluntary party. I imagine the Prime Minister may even privately admit he, on occasion, has felt much the same.
Nobody in the Conservative party elected in 2010 entered the Commons to have a ding-dong with their own leadership. I don't suppose when David Cameron held his first spring day rose garden press conference, he anticipated doing a few rounds with his own MPs.
But when the dust has settled on the unnecessary and ill-judged redefinition of marriage bill, the perceived EU bust up and allegations of disrespect to activists, the reality is that back benchers do not emerge as the "enemy" of Number 10 - and Number.10 does not, in the cold light of the day, default to playing the antagonist.
Our enemies would like to think so. So would the media who love that narrative. Indeed at times it was true: I said so in an article for House magazine myself in October 2012. Yet oddly, but encouragingly, the focus now returns to a Government with a renewed sense of purpose buoyed up by encouraging signals that on the big issues, we are right.
On welfare, education, jobs, investment, trade and, yes, even the EU - the Conservatives look to be on the right side of the argument. Note that I said "look to be on the right side of the argument".
Mary Macleod is the Member of Parliament for Brentford & Isleworth. Follow Mary on Twitter.
In two weeks’ time, it will be Derby Day. Perhaps a good time to remember - as you sip your Pimm’s and huddle under your brolly - that 100 years before, in 1913, Emily Wilding Davison fell under King George V’s horse Anmer on Derby Day, sustaining injuries which caused her death. Her tactics were controversial, but her aims were pure: she was a militant suffragette devoted to the emancipation of women and the cause of equality.
Despite Miss Davison’s death, women didn’t get the vote in the UK until 1918, when women over the age of 30 who met minimum certain property qualifications were enfranchised. And it wasn’t until 1928 that all women over 21 got the vote, bringing equality at last with men.
Of course, equality isn’t just about being able to vote. Further legislation was required to ensure gender equality in action: the Equal Pay Act 1970, the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, and as recently as three years ago, the Equality Act 2010. Still that’s all done and dusted now isn’t it? Well, incredibly (in my opinion), no it’s not.
Because in 2013, there are still women whose inequality is enshrined in law. Whose situation is not only troubling and surprising, but also carries worrying implications for the validity of the constitutional process.
Dr Lee Rotherham is an author, historian and political campaigner, who has served as a TA reservist on three overseas deployments. He is on the Approved EU Candidates List.
Many years ago in my university days, I taught English at a French school. One day, one of my friends popped round dressed as a French marine, the consequence not of a fancy dress party but of having just received his conscription call up. He proudly talked us through the various aspects of his uniform. “And this,” he surprisingly concluded, drawing our attention to some piece of bright cord, “is to remind us that we lost the Battle of Trafalgar.”
As Chairman of the National Convention and Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party Board, I was dismayed to see the reports over the weekend about the comments allegedly made by a senior member of the party about our activists. I was even more shocked when it emerged that Andrew Feldman was supposedly the author of the comments.
At the Conservative Party Board meeting yesterday, the Board was unanimous in its support of Andrew Feldman as Chairman of the Party. I have known and worked with Andrew since 2008, and I would like to personally put on record that he has been the Chairman who is the greatest champion of the voluntary party I have known.
Andrew has made it his mission to ensure the voluntary party is heard at every level of the party organisation – and that includes the leadership. Whenever we’ve had comments about a piece of government policy, he has made extremely effective representations to the team at Number 10. Obviously, we are a broad church and there are always going to be some disagreements, but I know that Andrew always puts our side across.
A couple of days ago, Michael Gove took a teaching union to task for its opposition to reform. In one respect, however, he and the NAHT are on the same side, which may give him pause to reflect. Both are fighting hard to preserve the ring-fence around the schools budget in the spending review due to be published on 26 June. In fact, there are several reasons why the schools ring-fence is a priority for removal.
The most important is the simple question of what Ministers can actually do to promote reform. Sir Ken Knight nailed it in his review of fire and rescue services, published last Friday: “I was struck in my conversations that the financial pressures of recent years seem to have been the driving force behind many of the changes and innovation I have seen.” At the risk of labouring the point, Danny Alexander said it particularly well last month: “Of course these are really difficult decisions …. But you can use the process to drive some really good changes in the way the public sector works.” One of the great lessons of this Parliament is that the police, other areas of criminal justice, defence and local government are innovating and rethinking because of their cuts. Schools and the NHS are years behind.
I have no doubt that Michael Gove wants head teachers to think extremely hard about how to focus their resources on improving the quality of teaching. In practice, that means reducing the priority of spending on teaching assistants and smaller class sizes (except for the youngest children). Removing the ring-fence is one of the best ways that he has to achieve that. It would accelerate his reform programme rather than hinder it.
The Department for Education has actually made this case itself. In a document published in 2011, the Department told schools that, “what matters isn’t the amount of money spent per pupil, but how that money is spent. So we should all be focusing on improving value for money in schools’ spending”. That is 100 per cent right but it has zero force in the context of a ring-fenced budget.
The Conservative Party is the oldest political party in the world, having managed change from one era to the next more successfully than any other. We are, after all, a party founded by Robert Peel’s acceptance of the Great Reform Act – the original Tory opposition to which put the Conservative Party on the wrong side of history and the electorate and which Disraeli believed cost it greatly for four decades.
The bill legalising same-sex marriage reaches its third reading in the House of Commons this week and is another test of our long-term survival instincts. For my part, I've supported marriage equality for ten years – I, like most peoplemy age, simply can’t understand why people shouldn't be able to celebrate their love the same way, no matter who they love. Ideally, government should get out the business of marriage altogether – and leave it to couples and communities to decide – but this bill does the next best thing.
Opposing it doesn't make you a bigot or a homophobe – a label far too many are willing to apply to those voting against. There are many religious objections to same-sex marriage - while the bill introduces safeguards to protect churches, I won't try to persuade MPs that feel their own religious beliefs stop them voting for the bill. But to those that are open to persuasion, I’d like to make a plea from the next generation.
While most voters support same-sex marriage, it’s undoubtedly, and regrettably, the case that most Conservative voters oppose it. But those that voted Conservative in 2010 are the least likely voters to rank it as a major issue. After all, we’re Conservatives; we care more about the big issues – like fixing our economy, our schools, and our welfare system – and we should be proud that we do.