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Westlake Legal Group > British history

The Supreme Court’s ruling. Why not now go all the way – and let Bercow deliver the Queen’s Speech?

‘Be it enacted by the Queen’s most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows’.

Those are the words of the Enacting Formula – the standard pattern of words which, with certain variations, precede the clauses of Bills at Westminster.  In a single sentence, they capture the meaning of Parliamentary sovereignty.

They clearly don’t say that the legislature is the only source of this sovereignty – in other words, of law-making power.  Rather, they tell a story.  It is one of that power being shared by the Queen, through the executive branch of government, with the legislature.

That’s why it’s said that we’re governed by the Queen-in-Parliament: it is the place where the monarch, her Government, and the legislature come together.  Parliament should work with harmony of a stately dance (come to think of it, “stately” is le mot juste), in which each dancer has his or her part to play.  Some of its most riveting steps came about because of the English Civil War. The dance continues to this day.

The best way of understanding the Supreme Court’s ruling on Tuesday is to grasp that it reads the dance very differently – and, frankly, wrongly. “As long ago as 1611,” its ruling declared, the court held that “the King [who was then the government] hath no prerogative but that which the law of the land allows him”.  Like this site, the Court clearly has that civil war, and long-run up to it, very much in mind.

But the King (or, in this case, the Queen) is no longer “the government” – a truth that the learned judges seem to have forgotten as soon as they uttered it.  Government is now a shared exercise between “the Queen’s most Excellent Majesty” and those “Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons”.  Or, to put it another way, Boris Johnson in no way resembles a Stuart Monarch.  Quite apart from anything else, Charles I did not offer the Roundheads the chance to vote him out of office.

Neither is Dominic Grieve John Hampden; nor Lady Hale, Sir Edward Coke; nor Dominic Cummings “Black Tom Tyrant” – the Earl of Stafford, Charles I’s formidable adviser, who was eventually sacrificed as a scapegoat.  If anyone thought they were.  Above all, this Gollum of a Speaker is not, repeat not, John Lenthall.

It is baffling that the highest court in the land so misunderstands our constitution – with more errors spawning from its first.  “[Parliamentary sovereignty] would be undermined if the executive could, through the use of the prerogative, prevent Parliament from exercising its power to make laws for as long as it pleased,” it ruled.

Once again, it conflates the legislature with Parliament.  Yes, MPs and peers are part of Parliament.  But so is the Queen – hence the Enacting Formula with which this article opened.  So, for that matter, are Ministers.  They sit and speak and vote in the same chamber as backbenchers, because they are also MPs.  Do we really need to make the point that there is no separation of powers in our constitution?  If a lowly blog can understand this, why on earth can’t the Supreme Court?

Perhaps the answer lies in its title.  Ponder it again for a moment.  The.  Supreme.  Court.  Where does your mind travel to when you hear those words?  If you’re at all like us, the answer is “America”.  And there, of course, one does find the separation of powers.  Once judges have them, in the sense that they do in the United States, they become political.  Which explains why those nominated to America’s Supreme Court must face confirmation hearings.  And helps to demonstrate what is happening here.

Not so long ago, our judges were part of that ceremonious Parliamentary dance.  It was Tony Blair, with his characteristic tin ear for our constitutional music, who turfed out the Law Lords from Parliament and set up the Supreme Court.  Once you establish such a body, and look towards United States, American-type controversy is likely to follow.

In a curious way, then, the Court was acting explicably by making a judgement about the lawfulness of the Government’s prorogation with only a single reference to a particular statute.  By basing most of its case on principles rather than statute (contrary to usual practice), its judgement had a flavour of America – or, more precisely, of continental law, in which judgements are induced from abstractions, rather than Common Law, in which they are deducted from practice and precedent.  There, judges make the law.  Here, they discover the law.

Or did – until EU law, the ECHR, and concepts from continental law, such as proportionality, slowly coloured parts of our own system: for evidence, consider the growth of judicial review.  Perhaps that’s desirable.  Maybe it isn’t.  But, either way, politicians since the Blair era have tended to stick their fingers in their ears and pretend that the change isn’t really happening.  Policy Exchange has pointed to the problem, by means of its Judicial Power Project, while Ministers have looked the other way.

No wonder the Government’s collective response to Tuesday’s judgement has been a shambles.  Some Ministers want to leap forward – or at least sideways – and have America-style confirmatory hearings for judges.  Others want to go back to the future, scrap the Court and revive the Law Lords.  The Johnson Government is paying a price for the thoughtlessness of its predecessors.

In a nutshell, the Supreme Court’s ruling begins by misreading Parliamentary Sovereignty and thus ends by exalting one part of Parliament at the expense of the others.  So prorogation is something that is somehow done to MPs and peers “from outside” and “is not a proceeding in Parliament”.

However, as we have seen, the Queen and her Ministers are inside: they are part of Parliament.  Where does the Supreme Court’s logic take us?  Should Royal Assent end, because it is also “from outside”?  If so, what about the Queen’s Speech?  Why not send the Speaker up from the Commons, and let him deliver it instead?

It is tempting to mull the implications of the Supreme Court’s ruling, allow one’s imagination to soar, and picture a future in which the legislature alone “takes back control”.  Over six hundred MPs could have a go at negotiating treaties at once, or mastermind detailed battle plans from the green benches. And if some of them had no right to, because their party didn’t command a majority in the Commons, too bad.

If you find the prospect fanciful, ponder real life.  MPs actually are seeking to direct a treaty negotiation: that’s the point of the Benn Act.  Oliver Letwin has been like a shadow Prime Minister to their shadow Government, exercising control of the Chamber’s proceedings and timetabling.

But unlike a real Prime Minister, he can’t be held to account at the despatch box or before Select Committees. And unlike a real monarch, Bercow is unrestrained by convention – and apparently untouchable by the courts, too.

‘Be it enacted by the Speaker’s most Excellent Person, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows’. If this is the Supreme Court’s vision of the future, perhaps it ought to tell us.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Jonathan Clark: Brexit. Is democracy at risk?

Jonathan Clark was a Fellow of Peterhouse; at Oxford, he was a Fellow of All Souls College; latterly he has been Visiting Professor at the Committee on Social Thought at Chicago, and Hall Distinguished Professor of British History at the University of Kansas. His latest book is a study of Thomas Paine.

Observers agree that this is the most impassioned episode in British politics for over a century. But it has been so under David Cameron, Theresa May and Boris Johnson alike. The last alone is not to blame. Why, then, is it so bitter? We ought to be able to debate whether GDP will be slightly higher or slightly lower in 15 years if we leave or if we remain in the EU without expulsions, mutual denunciations, threats, and lawfare. Other things are at stake, far beyond economists’ guesswork. At least two are at issue, for the Brexit crisis is at its heart a proxy war.

The first is democracy itself, for two conceptions of it are widely held in the UK, representative and direct. In 2019 they collide. What are they?

Representative democracy assumes that Parliament once seized sovereignty from the King, and the Commons then seized it from the Lords; or, alternatively, that if the People once had sovereignty, they surrendered it completely and for all time to members of the Commons, who, collectively, now have absolute authority. Being wise and restrained patricians, MPs rule in the national interest. This theory looks more unpersuasive the more one explores it.

Direct democracy assumes that sovereignty resides with autonomous individuals thanks to God’s gift or to Nature – thoughtful individuals who know all they need to know in order to govern, and who exercise their authority just as they please via universal suffrage. Again, this theory is not wholly plausible. Which of the two predominates is likely to depend on practice more than on theoretical argument.

Practice depends on logistics, and these continually develop. Representative democracy seemed obvious in days when communication was slow and expensive. Members of the Commons might visit their constituencies seldom. The franchise was restricted, newspapers reported little, the actions of most MPs at Westminster were seldom in the public eye. Members were unpaid, so normally had to be rich: they were seldom inclined to defer to the poor. But all that was long ago.

From the mid-1990s, and increasingly every year, the internet has transformed everything. For the first time, it is possible to conduct opinion polls in a shorter time than it takes MPs to file through the division lobbies. For the first time, I can watch my MP speak live in the Commons, or in a recording. I can monitor her every vote. I can email her almost instantaneously (I have even exchanged brief emails with one distinguished MP while he was in a debate). Thankfully, my MP is admirable, in her labours both in Parliament and in her constituency. But for voters who differ from their MPs, the potential for active involvement is far greater than ever before.

Kenneth Clarke speaks for the old school of Parliamentarians in insisting that the referendum of 2016 was merely advisory. But he is out of date. The European Union Referendum Act 2015, which made the arrangements, nowhere said that. Nor did the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000. No legislation has ever provided that votes cast in general elections are merely advisory either. On the contrary, the electorate decides things.

We can only deduce the advisory status of referendums by implication, from the premise ‘Parliament is sovereign’. But no Act of Parliament can establish parliamentary sovereignty, any more than Kenneth Clarke can rise into the air by pulling on his shoelaces. Since the People elect members of the Commons directly, by binding votes, and of the Lords indirectly (via elected members of the Commons), it might plausibly be argued that the People are sovereign.

Yet representative democracy is widely championed, and here lies the second great point at issue: a culture war, over what might be called the recent hegemony of social democratic values. It was not so in 1962 when Anthony Sampson published his famous Anatomy of Britain; it shaped the subsequent understandings of ‘The Establishment’ as a closed social circle of the public school and Oxbridge educated who staffed the boardrooms, Parliament, the judiciary and the church.

But a wind of change has swept over Britain as well as over Sampson’s beloved South Africa. The public schools and Oxbridge are still there, but captured for other purposes. Rank derived from birth and class now derives from style and political correctness. The old boy networks are replaced by the luvvie networks. Sampson himself (Westminster and Christ Church) became a Social Democrat during the 1980s.

Set aside the party label; its opponents perceive a state of mind shared by larger numbers of people. They are the commentariat. They allegedly run the media, the universities, the civil service, the judiciary. They are not, indeed, socialist: that would be too uncool an ideology for the twenty-first century. But they are not democrats either, and instinctively reject the outcome of the largest democratic exercise in British history, the referendum of 2016. To them this is ‘populism’, the opposite of themselves.

In this sense, say their opponents with ever clearer definition, social democrats are ‘anywheres’ rather than ‘somewheres’: they have no particular loyalty to a country, let alone Bolsover or Sunderland. They encourage mass migration and multiculturalism. They have places in the sun. They countenance divorce, sex change, and gay marriage. They are secularists who favour religions that are loud against religious establishments. The EU suits them perfectly. Its Roman Law tradition fits their world view, since it works down from grand statements of principle; England’s common law tradition worked up, from specific concrete entitlements. In their eyes, social democrats champion correct, modern, enlightened values. These entail membership of the EU.

Against this perceived social democratic hegemony have developed two great protests: Momentum, and the Brexit movement. To simplify, Momentum wants real socialism; Brexit wants real democracy. They can only achieve either by championing an old ideal that now becomes a new one: the People are sovereign.

Both these conceptions of democracy are plausible, but flawed. They have historic force, but they are contradictory. A collision was inevitable sooner or later. What better ground on which to fight than the UK’s membership of the EU?

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Iain Dale: Were the Prime Minister to pull the plug on HS2, would he call time on Heathrow expansion too?

Iain Dale presents the evening show on LBC Radio, and is the author of the forthcoming book ‘Why can’t we all just get along’.

I have very mixed feelings about HS2. I am usually all in favour of visionary transport infrastructure projects. I rather liked the idea of the Boris Island Airport, and still regret that he didn’t make it part of his leadership campaign. I also think high speed rail is a good thing.

However, I still don’t think the business case for HS2 has really ever been properly made.  Capacity is clearly an issue on parts of the West Coast main line, but it seems to be the Manchester trains which suffer, rather than the Birmingham ones.

The Prime Minister is clearly minded to cancel the whole project, and hopes that the review announced this week will give him political cover. Quite how he will explain the waste of upwards of £7.2 billion I don’t know, but presumably the saving of a further £80 billion will be used to show how other parts of our transport system could be improved.

Of course, if HS2 is cancelled, one would quite reasonably wonder whether the third runway at Heathrow might be next on the list for a prime ministerial cull.

– – – – – – – – – – –

A new Kantar poll puts the Conservatives on 42 per cent, with Labour trailing on 28 per cent and the Brexit Party on only five per cent. The Liberal Democrats were constant on 15 per cent.

So, a 14 per cent lead for Johnson. Is this a “Boris bounce”? None of the other polls have shown a lead anything like this big, so everyone should treat with a huge degree of scepticism. But since it is widely believed that there will be a general election by the end of November, this is not a bad place to start from.

But as ever, a Conservative election success surely relies on us leaving the EU on October 31st. If we don’t, quite a few of those per centage points will be shaved off by Nigel Farage.

– – – – – – – – – –

Talking of Farage, he has made clear that, if the Prime Minister signs up to any form of deal with the EU, the Brexit Party will stand candidates against every Conservative candidate up and down the country. The only way to avoid that would be for us to leave on 31 October with no deal.

That outcome seems ever more likely as each day and each exchange of letters with Donald Tusk takes place. But as with Farage, I have a feeling in my water that the prospect of a last-minute deal hasn’t entirely disappeared. Yet.

The purists may hate it, but in the end, we have surely to remain of the view that a good deal is better than no deal. The trouble is that few can see what would actually constitute a good deal from the UK viewpoint. We can all see what a bad deal looks like, of course. But how we get from that to a good deal is anyone’s guess. –

– – – – – – – – –

 

The ‘N’ key to my laptop has come ustuck. Makes me thik a ew computer may be i order. I could stick it o agai , I suppose. But where’s the fu i that?

– – – – – – – – – –

This is my first and only week’s holiday of the year. I’m spending it in Norfolk doing nothing at all – apart from writing this, and two other columns.

And watching box sets. I’ve finished Designated Survivor on Netflix and have now started the Korean version. I’m quite used to watching programmes with subtitles, but normally I can pick up a few words of the language. Not Korean. It’s almost impossible to follow.

I’m also reading Andrew Roberts’ brilliant thousand page biography of Winston Churchill. I always find these doorstops of books incredibly intimidating, mainly because I normally only read before I go to sleep, and therefore only manage three pages a night. So I’m pleased I’m already on page 200. Right, time for another chapter…

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

A big question about Hong Kong – and even bigger ones about migration and China

We have been here before – at least, in a manner of speaking.  In 1989, the then Conservative Government granted British citizenship to some 250,000 people from Hong Kong.  There was a paradox to the decision: Ministers’ intention was not that they should enter Britain under the scheme.  Rather, this was that it would encourage them to stay in Hong Kong, by giving them certainty about their future, thus halting a mass exodus.

The gambit was sparked by doubts about whether China would honour the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984, under which the two countries agreed terms for the transfer of Hong Kong, and which was due to come into effect in 1997.  It worked.  Tensions simmered down, and there was no mass take-up of UK passports.

But there has always been a giant questionmark against China’s honouring of the “one country, two systems” provisions within the declaration.  It is highly visible now.  Two years ago, the country’s Foreign Ministry described the declaration as an “historical document, [which] no longer has any practical significance, and does not have any binding effect on the Chinese central government’s management of the Hong Kong”.

It is unlikely that China will presently send troops into Hong Kong, and formally tear up the commitments enshrined in the join declaration.  But the possibility exists, now or in the future: it is currently showing videos of troops massing on Hong Kong’s borders.  This is part of its response to pro-democracy protests, which were concentrated originally on opposition to an extradition bill, under which suspects could be sent to China for trial.  But the aims of demonstrators spread wider: they demand the free election of Hong Kong’s Chief Executive and legislature.

In essence, the settlement left by the joint declaration is unstable. For example, Hong Kong has a legislature of which only half the seats are directly elected.  And although China has powerful incentives not to tear up the “one country, two systems provisions” – which would do its Belt and Road initiative abroad no good – the people of Hong Kong cannot be sure what the future will hold.

Hence the proposal by Tom Tugendhat and others to grant British citizenship to the 169,000 or so British Nationals Overseas in Hong Kong.  Some want a bigger offer: the Adam Smith Institute also proposes to “open up the application process to the 4.5 million Hong Kong nationals”.  Some, a smaller one: the Sun wants Britain to admit “the best and brightest in the small territory”.  It might be that such a scheme would have the same effect as that of 1989: in other words, to encourage people to stay in Hong Kong rather than leave for the United Kingdom.

Then again, it might not – either now or, far more likely, in future.  And the context in Britain has changed since 1989.  Some, very largely but not exclusively on the left, support all migration, pretty much.  Others would welcome a big influx of hard-working, family-orientated, Hong Kongers: this has an appeal for parts of the right.  But even though public concern about immigration seems to have eased off recently, there is reason for caution.

As the Migration Observatory puts it in one of its headline findings: “British views are not favourable towards immigration and a substantial majority would like immigration to be reduced”.  Furthermore, Government policy is in flux.

Boris Johnson wants to scrap Theresa May’s unmet pledge to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands, and promises Dominic Cummings’s fabled Australian-style points system instead.  But it is far from clear what numbers this plan would produce – and numbers, though not everything in immigration debate, are much.  And the system faces a daunting challenge in any event.

The Government now says that in the event of a No Deal Brexit – arguably now the most likely outcome – free movement will end immediately, which would certainly be popular with many voters.  However, it isn’t apparent what system will be used to distinguish between EU nationals who have applied for the new settlement scheme and those who haven’t, to name only the most obvious of the problems bound up with immediate change.

In 1989, Norman Tebbit led a backbench revolt against the passport plan for Hong Kongers. It was less successful than advance publicity suggested.  But there is no guarantee that the outcome would be similar this time round, were the more ambitious of the Hong Kong schemes to be tried.

Ultimately, the problem of how to respond to China over Hong Kong is a sub-set of the problem of how to respond to it more broadly – which points to the wider debate over Huawei, China, our infrastructure and national security.  We could and should, as in 1989, offer some passports to Hong Kongers.  But, as then, the should and must be strictly limited.

Meanwhile, it’s worth remembering that the Joint Declaration is a legally binding treaty, registered at the United Nations.  Which means that third parties have an interest in upholding it, however distant.  In the case of Donald Trump, this might not be remote at all, given his stance on China.

Boris Johnson is due to see Trump soon – and frequently, given the mutual interest in a trade deal.  The former ought to put Hong Kong on the agenda.  Admittedly, the President is no fan of more migration to America.  But it just might be that there is an Anglosphere offer to be made to Hong Kongers on a bigger scale than Britain could make alone.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

A big question about Hong Kong – and even bigger ones about migration and China

We have been here before – at least, in a manner of speaking.  In 1989, the then Conservative Government granted British citizenship to some 250,000 people from Hong Kong.  There was a paradox to the decision: Ministers’ intention was not that they should enter Britain under the scheme.  Rather, this was that it would encourage them to stay in Hong Kong, by giving them certainty about their future, thus halting a mass exodus.

The gambit was sparked by doubts about whether China would honour the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984, under which the two countries agreed terms for the transfer of Hong Kong, and which was due to come into effect in 1997.  It worked.  Tensions simmered down, and there was no mass take-up of UK passports.

But there has always been a giant questionmark against China’s honouring of the “one country, two systems” provisions within the declaration.  It is highly visible now.  Two years ago, the country’s Foreign Ministry described the declaration as an “historical document, [which] no longer has any practical significance, and does not have any binding effect on the Chinese central government’s management of the Hong Kong”.

It is unlikely that China will presently send troops into Hong Kong, and formally tear up the commitments enshrined in the join declaration.  But the possibility exists, now or in the future: it is currently showing videos of troops massing on Hong Kong’s borders.  This is part of its response to pro-democracy protests, which were concentrated originally on opposition to an extradition bill, under which suspects could be sent to China for trial.  But the aims of demonstrators spread wider: they demand the free election of Hong Kong’s Chief Executive and legislature.

In essence, the settlement left by the joint declaration is unstable. For example, Hong Kong has a legislature of which only half the seats are directly elected.  And although China has powerful incentives not to tear up the “one country, two systems provisions” – which would do its Belt and Road initiative abroad no good – the people of Hong Kong cannot be sure what the future will hold.

Hence the proposal by Tom Tugendhat and others to grant British citizenship to the 169,000 or so British Nationals Overseas in Hong Kong.  Some want a bigger offer: the Adam Smith Institute also proposes to “open up the application process to the 4.5 million Hong Kong nationals”.  Some, a smaller one: the Sun wants Britain to admit “the best and brightest in the small territory”.  It might be that such a scheme would have the same effect as that of 1989: in other words, to encourage people to stay in Hong Kong rather than leave for the United Kingdom.

Then again, it might not – either now or, far more likely, in future.  And the context in Britain has changed since 1989.  Some, very largely but not exclusively on the left, support all migration, pretty much.  Others would welcome a big influx of hard-working, family-orientated, Hong Kongers: this has an appeal for parts of the right.  But even though public concern about immigration seems to have eased off recently, there is reason for caution.

As the Migration Observatory puts it in one of its headline findings: “British views are not favourable towards immigration and a substantial majority would like immigration to be reduced”.  Furthermore, Government policy is in flux.

Boris Johnson wants to scrap Theresa May’s unmet pledge to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands, and promises Dominic Cummings’s fabled Australian-style points system instead.  But it is far from clear what numbers this plan would produce – and numbers, though not everything in immigration debate, are much.  And the system faces a daunting challenge in any event.

The Government now says that in the event of a No Deal Brexit – arguably now the most likely outcome – free movement will end immediately, which would certainly be popular with many voters.  However, it isn’t apparent what system will be used to distinguish between EU nationals who have applied for the new settlement scheme and those who haven’t, to name only the most obvious of the problems bound up with immediate change.

In 1989, Norman Tebbit led a backbench revolt against the passport plan for Hong Kongers. It was less successful than advance publicity suggested.  But there is no guarantee that the outcome would be similar this time round, were the more ambitious of the Hong Kong schemes to be tried.

Ultimately, the problem of how to respond to China over Hong Kong is a sub-set of the problem of how to respond to it more broadly – which points to the wider debate over Huawei, China, our infrastructure and national security.  We could and should, as in 1989, offer some passports to Hong Kongers.  But, as then, the should and must be strictly limited.

Meanwhile, it’s worth remembering that the Joint Declaration is a legally binding treaty, registered at the United Nations.  Which means that third parties have an interest in upholding it, however distant.  In the case of Donald Trump, this might not be remote at all, given his stance on China.

Boris Johnson is due to see Trump soon – and frequently, given the mutual interest in a trade deal.  The former ought to put Hong Kong on the agenda.  Admittedly, the President is no fan of more migration to America.  But it just might be that there is an Anglosphere offer to be made to Hong Kongers on a bigger scale than Britain could make alone.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Sheila Lawlor: Johnson, like Churchill, must seize the chance of his lifetime

Sheila Lawlor is the Director of Politeia, a historian and the author of Churchill and the Politics of War, 1940-41.

In the battle for the Tory leadership there has been one focus for attack: Boris Johnson’s judgement. We’re told he can’t be trusted; he lacks judgement; he is irresponsible, unpredictable. Though politicians and press can be a jealous bunch, the vendetta against Johnson has been in a class of its own. But now, as the contest reaches its close, their attack raises a serious point – which is in Johnson’s favour.

For what Britain needs now is not a safe pair of hands, but a leader who can seize the moment. A leader to bring this country the freedom from the EU for which it voted in 2016, just as in May 1940 Churchill – himself having been written off as a failure and political opportunist – seized his moment. It should be looking for a prime minister who has the head, the heart and the sheer boldness to cast himself in the historic role to rally the nation to win its freedom in the biggest test since that time.

In 1940, Churchill’s CV read like a litany of failures. He had switched parties (twice), causes, allegiances, political tunes. There seemed to be only common thread – opportunism. He had played to the gallery, deployed a language that broke the rules, and time and again misplayed his hand in a bid to move ever closer to the power that eluded him. From being the enfant terrible of his party, Churchill had become a grown-up liability.

Then came the chance of his lifetime.

French and British troops massed in France waited for Hitler’s next move westwards – a stalemate broken only by the disastrous British raid on Narvik. Neville Chamberlain resigned as Prime Minister on 10th May, 1940. The same day the ‘real’ war in the west began. Hitler invaded France, Holland and Belgium; German tanks could be at Britain’s doorstep in weeks. Of the two candidates, Lord Halifax, a remote figure in the upper chamber, had the extra disadvantage of being in the Government now under attack. Churchill, in the Commons, could command the support of its critics, Labour MPs and Tory ‘glamour boys’ who had parted with the Government, while also bringing most Conservative MPs, begrudgingly, with him. Besides, he could rally the nation, and what had been the failing of his lifetime, that he loved war, would now play to his strength.

Some things today will be trickier today for the new Tory leader than they were in 1940. The Parliamentary Conservative Party has had little leadership. Out of step with its membership, abandoned by its voters and at odds with the quiet and instinctively conservative sentiment of the nation, the Conservative-led governments and MPs have seemed to sidestep the great issues their party has always stood for – the constitution that protects freedom and order, sound money and a small state – pandering instead to the ragbag of fads and interest groups.

To make matters worse, MPs and ministers waged war on the constitution to defy the authority, derived only from the voters, over Brexit. Not only did the Government fail to honour the country’s Brexit decision, but it made common cause with its opponents.

The question for Party members is whether, as in Churchill’s case, Johnson can move on to shape the future, to be part of the history about which both men have written. Though opponents suspect Johnson, as they did Churchill, of being an opportunist, some nonetheless have turned to him. Is it a leap in the dark? Or is it a choice that in retrospect will appear both inspired and almost inevitable?

Johnson appears to understand what marks out Great Britain, irrespective of politics, irrespective of period: its voters are a quiet, obstinate lot, for whom a certain kind of freedom matters, not that of banners or marches, but the freedom to protect their way of life, their laws, their system of government. The freedom to be left alone. The battle for Brexit is a battle for the country’s, and their own, freedom – the right to determine how they are governed, by whom, whether they can shape the laws that forge and reflect their way of life – something Theresa May’s deal or its variants would not do.

As in 1940, the time has come to finish the job. But, unlike then, people today are angry, and their anger is directed not against the EU, which has only acted in character in seeking to do down a democratic decision, but against their own leaders who wanted to surrender sovereign power to a foreign state.

Had Churchill not become Prime Minister in 1940, the political obituaries would have written him off as too often on the losing side: a failure, in war, a failure in peace, a disreputable politician in coalition, a minister who stoked class hatred in the General Strike, a chancellor who ran down the defences to build houses, not battleships. By contrast, Johnson’s record is more promising, but it is not his record that now matters.

Does he understand that this is a time like no other for this country and its people? Is he, like Churchill, ready to ‘walk with destiny’? The signs are that he is.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

George Freeman: Our new book. In which forty Tory MPs band together to help revive conservatism

George Freeman is the founder of the 2020 Conservatives Group, the Big Tent Ideas Festival and Chair of the Conservative Policy Forum. He is MP for Mid-Norfolk.

The Conservative Party is in a hole. We need to stop digging. And start thinking seriously about the real causes of the EU referendum result, the grievances it spoke to – and set out a plan to honour that referendum result by leaving the European Union and setting out a bold programme of domestic reforms.

The EU referendum was a massive vote to reject the political status quo and embrace radical, small c conservative reform. The 17.4 million Labour, Conservative and unaligned voters who voted Leave were voting for radical change. The genius of the Leave campaign was its call to “take back control”. It spoke powerfully to huge swathes of the country feeling marginalised by a potent mix of globalisation, post-Crash austerity, an influx of low paid labour from Eastern Europe, the decline of traditional market towns and high streets, fear of economic marginalisation from automation and the gig economy and a deepening despair at a sense of injustice at the gap between the “unaccountable elites” and the ordinary citizen.

Brexit spoke to – and has enshrined – the principle divide in Britain which is no longer between Left or Right, or North and South, but between those with comfortable lives and those on the margin.

This is hardly surprising. After eight years in office overseeing painful local public spending cuts, in the wake of the £700billon bank bailout, MPs expenses scandal and Blair’s dishonest Iraq war dossier which have entrenched a sense of Parliament dangerously detached from the people it serves, the Brexit referendum was a roar for reform. A number of us had been warning David Cameron and George Osborne it was coming.

Handled properly it could – and should – have been a catalyst for that most difficult of political challenges: renewal in office. But Cameron misjudged the mood and treated Leavers with contempt. Theresa May misjudged the mood as a mandate for a toxic combination of hardline anti-business UKIP rhetoric and bureaucratic Brexit bungling.

Now we choose a new leader in the teeth of a deepening public anger and pressure – whipped up by Farage and Banks – the Dick Dastardly and Mutley of British politics – to embrace the “kamikaze” approach of an anti-business No Deal Brexit.

Get this wrong, and we risk the destruction of the Conservative Party for a generation: losing our professional, business, metropolitan and liberal supporters to the Liberal Democrats, our Leave supporters to the Brexit Party and those who just want competence in office to stay at home in despair.

If we are to avoid gifting a broken Brexit Britain to Jeremy Corbyn, John Mcdonnell and Len McClusky, the next Conservative leader has to do three things:

  • Deliver an EU Withdrawal which a majority of moderate mainstream British voters in the centre ground can support
  • Embark on some bold domestic reforms to tackle the legitimate grievances which fuelled the Referendum vote
  • Restore some grip, vision, inspiration and unity to a divided country and Party.

The scale of the revolt against the status quo demands bold reform. Not the technocratic tinkering and endless self-congratulatory initiative-launching of Ministers looking busy on Instragram, but real reform.

This is a 1975, 1945, 1905 moment of profound disruption. The old order will be replaced by a new order. The only question is who will shape it? Can the Conservative Party make this a moment of bold and inspiring renewal in the same way that Mrs Thatcher and Keith Joseph did in 1975, Attlee, Churchill, Beveridge and Butler did in 1945, and Churchill and the Liberals did in 1905 to see of socialism by creating pensions and national insurance?

Too often, we forget that the great institutions we cherish as permanent were once mere ideas – whether the NHS, the BBC, the London Docklands, universal suffrage, the Right to Buy or the privatisation of the old state industries. They were bold ideas which reshaped a whole generation and quickly became permanent fixtures.

When was the last time any modern politician had an idea on the scale of any of these? We now face a genuine battle of ideas with a resurgent hard left and we need urgently to rediscover the power of political imagination.

So what would a bold programme of Conservative reform look like today? In our book Britain Beyond Brexit: a New Conservative Vision for a New Generation, published today by the Centre for Policy Studies, I and forty MPs from all sides of the party – Leave and Remain, North and South, left and right, urban and rural – have set out a collection of pieces to frame that programme.

Our book sets out a range of policy proposals across six defining themes we believe must be at the centre of a coherent and compelling narrative for the New Conservatism: identity, opportunity, enterprise, social justice, security and citizenship.

Of course, many may ask: is the Conservative Party capable of that task, amid the seemingly endless and deepening divisions of the Brexit civil war?

The successes and failures of a post-Brexit new conservatism will be based on understanding the profound societal, economic and technological changes coming at us. Not how we return to the old dividing lines of the 1980s or 1950s, but how we address the profound challenges of our age: issues such as globalisation, digitalisation, genetic engineering, sustainable development, religious extremism and the traumatic rupture of the crash and its legacy on our public finances.

We have got to be brave enough to tackle the big issues of the day. Low and fragile growth. A fragmented health and care system. Structural deficit. Intergenerational unfairness. Deepening anxiety, disillusionment and despair. Rising pressure on weary public servants in creaking public services. Stubborn ghettos of low aspiration and deprivation. Housing unaffordability, homelessness and small town decline. Sluggish infrastructure. Bad planning.

For our elderly – and the families and community of carers who look after them, we need a fair system of funding and providing elderly care. For the young, the urgent priority is addressing housing and the wider issue of economic disenfranchisement. Put simply, we’ve built an economy where the principal mechanism for building economic security – owning a home – is getting beyond the reach of all but the most privileged. Is it any wonder that a whole generation of millennial voters – with little or no chance of acquiring a house or any capital – are seduced by the rhetoric of anti-capitalism?

We face a genuinely historic challenge: are we going to make Brexit a moment of catalytic renewal of conservatism and our nation? Or a moment of annihilation by a new alignment of a new generation of voters?

To avoid a decade of decline in a post-Brexit Britain run by Corbyn, we urgently need a new conservatism for a new generation.

I hope our book will help light the way.

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Alan Mak: Conservatism 4.0 – We must ensure that no-one is left behind by the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Alan Mak is MP for Havant and Founding Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Stanley Baldwin said the Conservative Party stood for “real England” – a Party defined by voluntary organisations and Christian patriotism, little platoons and big national causes.

His Conservative Party of the 1920s faced an upstart opposition in a Labour Party that had usurped the Liberals to become the second party of British politics. Outlining the growing threat from Labour, Baldwin described them as being for a nation of class divisions and over-mighty trade unions.

Under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour has come full circle and is once again challenging the success and legitimacy of our free-market economy.

A century on from Baldwin, and despite being the natural party of government, our Party has often struggled to break out from its vote base of shire counties and market towns. It’s over 30 years since we won a majority of over 21 at a general election.

But there are signs of change. Our electoral success in recent years has been driven by securing more votes in Labour’s industrial heartlands. Dudley, Mansfield, Copeland and Teesside have all elected Conservatives in recent years, whilst the West Midlands and Tees Valley have elected Conservative Mayors on a region-wide basis.

This Conservative momentum in areas once dominated by trade unions and the Old Left shows that our message of hope, personal freedom and low taxation can re-define our path to a majority.

Yet our progress in these Labour heartlands is not concrete and shouldn’t be taken for granted. A pro-Leave electorate that has trusted another party for so long will be looking to the Conservatives to not only deliver Brexit, but ensure they are not left behind by the next big technological revolution either. As I said in yesterday’s article, this commitment must be a central tenant of Conservatism 4.0 – Conservative ideology for the Fourth Industrial Revolution [4IR].

The last time our country went through a technological revolution we had a strong leader with a firm ideology. The computing revolution of the 1980s powered Britain to economic success – and political success for Thatcherism. Through deregulation and an unwavering belief in the free market, the City of London prospered from the Big Bang, and our economy was transformed into a services-based powerhouse. From the stuttering, strike-crippled, state-dominated closed market that Thatcher inherited, the foundations were laid for rapid economic growth and the business-friendly, pro-innovation environment we enjoy today.

Our next Leader will also find themselves at an inflection point. They will have to harness the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) as artificial intelligence, big data and automation change our economy and society beyond recognition – and ensure that every community and region benefits from the wealth that it creates. Whilst Margaret Thatcher’s transformation of Britain’s economy for the better is undeniable, there are mining and industrial communities who felt they were left behind as other parts of the country raced ahead. To win a majority at future elections, today’s Conservatives need to attract working class and northern votes, so we cannot allow the positive impact of the 4IR to be absent from any region or for its benefits to be inaccessible to any social group.

The 4IR will radically change how we work, regardless of sector or industry. Instead of dockers and miners being at risk of automation, in the near future it will be call centre operators, lorry drivers and factory workers. With a path to electoral victory that increasingly runs through industrial towns, every factory closure or job lost to robots without alternatives emerging, will make a majority harder to achieve for our next leader.

That’s the reason why, whilst we still have an opportunity to shape the 4IR, our policies must be focussed on creating an Opportunity Society centred around social mobility powered by lifelong learning, high-quality education and skills training for everyone at every stage of their lives. Our Opportunity Society must be more than just a short-term policy objective. It has to be an integral part of the future of capitalism and a key part of Conservatism 4.0.

As robots slowly replace human workers, many on the radical-left are arguing for a Universal Basic Income (UBI), a minimum wage paid by the Government to every citizen regardless of their productive capacity. Every single country that has trialled UBI – from Kenya to Finland – has found it expensive and ineffective. Research by the International Labour Office has estimated that average costs would be equivalent to 20-30 per cent of GDP in most countries. In Britain, this would be more than double the annual budget of the NHS, yet John McDonell says a Corbyn-led Labour Govnement would trial it. These are just two of the reasons why we Conservatives should reject UBI as the solution to growing automation in the 4IR.

The truth is work has always paid, and work for humans will always exist. Work drives our economy, multiplies and makes the world richer. It takes people out of poverty and gives them purpose, and this will continue to be the case in the 4IR. In fact, many more new jobs are likely to be created than are lost to robots because the technology of the 4IR will drive economic growth, which in turn will create new and more interesting jobs, especially in new tech sectors such as advanced manufacturing, 3D printing, precision medicines and AI-powered creative industries.

Not enough is made of our job creation miracle since 2010, which has seen our economy put on three million new jobs. As we enjoy the lowest unemployment rates since the 1970s, we need to re-emphasise the value of work and the benefits to be derived from a good job. A UBI would be defeatist, signifying that humans had ceased to be useful in a world of machines, and be the antithesis of social mobility – there would be no need to work hard to move upwards on the income and living standards scale if we are all paid to stay at the same level. A UBI would also stall our economy through either crippling debt on the public purse or new taxes imposed on innovation. Similarly, Jeremy Corbyn’s proposed Robot Tax would simply mean a left behind country – a nation that fails to attract foreign investment and which becomes known for its anti-innovation approach to technology.

Instead, true devolution must be at the heart of delivering an Opportunity Society and making sure no community or individual is left behind. Our next Prime Minister must invest in the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine so regional economic growth is put in the hands of regional leaders. The benefits of the 4IR, from new start-ups to overseas investment, must be enjoyed beyond the “Golden Triangle” of London, Oxford and Cambridge. As Juergen Maier who led the Government’s Made Smarter Review, argued, it’s about creating an “innovation climate” in regions such as the North.

We cannot expect the heavy industries of the past to return, but instead our focus should be on ensuring the new technologies of the future are exploited in every area of the country to create new jobs and rising skills levels in every community. The Liverpool City Region understand this, and have already taken the initiative. They have launched LCR 4.0, an ambitious plan to support manufacturing and advanced engineering organisations in the region by funding practical support to transform businesses through digital innovation. By helping traditional manufacturers upgrade their technology, they enable firms to stay in business and keep their workers employed by becoming more productive. Conservatism 4.0 should support more initiatives like this.

Moving towards a system of local business rates retention will also encourage further investment in skills and business support from local authorities as they reap the rewards of encouraging local growth. There should also be more scope for local taxation and decentralisation as a central tenet of Conservatism 4.0 to empower local areas to evaluate their workforces and set-up true long-term strategies for delivering local economic growth, building on the work of existing Local Enterprise Partnerships and new Local Industrial Strategies.

Conservatism has always evolved and must do so again as we enter a new technological age by putting social mobility and reginal devolution centre stage. They are the two key building blocks to ensuring that every community and region can benefit from technology-driven economic growth. While Thatcherism delivered for the Third Industrial Revolution, we need a new brand of Conservatism to build an Opportunity Society for the Fourth. My final article in this series, published tomorrow, will set out the four principles that should guide us as we re-calibrate Conservatism in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

This article is the second in a three-part series explaining why adapting to a society and economy shaped by technology is key.

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Chris Penney: A lesson from D-Day – 75 years on. It was textbook exercise in how to succeed against the odds.

Chris Penney is a freelance writer covering aviation and military history, and is a member of Taunton Deane Conservatives.

In one of her last acts as the Conservative Party’s leader, Theresa May will attend the D-Day 75th anniversary commemorations at Southsea in Hampshire next Saturday.  Surrounded by fellow leaders, she will doubtless derive some comfort from the fact that they represent NATO partners rather than EU antagonists.  But as she looks out over the Solent and the English Channel beyond, I wonder what she’ll be thinking?  If only Brexit had proved as successful as D-Day, perhaps?

To the casual observer, D-Day is the story of a mighty multinational force unleashed from southern England successfully landing in Normandy with the result that, less than a year later, the war in Europe had been won.  Yet at almost every stage of the preparations for this assault on occupied Europe, there was disagreement and division.

From before its start, those nations taking part had very differing outlooks on the conduct of the war, and these had to be ironed out before detailed planning could commence.  Other factors at play were command rivalries, clashes of personally and egos, arguments on every level about strategy and goals, conflicting advise from experts and even a breakdown in collective responsibility that needed addressing.  Such was the task facing the wartime allied commanders working up their D-Day plans.

In trying to decide when, where and how to assault Nazi Europe the allies had some experience to call on.  As early as 1940, Britain and France had attempted a landing in Norway.  The debacle lead to the famous Norway Debate in the Commons that sealed Neville Chamberlain’s fate.  The fatally-flawed Dieppe raid in 1942 lead to grievous Canadian losses, and proved that a defended port couldn’t be taken from the sea.  The Sicily landings highlighted problems of friendly fire, and the later Anzio landings exposed the tragic decision not to push inland at the earliest opportunity.  It’s often overlooked that by the time of D-Day on June 6 1944, the Allies were already ashore and fighting their way up the spine of Italy in what many veterans often cite as the forgotten European campaign.

Once it had been decided that the US would take the lead on D-Day, with the appointment of General Eisenhower as overall commander, he had to bang service heads together to achieve his aims of delivering the assault at a time and place of choosing.  Some factors were outside his control.  The weather would dictate suitable conditions for a landing, and the operation was tied to a period of moonlight for the nightime parachute and glider landings and lowest tide level for the dawn beach landings.  This severely restricted the number of nights each month when conditions were right to launch D-Day.

The Dieppe raid had also highlighted that control of the air over the Normandy area was a prerequisite for the landings to take place.  Trying to persuade the strategic bomber arms of both the RAF and US Army Air Force to redirect their heavy air power in support of the operation proved nigh on impossible, and Eisenhower had to threaten to resign to force the issue and get his way.  The bomber barons didn’t like it, but they had no choice: the cause was momentous.  There were then arguments about the bomber target list – oil versus transport.  Air commanders had to be summoned to a council of war meeting in March to be told taking out rail and road links in the assault area would be the most effective way of reducing German fighting capacity in Normandy, even though intelligence staff thought otherwise.

There were also some big personalities involved in the chain of command, all keen to stamp their authority on proceedings.  Churchill, remembering Gallipoli, ensured he had his say on matters that would rebound on him were they not successful.  Montgomery was his own man, and US army commanders viewed him with suspicion, saying that he lacked confidence.  Leigh-Mallory, who was in charge of the ground support air operations, had to be carefully sidestepped, to avoid empire-building ambitions getting in the way of the real military objectives, and always in the background there was the enigma that was de Gaulle.

To ensure D-Day was successful, ingenious ‘out of the box’ ideas were required.  It was recognised that reinforcements had to be landed during the follow-up phases fastr than the Germans could concentrate their reserves to repel the landing force.  This led to the design of the Mulberry floating harbours constructed in England, and towed across the Channel to form an instant port for the unloading of fresh troops and supplies and the evacuation of causalities.  If there was one invention that contributed to D-Day’s overall success then surely this was it.

Behind the scenes, there were the unsung heroes.  The naval planners that had the unenviable task of ensuring that over 5,000 ships were convoyed to deliver a simultaneous landing.  The army logisticians who had to make sure that every soldier and tank was where it was supposed to be when the army demanded it.  The air intelligence analysts who provided the targeting information upon which the supporting air attacks were based.  And in an era without computers, the typists who had to create the orders of the day upon which everything happened.  Years and years of planning and staff work came together to ensure nothing had been left to chance, and Eisenhower didn’t need the speech he had prepared announcing to the world that D-Day had failed.  As a result, Churchill never had to face a Norway-style grilling by parliament.

D-Day was never a guaranteed success, and there is much to admire about the single-mindedness of military purpose that overcame so many obstacles to accomplish it.  A year later, the only fighting still taking place was in the Far East.  It’s a lesson from history that is still relevant today.

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Mohammed Amin: How the Conservative Party should fix its Muslim problem

Mohammed Amin MBE is Chairman of the Conservative Muslim Forum and Co-Chair of the Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester. He is writing in a personal capacity.

About 30 years ago, Perrier discovered that it was selling mineral water contaminated with benzene. The way the company successfully dealt with this problem has become a business school case study in crisis management.

Conversely, when Arthur Andersen encountered problems from its audit of Enron, it handled the issue so badly that the firm was destroyed. A textbook example of how not to do it.

In Britain, over the last three years, we have seen the Labour Party engulfed by accusations of anti-semitism. For a detailed explanation and analysis, I recommend reading the second edition of Dave Rich’s book “The Left’s Jewish Problem – Jeremy Corbyn, Israel and Anti-Semitism.” In my view, Labour has been unable to shake off the problem because the attitudes involved go right to the top.

Like society as a whole, the Conservative Party has always contained some members who are xenophobic generally, or anti-Muslim in particular. However, I have never believed that this extended to the Party’s leadership. Otherwise I would not have been a Party member for 36 years. Nevertheless, we have seen a growing problem with significant numbers of Conservative Party members making anti-Muslim comments. Occasionally, this has extended higher up, for example with Boris Johnson denigrating Muslim women who wear the burqa by comparing them to letterboxes and bank robbers.

Despite the Party Chairman asserting a zero tolerance approach on ConservativeHome, the bad news continues to emerge. In the time-honoured words of Lenin, “What is to be done?”

I have some specific advice.

Get serious about transparency

I recommend watching Brandon Lewis being interviewed on the Andrew Marr Show on 28 April 2019. At 43:57 Mishal Husain asks him some very straightforward questions about cases of Islamophobia within the Conservative Party. Despite claiming to be transparent, the only demonstrated transparency in Lewis’s replies is that the Conservative Party has a code of conduct visible to the world on its website.

The Party should:

  • Publish monthly on its website the number of Islamophobia complaints that Conservative Campaign Headquarters are dealing with.
  • Publish the tariff of sanctions that are applied, with some illustrations of what types of violation qualify for different levels of sanction. At present we get vilified because people are suspended and then unsuspended. Making it clear that temporary suspension is a normal sanction, and setting out what needs to happen before unsuspension is the only way for the Party to stop looking as if it is guilty when it is actually acting perfectly reasonably.
  • When people are found guilty by the disciplinary process, their names should be published with details of their offense and the sanctions applied.
  • Publish details of the diversity training which needs to be undergone before qualifying for unsuspension. (I am available pro-bono if the Party wants me to talk 1-1 with any suspended Conservatives as part of their re-education. Talking to someone as boring as me might also be seen as a severe penalty!)

Commission an independent enquiry into anti-Muslim bigotry and how the Party has dealt with it

In 2018 a former Party Chairman who is a Muslim, alongside the Party’s longest serving Muslim Peer, and also the Conservative Muslim Forum, all called for such an enquiry. The refusal to respond positively to these requests from senior Muslims within the Party has not been well received by British Muslims generally.

In the context of Islamist extremism, Michael Gove has pointed out that you cannot manage by shooting the crocodiles one by one as you spot them. You have to drain the swamp. That is why an enquiry is essential.

More active celebration of Islam’s contribution to Britain

In 2007 David Cameron wrote a Guardian column called “What I learnt from my stay with a Muslim family.” While I am happy to be corrected, I cannot remember a single speech since then from either him or Theresa May focusing entirely on the positive contribution of Muslims to Britain. I do not count positive comments which may have been included speeches focusing primarily on radicalisation.

What is needed is not just a single speech, but a series of speeches to celebrate the contribution to our country of Muslims who are by now five per cent of Britain’s population, and highlighting individual role models. In particular, all Britons need to hear repeatedly about the very large and vital contribution Muslims made to Britain’s armed forces in both World Wars.

Respond to calls for the adoption of a definition of Islamophobia

Many leading British Muslims and Muslim organisations have called on the Government to formally adopt the definition of Islamophobia published in November 2018 by the All Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims.

The Government has ignored these calls.

In my view, the Government is right not to adopt the definition. As I explained on this site in February, “It is time to abandon the word “Islamophobia”

However I cannot find anywhere an actual statement from the Government saying why it is not adopting the definition. Silence is not a good strategy in this case. It simply makes the Government, and therefore the Conservative Party, look as if it does not care about anti-Muslim hatred.

What is needed is a clear explanation of why the definition is not a good one, and that adopting any definition of Islamophobia would add nothing to the existing protections in hate crime and equalities legislation. At the same time, the Government should outline what it is doing to combat anti-Muslim discrimination and anti-Muslim hatred.

Closing comments

Problems don’t go away unless you tackle them. At present, the Conservative Party’s only perceived strategy for this problem is dealing with cases one by one, as quietly as possible. It is not working.

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