The challenge of extremism

  • 15 May 2015
  • From the section UK
David Cameron and Theresa May

After my blog earlier this week and an appearance on the BBC News at Ten reporting on government plans to introduce extremist banning orders, it is upsetting to find myself accused of positively comparing the radical Islamist firebrand Anjem Choudary with civil rights hero Mahatma Gandhi.

I would understand people's shock and horror if I had - but I did not. Quite the reverse. Anjem Choudary is nothing like Mahatma Gandhi. Nor Nelson Mandela for that matter. Indeed, that was my point and I am saddened if it has been misconstrued.

Let me be clear what I was saying - the legislation being devised to deal with the former will need to be very carefully drafted to avoid scooping up anti-establishment figures such as the latter.

The home secretary and the prime minister are looking for a way to silence individuals whose extremist rhetoric helps radicalise people into supporting so-called Islamic State and Al Qaeda. Such support can and, tragically, sometimes does lead to violence that threatens our very way of life.

It is the responsibility of ministers to consider how to counter such threats to national security and individual safety.

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Should we value extremism?

  • 13 May 2015
  • From the section UK
Nelson Mandela statue in Parliament Square

At the heart of our democracy is Parliament Square in Westminster, Around it, statues to honour great statesmen. But would the occupants of the plinths survive the government's proposed extremism test?

Nelson Mandela advocated the violent overthrow of the South African state - Margaret Thatcher described the ANC as "a typical terrorist organisation".

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Who would be a Member of Parliament?

  • 11 May 2015
  • From the section UK
David Cameron with new Conservative MPs, 11 May
New Conservative MPs pose with David Cameron

More than 180 new MPs arrive at the Houses of Parliament for the first time this week. What motivates them? Power? Glory? Pay and perks?

Or might it be the principle of public service?

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Election aftermath: A divided nation

  • 8 May 2015
  • From the section UK
David Cameron and Nicola Sturgeon
David Cameron's greatest challenge is to prevent the union being torn apart by mutual resentment

The question uppermost in the prime minister's mind as he assembles his new government is how to keep the kingdom united.

"Above all I want to bring our country together," he revealed after the result, "to reclaim a mantle we should never have lost - the mantle of one nation, one United Kingdom".

Read full article Election aftermath: A divided nation

Saving baby Sebastian

  • 30 April 2015
  • From the section UK

Baby Sebastian should be the face of this election. But he won't be because his problem takes too long to fix.

I speak of the widening gap between the life expectancy of the richest and poorest in our country. Living in deprived central Stockton, Sebastian can expect to survive just 67 years. A similar baby boy in London's swanky Belgravia is likely to live to over 91.

Read full article Saving baby Sebastian

The vanilla-flavoured election

  • 29 April 2015
  • From the section UK
Vanilla ice cream

It seems odd. The most nail-biting election for decades and yet the campaign itself is deemed boring and uninspiring.

There is no contradiction here, though. For Conservative and Labour, the very closeness of the race means that they would rather be dull than bold. Better vanilla than raspberry ripple.

Read full article The vanilla-flavoured election

Is this the worst graph of the election?

  • 28 April 2015
  • From the section UK
Graph from Liberal Democrat manifesto titled "Falling crime"

Is this the worst graph of the election? It is given a whole page in the Liberal Democrat manifesto but frustrates on so many levels.


The third column, labelled Lib Dems 2010, is for the financial year 2009/10 which finished a month before the Liberal Democrats joined the government.


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Westminster: Where houses earn more than people

  • 17 March 2015
  • From the section UK
Westminster home

Members of Parliament heading home are greeted by a poster at the tube station that reads "£30,000 wouldn't even buy you floor space the size of this poster in Westminster".

It is a graphic reminder of the affordability crisis affecting housing in London and the South East - a disparity that has turned home owners in the region into lottery winners while those not on the property ladder are denied a roof over their head.

Read full article Westminster: Where houses earn more than people

Pressure on a 'strained' social service

  • 10 March 2015
  • From the section UK
Child on a swing

A week after the prime minister threatened social workers with jail if they fail to protect children, the man his government appointed to keep an eye on children's services has warned that growing criticism of social workers is adding to the pressure on a strained service.

Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Education, Children's Services and Skills, Sir Michael Wilshaw, uses his annual report on children's social care today to suggest that social workers and managers "do not always get the support and recognition they deserve".

Read full article Pressure on a 'strained' social service

Savile: 'How could this be allowed to happen?'

  • 26 February 2015
  • From the section UK
Jimmy Savile

"How could this be allowed to happen?" That was the understandable question asked by the Prime Minister David Cameron when presented with details of Jimmy Savile's abuse.

The answers are many and various, today's investigation into his activities at Stoke Mandeville concludes, before adding that "one of the most compelling is quite simply that the basic building blocks of legislation, policy and procedure designed to maintain both public safety and probity were bypassed".

Read full article Savile: 'How could this be allowed to happen?'