My 22 September Talk TV interview with Peter Cardwell is available to watch, here, and below.
Part of my summer reading was a short book by Abu Sayed and Priyajit Debsarkar on the 1971 concert for Banglagesh, one of a series of momentous events in the period which saw east Pakistan break away from West Pakistan, in a bloody conflict marked by outrageous crimes on the part of the Pakistani military and its supporters, to become the independent nation of Bangladesh.
"The concert for Bangladesh: United friends of Bangladesh" is a 112 page work which first appeared in Bangla last year, followed by an English translation in 2023. It is beautifully produced with a colour cover, and excellent quality black and white photographs throughout. This is history poorly known to British readers, and is all the more valuable for that. Some of the baddies however, are all too familiar - the Chinese government and Henry Kissinger for example, had few concerns about Pakistani atrocities, as they sought a balance of power in the region which weakened India.
This work will also be of interest to Beatles completists motivated to buy anything and everything with George Harrison (and indeed Ravi Shankar) on the front cover. As for the Madison Square garden concert, the concept of cultural diplomacy is now one that is very familiar - less so in 1971. As Sayed and Debsarkar record, by 1985 some $12 million had been raised for Bangladesh - the impact on later interventions, such as Live Aid and Ethiopia, is clear.
Gripes? The text needed a tighter spell and grammar check, and as yet, the book does not appear to be available on some of the main online book sales sites?
Back in January I contributed to a Policy Exchange report on police staff associations.
Blurred Lines: Police staff networks politics or policing? has a marvelous front cover, and a small section on the National Association of Muslim Police (NAMP) which I was keen to write as it may be the first critical examination of this grouping.
You can download the full report from the Policy Exchange website here.
I attach as a pdf, below, my section on NAMP, which focuses on their interventions on the language of counter-terrorism, and their associations.
The picture below is from the Isle of Wight Steam railway. I took it during a visit to the railway sheds earlier this week.
For pretty obvious reasons, heritage railways rely on coal, as that is what steam trains used. The Isle of Wight Steam railway long had a choice, if it wishes to continue operating, between using coal from this country, or using imported stocks from overseas. If the UK completely abolishes any coal production, the only option is to import coal, bringing it thousands of miles by sea, and likely from countries with lower environmental and labour standards than ours.
The examples given here are Kazakhstan or Colombia.
Britain clearly needs coal mines - for energy independence, for heritage facilities like this, and as a reserve fuel whilst other alternatives are developed. The noise of campaign groups like Just Stop Oil should not drown this reality out.
This week saw the government announce its update to the UK's counter-terrorism strategy, known as CONTEST. It is from CONTEST that we get the 4 Ps of Protect, Prepare, Pursue and Prevent - the later of course being the bit anyone has ever heard of!
Yesterday I had a short piece published on Conservative Home analysing the review and offering some broader comment on counter-terrorism. For all the froth and fuss, in reality the two threats that really count are Islamist terrorism, and to a much lesser extent, the far-right. The Home Secretary does, I think, get this. You can read it here, or as a pdf below.
Earlier this year the Bloom report called for a greater relationship between government and faith. It argued government should recognise faith groups as a force for good. You can read Colin Bloom's report here.
I see things as much more complicated, and in May put pen to paper with the Labour MP Khalid Mahmood, discussing both Bloom's report and the wider dangers it's suggestions signpost. You can view our article on the spiked website here, or as a pdf below.
This story was the lead in the Evening Standard's business section today - foreigners own £55bn of London homes as buying spree set to climb.
The second paragraph is breathtaking:
"There are 103,425 homes in the capital, including houses and flats, that are currently registered with an overseas correspondence address or an overseas company."
This is nearly 13% of the stock in Westminster, 10% in Kensington and Chelsea, and 2.76% of London's overall stock.
How difficult would it be to limit multiple home ownership in the UK by foreign nationals? Or to prohibit ownership by overseas companies?
Are there any political parties willing to take a stand on these issues?
Earlier this year Routledge, who seem to dominate academic output when it comes to the political fringe, published the Routledge Handbook of Non-Violent Extremism.
Edited by Elisa Orofino and William Allchorn, it is a pretty hefty piece of work, with 32 separate articles.
One of them is from me, 'The phoney war,' which charts radical environmental and animal rights activism across five decades. I argue direct action leads to a conversation between protestors and the authorities, and in the case of the animal rights movement, militant activism faded as many of the protestors core demands (such as the abolition of hunting) were won. The present era is significantly different, in that activists propagate arguments of imminent environmental collapse, a position that is to at least some degree accepted, and even echoed, by ruling elites.
What happens though, to this movement, as we get potentially closer to the environmental point of no return (2030?) that they insist is approaching? When does the conversation stop?
Two short comments on the handbook itself. It is a substantial piece of work, covering differing types of extremism, from religious actors to the far-right, far-left and environmentalists. Unfortunately the nature of academic publishing means that for all the sterling work put into the project, few will seriously study it. The cheapest price - £178.18 - guarantees that. Although you can read it via a Kindle for £38. Academic publishing appears content to phase out actual books, and to sell at a high price to universities and similar institutions, leaving out the man and woman in the street. In the long-term that strategy is unsustainable - it is taxation which of course funds the universities. The relevance of academic research, especially in the social sciences, needs to be debated far more than it is. Secondly, I salute the enormous amount of work the editors have put in to tie this project together. It is much appreciated by this author.
As I see it, there are two problems with technology. The first is that some of the time it does not work. As a society we tend to blame the user rather than the developer or the manufacturer when this happens. One of the greatest miscarriages of justice this century - the Royal Mail subpostmasters scandal - occurred because it was easier to send people to prison for crimes they had not committed, than to admit the computer system, Horizon, was faulty.
The second problem is that technology creates new elites - think Facebook, YouTube, Amazon, Microsoft, Google. As we saw in the last US elections, by 2020 America had reached the stage whereby Facebook and Twitter considered themselves bigger than the President of the United States. Indeed as Niall Ferguson wrote in a masterful article for the Spectator in 2017, the battle between tech and Trump was one for the ages. Having won the first fight, Trump was to be decisively beaten in the second.
The power of Big Tech also reproduces itself, in more minor but irritating ways, at the local level. When I studied at Wolverhampton Polytechnic in the late 1980s, lecturers started on the hour, and you took handwritten notes. By the time I was lecturing myself a quarter of a century later, arrangements were in the style illustrated by Prof Stuart Wilks-Heeg:
And remember, these are all labour saving devices being used!
With this tech comes the rise of IT departments who replicate power in a distinct way. Staff at the University of Leicester, where I taught for a decade, were required to change their IT passwords every 90 days for security purposes. Students did not. It was no coincidence that students were paying lots of money to be at the university, whilst hourly paid lecturers like myself were employees expected to do as they were told.
One year the IT department had the bright idea of moving some staff to a new email system in exam marking week. This backfired spectacularly, and I had no access to the system for 36 hours. As an early career academic on a fixed term contract, if I was late doing my marking, the chances of me getting further contracts were zero. When I asked the IT department why they did not wait until the summer holidays to make such a major change, I was firmly put in my place; 'We have to be ready for new students coming from August'. In the new academic hierarchy, the IT department's convenience sat higher than those they provided a service too.
Forgive me therefore if I do not feel Artificial Intelligence (AI) is going to liberate us for the better. Indeed, the most logical response appears to be to draw the curtains, carry on as before, using technology we are comfortable with and ignoring that which is too much trouble. And to always push back whenever change is imposed upon us.
A fund exists for those effected by the Horizon scandal, to allow subpostmasters to rebuild their lives. Donations can be made here.
Earlier this month I wrote a short piece for spiked on the third and final part of the Manchester Arena inquiry.
It details some of the sorry revelations to emerge, and highlights the reluctance of sections of the British state to really get into the weeds and the dirt when it comes to Islamist extremism.
You can read the article online here, and a pdf can be viewed below.
I neglected to post on her two articles I had published last month, discussing the long overdue independent review of Prevent, by William Shawcross.
For Con Home I asked whether anything will really be different this time - an attitude which rather percolates the response to many government initiatives, including the approach to immigration. You can read the article online here, and download a pdf below.
The run up to last months Prevent review saw a series of leaks and counter leaks. For the Telegraph I asked whether the government would allow the various bureaucrats and civil servants control, or whether it would see the Prevent review process through to the end. Time will tell. The article is on the Telegraph website here. The pdf is below.
Last month I was co-author, along with my colleague Damon Perry, of a report into the Trojan Horse Affair in Birmingham Schools.
You can read The Trojan Horse Affair: A Documentary Record online here. A pdf of the report can also be downloaded below.
During November we saw the opening of a World Cup that, for the first time in the modern history of football, was not greeted with universal enthusiasm by supporters. Why? The host, and the methods used to win the hosting of the tournament.
I was involved in two contributions which attempted to provide a little more background to Qatar, and in particular Britain's relationship with it. The first was supplying some additional information, along with Dr Damon Perry, to a report by Sir John Jenkins for Policy Exchange. A pdf is below.
Secondly, I wrote a short piece for the Conservative Home which argued that in our dealings with Qatar, the UK's social cohesion must come first. Again, a pdf is below.
October saw a series of protests across London and the south east, by the Just Stop Oil organisation.
Who are they, what do they seek to achieve, and why do they get away with things other political campaigns, do not?
I am one of three authors of a report by Policy Exchange which seeks to answer those questions. You may read the report online, or download a pdf, here.
A pdf of the report can also be viewed on the link below.
A couple of years after everyone else, I have just finished reading 'The Madness of crowds: Gender, Race and Identity' by Douglas Murray.
It is very good, indeed the only one of his books which has missed the mark is probably the one no one talks about now - the 2006 text 'Neoconservatism: Why we need it'. The truth of course is that we didn't!
In the conclusion to the Madness of Crowds, Murray writes beautifully of the effort people put into politics, and how identity politics in particular becomes all-consuming. It is worth quoting in full:
But of all the ways in which people can find meaning in their lives, politics - let alone politics on such a scale - is one of the unhappiest. Politics may be an important aspect of our lives, but as a source of personal meaning it is disastrous. Not just because the ambitions it strives after nearly always go unachieved, but because finding purpose in politics laces politics with a passion - including rage - that perverts the whole enterprise.
For anyone who has ever been involved in, or observed a political split within an organisation, these words hit home:
If two people are in disagreement about something important, they may disagree as amicably as they like if it is just a matter of getting to the truth or the most amenable option. But if one party finds their whole purpose in life to reside in some aspect of that disagreement, then the chances of amicability fade fast and the likelihood of reaching any truth recedes.
The quotes are on p.255-56 of the 2020 paperback edition.
The protests against The Lady of Heaven movie have ended in a complete victory for the protestors.
England and Wales abolished laws against blasphemy under the last Labour government in 2008. As at Batley Grammar School in 2021 however, it appears possible for Islamist protestors to enforce blasphemy codes by taking to the streets.
This research note, published yesterday by Policy Exchange, considers events this month, and traces the opposition to The Lady of Heaven movie back to the Islamic Republic of Iran.
You can read the research note online here, and download a pdf below.
My take on the Shawcross review on Prevent, currently sitting in the Home Secretary's in tray.
Published in the Times on Tuesday 17 May.
You can view a pdf of the article below.
Yesterday spiked were good enough to publish an article I wrote on the Bristol Extinction Rebellion FB page calling a protest against a feminist meeting at Bristol University.
A link to the article on the spiked website is here. A pdf of the piece may be read below.
This is a short piece for the Understanding Islamism project of the think tank Policy Exchange.
It considers the advertised appearance of Jeremy Corbyn MP at an anti-Zionist event. Mr Corbyn did not however, join the proceedings. The controversy was covered in the Daily Mail.
A link to the article can be read here, and a pdf of the article, below.
This is a short article, for the Understanding Islamism project of the website Policy Exchange.
It considers the responses of British Islamists to the complete proscription of the Islamist group Hamas - previously only its military wing had been illegal in the United Kingdom.
You can download a pdf of the article below, and read it online here.
This week the European Conservatives and Reformists group in the European parliament published the report on the Muslim Brotherhood in Europe that I have worked on with the Italian researcher Tommaso Virgili.
You can see the report launch, and download a copy of the report, on the ECR website here.
A pdf of the report can be found below.
As Saudi Arabia increasingly looks to move away from influencing the growth of Islam in the west, Turkey is a more important player than ever.
This article, for Policy Exchange's Understanding Islamism project, seeks to explain the influence of the Diyanet, Turkey's Ministry of Religious Affairs.
Read it online here, and as a pdf below.
I wrote the following for the Policy Exchange website earlier this month.
You can read the text here, and as a pdf below.
This article, for Policy Exchange, examines the French NGO BarakaCity.
Proscribed for extremism in its home country, its CEO Idriss Sihamedi, has publicly sought asylum in Turkey. However it has for several years been active in this country, and is currently seeking to expand its operations in Britain, an issue that should raise concerns.
There is a link to the article here, and a pdf below:
As the protests of Extinction Rebellion have become increasingly staid, it is perhaps no surprise Insulate Britain have opted for a tactic of far greater disruption.
However, those key workers who have kept the country going during the pandemic, will struggle to recognise either the world of the environmentalists, or one where the police stand by as motorways are blocked. My thought on these events can be read on the on the Policy Exchange website here.
The article can also be downloaded as a pdf below:
A publication unpublished when I left the Henry Jackson Society earlier this year was a short briefing document entitled 'What is Islamism.'
Aimed at the general reader, it can now be viewed online here, and as a pdf below.
How is it that the Conservative party keeps winning general elections, but the day to day running of our society appears to reflect an entirely different set of values entirely?
From Peter Hitchens in the Mail on Sunday:
"People who would have laughed at 'loony Left' councils 30 years ago now use language and follow rules which they once mocked when Ken Livingstone and his allies proposed them. Those who claim to despise Jeremy Corbyn often follow the ideas he helped devise in his decades in London town halls.
And it is not just that they join in. They are afraid to criticise. Huge areas of opinion are now closed off from discussion, for fear of cancellation, advertising boycotts, and generally being cast into the outer darkness.
With gathering speed and completeness, a total revolution in thought and morals is taking hold of Western societies, just at the moment when they should be girding themselves against pressure to become more like China."
It seems likely that the current Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Cressida Dick, will be offered a second four year term in office.
This would be a mistake, and to reward failure, as I argue in this piece for spiked.
You can view the article as a pdf below.
Download Cressida Dick has failed upwards spiked 21 07 2021
I neglected to post my final comments for Spiked on Labour's eventual victory in the Batley and Spen by-election.
You can read it on the excellent spiked website, here.
I also place the article as a pdf below. Perhaps the most significant development since the result has been the Labour MP for Bradford West and Shadow Minister for Social Cohesion, who spoke in the Commons of the need to protect Muslims from the 'hurt' of insults to Muhammad. It is hard not to see a connection between the by-election result, and Ms Shah's intervention. It bodes ill for the direction Labour is taking.
It seems likely the Conservatives will win the Batley and Spen by-election on 1 July. There is even the possibility of George Galloway's Workers Party of Britain beating Labour into third place.
As I discuss for spiked, having played the game of identity politics, abandoning the Batley Grammar school teacher in the process, Labour now risks being outplayed at their own game by Galloway. You'd need a heart of stone not to laugh.....
A pdf of the article is available below:
"Men posing as female weightlifters isn't the biggest problem western civilisation faces, but it's an ominous symptom of deeper rot. When the people in charge retreat into fantasy, and demand that everyone else join them there, society itself becomes impervious to reality. The entire population develops the habits of fact-avoidance and lying. After a while, no one can see a crisis, or even admit one exists."
From Tucker Carlson's Ship of Fools: How a Selfish Ruling Class is Bringing America to the Brink of Revolution. (New York: Free Press), p. 201.
Iran pursues its interests in the UK, and seeks to build and maintain influence, in two ways.
The first is through perfectly legal outreach work and inter faith initiatives. The second is a much more underhand campaign of online disinformation and skullduggery. I set out some examples of both in an article for The Levant, available here.
You can read the article as a pdf, below.
The Batley and Spen by-election on 1 July is one of the most exciting in years.
My latest article for Spiked considers the challenge of George Galloway's Workers Party of Britain, the backdrop of threats and violence that have scarred the constituency in recent years, and the candidacy of several pro-Brexit parties, who are searching for political space in the pro-Brexit era.
You can read the article here, and find a pdf below.
I took part in a panel discussion yesterday on Iranian influence overseas, as part of the promotional work following the report I published with the Henry Jackson Society earlier this week.
The panel was chaired by the Conservative MP Theresa Villiers, and I was joined by Prof Saul Chorev, Simone Rodan-Benzaquen and Jonathan Spyer.
You can see a video of the event here.
I am the author of a new report on Iranian influence in the United Kingdom. You can read the press release and find a link to the report here.
The report looks at seven areas of interest: political networks, religion, the media, cultural networks, the Iranian diaspora, education and academia, and finally, the fields of business and finance. The bulk of the focus, however, is in the fields of politics and religion.
A pdf of the report can be downloaded below:
The Summer 2021 issue of the Salisbury Review is now out. You can buy the magazine, or download a copy, here.
Within its pages I have a review of Douglas Murray's short book 'Islamophilia: A Very Metropolitan Malady.' What are the consequences of an outbreak of Islamophilia? Read the review and find out.
Following the inquest into the killing of Saskia Jones and Jack Merritt in the November 2019 terrorist attack at Fishmongers Hall in London, I have written a short piece for Spiked on the question of whether the attack could have been prevented.
The article is on the Spiked website here.
It can also be read as a pdf below.
On Wednesday I had a short piece published by Spiked covering the fallout from Pimlico Academy in London, which earlier this year took down its union flag after complaints from parents and pupils.
Schools in parts of England are now experiencing a wave of protests in support of the Palestinians, and many of those deeply uncomfortable about the sight of the union flag, are now seeing colours displayed that they are sympathetic too........
A link to the article on the Spiked website is here. A pdf can be found below:
In football, traditions matter. I feel the display of a Palestinian flag at Old Trafford by Paul Pogba and Amad Diallo was outside the traditions of the club.
It is hard to imagine it happening in an earlier era, especially when United worked so hard as a club not to be seen as partisan with regards to the Northern Ireland conflict. You can read my article arguing against sectarianism in football on Spiked, and also as a pdf below.
It is not sure exactly when it will happen, but a by-election in the west Yorkshire constituency of Batley and Spen appears inevitable, after the sitting MP, Tracy Babin, was elected as the new Mayor for West Yorkshire.
The central issue in the by-election that brought Ms Babin into office in 2016 was the fascist terror attack which saw Jo Cox MP murdered by Thomas Mair. This by-election will occur to the backdrop of threats of violence to a teacher at Batley Grammar, who is in hiding after threats from Islamists. In an article today for Spiked, I argue standing up to the aggressors in this case must be a central issue when the by-election is held.
The article can also be read as a pdf, below.
Just before Christmas I finished reading Paul Embery's 'Despised: Why the Modern Left Loathes the Working Class'.
It is very good, although I fear that the people who need to read it, and to learn from it, will not. Embery risks that cruellest of fates, being a Prophet in his own land, destined only to be heard from those outside his own tribe.
These are some of the lines on which he finishes the book:
We have learned that any drive to create an 'open' 'diverse' and 'progressive' nation will alienate a large part of the populace if it is forced upon them too rapidly, violates their sense of order and belonging, and comes at the expense of social solidarity and stability.
The British working class has found its voice. Politics in our country is realigning at speed as the old tribalisms crumble. The Left, if it is to halt the slide towards irrelevance, had better start listening.
I suspect this overstates the extent to which life may be breathed into a corpse. But that politics is realigning, is self-evident. And it is genuinely exciting.
It seems likely the Oxford Covid vaccine will be rolled out across the UK in January.
I was one of over 600 people to take part in the trials for this in Corby, Northamptonshire. Finishing off the tests on Thursday, I was told only 5 people had negative reactions to the jabs, none serious. That is less than 1 percent.
It seems appropriate to be deeply pessimistic about the future. The economic hit we have suffered from Covid has not been fully grasped. The gap between the security and status of public and private sector workers is deepening, and may get worse. The civil liberties lost at times this year, and the cultural revolution that piggy backed on top of the George Floyd protests in America, disastrous. There is not much point having a parliament full of human rights lawyers if, as I found, the police stop you playing football in the park with your children. On race, Britain is not the United States, no matter how much our woke warriors wish it to be.
Internationally, China is greatly strengthened by the events of 2020, the west economically weakened and culturally divided. Those cultural divisions will accelerate in 2021.
But this vaccine is a sign of progress, in the middle of reaction. It is green shoots sticking out of the concrete, and for that we should be grateful.
One of the issues in the in-tray of Home Secretary Priti Patel, is the question of whether to revoke the ban on the Sri Lankan Tamil Tigers organisation.
In the page of the Indian newspaper the Sunday Guardian, I argue strongly against this. It would be a poor way to treat our allies, but would also send a dangerous message to other militant exiled groups who are, regrettably, exiled here in the UK.
The Metropolitan Police, and the leadership of the Labour Party, have both spoken out about anti-vaccination opinions, and activists who are circulating such views on social media. As we move closer to immunising people against Covid19, these debates are likely to increase.
I think it would be a bad idea to create legislation against these views, and set out my arguments in this piece for Spiked.
Over the weekend I had a short article published in the Sunday Guardian in India, concerning the 2008 terror attacks in the city.
In it I attempt to characterise some aspects of jihadist violence, for example its anger and hatred directed at 'the other', and also discuss aspects of the impact of the attacks. For example, the view of Pakistan as a state sponsor of terrorism, was reinforced.
You can read the article on The Sunday Guardian website here, and also get a pdf of the piece
Download Nature and impact of Mumbai attacks 21 11 2020.
Now - what are my chances of getting a commission to write for the Guardian in this country?
Who is the UK's best political cartoonist?
This year that mantle has been claimed by The Telegraph's Bob Moran, who has produced a series of superb cartoons articulating the loss of personal freedom, and the fears experienced by those trying to understand the changes that have followed in the wake of Covid19.
You can view his website, with a compilation of this years cartoons, here. My personal favourite is from July, and features our national dog, the British Bulldog both scared and muzzled.