At least Ed didn't stab himself in the eye with a biro and kept his trousers from falling to his ankles. For party managers a success.

27 Mar 2015 at 08:44

The highlight of last night’s Roman Circus was watching the grade A bitch fight between Caroline Flint and Liz Truss on Newsnight. The personal loathing between the two of them oozed like a slow acting poison through our screens. The sad thing is that they were both equally awful. I had to Google Ms Truss this morning. The name is familiar. Did she write that wonderful book Eats, Shoots and Leaves? Er, no. That was Lynn. Lordy, lord, she is in the cabinet! She replaced dear old O’Patz. I always thought that he was a bit of an old duffer, but he looked like a Demi God compared to her performance which was so pedestrian that I am surprised that the BBC didn’t provide her with a Belisha Beacon. Liz, my love, this was your great chance to prove your television skills. All you had to do what say how wonderful DC was, how embarrassingly crap Ed was and answer one or two soft ball questions from an interviewer most of us have never heard of. The most obvious was about Cameron being chicken not doing a head to head with Miliband. There are a multitude of one liners to deal with this one. To witter on about the media being responsible was just daft. Didn’t you have a chat with Lynton Crosby beforehand? Well, we won’t see much of her on our screens during the election. And also, when you are in a hole on live telly, fiddling with your earpiece pretending you can’t hear the question doesn’t work and looks rather desperate.

And then Newsnight served up the Indy editor, who seems quite a sensible fellow and some woman who is political correspondent for Buzzfeed who was all over the shop. Buzzfeed having a political correspondent is like the STAR having a fine arts editor. Quite bizarre.

And the debate? Well, as a Cameroon I am biased. He survived Paxo after a clunky start about food banks and dodgy friends. But where he came into his own was with the audience. I thought they were going to be hostile. But he charmed them off the trees. It became a bit of a love in. They laughed with him rather than at him. He stayed middle of the stage and just radiated. It was a master class in how to handle a television audience.

Ed was better than most of us thought he would be, but was holed below the waterline on immigration and public expenditure. To give expenditure on the Dome as the only example of Labour waste was bordering on the insane. How the audience laughed. I felt desperately sorry for him. There was much more audience laughter in his session than Cameron’s. But they were laughing at him. Also I noticed he kept moving back to the podium after each question to consult notes. This was probably a reaction for forgetting the deficit at his famous non scripted conference speech. But it gave an unnatural feel to his performance. But party managers can heave a sigh of relief. He didn’t stab himself in the eye with his biro and his trousers didn’t fall to his ankles. And for Ed that counts as a success.

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My day with the Freedom Association and the excommunication of Tim Montgomerie

9 Mar 2015 at 09:19

Travelling on the train to speak the the annual Freedom Festival in Bournemouth this weekend I had this creeping feeling that I had made a terrible mistake. After all I am a dripping wet Cameroon moderniser who thoroughly approves of the direction of the Conservative party has been driving. The trouble is that road has been mined, booby trapped and strafed by the the very sort of people I was going to spend a day and night with. And as I am not exactly a shrinking violet about my views I assumed I was going to be met with a wall of hostility and laser beams of hate. But as it was a favour to my old friend Grant Tucker of the IEA, I gritted my teeth, put on my protector and walked the green mile to my first session ‘in Conversation with Jerry Hayes’. In the Thatcher room. There was only one person there, an enormous and menacing fellow who I later discovered was a UKIP Parliamentary candidate. He looked at me in the way feral beasts with large paws and sharp teeth regard their first human snack of the day.

And then the room began to fill. Elderly gentleman in Blazers, elderly ladies in country attire, intense young men and a woman dressed in lace, pound signs and a enormous UKIP hat. It was the splendid Gloria who had appeared on the front pages of the TIMES in another striking outfit at the UKIP conference. It suddenly felt peculiarly familiar as I recognised many of the faces as attendees of Conservative Party conferences in the eighties. Their views hadn’t changed at all. Get out of Europe and worship the principles of Thatcherism. It was as if I was sitting in another dimension, in a time bubble where the clock had stopped in 1983. But although I thoroughly disagreed with most of their views, they were people of good heart, of gentle spirit, of common decency, who loved their country and were terrified of the havoc that a Labour government would wreak. They were just bemused that the party they had supported most of their lives had changed out of all recognition. Not unlike farming communities in the thirties who had to come to terms with the tractor replacing the shire horse. But with the certain exception of the UKIP candidate (who was not as menacing as he looked) a goodly number realised that a vote for Farage would be a dangerous vanity.

But if you think the Tory Right hate Socialism it is as nothing compared to how they despise the traitors in their own midst. When at the dinner, Donal Blaney embarked upon a blistering attack on ‘compassionate Conservatism’, I thought that it was time to make my excuses and leave. But when Donal started to fume about the ‘stench of appeasement…..and those doing the work of enemies like Heath, Heseltine and Neville Chamberlain’,it was not me or the family Cameroon he was going on about , it was Tim Montgomerie, who he mentioned with all the affection of something unwelcome that you have found on the bottom of your newly acquired Church’s brogues. Evidently Monty had written a piece about The Good Right, which had split the right. That it was a pale pastiche of Conservatism, and that this nonsense must be buried for once and for all. Blaney then went on to quote Thatcher when she said that when she left politics she would start a business called Rent a Spine. I have never heard such a devastating attack on anyone at a public event.

Maybe I will have to read this Monty stuff. Sounds like something I might agree with. And to his credit Blaney probably regards me as a political deviant who with a little re education and a spot of waterboarding might be turned. But for Monty? Don’t stand next to any lampposts for a very long time old chap. The Right are sharpening their pitchforks and castrating irons as we speak. And they think that you did it in return for a gong.

But……….I did enjoy my couple days with the Freedom Association. We may be on different political planets but nobody should doubt their sincerity and basic decency. All in all a delightful crowd.

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Forget the television debates, shove them all in the big brother house for six weeks.

5 Mar 2015 at 11:48

So, the big story of the moment is the debate about the debate about the debate. The usual suspects, Prescott and Campbell, predictably are accusing Cameron of being cowardly for not agreeing to a head to head with Miliband and just offering one debate with seven party leaders with the possibility of the DUP joining the throng. Although quite what that lot will bring to the table, apart from a fire and brimstone God is a welcome mystery.

The trouble is that this is all about tactics. Every Parliamentary candidate gets a few cheap headlines once a year demanding a debate with the sitting MP. The incumbent always refuses simply because they don’t want to give their opponents free publicity. I am guilty of both practices. But whatever Cameron decides he will be criticised. Obviously as Leader of the opposition he wanted a debate with Brown because Gordon is an appalling television performer. But where things went awry was when Clegg did unexpectedly well and the country became gripped with Cleggomania. This unnerved certain sections of the Conservative party who thought Cameron had made a terrible error of judgement and have been doing their best to persuade him to abandon any television debate at this election. This is not an option. The genie has been let out of the bottle.

In 2010 the options were clear cut. A swing to one party or another would pretty much decide the election. This is not the case now. There will be tactical voting. The Blair haters have moved back to Labour from the Lib Dems, the real left wingers have moved over to the Greens, and the rump of the Rampton wing of the Tories are toying with the KIPPERS. Couple this with a real possibility of Labour being wiped off the map by the SNP and the DUP cleaning up in Ulster and you have two terrifying prospects. A Labour government propped up by the SNP and the Greens (more likely just a Green) or a Conservative government propped up by the DUP and a couple of KIPPERS. The SNP would demand another referendum which they would get and a commitment to abandon nuclear weapons to which they would be promised a review. And the DUP would probably want some form of moral code based on Leviticus. I don’t see why either of those parties should have a platform in a national debate as they look at issues though the prism of parochialism. So that would leave Cameron, Miliband, Clegg, Farage and Natalie Bennett which is a bit more manageable.

There are a number of other difficulties. Party managers like to control the news media. The unexpected, unexpected, which is often thrown up in television debates, completely messes up carefully controlled messages and mood music. Also, prepping leaders for them is time consuming. Precious hours which could be more usefully spent traipsing round the regions and bribing the locals with jobs and investment.

So what is going to happen? Firstly, some hapless reporter from the MIRROR will be forced to follow Cameron round in a chicken suit to be countered by some ambitious Tory researcher dressed as a fox. There will be no empty chair debate. It’s far too risky for the broadcasters not to have the Prime Minister and if they did they the BBC would probably be in breach of its charter and the others would fall foul of OFCOM.

If I was running communications for Cameron I would compromise with a cynical political twist. I would want two debates on consecutive days well before the main election starts so that any potential mispeak would fade before polling day. The first would be the five leaders. The second Cameron, Clegg and Miliband. That would be fair to Clegg and would outgun Miliband as the collective successes of both coalition partners could be paraded. Miliband could hardly refuse and Cameron would not have the smell of being afraid to debate with Ed, which, of course, is a view which is utterly bonkers.

The other alternative is to shove them all in the Big Brother House for six weeks with Perez Hilton and an assortment of dead beat actors just out of rehab. I suspect that this is not on the cards. But it would be great telly.

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Just as I thought the Telegraph could sink no lower they splash a dodgy sting story.

23 Feb 2015 at 12:58

Just as I thought that the Daily Telegraph could sink no lower they splash a dodgy sting about cash for access. Now put out of your minds whether you think that MPs should have no outside interests and ignore what you might think of the policies of Jack Straw and Malcolm Rifkind when they were Foreign Secretary. There is only one simple question. ‘What have they done which is in breach of the Parliamentary rules’. The simple answer is nothing. If the allegation was that for a few bob a cup of camomile with Miliband could be provided, an Aga supper with the Camerons or a raucous night of lager and lighting farts with Philip Hammond, then they could clearly in breach of the rules. And the purple prose of former standards watchdog, Sir Alastair Graham, are bordering on the the comical. ‘Shocking’ and that it was against the rules to negotiate a business deal in a Commons office. Would the Strangers bar or the Pugin room be all right then? Or what about a slap up lunch at the Savoy. Completely daft.

And how are former cabinet ministers meant to earn a crust? Again, provided they are not offering access to Ministers for cash, there is absolutely nothing wrong with advising businesses with their areas of expertise. Some may say that an MP should have no outside interests at all. But that is a separate argument.

So now there will be a spring in the steps of the KIPPERS. MPs are out of touch, the Westminster elite and part of the bubble. Wrong and quite an appalling accusation.

If there was a Tea Room discussion about which MPs were greedy and dodgy, Straw and Rifkind would not have even been contemplated lest of all mentioned. They are both conscientious representatives and thoroughly decent public servants. To be pilloried as they have been to sell a few papers and boost some television ratings is beneath contempt. I don’t think Jack should have voluntarily resigned from the Parliamentary Labour Party and I hope that the Intelligence Committee will give Malcolm a resounding vote of confidence. One wonders after the events of the last few days whether Boris should consider taking his excellent column elsewhere. The Mail would snap him up. And the money……….

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The Telegraph front page is a ruthless and cynical attempt to close the Oborne story down. They will succeed

21 Feb 2015 at 12:00

What on earth did senior management of the Telegraph think that they were doing running that appalling story on their front page this morning? You know the one about suicides at the TIMES because of the pressures put on them by Murdoch management to cosy up to advertisers. And the suggestion that most of Fleet Street is up to the same sort of naughties as Peter Oborne accused the Telegraph of when he had his Geoffrey Howe moment. In a nutshell the Oborne argument is that as HSBC had a massive advertising budget with them and that the bank had loaned a subsidiary company £240 million, the editorial policy was to bury the HSBC dodgy Swiss tax avoidance scheme allegations. The Telegraph deny this.

But the very fact that the Telegraph is pointing the finger at everyone else down the Street of shame may be a ruthless but clever device of closing this story down. I would imagine that management consulted Andrew Neil the Chairman of Press Holdings who own the Telegraph and the Spectator. I have know Andrew for years. A brilliant journalist and a legendary editor of the Sunday Times. And a serious bruiser. Enter a revolving door in front of Andrew and I can guarantee that he will come out first.

If Andrew was consulted I suspect that he would have drawn on his experience at the hands of Murdoch in 1994. The Sunday Times was running a corruption piece on then Malaysian Prime Minister Mahatir Mohamed. He was not amused and directly contacted Murdoch who feared that the story would damage his fledgling extra terrestrial television interests in Asia. Neill got the heave ho and a whacking great cheque. After all, he was right to run the story.

So my theory is that this is a warning to the rest of Fleet Street to take their tanks of the Telegraph’s beautifully manicured lawn or else. It will be interesting to see what the reaction of the Sundays will be on this. A bit of a headache for columnists who (although they will never admit) want to know what the line is. My guess that this story will be closed down mid week if not before.

My advice to politicians? Apart from the usual platitudes, leave it alone it will only come back to bite you on the bum.

So what do we learn from all of this? That newspapers are as cynical and venal as politicians. There is a satisfying whiff of hypocrisy in the air. The papers attack politicians for being too cosy with the money men. Whoops. Oh, and the Guardian, that great scourge of tax avoidance, has got half a billion quid in a tax haven in the Cayman’s.

Thank heavens we have a free, fearless and independent press who will leave no stone unturned to root out corruption.

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Not only has barrister David Osborne have stone age views on rape he has previously called for the abolition of juries because they contain women and riff raff

9 Feb 2015 at 13:20

I have been reading with the sick fascination that some people have from rubber necking a car crash the utterings of ‘Top Barrister’ David Osborne. His views on rape are simply just that; views. They are not the law. A woman (or a man ) not only has to consent but be in a fit state to be able to do so. The law is very, very clear that consent is about choice. And you have to be in a fit state to be able to choose. So threats of violence, the use of drugs, the use of fraud or being unconscious negatives consent. But it is a matter of fact for the jury and nobody else. A defendant has the defence of arguing that he reasonably believed that the complainant was consenting. Again, it is solely a matter for the jury. It is old law and good law. It is common sense. What really amazes me is that for me to prosecute a serious sexual offence I have to have had the training and experience to do so. So does the judge, but not the defence counsel. This really ought to be rectified.

The difficulties for juries arise in the so called grey areas. Where a complainant claims that they were too drunk to consent and the defendant says that this is a lie. Unless there is supporting evidence, who do you believe? I recently prosecuted a man for a particularly unpleasant rape in a public place. It was witnessed by a passer by and the back count of alcohol in her blood supported the eye witness that she was like a sack of potatoes; completely out of it. The defendant was rightly disbelieved. But it is rarely so straight forward.

Where the public (and sadly David Osborne) gets muddled is when a man and a woman have both been drinking a lot and they both end up having sex. Then the woman cries rape. To suggest that a man has a perfect defence because of the drink is dangerous nonsense. It is for the jury alone to decide on the evidence. The simple question is ‘was she able to choose, did he reasonably believe that she consented’. As a matter of common sense men should be very careful about having sex with somebody who has had a lot to drink. In the cold light of day it is one hell of a risk.

But back to Mr.Osborne. I am not the most politically correct of men, but even I was shocked at the language used. A blog about such a highly emotive and sensitive subject such as rape should not be headed ‘gagging for it……storm in D cup’. Particularly if the piece is written by a barrister. And his comments as reported by the press about women showing their bums and having their tits out whilst legless are views straight out of the Stone Age . But have a look at his preceding blog. Here the great man wants to abolish jury trial as they have riff raff, gormless teenagers and women serving on them. All amazingly cranky Dog and Duck sentiments. So he has form. Perhaps they should give him an OSBO.

I think it’s time that dear old Mr.Osborne hangs up his wig and retires to Dunrobing or become a UKIP parliamentary candidate. He’d fit in rather well. Oh, and there are two David Osbornes at the Bar. The other is rather good news and has not had a happy weekend.

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The Invisibles. Why have the Shadow Cabinet disappeared from sight?

5 Feb 2015 at 12:13

I didn’t sleep very well last night, so rather than count sheep I decided that it would be more soporific to count members of the Shadow Cabinet. Sadly, it kept me awake as I found it very difficult to name most of them, let alone what on earth their policies were.

The two Eds were easy. The first hopeless and the other a bully. Both are deficit deniers, both are wedded to an unworkable and unpopular mansion tax. And their latest wheeze is to tax the wicked hedge funds. The trouble with this bit of uncosted populism is that according to the Centre For Policy Studies this will be a tax on savings and pensions. So like their old boss and mentor, Gordon Brown, those on private pensions will be clobbered again by a Labour government.

Andy Burnham at health was a bit of a doddle. He’s in denial about the role he and Labour played in sensibly encouraging private providers. As distinguished economist and Labour peer Lord Desai remarked the other day, as long as the NHS is free at the point of delivery and there is quality and value for money, it really doesn’t matter who provides the services. Poor old Andy, the former Andrex puppy has tried to transform himself into a Rottweiler, but ends up looking like a UNITE poodle. We will all fondly remember his car crash on Newsnight when he could not explain why the only part of the NHS that is run by Labour, Wales, is a total shambles.

Tristran Hunt at education then came to mind. A really nice guy but seems in an eternal state of amiable bemusement. Is he for or against Free Schools? I haven’t fathomed this. And neither has he.

Then there is Chuka Umunna at business. Sleek, oiled, dangerously handsome and straight out of a GQ fashion plate. The sort of chap who can’t pass a mirror or any reflected surface without having a self satisfied peek. And you can smell the ambition at fifty feet. He probably farts Armani. The trouble is that his role is to reassure business that Labour is their friend. At that he has spectacularly failed. In the last few day the captains of industry have warned that Labour policies would would be a disaster with the probability that companies would flee the country.

Lastly, I remembered Yvette Cooper who has the incredible capability in debate of running the full gamut of her emotions from A to B. She is regularly touted as a candidate for the leadership. To me that is one of life’s many mysteries.

And that’s about it. I haven’t a clue who is at Defence, DEFRA, Communities, DCMS. I know Rachel Reeves does something, but I’m not sure what. She is always on the telly though.

So why in election year are the majority of the Shadow Cabinet invisible? Incompetence? Lack of motivation? That horrible dread feeling that they are going to be trashed at the election? Heaven knows, maybe all three.

The Scottish polls must have had a chilling effect. Poor Jim Murphy, a rather decent sort, is a committed Blairite who is trying to pretend to be more socialist than the SNP which is a very tall order. I hadn’t realised until the devolution debates that Scottish Labour, unlike their English counterparts, want to scrap Trident. Barmy. What a mess.

Now ‘Tory collaborators’ (thanks Prezza), wicked right wingers such as Milburn, Hutton and Mandelson are just trying to remind Ed, that Blair, governing from a tad left of centre, must have been doing something right as he is the most successful election leader Labour has ever had. The big tent has turned into a rather isolated tepee where the peace pipe is nowhere to be found.

Then this morning dear old Danny Alexander came up with a great wheeze to try and capture the youth vote, end universal benefits for pensioners. Bonkers. Piss off the pensioners at your peril. They vote in droves whereas by and large, the young can’t be arsed.

The Labour manifesto will make the 1983 ‘suicide note’ seem like a middle of the road stroll in the park.

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Grayling's attempt to curtail judicial review shows he puts the dick into tat. This is one shit that will have to be flushed after the election

22 Jan 2015 at 20:37

If we were not a few weeks away from an election Chris Grayling would have been ventilated from office. The man is incompetent and a disgrace. I have bored you enough about how he is dismantling our system of justice, destroying the independent bar and plans to close down the family solicitor and replace them with G4s, (under investigation), SERCO (under investigation) and Co-op law ( say it with Flowers). His department has been judicially reviewed so many times and spend so much time in the High Court that it is amazing that they haven’t put in a right to buy. It is not surprising that he wants to limit it.

Just a quick word for the uninitiated. We are governed by statutory instruments which usually go through on the nod, or late on a Thursday night in the Commons when nobody can be arsed to be there. They affect all of our lives as they determine how government departments are able to operate. In other words, within the law. So if your kid has been deprived of a school place, or some dreadful development has suddenly appeared out of nowhere and the government hasn’t obeyed the rules laid down by Parliament you can toddle of the the High Court and try and persuade a senior judge that you are not being vexatious or frivolous. And it is a rigorous sifting process. We call it the rule of law.

But according to Grayling all this is the wicked work of smelly socked swampy types. Bloody lefties. The rule of law, like freedom is so precious that it has to be rationed. Grayling puts the dick into tat.

So when you have such lefties as former Lord Chief Justices, former Tory Cabinet ministers defeating his Putinesque bill in the Lords as they have ‘a chilling effect on British justice’ and you have Law Lords like Lord Panick warning that ‘The Lord Chancellor’s remarks on judicial review demeans the office’ it really is time to be deeply concerned.

But there is really something Gothically comic about the the Grayling mind set. He set up dear old Lord Faulks (an opponent of the Grayling legal carnage before he took up office) to come up with a killer argument in the debate. That judicial review had to be curtailed as the development of a supermarket had been delayed by six months! My God these bloody lefty fat cat lawyers are really taking the Lidl. Grayling really is off his trolley after all.

Somehow I think that not enough government time will be found to reverse this welcome Lords defeat. But after the election when Cameron returns to Downing Street Grayling is a shit which will have to be flushed.

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Labours Health tactics are a disgrace and Farage is the only party leader that doesn't believe in an NHS that is free at the point of delivery

21 Jan 2015 at 18:54

An eerie silence has descended upon Westminster. Eyes that are normally popping out on stalks have ceased to swivel. Ruddy faces usually contorted in rage have become more like beacons of serenity. And the green portcullised carpets have been spared the usual foam specked gnashing of Tory teeth. The loonies have returned to their wards. Of course they still loathe Cameron. But he is beginning to look like a winner. And nobody wants to be seen to rock the boat. Well, not just yet.

This has been a terrible couple of weeks for all the other parties. Labour’s mansion tax has been ripping them apart. When Diane Abbott joins forces with the Prince of Darkness whom she would not piss on if he was on fire, Miliband is in serious trouble. Unemployment is plummeting, with more jobs being created in the UK than the whole of the EU. Well, in England anyway. In the Labour fiefdom of Wales unemployment has risen by 9000 and in SNP controlled Scotland by 7000. With inflation the lowest in 50 years and energy prices falling without statutory intervention, wages are beginning to catch up. By the time of the election the cost of living peg on which what passes of Labour’s economic policy hangs would have fallen off the wall. Couple this with the gushing praise for Cameron by Obama and Osborne’s economic successes lauded by by the IMF and there are the beginnings of a hope that Cameron could achieve a working majority. But there is always the unexpected unexpected. The Eurozone is still in critical care. I foresee no chance of economic stability in the near future. And they are our largest market.

Then there there was the remarkable double whammy from the Bank of England. Inflation could be zero by April and there will be no interest rises for a long while to come.

It has been an appalling week for UKIP. Many of us predicted that the cerebral and rather decent Douglas Carswell would tire of the crazy antics of Farage and be shocked atthe the soft and repellent rump of unpleasantness that has become the hallmark of the KIPPERS. Farage has lost his chief policy maker, has cocked up on the NHS, and has had his ‘foreigners are nicking our jobs’ fox shot and buried under a couple of tons of concrete. There are 700,000 job vacancies. Worse, the Greens, who really are a bunch of crackpots, are taking votes from Labour and UKIP.

But this is going to a vile and dishonest election. Nick Robinson is not a liar. And if he says that Miliband told him that he plans to weaponise the NHS, something that he has not denied, then it was said. It will haunt him. But Andy Burnham’s tactics are an utter disgrace. To accuse the Tories of privatisation of the NHS at the expense of patients is a lie. He signed off the Circle deal. He was in charge when the horrors of Mid Staffs was occurring. And he damn well knows that his government would be spending precisely the same amount as the Coalition. To frighten the elderly and vulnerable to grub a few votes is despicable. He is going to have a tough election, particularly if the MAIL story that Labour supporters sabotaged Circle is proved. Tonight’s party political broadcast borders upon the wicked. There is only one party leader who does not believe that health should be free at the point of delivery and that is Farage. What a dreadful little man.

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There has always been a sensitivity to humour amongst demagogues, dictators and fundamentalists

8 Jan 2015 at 16:04

There is a justified sense of horror and outrage in the civilised world at the Charlie Hebdo massacre. The real question is why are we at all surprised? In our cosy, reasonably well fed Western European comfort blanket satire and the freedom to cause offence is deeply embedded in our culture. It never has never existed anywhere in the Middle East with the exception of Israel.

Fundamentalists of all religions tend to be a humourless bunch. There are some pretty dreadful and barbaric punishments in Leviticus. Stoning to death children who disobey their parents, women who are menstruating near a temple and homosexuals, to name a few from quite a long and vaguely ridiculous list of capital crimes. And the Koran has plenty of smiting, smoting, and beheading for an equally ridiculous list. But the overwhelming majority of believers appreciate that these reflect a barbaric time and consign them to the eccentricities of history. Of course, those who want to promote their own warped causes cherry pick the bloodthirsty parts and turn them into some sick badge of honour. Like the American pastor who recently came to to the conclusion that God had the solution to AIDS; just kill off the gays. He quoted Leviticus.

The Muslim world is really going to have to get to grips with what happened in Paris and speak with one clear voice. It is not good enough to condemn and then add, ‘but the Prophet is more beloved to believers than parents or children, to insult him could lead to consequences’. In other words although we don’t condone this sort of behaviour don’t be too surprised if the nutters take the law into their own hands. The subtext being feel free to satirise anything but our religion. It should go without saying that this is contrary to everything that we hold dear. Dictators, demagogues and those who manically believe in a cause have one thing in common; they don’t like the piss being taken out of them. In Western Democracies satire is our escape valve and in rock and roll language ‘sticking it to the man’ is a helpful way of exposing pomposity and corruption. So how do we react to what happened in Paris?

There is the embryo of a thesis by some commentators that our newspapers have been engaged in collective cowardice. That they haven’t taken head on the fundamentalists. That they are afraid of causing offence. And there was some criticism that Private Eye didn’t reprint the Danish cartoons that caused such uproar. I don’t buy this for one moment. There has always been a degree of self censorship by the British Press regarding causing gratuitous offence to people’s religious beliefs, but never self censorship of the fight against Islamic extremism. Already the Internet is teeming with satire and I suspect that the next few days so will the main stream press. It’s risky but its the price we must pay for democracy and freedom of speech.

But I feel desperately sorry for the overwhelming majority of law abiding Muslims through Europe. There is a dangerous awakening of deeply unpleasant and right wing sentiments emerging in many EU countries. Paris plays into their dangerous hands. In Britain we must do everything we can to support and protect our Muslim communities. But we must stand shoulder to shoulder in the fight against extremism. There can be no equivocation.

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