Nuclear powers, spiralling tension – and Kashmir’s fallout in urban Britain

Brokenshire must keep an eye on the potential knock-on from the latest flare-up over terror, reprisals, a captured pilot and the disputed territory.

The community cohesion post at HCLG is viewed as the most junior in the department.  Which is why it was originally siphoned off to Andrew Stunell, the only Liberal Democrat placed in it when the Coalition was formed, while the Conservatives bagged housing, planning and local government finance.  The present holder of the post isn’t even in the Commons: he is Nick Bourne, the former leader of the Welsh Party, now Lord Bourne and re-badged as Minister for Faith.

Given this set-up, it would be well worth James Brokenshire keeping half an eye on the military escalation between India and Pakistan.  The two countries have fought three wars since they were founded over a territory about which both make claims: the former princely state of Kashmir.  In a nutshell, India occupies a part of it, the valley, against the wishes of its inhabitants, and has a long record of committing human rights abuses there; Pakistan, meanwhile, equips, trains and manipulates jihadi terrorists, who cross the line of control to commit atrocities in Indian-occupied Kashmir and in India itself.

The present flare-up was sparked by an attack on Indian police in the valley which left 40 of them dead.  The Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist group was responsible for the assault.  A line of control separates the Indian and Pakistani-occupied parts of Kashmir.  The terrorists will almost certainly have crossed it to carry out the attack.  They would not be able to operate in Pakistani-controlled territory without the protection of the Pakistan Government.

Consequently, India launched retaliatory air strikes.  Unsurprisingly, there are conflicting accounts of who they hit and to what effect, but what is certain is that at least one Indian plane was shot down and at least one pilot captured.  He has duly been paraded on Pakistani television.  That Narendra Modi, India’s Prime Minister, faces an election shortly is inflaming the situation: he must prove to the country’s voters that he won’t go soft on terror.  Imran Khan, his Pakistani counterpart (yes: that Imran Khan), has sought to pour oil on these troubled waters.  There will be more to his motives than meets the eye, but his words are worth pondering none the less.

“With the weapons you have and the weapons we have, can we afford a miscalculation?  Shouldn’t we think about what will happen if the situation escalates?” he said, calling for talks.  As we write, Modi, doubtless with that election in view and outraged Indian voters in mind, isn’t willing to take up the offer.  Most likely, the confrontation will simmer down, and the near-70 year old Kashmir dispute duly vanish from the headlines, before duly simmering up again.

But there is always a chance that it will not.  There will now be over 1.5 million people of Indian origin in Britain and at least that many people of Pakistani origin.  Roughly 60 per of these are, strictly speaking, not Pakistanis at all: they originate from the Mirpur area of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir.  The two populations don’t exactly live side by side, but they do share parts of some cities, such as Birmingham and Leicester.  Local councils will be in the lead when it comes to defusing potential tensions, but national government also has a role – just as it does in relation to the Israel-Palestine dispute, which is more visible, at least to Britain’s white majority.

The Attlee Government may not have handled Britain’s departure from the old imperial India well, but given the country’s communalism there would doubtless have been mass bloodshed in any event.  In a different world, there would be some Northern Ireland-type solution to the Kashmir problem.  But neither India nor Pakistan are remotely, to borrow a phrase that Brokenshire sometimes uses in other contexts, “in that space”.  For the moment, he can only watch, get briefed and plan, but “they also serve who only stand and wait”.

Iranian president rejects Mohammad Javad Zarif’s resignation: report

Hassan Rouhani says reaction to foreign minister’s resignation by Israel ‘is the best reason for you to remain in your post.’

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani rejected Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s resignation on the grounds of national interests, according to local media.

“As the Supreme Leader [Ali Khamenei] has described you as a ‘trustworthy, brave and religious’ person in the forefront of resistance against widespread U.S. pressures, I consider accepting your resignation against national interests and reject it,” Rouhani said in a letter published Wednesday by the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA).

Rouhani also said the happiness shown by officials from Iran’s enemies such as Israel demonstrated Zarif’s success as foreign minister.

Zarif is an architect and defender of the Iran nuclear deal, called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and his departure would have been viewed as a serious blow to the pact, which has been shaken by U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to unilaterally withdraw from it.

Zarif announced his resignation in a post on Instagram Monday.


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Natasha Hausdorff: The proscription of Hezbollah is welcome – though overdue

It will be a significant step forward in keeping this heinous organisation from inciting hatred on our streets.

Natasha Hausdorff is a barrister and a Conservative activist.  She was recently a Pegasus Scholar and Fellow in the National Security Law Programme at Columbia Law School in New York. 

The Home Secretary’s decision today to proscribe the whole of the Lebanon based Hezbollah terrorist organisation is significant and long-overdue, not least because of the organisation’s antisemitic ideology and targeting of Israeli civilians. Once affirmed by Parliament, the UK’s approach to Hezbollah will be brought into line with that of the United States, Canada, Japan, Israel and the Netherlands.

Since July 2008, the so-called ‘military wing’ of Hezbollah has been on the list of proscribed organisations that are “concerned in terrorism”, pursuant to Section 3 and Schedule 2 of the Terrorism Act 2000. It is a criminal offence for a person to belong to, support or otherwise invite support for a proscribed organisation. However, until now, an arbitrary distinction between supposed political and military ‘wings’ left certain support for the group lawful in the UK.

Hezbollah has perpetrated atrocities around the world, from Buenos Aires to Bulgaria. Its terror activity has included hostage taking, airline hijacking, and bombing, including blowing up a US Marine barracks killing more than 300 US and French servicemen in Lebanon. The group has also assassinated diplomats and policy makers in the Middle East, the US and Asia. The original proscription in the UK coincided with the discovery that Hezbollah had been targeting British soldiers in Iraq. Acting as an Iranian proxy, it has killed thousands of innocents and continues its butchery in Lebanon, Syria and Yemen, promoting Iran’s regime of terror in the region.

While some terror organisations feign non-violence, Hezbollah itself has never gone in for such a masquerade. The organisation makes no such distinction between its military and political affairs, because terror is its fundamental ideology and raison d’etre.  Naim Qassem, Hezbollah’s Deputy Secretary General, explained in clear terms: “We don’t have a military wing and a political one; we don’t have Hezbollah on one hand and the resistance party on the other…every element of Hezbollah, from commanders to members as well as our various capabilities, is in the service of the resistance, and we have nothing but the resistance as a priority”.

This sentiment has been echoed by other top officials, including Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the group’s current Secretary General, and Ibrahim Mussawi, its spokesman. And this unity of purpose is considered to be an essential component of the group’s perceived success; Qassem stressed to a Lebanese paper in 2000 the importance of “one leadership, with one administration”.

It is bizarre that we in the UK have sought to maintain a distinction which is at odds with the pretty straightforward position articulated by Hezbollah leaders.  The artificial division between ‘wings’ has also been a dangerous one. Exploitation of the loophole created by this approach has allowed Hezbollah flags to be flown with impunity on the streets of London. The organisation has one flag, which displays an image of a Kalachnikov rifle, combined with a Heckler & Koch G3 assault rifle, clenched in a raised fist. Individuals displaying the Hezbollah flag at the annual ‘Al Quds Day’ march in London have been shielded from prosecution under Section 13 of the Terrorism Act, under which it is an offence to carry or display an article “in such a way or in such circumstances as to arouse reasonable suspicion [of being] a member or supporter of a proscribed organisation”.

That the current legislation allows open support for this terrorist organisation on our streets has been raised repeatedly with the police and the Home Office by concerned community organisations. It would seem that these efforts have finally paid off. Undoubtably, full proscription ought also to affect the future approach of the police and the Crown Prosecution Service. This move sends a clear message that we will no longer tolerate incitement and celebration of terror on the streets of the UK.

The news of full proscription is also to be welcomed as an indication of a toughened stance towards Iran, Hezbollah’s patron and financier. The Foreign Secretary seems to be taking a stronger line on Iran due to the continued imprisonment of British Iranian dual national, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. In light of Iranian support for terror organisations across the Middle East, tougher action on Iran is to be supported and encouraged. Rejection of the untenable distinction between ‘wings’ of Hezbollah will also enable law enforcement agencies to crack down on financial support for one of the best funded terror organisations in the world.

Concerns have been mooted over full proscription in view of Hezbollah’s participation in the Lebanese government. It has been argued that the UK’s relationship with Lebanon may be unduly complicated by such a determination. That argument remains unconvincing in light of the relationship which the US, Canada and the Arab League maintain with Lebanon while being clear in their own acknowledgment that Hezbollah is a terrorist organisation in its entirety.

Indeed, the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, Tom Tugendhat, has further indicated that proscription of the ‘political wing’ would not conflict with the UK’s duty to speak to ministers in the Lebanese government. Notably, such MPs as Joan Ryan, Mike Gapes and Ian Austin, all of whom left Labour last week, have also previously called for the group to be banned in its entirety.

The Government and the Home Secretary should be congratulated on the decision to finally end the charade and proscribe Hezbollah in full. With Parliament’s approval, this will be a significant step forward in the proper approach to combatting terrorism and to keeping this heinous organisation from inciting hatred on the streets of the United Kingdom.

“Ignore the naysayers, ignore the doom-mongers. Ignore those who keep talking us down.” – Tugendhat’s Spring Forum speech

“Yes, there are challenges…but this is a moment for imaginative thinking, for free thinking.” Read the full text.

This the full text of a speech delivered by Tom Tugendhat MP to the Conservative Party Spring Forum at the weekend. Tom Tugendhat is Chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, and is MP for Tonbridge and Malling.

first became interested in foreign policy for the very obvious reason that if you have a name like mine you ask yourself who you are and where you are from.

Now for me the answers were always pretty clear on one level. I’m from Kent, I’m English, I’m British, but I’m also of European origin. I’ve got deep links across the continent and like everybody here, like everybody who is truly Conservative, I’m really proud of my family, I’m really proud of where I’m from. And I’m also really proud of where we are today.

That answer ‘where we’re from’ is not the question we’re looking to answer today. We’re looking to answer where we’re going. What it means to be British in a globalised world. What does it mean to be Global Britain?

I didn’t learn much of that here. I learnt it in the deserts of Iraq and Afghanistan. I learnt it in the heat of combat serving alongside some of the finest men and women this country has ever produced.

I learned it as we lay in ditches and told each other those stories you tell in the quiet hours before battle or as we were tidying ourselves up afterwards.

And I learnt then about their lives. What had brought them, what had brought us, together. I learned through them about our country and our society.

I learnt that our country is an extraordinary country. I learned that we have managed to produce, have managed to bring together, have managed to channel the best and bravest, and indeed the funniest people who I’ve ever had the privilege to serve with.

I’m not alone in thinking this. The extraordinary thing when I hear the national debate going on at the moment is this obsessive self-doubt. This absurd though that somehow all of that history, all of that thought, will come to naught. That’s just rubbish.

And I’m not alone in thinking that. In fact, I’m not alone in thinking that in Europe and I’m not alone in thinking that in the world.

One of the great things about this job, one of the great things about chairing this committee, is that I’ve been around the world and I’ve spoken to people and I’ve heard what people want from us.

What they want, we offer.

We offer values, that commitment to freedom, to prosperity, to the rule of law.

We offer skills, we offer the strength of our extraordinary people through imagination and creativity. And we offer that extraordinary thing that so few others do – we offer the ability to back it up. That’s military might, true, but also that’s diplomatic might.

That continuum that is foreign policy strategy, true strategy, that takes you from aid, through trade to defence and links all together. That’s what we offer.

In the past year and a half since I’ve been chairing this committee I’ve had the privilege to sit down with many from Communists in Beijing and I’ve had the great privilege of laying a wreath on behalf of our own Queen in Delhi on 11 November last year.

And I’ve noticed the same thing everywhere. They respect our position in the world. They may challenge it, they may question it, but in their hearts they know it matters because they know the rules matter.

And that’s why we need to do three things, and that’s what I’ve been working on.

First, we need to reengage with Europe. I know this is a strange thing to say today but we do need to reengage in Europe. Not in Brussels, but in national capitals. We need to reinforce that Europe of nation states that so many of us believe in of partnership, of cooperation, and of alliance.

Second we need to renew our old alliances from the Five Eyes community to the Commonwealth we need to work with friends, with friends who we’ve grown up with, who we’ve fought alongside, who we understand and who understand us.

And third, we need to confront the effects of other people’s foreign policy, at home, here, in the UK. Because we’re not alone in facing that. We know foreign dictators, foreign autocrats, are spreading poison.  We know that they are corrupting our institutions and we know that we are doing too little to push back.

Those themes, bringing them together, will empower our nation and ensure that our people are able to choose their own path to a prosperous and free future.

That is exactly where we are headed.

Ignore the naysayers, ignore the doom-mongers. Ignore those who keep talking us down. They are wrong. Yes there are risks and there are challenges, so of course we are going to have to face those risks but this is a moment for imaginative thinking, for free thinking. We can leverage the past and we can write a new chapter.

As we determine our path more clearly, we will need to change the way we work at home. Because the first thing that we must remember about foreign policy is that it is about our people about how we see our place and how we wish to shape our future.

Now we’re Conservatives and we understand something absolutely fundamental. You cannot build your own, independent foreign policy with other people’s money. It doesn’t work.

So we must make sure that everyone in our country is ready to play their part in reshaping our nation and that means building our country at home.

There are various areas we can look at and there are a few we have got to think hard about and they are about valuing individuals, valuing communities and valuing our skills.

Too often, we have underrated real skills, engineering, and practical knowledge. Real jobs. And we have pretended that the only path to success is academic knowledge.

Tony Blair demonstrated that misguided metropolitan mindset when he said that fifty percent of people had to go to university. That was always wrong.

What it said was that a skill, that ability to make something or do something was second class and second rate. It’s not. It’s first class and a first rate opportunity to build a first rate country.

That real knowledge, not bluff and bluster that you hear from so many sadly today, is the kind of deep education that builds our country and continues to enrich the manufacturing heart of our nation. Too often it has been overlooked. Not today, and not by this government.

Because as Conservatives there is something we have done that I’m really proud of. The new T-Levels that are coming in are the equivalent of, the equal to, the A-Level show that we are bringing equality into education. But we need to go further. We need to address the stigma that has tainted the practical side of knowledge.

And for this we need to look abroad for lessons. If you do an apprenticeship in Germany, and you do well and get to the highest level, you get the respect of the title meister. It’s an honorific and rightly so. If you become an engineer in an Arabic speaking country you will get the respect of the title mohendis, again, an honorific showing value.

That’s because those cultures understand and respect the effort that individuals have put in to practical genuine knowledge. We need to do the same. We need to put the respect back into real knowledge and real work.

We haven’t forgotten it everywhere in the UK. If you call a sergeant sir, you’ll get the answer: “Don’t call me sir, I work for a living”.

Because he is reflecting that knowledge that hands on work, not just management, is a matter of dignity and pride and something to be respected.

We need to welcome those who are empowering our new economy. Visit Manchester or Newcastle, visit Belfast or Bristol, and you will find cities that have a greater understanding of artificial intelligence and biotechnology than whole countries. You will find individuals that have sat down to chart new futures not just for themselves, not just for their communities but for the whole world basing themselves out of some of our most important cities.

We know that we can transform the world, but we also now that relies on harnessing the industries that are revolutionising technology. We can only do that if we are the best, and we can only be the best, if we are open.

I was really struck when in India recently when I heard time and again that some of the best students weren’t coming to Britain. They were going to Australia and New Zealand, to the United States and Canada to study there. Now why was that?

Because their countries are open. More engaged, more willing to accept students from around the world. Those countries benefited from those students too. You just have to look at the names working for some of the largest tech companies in the world to see what immigration can do.

Now I’m not going to back them on everything but Amazon, Google and Facebook have demonstrated that immigration can really drive economies.

But instead of looking open, too often we have been closed. If we are going to play our part in the world, we need to change that.

I want to see a reform. I want to see our top universities to those students I met in India who deserve them, getting round the bureaucracy and straight to the empowered economy that would generate.

That simple change would promote competition at home amongst universities. But also amongst those who are the best in the world who want to come and share that opportunity. An most importantly, it would show that we are still at the heart of an open, engaged world and we are at the heart of the network that ties it together.

Now, we know that universities bring huge prosperity to communities but new student buildings and improved rail links can distract us from those areas that have not benefited and missed out on attention and investment. And this is a story that we see across our towns and cities. And the truth is that too many of our communities have been disempowered.

Now years of centralisation under Labour have left us looking too often at Westminster and not at ourselves and we know this is wrong, because we know what makes the strength of our own party. We know that the strength of our own party is our local associations, our constituencies and not, I’m afraid, Central Office and central power.

Very soon, there will be thousands of Conservative councillors standing for election this May ready to empower communities and citizens. We need to focus on their ability to deliver because that is the localism that we have often spoken about but too often failed to see through. The lesson is clear. Well run Conservative councils deliver strong public services despite very real challenges to their finances. And they should be applauded but they should also be supported. Because we must recognise that they are taking the tough decisions at the local level that enable them to deliver for the people who chose them, who elect them, and who want them to be making local decisions in an accountable and local way. Because that’s how accountability works.

That local accountability applies to all of us. That’s why as chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, I’ve been doing something a bit differently. We’ve been taking the committee around the country not just around the world. We’ve been listening to find out what people want from a global Britain. We’ve been hearing what people say about our place in the world and trying to understand different perspectives. And seeing what we can do to deliver them. Unless Britain’s policies can be viewed through the eyes of those who have asked us to deliver, how can we know if they’re working?

As Conservatives we’re not afraid of government. We know government has its place. We know it builds on the essential building blocks of society: on families; on communities; on businesses. So that’s exactly who we listen to on these trips. And we hear from them their perspectives. On travel, on trade and on engagement. We’re not afraid of international organisations either. We know they have a place and a role.

But just as the country is built on associations and on families, international organisations are accountable to nation states. The nation is the accountable unit. Not the multinational body. And that’s why even though we are leaving the EU we are not leaving the community of Europe and our values and aspirations will continue to be shared across Europe. Working together we will make sure that we contribute to each other’s prosperity.

Today, this will be through bilateral agreements and organisations like NATO, where we already play an outsized role. But I would like to see that grow. I’d like to see our defence spending increase, so that we’re able to show the leadership that is so essential today: in challenging our enemies and in supporting our allies. We want to be want be what former US Defence SecretaryJim Mattis calls the US Marine Corps: “no better friend, no worse enemy”.

We understand the importance of those alliances. And we understand the importance of those international organisations and the rule of law. But those alliances do demand investment, and they do demand the effort we need to maintain those things we truly value: free speech, free trade, free markets and, of course, what underpins all of them: a free democracy.

Today, again these ideals are being threatened. The age of the strong man leader is back. It’s on the rise. From Venezuela to Russia we’re seeing autocrats repressing their people. Sadly we are also seeing too many in our own country drawn in. Now I don’t just mean those who have spent decades providing cover for demagogues and dictators, like today’s Labour leadership. But also their fellow travellers who believe in top down centrally planned, nightmarish government.

There is no worse sickness than socialism. It comes back. And we know the result. You don’t just run out of other people’s money. You run out of freedom too.

It’s our job as Conservatives to call it out and to stop it taking root. Now that’s not just for ourselves, and in fact it’s not even for our country. It’s because Britain’s place in the world is to guard those values and to guard those freedoms.

I know we can do it. And I know we will do it. Because as an island of liberty and opportunity we are still looked to by people from around the world. And building on real skills, building on an open culture, building on competitive markets, we can be a partner to our friends and a prosperous home to our people.

These are not just our values, not just Conservative values. I think these are fundamentally British values. They empower us at home and abroad and they bind our communities together. And that’s why I’m proud to be a Conservative. And I’m proud to be with you this morning.

I’d like to finish by thanking you for everything that you do: not just for your associations, not just for our party, but for our country and for the efforts that we are all making to guard that flame of liberty and democracy in the world. Thank you.

UK’s racist two-tier citizenship

Stripping Shamima Begum of her British passport raises more security concerns than it solves.

LONDON — Who is Shamima Begum? It depends on whom you speak to.

To some, Begum — the East London schoolgirl who joined the Islamic State group in Syria and now wishes to return home — is a groomed child, indoctrinated by predatory men, a young mother in urgent need. To others, she is a terrorist cheerleader, an unrepentant participant in the destruction of a nation, who deserves everything she gets.

For all the debate over what she is, the U.K. Home Office has decided what she is not: As of this week, Shamima Begum is no longer a British citizen.

Her story has caught the public’s attention. But she is also just one of a growing number of Britons to have had their U.K. nationality revoked over the past few years by an obscure executive power that allows the government to remove citizenship without judicial oversight.

When I started investigating this so-called royal prerogative power in 2013, its use was sparing. Successive immigration acts, signed in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks and the 7/7 London bombings, allowed ministers to revoke an individual’s citizenship if they were deemed “seriously prejudicial to the public good.”

Home Secretary Sajid Javid admitted that around 150 Britons have had their citizenship removed since 2010.

Although the power was criticized by human rights groups, it could only be used on dual-national Britons — that is, the U.K. couldn’t revoke someone’s citizenship if it left them stateless.

That changed in 2014, when the coalition put forward the Immigration Act, which critics argued created two tiers of British citizen: those somehow inalienably more British because they were born in the country and counted only Britons among their immediate ancestry, and those who could be targeted by the law because they were either naturalized or came from non-British lineage.

Begum, with her Bangladeshi heritage, falls into the latter camp. And she is far from alone, as became obvious when Home Secretary Sajid Javid admitted that around 150 Britons have had their citizenship removed since 2010.

The government argues that because Begum could apply for Bangladeshi citizenship in future, she isn’t technically stateless. This is hard to take seriously. It would be analogous for the government to demolish your house, then deny it had made you homeless because you could theoretically build another. As one leading legal expert put it in 2014 when the law passed: “Statelessness is not about options or eligibility, but about the facts here and now.”

Statelessness has been likened to “medieval exile” and a tactic “beloved of the world’s worst regimes.” The British government is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which entitles each human to citizenship and the freedoms and protections it bestows. Yet the government repeatedly wheels out the falsehood that “citizenship is a privilege not a right.” Citizenship is neither a privilege nor a right; it is rather “a state under which an individual is afforded rights.”

Home Secretary Sajid Javid outside 10 Downing Street last November | Leon Neal via Getty Images

As a citizen, even one accused of serious crimes, it is your right to receive a fair trial, access legal counsel, know the charges against you, and avoid cruel and unusual punishment. As a “citizen of nowhere,” to borrow a phrase from Theresa May, you have no rights at all.

It bears repeating that at the time an individual is stripped of their nationality they are to the letter of the law innocent. Prerogative power is executive, and while the accused have a de facto right to appeal to the judiciary, such recourse is rarely used (since the suspect is normally outside the U.K. when the order is given) and even more rarely used successfully (since the evidence against them is kept secret).

It could be that these people are guilty of serious crimes. That is, after all, the Home Office’s argument, though we must trust them on the evidence. The government can use the “royal prerogative” when ministers suspect a citizen of terror-related offences, or believe they acquired their nationality fraudulently, but it requires no trial or conviction in order to take effect.

But aside from the human rights aspect — individuals involved have little or no habeas corpus protections — citizenship-stripping raises more security concerns than it purports to solve.

Police officers pay their respects to victims of the Manchester Arena bombing, a terror attack in 2017 carried out by a radical Islamist | Oli Scarff/AFP via Getty Images

If the government believes its citizens to be dangerous terrorists, does it not have an obligation to prosecute and, if guilty, punish them? Its current approach is tantamount to cutting them loose abroad and leaving other countries to deal with the grave risks they allegedly pose.

Citizenship-stripping and statelessness run contrary to nearly every international legal, human rights, and security and moral norms. Yet several countries have in recent years followed Britain’s lead to adopt such powers.

The process cuts to the heart of what it means to be a citizen, of Britain or anywhere. Do we believe that under the law all citizens should be treated equally, regardless of race or background? I believe most people — certainly most politicians — would say yes.

The rights and responsibilities of citizenship cut both ways. Does a country like Britain really bear no culpability for a young woman who was born, raised and ultimately indoctrinated within its borders? As Begum’s case so starkly highlights, the government believes the answer to this to be: It depends on your background.

A schoolgirl with solely British heritage who traveled to Syria to join a group responsible for terrible atrocities would, under the government’s own legal justification, still be British today. Shamima Begum isn’t. Irrespective of how we view the young woman, that’s a dual-standard that should concern us all.

Patrick Galey is a journalist and writer who investigated the U.K.’s citizenship-stripping program between 2013 and 2014. He broke the news that the government was stripping the citizenship from British nationals who traveled to join the conflict in Syria.


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7 UK Labour MPs leave party to form breakaway group

Luciana Berger said she was ’embarrassed and shamed’ to remain within the Labour party.

LONDON — Seven Labour MPs have quit the party over the leadership’s stance on Brexit and foreign policy issues as well as what they regard as the failure to deal with anti-Semitism.

“For my part, I have become embarrassed and ashamed to remain in the Labour party,” said Luciana Berger at a press conference in Westminster. She said the party’s core values of equality, opportunity for all, and anti-racism had been “consistently and constantly violated, undermined and attacked.”

And she added: “I cannot remain in a party that I have today come to the sickening conclusion is institutionally anti-Semitic … I am leaving behind a culture of bullying, bigotry and intimidation.”

Chris Leslie, another of the MPs who will now call themselves “the Independent Group” said: “The Labour party we joined, that we campaigned for, and believed in is no longer today’s Labour party.”

“British politics is now well and truly broken and in all conscience we can no longer knock on doors and support Jeremy Corbyn and the team around him,” he added, although he emphasized the group “absolutely oppose” Theresa May’s Conservative government.

The other MPs in the group are Chuka Umunna, Mike Gapes, Ann Coffey, Gavin Shuker and Angela Smith.

Benedict Rogers: Williamson was right to warn about the menace of China

My only criticism of the Defence Secretary? That he was too diplomatic.

Benedict Rogers is co-founder and Deputy Chair of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, a former parliamentary candidate, and co-founder and Chair of Hong Kong Watch. He works for the international human rights organisation CSW.

Gavin Williamson, the Defence Secretary, is under fire for his speech at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) last week. Some see it as an attempt to undermine rivals, others as self-promotion, while many believe it reflects a lack of co-ordination in Whitehall.

Those still fixated on trade with China at all costs, including our security and values, and who believe the way to do deals with China is to kow-tow as low as possible, are furious that a colleague even mentioned China in the context of the defence of Britain.

Yet whatever the gossip, what should not be ignored is that Williamson has a point.

What was it he actually said about China? After referring to Islamist extremism and Russian aggression, he simply added one sentence: “All the while, China is developing its modern military capability and its commercial power.” Fact.

He went on, more generally and without reference to China, to say:

“Our adversaries are increasingly using cyber-attacks, subversion and information operations to challenge us and the rules-based international order… We and our allies must deter and be ready to defend ourselves. Ready to show the high price of aggressive behaviour”.

He spoke about defending our values of “individual liberty, the rule of law and, of course, the tolerance of others”. And he announced that one naval vessel – HMS Queen Elizabeth – will include in its first operational mission the Mediterranean, the Middle East and the Pacific region. And all this sparked fury in Beijing and caused the Chancellor to cancel his planned visit? Seriously?

As John Hemmings writes, Williamson is right. But his words were mild, subtle and understated compared to those of others.

Listen to George Soros at the World Economic Forum, who described China’s Xi Jinping as “the most dangerous” threat to free societies today. Or Mike Pence, the US Vice-President, at the Hudson Institute last October. It is not often one hears the same message from Soros and Pence – so when we do, it should be taken seriously.

For far from being the new defender of the international rules-based system that some still naively believe it to be, Xi Jinping’s regime is increasingly a grave threat to freedom, human dignity, and security around the world.

The list is endless: artificial intelligence; sabre-rattling against Taiwan; aggression in the South China Sea; and Huawei’s potential antics are just the start. Former First Sea Lord and defence minister Lord West warned last year that Chinese investment in 5G technology could threaten “chaos”.

The way a government treats its own people is a reasonable barometer of its reliability as a strategic partner. For over three decades, as China opened up economically, many believed it would inch towards greater political openness. A decade ago there were hopes that the rule of law was developing in China, as space for a growing network of human rights lawyers expanded.

But since Xi Jinping came to power seven years ago, these hopes have been dashed. In 2015 Xi unleashed a massive crackdown against human rights lawyers, their families and associates, imprisoning or disappearing many. As we approach the thirtieth anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre, China is experiencing the worst crackdown since the tanks rolled over the students on June 4th 1989.

This crackdown is most egregious against the predominantly Muslim Uyghurs in China’s north-western province of Xinjiang, where at least one million, perhaps as many as three million, have been incarcerated in political prison camps. The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has described Xinjiang as:

“…a massive internment camp shrouded in secrecy, a “no rights zone”, while members of the Xinjiang Uyghur minority, along with others who were identified as Muslim, were being treated as enemies of the State based on nothing more than their ethno-religious identity.” 

China’s state media has publicly stated that the goal in regard to the Uyghurs is to “break their lineage, break their roots, break their connections and break their origins”. As the Washington Post put it in a recent editorial, “It’s hard to read that as anything other than a declaration of genocidal intent.” Earlier this month a group of human rights organisations called on the United Nations to establish an international fact-finding mission to investigate.

But while the crisis in Xinjiang is the most grave, other communities throughout China are facing massive repression too. Christians, for example, are facing the most severe crackdown since the Cultural Revolution, with thousands of crosses destroyed, churches forcibly closed, pastors jailed, children under the age of 18 prohibited by law from going to church, cameras placed on altars to monitor who attends services, and portraits of Xi Jinping being mounted in place of crucifixes or religious paintings.

Tibetans, practitioners of the Falun Gong spiritual movement, bloggers, journalists, and dissidents are facing a similar reign of terror.

An independent tribunal chaired by Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, the barrister who prosecuted Slobodan Milosevic, has concluded that China has conducted forced harvesting of human organs from prisoners of conscience on a mass scale.

And in the past five years, Xi Jinping’s regime has dramatically torn up its commitments to ‘one country, two systems’ for Hong Kong, mounting a severe campaign of repression of dissent and erosion of the city’s cherished basic freedoms. Peaceful pro-democracy demonstrators have been jailed, democratic legislators disqualified, Victor Mallet, the Financial Times’ Asia News Editor, expelled, and booksellers abducted. One of those booksellers, Gui Minhai, a Swedish citizen kidnapped from Thailand, remains in captivity in China, and recently a bizarre episode involving an attempt by Sweden’s ambassador to China to threaten his courageous daughter, Angela Gui, into silence has been exposed – illustrating the lengths China’s regime is prepared to go to silence its critics, and the reach it clearly already has into western democratic systems.

China’s regime has already extended its tentacles far beyond its borders. It has launched a concerted attempt at the UN to redefine ‘human rights’ and suppress Non-Governmental Organisations. Chinese students have been ‘weaponised’ around the world to shut down critics. And a report into China’s Confucius Institutes, released today by the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, details the threats posed by these outposts of Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda department which are now embedded now in universities and schools in 146 countries. There are at least 29 Confucius Institutes in British universities today, and 148 Confucius ‘classrooms’ in schools around Britain, spreading the love of Chairman Xi.

New Zealand academic Anne-Marie Brady has experienced China’s aggression first-hand. Australian academic Clive Hamilton has documented China’s infiltration of Australian politics in an excellent book, Silent Invasion. The disappearance of several Canadians in China in the wake of the arrest in Canada of Huawei’s chief financial officer is a warning for us all. And while I have not experienced anything on that scale, I have been refused entry to Hong Kong, and received eight anonymous letters – sent to me, my neighbours, my mother and my employers – in a clear attempt to intimidate me. Chinese state television reporter Kong Linlin tried to disrupt a fringe meeting at the Conservative Party Conference last October, and MPs have been lobbied by the Chinese embassy to tell me to stop criticising China.

In June 2016, the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission launched a new report on human rights in China, titled: The Darkest Moment: China’s crackdown on human rights 2013-2016. At the launch, an MP who knows China well expressed agreement with all our findings. His only criticism was the title. It was, he said, premature – it will get even darker.

From what I have observed in the past three years, he was right. And in his passing reference to China, Williamson was right too. My only criticism of the Defence Secretary was that he was too diplomatic.

Chloe Westley: The twisted ideology that upends reason – and presents terror backers as innocent victims

Postmodernism strips the likes of Shamima Begum of personal responsibility and judges her solely by ethnicity, religion and class.

Chloe Westley is the Campaign Manager of the TaxPayers’ Alliance.

Postmodern thought, which is infecting public discourse and is perhaps most prevalent within educational institutions, dictates that there are no individuals, only collective groups which we all belong to. Postmodern thinkers are obsessed with power, and with separating humans even from these groups into further sub-groups, and pitting those sub groups against each other – as the dominant and the submissive, the oppressor and the oppressed.

It’s this rejection of individual responsibility, and obsession with sub-group dominance hierarchies, which leads to the defence of Shamima Begum. There are those who say she cannot be held fully accountable because of the young age at which she joined ISIS, or plead mercy because she is pregnant. If she repented her actions, or displayed even the slightest hint of regret for her treachery, then perhaps I would have more sympathy for these arguments.

But what is really at the heart of her defence is a willingness to infer victimhood on any enemy of the West. If you listen closely to those on the far left, especially in academia, you will find a deep resentment of western societies, and a perverse forgiveness and understanding of her enemies.

The postmodern worldview holds that individuals are not responsible for their actions, but are either victims or villains based on their sub-group category. This world view positions Begum as a victim of evil western imperialism, since she was born into a particular group which has been oppressed, and cannot be held accountable for the decisions she has made. This line of thinking led Jean-François Lyotard, a postmodernist philosopher, to conclude that “Saddam Hussein (was) a product of Western departments of state and big companies”.

In order to understand how someone could draw such a ridiculous conclusion, we need to understand exactly how and why postmodern philosophy came about. During the latter half of the 20th century, it became strikingly obvious to the intellectual community that by any rational measure, communism had failed. Stephen Hicks hypothesises that left-wing academics had two choices: either to accept that communism had failed, or to construct a new way of measuring reality which would allow for communism to work. They chose the latter.

Communist apologists were presented with an overwhelming amount of evidence which rendered their political philosophy a crime against humanity. The collapse of the Soviet Union and revelations of the horrors of its death camps were enough to persuade many that communism had failed.

Left-wing academics had to give Marxism a makeover. Evidence and logic proved that socialist and communist societies have failed – but what if we simply reject logic and reason? Postmodern thinkers started to claim that everyone’s experience of the world is subjective, and that our knowledge is based on a group identity, which we cannot escape from. By rejecting reason, rejecting evidence, and dismissing the truth as subjective, postmodernist thinkers could dismiss the evidence against socialism and communism.

Furthermore, this commitment to collective group identities allowed for a new Marxist power struggle. They argue that some group identities are oppressed, and should rise up against their oppressors. Instead of the working class vs the  bourgeois, postmodern thought pitches race against race, gender against gender, and so on.

Thousands of words could be written about how postmodernists have given communist ideas a makeover, and I’ll be discussing this in more detail at an event in London this evening. For the purpose of this article, it is enough to say that their worldview which is based on group identity allows them to blame everything – even joining a terrorist group like ISIS – on the West.

Postmodernists and the far left are united in their hatred of Western civilisation. During the 2017 election, Jeremy Corbyn blamed the terrorist attacks such as the Manchester bombing on British foreign policy. Andrew Murray, a friend of Len McCluskey’s and advisor to the Labour Party, blamed the formation of ISIS on Western imperialism. The far left side with Britain’s enemies because they view them as victims, not as individuals responsible for their own actions.

Last week’s reaction to the story about Begum was a perfect example of this philosophy in action. Begum, a young girl who joins a terrorist group which has burnt alive pilots, beheaded journalists and thrown gay people off buildings, is apparently a victim. However, if you’re a straight white male who has sent some questionable tweets a few years ago, you are the villain, and there can be no understanding or forgiveness.

I’m sickened by this postmodern morality, and so every person reading this article should be. This worldview doesn’t allow for the fair judgement of human beings, based on the content of their character. Rather, it forgives the wrongs of individuals belonging to ‘oppressed’ groups, and blames all the world problems on the ‘oppressors’, i.e. the West. There are those who criticise British and American foreign policy, and in many cases rightly so, but it is only the extreme left which go so far as to infer victimhood on our enemies.

Our modern society has been founded on enlightenment ideals: a respect for knowledge and science, and a respect for the individual. Societies that respect these rights of the individual to produce, and buy and sell what they choose, far outperform societies which do don’t. That is why so many who take up arms against the West are quite keen to return to Britain to enjoy far superior living standards.

So the next time you hear someone attack western societies as oppressive or responsible for all the evils in the world, understand that, for many, this is based on an intense resentment that the capitalist west disproved socialist and communist theory. Postmodern philosophy is an intellectually bankrupt attempt to re-write history and position the societies which promote individual freedom and democracy as the ‘bad guys’.

WATCH: “They are our citizens and we have a responsibility”, Dannatt says of jihadists in Syria

“It’s also important that we treat them fairly…with justice tempered with a bit of mercy.”

Bob Seely: The rule of law is an absolute. It cannot be dispensed with when we deal with ISIS terrorists.

A key moral from the case of Shamima Begum is that we need better information both to protect and prosecute.

Bob Seely is a member of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, and is MP for the Isle of Wight.

The case of Shamima Begum, who ran away to live under ISIS rule when she was a teenager, is deeply troubling. In 2015, aged just 15, she went to Syria to support the terror group, and was almost immediately married to a Dutch jihadi convert. She now wants to return to the UK with her surviving child.  Two other are dead.

She is one of hundreds of former and current ISIS supporters who hold UK passports, and who now may try to make their way back to Britain as ISIS faces final collapse.

Before I entered Parliament, I served with our armed forces during the campaign to destroy ISIS’ so-called caliphate. I was proud to do so. The territory that ISIS controlled, which initially stretched from central Syria through to Mosul in Northern Iraq, was a true heart of darkness. It was a revolting regime that mixed mediaeval theocracy with police state practises, and which advertised its death cult in infamous beheading videos.

Four years of bombing and ground force assault by the US, its British and French allies, our Kurdish partners on the ground in Iraq (the Peshmerga) and Syria (the SDF) have defeated ISIS as a physical force, but this victory intensifies a problem: what are we to do with returning ISIS fighters and their fellow travellers? What do we do with those who continue to nurture the idea of violent jihad in their minds? Getting our decision wrong could cost lives.

There is a natural – and exceptionally understandable – instinct to feel anger and contempt for the decisions made by Begum and others. The public revulsion has been rightly expressed by Sajid Javid.

However, it has proved hard to prosecute those who went to live in the ISIS-controlled area. As a result, Javid and his team steered through the Counter Terror and Border Security Act, which this week became law. First, it brings in a designated area offence, allowing prosecution for being in a geographical location without good reason. Second, it makes revoking UK citizenship easier. Third, it brings in Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures – ‘super ASBOs’ – to disrupt those engaged in extremism in the UK.

However, this law can’t be used retrospectively. In addition, if Begum is a British citizen and does not have a second citizenship, she has the right to return. This is not a negotiable point. It is illegal to make her stateless, and attempts to do so will see the Government in court. Furthermore, she was a child when she left. She has made some dire life choices, but her age should be taken into account. Either way, if she makes it to our shores, we will have to find a solution for her and for people who have done worse.

Public anger is understandable, but our priority must be public safety – and that means making some difficult choices.

In practical terms, it means continuing to develop intelligence on ISIS returnees. We need to be ‘collecting’ on both UK and other ‘internationals’ who served ISIS. We need to do so to be able to make judgements on their relative danger to our societies, how we monitor them and how they can be deradicalised. The more information we have, the more we can judge which returnees are a threat. Everything we do, including the deals we strike and whom we decide to prosecute, has to be based on that.

Back in 2016, it was reckoned that 700 UK citizens were fighting for, or supporting, ISIS. That figure now totals between 800 and 1,000. Of those, between 100 and 250 have died. UK air power killed some of them; the US and the French others. More were killed by our Kurdish the Peshmerga and the SDF. Other UK fighters who survived and who have a second passport will not be able to return – because they have been quietly stripped of their UK citizenship.

However, even if we identify most of those British citizens who served ISIS and are now considering returning, we will miss some of them. However good our agencies’ information is, some will have slipped through. Therefore, the need for information, on both known and unknown ISIS terrorists and fellow travellers, is our priority. The greatest protection we have against another Manchester bombing, 7/7 or Borough attack is knowledge.

We do not have to help ISIS terrorists and their war brides to return. But for those who make it here, whether they are prosecuted or not, there must be a price for returning and living their lives in the freedom that they denied others when they lived in ISIS-controlled territory. That price is information.