Mohammed Amin: The New Zealand atrocity – and the symbiotic relationship between anti-Muslim and Islamist terrorists

The attack is a salutary reminder that all terrorists, by definition, believed in something and have a cause.

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

Yesterday, I awoke to the news of the horrific attack against two mosques in Christchurch New Zealand. The apparent killer posted a manifesto online before commencing his murderous assault on innocent Muslim worshippers.

The attack is a salutary reminder that all terrorists, by definition, believed in something and have a cause. Mass murder driven simply by a personal desire to kill, without any ideological underpinning, is not terrorism as the word is defined.

For example, other Muslims often complain that the 2017 Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock was not labelled as a terrorist while the 2013 Boston Marathon bombrers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev were, implying that only Muslims get labelled as terrorists. The labelling here is accurate, because the Boston Marathon killers had an ideology they were promoting, while the Las Vegas killer did not.

Violent Islamist extremism

Sadly, a long line of major terrorist attacks around the world mean that violent Islamist extremism is “front of brain” for almost everybody. If you want to understand this ideology, I recommend reading “The Genealogy of Terror: How to distinguish between Islam, Islamism and Islamist Extremism” by Matthew L.N. Wilkinson which I review at this link.

The frequency of violent Islamist extremism leads some people to make inaccurate and massively hurtful statements such as “Not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims.” Depending on who it is, anyone who says that is either ignorant or being deceitful.

Other ideological motivations

There have been many different motivators for terrorism, often geographically localised such as Irish Republican Army terrorism, Kurdish separatism, and Tamil separatism.

At the non-geographical ideological level, the 1995 Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh was motivated by anti-government beliefs. His beliefs were not the same as the white racism that motivated Dylann Roof to kill black worshippers in a Charlotte church in 2015. Roof’s views may however overlap to some extent with those of Robert Gregory Bowers who has been charged with the 2018 attack on the Pittsburgh Tree of Life Synagogue.

The New Zealand killer appears to have anti-Muslim beliefs very similar to those of Anders Behring Breivik, the 2011 killer of young socialists in Norway.

What is to be done?

As with violent Islamist extremism, the most immediate requirement is for more physical security and greater intelligence enabling plots to be intercepted and foiled.

However, that is not enough.

The ideological beliefs that are circulating need to be analysed and understood, with de-radicalisation programs being developed that are tailored to the individual ideologies involved. It is superficial to simply label all of them as “far right” without looking at the distinctions between them.

The 1500-page manifesto of Breivik or the 74-page manifesto issued by the apparent New Zealand killer can easily be dismissed as nonsense. They are. However, to prevent people being radicalised by these ideas, we must understand the twisted logic that underlies them.

In the UK the role of the Prevent Programme is critical. As David Cameron said on so many occasions, it is not enough to deal with those attempting to commit acts of terrorism.

One needs to also deal with those who promote the ideas which are absorbed by people and lead people to become terrorists. That is what he meant by dealing with non-violent extremism, a concept often mocked by the extremists and their fellow travellers, but which is explained very precisely in Dr Wilkinson’s book.

What happens next?

The Muslim extremists who contend that Muslims will never be accepted in, for example, Europe exist in a symbiotic relationship with those non-Muslim extremists who contend that Islam is an alien religion that does not belong in Europe. Such Muslims will already be pointing towards the New Zealand attack in order to convince impressionable young Muslims that they will never be accepted here.

The outpouring of support and sympathy that we have seen from political and religious leaders is therefore vital.

Going forward, all politicians and media outlets should reflect on their language. Are they using words that unite people or divide them?

Sadly, all too often in Britain, North America, Australia, and continental Europe one finds politicians promoting divisions within society for electoral gain. They need to be ostracised as Fraser Anning, the Australian Senator, has been for his comments immediately after the shooting.

Henry Hill: Bradley faces fresh calls to resign as Williamson seeks to protect troops

Also: Ministers brace for fight with SNP over ‘Stronger Towns Fund’; Scottish Government backpedalling hard on welfare devolution; and more.

Bradley faces calls to resign over Troubles comments as Williamson seeks to protect troops

Karen Bradley has come under renewed pressure to resign after she appeared to claim that no deaths caused by the security services during the Troubles should be considered crimes, according to the Times.

Although she later clarified that there should always be investigations where there are allegations of wrongdoing, the latest faux pas has sparked fresh questions about whether or not she is fit to serve as Northern Irish Secretary. Her remarks were:

“Over 90 per cent of the killings during the Troubles were at the hands of terrorists, every single one of those was a crime. The fewer than 10 per cent that were at the hands of the military and police were not crimes. They were people acting under orders and under instruction and fulfilling their duty in a dignified and appropriate way.”

Whilst it seems clear that Bradley meant to say that the most of the killings committed by the Armed Forces and Royal Ulster Constabulary were done in the lawful course of their duties, it is an unfortunate way to set the scene for Gavin Williamson’s bid to introduce new legal protections for soldiers and ex-servicemen.

Under proposals outlined in the Sunday Times, the Defence Secretary would introduce a ten-year limit for prosecutions over alleged historical offences. This comes after reports that four former soldiers are expected to face murder charges for their involvement in Bloody Sunday in 1972.

The plans will apparently entail a statutory presumption against prosecution for historical cases, the need for sign-off from the Attorney General, and new guidance from the same about both the evidence threshold needed to pursue a prosecution and a public-interest test.

In related news the News Letter reports that Jim Allister, the leader of the hard-line Traditional Unionist Voice party, has accused the head of the Police Service of Northern Ireland of “playing politics” by talking up the threat of terrorist activity related to Brexit.

Ministers clash with SNP over ‘towns fund’ as Scottish Government bails on welfare devolution

The Government is gearing up for a furious row with the Scottish Government over the fate of almost £100 million in public funding from Theresa May’s ‘Stronger Towns Fund’, according to the Sun.

According to sources James Brokenshire, the Communities Secretary, is insisting that his department must have a say on how the money is disbursed, rather than simply handing it over to the SNP to treat as a devolved matter. The paper reports one insider claiming that the Nationalists have already failed to properly pass on £40 million earmarked for the police to help with no-deal preparations.

Such a move would undercut the SNP’s efforts to centralise as much control of public spending as possible in Edinburgh, as well as to make the Scottish Parliament a gate-keeper between Westminster and Scotland. Expect much wailing about the ‘spirit of devolution’.

But that spirit has not had a good week, it appears, after it emerged that the Scottish Government is furiously backpedalling on a push to devolve welfare powers to Holyrood.

Last week the Scotsman reported that the Nationalists were being accused of ‘betraying’ Scots over a decision to delay the full devolution of welfare powers until 2024. This was compounded yesterday when they further reported that plans for the Scottish Government to assume control of one particular benefit – the Severe Disablement Allowance – have been postponed “indefinitely”.

That all of this chaos and delay should result from proposals to devolve just 15 per cent of social security spending – totalling some £3 million – may be what finally prompted one “senior Scottish Tory MP” to voice, albeit anonymously, the ultimate heresy: that there may need to be a “review into certain aspects of devolution”. As the Times reports:

“It cannot continue to be a one-way street,” the MP said. “This latest debacle, coming on top of the British Transport Police fiasco, demonstrates that there are areas where devolution may not be in the best interests of the Scottish people and that returning powers to Westminster could be contemplated.”

Wise words.

And if that weren’t enough, elsewhere this week the SNP’s new proposals for a post-Brexit Scottish currency were dismissed as a “desperate act”. The party is trying to disentangle itself from the political problems posed by keeping the pound without admitting that an independent Scotland would need to sign up to the Euro.

Dugdale accuses Scottish Labour of trying to hide support for second Brexit vote

Kezia Dugdale, the former leader of Scottish Labour, has accused her successor of censoring the party’s conference programme in order to stifle expressions of support for a second EU referendum, according to the Daily Telegraph.

In a letter to Richard Leonard she alleges that a statement penned by two of the party’s MEPs had been ‘doctored’ to tone down criticism of Brexit and remove a section stating support for a re-run of the 2016 vote – despite such a re-run being official party policy.

The attack exposes the depths of the divisions within Scottish Labour, where Leonard’s left-wing leadership is being criticised for failing to turn around the remarkable slump in the party’s fortunes north of the border.

Meanwhile, in other Brexit news, the FT reports that Bombardier, a major employer in Northern Ireland, are pressuring the Democratic Unionists to abandon their opposition to the backstop.

Daniel Hannan: The rule of law is our system’s foundation. Which is why there should be Bloody Sunday trials.

When we bend the rules in our favour, we cheapen our country. We become, in effect, the colonial power that the IRA accuse us of being.

Daniel Hannan is an MEP for South-East England, and a journalist, author and broadcaster. His most recent book is What Next: How to Get the Best from Brexit.

“Mr Speaker, I am deeply patriotic,” said David Cameron in a sombre voice when he presented the Saville Report to Parliament in 2010. “I never want to believe anything bad about our country. I never want to call into question the behaviour of our soldiers and our army, who I believe to be the finest in the world. But the conclusions of this report are absolutely clear. What happened on Bloody Sunday was both unjustified and unjustifiable.”

Most ConservativeHome readers will share the former Conservative leader’s patriotism; and almost everyone will echo his regard for our troops. We are enormously lucky in this country to have Armed Forces which are lethal when turned against foreign foes but which are not, in general, used for internal repression. Our Service personnel are brave but not bellicose, cheerful but not frivolous, polite but not obsequious, always ready to get stuck in. It is hard to have dealings with British soldiers and not end up liking them.

So of course we are uneasy at the idea of former Paratroopers being hauled through the courts because of something that happened nearly half a century ago. Yet we should never lose sight of what it is we admire about our Servicemen in the first place. We admire them precisely because they are professional and disciplined. We admire them because, unlike their counterparts in much of the world, it is hard to imagine them training their guns on civilians. That is what makes the events of 30 January 1972 so painful.

Bloody Sunday was a catastrophe for the Army. Many Catholics had initially welcomed the deployment of regular troops in Northern Ireland, seeing them as likelier to be impartial than the Protestant-dominated local security forces; but the deaths of 13 unarmed protesters in Londonderry convinced Ulster’s minority community that they could not expect fairness from the British state. Hundreds of young men were driven overnight into the clutches of the IRA, with dreadful consequences for themselves and for others. In the aftermath of the shootings, the British government behaved like some insecure dictatorship, more concerned with the reputation of its security forces than with justice.

It took 37 years for the government officially to acknowledge the truth, namely that there had been both a grotesque abuse of force by some soldiers on the day and a cover-up afterwards. I felt paradoxically proud when Cameron issued a national apology. The desire to get at the facts, however awkward, is a distinguishing characteristic of an open society. Lots of nations in such a position adopt what we might call an anti-Dreyfusard stance, elevating the reputation of their Armed Forces over the right of individuals to redress. I am glad to live in a country where the rights of those who resent it – as most of the young men who died in the Bogside did – count for as much as anyone else’s. My British patriotism does not rest chiefly on the accomplishments of our Servicemen, awesome as they are. It rests on our indignation at injustice, our preference for individual rights over collective identity, and our determination to follow the law.

Once the Saville Enquiry had overturned the previous whitewash, prosecutions became almost inevitable. Now they are reportedly set to go ahead against four of the soldiers accused of acting outside the law that day.

There are various hooks on opponents of the prosecutions might hang their doubts. They could argue that it is impossible to be sure of justice so long after the event. They could propose that the United Kingdom adopt, as the United States does in some circumstances, a statute of limitations. They could argue, with Gerry Adams, that there should be indemnity on all sides – British Servicemen, loyalist gunmen, Republican paramilitaries. (Martin McGuinness took a different line, contending that the amnesty should not apply to soldiers. It has since been confirmed that McGuinness was the Provisional IRA’s second-in-command on Bloody Sunday, and he eventually admitted that his men had been carrying weapons.)

By and large, though, these are not the grounds on which the Paras’ defenders are taking their stand. Rather, they argue that there is an asymmetry in the way in which the two sides in the conflict are being treated. IRA murderers have benefited from an amnesty, they say, so why should our boys be punished? Shouldn’t we (they continue) take mitigating circumstances into consideration? The Provos were, as McGuinness confirmed, armed that day. They were deliberately seeking to provoke a reaction. The Official IRA, the “Stickies”, actually fired shots (though only, it seems, after the Paras had started shooting). Do these things, ask the soldiers’ supporters, not count for something?

And anyway (they conclude), why this peculiar focus on 13 of the 3,532 victims of the Troubles? What about Bloody Friday? What about Birmingham and Warrington and Shankill and Crossmaglen and a hundred other IRA abominations? Why not spend a fortune on inquiries into them?

The answer, surely, is that our soldiers are not terrorist gangsters. They operate according to rules, and when those rules are breached, there are consequences. The idea of equivalence between the two sides was, paradoxically, a key IRA demand. The Provos gave their men military ranks, and demanded POW status when they were jailed for their crimes. When Adams called for amnesties all round, he was at least being consistent. But I suspect that most ConHome readers always regarded the IRA as a criminal gang rather than as a legitimate army. The reason we must hold our troops to a high standard is the same reason that we are the legitimate government in Northern Ireland, namely the demands of the law.

To be sure, there are arguments for clemency. It is hard to see how any purpose would be served by banging up men in their seventies for offences committed when they were very different people. That, though, is not the same thing as arguing that there should be no trials.

When we bend the rules in our favour, we cheapen our country. We become, in effect, the colonial power that the IRA accuse us of being, treating people living under our jurisdiction as something less than full citizens. Irish nationalism rests on precisely this claim. From the 1914 Curragh Mutiny to the 1974 Ulster Workers’ Council Strike, argue Irish Republicans, the British state has been prepared to bend the rules in a Unionist direction.

If we believe that Londonderry is a British city, then the people who died on Bloody Sunday were British subjects. If they were British subjects, then they – or their survivors – deserve the full measure of British justice. Without that principle, our Forces would be no better than the terrorist bombers they defeated. And that is not something we should ever allow.

Bob Seely: Bloody Sunday prosecutions would betray our armed forces

Former paramilitary fighters are out of prison. IRA killers have restarted their lives. Yet British soldiers face the threat of prosecution.

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

Bloody Sunday was the single most significant failure by the British security forces in Northern Ireland. On 30 January 1972, 13 civilians were killed a protest march in Derry (a fourteenth died later). They were 14 out of  the 3,532 civilians, soldiers and paramilitary group members killed on all sides during ‘The Troubles.’.

I do not for a second dispute that bad things happened that day. This is not a case of ‘my side, right or wrong’. Rules of war are there to be obeyed. I have Irish Catholic friends who take a very different approach to ‘The Troubles’ than I do. I respect their opinion. But I am bemused by how on earth the decision to prosecute members of the Parachute Regiment – if that is what is now planned – serves peace in Northern Ireland today.

Prosecution does not send a signal of justice. It is without a semblance of equality. UK soldiers are being hung out to dry whilst those they fought are treated by different rules. There is a natural and obvious injustice. I do not argue that all the Paras behaved as they should. Some didn’t, and people died as a result, but the purpose of the peace process was to accept that while bad things happened in the past, they should stay there. Gavin Williamson is said to be planning legislation to introduce a 10-year limit on alleged historic abuses. Such a law can’t come soon enough.

When judging this issue, it’s helpful to have experience of insurgencies or at least understand their principle. The purpose of the IRA was to force Catholics out of the security forces in Northern Ireland, sectarianise the country, set up rival ‘shadow’ institutions, to murder members of the (overwhelmingly Protestant) security forces, and then hope for violent reprisals and chaos in Northern Ireland – forcing the UK out and achieving a united Irish state, presumably imbued with a socialist, revolutionary anti-British hostility.

The IRA failed in its aim. That they lost when insurgent paramilitary groups have succeeded in so many parts of the world is testament to the remarkable work of the security forces – the UK Armed Forces, the security agencies and the then Royal Ulster Constabulary. This does not mean that our security forces were always right or that there were no breaches of trust. There were some, but failures in command and standards were rare enough for the forces of law and order to survive and to defeat the IRA’s violent aims. By preventing civil conflict on the level of Bosnia or Syria, UK forces that served in Northern Ireland – including the Parachute Regiment – saved the lives of thousands, perhaps tens of thousands. This is not said often enough.

Bloody Sunday was one of those occasions when our ability to police Catholic communities collapsed. It was a moral and political failure. The IRA and Sinn Fein milked the occasion for propaganda for decades. If the British and Irish Governments now had a policy of prosecuting all those involved in the injury or deaths of others, there would at least be a consistent standard by which to put soldiers and former paramilitary members on trial.

But there is no intent to do this. Former paramilitary fighters are out of prison. IRA killers have restarted their lives. Yet British soldiers, whose collective actions in the course of the Troubles saved Northern Ireland from civil war, face the threat of prosecution. They face life imprisonment. Any former terrorist brought before the courts – an almost unthinkable event anyway – would face under the Good Friday agreement a maximum two-year sentence. Every kneecapping and killing was a morally squalid event. Where are former paramilitaries being hauled before the courts? This is not an example of fairness, but of double standards.

The Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC) is nowadays repeatedly drummed into servicemen and women. Yet time and time again UK forces feel under-protected by politicians and at the mercy of parasitical lawyers keener to attack the institutions of our state or make a quick buck than they are in the service of justice. The wretched, demeaning spectacle of the Iraq Historic Allegations Team, which allowed multiple trumped-up charges to be thrown at the UK Armed Forces, is just the latest episode in that sorry relationship.

I talked with some former army mates this weekend. The assumption is: no matter what you do on operations, others without experience will judge you years down the line, doing so from the comfort of a legal chambers or a court, and the politicians won’t defend you. This is an insidious place for the Armed Forces to be in.

The additional irony is that it will be very difficult to obtain guilty verdicts. No one will be satisfied by the trials. Soldiers will feel betrayed by politicians. The families of the Bloody Sunday dead face failed prosecutions. The trials will open up old wounds in the province just weeks after a recent terror attack in Derry. Those accused will be treated as martyrs or murderers. The trials may provide justification for further acts of violence by dissident republicans. The only winners will be lawyers. The original Saville Inquiry into Bloody Sunday cost £200 million. The Iraq Historic Allegations Team cost £30 million. Nearly a quarter of a billion pounds for both; what a staggering use of public money.

If this were happening under a government lead by a Marxist IRA fellow-traveller such as Jeremy Corbyn, I would be appalled but not surprised. Instead, it is happening under a Conservative Government. It is an unnecessary, self-inflicted wound. Let the dead rest in peace and let those who survived – on all sides of the conflict – reconcile themselves and their consciences.

WATCH: Corbyn will “sit down with Hamas, Hezbollah and the IRA…yet he won’t meet me to talk about Brexit”

The Labour leader responded by borrowing Hilary Benn’s line that the Prime Minister’s door may be open but her mind is closed.

Interview: Lord Bird says homelessness is not just for Christmas, and the death penalty might deter knife crime

The founder of The Big Issue expresses his aversion to liberalism, and his disappointment with the middle class.

On Tuesday night a homeless man was found dying outside the Houses of Parliament.  Earlier that day, ConHome interviewed Lord Bird – better known as John Bird, founder in 1991 of The Big Issue – about homelessness.

Bird said it is no use just caring about the subject at Christmas, or imagining there is some quick fix for it. But he described Theresa May as “the most impressive Prime Minister I’ve spoken to” about homelessness, and he has spoken to everyone since Tony Blair.

When asked if he is still (as he once said) “a working-class Tory”, he replied: “I just loathe what liberalism has become, which is almost a kind of front for just letting things slip.”

He has a gift for running off full tilt at some interesting tangent, and as an illustration of his defiance of the liberal consensus, launched into the arguments in favour of capital punishment, which he contended might help to deter knife crime.

He expressed his disappointment with the British middle class, saying he took a lot of trouble to rise into it, but found it unwilling, for all its education, to do the intellectual work needed to deal with homelessness.

ConHome: “You’re walking down the street, you see someone sleeping in a doorway, you think that’s shameful.”

Bird: “The thing about homelessness is that it can never, ever be dealt with as a thing in itself. What actually happens is you get a lot of people at this time of the year, they forget about poverty, they forget about cause and effect, and they just deal with this insult to our eyes and our sensibilities, and our sense of Christian love for our fellow man, and we get very, very upset.

“Because we are moving towards this beautiful ceremony which is the birth of Christ. We almost feel kind of a bit better each day, the nearer we get to it, it is about salvation, even people who are not religious, you see them wanting to do good things around Christmas.

“So you’re moving that way and at the same time there’s this appalling evidence of the failure to do anything about it. You come round the back by the [Westminster Underground] station and there’s a number of guys staying there, and occasionally you see MPs talking to them, by Parliament’s entrance into the station, and everybody gets very upset with the sight of these guys laying around.” It is here that the dying man was found on Tuesday night.

“And I’m always saying why not have a vigorous response to emergency instead of an unvigorous response to emergency, and why don’t we start looking at the budgets, and why is the budget always there when the shit has hit the fan, metaphorically speaking, but is never there for the prevention of the fan being covered with ordure?

“I find that most crazy. It took me a while to get into the British middle class and I’m being quite honest, I’ve been thoroughly disappointed with their abilities to actually think.

“You know, the universities and the public schools, they don’t seem to be able to put together a programme for saying ‘OK, how can we prevent this from happening?’

“From the days of Blair, when we started The Big Issue, I never met anybody who you could respect their thinking. They always kind of talked in short terms: ‘What we’re going to do is put some money behind these homeless organisations, who’ll get these people off the streets, and then we’ll put them into social housing, and we’ll have an ecosystem.”

ConHome: “Oh heavens.”

Bird: “And then you say hang on, but when they’re in the social housing, and you visit them as I do, five years after they’ve been rehoused, they’re still living in bin liners. They’re not working, they’re not earning, they’re socially isolated. They’ve gone from wet, outdoor, moist, trench-foot homelessness, to indoor homelessness.

“And then they become a drain on the rates, they become an absolute pain to the people around them, because they’ve got all day doing nothing, and no one has ever tried to get the demons out of them that have brought them into this cycle of failure.

“I’m not impressed by cleverness, because I’ve seen too many clever people do stupid things. I’m not impressed by education, because I’ve seen very, very educated, some of the most educated people in this world are to be found in both Houses [of Parliament]. But we need more than the sum of what they’ve got.

“What we really need is an intellectual revolution where we stop and we say, ‘Why is government not working? Why is it that when we intervene in the crisis of poverty, there’s 80 per cent of our money that goes into emergency and coping, not into prevention or in cure.

“And when I met Theresa May, who to me has been the most impressive Prime Minister I’ve spoken to, and I’ve had dealings with four of them.”

ConHome: “What impressed you about her?”

Bird: “She listened. She gave me half an hour and took 45 minutes, and wrote down, and responded to our notes, and actually at times was ahead of us, saying ‘So what you’re saying is you feel that we need to put prevention right in the middle of the Government, this is what I intend doing.’

“Two days later she declared the election. If she’d won the election as opposed to limped through, I think we might have had a different regime from her.

“I have been in the company of, and spoken to, and been chummy with Blair, Brown, Cameron, and here comes no-nonsense May, and I thought ‘Oh’, and Oliver, who works with me, he just said ‘Yeah, she’s different’.

“So what you’ve got is somebody doing a job, it’s like being an architect, and someone saying ‘Before you build this beautiful brick house you’ve got to sort out the drains’, and that’s Brexit.

“And I don’t think she’s particularly good at drains. But I think she might have been quite good at building this preventative form of methodology for the Government to embrace. That’s what I believe.

“So I’m not trying to have a go at the British middle class.”

ConHome: “Well you’re in the upper class now. You’ve sprung from the working class to the  upper class. The middle class has got to take the rap.”

Bird: “But the point is, the answer lies in the middle. It doesn’t lie in the extremes. So until you can convince the British middle class to get off their intellectual arses and actually do a bit of deep thinking and a deep involvement…”

ConHome: “You must find you have to repeat yourself an awful lot, especially just before Christmas.”

Bird: “Oh yeah, it’s a real Groundhog Day. I whinge even more each year because come 3rd January you could go to the BBC – I’ve just come from Sky – and try selling them a story about homelessness, and you get ‘Oh no, no, no – that’s seasonal’.”

ConHome: “I was struck by your remark in 2010, ‘My guilty secret is that I’m really a working-class Tory.’  Is that still your guilty secret? Well it’s not secret any more, but is it still the case?”

Bird: “Well I also went on and said I believe in the return of capital punishment.”

ConHome: “Do you still believe in that?”

Bird: “Well I think there is something that goes on in most people’s lives. You make conscious decisions to do things like to be kind to animals, or to be pleasant to old ladies, but underneath it all you may not be well-disposed towards children or women.

“And I have tried desperately hard to be incredibly liberal and all that, but every now and then I just loathe what liberalism has become, which is almost a kind of front for just letting things slip.

“I’m a cradle Catholic and I’m a cradle Conservative. I would like to be an unbeliever, but I can’t get away with it. So I’m on overdrive.

“What I meant by that is every time some heinous crime is committed against children, or against weak children, or against disabled people, I want to go out and cut their throats. Or get the state to do it for me.

“I did a lot of work on the repeal of capital punishment, and I found there was really no rationale.

“I want the discussion to be opened up, largely because if anyone did anything against my family, I would want everybody to do with it to be strung up in public, or not in public.

“I thought there was a real snidey piece of bullshitty thinking.”

ConHome: “When the death penalty was abolished?”

Bird: “Yes. I mean I was very glad, because my mother was a lovely Irishwoman who was convinced that because I started off as a petty criminal…”

ConHome: “You were going to end your days on the gallows. Did she actually tell you that?”

Bird: “Oh yes. She said ‘One day you’ll fecking die.'”

ConHome: “Very good.”

Bird: “And then she modified it, and said, ‘If you’re going to be hung, Tony’ – I was Tony Bird then – ‘if you’re going to be hung, Tony, I’d like you to be hung for Ireland.’ As long as I blew someone away…”

ConHome: “As an IRA man?”

Bird: “Yes.”

ConHome: “They were heroes as far as she was concerned.”

Bird: “Yes. But when the bombs did start, she got very upset and she hated it all. So she was a romantic, from the days when Brendan Behan arrived in Liverpool with a bomb to blow up someone to frighten them out of the six counties.”

ConHome: “Anyhow, you still think we should have the death penalty.”

Bird: “No, I think we should have the debate about the death penalty. Because what has happened is that in the same way as we have privatised many services, we’ve also privatised the death penalty.

“There was a time when the state had the monopoly on violence.”

ConHome: “What’s the private way of doing the death penalty?”

Bird: “You only go to south London, you have to be a young kid and somebody sticks a knife in you, that is the privatisation. There’s no state monopoly of violence.”

ConHome: “Well there never has been a total monopoly. We’ve always had some murders.”

Bird: “But the state always had the legal opportunities. Now what we’ve done is we’ve privatised the monopoly. The monopoly is held by the public.

“I know so much about those little arseholes with their knives, I think there’s a chance that if they felt that there’s chances that they themselves would be destroyed for that act, they might stop doing it.”

ConHome: “It hasn’t worked very well in America.”

Bird: “That’s because there’s a monopoly of the use of guns.”

ConHome: “That’s always been privatised in America.”

Bird: “The interesting thing about America is you’ve actually got a devaluation of human life, which is very much to do with the slave trade and the fact that they never really could absolve themselves of that responsibility, and it will take hundred and hundreds of years.”

The interview could have continued for many hours, but Bird had to take part in a debate in the House of Lords.