19 Feb 2018 at 15:52
A lively discussion on which country poses the greatest global threat. With Max Foster, Liam Halligan, Ayesha Hazirika and me.
19 Feb 2018 at 15:52
A lively discussion on which country poses the greatest global threat. With Max Foster, Liam Halligan, Ayesha Hazirika and me.
16 Feb 2018 at 21:15
It seemed like Groundhog Day, talking about gun control today.
16 Feb 2018 at 12:42
Everyone gets rather overexcited whenever Boris Johnson makes a speech. The Westminster lobby do their normal thing and judge it through the prism of whether they can spot any split with Theresa May, even though they are fully aware that the whole speech has been pre-approved by Number Ten. His speech on Wednesday didn’t really contain anything new in terms of our negotiations with the EU, or how Britain might look post Brexit. But it was the first time anyone has articulated a really positive vision for the country and the opportunities which will prevent themselves. We need a lot more of this, and not just from Boris. I think it was also important that he made a plea to Remainers to recognise that there are opportunities for this country after Brexit, and while he recognises their strongly held views, he wants the country to come together. No one thinks that long held views are going to be abandoned overnight, but over time he’s surely right to sound rather more statesmanlike and less divisive. Given the reaction of some of the leading Remainers to his speech, though, I’m not sure they got the message.
Strewth! Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced that sexual relationships between Aussie MPs and their staff will in future be banned. It has not gone down well. No doubt there will be voices in this country that Theresa May should follow suit. It’s a total overreaction. Consensual sexual relationships in the workplace have always happened and no amount of rules can stop them. I don’t know how many MPs have ended up marrying their secretaries, but it must be in the hundreds. Are we really saying that perfectly happy and consensual relationships are wrong?
On Valentine’s Day morning the NRA sent out a tweet saying “Give your significant other something they’ll appreciate this Valentine’s Day. Underneath was a picture of two handguns. An hour later the Florida school shooting happened and 17 students and teachers were brutally murdered. They subsequently deleted the tweet. It was the 18th school shooting this year. Think about that.
This week I’ve taken part in a campaign called ‘Europe is Part of Me’ for Ancestry.co.uk. They offer a service where you send in your DNA and it tells you about your own heritage and where your ancestors came from. On average, 60% of our DNA comes from the continent of Europe. Some people think it’s a subliminal ‘Remain’ campaign but it really isn’t – I wouldn’t have taken part had it been so, but the facts are quite revealing. The 60% includes 23.14% Irish and 37.42% continental European, covering north, east, west and southern Europe, the Iberian Peninsula and European Jewish ancestry. Apparently 86% of us ‘feel’ European even if we don’t like the EU. I know from my radio show that there are some people who consider themselves European rather than British. And they’re not all called Anna or Alastair! Just my little joke. I do think this is one reason why another survey showed this week that Britain is the least racist country in Europe. In effect we are and always have been a nation of immigrants. There are very few of us who can trace our family trees back hundreds of years (and mine goes back to the 1500) without finding some foreign blood. I haven’t had my DNA results back yet, but I suspect I will have some French blood in me. I have a bit of a dark complexion and my grandmother’s maiden name was ‘French’. I’d say that was a bit of a clue…
The winds of change are certainly blowing through southern Africa at the moment. First Mugabe, now Zuma. Hopefully one or two other countries might be next. South Africa could be one of the most successful, thriving countries in the world but its progress has been threatened by massive corruption. If the new president can eliminate corruption there’s no telling how the living standards for ordinary South Africans might improve. The crime levels are also astronomical in some areas. Together, these two things are putting off a lot of foreign companies from investing in South Africa. Mr Ramaphosa will be judged on these two issues – eradicating corruption and attracting money to the country to create jobs.
I hope you’ve ordered in popcorn for UKIP’s conference on Saturday when 2,000 of their members will be congregating in Birmingham to decide whether to oust the hapless Henry Bolton as leader of their beleaguered party. If they don’t, they’re totally finished as a political force. But then again, if they do they’re also probably finished. There’s no readymade successor that isn’t called Nigel Farage, and he ain’t playing… At least I don’t think he is…
15 Feb 2018 at 20:42
This is the text of an article I have written for the ‘i’ newspaper today…
In some respects, life in the limbo between the UK voting to leave the European Union and Brexit itself has engendered some unfortunate habits in discourse. As a radio host, I’ve done my best to ask questions that challenge prominent figures from all parties who hold all sorts of viewpoints, at a time where the balance and nuance of political interview is victim to either point scoring or delivering softball topics.
The divide itself also seemingly has the effect of harming our ability to listen to one another’s views, as the red mist falls faster than thought processes engage – and not just on Twitter.
It’s understandable to see with a topic that is so key to our country’s future role on the world stage. Another habit, which is a regular occurrence, is presuming that those who voted Leave are less than keen on our neighbours across The Channel. The urge to conflate the cultural with the political is something that can be seen on both sides of the debate. I voted to leave the EU. But my decision was by no means made due to any sense of not feeling like I have any kind of European identity, nor was it down to being closed to the cultural impact that Europe has had on me – and on the country more generally.
Just over 30 years ago, I graduated from the University of East Anglia with a degree in German, and ended up thoroughly fluent, having spent two years living, working and teaching in Germany. I fully intended to become a German teacher, being rather in love with the country, but life often has different plans.
I still speak the language – though with a slight coating of rust – and visit as often as work and life allows. Beyond culture, I also have genetic links to the continent. My grandmother’s maiden name was ‘French’, so I strongly suspect I have French blood in me somewhere too – I’m actually in the process of finding out more about my genetic heritage, as it’s fascinating to know where our ancestors’ movements have led us. So in short, while I’m no fan of the political entity that is the EU, I feel that although I identify primarily as English, and secondarily as British, being European is also part of my identity – and what a mercifully multi-faceted range of options and configurations that word covers. #EuroPartOfMe That’s why I’ve chosen to share my views in a new film, alongside a number of people from both sides of the debate that you might not expect (Alastair Campbell anyone?).
It’s the starting point of the #EuroPartOfMe ad campaign with AncestryDNA that encourages us all to find common ground in our cultural and genetic links to Europe – however we voted in the referendum.
It’s not just politicos and outspoken famous figures that are extending the olive branch though – members of the public have been sharing video contributions via an interactive video screen on the South Bank throughout Thursday and people can still record a message celebrating their links with Europe and share it on social media via #EuroPartOfMe on Twitter. Of course, not everyone will react in a spirit of reconciliation, and certainly nobody is likely to abandon pursuing their course of choice when it comes to either pushing through or preventing Brexit, but I hope by being involved I can do one small thing towards improving the understanding between the two camps and changing the way those who voted Leave might be perceived too.
After all, Europe will still be there across the water – and in our DNA – come 29 March next year.
14 Feb 2018 at 22:20
Ten years ago I interviewed the Zimbabwean Opposition Leader, Morgan Tsvangirai. It was the cover interview of the second ever edition of Total Politics magazine Tonight it was announced he had died, at the age of 65. Here’s the i
You won the election in March. Do you now feel you have been cheated out of the Presidency?
This is not about me. This is not about the MDC. My concern, and that of our party, is that the people’s will has not been respected. It has been ignored. Betrayed. Violently punished. During our March 29 Presidential, parliamentary and local elections, people voted for change at all levels. MDC won resoundingly. We became the majority party in parliament for the first time in Zimbabwe’s history. I won a majority of votes. We took control of all town councils. The issue is not feeling cheated, the real issue is betrayal of the people’s will. The people’s voices have been silenced once again, in some cases forever. The post-election violence is unprecedented in our country.
Will the MDC MPs take their seats after the violence they have suffered?
We are the democratically elected Government having won a majority of seats in March. Despite many of my MPs being attacked and, in some cases, such as that of the Hon Naisson Nemadziva MP for Buhera South, abducted from central Harare this week, we must and will take up our seats in Parliament. My only real concern is that Mugabe’s thugs may actually take even more brutal steps against our MPs to deprive us of our Parliamentary majority. This would seem farfetched in most other countries, but sadly not here.
You have control of the Zimbabwean Parliament. Can you not use your parliamentary power to contain Mugabe?
Robert Mugabe is an illegitimately elected leader who in recent years has paid little regard to the will of Zimbabwean people and the democratic principles in our constitution. This is why the MDC has called for a transitional government to be installed in order that we can form an inclusive government to begin the processes of stabilization and national healing without any interference.
If the MDC comes into power will Zimbabwe still be a governable country?
Never before has Zimbabwe faced a crisis of this magnitude. Never before has Zimbabwe faced the prospect of two starkly contrasting futures. On the one hand, we face the prospect of progress towards a real democracy that offers hope and economic prosperity. On the other hand, Zimbabwe faces a future filled with violent instability and poverty that could infect the whole African continent.
Although we face a crisis today, I am confident that with the continued adherence to peaceful democratic change exhibited by the people of Zimbabwe and the growing alliance of African and other countries, we will be able to heal the currents rifts and steer the country towards a peaceful, stable and prosperous future.
Would you institute your own version of a Truth & Reconciliation Commission?
We have always said we are about healing and restorative justice rather than retribution, but a nation cannot move forward without acknowledging the mistakes of the past. MDC intends to institute a mechanism that allows the many thousands of people who have suffered under this regime the opportunity to forgive, but not necessarily to forget. The nature of the mechanism we choose can only be decided after consultation with the people.
The country has inflation rates of 8 million percent, with 80 percent unemployment. Does MDC have a plan to stabilise and reconstruct the economy?
Yes. Though Zimbabwe currently has the highest inflation rate in the world, there are numerous precedents on how to resolve hyperinflation in the world today. We understand that inflation is a price signal symptomatic of huge imbalances between the usage and availability of products and resources within the country. In that sense, inflation merely signals how much Zimbabwe has been impoverished by the profligacy of the previous government and the acute contraction of the Zimbabwean economy.
There’s not time to go into details here, but MDC policies will seek to reverse both these maladies by significantly reducing government’s claim on resources as well as goods and services. We intend to constitute a government with a smaller number of ministries. Our fiscal policies are deliberately biased towards assistance to the poor and economically vulnerable while at the same time ensuring adequate resources to resuscitate our all economic sectors. Economic empowerment of our black majority remains a high priority to build sustainable prosperity and stability.
Besides money, we will require the skills and ingenuity of our people as well as well-meaning foreign investment partners. Even with the greatest incentives possible, it will not be possible to mobilize our entrepreneurs and attract foreign ones without the restoration of the rule of law and the establishment of a credible government that is trusted by the people. For this reason the MDC has always considered its struggle for political freedom and civil liberties as part and parcel of the struggle for economic prosperity in Zimbabwe.
What kind of international help will be needed to reconstruct Zimbabwe?
It is first important to note that Zimbabwe has no desire to be dependent on foreign aid in any way. To help us out of this crisis, however, we will need four forms of financial assistance from the international community.
Firstly, immediately after forming our government, we will give priority to addressing the humanitarian crisis visited upon our people by the previous government through the mobilization of international aid to feed the hungry, as well as relocate and repatriate the geographically displaced. We will also require aid for the provision of basic infrastructure such the construction and rehabilitation of roads, the provision of primary education and healthcare, as well as to provide adequate inputs, infrastructure and water to agriculture in a bid to restore food security. Such assistance will go a long way towards restoring normalcy of life for the ordinary Zimbabwean citizen.
Secondly, we intend to convene a land commission to deal with the land problem once and for all. Since its inception, the MDC has had an unwavering commitment to a land reform programme that is not only non- partisan, equitable, just and lawful, but also does not dislocate agricultural production and productivity. For a variety of unfortunate reasons, Zimbabwe is still to have such a land reform programme. MDC’s urgent programme will require significant international assistance to provide compensation, rebuild the necessary infrastructure, agricultural finance, inputs as well as extension services.
Thirdly, we will require bilateral and multilateral soft loans to assist with the rehabilitation of key forms of infrastructure such as power generation, our railway system as well as aviation and also for the rehabilitation and retooling of the private sector. This financial assistance will be critical in creating an enabling environment for the recovery of the productive capacity of our economy.
Fourthly, we will need domestic and foreign private investment to foster the growth of the productive sector.
How did the violent attack you suffered in the last year affect you as a politician?
I am just one person amongst thousands who have been attacked by the regime for wanting change. Because of who I am though, my attack brought international attention to the similar or worse plight of thousands of voiceless people. One thing this attack did is make me realise how far this regime is prepared to go to hang on to power.
Do you consider you are now leader of a liberation movement?
Robert Mugabe was a liberation hero. He and others in ZANU and ZAPU liberated us from minority rule, and from colonial oppression. Now, however, we are in the tragic and ironic situation of having to liberate ourselves from the liberator. The people need to be freed again. To that extent, yes, we are a liberation movement, but a peaceful and democratic liberation movement. Different from the Mugabe regime, we will liberate ourselves with ballots, not bullets.
What message would you like to send to African leaders who have given Mugabe their support?
We all used to see Mugabe as a liberation hero, so naturally it is difficult for some to acknowledge the grave mistakes he has made since 1980. Still, the truth is, Mugabe is a liberator who has become an oppressor of his own people. Whilst respecting his contribution to our nation’s history, we know that a majority of African leaders want a peaceful, democratic, prosperous Zimbabwe, not a starving, unstable, inflation-ridden one with millions of citizens fleeing into their own countries.
Where does the MDC go from here?
I have been asked this question many times in the last few days as if the MDC has stopped and is deciding what to do next. Nothing could be further from the truth. From here we keep heading in the same direction that we always have, towards a democratic Zimbabwe. Since the people gave us this mandate when the party was first formed in September 1999, we have never altered course or lost site of the goal.
In parliament and town councils we will launch our Restore Hope Campaign to help rebuild the country. This legislative agenda has five components: 1) healing our nation; 2) restoring the people’s freedoms; 3) restoring the people’s dignity; 4) restoring basic services; and 5) restoring Zimbabwe to the family of nations.
Some of our political structures have been decimated by violence. We currently have 1,573 leaders and members shivering in Zimbabwe jails as political prisoners. One of our first priorities as a party is to free our political prisoners.
Why have you rejected calls to join a Government of National Unity – would you ever consider power sharing?
I and the MDC remain committed to negotiations to end the country’s crisis but these must be based on the March 29 result and must move towards a transitional agreement that would lead to a new constitution and fresh elections. Our commitment to a negotiated settlement is not about power-sharing or power deals but about democracy, justice, fairness and healing the divisions in our country. As we’ve stated before, these urgent talks must be brokered by an expanded AU-SADC mediation team.
Before dialogue is initiated, certain very basic conditions must be in place: Firstly, ZANU-PF must stop the violence against the people of Zimbabwe. The militia base camps must be disbanded. Political persecution must end, with all parties able to move freely, hold meetings and travel in and outside of Zimbabwe without hindrance or intimidation.
What is your message to the people of Zimbabwe and your supporters?
The victory of the people may be delayed but not denied. The will of the people shall prevail. These are not just political slogans. These are solemn commitments. The people of Zimbabwe have shown great courage, resolve and resilience. Millions are silent heroes. Thousands of others are less silent – bold Zimbabweans in civil society, the church and the business community – both within Zimbabwe and in the diaspora – who do not necessarily all support our party but who have bravely spoken out against violence and for the will of the people to be respected. Their selfless commitment to change must be acknowledged. Even facing personal threat, the Zimbabwean people keep believing in peaceful democratic change, yes, even as they are beaten by bicycle chains, iron rods and sticks. My message to these heroes is – your suffering is not in vain. We will finish it. We shall restore hope to our land.
What makes you most proud of being a Zimbabwean?
Despite the terrible atrocities inflicted upon them hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans refused to be cowed. Knowing that Mugabe would declare himself the winner of a sham election they made their protest by either marking the ballot in my favour or by spoiling their ballot paper. This form of silent protest when it is literally putting their life at risk says much about what is so great about the Zimbabwean people.
This magazine is sent to every elected Politician in Britain. Sum up your message to them.
My message to British politicians is the same as I would give to anyone in the world. The Zimbabwean crisis is not a complex one. It is not caused by decades of religious, ethnic or tribal hatred. It is caused by a small group of people that refuse to acknowledge that they have lost the support of the people and are hanging on to power. The Zimbabwean crisis can be solved and it can be solved soon. In the past decade we have been through some terrible times but the next two months are the most crucial in Zimbabwe’s recent history. When we launch our Restore Hope agenda in parliament, you will see the emergence of a New Zimbabwe – a post liberation democratic Zimbabwe.
What would you like to say to the rest of Africa?
The people of Zimbabwe will never forget the debt of gratitude that we owe to our African brothers and sisters who are standing by us in our time of need. Whilst our concern about President Mbeki is well known, we are heartened by the 2 July African Union resolution regarding expansion of the SADC mediation efforts to include the AU. We deeply appreciate the work of the Pan African Parliament, SADC and AU observer missions which each independently determined that the violent conditions of the 27 June one-man Presidential runoff made it impossible for the will of the Zimbabwean people to be expressed credibly, freely or fairly. Related to this, we appreciate that the AU thereafter took cognizance of the African observer missions’ conclusion that the last legitimate election held in Zimbabwe was therefore on 29 March. This is an example where African solutions are being found to African problems by courageous Africans who represent the great future of our continent.
12 Feb 2018 at 21:04
We debate the Oxfam scandal and ask if it undermines the case for international aid. Clue: No it doesn’t…
9 Feb 2018 at 20:38
This afternoon I did a two hour phone-in on the seemingly deteriorating relations between Michel Barnier and David Davis. My guest was Alastair Campbell. It developed into, well, quite a feisty encounter. I always enjoy interviewing Alastair. In this twelve minute interview he basically admitted that Jacob Rees-Mogg was right when he said that Britain faced becoming a ‘vassal state’ in a transition period.
9 Feb 2018 at 20:34
In Friday’s CNN Talk we discussed how the Winter Olympics might affect future relations between North and South Korea, and also North Korea’s relations with the United States.
9 Feb 2018 at 13:22
I’ve always liked Anna Soubry and I completely respect the fact that she holds very strong views on the European issue, which are in contract to my own. However, as an elected Conservative MP, you are a participant on politics, not a commentator on it. Her outburst on Newsnight, calling for so-called Hard Brexiteers like Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson to be slung out of the party was outrageous. Given that they are in tune with official party policy and the party membership, it was a ridiculous thing to say. Successful political parties are big-tent coalition, not narrow sects. Jacob Rees-Mogg, whatever you think of him or some of his views is just as much a Conservative as Anna Soubry. If the Labour Party can contain both John McDonnell and Chuka Umunna, I fail to see why both Anna and Jacob can’t belong in the Conservative Party. Given what she said to Newsnight and the next day on Good Morning Britain, I’d say it’s highly likely we will see Anna leaving the party at some point this year. It would be a crying shame given her talents and her ability to communicate on the media. I for one would regret her going, and so should even the most devout Eurosceptic. Openly divided parties do not win elections.
The language used by both sides on the Brexit debate seems to be hardening and coarsening. As a Brexiteer I have been described as “swivel-eyed”, “mad”, “a Eurosceptic wanker” and far worse. I have tried not to respond in kind and have a deliberate policy of not using the word ‘Remoaner’. But on Twitter, you’re wading through a terrible sewer at times. Just by retweeting and linking to an article on Brexit Central attracts all sorts of abuse. Three friends have told me this week that they have left Twitter because of the abuse. I may not be far behind them. If it weren’t for the fact that I need it for my job, and to market stuff I do, I would have probably jacked it in some time ago.
“I’d like to confirm I think crime is wrong.” Jeremy Corbyn at PMQs on Wednesday. We are grateful.
I’m not a great fan of historical apologies or posthumous pardons, and I think it is a fundamental misunderstanding of the cause of the suffragettes to even imagine that they would even want a pardon from the state for what they did. The fact that they achieved their aims and no one would want to turn the clock back is testament to their actions. Why would they want to be ‘forgiven’? On my radio show on Tuesday, when we spent an hour marking the hundredth anniversary of women’s suffrage I took some flak for saying that some people would describe some of the things the suffragettes did as terrorism. Many of their actions wouldn’t be classed as that, but surely some would, I suggested. After the show I got an email from a listener whose grandfather had been a judge in the Emmeline Pankhurst trial. This is what he wrote…
“I was interested to hear the refs to ‘terrorism’ on your show tonight especially since my ancestral cousin Sir Charles Montague Lush was the last judge to send Mrs E.Pankhurst down on the 3rd April, 1913 at London’s Central Criminal Court.
Mrs P. may not have lit the fuse herself when Lloyd-George’s residence was bombed in Feb. of that year but she was arrested for having ‘counselled and procured’ the perpetrators of the crime, a charge she denied. Mr Bodkin, acting for The Crown, then read out a letter written in her own hand saying that ‘if we don’t get what we want…the Government and the public will be bullied into giving us what we want…’
After receiving a verdict of guilty with a strong recommendation to mercy, ‘Montie’, in his summing up, declared that her crime was indeed ‘wicked because it not only leads to the destruction of property…but it may also expose other people to the danger of being maimed or even killed.’ But paying due regard to the jury’s recommendation, Montie, who had championed many causes celebres on behalf of women as a leading counsel, passed the minimum sentence of three years’ penal servitude as opposed to the maximum of fourteen years’ imprisonment.
Damage to property in this and other circumstances had certainly been carried out by an element of the suffragettes described by one of Mrs P’s biographers as ‘guerilla warfare’. I therefore refute any suggestion that there wasn’t an element of ‘terrorism’ present in the group’s activities.
Consequently, I would suggest that any notion of a pardon granted to those who, as you rightly pointed out, were long since dead and were sentenced according to the law of the land at that time in order to keep the public safe utterly absurd.
Yours sincerely, Charlie Lush
In amongst all the totally justified celebration of 100 years of women’s suffrage, we seem to have forgotten that it is also 100 years since working class men got the vote too. Isn’t it odd that the Labour Party in particular has made nothing of that?
6 Feb 2018 at 11:05
On our latest CNN Talk we discussed the political upheavals in South Africa and the closedown of TV stations in Kenya.