May 2010


Yesterday I wrote about the sophistry of certain Lib Dem MPs in defending David Laws; today, certain media commentators seem to have caught the bug – people like Matthew Parris in The Times, Julian Glover, and Michael White in The Guardian. I don’t know if this is because Westminster correspondents have decided to close ranks with the MPs in order to try and draw an line under the whole expenses affair (after all, this isn’t a party political matter: whilst Parris and Glover are Tory-boys, White clearly isn’t), but their attempts to downplay the extent of Laws’ culpability simply don’t pass muster.

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It’s been highly amusing and more than a little infuriating to see Liberal Democrat after Liberal Democrat contorting themselves into ever tightening knots of sophistry in order to explain away David Laws’ misdemeanor. Most laughable is the one put forward by the ever-risible Lembit Opik that this is simply a homophobic witch-hunt; most pathetic, the old saw that “he’d done nothing wrong”.

Well, yes he had because claiming 40 grand from the taxpayer to give to his partner is explicitly against the rules set out in 2006, and since taxpayers are rightly hopping mad about the whole expenses scandal it behoves the Liberal Democrats to wake up and realise they can no longer rely on their previous image of being cleaner than the others simply because…well, because they’re Liberal Democrats.

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So now we know the truth: the £6bn ‘efficiency savings’ the Tories promised before the election were calculated on the back of an envelope. It was clearly cooked up in the two weeks between the Budget and the announcement of the election, with the sole aim of giving the Tories some tactical room to attack Labour’s proposed rise in National Insurance contributions (aka ‘jobs tax’), whilst at the same time delivering a sleight of hand that would enable them to claim they were still serious about cutting the deficit without adverse consequences to ‘frontline’ public spending. Time and again during the leaders’ debates, when Gordon Brown accused the Tories of risking the recovery by cutting public expenditure this year, David Cameron responded by talking about ‘waste’ not ‘cuts’.

Well, the smoke has lifted and the lie is exposed. Whilst the Tories suggested that £1bn of savings could be found from efficiencies in government IT projects, the Treasury confirmed this week that the real figure would be £95 million – less than 10% of the figure claimed. Similarly the Tories suggested that £1bn of savings could be found by freezing civil service recruitment; the real figure will be £120 million, just over 10% of the saving claimed.

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The following is a response to Eric Kaufmann’s article ‘Europe’s Muslim Future’, which appeared the April 2010 issue of Prospect (issue 169).

The demographic threat of Europe’s growing Muslim population to its culture and identity is a dog-whistle trope in the many contemporary debates about Muslims, immigration, integration and multiculturalism: barely audible at mainstream frequencies, it nevertheless possesses a shrill power to to conjure up from the submerged depths of Europe’s collective unconscious all sorts of phantoms and fantasies about the Muslim ‘Other’. So Eric Kaufmann’s careful scrutiny and forensic demolition of the ‘Eurabian’ claims in April’s issue of Prospect was entirely welcome. Such claims invariably prey on ignorance and fear and wither when exposed to the cold light of fact and the illumination of rational analysis.

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