I don’t often agree with Baronness Warsi: our politics are too different in almost every respect; but, credit where it is due, she gave a brave speech some weeks ago denouncing how prejudice against Muslims had passed the dinner table test and become acceptable in a way other prejudices are not.

So it is disappointing that the Prime Minster’s speech to a security conference in Munich today will further legitimise such prejudices by its illogical, incoherent and contradictory attempt to define “acceptable” and “unacceptable” Muslims not according to their propensity to use violent and criminal means to achieve their political ends, but according to some calculus of cultural proximity or otherwise to some putative (and mythical) set of ‘British’ values – in other words, according to how culturally similar or different ‘they’ are from ‘us’.

As with much else, Cameron’s claim that this marks a radical departure from the previous government’s ‘fear and muddled thinking by backing a state-sponsored form of multiculturalism,’ is a rhetorical ruse which obscures the reality of continuity, for the hallmarks of the previous government’s approach were to blame multiculturalism for creating ‘segregated communities’ that did not share ‘British values’ of liberalism, tolerance and equality etc., etc. They too sought to define ‘moderate’ (good, acceptable) versus ‘extremist’ (bad, unacceptable) Muslims using ‘British values’ and other nebulous terms such as ‘way of life’ as yardsticks. If this were university assignment Cameron would be hauled up for plagiarism.

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Some decent articles appeared in the run up to the long-awaited Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) which collectively throw light on both the politics and economics of it all. First up, Jonathan Freedland in The Guardian, writing about how Labour really needs to take on the Coalition’s attempt to pin the blame on them for the ‘economic mess’, and that the deficit is all the fault of profligate Labour spending. According to the Budget 2007, the structural deficit stood at just 3% of GDP before the recession struck; now it is 11%. In other words, prior to the recession it was relatively low by historical standards – as Ed Balls pointed out earlier in the summer, Britain went into the recession with ‘the lowest net debt of any large G7 country’, and this is a matter of fact not interpretation. Indeed, using the Treasury’s figures, the accusation that Labour wildly overspent in office just does not add up: public spending during the previous period of Tory rule was higher in all but 4 of the 18 years they were in office than at any point during 1997-2007 (the four years in question being the boom years after the ‘Big Bang’ deregulation of the City, that period satirised by Harry Enfield’s ‘Loadsamoney’, 1988-1991).

This is the basis for the first of Freedland’s two killer points. If Labour’s public spending was so wildly out of control, why did Cameron’s Tories (back in his hug-a-hoodie, quality-of-life days) promise to match Labour’s spending plans almost pound for pound? The answer is that clearly it wasn’t. This means, of course, that the size of the deficit now is largely down to the recession and the fiscal stimulus package that prevented disaster turning into catastrophe. Without it, it is likely that recession would have turned into depression, but somehow the Coalition spin machine has successfully managed to make it appear that the medicine was the disease.

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