Turkey No Longer Respects Europe

Europe’s biggest failure vis-à-vis Turkey is another example of its unwillingness to face unwelcome truths: that whenever Islamists go into politics, they never turn out to be moderates.

EU leaders are now, belatedly, coming to realize that Erdogan is not their friend.


UK: Probe of Islamic Takeover Plot Widens

British authorities say they have widened their investigation into an alleged plot by Muslim fundamentalists to Islamize public schools in England and Wales.

The expanded probe now encompasses at least 25 schools in Birmingham, up from four initially. Investigators are also looking into new allegations that Muslim extremists have infiltrated schools in other British cities, including Bradford and Manchester.


Benedict Brogan – The Telegraph

Good morning. For a politician who has described his faith as a bit like the reception of Magic FM in the Chilterns – it comes in and out – David Cameron is showing a distinct religious streak. The Telegraph leads with “Cameron puts God back into politics”, and his intervention gets coverage in most of the papers (though inside, and less than I might have imagined). He has recently spoken about the importance of his Christianity and prayer, the peace he has found from the Eucharist, and now discusses his vision for a more active Christianity in Britain in an Easter article for the Church Times. We had imagined Mr Cameron as low-key CoE, but the fervour with which he has discussed “our Saviour” and – today – urged fellow Christians to be “more evangelical” about their faith reveals him as something altogether more muscular. Arguably, his faith is a private thing and so we cannot know what is in his heart. I suspect he is not quite ready to fall to his knees and pray with an American president, for example. But his approach is a striking departure from the “we don’t do God” policy imposed on Tony Blair (without a lot of success, it must be said) by Alastair Campbell.
There was a time of course when faith and Christianity were part of the everyday political discourse. Latterly, and to the often-expressed dismay of senior clerics from all faiths, the subject has been shunted out of the public square. Expressions of faith, or the depiction of Britain as a country not just of faith, but a specifically Christian one, have been frowned upon. The reasons are complex – a combination of militant political secularism, notably in the Labour party, and an anxiety about the growing numerical importance and militancy of other faiths. Politicians have learned to tread carefully, and those whose work is guided by their faith stand out.

Why is Mr Cameron speaking out? It does not follow, after all, that he should make public his private beliefs. We have learned to be sceptical of our politicians and that applies in this case. Could it be that Mr Cameron is anxious to counter the militancy of Christian leaders who have been attacking Government welfare policy? Cardinal Nichols did it this year for the Catholics; yesterday Anglican bishops criticised the growth in for banks. Could it be too that the Prime Minister is aware that part of Ukip’s appeal is based on a retro view of Britain? Burnishing his Church credentials speaks, perhaps, to the fears that immigration – Ukip’s big issue – is in some way diluting Britain’s Christian identity.

There is danger here for Mr Cameron. As our leader argues, “most voters do not want religion squeezed out of public life – but nor do they want to see it used for political purposes”. Mr Cameron must tread the line between speaking out for what he believes – good – and appearing to be playing the sectarian card for political advantage. We have been told to see everything the Conservatives do at the moment as being designed to maximise their vote in a tight election, and in particular to see off the threat from the right. They are particularly anxious to win back older, white voters who – coincidentally – are more likely to be preoccupied by thoughts of religion. If it’s a choice though, then better he says what he believes, and loudly. Voters can then decide whether they believe in him.

The Morning Briefing will be marking the holiday too, by taking a break. Back – with extra Tim Wigmore – on Tuesday. I wish all readers a most happy Easter.


The day after coverage of the economic numbers hasn’t worked out for Labour. It didn’t help that Ed Balls was discovered to have done a runner after bumping a car. The headlines about police investigations into his actions aren’t helpful, and everyone is making jokes about not giving Labour the keys to the car. I’ve summarised some of that on my blog. The FT says: “The challenges for Labour pile up – Miliband must say how he will improve the cost of living”: its gist is that Labour must work out an answer to a Government with a clear economic plan that is working. The Indy leader cautions – rightly – that there is a long way to go. The Mail raises Labour “frustrations” with Mr Balls, and the resulting crisis for the “Two Eds”. The Times – like the FT – evokes how yesterday saw two milestones reached (wages outpacing inflation, unemployment below 7pc).


In its lead the FT reports that major companies led by BP are lobbying ministers against Russian sanctions – what it calls a “barrage of corporate lobbying”. BP is among those to have told ministers that “they are at risk” if the EU decides to penalise Russia. “Are the member states united on this? No. Are they willing to die for Ukraine? I don’t think so,” a European official tells the paper. Our rolling courage is here.


The Times have had another go, but inside this time. Around a picture of a younger Mr Farage, they raise the question of £287,000 in “other” costs that are unaccounted for.


Ephraim Hardcastle relays Vince Cable’s account of the time he led a young woman in an “unruly jive” in Kiev, and was frogmarched out by “a couple of heavies”.


Austin Mitchell announced last night he will stand down as MP for Great Grimsby next year. He has served Labour for nearly 40 years. His seat is one of those in the North being eyed-up by Ukip, so poses a challenge to whoever Labour choses to succeed him.


Latest YouGov/Sun poll – Con 33%, Lab 39%, LD 9%, UKIP 11%


In the Telegraph

Harry de Quetteville – Twitter is the worst forum for expressing grief
Dan Hodges – Those exciting Labour policies you were waiting for? There aren’t any
Sue Cameron – Why should the innocent pay for justice?

Best of the rest

Martin Kettle – The UK is on shifting sands – we can’t assume survival
David Aaranovitch – Farage and Salmond want you to live in Outopia

Benedict Brogan – The Telegraph

Good morning. The Times has returned to the fray with Ukip and Nigel Farage. They lead with further revelations about expenses and his behaviour, and have more inside. “Ukip blocked questions of party’s EU funding” is the lead. It reports the claims of Delroy Young, “formerly Ukip’s only black executive”, who describes Mr Farage’s “habit of going berserk”, his shouting at colleagues and rows over proposed internal audits. Yesterday the Ukip leader accused the paper of politically motivated smears. His response was typically robust across the news channels. Rehearsing his wider strategy of presenting himself as an underdog and outsider, he said the Times was an Establishment paper working for David Cameron which had a record of taking on politicians – he named Lord Ashcroft – and then caving. There was plenty of action on Twitter and the blogs about the accuracy of the reports and the quality of the Times’ journalism.

How has it played? There’s plenty across the other papers, although it hasn’t turned up on the front pages. “Farage under attack” in the Mail, “EU can’t tell me how to spend it” in the Mirror, “Farage hits back…” (Indy), “Farage rejects…” (Guardian), “Farage faces inquiry…” (Telegraph) – you get the drift. The question is whether it is doing him any harm. The Times is doing its job with commendable thoroughness: Ukip has enjoyed a meteoric rise, but has had little scrutiny, certainly none comparable to what the main parties have endured.

Remember, Mr Farage promises a revolution in British politics. Well, with revolution comes the bit when counter-revolutionaries launch a counter-strike. He better get used to it, because there will be plenty more between now and 2015. Mr Farage can complain about the messenger all he likes, but he is smart enough to know that the only way through is to address the charges and deal with the facts. He has in the past acknowledged that in the far corners of his party there may be unexploded bombs. Its history is one of factions and rivalries, and so there are bound to be folk eager to come forward with what they say is evidence that might embarrass him. How Ukip copes under pressure this week and over the coming months will be a test of its mettle. But as I argued on my blog last night, Mr Farage seems to have something of the Boris Johnson about him: the markets have already priced in scandal. Mention women, or drink, or expenses in the same breath as Nigel Farage and no one reacts.”Farage in expenses scandal” is – with apologies to the Ukip leader – not a toast dropper. Which explains, I suspect, the vim with which he replied yesterday: he knows it.


Tricky moment today for the Government. Later this morning we get more evidence of the collapse of Labour’s economic policy – sorry, rise in wages in relation to prices. Expect the Treasury and the Government more widely to call the end to the “cost of living crisis”. Expect plenty of barely disguised triumphalism with it. Labour has already prepared the ground by arguing, as Ed Balls did yesterday, that the overall picture is still terrible and that most people will not have regained what they lost in the crisis. Our leader suggests Labour has painted itself into a corner – and is now running out of corner. The economic figures tell a separate political story, that of George Osborne’s recovery. As if to prove how dramatic the change in his fortunes is proving to be, even Simon Jenkins, writing in the Guardian, says he’s terrific – “his popularity is remarkable”. The Mirror, with a striking front page of a crying child under the headline “Shame of Condem cuts”, as well as the Independent and Guardian, try to counter the mood of celebration today by promoting on their front pages figures from the Trussell Trust on the growing reliance on food banks. But something tells me that won’t get much attention. Instead watch how the politics unfold today. Will the Treasury and Mr Osborne avoid the perils of complacency and self-congratulation? For some time there has been a clear sense that many Tories would like to mark the turning point in their fortunes. It would be a brave one to say that today is it.


Police anger at the appointment of retired terrorism officer Peter Clarke to investigate claims of Islamist entryism in Birmingham schools is across the papers. The story is rumbling rather than running hard, but the tone suggests a confrontation between senior policemen and the Education Secretary is inevitable. Mr Clarke is a respected figure – he was was given strong backing from Baroness Neville-Jones last night – but his appearance has infuriated the cops – the chief constable called it “desperately unfortunate” – and Birmingham politicians, who claim it will encourage fear that the city’s schools are indeed the target of extremists. The debate hinges on whether the evidence put forward is reliable. Mr Gove understands better than most ministers the importance of symbols as well as action. Here he has achieved both: he is doing what his duty as Education Secretary requires, while at the same time sending an unambiguous ideological signal about his views on extremism.


Steve Webb has given an interview to Money Mail in which he reveals that he gets by on cake for breakfast (terrible sweet tooth) AND for elevenses. He also praises Iain Duncan Smith for the “dedication” he showed as a former Tory leader by devoting himself to welfare reform rather than City directorships.


It was announced yesterday that Robert Hannigan is the new director of GCHQ. The FT has a bit of biographical detail, and at the Telegraph we’ve welcomed his appointment, saying he brings a fresh eye to the issue of the agency’s public profile in the wake of the Snowden revelations. Mr Hannigan has an impressive record in Northern Ireland and as a Downing Street security adviser. He is thoughtful and sharp, and the intelligent world will benefit from his calm confidence.


Downing Street loves to boast that it has finally got the Sun onside. So it will be thrilled, I’m sure, by the large pap photo of Dave recumbent on a Lanzarote beach oggling (sort of) the topless women alongside him. “PM eyes economic recovery”, the headline says, and a thought bubble over his head declares “The latest figures are looking good”. Downing Street also has a tradition of getting cross when the press runs pics of the boss it doesn’t like. Stand by.


Latest YouGov poll: Con 34%, Lab 37%, Ukip 13%; Lib Dems 10%


In the Telegraph

Con Coughlin – Scotland is the bedrock of Britain’s defences

Mary Riddell – Cameron will pay the price for alienating immigrants

Telegraph view – Miliband’s Labour is still stuck in the Brown era

Best of the rest

Paul Goodman – The great NHS showdown is coming. Soon

Jill Kirby – First win hearts and minds – then win elections

Simon Jenkins – How Osborne defied his stereotype and triumphed

British Woman May Face Execution in Iran for Insulting Islam

The notes from Dr. Azam’s medical journal include a crushed toe, broken fingers, missing fingernails, broken ribs, a skull fracture, severe abdominal bruising, marks of flogging on her back and feet [and] extensive damage to her genitals.

Dutch authorities expressed shock and sadness over her execution and cut off diplomatic relations with Iran for approximately 20 days.


This Is Why Drugs Are Bad. Oh My God!

The Toll of Drug Abuse.

Drug abuse is one of the biggest problems facing society today. Drug abuse can, in a matter of years, not only destroy someone’s whole life, but also their appearance, health, mental stability and intelligence. It seeps into every corner of life and demolishes it. If you need to scare someone off this terrible road, these rap sheets of drug abusers are a great way to do it, as they show the horrifying results in a very clear way, taking normal looking people and marking them forever as drug addicts.


Benedict Brogan – The Telegraph

Good morning. The defence of Scotland is the theme of the day. Philip Hammond will use a speech later to set out his argument against independence, focusing in particular on what will happen to Trident. He will say that protracted and costly negotiations will be necessary to remove Trident from its bases at Faslane and Coulport. His argument is previewed by Admiral Sir George Zambellis, the First Sea Lord, who uses an article in the Telegraph to set out his concerns for naval security if Scots vote for separation: his central point is that the two residual navies would be weaker than the current whole. And to reinforce the point a dozen former armed forces chiefs, including Air Chief Marshal Lord Stirrup and Gen Sir Mike Jackson, have written to Alex Salmond to caution that getting rid of Trident would infuriate allies and “cast a dark shadow over Scotland”. It’s all of a piece with the stark warning last week from Lord Robertson, the former Nato chief, who said Scottish independence would have a “cataclysmic” effect on the Atlantic alliance.

It has the feel of a concerted military campaign. But will it work? As is so often the case, the arguments being advanced seem to be based more on a complaint about the trouble Scottish independence would cause to the residual UK than potential harm to Scotland. Scotland may have a proud history of military achievement as a major, and disproportionately potent, part of the UK armed forces, but culturally and politically it has long given every sign of being uninterested in taking part in the geopolitical responsibilities that the British government has pursued. If London’s argument is that Britain will no longer be able to play a major role on the world stage, it may well find that Scotland is indifferent because, well, it doesn’t want to. To complain that rUK will be a lesser entity is hardly a compelling reason for Scots to stick with the current arrangements. Scotland may just choose to be a small, regional player on its own terms, rather than part of a more influential whole. The danger is that London is advancing an argument that sounds perilously as if it is complaining about the loss of a submarine base, aircraft carrier, training ground and source of effective mercenaries. Hardly a vote winner.

I’ve looked at Scotland in my column by the way, and the failings of the two main parties that are encouraging a sense of angst in the No campaign. I am struck by the uncertainty among Tories about what to expect this summer: will David Cameron get stuck in and lead from the front? Or will he leave it to Labour? Gordon Brown is about to publish a book and will step up his involvement. I argue that Mr Cameron should ignore the claims that his presence would be counter-productive, and take the fight to Scotland.


The Times leads with an investigation into Nigel Farage’s expenses. They detail how he has received £15,500 a year from the EU for the costs of his office in Bognor Regis, even though it is provided to him for free. He’s the subject of a complaint to the EU anti-fraud body OLAF from a former Ukip official who has claimed anonymity because of “physical threats” within the party. Mr Farage denies the claims naturally. What’s noteworthy is that the Times’ treatment is evidence of the kind of scrutiny he and the party can expect to see a lot of over the coming months. The question is whether, as with Boris Johnson, a number of complaints about Mr Farage and Ukip are already priced into the market, and will therefore have only negligible effect. “The truth about Ukip is slowly emerging” the Times says in its main leader. “Mr Farage is not an ordinary politician – he’s not that good”. How will he fare under this kind of pressure? Quite well, so far at least. A poll for the Independent meanwhile finds that 51pc of people surveyed say Ukip does not offer a realistic alternative for Britain.


The Guardian leads with a poll that puts Labour five points ahead, and the Tories down three despite the Budget. “Tories stumble in polls despite economy boost” it says. The numbers are: L37 T32 LD12 Ukip11. Today we get the inflation figures, and we expect wages to outpace prices once again. Ed Balls anticipates the criticism by urging us, in a piece in the Guardian, to ignore a “handful of statistics” and instead note that the answer to Ronald Reagan’s “are you better off” question will still be “no” next year, and that will help Labour. The Mail anticipates him too, with a leader that opens “One by one, like snowballs in the spring sunshine, Labour’s economic arguments against the Chancellor are melting away”. That’s as may be, but in this Easter week while everyone is away maybe we should consider this emerging theme: why is Labour still ahead?


The papers cover yesterday’s exchanges between Tony Blair and Nick Clegg over the Chilcot report. The former Prime Minister rejects the suggestion he attributes to the Lib Dem leader that he is blocking publication of the report on the Iraq war. So who is? The other person who keeps being mentioned in the reports as one of the politicians entitled to raise objections is Gordon Brown.


Sarah Wollaston has taken to the Telegraph to defend her self against accusations that she shopped Nigel Evans. In fairness Mr Evans, now cleared of the charges against him, says “I don’t blame her” and offers to meet her for a chat. But Dr Wollaston accuses senior figures of “turning a blind eye” to sexual harassment at Westminster. The Totnes MP says she is “truly shocked” by the “rank hostility” she has experienced from colleagues.


Just when the Foreign Office thought it had got relations with China back on track after the Dalai Lama business and Dave’s visit last year, the Guardian reports that the Chinese have cancelled this week’s bilateral human rights dialogue with Britain, claiming the UK has been making “irresponsible comments” and is interfering in China’s internal affairs. The row seems to stem from a proposed minute’s silence in memory of Cao Shunli, a Chinese activist who died in custody last month.

Nope, sorry, can’t quite manage it. Digging out links and fighting with this software is taking ages. But nothing’s happening, believe me. @TimWig is still on holiday.