Countries and leaders across Europe have reacted differently to the migrant and refugee crisis. Notable amongst these reactions has been that of the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Orban has adopted a hard-line stance towards the migrants and refugees and has refused to cave in amidst political pressure and adopt a more conciliatory tone and take in more people.
The Hungarian government have defended their position in a number of ways. However in all of the reporting there were some comments that particularly caught my attention. Orban has claimed that the influx of Muslim refugees poses a threat to Europe’s Christian identity and has argued that he was defending European Christianity. As a Christian, I feel the need to challenge these remarks and question whether Orban can really make this claim.
Claiming to want to keep a country or an area ‘Christian’ has become a common defence for many on the anti-migration Right for a while now. It is code for wanting to keep a country the same and not entertain change of any sort, including welcoming people from different backgrounds. It is based on a fear that everything is moving too quickly and that things were better in the past. This has little to do with the Christian faith and more to do with a political mind-set. It is a mechanism politicians will hide behind to conceal their true motives and feelings.
The Bible is very clear about how we are to treat the vulnerable and refugees. The Bible commands us to love our neighbour and show hospitality to strangers. These principles are further expanded on in a number of Jesus’ parables. On top of this God’s chosen people, the Jewish race were refugees and Jesus, the Son of God was also a refugee when He was born. The Bible leaves little room for debate in this area.
In difficult situations and scenarios, politicians will use all sorts of excuses to justify their position and make their stance seem more palatable. On this occasion though, this defence won’t wash. Orban is a democratically elected politician and does have the mandate to act on behalf of the Hungarian people and will have reasons for his position. However he does not have the mandate to claim he is acting on behalf of the Christian faith, especially when his principles are so contrary to what the Bible teaches. There is nothing Christian about what the Hungarian Prime Minister and government are doing, and that needs to be made clear.
In his Labour leadership speech Jeremy Corbyn re-confirmed his opposition to renewing Trident and to nuclear weapons as a whole. Furthermore Corbyn has also ruled out ever using nuclear weapons if he was elected Prime Minister and has stated his desire for a nuclear free world. This position has been well known for a while and is by no means unique in the Labour Party or in the Commons. However is there any realistic chance the government should or could consider scrapping Trident?
The first role of any government is to protect its citizens. This means being ready to respond in times of trouble and to potential attacks. The chances of a nuclear attack remain low, but we do live in an unpredictable world and therefore the prospect can never totally be ruled out. Bearing this in mind it would appear irresponsible to strip Britain of its capacity to respond.
Britain is not the only country which has nuclear weapons. Numerous countries all over the world have nuclear weapons, some with differing aims to others. There also remain other countries and groups who are seeking to gain this ability. This highlights how the desire for a nuclear free world is out of our control. It is fanciful to believe that in the current environment, countries would be prepared to disarm and that a nuclear free world is a distinct possibility.
Politically this position would also be considered a liability. It is not a move which would be popular with either the press or the country and a political party would be punished if they adopted such a position. This is another consideration which makes it unlikely that any serious political party would push ahead with this stance and is a reason why Labour have refused to have this debate this week.
The ideal of a nuclear free world is a great ideal to have. Nuclear weapons are a barbaric creation and do not represent humanity in a positive light. The idea of a future without them would be great. However it is simply not realistic. The unpredictability of the world ensures many countries will never disarm and therefore Britain will not either. This is a case where realism trumps idealism and on that basis Trident and nuclear weapons are here to stay.
On Sunday during a range of interviews Chancellor George Osborne appeared to prepare the ground for another vote on military action in Syria. In the light of the growing refugee crisis, the government sees military action (bombing campaign, rather than boots on the ground!) against Assad and IS in Syria as a way of dealing with this crisis and creating a more sustainable environment in Syria.
The situation in Syria and Britain’s response has caused much debate for the last few years. In the last parliamentary term David Cameron and the coalition government famously lost a vote on Syria. However since then Cameron and the Conservatives have won an overall majority and may feel with the deteriorating situation in Syria they are now in a stronger position to win the vote. This will enable Cameron to be clearer about his aims and may push previously sceptical MPs onto his side.
Cameron was previously outmanoeuvred by Ed Miliband and will be anxious to avoid a similar situation with the new Labour leader this time. Corbyn is odds-on to win the Labour leadership race and is famous for his anti-war position and is therefore unlikely to back further military involvement. There is though still a strong strand of libertarian interventionism in the Labour Party and a number of Labour MPs may still be willing to vote with the government. Jeremy Corbyn is also unlikely to garner the same sense of loyalty as Ed Miliband, increasing the chance of a bigger rebellion against him.
This is not the only issue though as Cameron will also struggle to carry his whole parliamentary party with him as well. Previously Tory rebels voted against the plans and helped to defeat the government. This problem is unlikely to have gone away. The big question is whether the number of Tory rebels is bigger than the number of Labour MPs willing to support action.
The government has been exploring this option for a while now, but has been tentative about putting forward any definitive plans. The fact this is now being pretty strongly floated across the media shows the government now plans to force a vote in the next few weeks and are confident they now have the votes. Another vote is inevitable and this time Cameron and the government will win this vote. There will be Tory rebels, but there will be more Labour MPs willing to support the government. This will give Cameron the majority he needs.
Europe is in the midst of one of the gravest humanitarian crises’ of recent years. Thousands of refugees are entering Europe on a monthly basis, many of whom are coming from war torn countries further afield such as Syria. Currently Britain has only taken 216 refugees from Syria, leading to widespread criticism that the country should be doing more. This appears to have fallen on deaf ears though with David Cameron indicating a change in policy is not likely.
The first key distinction to make is that refugees are not the same as economic migrants. Refugees do not leave their country for economic purposes but move due to concerns about human rights and safety. Therefore although these issues are often intertwined, it is important to note the differences between a refugee and a migrant.
According to recent polls migration is now the biggest issue of concern to voters in the UK. The powerful anti-migration lobby in this country led by certain aspects of the right wing press has created quite a storm about migration in recent weeks with several misleading headlines. The refugee crisis appears to have got lost in this and the government appear scared about what the reaction would be should they take in more refugees.
Other countries in Europe are therefore bearing the brunt of this crisis. This is not fair or acceptable. A suitable agreement should have been reached across Europe that each country would take their fair share of refugees and there should be ongoing conversations on this issue. Local councils across the country have been stepping forward in recent days offering to take more refugees in an effort to put pressure on the government, but the reality is that it should not have reached this stage.
The government is right to state that taking in more and more refugees on a permanent basis is not the long term solution. In the long term there needs to be diplomatic and political solutions in the countries the refugees are fleeing from. However this is a long term process and in the short term these refugees need to be housed and looked after, hence the need for Britain to take more refugees.
The British government does have a duty to do more. These refugees are coming from horrific situations where they are fleeing for their lives. All countries have a responsibility to step up and help out. This includes Britain. Our response has been pitiful and needs to change. It is time for our government to lead.
If you believe the polls and bookmakers (which many won’t!) Jeremy Corbyn is well on his way to winning the Labour leadership race. This has caused widespread anxiety amongst many Labour MPs and there are already talks of immediate coups and challenges to Corbyn should he win. There seems to be a common wisdom that if Corbyn is elected Labour leader he will not last five years and will not be the Labour leader come the 2020 election. However this does not necessarily stack up with the evidence.
Corbyn is on track not just to scrape home, but to win an overwhelming victory possibly in the first round of voting. This would give Corbyn an incredible mandate and would lead to questions about whether the party has the authority to get rid of him. In a future contest there would also be nothing to stop Corbyn putting his name forward again and possibly winning again, rendering any challenge to his leadership meaningless.
Historically Labour does not remove leaders, even unpopular leaders. We have seen that in recent years when Labour have gone into elections with Ed Miliband and Gordon Brown. It would be a big change in strategy if Labour suddenly decided that now was the time to start removing leaders in between elections.
Everyone also seems to be taking for granted that Corbyn will do badly electorally. What happens if Corbyn does better than people expect. If Corbyn does well in local elections and Scottish elections in Holyrood then there would be no reason to remove him. During the mid-terms there is also the potential for a bounce towards the opposition party which may cloud just how well Corbyn is actually doing and lull those on the Labour side into a false sense of security.
Firstly there was the idea that Corbyn could not win, that idea has quickly faded. Secondly there is the idea that if Corbyn does win, he cannot survive. This too for me is questionable. It is not too hard to see a set of circumstances where Corbyn does survive for five years. This could be disastrous for the Labour Party but may just be a scenario they need to get used to.
Labour’s leadership contest, considered bland and uninteresting for so long has been brought to life by the success of Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn’s popularity has grown amongst the grassroots of the Labour Party and recent polls have even put him ahead in the contest.
Many theories have been given for Corbyn’s success, but the strongest appears to be that none of the other candidates have put forward a compelling case. Liz Kendall had a strong start to the campaign, but has since fallen away and is no longer a serious contender, leaving the Blairite wing of the party isolated. Yvette Cooper has come across as competent, but unexciting and there are still doubts over where she stands on certain issues. Andy Burnham remains the frontrunner in the contest but has been weakened by his flip-flopping on the welfare bill and has failed to build on his position.
Looking at these candidates and their performances so far, many ordinary Labour Party members may feel sceptical about whether any of them could win an election. Although a significant proportion of the Labour Party had their doubts about Tony Blair and where he stood on the political spectrum, he was considered a winner and a Prime Minister in waiting and this helped to ease their fears. In this contest there is no candidate who fits this description and therefore the desire to back a candidate more politically aligned to the traditional values of the Labour Party may be tempting.
Jeremy Corbyn has stood out in this race because of clear positioning and ability to give straight answers to straight questions. The political values he espouses may not be considered electorally viable but are certainly clear cut. His romantic and nostalgic version of what the Labour Party should be is very appealing to many on the Left of the party. Corbyn is winning people’s hearts and when there is no candidate who can win people’s heads, this is a distinct advantage.
A strong candidate in the Labour leadership race would have blunted the appeal of Corbyn. A candidate who could unite the party and could win an election would have brought all sections of the party together. It is to the detriment of the Labour Party that no such candidate exists or has chosen to enter the race and that there is a very real prospect Corbyn could win.
Iran recently reached a deal with Western powers on the country’s nuclear programme. This caused wild celebrations on the streets of Tehran and among ordinary Iranian citizens and came after long negotiations. However the agreement has not been universally popular and has its fair share of critics as well.
The deal stated billions of dollars of sanctions would be lifted and in exchange for these sanctions being lifted, 98% of Iran’s stock-pile of weapons grade uranium would be destroyed, making the path to a nuclear weapon more difficult. These reforms would give Iran greater control over their economy and would allow the country to trade with the rest of the world.
The loudest critics of this deal have been the Republican Party in America who claimed this deal legitimized the Iranian government and that Iran could not be trusted and the Israeli government who are fearful of a stronger Iran. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was very strong saying this was a mistake of historic proportions and that Iran is going to receive a sure path to nuclear weapons.
Iran does have a questionable track record and therefore questions do have to be asked about trust. Despite being brought to the negotiating table, they have shown no desire to change their position on Israel and still refuse Israel’s right to exist. This should have been made a focal point of any negotiations. Until this changes they will always remain a threat to Israel and the more powerful they become which this deal will ensure the stronger the threat they will be.
Iran has always had a difficult relationship with the West. Therefore it is admirable that Iran has been brought to the negotiating table. However that does not justify a potentially bad deal or mean that any deal is better than no deal. Parts of this deal remain unsavoury and therefore Israel has every right to be angry with the agreement.
A few weeks ago Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras reached an agreement with other Eurozone leaders over a third Greek bailout. This came after weeks of drama and protracted negotiations and has involved Greece making several concessions. However in accepting these terms many believe Tsipras has sold his country short and failed to act on what his voters demanded.
Tsipras was elected Prime Minister when the Syriza party won the Greek elections in 2014. The Syriza party were elected on a left wing manifesto which promised to be anti-austerity and stand up for the people of Greece in Europe. This anti-austerity position was given further weight when the Greek people decisively voted No in a recent referendum.
When a government is elected, regardless of the country they are elected in and the situation they face or inherit they are elected on a certain manifesto. This is the contract they make with their electors. On occasions a political party may have to change direction slightly from the manifesto, but a complete about turn does led to questions about legitimacy, especially when a political party knows the situation they will inherit.
This is not a debate about economics, it is a debate about democracy. There is a strong argument to say that because of this deal Greece and the Greek people will be in a far better position, however this is not what their voters voted for. A political party cannot be elected on a manifesto and then turn its back on the main tenants of that manifesto. It must have the confidence of its beliefs even in the most difficult of times.
The situation in Greece is complex and there is no easy solution. Regardless of whether an agreement had been reached or there had been no agreement, it is likely there would have been howls of anguish and claims of treachery. On this occasion though these claims are perfectly fair and Tsipras now faces a challenge to keep his party and country united in the midst of many harsh austerity reforms.
Jeb Bush has recently announced that he will run for President. In doing so he has raised the possibility of America electing their third Bush, with Jeb following in the path of his father and his brother.
In an ideal world, each politician would be judged on their policies and record rather than the more superficial elements. However in reality, this is not always the case. The surname Bush has become synonymous with some of America’s most controversial contributions to the world in recent times, notably the War on Terror and invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Therefore it would be naïve to believe this is not going to be a hindrance for Jeb, even though he is a different man to his father and brother.
The road to the White House will not be easy for Jeb. He first has to win the nomination from the Republican Party. Currently this race is very open and many candidates have put themselves forward, including a number of younger candidates who will be arguing the need for change and will be seeking to gain an advantage in any way they. This may include cynical and tactical attacks on Jeb. The Republican Party is also divided into numerous factions highlighted by the rise of the Tea Party, making it hard for any candidate to gain universal support across the party.
If Jeb successfully won the Republican nomination, he would then have to beat the Democratic candidate. In all likelihood this is going to be Hillary Clinton. Hillary has many strengths and will run a strong campaign, but her presence may actually enhance Jeb’s chances. The surname Clinton in American politics also carries some baggage and Hillary too will face many of the same questions Jeb will have to face. This could nullify the effectiveness of any Democratic attack in this regard.
The race for the Presidency is only at its very earliest stages and there are still some candidates who may yet declare. There is a lot still too happen and it is too early for any predictions to be made. Jeb has many barriers to overcome in the race, of which his name is one. Whether or not this will be critical to his chances is open to discussion!
In the last week we have seen the horrific actions of the group who call themselves the ‘Islamic State’. The horrific scenes in Tunisia have underlined the barbaric nature of this group and the threat they pose to Western ideals and beliefs.
There is much debate about how we in Britain and the West in general should respond to these attacks. One debate which has been raging is about how we should refer to the group, with David Cameron in particular expressing disappointment that the BBC are still referring to them as the ’Islamic State’, believing this legitimizes the group as ‘Islamic’.
The actions of this group cannot be ignored and do need to be reported on and therefore there has to be a suitable way to label them. However there is also a responsibility not to aid the group or increase their appeal by giving them unwanted or unneeded appeal.
With many young Muslims from across the world being attracted to this group, it would be foolish to believe there is not an ongoing propaganda battle happening here. By directly referring to the group as ‘Islamic’ we are adding to the romance of the movement and increasing their appeal and handing them another success.
This group does not represent Islam or Islamic values. The majority of Muslims are appalled by their actions and have been quick to condemn them. By referring to them in this current manner we strengthen the perception that the group is ‘Islamic’ when in reality this is simply being used as a cover to hide their grotesque actions.
There have been signs in the last few days that some of the broadcasters may be willing to change their position on this topic. This would be very welcome and would only be beneficial. Our task is to fight this group in any way we can and that includes limiting their appeal and legitimacy. By not referring to them as ‘Islamic’ we would do this and in this battle every small victory matters.