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The Spectator podcast: Syrian nightmare

The Spectator podcast: Syrian nightmare
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The Syrian initiative to retake the last remaining rebel stronghold of Aleppo, following a two week ceasefire, has proved controversial in the international community. Images of children bloodied, bruised and painted with masonry dust have decorated the front pages of British newspapers, but is there anything that can help ease the pain of ‘Syria’s Guernica’? These are the issues raised in Paul Wood’s cover piece this week. Speaking to the podcast from Washington, he said:

"This has been going on for five years now and there have been surges from both sides. We happen to be in the middle of a surge by the regime attempting to take the last bit of rebel held Aleppo. I have a suspicion – which I have no evidence for – that the regime is worried about the US Presidential election and, if Hillary Clinton gets in, she has declared there will be a no-fly zone. All of this has huge implications for the regime which is only here today because, a year ago, the Russians decided to start bombing."

Former International Development minister Andrew Mitchell also told the podcast that:

"It is clear that the Russians, a Permanent Five member of the United Nations Security Council, is doing to the United Nations what the Germans and Italians did to the League of Nations in the 1930s. And the reason why the United Nations, in spite of a very clear responsibility to protect, is witnessing the slaughter, night after night, of completely innocent civilians in Aleppo, is because a rogue elephant – namely Russia – is pushing the international system over, refusing to abide by the most basic tenets of international law, and is committing war crimes."

On Sunday, Theresa May took to the main stage in Birmingham to announce that the UK would trigger Article 50 – the mechanism for exiting the European Union – by the end of March 2017. The decision has divided opinion, even amongst Conservatives, with some MPs warning against a so-called ‘Hard Brexit’. So how did Theresa May's big moment go down with the Conservative faithful? And was her first trip to conference as leader a success?

James Forsyth, calling in from Birmingham, says that:

"I think Theresa May has raised expectations with Tory eurosceptics of a clean break from the EU. She has said repeatedly that Britain did not leave the EU to hand back control over immigration policy, and that Britain outside the EU will also be outside the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. These have been taken as messages that indicate that Britain is going to leave both the European Customs Union and the single market."

Whilst Fraser Nelson says:

"She's trying to do what she ought to have done during the leadership campaign: introduce herself to her party, who I'm sure have known her but they don't really know what her personal politics are, and, of course, to the country. I think she did a fairly decent job of indicating, if not what she stands for then the direction that she intends to move. In newspaper terms she is far less The Times, far more the Daily Mail."

And finally: Back in November 2014, Brendan O’Neill wrote a Spectator cover story on the ‘Stepford Students’ who were taking over British campuses and filling them with comfortable political correctness. It’s almost two years later and how much has changed? Well, in his feature this week, Brendan celebrates the counter-movement that sprung up in his wake, writing that ‘these counter-Stepfords... carry the liberal flame’. Joining the podcast, Brendan says:

"There's a bit of a fightback against what I call the Stepford Students. Over the last few years, campus life has been colonised by these rather stiff, sad, joyless, little authoritarians, who no-platform controversial speakers, ban newspapers, and even ban pop songs if they think they're offensive to women. Real petty authoritarians who have taken over student life. But the good news is over the past two years or so there's been a real kick-back against that, so lots of students are now setting up free-speech societies, arguing against no-platform and demanding the right to be treated as adults."

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