Most ordinary Australians are shocked that our immensely civilised country is reviled in polite society here and abroad, when the world has so many blatant human rights abusers. The latest accusation comes from a New York Times article complaining that our policies on asylum-seekers are harsh, insensitive, callous and even brutal, and urges European nations not to copy them. Yet the policies on border protection of Tony Abbott and John Howard before him should be a lesson to Britain.
[audioplayer src="http://rss.acast.com/viewfrom22/merkelstragicmistake/media.mp3" title="James Forsyth and Holly Baxter debate Merkel's offer to Syrian refugees" startat=38]
[/audioplayer]Of all the irresponsible decisions taken in recent years by European politicians, few will cause as much human misery as Angela Merkel’s plan to welcome Syrian refugees to Germany. Hailed as enlightened moral leadership, it is in fact the result of panic and muddled thinking.
In six months’ time, my son is due to attend an assessment day for a nursery. The details on the nursery’s website are deliberately sketchy — presumably to avoid parents coaching their children — but it seems to involve my son being observed while he plays and graded on the results of his burbling: it sounds very much like an interview. He is going to be two and a half.
It is easy to be satirical about a child going for an interview at the age of two and a half — his PowerPoint skills are not up to it; we haven’t arranged a single internship for him; he doesn’t have any particularly insightful questions to ask.
Would you open your home to a migrant child? If the reaction to the drowning of three-year-old Alan Kurdi is anything to go by, thousands of families across Britain are ready to welcome Syrian refugee children — including an impressive number of politicians. Bob Geldof has offered space for three families in one of his spare houses. Walking past the two empty beds in my spare room, I felt the same tug: why couldn’t those beds have two little heads nestling on the pillows, safe after years of horror? It’s the same instinct we feel when a toddler tumbles over on the street and his face crumples up into tears: we want to help, we want to hug.
A year has passed since Nicolas Sarkozy announced his return to frontline politics, and the political landscape in France is still recovering from the shock. His rivals for the leadership of the French right have watched while their cordially disliked ex-leader consistently outmanoeuvred them. They had made the mistake of believing in the sincerity of Sarko’s farewell speech in May 2012 when, following his defeat in the presidential election by François Hollande, he said: ‘From now on I will seek to serve my country in other spheres.
As a nation, we are learning to accept that our firemen are more and more redundant. The Fire Brigades Union fights austerity at every turn; its spokesmen say that every reduction in station numbers or jobs is a threat to public safety. One of their campaign posters even showed David Cameron and George Osborne alongside the words, ‘They slash. You burn.’
But the statistics undermine the union’s manipulative language of doom.
‘I want to die. Please help me.’
It was 2 a.m. in the good old days when patients had 24-hour cover by their own GPs. I knew Martin well. His bladder cancer had been diagnosed the year before, but more recently it had spread to the lymph nodes in his pelvis and he had run out of effective treatments. Martin had borne his illness with stoicism so far but on this night he was in terrible pain — both physical and existential.
Leptis Magna was deserted when I last visited — no wonder. Tourists daren’t visit Libya these days and so I had the ruins to myself. I climbed the steps of the vast Roman theatre, looked out to where the Wadi Lebda meets the sea, then stopped. Men with AK-47s. My immediate fear was that they were Islamic State. Isis move closer to Leptis Magna every day and it would make sense for this most spectacular site to be next on their hit list.
Whenever one of those news stories appears about how many pubs have been forced to close in the last year, I always think of George Orwell. He would have had the correct reaction: lots of pubs are forced to close because they’re terrible. Yes, the pub is a wonderful British institution, with a long and noble history — but that doesn’t mean that any individual pub has a God-given right to stay open forever.