2015 general election

Nicky Morgan has no right to tell Orthodox Jews how to behave

Imagine if Education Secretary Nicky Morgan went into a mosque and told the praying blokes to put their shoes back on. Or if she bowled into a Catholic school and said: ‘The look of anguish on Christ’s face in that crucifix hanging on your wall could upset children. Please take it down.’ We would be outraged (I hope). We’d wonder what business it is of politicians to tell people how they may express their religious convictions. So why isn’t there more discomfort over Morgan’s launch of an investigation into a Jewish sect’s decree that women may not drive children to its schools? The Belz sect, which is ultra-Orthodox, runs two

Isabel Hardman

Human rights reform: will the Tories end up with the same bill but under a new name?

Number 10 has not given an official denial that David Cameron has ruled out pulling out of the European Convention on human rights, with the Prime Minister’s official spokeswoman today saying that the manifesto was ‘absolutely’ the best guide to the Prime Minister’s position on human rights reform. This is what the manifesto says on human rights: We will reform human rights law and our legal system We have stopped prisoners from having the vote, and have deported suspected terrorists such as Abu Qatada, despite all the problems created by Labour’s human rights laws. The next Conservative Government will scrap the Human Rights Act, and introduce a British Bill of

David Cameron must now lead a green Conservative government

Those on the left tend to think that British Conservatism is a derivative of US Republicanism. But environmental policy shows that it’s a far more pragmatic mix. The latest Conservative manifesto encompasses George W Bush’s marine conservation ambition and Obama’s selective interventions to raise the pace of clean technology innovation.  This partly reflects the fact that the environment is still a largely non-partisan issue in British politics, but also that Cameron has protected discreet space for Conservative modernisers to bring forward new green ideas. As one of them I’m pleased with the progress we’ve been able to make. The manifesto commits our party to making ‘almost every car a zero


Lucy Powell: the campaign genius behind the ‘Milibrand’ interview

Lucy Powell’s list of PR blunders reached epic proportions through the course of the election campaign, with the Labour campaign chief messing up several media appearances: However, Mr S understands that one of her biggest cock-ups remained unknown until this weekend. Writing in the Sunday Times, Tanya Gold revealed that it was Powell who helped organise Russell Brand’s much mocked interview with Ed Miliband. ‘The deal was brokered by Lucy Powell, the now equally discredited vice-chairman of the election campaign, and Mr Eddie Izzard.’ The interview attracted ridicule from all sides, and since the election a parody video of the romantic comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall, which stars Brand, has been made about the duo’s short-lived love

Cameron the cautious PM clashes with May and Gove over human rights

David Cameron is by instinct not a radical leader. We have another example of his preference to keep the boat steady in today’s Telegraph, which reports the Prime Minister has decided Britain won’t quit the European Convention on Human Rights, much to the chagrin of Theresa May and Michael Gove. Although the Conservative manifesto promised to make the British Supreme Court ‘the ultimate arbiter of human rights matters in the UK’, it did not explicitly mention leaving the convention. Gove and May believe that leaving the convention — as well as a much-discussed exit from the European Court of Human Rights — is the only way to fulfil this pledge. But the Prime Minister disagrees. A senior government source tells the paper:

One human right should not be able to extinguish another human right

The Human Rights Act (1998) has a big fan base. In legal, political and celebrity circles there is much enthusiasm for it. Yet the law is not giving us the rights and freedoms we need, because each right can be played off against another. We’ve been losing our human rights in the name of human rights. In the mid-nineties I began chronicling and campaigning for a right to free speech while challenging the Human Rights Act. I couldn’t understand why Britain, a country renowned for its tolerance, was clamping down on the right to free speech (Article 10) including what newspapers published, in the name of a right to privacy (Article

The two tightropes that Cameron must walk on Europe

David Cameron has to walk two tightropes on Europe, and at the same time too. The first is to negotiate a deal with other European leaders that satisfies the bulk of his Euro-sceptic party. If this was not difficult enough, simultaneously Cameron has to show voters that the European question isn’t consuming all of his government’s energies. For despite its importance, it still rankles relatively low on the public’s list of priorities. To address the latter point, I’m told that Cameron will make a major domestic policy announcement in the week of every EU summit in an effort to show that he is not taking his eyes off the home front.

Yvette Cooper makes coded attack on Liz Kendall for ‘swallowing’ the Tory manifesto

Yvette Cooper may lack some of Andy Burnham and Liz Kendall’s momentum but she remains a formidable opponent in the Labour leadership contest. On the Andrew Marr Show this morning, Cooper was quizzed on how enthusiastic she is for the job, given her late entry to the contest: ‘I want to make sure that Labour leads and wins again and I think I’m the right person to do that because I think I can be the strongest in terms of taking on David Cameron. I also think I will set out ideas for the future that don’t just involve swallowing the Tory manifesto and set out a Labour vision for the

Tim Farron interview: Lib Dems scared Tories off British Bill of Rights in the Queen’s Speech

I spotted the Liberal Democrat leadership candidate Tim Farron in a pub on Whitehall, enjoying half a pint of lager and nachos with fellow party activists after marching in defence of the Human Rights Act. He kindly agreed to speak to The Spectator and you can watch above what we discussed. As part of his leadership campaign, Farron, who remains the bookies’ favourite, has suggested the party must focus on particular campaigns and causes instead of acting like a traditional small political party. Human rights is one topic in particular he feels will motivate activists and believes that the party’s efforts so far helped to keep a British Bill of Rights out of the Queen’s Speech: ‘I think

Nigel Farage must take a front seat in the EU referendum — a response to Stuart Wheeler

How very tiresome it already is to hear arguments over the European Referendum campaign based not on numbers and facts, but on emotion, intuition, and partisanship. I would have thought that after Dan Hodges’s worst nightmare, politicos would be a bit more cautious about their predictions. Ukip’s former treasurer, Stuart Wheeler, doesn’t seem to have received the memo. I’m not Wheeler-bashing. He has done a great number of things for Ukip and the Eurosceptic movement over his career. But in his piece entitled, ‘Nigel Farage cannot lead the Out campaign‘, he makes a very dangerous intervention — one that is also championed by Ukip’s turbulent priest Douglas Carswell and his puppet

Why the Tories will probably get away with defence cuts

On election night, between the exit poll suggesting the Conservatives would be back in a coalition government and the slow realisation that they were heading for a majority, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon was heard remarking to colleagues that the UK might just end up maintaining defence spending at 2 per cent of GDP after all. He was banking, for a few hours anyway, on the DUP playing enough of a role in the formation of the next government that the Tories would have to commit to maintaining spending at that level – the target set by Nato and endorsed by David Cameron – in order to bring Nigel Dodds and


Ben Harris-Quinney suspended from Conservative party

Earlier this month Ben Harris-Quinney stepped down as the chairman of the Bow Group, following internal frictions over the Conservative think tank’s partial Ukip endorsement ahead of the election. Now Harris-Quinney, who was elected as a Tory councillor earlier this month, has been suspended from the Conservative Party. In an email circulated to staff, a Conservative spokesman reveals the suspension is pending an investigation into the circumstances in which he joined the party ahead of running as a council candidate: ‘Ben Harris-Quinney has been suspended from the Party with immediate effect pending an urgent investigation by the Disciplinary Committee on behalf of the Board. The investigation will also cover the circumstances in which he was able

Alex Massie

The SNP is a party happy to pursue the wrong policies ‘for the right reasons’

Of course, as the SNP keep reminding us, this year’s general election had nothing to do with advancing the case for independence. Besides, please, you must remember there’s much more to the party than its thirst for national liberation. Any suggestion to the contrary is quite deplorable. Which is fine, I suppose, as far as these things go. Unfortunately these things do not go very far. If you doubt this, ask yourself this question: would the SNP advocate, far less pursue, any policy it thought likely to hinder the drive towards independence? Helpfully – for us, if not for the party leadership – this question was answered by Kenny MacAskill earlier this week.

The Europhiles need to act soon — or lose momentum to the sceptics

Who will speak up for Britain’s relationship with Europe? Even those abroad have noticed that the recent talk from the government and pressure groups has all been tinged with Euroscepticism. During David Cameron’s visit to France yesterday, the French foreign minister Laurent Fabius said he was unhappy with this attitude: ‘I find this process quite dangerous … The British population has got used to being repeatedly told: ‘Europe is a bad thing’, and the day they are asked to decide, the risk is that they will say well you told us: ‘Europe is a bad thing’.” Fabius went on to use a football analogy to describe Britain’s behaviour: ‘One can’t join a football club and

Andy Burnham’s barmy online army

Andy Burnham’s campaign has ensured he remains the current favourite to be the next Labour leader. Part of his nascent leadership campaign is an online army of fans who are promoting his cause and attacking his opponents. Twitter and Facebook are going to be key battlegrounds for each of the contenders — offering an easy way to spread a message without the filter of the media. Naturally, Burnham’s campaign has an official Twitter account: @Andy4Leader. As far as I can see, this is the only official account associated with Burnham’s campaign. The account has 1,421 and mostly retweets favourable news from others about Burnham. On May 13, it posted this

Labour could U-turn on the benefit cap

The most striking aspect of Labour’s response to the Queen’s Speech yesterday was that it is ‘sympathetic’ to the Tory plan to lower the £26,000 benefit cap for workless households to £23,000. This is a policy position that Harriet Harman developed after some discussion with the rest of the party as she prepared to respond to the Speech. The party is well aware that it struggled to respond well to the introduction of that cap in 2010, and that given it ended up being one of the most popular policies pollsters have ever touched, it can’t make the same mistake again. But what’s interesting is that not all leadership candidates

Douglas Murray

Liberty’s ‘Human Rights’ campaign uses luvvies to spread misinformation

Does anybody else remember life in Britain before the year 2000?  Despite the distressing increase in the number of walking, talking human beings one meets who were born since the millennium, there must be some other people who remember those times.  Yet what a picture of that era is now being painted. Take the incredibly glitzy and celeb-driven campaign currently running thanks to the campaign group ‘Liberty’.  No less a site than The Spectator has run the ads. And understandably so. For they are not only well-funded but feature the icons of our time.  Each video consists of a star like Benedict Cumberbatch, Simon Callow or Vanessa Redgrave reading out

Isabel Hardman

George Galloway’s presence will spice up the London mayoral campaign

George Galloway’s announcement on Twitter this afternoon that he is standing for London Mayor hasn’t surprised many, given he suggested he would do so before he even lost his seat as Respect MP for Bradford West. But it is still significant because it means that there will now be a fierce left-wing force splitting the Labour vote in London, even though the party does have an impressive line-up of big names bidding for the candidacy. One thing is clear: Galloway won’t make the campaign any more boring. He is a magnificent orator, and easily recognisable, too, which helps in any contest, but especially in a London fight that follows Boris