World powers met with representatives of the National Transitional Council in Paris this week to plan how to win the peace following the downfall of Gaddafi.
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• World powers met with representatives of the National Transitional Council in Paris this week to plan how to win the peace following the downfall of Gaddafi.
President Sarkozy called for “reconciliation and forgiveness” as key to winning the peace, though stressed Operation Unified Protector would continue to hunt down Gaddafi as long as he was a threat.
In response, NTC head Mustafa Abdel Jalil pledged there will be democratic elections and a new constitution within 18 months, promising to build a society “full of tolerance and the rule of law”.
Gaddafi done, the heat is being turned up on Syrian despot Bashar al-Assad, with the European Union today stepping up sanctions on the dictatorship with a ban on oil imports, sanctions the Dutch foreign minister says will “go straight to the heart of the regime”.
On the street, meanwhile, protests continue, as does the crackdown by the increasingly desperate Assad. Fourteen people are reported to have been killed in the latest clashes, with the United Nations saying 2,200 have lost their lives since mid-March.
So what of the chances of military action to take out Assad? Not for the foreseeable future it seems, with the ‘BRICS’ countries unwilling to give their support. Shashank Joshi, writing in today’s Telegraph, says Libya “could be the last place where the West is allowed to intervene”, that “the rising powers of China and India will not give NATO countries so much leeway in future”.
There is a case to be made, however, that as well as being the right thing to do, it is in the emerging powers’ interests to ‘step up to the plate’ and back any future liberations, providing financial and military support, one we’ll be making on Left Foot Forward on Monday.
• The tenth anniversary of 9/11 is nine days away.
To coincide, a major poll of how the US Muslim community perceive themselves and how they are perceived, carried out by the Pew Research Center, was published this week, with both worrying and encouraging findings.
As Tom Rouse reported on Left Foot Forward, 24 per cent of the population overall believe support for extremism is increasing amongst Muslim communities – with only 4% of Muslim Americans thinking so. When asked whether they saw support for extremism in their community, 21% said yes – half that of the general sample’s perception of it, which stood at 40%.
The most encouraging finding (page 4; graph) is that just one per cent of US Muslims polled say suicide bombing and other forms of violence against civilians are “often justified” to defend Islam – lower than any other state for which there is data – with only 2% “very favourable” and 3% “somewhat favourable” to al Qaeda, and 70% “very unfavourable” towards them, 12 points higher than in 2007.
As Rouse says:
“Although more work clearly needs to be done to break down the fears and prejudices of many Americans, this data provides welcome reassurance multiculturalism and the embracing of religious and racial diversity in the US is far from dead.”
There is more from the States, with the latest on the Presidential race, in our new “World outside Westminster” section below, and there will be more on the 9/11 anniversary next weekend on Left Foot Forward.
• Domestically, the debate on abortion was big in the news, with Tory MP Nadine Dorries seeking a change in the law.
On the face of it, Dorries appears ‘only’ to want to provide what she risibly claims in “more choice” for pregnant women by permitting them “independent relationship counselling” – horrendous enough on its own, when one considers what this actually means; the real threat to freedom, however, comes from her goal to step-by-step tighten the restrictions on abortion, ultimately leading to its banning.
Sunny Hundal at Liberal Conspiracy has more on the real reasons behind Dorries’s campaign, exposing her real views on the subject, and her real strategy for achieving her real goal, uncovering a revealing 2007 quote from her:
“On the pro-life side of the fence, the public takes little notice of those who want to abolish abortion. They are dismissed as extremists. If I were to argue that all abortions should be banned, the ethical discussions would go round in circles because one person’s opinion is as valid as another’s.
“My view is that the only way forward is to argue for a reduction in the time limit.”
On Left Foot Forward, we looked at some examples from the States where Dorries’s fellow fundamentalists are gradually restricting reproductive rights, and examined the costs and consequences of her proposals, while in the Guardian the excellent Zoe Williams wrote:
“There are two main problems with Nadine Dorries’s amendment to the health and social care bill: the first is that it looks innocuous. Who could object to independent counselling for women seeking abortions? It sounds so generous and caring, like getting free dental work when you’re pregnant.
“The second problem is that any discussion of the abortion amendment risks drawing fire away from the rest of the bill, which desecrates the NHS. There is no answer to that, apart from to carry on protesting against the whole thing. But back to Dorries’s amendment: it is not innocuous. The fact that it looks that way is critical to how dangerous it is…
“Every line – from the pro-choice intent and the slurs against BPAS and the RCOG, to the fake “independence” of the bodies waiting to take on this counselling – every element of these two amendments is mendacious. MPs who are pro-choice should be fighting harder, if not for women, then for their own credibility.
“Even MPs who are anti-abortion should consider if they can, in conscience, support an argument that has been so dishonestly made. To my mind, this is more dangerous to parliamentary process, and the reputation of politicians, than it is to women’s reproductive health. It’s grubby and it’s secretive: it’s backstreet politics.”
As Hundal says of Dorries:
“The other day Dorries said on her blog that the Guardian was “desperately trying to either paint me as, or link me to, some kind of religious fundamentalism” – it doesn’t need to… Dorries does it herself.”
Progressives of the week:
The Royal College of Nursing, who this week spoke out against the cuts to frontline NHS staff in Scotland, warning this of the consequences. The total headcount in the Scottish NHS fell 2.1 per cent between September 2010 and March 2011, with NHS workforce statistics estimating a 1.7% reduction in nursing and midwifery in the year from March 2011 to March 2012.
Read Ed Jacobs’s full report on Left Foot Forward here.
Regressive of the week:
Australia’s Labor PM Julia Gillard, lurching from one disaster to another, who this week saw her controversial policy to send asylum seekers – including unaccompanied children – to Malaysia while their claims were processed ruled illegal by the High Court. See our full report on Left Foot Forward here.
Evidence of the week:
Declan Gaffney’s blindingly brilliant analysis for Left Foot Forward taking apart the statistical sleights of hand the mad Right use to peddle myths about immigration.
Using the methodology the likes of Labour (yes, Labour!) MP Frank Field, and the Spectator’s Fraser Nelson use to claim “all our effing jobs are going to them bleedin immigunts”, Gaffney calculated that 219% of new jobs went to disabled people; yes, two hundred and nineteen per cent!
Read it in full on Left Foot Forward here.
The World Outside Westminster by The Grapevine’s Chris Tarquini:
The news dominating world politics is currently surrounding the United States Presidential election. With 44% approving and 50% disapproving of his job performance in the latest Gallup Daily poll President Obama is struggling to gain traction as the Republican primary rolls on.
The good news for the President, however, is that the most recent Gallup ‘Generic Ballot’ poll has Obama winning a contest with a ‘Generic Republican’ 45% to 39%, however it is clear that this will change as the nominee becomes obvious.
The other concern for the President’s re-election team is that while GOP frontrunner Governor Rick Perry storms ahead in the Republican polls ahead of his rivals Mitt Romney and Michelle Bachmann, the latest data from Rasmussen Report polling shows Perry winning a head to head contest against Obama, with the candidates gaining 44% to 41% respectively and 15% undecided.
The same report a week earlier had the numbers reversed, however Team Obama will be hoping this is something that will change. There is also the prospect that a potential Perry candidacy could bring out Obama’s progressive base in force against a man whose policies are seen widely as on the ideological right of even the Republican Party.
Canada was struck by the sad news of the passing of former New Democratic Party politician Jack Layton last week. Layton served as leader of the party between 2003 and mid-2011 when he stepped aside due to his health. He was widely seen as an important figure in the progressive movement as the Liberal party struggled to compete with the incumbent Conservative government.
Layton championed causes such as continuing universal health care and capping credit card rates to help reduce debt as well as famously busking on a street corner to raise funds for HIV/Aids sufferers in Africa.
Aside from fighting for noble causes he also attracted electoral success with a huge public approval rating and the achievement of making the New Democratic Party the main opposition to prime minister Harper’s Conservatives in the 2011 elections with just over 30% of the vote.
Two days before his death his family released an open letter from Layton that emotionally stated:
“My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”
Closer to home the previously scandal-ridden IMF chief and former French Socialist politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn has been discussed as a possible Presidential candidate for next year’s elections following the New York District Attorney’s move to withdraw the sexual assault charges against him last month, citing the unreliability of the complaint and a lack of solid evidence.
Strauss-Kahn, known as ‘DSK’ lost the battle for the Socialist nomination to Ségolène Royal in 2006 and is being tipped to be a serious candidate in the running to take on President Nicolas Sarkozy in April 2011.
However a number of media outlets have argued he has too much baggage and may be at best an ‘elder statesman’ in the nomination process, including Le Monde who argue the case “lifted the veil on aspects of his personality, his relations with women, and with money” and ended any possible candidacy for president.
In other news the Danish parliamentary elections are drawing closer and the Liberal-Conservative government is in trouble if the latest data is to be believed. After their leader and former prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen resigned to become Secretary General of NATO from the largest governing party, ‘Venstre’, the government called an election rather than naming a successor.
However, recent polling data shows centre-right Venstre behind the opposition Social Democrats 28% to 25% in the polls which if continued on election day could see the Social Democrats end almost ten years in opposition and the Danish people elect Helle Thorning-Schmidt, their first female prime minister.
Ed Jacobs’s Week Outside Westminster:
Delivering a speech to the David Hulme Institute on the future of devolution, Lib Dem Scottish secretary Michael Moore said it was time the SNP got “on with the job” of governing; see my earlier Left Foot Forward report for more.
The Barnett Formula and the thorny issue of how to pay for devolution reared its head again, meanwhile, as it emerged the government spent more than £1,600 per person more in Scotland than in England. Tory MP for Warrington South, David Mowat – a member of the Scottish affairs select committee – said his constituents had been “getting a raw deal” with more people now “starting to realise just how unfair the current system is”.
However The Herald’s Ian Bell responded:
“Reform Barnett by all means, if you can. Discard it, if that’s the choice. But don’t be surprised if each and every alternative serves only to demonstrate why Scotland is quite so valuable to the British state, and why the Treasury’s self-serving numbers fail to tell even the half the story.
“Take care, though: England might lose its subsidy.”
“A new chapter is opening for Plaid Cymru. Our task is to strengthen our country’s autonomy and economy, and to make the case to the people of Wales that our nation is better served by independence than dependence.”
Elsewhere, new figures from Stats Wales point to Wales being a step closer to becoming a sustainable nation with clear improvements in 19 of the 44 areas measured by sustainable development indicators – an increase on last year’s figure of 17.
Environment minister John Griffiths welcomed the good news but cautioned:
“There is still scope for improvement.”
The Consumer Council for Northern Ireland formally launched a campaign to reduce the cost of motor insurance in Northern Ireland after it was revealed motorists in the north pay, on average, 84% higher premiums than those in the rest of the UK.
“The fact that Northern Ireland is the biggest offender is however very disappointing and this, coming on the back of the recent female unemployment figures – the worst since 1988, is very concerning.”