Guy Aitchison (London, OK): The Government has decided to sign up in full to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, according to the BBC. The Convention requires that in dealing with under 18s, states must make their "best interests" their primary consideration (rather than some social goal, say, like "national security"). For the past 17 years the UK has retained an opt-out allowing child migrants and asylum seekers to be locked up for months on end without any judicial scrutiny. This led to some very serious criticisms of the UK by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.
The decision by Government to change its mind on the issue comes after ministers reached the view that making the "best interests" rule apply to immigrant children would not compromise the UK's control of its borders. It is a welcome step towards a more just and humane immigration policy and - we can only hope - towards the understanding that human rights are universal and not simply a privilige of citizenship.
Tom Griffin (London, OK): The Said Business School has the week released a report based on the Broadcasting Britishness conference, which looked at the role of television and radio in shaping national identity back in June.
As historian Linda Colley noted in her keynote speech at the time, "the reasons why Britishness has come to seem more problematic are in fact many and various." The report's recommendations mainly focus on the need to help ethnic minorities 'strengthen their emotional bond with Britain.' One reason for this is a concern with social cohesion in a post 7/7 environment that was reflected in the contrasting experiences of two Muslim broadcasters at the conference:
John K. Hill (London): Passing my local shop last night and seeing a policeman with a handgun on his belt browsing the fruit was quite unsettling. Routinely arming the police is something I'm very strongly against, but feel powerless to resist (he, after all, had a gun). This situation brought together a few ideas that have been written about on OurKingdom in the last week.
Compared to the French, the British (or perhaps just the English) can be pretty passive when it comes to resisting the ever-encroaching police state. The lack of a public arena where people feel they can effectively resist the actions of the government means that people either become apathetic or find other ways to vent their discontent.
Guy Aitchison (London, OK): You may recall Anthony Barnett having some fun over the summer with a peculiar pamphlet on Britishness written by Liam Byrne, our Minister of State for Borders and Immigration. Byrne's description of his encounter with an "eloquent of lady of Edgbaston", who convinced him that we can learn to live together if only "we put our minds to it", provided the theme for OK's summer limerick competition, which attracted some eloquent entries of its own.
The Minister was clearly impressed with her words as they also form the springboard for the discussion of Britishness in his latest pamphlet, A More United Kingdom (pdf), published this week by Demos (it's quite long - you can also hear Byrne talk about the report in this Demos podcast). "In this remark", he says, "you hear captured the strong sense that the time is right for Britain as a country to do more to celebrate the things that we do have in common. A national day would be the perfect way."
The idea of a Britishness day was first touted by Byrne in a pamphlet (pdf) for the Fabian Society which he produced with Ruth Kelly. Published as Brown took power last year, it provided an early indication of what one of the central themes of his Governance of Britain agenda - and indeed his premiership - would be. Today, as the Brown agenda crumbles amidst economic disaster and backbench plotting, we have Byrne's latest proposals. They are the product of an eight-week-long journey around the country with his Home Office cohort in which he discussed with the public questions of immigration, identity and belonging.
Tom Griffin (London, OK): It looks like the Calman Commission may not be coming to England any time soon. According to an email from the Commission's Secretariat, a planned meeting in Berwick-upon-Tweed has been postponed.
it's not a first time that the body, established by a Labour/Liberal Democrat/Conservative alliance in the Scottish Parliament to consider the case for further devolution, has had this problem. Its first event in Scotland, an invitation-only public meeting planned for Stirling last month, was cancelled due to lack of interest.
At this rate, Calman will struggle to provide a credible alternative to the SNP's National Conversation. And yet the fact remains it is only the parties represented on the Commission who have the votes at Westminster to deliver further devolution.
What follows is a speech given by Henry Porter at the Lib Dem Conference Rally in Bournemouth, 13 Sept 2008.
On my return from holiday, at the beginning of this month, I was greeted by about 70 emails sent by my researcher. They were press clippings, excerpts from government papers and links to websites, all of them about some aspect of the attack on liberty. I sat down and went through them and truly I felt I was reading the obituary for our free society.
Absorbing so much at once has a distorting effect - we are not quite there, but we have only a very little time: very little time to save ourselves from the database state. I estimate that in two or three years it will be too late.
Tom Griffin (London, OK): As Gerry Hassan noted in his OK essay yesterday, the Scottish Labour leadership has been called 'the worst job in the world.' Today's events certainly haven't made it a more appealing prospect for Iain Gray:
Confirmation that Cairns had stood down as the Scotland Office minister of state came only 15 minutes before Gray unveiled his new frontbench team at Holyrood, to the glee of SNP MSPs and other opposition parties.
Tom Griffin (London, OK): Does Barack Obama's presidential campaign have lessons for the left in Britain? That's the question that the Fabian Society will be considering in an OurKingdom-supported debate at the Labour Party conference on Sunday.
Among the speakers will be Skills Minister David Lammy, who argued earlier this year (in a speech that is available as a podcast) that the US experience provides a model for involving a generation of young people who are socially aware but disengaged from party politics.
Anthony Barnett (London, OK): As Gerry Hassan points out in his recent post on the new Labour leader in the Scottish parliament, trading life stories is becoming mandatory, It's becoming a farce in the US, as a witty mail now circulating in cyberspace neatly and Obamaly illuminates. It has just been posted over in our sister blog, openUSA. Here's how it opens,
I'm a little confused. Let me see if I have this straight.....
* If you grow up in Hawaii, raised by your grandparents, you're "exotic, different."
* Grow up in Alaska eating mooseburgers, a quintessential American story.
“We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to state whether he recognises that England is a nation”.
Readers will doubtless have their own ideas concerning the value and purpose of such petitions, especially as those demanding impossible concessions (such as immediate independence for England) abound! However, this one is meant to strike at the real heart of the issue: before we can even address the question of whether England can or should have its own parliament or even independence, we need to establish what, and indeed whether, England actually is.
When Gordon Brown became Prime Minister, Northern Ireland was not uppermost in his mind. He inherited the St Andrew's Agreement as a result of Blair's scramble for a success story before he left office. While devolution has been restored it has not bedded down and if Gordon comes to call on Tuesday (as predicted) rather than talk about progress he will be faced with what Blair dealt with for a decade.
Tom Griffin (London, OK): It's been a remarkable couple of days. The weekend's attacks on Gordon Brown have left the Government looking weakened at the very moment when the credit crunch has taken a dramatic new turn with the demise of Lehman Brothers. Robert Peston has called it Wall Street's 'most extraordinary 24 hours since the late 1920s.'
The party politics may not be the most important angle in all of this, but for what it's worth, Labour looks ever more vulnerable to critiques like this one from Janet Daley in the Telegraph:
Tony Curzon Price (London, oD): Tim Duy has a great analysis of what the week-end teaches us about where we are with Lehman, Merrill, AIG etc. I think he is right that this is a signal from the US authorities that the socialisation of losses is over; that any taking-over of dud assets by the public will now go through Congress, and not through a technocratic nod-and-wink. The danger, as it has been for a year, is contagion to the real economy---when do firms providing real value find that either a) demand has fallen such that they have to cut back operations or b) that their own credit lines for working capital and investment programs are closed, and so have to cut back?
That danger still exists. Certainly, as banks find it harder and harder to satisfy regulators that they have enough capital to guarantee the loans they have made, they will cut back their lending. So far, the Fed has become banker-of-last-resort by allowing bonds and now even shares to be put up as guarantees for cash loans.
In any case, the week-end moves by the Fed mean that the music of time is picking up again. After 1 year of waiting, time-haltingly hoping, that the crisis would resolve itself, the regulator has called time-up. There may yet need to be large-scale public cash injections into the corporate sector to avoid deep depression. But this week-end shows the regulator has, at last, given up on hopes of self-repair. So adopt the pose of the surfer caught between breaking waves: take a deep breath and hope the turbulence of the breaking behemoth does not keep our economies trapped under for too long.
Iain Gray faces a daunting set of challenges as the new leader of the Labour Party in the Scottish Parliament. In an OurKingdom essay, Gerry Hassan asks whether the party could yet find a way forward, in Scotland and beyond, in challenging an unravelling global order.
Edvige would organise data on the religious, political and philosophical beliefs, ethnic background, sex lives and health of an estimated 1m-2m people. It would contain information about their families and relationships. That is more information than French people were comfortable with giving up. Opposition gathered quietly over the summer – quietly enough that President Nicolas Sarkozy seems to have been taken by surprise. Dozens of associations and unions and 140,000 petition-signers now demand that Edvige be scrapped or modified, and a day of mobilisation has been planned for October 16 in case it is not.
The petition now has over 166,000 supporters and has an English translation in Facebook. Caldwell descibes some of the larger forces at work. It seems clear that the transformation of the state which the British government has embarked upon under Brown is not unique. But here in the UK there is still a passive acceptance that 'they' can get away with it, perhaps rooted in our knowing in our hearts that we are subjects. Whereas across the Channel a shared sense of citizenship means the government is already on the retreat under a blizzard of protest with Cabinet members disagreeing with each in public over a fundamental issue of principle. If only...