I'm a quitter not a fighter

Carol Thatcher, Mormons and other stories...

Week in, week out since we relaunched newstatesman.com a couple of guys from the brilliant journalism school at Cardiff (where I went) have been doing a round-up of political blogs and it’s more than time I mentioned them in despatches. Owen Walker and Adam Haigh write on alternate weeks and are doing a first class job.

Anyway have a read of their entertaining, pithy summaries. If nothing else it’ll save you having to browse some of the more irritating offers out there in the blogosphere.

I know I keep banging on about our Faith Column but it really is a great feature of the website. This past week the fascinating insights of druid Damh. Next week Kathy Van Buskirk, from the Cherokee Nation talks about her religion. Coming up we’ve got another atheist, a Catholic and a Navajo.

Interestingly we’ve tried quite hard to get Mormons to blog but they don’t do it. A spokeswoman from the Mormon Church said all the information you could possibly want is on the Latter Day Saints (LDS) official website (notice I didn’t link). They don’t like people commenting, which is why they don’t like blogging…

Inspite of that we did find a young American woman to write about her conversion to the LDS from being a Southern Baptist but she mentioned it to her Mormon flatmates, they told her church and she got instructed not to proceed! Scary stuff. Almost Mandelsonian in its creepiness! Personally I couldn’t belong to an organisation that controlling. I’m a quitter not a fighter.

I was watching some TV the other night and had the appalling misfortune to come across Carol Thatcher. Now there’s no secret that nepotism is alive and well in world of the media – but ‘Mummy’s War’? Notice the date stamp on this blog entry in case you think I’m making it up! Yes that’s the daughter of Margaret ‘two million unemployed’s a nice number’ Thatcher if there was any question in your mind…

Now I’ve no idea what you think about the sinking of the General Belgrano, but seeing Miss Thatcher in a room with some of the mothers of the men that died on that ship was not a TV highpoint. “It was a war, we shot at you, you shot at us,” she said with the tone of someone who can’t understand the dreadful fuss.

The mothers had apparently misinterpreted the point of the meeting, erroneously thinking they might get some message from Mrs Thatcher – whom they claimed was a war criminal. Why set up a conversation like that? Well I suppose it gives the former prime minister’s daughter something to do. I wonder what Channel 4 will follow it up with - Mark Thatcher goes on safari in Africa?

If you go to Argentina and you’re British, the Falklands War does come up from time to time in conversation. But people weren’t hostile, in my experience, they were just curious to find out your point of view. In fact quite a few people I met believed passionately in Argentina’s sovereignty over the islands but also conceded the point that if they hadn’t lost the war their rotten, murderous dictatorship might not have crumbled quite as fast.

Whatever you think about the war, commissioning Carol Thatcher to front that programme was in excreable taste.

Ben Davies trained as a journalist after taking most of the 1990s off. Prior to joining the New Statesman he spent five years working as a politics reporter for the BBC News website. He lives in North London.
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We're running out of time to stop a hard Brexit - and the consequences are terrifying

Liam Fox has nothing to say and Labour has thrown the towel in. 

Another day goes past, and still we’re no clearer to finding out what Brexit really means. Today secretary of state for international trade, Liam Fox, was expected to use a speech to the World Trade Organisation to announce that the UK is on course to leave the EU’s single market, as reported earlier this week. But in a humiliating climb-down, he ended up saying very little at all except for vague platitudes about the UK being in favour of free trade.

At a moment when the business community is desperate for details about our future trading arrangements, the International Trade Secretary is saying one thing to the papers and another to our economic partners abroad. Not content with insulting British businesses by calling them fat and lazy, it seems Fox now wants to confuse them as well.

The Tory Government’s failure to spell out what Brexit really means is deeply damaging for our economy, jobs and global reputation. British industry is crying out for direction and for certainty about what lies ahead. Manufacturers and small businesses who rely on trade with Europe want to know whether Britain’s membership of the single market will be preserved. EU citizens living in Britain and all the UK nationals living in Europe want to know whether their right to free movement will be secured. But instead we have endless dithering from Theresa May and bitter divisions between the leading Brexiteers.

Meanwhile the Labour party appears to have thrown in the towel on Europe. This week, Labour chose not to even debate Brexit at their conference, while John McDonnell appeared to confirm he will not fight for Britain’s membership of the single market. And the re-election of Jeremy Corbyn, who hardly lifted a finger to keep us in Europe during the referendum, confirms the party is not set to change course any time soon.

That is not good enough. It’s clear a hard Brexit would hit the most deprived parts of Britain the hardest, decimating manufacturing in sectors like the car industry on which so many skilled jobs rely. The approach of the diehard eurosceptics would mean years of damaging uncertainty and barriers to trade with our biggest trading partners. While the likes of Liam Fox and boris Johnson would be busy travelling the world cobbling together trade deals from scratch, it would be communities back home who pay the price.

We are running out of time to stop a hard Brexit. Britain needs a strong, united opposition to this Tory Brexit Government, one that will fight for our membership of the single market and the jobs that depend on it. If Labour doesn’t fill this gap, the Liberal Democrats will.

Tim Farron is leader of the Liberal Democrats.