Miliband: gaffe or ploy?

Friendly fire caught on video, the police state plus booing Brown

Many bloggers have put their views of tabloid journalism aside this week to recognise the superb work done by Tom Newton Dunn, defence editor at the Sun, by getting hold of a video so crucial to the inquest of the British soldier Matty Hull.Roy Greenslade said: “It was some leak and I foresee awards galore for the reporter in the coming year.”

But Donal Blaney thought: “The video has already now begun to be used by anti-war activists in Britain and elsewhere to fan the already dangerous flames of anti-Americanism.”

What also caught the attention of bloggers was a statement by Dr Mohammad Naseem who says Britain is moving towards a police state. This came after the release of two of the men arrested last week under the Terrorism Act in Birmingham.

At Leninology there is certainly agreement with Dr Naseem expressed again by Abu Bakr on Newsnight. But Rob Newman suggests this should be put in perspective because it is “offensive to people all over the world living in fear of their governments.” Does he have a point?

Liberal Review draws attention to, Dr Sumaya Alyusuf, the principal of King Fahad Academy, an Islamic school in London which was accused this week of teaching religious hatred.

A comment left on the blog asked: “Why should an otherwise useful text book be withdrawn on the basis of one chapter that is not used in the classroom?”

Schools Minister, Jim Knight, has ordered an inquiry to assess if the school promotes tolerance and harmony as it is legally required to do.

Ellee Seymour saw the importance of the debate in the House of Commons on Wednesday on the Freedom of Information Act. She says: “The Act has, in effect, been a victim of its own success - the government has had enough.”

An accurate analysis came from Martin Rosenbaum who raised a crucial point many are missing. Any defence of the Government’s proposal to charge people for the man hours needed to find a piece of information under the FOI Act does not address the larger issue.

The proposal to also include charging for time spent considering the exemptions and consulting others, is much more controversial and widely criticised than the suggestion to incorporate reading time.

Keeping you updated on all the latest FOI news is blogger, Steve Wood.

And I leave you with some news from the Environment Minister, David Miliband. On Question Time he said: "I bet in a year's time people will be calling for Tony Blair to come back and people will be booing Gordon Brown."

Caroline Hunt thinks it wasn't a 'gaffe' at all but: "an excusable slip to put the idea into people's brains that they should keep Blair for as long as possible." Sometimes people simply analyse too much. Or perhaps I should say not enough.

Adam Haigh studies on the postgraduate journalism diploma at Cardiff University. Last year he lived in Honduras and worked freelance for the newspaper, Honduras This Week.
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Is defeat in Stoke the beginning of the end for Paul Nuttall?

The Ukip leader was his party's unity candidate. But after his defeat in Stoke, the old divisions are beginning to show again

In a speech to Ukip’s spring conference in Bolton on February 17, the party’s once and probably future leader Nigel Farage laid down the gauntlet for his successor, Paul Nuttall. Stoke’s by-election was “fundamental” to the future of the party – and Nuttall had to win.
 
One week on, Nuttall has failed that test miserably and thrown the fundamental questions hanging over Ukip’s future into harsh relief. 

For all his bullish talk of supplanting Labour in its industrial heartlands, the Ukip leader only managed to increase the party’s vote share by 2.2 percentage points on 2015. This paltry increase came despite Stoke’s 70 per cent Brexit majority, and a media narrative that was, until the revelations around Nuttall and Hillsborough, talking the party’s chances up.
 
So what now for Nuttall? There is, for the time being, little chance of him resigning – and, in truth, few inside Ukip expected him to win. Nuttall was relying on two well-rehearsed lines as get-out-of-jail free cards very early on in the campaign. 

The first was that the seat was a lowly 72 on Ukip’s target list. The second was that he had been leader of party whose image had been tarnished by infighting both figurative and literal for all of 12 weeks – the real work of his project had yet to begin. 

The chances of that project ever succeeding were modest at the very best. After yesterday’s defeat, it looks even more unlikely. Nuttall had originally stated his intention to run in the likely by-election in Leigh, Greater Manchester, when Andy Burnham wins the Greater Manchester metro mayoralty as is expected in May (Wigan, the borough of which Leigh is part, voted 64 per cent for Brexit).

If he goes ahead and stands – which he may well do – he will have to overturn a Labour majority of over 14,000. That, even before the unedifying row over the veracity of his Hillsborough recollections, was always going to be a big challenge. If he goes for it and loses, his leadership – predicated as it is on his supposed ability to win votes in the north - will be dead in the water. 

Nuttall is not entirely to blame, but he is a big part of Ukip’s problem. I visited Stoke the day before The Guardian published its initial report on Nuttall’s Hillsborough claims, and even then Nuttall’s campaign manager admitted that he was unlikely to convince the “hard core” of Conservative voters to back him. 

There are manifold reasons for this, but chief among them is that Nuttall, despite his newfound love of tweed, is no Nigel Farage. Not only does he lack his name recognition and box office appeal, but the sad truth is that the Tory voters Ukip need to attract are much less likely to vote for a party led by a Scouser whose platform consists of reassuring working-class voters their NHS and benefits are safe.
 
It is Farage and his allies – most notably the party’s main donor Arron Banks – who hold the most power over Nuttall’s future. Banks, who Nuttall publicly disowned as a non-member after he said he was “sick to death” of people “milking” the Hillsborough disaster, said on the eve of the Stoke poll that Ukip had to “remain radical” if it wanted to keep receiving his money. Farage himself has said the party’s campaign ought to have been “clearer” on immigration. 

Senior party figures are already briefing against Nuttall and his team in the Telegraph, whose proprietors are chummy with the beer-swilling Farage-Banks axis. They deride him for his efforts to turn Ukip into “NiceKip” or “Nukip” in order to appeal to more women voters, and for the heavy-handedness of his pitch to Labour voters (“There were times when I wondered whether I’ve got a purple rosette or a red one on”, one told the paper). 

It is Nuttall’s policy advisers - the anti-Farage awkward squad of Suzanne Evans, MEP Patrick O’Flynn (who famously branded Farage "snarling, thin-skinned and aggressive") and former leadership candidate Lisa Duffy – come in for the harshest criticism. Herein lies the leader's almost impossible task. Despite having pitched to members as a unity candidate, the two sides’ visions for Ukip are irreconcilable – one urges him to emulate Trump (who Nuttall says he would not have voted for), and the other urges a more moderate tack. 

Endorsing his leader on Question Time last night, Ukip’s sole MP Douglas Carswell blamed the legacy of the party’s Tea Party-inspired 2015 general election campaign, which saw Farage complain about foreigners with HIV using the NHS in ITV’s leaders debate, for the party’s poor performance in Stoke. Others, such as MEP Bill Etheridge, say precisely the opposite – that Nuttall must be more like Farage. 

Neither side has yet called for Nuttall’s head. He insists he is “not going anywhere”. With his febrile party no stranger to abortive coup and counter-coup, he is unlikely to be the one who has the final say.