Marina's Labour lover revealed

Loving across the political spectrum, polar bears and selling stories to the Sun

Dear Marina,

I don't consider myself a huge animal lover. I do have a cat, but I also have a fur coat, and find it enormously irritating when those PETA people shoot me dirty looks when I wear it. But last week I came across hundreds of pictures of Knut, the adorable four-month-old polar bear, rejected by his mother and raised by a Berlin zoo keeper. After ogling over him, even I felt slightly nauseous looking at my white coat! Then I found it was an animal rights campaigner who said raising Knut raised by a human violated animal rights, hinting he should be put to sleep. I wasn't surprised hundreds of websites had popped up dedicated to saving him. Although it turns out he won't be killed, I keep wondering why a supposed supporter of animal rights set the world into a frenzy by saying a healthy polar bear should be put to sleep?

Miss Mink

Has the world gone knuts? With the Arctic icecap melting faster than a well sucked Fox's glacier mint, polar bears in the wild are drowning in icy waters or dying of starvation as their natural habitat dwindles. Around 8,000 (almost a third of the global polar bear population) are predicted to die in this way in the next 45 years.

Expect total extinction 50 years later. Knuts will have died of old age well before then. When he does shuffle off this mortal coil he can be stuffed and installed next to the dodo skeleton in the Natural History Museum.

The justification for putting the cutest furry wurry bear in the world to sleep is that he’d be happier because when the bars come between him and his keeper, Knuts will pine and die of a broken heart.

Hmmm. Alive in a zoo or dead in the water? Could someone send that animal rights campaigner a climate chaos brochure please.

Dear Marina,

While catching up on the latest gossip in the Daily Mirror and Sun, I was slightly more disturbed than usual when I found some of the British sailors freed last week had been allowed to share personal stories with the papers. Reading the details of the harrowing hostage situation juxtaposed with the latest celeb scandals just didn't sit right with me. Apparently now Blair and his ministers are wondering if they should have been more careful about letting the papers get hold of the stories. What do you think?

MT Slightly-Disturbed, Swindon

Maybe I’m just too caught up the local election campaign, doing my best to hold onto my seat against the Tory Party machine with its Blue Chip computerised election campaign and every gaga old dear in our nursing homes signed up for a postal vote. But really, I can’t imagine what Blair is fussing about.

At least these photogenic soldiers have genuine tales to tell. Unlike the lie peddling reports of weapons of mass destruction that led us into war with Iraq. Maybe that’s the problem. Blair’s so caught up in his own spin cycle he can no longer tell the difference between his dirty laundry and his bright whites.

Or is it that compared to what goes on in Guantanamo Bay - where eight UK residents are still detained - or the treatment of Iraqi prisoners by British soldiers, the Iranians, quite frankly are just not brutal enough. Poor Faye, being forced to wear a headscarf and play endless games of noughts and crosses with herself. I mean how is Blair supposed to prepare our nation for war when that’s the best the Iranians can come up with. No one even lost a finger nail.

But it’s not nice fearing you’re going to die. Which is a reasonable excuse for not signing up to the armed forces in the first place.

Hi Marina

,

It's interesting and stimulating to read your column. I have a problem; although I am a Liberal Democrat like you, I find Tory women more attractive. I had a relationship with one of Tim Renton's female staff some years ago and have loved one of your fellow Lewes District Councillors [name supplied] from afar for the last four frustrating years. Do you ever feel tempted by Tories, Marina? Has Bonker Boris ever tickled your fancy?

Love, Bob Brown, Seaford

Having examined the notches on my bed post, so to speak, I can honestly say I have never knowingly fancied or slept with a Conservative let alone sparked up a relationship with one.

I’ve always sailed closer to the wind of New Labour and can admit to a few cross party away plays. There was the night I found myself [censored by Marina’s election agent] in a [ditto] with the now Labour MP for [censored by Newstatesman lawyers], for instance.

Later that week he invited me for a dirty weekend in Brighton – handwritten and signed on House of Commons headed notepaper! Oh why did I not keep the letter? But that was the winter of 1996/7 as we plotted in Grouchos, united against a common enemy – the Tory government. There was everything to play for. Those were fun times.

But Tories? Even those with a more favourable gene pool than the bonking Johnsons of this world, can’t help but open their mouths to ask in blunt foghorn tones: “How much is this going to cost?” It’s bad enough in council meetings when the Liberal Democrats are concentrating on positive outcomes and value for money. But in the bedroom department it’s a turn off. Not to mention scandalous!

Right. I’ve wasted enough time on this silliness Councillor Brown. If you’ve run out of Focus leaflets to deliver in Seaford (you obviously have far too much time on your hands) you can come and help deliver mine. As for you fancying Councillor [name supplied], you couldn’t afford her. See you at full council.

PS: The letter might be in a trunk in my loft.

Marina Pepper is a former glamour model turned journalist, author, eco-campaigner and Lib Dem politician. A councillor and former Parliamentary candidate, she lives near Brighton with her two children.
Why not e-mail your problems to askmarina@newstatesman.co.uk?
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It's not WhatsApp that was at fault in the Westminster attacks. It's our prisons

Britain's criminal justice system neither deterred nor rehabilitated Khalid Masood, and may even have facilitated his radicalisation. 

The dust has settled, the evidence has been collected and the government has decided who is to blame for the attack on Westminster. That’s right, its WhatsApp and their end-to-end encryption of messages. Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, wants tech companies to install a backdoor into messages like these that the government can then access.

There are a couple of problems here, not least that Adrian Russell aka Khalid Masood was known to the security services but considered to be low-risk. Even if the government had had the ability to gain entry to his WhatsApp, they wouldn’t have used it. Then there’s the fact that end-to-end encryption doesn’t just protect criminals and terrorists – it protects users from criminals and terrorists. Any backdoor will be vulnerable to attack, not only from our own government and foreign powers, but by non-state actors including fraudsters, and other terrorists.

(I’m parking, also, the question of whether these are powers that should be handed to any government in perpetuity, particularly one in a country like Britain’s, where near-unchecked power is handed to the executive as long as it has a parliamentary majority.)

But the biggest problem is that there is an obvious area where government policy failed in the case of Masood: Britain’s prisons system.

Masood acted alone though it’s not yet clear if he was merely inspired by international jihadism – that is, he read news reports, watched their videos on social media and came up with the plan himself – or he was “enabled” – that is, he sought out and received help on how to plan his attack from the self-styled Islamic State.

But what we know for certain is that he was, as is a recurring feature of the “radicalisation journey”, in possession of a string of minor convictions from 1982 to 2002 and that he served jail time. As the point of having prisons is surely to deter both would-be offenders and rehabilitate its current occupants so they don’t offend again, Masood’s act of terror is an open-and-shut case of failure in the prison system. Not only he did prison fail to prevent him committing further crimes, he went on to commit one very major crime.  That he appears to have been radicalised in prison only compounds the failure.

The sad thing is that not so very long ago a Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice was thinking seriously about prison and re-offending. While there was room to critique some of Michael Gove’s solutions to that problem, they were all a hell of a lot better than “let’s ban WhatsApp”. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.