Lord Pearson's anti-Muslim rant

Islamophobia and Ukip

Islamophobia and Ukip

I have blogged before about the odious Lord Pearson of Rannoch, the Ukip peer and front-runner for the leadership of that EU-obsessed party. But is Europe its only obsession? The Telegraph's Ed West says that "Lord Pearson told me that, if elected, he will make the threat of radical Islam the major focus" of the UK Independence Party.

Defenders of Pearson would argue that his fear is of Islamism, or "radical Islam", and not mainstream Islam as a whole, or all Muslims. However, this disingenuous defence falls apart on examination of this video on the News of the World website, in which the Ukip peer, aside from railing against the "growing threat of Islamism" and "the threat that faces us from violent Islam", argues that the Britain is under threat because "the Muslims are breeding ten times faster than us". He says: "I don't know at what point they reach such a number we are no longer able to resist the rest of their demands."

His true colours have been revealed. It is not "violent Islam" that exercises him; it is the presence of Muslims -- all Muslims! -- in Britain. And I'm sure I don't need to tell you that his alarmist and ill-informed predictions about the Muslim birthrate, and the demonising and dehumanising language ("breeding ten times faster than us"; "resist their demands"), mirror the language employed by the far right about the Jews in the 1920s and 1930s.

Even more sickening and depressing is that most of the commenters in the thread below the NoTW piece agree with Lord Pearson's outburst -- as I am sure they will below this post even here on the NS website. Islamophobia is alive and well in Great Britain!

Note: Before the Muslim-hating trolls in the blogosphere descend on this post to rant about my own video infamy, I would point you in the direction of this post, and this article, which make my own views quite clear.

Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the New Statesman and the co-author of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader. He was the New Statesman's senior editor (politics) from 2009-12.

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BHS is Theresa May’s big chance to reform capitalism – she’d better take it

Almost everyone is disgusted by the tale of BHS. 

Back in 2013, Theresa May gave a speech that might yet prove significant. In it, she declared: “Believing in free markets doesn’t mean we believe that anything goes.”

Capitalism wasn’t perfect, she continued: 

“Where it’s manifestly failing, where it’s losing public support, where it’s not helping to provide opportunity for all, we have to reform it.”

Three years on and just days into her premiership, May has the chance to be a reformist, thanks to one hell of an example of failing capitalism – BHS. 

The report from the Work and Pensions select committee was damning. Philip Green, the business tycoon, bought BHS and took more out than he put in. In a difficult environment, and without new investment, it began to bleed money. Green’s prize became a liability, and by 2014 he was desperate to get rid of it. He found a willing buyer, Paul Sutton, but the buyer had previously been convicted of fraud. So he sold it to Sutton’s former driver instead, for a quid. Yes, you read that right. He sold it to a crook’s driver for a quid.

This might all sound like a ludicrous but entertaining deal, if it wasn’t for the thousands of hapless BHS workers involved. One year later, the business collapsed, along with their job prospects. Not only that, but Green’s lack of attention to the pension fund meant their dreams of a comfortable retirement were now in jeopardy. 

The report called BHS “the unacceptable face of capitalism”. It concluded: 

"The truth is that a large proportion of those who have got rich or richer off the back of BHS are to blame. Sir Philip Green, Dominic Chappell and their respective directors, advisers and hangers-on are all culpable. 

“The tragedy is that those who have lost out are the ordinary employees and pensioners.”

May appears to agree. Her spokeswoman told journalists the PM would “look carefully” at policies to tackle “corporate irresponsibility”. 

She should take the opportunity.

Attempts to reshape capitalism are almost always blunted in practice. Corporations can make threats of their own. Think of Google’s sweetheart tax deals, banks’ excessive pay. Each time politicians tried to clamp down, there were threats of moving overseas. If the economy weakens in response to Brexit, the power to call the shots should tip more towards these companies. 

But this time, there will be few defenders of the BHS approach.

Firstly, the report's revelations about corporate governance damage many well-known brands, which are tarnished by association. Financial services firms will be just as keen as the public to avoid another BHS. Simon Walker, director general of the Institute of Directors, said that the circumstances of the collapse of BHS were “a blight on the reputation of British business”.

Secondly, the pensions issue will not go away. Neglected by Green until it was too late, the £571m hole in the BHS pension finances is extreme. But Tom McPhail from pensions firm Hargreaves Lansdown has warned there are thousands of other defined benefit schemes struggling with deficits. In the light of BHS, May has an opportunity to take an otherwise dusty issue – protections for workplace pensions - and place it top of the agenda. 

Thirdly, the BHS scandal is wreathed in the kind of opaque company structures loathed by voters on the left and right alike. The report found the Green family used private, offshore companies to direct the flow of money away from BHS, which made it in turn hard to investigate. The report stated: “These arrangements were designed to reduce tax bills. They have also had the effect of reducing levels of corporate transparency.”

BHS may have failed as a company, but its demise has succeeded in uniting the left and right. Trade unionists want more protection for workers; City boys are worried about their reputation; patriots mourn the death of a proud British company. May has a mandate to clean up capitalism - she should seize it.