I agree with David

The Prime Minister is right to push for Turkey’s membership of the European Union.

Just to follow on from James Macintyre's post yesterday, I wanted to praise the brilliant and strident speech that David Cameron delivered in Ankara today. He was right to say that the British government must remain the "strongest possible advocate" of Turkey's membership of the European Union and that it is "wrong to say Turkey can guard the camp but not be allowed to sit inside the tent".

My favourite part of the speech was when the Prime Minister tackled, head on, the "prejudiced" argument of Islamophobic opponents of Turkey's entry into the EU -- or, as he put it, "those who don't differentiate between real Islam and the extremist version".

Cameron said:

They don't understand the values that Islam shares with other religions like Christianity and Judaism that these are all inherently peaceful religions. Nor do they understand that Turkey is a peaceful country, with a long history of religious tolerance.

I will always argue that the values of real Islam are not incompatible with the values of Europe. That Europe is defined not by religion, but by values. The EU is a secular organisation. And Europe welcomes people of all faiths, or none.

Hear, hear!

UPDATE: I should also add that I completely agree (surprise, surprise!) with every word of this paragraph from Dave's speech as well:

Let me be clear. The Israeli attack on the Gaza flotilla was completely unacceptable. And I have told Prime Minister Netanyahu, we will expect the Israeli inquiry to be swift, transparent and rigorous. Let me also be clear that the situation in Gaza has to change. Humanitarian goods and people must flow in both directions. Gaza cannot and must not be allowed to remain a prison camp.

I'm not quite sure why Peter Hoskin over at Coffee House objects to the PM's use of such "provocative language" on the Middle East. You don't have to be a Hamas supporter to recognise that Gaza is indeed an open-air "prison camp", cut off from the outside world, and that the prison guards are the Israelis and their Egyptian allies.

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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The Fire Brigades Union reaffiliates to Labour - what does it mean?

Any union rejoining Labour will be welcomed by most in the party - but the impact on the party's internal politics will be smaller than you think.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has voted to reaffiliate to the Labour party, in what is seen as a boost to Jeremy Corbyn. What does it mean for Labour’s internal politics?

Firstly, technically, the FBU has never affliated before as they are notionally part of the civil service - however, following the firefighters' strike in 2004, they decisively broke with Labour.

The main impact will be felt on the floor of Labour party conference. Although the FBU’s membership – at around 38,000 – is too small to have a material effect on the outcome of votes themselves, it will change the tenor of the motions put before party conference.

The FBU’s leadership is not only to the left of most unions in the Trades Union Congress (TUC), it is more inclined to bring motions relating to foreign affairs than other unions with similar politics (it is more internationalist in focus than, say, the PCS, another union that may affiliate due to Corbyn’s leadership). Motions on Israel/Palestine, the nuclear deterrent, and other issues, will find more support from FBU delegates than it has from other affiliated trade unions.

In terms of the balance of power between the affiliated unions themselves, the FBU’s re-entry into Labour politics is unlikely to be much of a gamechanger. Trade union positions, elected by trade union delegates at conference, are unlikely to be moved leftwards by the reaffiliation of the FBU. Unite, the GMB, Unison and Usdaw are all large enough to all-but-guarantee themselves a seat around the NEC. Community, a small centrist union, has already lost its place on the NEC in favour of the bakers’ union, which is more aligned to Tom Watson than Jeremy Corbyn.

Matt Wrack, the FBU’s General Secretary, will be a genuine ally to Corbyn and John McDonnell. Len McCluskey and Dave Prentis were both bounced into endorsing Corbyn by their executives and did so less than wholeheartedly. Tim Roache, the newly-elected General Secretary of the GMB, has publicly supported Corbyn but is seen as a more moderate voice at the TUC. Only Dave Ward of the Communication Workers’ Union, who lent staff and resources to both Corbyn’s campaign team and to the parliamentary staff of Corbyn and McDonnell, is truly on side.

The impact of reaffiliation may be felt more keenly in local parties. The FBU’s membership looks small in real terms compared Unite and Unison have memberships of over a million, while the GMB and Usdaw are around the half-a-million mark, but is much more impressive when you consider that there are just 48,000 firefighters in Britain. This may make them more likely to participate in internal elections than other affiliated trade unionists, just 60,000 of whom voted in the Labour leadership election in 2015. However, it is worth noting that it is statistically unlikely most firefighters are Corbynites - those that are will mostly have already joined themselves. The affiliation, while a morale boost for many in the Labour party, is unlikely to prove as significant to the direction of the party as the outcome of Unison’s general secretary election or the struggle for power at the top of Unite in 2018. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.