Cameron is right to talk up Turkey's EU membership

The Tory right, and some in Labour, are getting Turkey’s human rights record the wrong way around.

David Cameron is currently in Turkey, encouraging trade links, amid speculation that the Prime Minister is in favour of Turkish membership of the European Union.

The very idea is being described as risking "fury on the Tory right", with the Conservative MEP Roger Helmer insisting: "British voters won't stand for Turkish membership -- nor will other EU states."

The argument is that the largely Islamic nation retains a poor and backward record on human rights. But this fails to take into account the revolutionary secularist movement that is struggling its way across Turkey, and the fact that only by entering the EU will Turkey be forced to instigate real reform.

And that is more important than retaining the "Christian" and white dominance of the EU, which remains the real motive of some who oppose Turkish membership.

James Macintyre is political correspondent for the New Statesman.
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PMQs review: Jeremy Corbyn bids for the NHS to rescue Labour

Ahead of tomorrow's by-elections, Corbyn damned Theresa May for putting the service in a "state of emergency".

Whenever Labour leaders are in trouble, they seek political refuge in the NHS. Jeremy Corbyn, whose party faces potential defeat in tomorrow’s Copeland and Stoke by-elections, upheld this iron law today. In the case of the former, Labour has already warned that “babies will die” as a result of the downgrading of the hospital. It is crude but it may yet prove effective (it worked for No to AV, after all).

In the chamber, Corbyn assailed May for cutting the number of hospital beds, worsening waiting times, under-funding social care and abolishing nursing bursaries. The Labour leader rose to a crescendo, damning the Prime Minister for putting the service in a “a state of emergency”. But his scattergun attack was too unfocused to much trouble May.

The Prime Minister came armed with attack lines, brandishing a quote from former health secretary Andy Burnham on cutting hospital beds and reminding Corbyn that Labour promised to spend less on the NHS at the last election (only Nixon can go to China). May was able to boast that the Tories were providing “more money” for the service (this is not, of course, the same as “enough”). Just as Corbyn echoed his predecessors, so the Prime Minister sounded like David Cameron circa 2013, declaring that she would not “take lessons” from the party that presided over the Mid-Staffs scandal and warning that Labour would “borrow and bankrupt” the economy.

It was a dubious charge from the party that has racked up ever-higher debt but a reliably potent one. Labour, however, will be satisfied that May was more comfortable debating the economy or attacking the Brown government, than she was defending the state of the NHS. In Copeland and Stoke, where Corbyn’s party has held power since 1935 and 1950, Labour must hope that the electorate are as respectful of tradition as its leader.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.