Tory leaflet accuses government of committing a “saga of atrocities”

Conservatives forced to withdraw opportunistic leaflet targeted at Muslim voters.

The Tories have been left red-faced this morning after being forced to withdraw a leaflet, targeted at Muslim voters, which claims that the British government is responsible for a "whole saga of atrocities" in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In language reminiscent of George Galloway's Respect, the leaflet, distributed in Jack Straw's Blackburn constituency, also launches a crude and opportunistic attack on the Justice Secretary over his remarks on the veil.

It claims:

We should not forget that to day [sic] they are criticising our women's veil, tomorrow it will be our caps and our beards they will attack. What shall we do then? It is time to think before you vote.

The leaflet is perhaps most noteworthy for not making a single positive policy suggestion. Has David Cameron pledged to withdraw British troops from Afghanistan? Did the Tories do anything to prevent Israel's "inhuman killing" of men, women and children in Gaza? If the leaflet is intended to present the Tories as an anti-war party, it makes little sense.

If, however, it is simply intended to whip up tensions in the Muslim community in an attempt to "decapitate" Straw, then it makes perfect sense. This is electioneering of the most grubbby and cynical kind.

Were a Labour leaflet to suggest that British troops were responsible for a "saga of atrocities", it's not hard to imagine how the right-wing press would react. The Sun, for instance, would run a front-page splash accusing Labour of a grave insult to "our boys".

But can we expect to see such headlines tomorrow morning? Funnily enough, if I were you, I wouldn't hold my breath.

UPDATE: A Conservative spokesman has emailed me to say: "We completely disown this unauthorised leaflet. It does not represent the party or the candidate in Blackburn."

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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En français, s'il vous plaît! EU lead negotiator wants to talk Brexit in French

C'est très difficile. 

In November 2015, after the Paris attacks, Theresa May said: "Nous sommes solidaires avec vous, nous sommes tous ensemble." ("We are in solidarity with you, we are all together.")

But now the Prime Minister might have to brush up her French and take it to a much higher level.

Reuters reports the EU's lead Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, would like to hold the talks in French, not English (an EU spokeswoman said no official language had been agreed). 

As for the Home office? Aucun commentaire.

But on Twitter, British social media users are finding it all très amusant.

In the UK, foreign language teaching has suffered from years of neglect. The government may regret this now . . .

Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.