Michael Gove by Dan Murrell
Show Hide image

Commons Confidential: Red Mike runs from his past

Meanwhile the Beeb is under fire for alleged pro-Farage bias in election reporting.  

Wailing is audible in No 10 after Vince Cable limped home from China, the Business Secretary having suffered severe collateral damage in his friend Matthew Oakeshott’s suicide bombing. My Downing Street snout whispered that the Conservative machine was banking on Cable replacing David Cameron’s playmate Nick Clegg as leader of the Liberal Democrats.

Cable is disliked by Cameron and hated by George Osborne, the Tory pair complaining that the Labour-leaning Vince isn’t a coalition team player. Yet both willed him to get the top job. The Cons calculated that Cable – a former member of the Labour Party, adviser to John Smith and contributor to the 1975 Red Paper on Scotland, edited by Gordon Brown – is the Lib Dem best placed to win back Yellow Peril votes from Labour. The No 10 plot to revive the Lib Dems as a Ukip of the left was another victim of Oakeshott’s secret polling.

 

The BBC’s political editor, Nick Robinson, has, I hear, lost his sense of humour over complaints (1,200 and counting) that Auntie’s coverage of the council and European election results was biased in favour of Nigel Farage. The leader of the Purple Shirts did appear to chalk up the Beeb as a Ukip gain and it was a curious local authority “earthquake” when the party’s share of the vote fell 6 points on the previous May to 17 per cent.

Robbo is an old pro and bridles at accusations that he isn’t objective, especially when lefties resurrect his national chairmanship of the Young Conservatives in Thatcher’s heyday. He took umbrage at a Martin Rowson cartoon in the Guardian of him calling the Ukrainian elections for Ukip despite Farage winning no votes. Rowson was disappointed that the BBC man’s email wasn’t a request to buy the original. 

 

Michael Gove is citing a prior engagement to avoid revisiting the scene of his unruly “Red Mike” union militancy. The Tory Education Secretary is unlikely, I was informed, to attend the 25th-anniversary strike reunion of journalists on Aberdeen’s Press and Journal in October. During the dispute, Red Mike was, as this column has disclosed, bundled into the back of a police van after throwing a traffic cone from a viaduct on to Union Street, the Granite City’s main thoroughfare. Oh, the irony that, in his current incarnation, he lectures teachers on how to behave in classrooms.

 

A visitor to the Victoria Street lair of the business minister Michael Fallon was surprised to see a poster of Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady. Fallon is a Thatcherite and the film charted Maggie’s struggle with dementia and the powerlessness of physical frailty. My snout wondered if Fallon had actually seen the film.

 

Congratulations to Joe Dromey, son of Jack and Harriet Harman. Elected a Labour councillor in Lewisham, Dromey Jr went straight into the cabinet. Which is more than his MP dad did.

Kevin Maguire is the associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror

Kevin Maguire is Associate Editor (Politics) on the Daily Mirror and author of our Commons Confidential column on the high politics and low life in Westminster. An award-winning journalist, he is in frequent demand on television and radio and co-authored a book on great parliamentary scandals. He was formerly Chief Reporter on the Guardian and Labour Correspondent on the Daily Telegraph.

This article first appeared in the 04 June 2014 issue of the New Statesman, 100 days to save Great Britain

Getty
Show Hide image

The government has quietly shut the door on vulnerable child refugees

The government has tried to halt the Dubs Amendment, a scheme designed to save thousands of vulnerable child refugees.  

The "Dubs Amendment" to the Immigration Bill of last year, in which the government begrudgingly promised to accept 3,000 unaccompanied child refugees from other countries in Europe, was halted this month after only 350 children had been admitted.

It has since become absolutely clear that the government is wriggling out of its obligation to accept child refugees, shutting the door on the most vulnerable. 

The amendment was named after my Labour colleague in the House of Lords. Alfred Dubs, who grew up in Britain and was saved from the hands of the German Nazi regime by Nicholas Winton, who rescued 669 children virtually single-handedly from Czechoslovakia.

The decision – announced at a time when the media was mainly concentrating on Brexit - has since been the source of much outcry both within Parliament and beyond. People across Britain are clear that the government must end these efforts to prevent refugees arriving here, and this is not who we as a society are.

Labour simply cannot accept the government’s decision, which seems to breach the spirit of the law passed with cross-party support. I have challenged Home Secretary Amber Rudd on the issue. 

The government's actions have also been criticised by Yvette Cooper, who heads Labour’s refugee task force and the Home Affairs select committee, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, who called it “a clear dereliction of the UK’s moral and global duty”. 

Then at the recent Bafta awards, a number of those in attendance including the actor Viggo Mortensen, also wore lapel badges reading “Dubs now”.

And we have seen more than 200 high-profile public figures including Ralph Fiennes, Keira Knightley, Sir Mark Rylance, Gary Lineker, Michael Morpurgo and the band Coldplay write to Theresa May calling on her government not to close the scheme, decrying the decision as “truly shameful” and adding that “the country we know and love is better than this". 

As the letter states, it is embarrassing, that this government cannot match even Winton’s total. As his own daughter put it in her letter to the Prime Minister, “I know we can’t take in every unaccompanied child in Europe, but I suppose there was a sense when the government accepted the Dubs Amendment that they would make a bigger contribution than they have.”

We need to be clear that where safe and legal routes are blocked for these children, they are left with a terrible choice between train tracks on the one hand, and people traffickers on the other. These children have been identified as the most vulnerable in the world, including girls without parents, who are susceptible to sex traffickers.

The government’s decision is particularly disappointing in that we know that many local authorities across Britain, which assume responsibility for the children once they are admitted to the country, are willing to accept more refugees.

Yet the public outcry shows we can still force a change.

Interestingly, former Conservative minister Nicky Morgan has argued that: “Britain has always been a global, outward-facing country as well as being compassionate to those who need our help most. The Conservative party now needs to demonstrate that combination in our approach to issues such as the Dubs children.”

Let’s keep the pressure up on this vital issue. The internationally agreed principles and the Dubs Amendment were never conceived as a “one-off” - they should continue to commit to meeting their international treaty obligations and our own laws.

And on our part, Labour commits to meeting the obligations of the Dubs Amendment. We will restore the scheme and accept some of the most vulnerable children in the world.

 

Diane Abbott is Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, and shadow home secretary. She was previously shadow secretary for health.