Tens of thousands of people fled Iraq's city of Mosul after it was overrun by IS. Photo: Getty
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Conservatives are pushing for stronger laws to face the threat from Islamic State

How the Communications Data Bill is intended to tackle Islamic State.

There can't be much doubt left for Brits. The threat of evil terrorist group Islamic State (IS) is closer to home than we thought.

Only a few days ago, we read about a chilling plot to carry out a gruesome beheading. Not in Syria, and not in Iraq, where we have witnessed with horror in bloody detail what this involves. No, this was a terror plot to attack Londoners, here on British soil. And it was foiled by Britain's Police and security services at the last minute. Our Home Secretary Theresa May could not have been clearer, when she told us this week: the threat to the UK is perhaps greater than it has ever been.

Millions of families will be reassured, therefore, to hear about the government's new laws to tackle these evil extremists. Incredibly, more than 500 Brits have already travelled to Syria and Iraq: many of them to fight for IS. They have made a choice to join that evil organisation. And their choice must have consequences. This is why Conservative ministers are bringing in new rules:
 

1)      Tough new powers to control our borders, to confiscate passports from suspected terrorists, preventing them from travelling to fight for IS.

2)     New exclusion orders, to ensure that British terrorists in Syria and Iraq are only allowed home on our terms - rather than just being nodded through automatically.
 

Schools and universities will play their part too. New "counter-radicalisation" measures are in our Bill. These will help to protect our children from corruption and brainwashing tactics – helping to keep them at home, safe, where they belong.

IS cannot be ignored. It will not disappear with time. It is a threat that must be confronted: or it will surely reach our shores. That is why we need these new laws, to ensure police and security agencies have all the powers they need, and access to all the data they need to disrupt terrorist plots.

Our police and security services have done a nerve-wracking job this year, wiping out numerous terrorist plots and arresting 271 potential killers. But, because we all communicate more online, they are losing access to the vital communications data – the "who, where, when and how" – that they need to keep us safe. That is why Conservatives want to strengthen the law, giving our police access to this critical information. We want to act. But we need a majority in parliament to do it. That's why the Home Secretary has made it crystal clear: this will be a priority for us in the next parliament.

To sum up: we are determined to keep you and your children safe. We are committed to civil liberties, but your security must come first. It is your fundamental right as a British citizen. Everyone in this country has the basic right to walk our streets, take their children to school, and travel to work feeling safe. We will never put this at risk.

Grant Shapps is the Conservative MP for Welwyn Hatfield and Conservative party chairman

Picture: ANDRÉ CARRILHO
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Leader: Boris Johnson, a liar and a charlatan

The Foreign Secretary demeans a great office of state with his carelessness and posturing. 

Boris Johnson is a liar, a charlatan and a narcissist. In 1988, when he was a reporter at the Times, he fabricated a quotation from his godfather, an eminent historian, which duly appeared in a news story on the front page. He was sacked. (We might pause here to acknowledge the advantage to a young journalist of having a godfather whose opinions were deemed worthy of appearing in a national newspaper.) Three decades later, his character has not improved.

On 17 September, Mr Johnson wrote a lengthy, hyperbolic article for the Daily Telegraph laying out his “vision” for Brexit – in terms calculated to provoke and undermine the Prime Minister (who was scheduled to give a speech on Brexit in Florence, Italy, as we went to press). Extracts of his “article”, which reads more like a speech, appeared while a terror suspect was on the loose and the country’s threat level was at “critical”, leading the Scottish Conservative leader, Ruth Davidson, to remark: “On the day of a terror attack where Britons were maimed, just hours after the threat level is raised, our only thoughts should be on service.”

Three other facets of this story are noteworthy. First, the article was published alongside other pieces echoing and praising its conclusions, indicating that the Telegraph is now operating as a subsidiary of the Johnson for PM campaign. Second, Theresa May did not respond by immediately sacking her disloyal Foreign Secretary – a measure of how much the botched election campaign has weakened her authority. Finally, it is remarkable that Mr Johnson’s article repeated the most egregious – and most effective – lie of the EU referendum campaign. “Once we have settled our accounts, we will take back control of roughly £350m per week,” the Foreign Secretary claimed. “It would be a fine thing, as many of us have pointed out, if a lot of that money went on the NHS.”

This was the promise of Brexit laid out by the official Vote Leave team: we send £350m to Brussels, and after leaving the EU, that money can be spent on public services. Yet the £350m figure includes the rebate secured by Margaret Thatcher – so just under a third of the sum never leaves the country. Also, any plausible deal will involve paying significant amounts to the EU budget in return for continued participation in science and security agreements. To continue to invoke this figure is shameless. That is not a partisan sentiment: the head of the UK Statistics Authority, Sir David Norgrove, denounced Mr Johnson’s “clear misuse of official statistics”.

In the days that followed, the chief strategist of Vote Leave, Dominic Cummings – who, as Simon Heffer writes in this week's New Statesman, is widely suspected of involvement in Mr Johnson’s article – added his voice. Brexit was a “shambles” so far, he claimed, because of the ineptitude of the civil service and the government’s decision to invoke Article 50 before outlining its own detailed demands.

There is a fine Yiddish word to describe this – chutzpah. Mr Johnson, like all the other senior members of Vote Leave in parliament, voted to trigger Article 50 in March. If he and his allies had concerns about this process, the time to speak up was then.

It has been clear for some time that Mr Johnson has no ideological attachment to Brexit. (During the referendum campaign, he wrote articles arguing both the Leave and Remain case, before deciding which one to publish – in the Telegraph, naturally.) However, every day brings fresh evidence that he and his allies are not interested in the tough, detailed negotiations required for such an epic undertaking. They will brush aside any concerns about our readiness for such a huge challenge by insisting that Brexit would be a success if only they were in charge of it.

This is unlikely. Constant reports emerge of how lightly Mr Johnson treats his current role. At a summit aiming to tackle the grotesque humanitarian crisis in Yemen, he is said to have astounded diplomats by joking: “With friends like these, who needs Yemenis?” The Foreign Secretary demeans a great office of state with his carelessness and posturing. By extension, he demeans our politics. 

This article first appeared in the 21 September 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The revenge of the left