US "pickup artist" Julien Blanc promotes the use of physical and sexual assaults against women to "seduce" them.
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Why Julien Blanc should not be let into the UK

The US "pickup artist" has crossed a line by promoting violence against women. 

In one week we have seen the debate about Dapper Laughs, the ongoing campaign against Ched Evans going back to train with Sheffield United, and the news of Julien Blanc planning an imminent tour of the UK. We have also seen thousands standing up taking a stand – and making a real difference. Dapper Laughs has lost his TV show and "retired" his character; Charlie Webster – herself a victim of abuse – and Jessica Ennis-Hill have drawn a line in the sand by telling Sheffield United they do not want to be associated with a club that employs Evans, and Blanc has had his Australian visa revoked after a petition to the immigration minister.

There is a real question to ask about whether we should allow Julien Blanc into the UK.  In his seminars he promotes the use of physical and sexual assaults on women in order to "seduce" them. He has explicitly endorsed behaviours associated with domestic abuse to sexually manipulate women.

Today the shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, wrote to Theresa May to ask her to consider using her powers to exclude him if she assesses that his presence is not in the public good. There is a clear precedent for this - our border controls mean we are under no obligation to allow people into our country if there is evidence they intend to incite violence. When we know that reports of incidents of domestic violence and sexual assaults are on the rise, are the "dating tricks" from Blanc really what we want to see in Britain? And at the end, he will leave the country with his earnings, while young men and women will be left with the impression that things he says and the actions he promotes are acceptable here in Britain.

We all defend free speech, but we also need to make choices when free speech crosses a line towards promoting or inciting acts of violence. If Julien Blanc's language had been about the way white people should behave towards black people (or the other way round), or the way able bodied people should treat disabled people, rather than being about male attitudes to females, would our response be different? Would we think he was inciting hate crime? The values Blanc espouses are hateful. He suggests women are worth less than men and can be used and discarded at will. These aren't the values parents want their sons and daughters to grow up with. 

The Labour Party has been lobbying the government hard to have compulsory age-appropriate sex and relationship education (SRE) taught in schools to help promote the understanding that no form of violence in relationships is acceptable. Last week I also wrote to Education Secretary Nicky Morgan again to urge her to change the government’s stance on SRE. We need to push back against misogynist attitudes in society, not encourage them.

At a time when we know one in three teenage girls experience unwanted groping at school, when sexting and revenge porn is on the rise, it’s clear we need a broader conversation about what we see as acceptable and in line with our values. One thing is clear, Julien Blanc is not.

Seema Malhotra is shadow minister for preventing violence against women and girls

Seema Malhotra is Labour MP for Feltham and Heston.

Photo: Getty
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Scotland's vast deficit remains an obstacle to independence

Though the country's financial position has improved, independence would still risk severe austerity. 

For the SNP, the annual Scottish public spending figures bring good and bad news. The good news, such as it is, is that Scotland's deficit fell by £1.3bn in 2016/17. The bad news is that it remains £13.3bn or 8.3 per cent of GDP – three times the UK figure of 2.4 per cent (£46.2bn) and vastly higher than the white paper's worst case scenario of £5.5bn. 

These figures, it's important to note, include Scotland's geographic share of North Sea oil and gas revenue. The "oil bonus" that the SNP once boasted of has withered since the collapse in commodity prices. Though revenue rose from £56m the previous year to £208m, this remains a fraction of the £8bn recorded in 2011/12. Total public sector revenue was £312 per person below the UK average, while expenditure was £1,437 higher. Though the SNP is playing down the figures as "a snapshot", the white paper unambiguously stated: "GERS [Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland] is the authoritative publication on Scotland’s public finances". 

As before, Nicola Sturgeon has warned of the threat posed by Brexit to the Scottish economy. But the country's black hole means the risks of independence remain immense. As a new state, Scotland would be forced to pay a premium on its debt, resulting in an even greater fiscal gap. Were it to use the pound without permission, with no independent central bank and no lender of last resort, borrowing costs would rise still further. To offset a Greek-style crisis, Scotland would be forced to impose dramatic austerity. 

Sturgeon is undoubtedly right to warn of the risks of Brexit (particularly of the "hard" variety). But for a large number of Scots, this is merely cause to avoid the added turmoil of independence. Though eventual EU membership would benefit Scotland, its UK trade is worth four times as much as that with Europe. 

Of course, for a true nationalist, economics is irrelevant. Independence is a good in itself and sovereignty always trumps prosperity (a point on which Scottish nationalists align with English Brexiteers). But if Scotland is to ever depart the UK, the SNP will need to win over pragmatists, too. In that quest, Scotland's deficit remains a vast obstacle. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.