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Astrology on the NHS? At least David Tredinnick is honest

David Tredinnick, the Conservative MP for Bosworth, is under fire after suggesting Astrology should be paid for on the NHS. But at least he's honest in his intentions

David Tredinnick , the Conservative MP for Bosworth, is getting something of a going-over in today’s papers after telling the Mail that he thinks that astrology should be paid for on the NHS, and that people who don’t agree are “racist”.

Mr Tredinnick said:

The opposition (to astrology) is based on what I call the SIP formula - superstition, ignorance, and prejudice.

It tends to be based on superstition, with scientists reacting emotionally, which is always a great irony.

They are also ignorant, because they never study the subject and just say that it is all to do with what appears in the newspapers, which it is not, and they are deeply prejudiced, and racially prejudiced, which is troubling.
 

It’s revived old stories about Mr Tredinnick and his eccentric views – with this old Guardian story about his attempt to claim £755 for a computer capable of diagnosing medical conditions using the stars doing the rounds on Twitter.

It’s very easy to laugh at the Bosworth MP – typical Capricorn, should have checked his star chart before speaking to the Mail, etc – and I think we can all agree, barring a nuclear catastrophe, that he should never get within a thousand miles of ministerial office.

But at least he’s honest. Opposition to abortion -  just seven per cent of British people favour further restrictions to abortion access - is actually even more of a niche pursuit than astrology (22 per cent of Brits do it!), and earlier this week Britain’s anti-abortion MPs, having lost the argument in plain language – just seven per cent of British people favour further restrictions to abortion access – tried to weaken Britain’s abortion laws under cover of darkness.

Fiona Bruce’s amendment to the Serious Crime Bill was described as an attempt to prevent so-called gender-selective-abortion. But the reality is that there is no evidence at all that this is taking place in the United Kingdom, and that the real purpose of the amendment was to weaken abortion access as a whole. They were defeated by 91 votes – a far smaller margin than a honest articulation of the amendment’s supporters’ arguments would have gained.

So for all David Tredinnick might be a crank, at least he’s honest about it. Britain's anti-choice campaigners could learn a lot from him.

 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.

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Free movement isn't free: the truth about EU immigration

The UK does not need to leave the single market to restrict European migration - it already can.

In the Brext negotiations, the government has unashamedly prioritised immigration control over the economy. The UK must leave the single market, ministers say, in order to restrict free movement. For decades, they lament, European immigration has been "uncontrolled", making it impossible to meet the government's target of reducing net migration to "tens of thousands" a year.

It's worth noting that non-EU immigration alone (which ministers can limit) remains more than ten times this level (owing to the economic benefits). But more importantly, liberals and conservatives alike talk of "free movement" as if it is entirely free - it isn't.

Though EU citizens are initially permitted to live in any member state, after three months they must prove that they are working (employed or self-employed), a registered student or have "sufficient resources" (savings or a pension) to support themselves and not be "a burden on the benefits system". Far from being unconditional, then, the right to free movement is highly qualified.

The irony is that the supposedly immigration-averse UK has never enforced these conditions. Even under Theresa May, the Home Office judged that the cost of recording entry and exit dates was too high. Since most EU migrants are employed (and contribute significantly more in taxes than they do in benefits), there was no economic incentive to do so.

For some Brexiteers, of course, a job is not adequate grounds for an immigrant to remain. But even beyond implementing existing law, there is potential for further reform of free movement - even within the single market.

As Nick Clegg recently noted, shortly after the referendum, "a number of senior EU figures" were exploring a possible trade-off: "a commitment by the UK to pursue the least economically disruptive Brexit by maintaining participation in the single market and customs union, in return for a commitment to the reform of freedom of movement, including an 'emergency brake' on unusually high levels of intra-EU immigration." Liechtenstein, a member of the single market, has recently imposed quotas on EU migrants.

Yet with some exceptions, these facts are rarely heard in British political debate. Many Labour MPs, like their Conservative counterparts, support single market withdrawal to end free movement. The unheard truth that it isn't "free" could yet lead the UK to commit an avoidable act of economic self-harm.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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