Podcast (ep. 18): Conservative Conference, EU Referendum and Russia in Syria

David Cameron at Conservative Conference Manchester, October 2015 by the Conservatives

After three weeks apart Jazza and Jimmy are finally reunited, and the sexual tension has never been greater.

We discuss the protests and content at the Tory party conference in Manchester, the egg slinging, the leadership posturing, the weird standing and everything in between.

We then segway seamlessly into the EU referendum campaigns being launched and how scared Jazza is of leaving, before finally, offering some interesting perspectives on Russia choosing to barge it’s way into Syria. Is it such a bad thing?

Image Credit – David Cameron at Conservative Conference Manchester, October 2015 by the Conservatives

Donald Trump tells Syrian refugees ‘they are going back’ if he becomes president

Donald Trump, CPAC 2011 by Gage Skidmore

American presidential candidate Donald Trump is continuing to spout populist policies as he tells Syrian refugees that if he takes the White House “they are going back” to the Middle East.

Speaking at a rally in New Hampshire the Trumpster claimed that the United States had “totally wiped out Iraq” and “totally destabilised the Middle East”, but went on the say that he would send back any people fleeing Syria as the country’s civil war rages on.

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Majority of Britons oppose increase of Syrian refugees migrating to UK

Syrian refugee in Lebanon by Russell Watkins-DFID

More Britons are opposed to increasing the numbers of Syrian refugees accepted into Britain than in favour of it, despite plans by prime minister David Cameron to raise the number taken in by “thousands”.

A shade over half of those surveyed by the pollster YouGov last week said they wanted the number of Syrian migrants being let into the country to remain the same, be lowered or even reduced to zero, whilst a third wanted the numbers to go up.

Should Britain admit more Syrian refugees than it has by YouGov

The continued frostiness of Britons to Syrian refugees comes even after public and press outrage at images of the dead Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi seemed to shift opinion on the matter.

Around 70 percent of those surveyed by YouGov on Thursday and Friday said they had seen the image, but only 9 percent said it had changed their opinions on migration.

Since the images broke both Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon and Labour leadership candidate Yvette Cooper have argued that Britain should take in more refugees, with the pair even saying they would house some themselves.

However data from YouGov indicates that immigration and asylum have become the most important political issues in British politics, having moved even further ahead of economics and welfare since the general election in May.

Important issues facing Britain immigration vs economy by YouGov

Whilst opposition to migration remains strong, around half of Britons support military involvement in Syria, Iraq and Libya, a contentious issue over the last few years owing to the unpopularity of previous Middle Eastern wars and accusations that such invasions caused the current instability.

Some 45 percent of YouGov’s respondents said Cameron had badly handled the European refugee crisis badly, compared to 27 percent who said his approach had been neutral and 21 percent who thought he had handled it well.

Though Britain remains hostile to migration its neighbour Germany is planning to spend €6bn (£4.4bn) to take in 800,000 Syrian refugees, and two-thirds of Germans surveyed by YouGov believe Britain should be following its lead.

Further details of YouGov’s survey can be found on the pollster’s website.

Image Credit – Syrian refugee in Lebanon by Russell Watkins, DFID

Sorry language police, but the Mediterranean refugees are ‘migrants’

Syrian Refugee, September 2014 by Bengin Ahmad,

One of the more tedious habits of the Left is the amount of energy it expends debating what words are supposed to mean.

There are a few reasons why this might be. Firstly, debating language requires little research. Anybody can do it without having to dig through dull stats and reports, consider intersecting variables and come to a reasoned conclusion. Instead, rely on your own feelings and experience to define what the word means to you, then proclaim that as the truth.

Another likely factor is that many in the media and politics studied English or another humanity and university, and thus lit crit is a topic they are well versed in. And whilst the Right tends to prefer language as a tradition, the Left has a streak of linguistic activism whereby they can justify tampering with a centuries-old tongue.

I mention this because of the recent furore over what we should call those risking their lives crossing the Mediterranean and journeying through the Balkans in a bid to reach the safety of Europe. This debate was sparked some weeks ago when Qatari broadcaster Al Jazeera said it would no longer be using the term “migrant”:

“Migrant is a word that strips suffering people of voice. Substituting refugee for it is – in the smallest way – an attempt to give some back.”

“Migrant”, in the head of Al Jazeera’s online editor Barry Malone at least, implies that those drowning in the Mediterranean are chancers who’ve left their country for a slightly better paying job. Instead he believes that we should refer to them as “refugees”, and supplies the obligatory ironic mawkishness:

“It is not hundreds of people who drown when a boat goes down in the Mediterranean, nor even hundreds of refugees. It is hundreds of migrants. It is not a person – like you, filled with thoughts and history and hopes – who is on the tracks delaying a train. It is a migrant. A nuisance.”

The piece has been much commented on, with the New Statesman (sorry, Statesperson), recently publishing a piece from Jennifer Saul, head of philosophy at the University of Sheffield, in which she argued that we should also consider “human being” as a replacement – a sign she is unwilling or unable to acknowledge that the migrants residential status is rather pertinent to the stories they appear in.

I’ve a low opinion of some of my countrymen, but I think even among the three-quarters of Britons who want to reduce migration most are horrified by whoever left people to rot in the back of a lorry in Austria recently. For those that aren’t, I doubt their opinion will be much swayed by rebranding the victims as “refugees”, a term which to my ear is far more tainted than “migrant”.

But even aside from that, I object to the attempts of stuck-up academics or United Nations cronies to redefine the English language as if it were their property. A much quoted document from the UN defines “migrant” as follows:

“The term ‘migrant’ in article 1.1 (a) should be understood as covering all cases where the decision to migrate is taken freely by the individual concerned, for reasons of ‘personal convenience’ and without intervention of an external compelling factor.”

As it goes on its wordplay becomes more confused:

“From the above definition, it follows that ‘migrant’ does not refer to refugees, exiles or others forced or compelled to leave their homes. By contrast, the term ‘migration’ is descriptive of the process of the movement of persons, and thus includes the movement of refugees, displaced persons, uprooted people as well as economic migrants.”

This is all very high-minded, but doesn’t correlate to how people actual use the term “migrant”. As Oxford University’s Migration Observatory points out, the British public tends to be quite loose about what counts as a migrant, and the government is happy to fudge the definition for statistical advantage.

As such there is nothing incorrect about referring to those fleeing war and terror in the Middle East and North Africa as “migrants”, even if “refugees” is more precise. Media groups are welcome to avoid whatever words they like, but they should open a layman’s dictionary before spouting off.

Image Credit – Syrian Refugee, September 2014 by Bengin Ahmad

Reporting IS beheadings only spurs on the jihadists. We should stop it

News broke today that Islamic State (IS) terrorists have apparently beheaded the Japanese journalist Kenji Goto.

Should the video be verified, which seems likely at this point, it will be only the latest in a series of such killings committed to video tape. Around August last year the American journalist James Foley was murdered in the same manner, prompting the US to start a military campaign against IS.

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