As Lee Anderson doubles down on his controversial comments made over the weekend, when he claimed “Islamists” had got “control” over London and that the mayor, Sadiq Khan had “given our capital city away to his mates”, Green Party co-leader Adrian Ramsay, said:
“Sunak needs to recall his pledge to act with integrity and challenge the divisive and dangerous rhetoric being used by some of his MPs.”
“We need our leaders to work for unity rather than creating division. For some time, senior Conservative Muslims have been raising concerns about the extent of Islamophobia in their party and criticizing the failure of the leadership to tackle it. Sunak needs to make clear that there is no place for such views in his party, and to instigate an immediate review of Islamophobia.”
Braverman is continuing her bid to ban peace marches even though the demand for a Gaza ceasefire commands majority support in Britain and indeed right across the world, where Britain and the US stood shamefully isolated this month as the only countries not to support a ceasefire resolution at the UN security council.
Lee Anderson, in the guise of moderating Braverman’s claim (“I don’t actually believe that the Islamists have got control of our country”) actually took it a step further (“they’ve got control of [Sadiq] Khan… He’s actually given our capital city away to his mates.”)
Leftwingers will be incredulous at the implication that peace demonstrators are Khan’s “mates” — the London mayor is no socialist and enthusiastically joined in the character assassination of Jeremy Corbyn when he led Labour.
But Anderson’s subtext is clear: Palestinians are Muslims (not all are, of course, but nuance is not Anderson’s strong point), people marching for justice for Palestinians must therefore be controlled by Muslims, the big marches in London haven’t been banned, and this must be because its mayor is a Muslim.
This is incendiary stuff. So rattled are British authorities that they have repeatedly misrepresented Palestine solidarity demos: the attempt to ban the huge Armistice Day demo rested on a baseless assertion it posed a threat to the Cenotaph (which the fascist thugs riled up by Braverman’s propaganda actually did).
CAMPAIGNERS have called on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to withdraw the whip from Suella Braverman and Liz Truss, warning that their propagation of “toxic racism and Islamophobia” could fuel far-right hatred on the streets.
The demands came after the Tory whip was removed from Lee Anderson after he made Islamophobic comments to GB News about London Mayor Sadiq Khan.
Mr Sunak removed the whip, but only after Mr Anderson failed to apologise for his comments.
Mr Anderson’s comments were soon followed by an article in the Daily Telegraph by former home secretary Suella Braverman.
She wrote: “The Islamists, the extremists and the anti-semites are in charge.”
Across the Atlantic, former Prime Minister Liz Truss attempted to drum up new support by attending the far-right Conservative Political Action Conference.
While a guest on War Room, the podcast of former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, she said that “a radical Islamic party” could win the Rochdale by-election.
THE Prime Minister’s decision to frame the Speaker’s anti-democratic antics this week as “giving in to extremism” obscures reality.
Lindsay Hoyle’s claim he prioritised a Labour amendment over the SNP ceasefire motion because he was worried about MPs’ safety is a damage limitation bid.
But it chimes with ongoing Establishment propaganda painting peace demonstrators as extremists.
Every crisis of ruling-class legitimacy in recent years has prompted attacks on our democratic rights. Britain is racing towards an authoritarian future, with successive laws empowering police to make arrests on the vaguest grounds (such as causing a “nuisance”) and shut down protests before “disruption” even begins.
Now the idea that protest leaves MPs unsafe is used to justify curtailing democratic processes in Parliament itself. Keir Starmer did not browbeat Lindsay Hoyle into trashing procedures because he was worried about MPs’ safety.
He was trying to avoid the embarrassment of a revolt exposing divisions in his party.
Fears for impact on NHS workforce as leaked letter reveals ministers stall on aim to increase trainee doctors to 15,000 by 2031
Ministers have dramatically stalled plans to double the number of doctors being trained in England by 2031 in a move that has caused dismay across the NHS, as well in medical schools and universities, the Observer can reveal.
In June last year, ministers backed a long-term plan to expand the NHS workforce and pledged, amid great fanfare, to “double medical school places by 2031 from 7,500 today to 15,000, with more medical school places in areas with the greatest shortages to level up training and help address geographic inequity”. Labour is also committed to raising the number of doctors to 15,000 by 2031.
But a leaked letter written jointly by health minister Andrew Stephenson and the minister for skills, apprenticeships and higher education, Robert Halfon, to the independent regulator the Office for Students, says they will fund only 350 additional places for trainee doctors in 2025-26. This is less than a quarter of the annual number widely anticipated and there is no guarantee that even that level of resource will be repeated.
Those who drive boats are often simply the poorest people on board. Those really at fault still walk free
Ibrahima Bah is today facing a possible life sentence for facilitating illegal entry into the UK, and for four counts of manslaughter by gross negligence. But the real culprits here remain off the hook – and this will almost certainly lead to more deaths.
Arrested in December 2022, Bah was steering an unseaworthy dinghy across the English Channel when it collapsed. The floor of the dinghy ripped when it approached the fishing vessel Arcturus and everyone stood up to try and be rescued. According to Utopia 56, a refugee charity that has announced legal action against the British coastguard and French agencies for this case, authorities failed to launch a search and rescue operation despite being alerted by Alarmphone, a hotline for migrants in distress at sea.
Eventually, four people were found dead while four were recorded missing. Some 39 survivors, most from Afghanistan, were rescued and claimed asylum in the UK.
Asylum seekers dying in the English Channel is not something new. In November 2021, 31 people, including a girl aged five and her teenage siblings, died after their dinghy sank in the Channel. And in October 2020, seven people, including five from one Iranian Kurdish family, lost their lives after a small boat carrying 20 migrants capsized off the French coast.
These are only a few examples in the long deadly history of the French-UK border. But Bah’s case marks a historic and troubling milestone: he is the first shipwreck survivor in the UK to face manslaughter charges for the deaths of fellow passengers.
A network called Captain Support that acts in solidarity with those accused of driving boats to Europe has been closely monitoring Bah’s case. Its members are right to point out the conviction marks a violent escalation in the criminalisation of migration by the UK government under its ‘stop the boats’ campaign and measures to cut net migration.
Ironically, this frontal assault on migrant rights comes at a time when polls for the first time since 2016 suggest that most British people hold positive views of immigration, exposing the ‘stop the boats’ battle for its deeply ideological nature. But other aspects of the policy, less routinely covered in the media, have been no less damaging – and these directly relate to Ibrahima Bah’s unjust conviction.
The Nationality and Borders Act came into force in June 2022, expanding the scope of immigration crimes in the UK in response to the so-called ‘small boats crisis’. This act introduced the offence of ‘illegal arrival’ with a maximum penalty of four years in jail. It also expanded the scope of the more serious offence of ‘facilitating arrival’, of which Bah was convicted, and increased the maximum penalty to life imprisonment.
Hundreds of people have since been arrested and imprisoned for simply trying to reach the UK to claim asylum, according to a forthcoming report by Victoria Taylor, published by the Centre for Criminology at the University of Oxford and Border Criminologies.
While the government repeatedly invokes the mantra of favouring ‘safe and legal routes’ when justifying this increasingly draconian legislation, existing laws don’t provide any. As Amnesty International has pointed out: “The UK government does not allow anyone to make a claim for asylum unless they are physically present in the UK… It is impossible to come to the UK for the purpose of seeking asylum in any way permitted by the government’s immigration rules.”
openDemocracy revealed last year that a toddler and a father were among those who had died while waiting vainly for officially sanctioned UN routes to take them to safety; their families remain stranded in Turkey.
Aside from two temporary visa schemes that have been beset with their own problems – for asylum seekers from Ukraine with family or hosts in the UK, and Afghans who are in danger due to having worked with the UK government – anyone wishing to apply for asylum in the UK has no choice but to travel to the UK in an unauthorised manner.
In simple terms, the UK government requires asylum seekers to endanger their lives and break the law in order to exercise their lawful right to claim asylum.
Countering this means more than debunking the myths of ‘safe and legal’ routes. It’s also about addressing the criminalisation of ‘facilitating arrival’ – often presented as a necessary measure to uproot the ‘criminal gangs’ exploiting vulnerable individuals.
In fact, human rights organisations and academic researchers have time and again shown that counter-smuggling policies and targeting of boat drivers harms migrant communities the most. These policies overlook the reality that, in many instances, those piloting boats are the poorest and least resourced among asylum seekers, agreeing to steer these vessels and take on significant legal risks in exchange for free passage.
Having journeyed from Senegal to Mali, then Algeria and Libya, before taking a boat from Libya to Italy with the aid of smugglers, Bah decided to pilot the vessel in exchange for free passage. During his trial, Bah said when he realised the boat was unseaworthy, he refused to drive it, but he was then assaulted by those that organised the trip who coerced him into complying. The jury not only dismissed Bah’s claims but also the testimonies of the survivors themselves, who portrayed Ibrahima as an “angel” trying to save lives.
As detailed in Captain Support’s court report, a witness statement from the captain of the Arcturus presented Bah as “mouthy” and ungrateful, both racial stereotypes. The all-white jury concluded that Bah, a Black teenager, had failed in his duty of care towards his fellow passengers. By convicting Bah of manslaughter, the jury effectively exonerated the UK of responsibility for its lethal border policies.
Britain’s emulation of these policies is both predictable and deeply alarming. British prime minister Rishi Sunak recently teamed up with Italy’s far-right leader Giorgia Meloni in her attempts to crack down on ‘illegal migration’. And in November 2023, Suella Braverman – then the UK home secretary and the architect of the ‘stop the boats’ campaign – lauded Greece’s “tough but fair migration policy” following her tour of one of Europe’s most harrowing borders. This dangerous coalition, which wields death and scapegoating as tools of deterrence, must be dismantled immediately.
Ibrahima Bah’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for Friday 23 February.Solidarity actionshave been called in response, including a call for support at 2pm at Canterbury Crown and a demonstration at 6pm at the Home Office.
‘Cost of living support may be receding but the tide of people not being able to afford life’s essentials is not. It is time we moved from stop-gaps to sustainable solutions.’
February 22, 2024, marked the last of the cost of living payments being sent out. The cash top-ups had been awarded to people receiving means-tested benefits, disability benefits, and pension credits, at regular intervals over the course of the cost of living crisis. They have been a lifeline for around eight million low-income families.
But with rising living costs driving disadvantaged households further into poverty, with prices still rising despite inflation easing, and food and energy remaining at extortionate levels, charities and experts have warned that the payments are not enough. They have expressed fears about what may happen if the government does not announce additional payments.
The final cost of living payment has renewed calls for the introduction of a system that is there whenever anyone falls on hard times, rather than being just a ‘stop gap’ solution.
Ahead of the Spring Budget on March 6, anti-poverty charities and campaigners are calling on the Chancellor for bolder action to tackle poverty during the cost of living crisis.
A long article discussing the Rochdale by-election that has only one candidate – Mark Coleman – promoting green policies and many opposed.
[12.50 correction.] A long article discussing the Rochdale by-election. Independent Mark Coleman and Lib-Dem Iain Donaldson are the only candidates promoting green policies with many opposed. Monster Raving Loony Party appears absent prom this list of candidates.
From attacks on “eco-madness” and accusations of a “Net Zero Hoax”, here’s our climate guide to the MPs contesting Labour’s seat.
Amid February’s record-breaking temperatures, climate is emerging as a battleground – and faultline – between the UK’s two biggest political parties in the run up to the next general election.
In the past weeks, the Labour Party has dramatically scaled back its £28 billion green investment plans, while the Conservative government has committed to annual licensing rounds in the North Sea in a new oil and gas bill.
This legislation saw former green Conservative Chris Skidmore MP resign in protest in January, triggering last week’s by-election in Kingswood, which Labour won.
Wrangling between the Tories and Labour has also opened the door for fringe political activists. Parties such as Reform UK have exploited mixed messaging over climate policy, which the UN authority on climate science, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, says is essential to secure “to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all”.
Next Thursday (February 29), voters in the Greater Manchester seat of Rochdale will go to the polls in a by-election triggered by the death of Labour MP Tony Lloyd.
The campaign has been overshadowed by the sacking of the frontrunner candidate, Azhar Ali, who was dropped by Labour over his controversial comments about the October 7 Hamas attacks. It is too late for Labour to field another candidate, and Ali will now run as an independent.
Green Party candidate Guy Otten was also dropped over past statements on Islam and Palestinians. Otten will appear on the ballot paper, but has abstained from campaigning.
The rows have given more airtime to several fringe parties fielding candidates strongly opposed to climate action.
Simon Danczuk, who is standing for Reform UK, and George Galloway, the candidate for the Workers Party of Britain, have both repeatedly attacked the UK’s legally binding net zero targets, while Galloway has spread climate misinformation and backed new fossil fuel extraction.
Read on to find out all you need to know on where the candidates stand on net zero and climate policy.
Simon Danczuk – Reform UK
This month Danczuk announced he had joined Reform UK. Danczuk was the MP for Rochdale between 2010 and 2017. He is seeking a return to the constituency following his expulsion from the Labour Party in 2015 after sending sexually explicit messages to a 17-year-old (he served as an independent until 2017).
As an MP, Danczuk voted for measures to prevent climate change, and in 2015 shared an article on Twitter criticising climate denial in the Daily Mail. However, Danczuk’s views appear to have changed.
Last June he wrote an article attacking the “eco-madness” of Labour’s (now scaled back) green investment plans and its pledge not to approve new oil and gas projects. He wrote that Labour “see implementing a green ideology as more important than jobs, security and sustaining the economy”.
The article was published in Spiked, an online “libertarian” outlet which has a record of climate science denial and fossil fuel-linked funding. Between 2015 and 2018, Spiked received $300,000 from the Charles Koch Foundation, an arm of oil giant Koch Industries and a major funder of climate denial.
Danczuk repeated the “green ideology” argument in an interview with the fringe right-wing outlet Epoch Times, stating: “The idea of banning gas and oil exploration in the North Sea, before we’ve got alternatives in place, is just absolute madness.”
In September 2023, Danczuk publicly voiced support for the Conservative government’s net zero U-turns, telling TalkTV that voters “are very despondent about these targets” and that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had “called it right”. TalkTV has its own record of spreading climate denial, and until last year employed Reform leader Richard Tice as a presenter.
Reform is campaigning to “scrap all of net zero” and received £135,000 in donations from climate deniers and fossil fuel interests in 2023. Tice has said “CO2 isn’t poison, it’s plant food”, while the party’s London mayoral candidate Howard Cox has said “man is not responsible for global warming”.
George Galloway – Workers Party of Britain
Another ex-Labour Party MP, George Galloway, is standing for the Workers Party of Britain, a party he founded after the 2019 general election. Galloway was expelled from Labour in 2003 for “bringing the party into disrepute” after a party tribunal found he had “incited Arabs to fight British troops” and “incited British troops to defy orders”. He has since been elected to parliament twice – in 2005 for his Respect party and 2012 as an independent – each time serving one term.
The Workers Party of Britain, calls itself a socialist party that “defend[s] the achievements of the USSR, China, Cuba etc”.
The party is hostile to climate policies. Its website calls for “a much clearer debate on Net Zero” and argues that “a halt must also be made to the attempt to make working people pay for subsidies for large-scale green industrialisation”.
Last July the party called for a Brexit-style referendum on net zero, a policy originally pushed by the right-wing Reform UK and led by its honorary president Nigel Farage. (Galloway and Farage have worked together in the past as part of the Aaron Banks-funded ‘Grassroots Out’ campaign for Brexit.)
Galloway has attacked net zero targets, advocated for clean coal extraction and spread misinformation about climate change.
In December, Galloway called for a net zero referendum in a post on the social media platform X. On his YouTube talk show in August 2022, Galloway spread the false claim that people would be forced to “eat insects” to tackle climate change, adding, “I think this net zero is one of the biggest hoaxes in modern politics.” He then took a swipe at climate activist Greta Thunberg, a regular target for climate deniers, calling net zero “a 14-year old schoolgirl leading grown men and women up the garden path.”
The following month, he again dismissed climate warnings from activists like Thunberg, arguing that the main climate risk came from NATO and the “military industrial complex”. He said: “We are facing climate catastrophe; not man made the likes of Greta Thunberg talks about, but through our own governments.”
Galloway has also called for more fossil fuel extraction. In an X post in March 2022, a month after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Galloway wrote: “Britain needs to ice its [Net] Zero fantasy, step up its oil exploitation [and] invest in peaceful nuclear energy and seek to re-harvest the 1,000 years of coal under our feet employing clean-coal technology. Our Energy policy is hopelessly unbalanced.”
From 2008 to 2013, Galloway worked as a presenter for Press TV, the English-language channel run by the Iranian government. From 2013 to 2015 Galloway was paid £100,000 to present a show on RT (Russia Today), Russia’s equivalent. Both countries are major oil and gas producers. The channels have since had their broadcasting licences revoked by Ofcom for breaking its rules (Galloway’s broadcasts were not referenced in the ruling).
Paul Ellison – Conservative Party
Little is known about the climate views of Conservative candidate Paul Ellison, who has been dubbed “Mr Rochdale” in the local press.
According to a favourable profile in Rochdale Online, Ellison has been active in the local community protecting green spaces, and is credited with winning Rochdale recognition by the Royal Horticultural Society In Bloom awards.
He does not appear to have commented publicly about climate change.
Azhar Ali – Independent (formerly Labour Party)
Newly independent candidate Azhar Ali criticised the government’s U-turns on net zero in September, accusing the Prime Minister of “playing to the climate change deniers in his own party”.
He doesn’t appear to have commented publicly about Labour’s weakening of its own net zero plans. Earlier this month, the party dropped its pledge to invest £28 billion per year in green measures, cutting its spending plans by 75 percent to £23.7 billion in total. Labour says it will still keep to its target to decarbonise the UK’s power grid by 2030.
The party opposes new North Sea exploration, but supports unproven carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology on existing rigs. Earlier this month, Labour leader Keir Starmer said current pipelines would “continue for decades”.
In October 2016, Ali attacked plans to introduce fracking for shale gas in Lancashire, saying on Twitter (now X): “Conservative government gives green light to the ‘rape’ of our environment.”
Iain Donaldson – Liberal Democrats
Lib Dem candidate Iain Donaldson has said he wants to hold the government to account on “water companies polluting the rivers with filthy sewage”, among other issues. In a 2017 tweet he criticised the then U.S. President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement.
Donaldson was one of eleven of the party’s 15 MPs who voted against the Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill this week, while four abstained. The Liberal Democrats propose moving the net zero target forward five years to 2045 and support large investments in renewable energy.
A Liberal Democrat spokesperson said Donaldson had opposed the oil and gas bill, which “fails to take vital steps to grow the UK renewable energy sector and reduce energy bills, and fails to form a coherent path to net zero”.
“Iain wants to see the de facto moratorium on onshore wind farms lifted,” they added, “and allow the expansion of the cheapest form of energy to drive down bills in this cost of living crisis, and reduce our emissions helping to slow climate change.”
Mark Coleman – Independent
After dropping its own candidate, the Green Party has urged its members to back Reverend Mark Coleman, who has put climate at the forefront of his campaign.
Twice arrested for climate protest, Coleman was sentenced in April 2023 to five and half weeks in prison for blocking the M25 and other roads with campaign group Insulate Britain.
Just Stop Oil has also asked its supporters to back Coleman. In a statement, the climate protest group said he is “the only candidate in the Rochdale by-election worth voting for”.
In a campaign blurb for local news outlet Rochdale Online, Coleman calls for “radical action on climate right now to stand any chance of a safe and stable future”.
All candidates named in this article were contacted for comment.
Ex-deputy party chair says on GB News Islamists control London as well as its mayor, prompting calls for him to lose the whip
The Conservative MP Lee Anderson has claimed that “Islamists” have “got control of London” and its mayor, Sadiq Khan.
Speaking on GB News, Anderson said of Khan, the first Muslim mayor of London: “He’s given our capital city away to his mates.
“I don’t actually believe that the Islamists have got control of our country, but what I do believe is they’ve got control of Khan, and they’ve got control of London.”
The Labour party called for Anderson to lose the Tory whip. Anneliese Dodds, the Labour chair, said: “Lee Anderson’s comments are unambiguously racist and Islamophobic. Rishi Sunak needs to immediately remove the whip. If he is too weak, then people will take their own view of the modern Conservative party.”