David Cameron on Europe: “weak, weak, weak!”

Published in The Huffington Post on 14th May, 2013.

“What would you do,” asks Bill Murray’s character in Groundhog Day, “if you were stuck in one place and every day was exactly the same, and nothing that you did mattered?”

That is just one of many questions that must be running through David Cameron’s head right about now. Few things in life are certain but one thing you can bet the house on is that the manic fixation that Conservative MP’s have with Europe will, at some point, lead the party to tear itself to shreds.

Take John Major. During the dying days of his premiership, the terminal division over Europe drained the last glimmers of life out of a government that was already on life support.

It led Tony Blair to ask at the dispatch box: “Is it not extraordinary that the Prime Minister of our country can’t even urge his own party to support his position? …. His weakness and his failure of leadership are the reasons his government is the incompetent mess it is.”

He famously summed Major’s position up with one devastating line: “weak, weak, weak!”

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The toxic ‘E’ word: 21 years on, the Tories learnt nothing from Geoffrey Howe

Published in Total Politics Magazine on Tuesday, 1st November, 2011.

Even by Westminster’s standards, the past week has been bizarre. Parliament has been engrossed by an puzzling backbench debate on the issue of Britain’s place within Europe. The House of Commons, the tea rooms and parliamentary bar have again been filled with non-stop chatter about the ‘E’ word. It culminated in David Cameron suffering a needless blow to his authority following the biggest ever Conservative rebellion over Europe.

As the economy risks sliding back into recession, the Tories appear to be transfixed on ideological profligacy rather than adopting a pragmatic approach to governing and dealing with more urgent realities.

This seems eerily familiar.

Today marks the twenty-first anniversary of Geoffrey Howe’s resignation. On 1 November 1990, the former Chancellor and Foreign Secretary quit the Conservative front bench and triggered a political tidal wave that ultimately led to Margaret Thatcher’s fall from office.

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Time for the UK to start taking slavery seriously

Front page of The Times

Human trafficking has slowly – too slowly – climbed the political agenda in recent months and is starting to make inroads into the national consciousness. This morning The Times’ front page was dominated by the news that a gang grooming young children for sexual slavery in the UK are to stand trial. This was a timely story as, by sheer coincidence, I was at the Centre for Social Justice’s ‘slavery in the UK’ launch with Iain Duncan Smith in central London today. CSJ, an independent think tank launched by the former Conservative Party leader in 2004, are conducting an in depth investigation into contemporary slavery in the UK and will produce a report on their findings in 15 months time. The remit of the review, which will be headed by Unseen UK’s Director Andrew Wallis, is to “transform Britain into a beacon of anti-slavery practice across Europe and the wider world.”

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Slavery event in Parliament with Harriet Harman MP and Aidan McQuade

Harriet Harman MP addressing MPs and Peers on the issue of slavery and human trafficking

On Tuesday I organised an event in Parliament that sought to draw attention to the fact that up to 30 million people around the world are enslaved – including thousands within Britain. This means more slaves exist today than at the height of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Below is an extract from the press release:

Mark Hendrick MP hosted an event in Parliament on Tuesday that celebrated the achievements of the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade and discussed contemporary slavery and human trafficking. Guest speakers included Harriet Harman MP and the Director of Anti-Slavery International, Aidan McQuade.

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