In the wake of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s support for the burkha to be banned in France, several commentators have called for the all-enveloping gown to be outlawed in Britain too.”In our country, we cannot accept that women be prisoners behind a screen, cut off from all social life, deprived of all identity,” Sarkozy said. “The burkha is not a religious sign, it’s a sign of subservience, a sign of debasement. It will not be welcome on the territory of the French Republic.”The issue arose in Britain three years ago when Jack Straw asked Muslim women wearing veils to remove them when they visited his Blackburn constituency surgery. He called the veils a “visible statement of separation and difference.”The Daily Express weighs in this week with a call for the burkha to be banned in Britain, a demand echoed in the Daily Mail by Saira Khan, runner-up in the first series of “The Apprentice.”The Muslim Council of Britain has criticised Sarkozy. Individuals, it says, must have the freedom to choose their attire on the basis of deeply-held religious beliefs.It adds: “The MCB echoes US President Barack Obama’s caution that ‘it is important for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practising religion as they see fit – for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear. We cannot disguise hostility towards any religion behind the pretence of liberalism.’What do you think — should the burkha disappear from Britain’s streets?
Former Royal Bank of Scotland chief Sir Fred Goodwin has agreed to more than halve his widely criticised 703,000-pound pension award.He will now only receive an annual payout of 342,000 pounds.Chairman Philip Hampton said: “I am pleased that common sense has now prevailed and I hope that most reasonable people will welcome that.”Do you?
The government’s planned Iraq inquiry has come under withering fire on several fronts, notably the lack of consultation with other political parties, its apparent careful timing to avoid any possible political embarrassment just before the next election and for what several commentators feel is a hand-picked establishment team in charge of proceedings that is unlikely to rock the boat.******But the main criticism has been the fact that it will be held in private.******That way, the government says, witnesses will be more likely to be candid, the whole process will be quicker and, above all, it will obviate the need to have legions of expensive lawyers accompanying every witness.******Doubtless Gordon Brown had in mind the example of the Saville Inquiry into the Bloody Sunday killings in Northern Ireland which had been going on for 10 years and which has so far run up costs of almost 100 million pounds in lawyers’ fees.******The overall cost of that inquiry had reached 182 million pounds by the end of last year. It is not expected to report now until 2010.******Do you believe the government has a point in that respect or should it have given in to the repeated demands to hold an inquiry in public?
The Law Lords have ruled against the government over the sensitive issue of whether people accused of a crime should have the right to hear the evidence against them.Three terrorism suspects had claimed it was against their rights to be subject to control orders — which effectively impose a form of house arrest on them — on the basis of secret evidence they have been unable to challenge or even hear.The government says control orders are a means of limiting the risk it believes are posed by suspects it can neither prosecute not deport. Rights groups say Britain is riding roughshod over one of its most cherished legal principles by not allowing defendants to hear the evidence against them.One of the Law Lords, Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, the senior Law Lord on the case, said: “A trial procedure can never be considered fair if a party to it is kept in ignorance of the case against him.”If the wider public are to have confidence in the justice system, they need to be able to see that justice is done rather than being asked to take it on trust.Do you agree? Or are the stakes post 9/11 just too high to cling to what some may consider antiquated notions of fair play and justice?
Among the surprises last week, as one cabinet minster after another stepped down, was Gordon Brown’s appointment of Sir Alan Sugar as the government’s Enterprise Tsar.Was this a sound decision, several analysts wondered, or was it a possible case of Brown seeming to confuse the worlds of politics and show business, hoping perhaps that what works in the studio would work just as well in the real world?The star of the BBC show “The Apprentice” was to be offered a peerage and would take a role as an adviser on matters affecting small and medium-sized businesses.But the Conservatives are objecting. They say Sugar should not be working for the government and front a TV show at the same time, particularly when the next series of the Apprentice goes out early in 2010 just a few months before a general election. The appointment, they contend, breaches BBC rules on political independence and impartiality.Sugar himself insists there is no conflict of interest. ‘It’s very simple – all I am is an adviser, I’m not a policymaker,’ he says. “I have been loyal to Gordon Brown and the Labour Party for quite a while, but I also have my loyalties to the BBC.”Do you believe Sugar should have been appointed? Or is Gordon Brown perfectly entitled to have who he likes in his government of all the talents, especially someone with such proven business acumen? “All I can do is advise those that are in charge of making policy from a business point of view … what’s right and what’s wrong,” he told Sky News.
Since the last time he ripped open the blue cellophane HMRC envelope with a sigh and started hunting around for his P60, Joe Public has seen billions of pounds going to the banks, thousands if not millions being used to bankroll the expensive tastes of MPs — and now he sees the BBC clamming up about how much it spends on stars from that other effective tax, the licence fee.
She’s odds-on favourite to win Saturday’s final of “Britain’s Got Talent,” she’s become an overnight international star and now she’s started out on the trail to tabloid sainthood by acquiring her own headline moniker “SuBo.”
But not everyone thinks Susan Boyle is a dead cert for the title. Singer Lily Allen for one thinks she’s over-rated. “I thought her timing was off, no control, and I don’t think she has an amazing voice,” Allen said of Boyle’s rendition on Sunday of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Memory” from the Cats musical.
Ducks are waddling all over the newspapers today after the revelation that Tory MP Sir Peter Viggers claimed 1,645 pounds for a so-called “Stockholm” pond house to give his ducks shelter from foxes and the cold.
All members of the London Assembly have been invited, and since last year they include the BNP’s Richard Barnbrook. He wants to bring Griffin as his guest.
The chief officer and highest authority of the House has become a lightning rod for the strong current of anger swirling around Westminster as the row over MPs’ expenses rumbles on.