Daily archives: August 22, 2006

You really can’t fool all of the people all of the time

From The Guardian

David Cameron is on course for a possible general election win, according to a Guardian/ICM poll published today that shows support for the Conservatives climbing to a lead that could give them a narrow majority in the Commons, while Labour has plunged to a 19-year low.

The Tories have gained over the last month while support for Labour has fallen heavily in the wake of the recent alleged terror plot against airlines. An overwhelming majority of voters appear to pin part of the blame for the increased threat on Tony Blair’s policy of intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Ministers – including Mr Blair – have repeatedly denied that there is a connection. But 72%, including 65% of Labour voters, think government policy has made Britain more of a target for terrorists. Only 1% of voters believe the government’s foreign policy has made Britain safer, a devastating finding given that action in Iraq and Afghanistan has been justified in part to defeat Islamist terrorism.

That may explain why Labour support has dropped four points in a month, to 31%, the lowest figure recorded by ICM for the Guardian since just before the 1987 election and the second lowest since the poll series began in 1984. The fall may be partly caused by Mr Blair’s absence on holiday and public unhappiness at the announcement that John Prescott would stand in. The rating is worse than Labour achieved at the 1987 or 1992 elections and worse than almost every poll result under Neil Kinnock and John Smith’s leadership.

Meanwhile the Conservatives have climbed one point to 40%, passing the confidence-boosting threshold for the first time in a Guardian/ICM poll since August 1992, in the wake of John Major’s election victory.

The findings will shock many at Westminster who had expected Labour to gain ground following John Reid’s high-profile handling of the alleged plot against transatlantic airlines. Carried out over the past weekend, following the series of terror arrests, the poll shows voters do not believe the government is giving an honest account of the threat facing Britain. Only 20% of all voters, and 26% of Labour voters, say they think the government is telling the truth about the threat, while 21% of voters think the government has actively exaggerated the danger.

A majority, 51%, say the government is not giving the full truth and may be telling less than it knows. That finding comes despite a newly introduced system of public information warnings that saw the home secretary downgrade the threat level from critical to severe.

Such distrust forms the background to a dramatic shift of support away from Labour. The poll shows former Labour voters switching to the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in almost equal numbers, boosting Lib Dem support by five points to 22%.

The findings will help the party’s leader, Sir Menzies Campbell, ahead of what is expected to be a testing party conference next month. The poll follows his questioning of the prime minister’s close alliance with George Bush and could leave the Lib Dems as powerbrokers if the election produces a close result.


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“Murder in Samarkand” confiscated by Luton airport security

From Eurasian.net

‘Is that about terrorism?’, asked the lady that examined my onboard luggage. ‘Humm, well, it contains mentions of that, but it’s about your former ambassador to Uzbekistan and more about diplomacy’, I replied politely. ‘Does it have al-Qaida in it?’ I looked a bit confused. ‘What?’ – ‘Well, I have to check this with my manager, the rest of your stuff is fine, though.’

The manager then came after a minute or two. ‘Hello Sir, can you tell me about this book?’ ‘Sure, it is about Craig Murray, former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan.’ ‘Where, if I may ask, did you buy this book?’ – ‘Well, it is available at any Waterstones here in Britain. I just bought my copy in the Angel branch yesterday.’

‘I am afraid you cannot take this onboard, Sir.’ You must be kidding me. I just spent 20 pounds on a book that, despite arousing some controversy in the UK, should not be banned onboard a flight to Germany. I understand that the terror plot (which coincidentally seems to have an Uzbek dimension) makes for some overwrought nerves.

But to ban a book widely available in book stores in the UK is just a joke. Now, cash-strapped, I have to wait for the paperback edition to be published. Already late for the flight and raging in front of the calm airport security manager, I must have overheard that they can – in exceptional cases – post confiscated material to a UK address. I recalled that onboard the plane’

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John Reid’s Scaremongering Succeeds in Making Racism Normal

From The Guardian

The removal of two men from a holiday flight on the grounds that fellow passengers feared they were terrorists was condemned yesterday. The pair, thought to be in their 20s and of Middle Eastern or Asian appearance, were removed from a flight to Manchester from Malaga, Spain, after passengers became suspicious of their behaviour.

In the early hours of Wednesday a number of passengers on Monarch Airlines flight ZB613 left the plane, refusing to fly unless the two men were removed, causing a three-hour delay.

Passengers are reported to have become suspicious after the men were overheard apparently speaking Arabic and seen repeatedly checking their watches, although this has not been confirmed by the airline.

Muslim MP Khalid Mahmood described the incident as “hugely irrational”. “People need to get their senses back into order. You can’t just accuse anybody who’s of Asian appearance and treat them like a terrorist,” said the Labour MP for Birmingham.

“If somebody is threatening anybody it’s understandable, but when they are just travelling for their own needs it’s not. People just need to calm down.”

These sentiments were echoed by Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, of the Muslim Parliament of Britain, who described the incident as “sad and shocking”.


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