Any Questions Sept 5th


Westonbirt School for Girls

On Friday Sept 5th, I appeared on the BBC Any Questions panel at Westonbirt School, near Tetbury in Gloucestershire, along with Anna Soubry MP (Tory, Broxtowe); Caroline Lucas, former Green MEP and now MP; and Michael Dugher, Labour MP, Barnsley East.  We were under the watchful eye of Chairman Jonathan Dimbleby.

With both Caroline Lucas and me on the panel, you might have thought that climate and energy would rear its head — but it was not to be.  However they had a warm-up question: What do the panellists find gives them real joy in life?  So after grandchildren and music, I added “And with apologies to Caroline, driving fast cars”.

Nor did the EU come up (despite one MEP and one former MEP on the panel), nor Scotland, which I had been expecting.

 We did however spend some time on Iraq, and the “British Jihadists”.  I objected to the use of the term “British Jihadists”, in that these people had demonstrated in the clearest possible way that their allegiance was given not to this country but to their “Islamic State”.  They are “BINOs” — British in Name Only.  They have sacrificed the right to be British.  This point got some very positive audience reaction.  But I added that Cameron had got himself into a muddle by floating the idea of withdrawing passports from these people, only to find that his hands are tied by international agreements on statelessness, and by European law.  (Anna Soubry insisted that it was nothing to do with Europe.  She’s wrong).

So the other panellists explained, in a rather worthy way, why we couldn’t leave these people stateless.  I suggested that as they had clearly abrogated their British nationality, they should apply to their “Islamic State” for a passport, and see how they got on.  Both Anna and Caroline threw up their hands in mock derision, and Caroline insisted that “Islamic State” was, well, not a state.

Well spotted, Caroline.  But that is exactly my point.  I know it’s not a state.  You know it’s not a state.  But these Jihadists have chosen to find out the hard way.  It will be a salutary lesson for them.

One other point came up, raised by Jonathan Dimbleby.  There are now reports of disillusioned would-be Jihadists, who believed (however mistakenly) that they were going to Iraq to fight for the rights of their co-religionists, only to discover that they were engaged in little more than gang warfare, internecine strife between different terrorist groups vying for supremacy.  Thoroughly discouraged, they now want to return (we are told) to the UK, but are afraid they will be jailed on return.

I suppose one ought to have some sympathy for young people fired by the misplaced idealism of youth, who go to fight for a cause they believe in, only to find they’ve been betrayed into barbarism.  Moreover if their repentance is genuine, they could perform a critical role in fighting extremism and radicalisation in British Muslim communities.  Of course I explicitly exclude any who have committed crimes in Iraq (though evidence is hard to come by).

The real problem here is to separate the sheep from the goats — the disillusioned and repentant idealists from the hardened, committed fanatics.  We might feel that MI5 should be up to the job.  But we know that psychopaths in our prisons can convince Parole Boards that they are reformed and ready for release, only to offend again as soon as they get out.  The fear remains that these Islamist psychopaths may be at least equally plausible.

I can’t conclude without a word about the venue, Westonbirt School, which is housed in a simply stunning country mansion, Westonbirt House, near the National Arboretum.  It was built in the Nineteenth Century by Robert Holford and clearly no expense was spared.  It out-Trusts the National Trust.  The 200+ girls who study there are privileged indeed.  Few will be destined to live in such splendour again.


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8 Responses to Any Questions Sept 5th

  1. Ex-expat Colin says:

    Physco’s on both side of the prison walls I think. It is contemptuous to allow such offenders (and more) out and free to roam, but you can easily bang up anybody for TV licence evasion, messing with graded property and now a wicked example of the EAW in Spain. Farage warned about the European jail technique…your gone alright! Here of course its very much the reverse.

    Was it Soubry who wanted to stop our military drinking a while back? Send them to Poland then to hang around as NATO…oh no!

  2. Auralay says:

    Some years ago we in the South Wales Valleys were celebrating the memory of the communist jihadists /brave freedom fighters/ Revered National Heroes who went to fight in the Spanish civil war in the 30’s. At the time communism was regarded by many as an evil religion but I am not aware of any call to remove their passports.
    A few years later we were grateful for the Americans who came to help us fight before their country had joined the war.
    Now personally, I think those who have committed atrocities should not be allowed to return but I am more afraid of legal precedents. How do you frame a law to distinguish “Heroes” from “Dangerous Fanatics”?

  3. Roger Helmer MEP says:

    Thanks Auralay. But I don’t think anyone (apart from other Islamists) regards these Jihadists as “heroes”. They have demonstrated their allegiance to a purported “State” that is radically and passionately opposed to the West and Western values. If they claim that they are loyal British citizens and support Western values, the onus is on them to explain what they were doing fighting alongside the bad guys.

  4. auralay says:

    Roger thanks for answering me.
    I fully agree with you that “They have demonstrated their allegiance to a purported “State” that is radically and passionately opposed to the West and Western values.”
    However, many would have said exactly the same about communist supporters in the 1930’s.
    Who would get to decide if the group their actions were ‘acceptable’ or beyond the pale?
    I would be very worried of giving that power to a politician or even a judge- far more worried than I am of British terrorists.

  5. Bernard Hough says:

    I would be worried if their leaders allowed them to return to the UK, during interview a captured member said that he stayed with them because he was told that he would be killed if he attempted to leave, there could be some ulterior motive, ie. to be here as `sleepers` ready for the call at some later date. How could we be sure?
    I have read quite a long time ago that their allegiance is to Islam and not the UK.

  6. Richard111 says:

    My thoughts on this subject: if Labour wins the next election I predict a muslim mayor of London shortly after. As for a PM? We shall see.

  7. Mike Stallard says:

    I have Muslims in my own family. I am not at all frightened of them. Actually, they remind me very much of the old fashioned Church of England, where Sin and Hell were an ever present reality (I was brought up in a Public School deliberately based on Prussian militaristic principles). The rewards of all this suffering were, however, very remote and hard to acquire.
    Muslims, like my parents’ generation, go to church/mosque naturally and, when there, often hear hellfire sermons. Conservative politics, of course, are assumed and the social system reinforced.
    However the younger Muslims – in several countries – like us, have more or less given up their religion.

    As a Christian, I can see that the Arabs are showing the world the threadbare nature of Islam. If you really set out to follow the life of the Prophet, then you do, actually, get Salafism. Most of the rest of the world can see this and they shrink back in horror.

    Just as UKIP is in no sense the Greens, so all religions are by no means the same. There are good and bad ones actually…

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