Monthly Archive for October, 2006

Harvard targets UK state schools

Today’s FT reports that Harvard University will be especially seeking to recruit state school pupils from the UK this year. Not a surprising development given the introduction of top-up fees as many students will actually be financially better off by going to America.

Harvard University’s student recruiters are to target state schools this year in an effort to break the grip the private sector has over its UK intake. Representatives of the prestigious US university will be dispatched to state schools to ensure students are aware of Harvard’s policy of waiving fees for parents with incomes of less than $60,000 (£32,000).

Aaarrggh! Why did no-one tell me about that policy? Don’t get me wrong, Imperial College was great and I had a fantastic time there – but I’d have passed IC over for Harvard any day!

“Big state” consensus in the UK

Martin Wolf argues, in the FT, that the UK is moving towards higher tax with no debate. Depressingly, I think he’s probably right.

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Is playing the race card now Labour strategy?

Osama Saeed draws my attention to a piece in the Daily Mail by Peter Oborne, entitled Blair. The veil. And a new low in politics. The conservative commentator makes some fairly bullish claims:

…Labour has made the extraordinary decision to place the politics of religious identity at the centre of public discourse, in the same sort of way that Jorg Haider’s Freedom Party does in Austria and Pim Fortuyn’s List Party did in the Netherlands

He goes on:

…Labour has cut its losses, and decided instead to stir up racial tension as a means of appealing directly to the white working-class vote. Labour activists tell me Jack Straw’s remarks have proved ‘incredibly resonant’ on the doorstep.

Oborne does not provide hard evidence to substantiate his claims but it does put Margaret Hodge’s faux pas over the BNP in a somewhat new light. I do take issue with Oborne’s implication that debate in this area should be restrained. I think this would be unproductive. If there are feelings of grievance then they should be openly aired so that they can be resolved. Debate should not be restrained but it should be conducted in a civilised, and constructive manner. If that’s what Oborne meant by “restraint” then fine, but it’s not very clear. One thought that did cross my mind, if Cameron’s Conservatives (David Davis and other dinosaurs excluded) are now to be the party of “restraint” could they, and would they, attract a new Muslim vote? After all I’ve always considered most Muslims to be “closet Tories” (socially conservative with a strong emphasis on family values and an enterprise culture) who only voted Labour because of the stronger stench of racism emanating from the right.

URGENT: Extradition Vote, Tue 24 October

The Third Reading of the Police and Justice Bill will take place next Tuesday, 24 October in the House of Commons. This occasion will include the opportunity for MPs to vote on two amendments that aim to reduce some of the negative effects of the Extradition Act 2003. Please take a few minutes now to write to your MP to make sure they vote to safeguard our rights to liberty and justice.

A brief reminder of some of the problems with the UK-USA Extradition Treaty 2003:

  • British citizens can be extradited to the USA based on the US authorities simply stating their accusation. There is no requirement for them to produce evidence before a British court.
  • British citizens can be extradited to the USA for alleged crimes that took place anywhere in the world – even in the UK.
  • British citizens can be extradited to the USA for alleged offences against US law even when they took place in a jurisdiction where the alleged activity is legal.
  • The Treaty is asymmetric: American citizens can only be extradited to the UK for alleged offences committed here and the British authorities have to demonstrate ‘probable cause’.
  • Effectively this contracts out our justice system to the USA, giving them extra-territorial reach. It’s also retrospective.
  • A few other safeguards in the legal system are thrown out too…

Babar Ahmed remains in detention, awaiting a judgement on his appeal against extradition to the USA. His extradition case is one of the most high profile under the act and, in his case, the allegations all relate to activity he is alleged to have carried out in the UK.

The Free Babar Ahmed campaign sent out the lobby instructions below. Please act on them. (Although hopefully you could spend a few minutes writing your own letter rather than simply copying and pasting their suggested text – it really will make much more of an impression on your MP.)

Dear Supporter

We now have confirmation that the Commons will be voting on crucial amendments to the UK-US Extradition Treaty 2003 on TUESDAY 24TH OCTOBER 2006.

If the vote is won, this will directly affect cases of several British Citizens facing extradition to the U.S. (including that of Babar Ahmad).

Please follow the steps below and urgently contact your MP by Friday 20th October 2006 4pm to make sure they clear their diaries to attend the vote. MP’s from all parties need to be contacted, ESPECIALLY Labour MP’s.

This will take less than 10 minutes of your time.

STEP 1: Go to www.writetothem.com and paste the paragraph below in the box. You must include your name and postal address:

I am writing to you as your constituent to urge you to vote to support both amendments to the UK-US Extradition Act 2003 (prima facie evidence and forum) when the Police and Justice Bill returns to the Commons on 24th October 2006. I would urge you to please make yourself available to vote on that day to back both amendments and to encourage your fellow MP’s to do the same. I hope that you will vote to give British citizens the same rights as the U.S Government gives to its citzens.

STEP 2: Follow up the email with a phonecall by Friday 20th October.

  • Ring 020 7219 6967 (House of Commons Switchboard) and ask for your MP’s office.
  • Give them your name and address.
  • Tell the staff you have sent an email and would like your MP to back both amendments to the Extradition Act 2003 and would like them to cancel any prior engagements to make themselves available to vote on Tuesday 24th October 2006.

Please pass this email on to all your contacts TODAY and circulate on mailing lists and forums so as many MP’s as possible are contacted before the end of this week.

Thank you for your time and efforts

Yours sincerely

Free Babar Ahmad Campaign

Links: www.notoextradition.co.uk

PS: If you have received this email after Friday 20th October, please still follow the steps above as the vote will take place on Tuesday 24th October 2006

www.freebabarahmad.com

Please also keep any eye on the No To Extradition Campaign and Blog for updates.

UPDATE 18/10/2006: I forgot to mention the Early Day Motion from May, put forward by Boris Johnson MP, which calls on the government to amend the unfair extradition arrangements. Read the list of signatures on EDM 241 (Extradition Act 2003) to see if your MP was a signatory, and if so, remind them to put their vote where they mouth is.