Monthly Archives: October 2012

Amidst a flurry of articles by interested parties on the prospect of Lord Justice Leveson introducing statutory regulation of the press and a Lords debate last week on media standards and media regulation, The Guardian today reports that the Inquiry’s report has been delayed until the end of November.

From the Guardian:

“Leveson’s conclusions and recommendations on the future of press regulation had been expected initially in October but got pushed back to November and now sources say it will be published at the end of the month.

“The exact timetable to which Leveson is working has been a closely guarded secret. He has always said he would report “in the autumn”, leaving newspaper editors and proprietors on tenterhooks for the past two months.

““Speculation has been rife that the report could be put back to December but sources say Leveson wants to get it out before George Osborne’s autumn statement on the economy on 5 December.

“There has been intense lobbying in the past few weeks by those in both sides of the debate on stricter press regulation. Some newspapers, notably the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail, as well as politicians including Boris Johnson, have warned of dire consequences if statutory regulation were to be recommended by Leveson and taken up by David Cameron.

“The two papers are among those backing a new lobby group, Free Speech Network, which launched last week warning that an “officially regulated press is the glib, easy, dangerous solution”.

“The Free Speech Network is opposing the Hacked Off campaign for tougher press regulation being fronted by Hugh Grant.

“Tory politicians also appear to be sharpening their knives for a battle over Leveson.”

Communities and Local Government Secretary, Eric Pickles, in an interview with Sky News gave clear indication of rejecting statutory regulation saying, “We should be very, very, very reluctant to take on legislation. It’s a balance and my view is that we should always balance in favour of a free press.”

Harriet Harman, in an interview with the BBC’s Andrew Marr last Sunday said that self-regulation would be to return to “business as usual “ and that this had evidently “failed”.

“We don’t want any obstruction on press freedom… I have always argued for press freedom.

“We may need a statute to underline a truly independent press freedom,” she said.

You can read the Hansard report on the Lords debate here.

ENGAGE’s submission to the Leveson Inquiry and our recommendations to Lord Hunt on improving self-regulation of the press can be found here and here.

BBC News reports that local residents and leaders of Millfield in Sunderland have criticised external groups who have been engaging in protests and stirring up trouble over a mosque in the area which recently received building approval by Sunderland City Council. The criticism comes after protests earlier this month involving far-right supporters campaigning against the mosque, as well as counter-demonstrations, turned violent.

From the BBC:

“Residents opposed to a mosque in Sunderland have accused far right groups and counter-demonstrators of bringing violence into their area.

“The Northern Patriotic Front is planning a rally on 17 November saying it wants to give locals a “voice”.”

One local resident local told the BBC that many objections to the mosque were based on congestion and noise, not ethnicity or religion. She said that, “If the people of Millfield want to hold a peaceful demonstration that is fine by me, and that is what was planned last time, but it didn’t happen.”

Zaf Iqbal  of the Pakistani Islamic Centre, which submitted the building application, said that the opposition protests have “stopped being about the mosque and the issue has become a tool for the far right to use to drum up support for whatever reasons they’ve got.”

The PIC’s application to the local council attracted 700 letters of objection according to the BBC report.

The protest planned against the mosque for the 17th November affirms the NF’s earlier pledge to hold demonstrations on a monthly basis. Simon Biggs, of the NF, defended the planned protest stating that, “Residents think they are being treated really shoddily and they don’t think they have a voice.”

He added that “we are doing things with the local community and we will carry on doing demonstrations even if the mosque is built.”

“Sunderland Mayor Iain Kay, who represents the Millfield ward, said neither far right groups not counter-demonstrators were welcome because of the potential for trouble.

“Sunderland city council leader, Councillor Paul Watson said the mosque plan was considered on merit and all legitimate objections were properly considered.

“He said conditions have been attached to address concerns about noise and car parking.”

Thirteen people were arrested during the protests earlier this month, resulting in two charges and eleven men being released on bail pending further inquires. Local blogger, John Scratcher, who witnessed the earlier protest wrote shortly afterwards that “very few of the protesters were actually from the Millfield area and the residents I spoke to did not appear to care whether a mosque was built or not…Half of the crowds looked like they had just turned up for a bit of a fight.”

BBC News reports of the concerns expressed by members of the House of Lords over the delayed publication of the report by Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq war. The report may now be delayed until 2013, ten years after the invasion.

From the BBC:

“Peers have expressed concerns about the length of time being taken by the Iraq Inquiry to publish its conclusions.

“The Chilcot committee is not expected to hand its final report to the prime minister until the end of 2013.

“Lib Dem peer Lord Dykes said there had been a “considerable delay” and the sooner it was published the better.

“The inquiry has been looking into the reasons why the UK joined the US and other nations in going to war against Saddam Hussein, as well as the UK’s role in post-war Iraq since 2009 – the year British troops left the country.

“The last public hearing took place in February 2011, since when the five-strong committee has been drawing together the huge amount of evidence received and seeking the release of further classified documents from the government for inclusion in the report.

“In his latest update in July, Sir John Chilcot announced a further delay to the publication of the report – which was initially hoped would be finalised during 2012 but whose timetable has steadily slipped.”

The BBC states that certain peers have raised concern about the process known as ‘Maxwellisation’- where those criticised in the report be allowed time to respond – and its delaying effect. Lord Morris commented that, “If the report has been finalised, why is it going to take from now until the middle of next year for these consultations with those who are being criticised to take place?”

The BBC adds that Sir John Chilcot, who chairs the inquiry “is determined the inquiry’s report would be “balanced, fair and accurate” but has warned the evidence – both oral and written – received by the inquiry was “not wholly consistent”.”

The publication of the report has already been delayed due to the Government’s hesitance in releasing official documents to the inquiry. In August, it was reported that the Government had vetoed an order to disclose the minutes of cabinet meetings held before the 2003 invasion, whilst the FCO is appealing a decision by the Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham, ordering the disclosure of extracts from a conversation which took place between the then British Prime Minister and US President, Tony Blair and George Bush, days before the invasion. Doubts were also shed on the credibility of the inquiry in 2010 when a US embassy cable with a message from a senior official at the Ministry of Defence assuring that measures were in place to protect US interests during the inquiry, was leaked.

You can read the brief parliamentary debate in full, here.

The Guardian has published an article by Lucy Snow, editor of the Leeds university student newspaper, Leeds Student, in which she defends her decision to publish an interview with the leader of the far-right British National Party and MEP for North West England, Nick Griffin, in the paper. The NUS had demanded it be removed on account of it giving a platform to the BNP’s fascist views. The NUS constitution contains a ‘no platform policy’ clause regulating the involvement of individuals and organisations affiliated to groups that hold racist or fascist views.

Snow writes:

“On Friday, Leeds Student, the paper I edit, printed an interview with Nick Griffin, leader of the BNP. Later that day, the NUS published an open letter demanding that I remove the piece from our website immediately, arguing that fascists should not be granted a platform to express their political views.

“The NUS claim that: “Leeds Student risks giving legitimacy to a fascist organisation, and boosts the BNP’s attempts to join the political mainstream.” Adding: “We… demand the editor of the Leeds Student reconsider this grave error and remove the interview with fascist Nick Griffin from their website and newspaper immediately.”

“During the speaker-phone interview, Griffin was as vile as you might expect. His responses prompted much outraged gesticulation within our paper offices as we all tried to stay quiet. He told our interviewer James Greenhalgh, who is a gay student, that the sight of two men kissing is “creepy”.

“We…wrote an editorial explaining why we believe it is important that student papers do not shy away from confronting extreme politics.

“As everyone in the office who heard the interview will testify, the interviewer was ferocious and brave in his questioning. He made me proud to run a paper which is able to get content like this into the student domain. An encounter between a young, gay man and one of the most-hated homophobes in the world was too powerful to be censored – this is why I published the interview.”

Snow questions the legitimacy of the NUS’s pleas when none of her team voted for the NUS “no platform for fascists” policy or for the NUS officers.

She concludes that, “Ultimately, people come to university to be challenged, not to toe the line of some over-arching organisation which is far removed from our every day campus lives. And the reaction from current Leeds students and alumni has so far been overwhelmingly positive.

“It insults students’ intelligence to insist that they must be protected from extreme views. The idea that talking to Griffin or any other fascist legitimises their arguments is laughable. On the contrary, without being given a stage on which he can display his lunacy, Griffin is an elected politician with just as much authority as any other MEP.

“Griffin is a politician in a country which has free speech, it is essential that his views and policies are exposed for what they are. Leeds Student merely gave Griffin enough rope to hang himself.”

The article is interesting and sheds a light on debates around freedom of speech and platforms for extremist views on university campuses. Debates have often centred around Muslim fringe groups which have found themselves censored at the behest of those that deny university students the right to engage with such views and challenge them. It is interesting that, for example, Student Rights, have in the past campaigned to deny Muslim fringe groups from organising events on campuses but stood in defence of the Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society at Reading University after it provocatively displayed a pineapple named Muhammed at the Freshers’ Fayre.

The erratic adoption of the free speech defence and censorship was also displayed in the actions of the Conservative Party in denying Lady Warsi permission to attend the Global Peace and Unity event in 2010 and in the speech delivered by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg a few months after Cameron’s Munich speech on ‘muscular liberalism’.

Clegg argued of the need to “tak[e] the argument to the bigots” – a rejoinder to the Conservatives’ sometimes blinkered approach to engaging with Muslims groups and organisations. While Muslims are often hectored about free speech when it comes to provocations around their faith, there is little effort to cast as wide a berth to Muslims espousing unsavoury views.

On the role of university campuses in fostering critical thought, a government report on the Roots of Violent Radicalisation found no obvious cause for concern on radicalisation at universities, whilst a 2011 report by Universities UK argued that universities should protect freedom of speech, because “It is precisely by being places where ideas and beliefs can be tested without fear of control, and where rationality underpins the pursuit of knowledge, that universities have come to represent one of our most important safeguards against views and ideologies that divide and undermine our open society.”

The website, Vice, has published an article by Simon Childs on a recent BNP protest outside BBC Broadcasting House erroneously conflating the Jimmy Savile scandal with ‘fighting grooming gangs’.

Childs comments on “how certain organisations with long-held grudges against the BBC have hijacked the situation to grind axes that have little to do with paedophilia.”

The article carries a number of photos of the protesters carrying placards with the words ‘protect children: fight grooming gangs’ on them.

Childs writes that the protesters, “spent Friday afternoon outside Broadcasting House in the West End holding their placards up to protest against… well I wasn’t sure, exactly. They seemed to be trying to make some kind of connection between the BBC and the “Muslim grooming gangs” that, according to many right-wing groups in the UK, have been active in the North of England and Scotland for years now.

“A lot of them were – shockingly – very cagey around the media. But they all agreed that it’s not weird to use the exposure of a large paedophile ring consisting of white people to raise the issue of Muslim paedophile grooming gangs. Because, no matter what race or religion, all paedophiles should be subject to the same disgust. Quite right, guys. With that in mind, it’s a good thing that the font on your placards in no way promotes any kind of racist agenda.”

Childs offers a helpful transcript of conversations he had with two of the protesters. The first is with Chris, a 42 year-old lorry driver:

VICE: What’s brought you out here today?
It’s my duty as a nationalist, mate. The BBC have got a pretty entrenched problem here. The whole BBC is a big cover up at the moment.

What’s nationalism got to do with being against paedophilia?
We’ve got to stand up against these grooming gangs. There’s a problem with the Islamic people targeting Christian children and not their own. Alright, you’ve got British paedophiles – I can’t deny that – but you haven’t got nine or ten British people in a gang doing it.

What? There are far more examples of white paedophile gangs in Britain than Muslim ones.
There’s no evidence of that.

I’m pretty sure that there is.

The responses of the second protestor, name withheld, to Childs’ questions:

VICE: What are your thoughts around all this?
Paedophilia is part of Muslim culture. They all vote Labour. The Labour Party is Marxist and they’re involved with this Marxist mob here.

Wait, the BBC is Marxist?
It’s full of them. It’s been riddled with Marxists since its inception.

Childs challenges this assertion, then asking the protester, Do you think the BBC’s Marxism manifests itself in its programming? to which the protester responds:

“Well, just look what happened when they let Nick Griffin on Question Time if you want an answer to that. They selected the audience – full of Marxists. And the panel was absolutely full of them.

Baroness Warsi is a Marxist?
No, she’s a Muslim. Her father is an immigrant. He’s got nothing to offer this country. It’s take, take, take.

That’s funny, because I read he started a successful company that employs a bunch of British people. It’s funny what you can choose to ignore.

Childs concludes with, “after overhearing the two exchanges you just read, no one else there would talk to me. I just thought you guys would appreciate an update on what battles the British National Party are fighting these days.

“Find it funny how deluded and ignorant the BNP are?”

Though parts of Childs’ exchanges with the BNP protestors are entertaining, such delusion is far more serious when one considers the number of protests held by the far-right in recent months against what they describe as ‘Muslim’ grooming. The protests are not divorced from the media’s reporting on cases of sex grooming gangs in a way that scapegoats Islam and Muslim communities on an issue that cuts across race, religion and culture. Such protests have also taken on a more violent and threatening dimension. For example, following the commencement of a trial involving a gang in Rochdale, Asian businesses were targeted in the city. And after the conviction of nine men who were on trial, Muslim groups reported a surge in abusive phonecalls and emails. Most recently, a man from Carlisle was sentenced for posting comments on his Facebook page encouraging people to petrol bomb an Indian takeaway because its owner was implicated in a sex abuse scandal.

Douglas Murray on Spectator blogs writes about the recent parliamentary debate introduced by Baroness Cox on her Arbitration and Mediation Services (Equality) Bill,’ or the bill on ‘shari’ah courts’ as its most commonly understood.

Murray argues that the government ‘[has] kick[ed] the Sharia debate into the long grass,’ writing:

“Beneath its title (‘The Arbitration and Mediation Services (Equality) Bill’) lies a debate which heads straight at one of the most important issues of our time: whether this country will make a stand on the principle of ‘one law for all’ or whether competing  laws will be allowed to operate unchallenged by a timid government and weak legal system.”

He cites at length Baroness Cox’s opening remarks:

“Awareness of the need for the Bill arose from mounting evidence of serious problems affecting some women in this country from the application of Sharia law. I immediately reassure your Lordships that I am not anti-Muslim. Indeed, I am deeply concerned that Muslim women enjoy their full legal and civil rights under the law of this land. If women from other faiths experience comparable problems of systematic discrimination, the provisions of this Bill would also be available for them as it does not name any religion.

“The problems I will highlight often arise because many women believe that Sharia courts are real courts and do not know that they have other rights under English law or they are pressured by their family or community not to seek those rights outside their community.”

Murray goes on to cite and commend the interjections of Lord Carlile, the former independent reviewer of terrorism legislation in the UK, and Lord Kalms. He lambasts Lord Gardiner, who in the debate stated that, “the Government are fully committed to protecting the rights of all citizens, and there is legislation in place to uphold those rights. What I said earlier is that the Government are actively working with groups to ensure that there is awareness and a change of attitude.”

Murray concludes that “the official line of the government remains that there is no need for a clarification or amendment of the arbitration act. The government’s line continues to be that there is nothing to see here, and please could everybody look away and move on. It is the view of a number of people who have recently been in the cabinet, and some who remain there.

“Thank goodness for Baroness Cox, that she and a range of other peers remain committed to highlighting issues which Parliament must address but all too rarely does address. If there were more people like Baroness Cox in the House and fewer Gardiners, Parliament might recover some of the esteem among the general public which it so conspicuously currently lacks.”

Murray’s comments and praise for Cox are telling of his lack of understanding of the scope of arbitration and mediation services both within and outside the Muslim community. The idea, for example, that Cox is concerned for women in all communities and is not targeting shari’ah councils specifically is dubious given that her argument focuses around – in her own careless language – ‘sharia courts’ (which are not in fact courts at all), and by the fact that she virtually ignores in her comments in support of the bill the presence of such mediation councils in other religious communities. Both Lord Gardiner and Lord Kalms for example made references to Jewish Beth Din arbitration services, with Lord Kalms stating that “It is not possible, for instance, for a Jewish court to adjudicate any arbitration case in such a fashion that the judgment runs contrary to the law of the land… the Beth Din are highly regulated by central regulating bodies.”

Moreover, Murray’s support for the bill on the basis that shari’ah councils contradict the principle of the supremacy of English law is, as we have previously noted, already and clearly established. The then Justice Secretary, Jack Straw, stated in relation to the 1996 Arbitration Act, that “There is nothing whatever in English law that prevents people abiding by Sharia principles if they wish to, provided they do not come into conflict with English law… English law will always remain supreme, and religious councils subservient to it.”

Murray’s disdain for the purported view of the government, that there is ‘nothing to see here’ is perhaps to be expected given his former Centre’s dedication to scaremongering about Islam and Muslims in the UK, as well as his own bigoted views on Muslims, such as that “All immigration into Europe from Muslim countries must stop”, and that “Conditions for Muslims in Europe must be made harder across the board”, though Murray now states that his argument was ‘poorly expressed’ his opinions have ‘altered significantly’.

The Observer review yesterday carried a feature article on the newest member of the Le Pen family to enter French politics for the National Front, Marion Maréchal Le Pen.

Talking about FN policies on the economy, Europe and immigration, Maréchal Le Pen explains why the FN would like to strip second generation immigrants of French citizenship if they refuse to learn French or commit a crime.

From the paper:

“In June, Maréchal-Le Pen became the youngest MP in modern French history, at the age of 22, after topping the poll in her constituency of Carpentras in the south-eastern region of the Vaucluse, with 49.09% of the vote. And yet the most disconcerting thing about her victory was arguably not her youth but her politics: Maréchal-Le Pen is an MP for the Front National and the newest face of the French far right. Her grandfather, Jean-Marie Le Pen, founded the political party which she now represents, a party which is anti-Europe, anti-globalisation and which believes in stringent immigration controls and national protectionism.

“”Integration is no longer possible,” she says. “When you’re the single French person in the middle of 10 Tunisians, the majority will impose their way of life on the minority.”

“…it is true that her presence on the political stage forms part of a broader attempt at rebranding the party. Maréchal-Le Pen’s aunt, Marine, has been instrumental in dragging the image of the Front National into the modern era, moving away from racist rhetoric, reaffirming secularism and insisting that France should stand on its own two feet and leave the euro. In April 2011, Marine banned regional councillor Alexandre Gabriac from the party after a photograph of him giving the Nazi salute was leaked to the press, calling his behaviour “intolerable”. In return, she has been rewarded with electoral success: the Front National is now the third largest party in France. When Marine stood as a candidate in the presidential elections earlier this year, she electrified the race by polling 17.9% in the first round – more than 6m votes – eventually finishing third behind François Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy. But it has not all been plain sailing: although her niece was elected to parliament in June, Marine Le Pen lost her bid to win a seat by 118 votes.

“What, then, are her policies?

“On the economy, she wants France to abandon the euro and readopt the franc. She wants tighter regulation for financial institutions in the wake of the banking crisis and lower taxes for French businesses in order to regain consumer confidence. She is vehemently anti-EU – a position that has found favour with republican French voters who believe the integrity of their nation is endangered by federal government.

“”Then, of course, we have our policies on immigration,” she continues. “More and more communities are asking for the introduction of their specific religious law and that is a threat to secularisation. It’s particularly an issue among Muslim communities. Not all Muslims,” she clarifies, hastily. “Most Muslims in France are not fundamentalists. What is surprising is that the first generation of immigrants were very well assimilated. They didn’t wear the veil in public. “They kept their religion in the private sphere. Now whole immigrant communities are being created – because of past government policies – that are separate.”

“In France, where the divorce of church from state underpinned the French revolution, secularisation is viewed as a basic tenet of the country’s progressive thought. Since April 2011, women have been banned from wearing the burqa or the niqab in public. In this context, Maréchal-Le Pen’s comments are not especially controversial. But then she goes even further, outlining a plan to strip second-generation immigrants of citizenship if they commit a crime or refuse to learn French.

“This is all so smoothly expressed, that it takes a moment for the impact of it to hit home: that the law, under the Front National, would mean one thing for those descended from immigrants and another thing entirely for what Maréchal-Le Pen views as the “true” French race.

“Isn’t her stance racist? “That accusation is largely used by our opponents to discredit us. I don’t see how it’s racist to prioritise French nationals. We’re not talking about black or white. It’s normal that French people who pay taxes should be prioritised, just as an Algerian who is naturalised will have priority [in social housing and employment].”

“Immigration, she concedes, “has also been good” for France. The problem, as she sees it, is that past government policies have failed, causing resentment among those who believe their country is being overrun by “outsiders”. She goes on to claim that a number of Muslim women, who feel pressurised into wearing the veil within their communities, are also supportive of her position.

“”There are women who say to me, ‘I can’t wear a skirt,’ or ‘I’ll be insulted if I don’t wear a veil or don’t go to the mosque.’ There’s a pressure within the community imposed by others. Those people, more and more, are calling on us to act because we are the only ones who see secularism as fundamentally important.”

“Perhaps Maréchal-Le Pen is right that immigration needs to be discussed and that MPs are wary of doing so in case they are accused of racism. Some of her opinions have the sheen of plausibility. She is not unlikable. But the tone of her last answer suggests a more disturbing set of beliefs at play beneath the surface: a whiff of something rotten at the core of her politics and a sense that the world is made up of people who can be divided easily into “us” or “them”.”

Islamophobia Watch covers the suspended jail sentence handed down to man who posted comments on his Facebook page encouraging people to petrol bomb an Indian takeaway in Carlisle because its owner was implicated in a sex grooming scandal.

From the local paper:

“A former hospital worker involved with a far-right political group used Facebook to encourage people to petrol bomb an Indian takeaway at the centre of a major child abuse probe.

“Carlisle Crown Court heard how Alan Clarke’s reckless comments on the social networking site led to him being sacked by bosses at the city’s Cumberland Infirmary.

“He admitted using Facebook to collude with others in a way that could have encouraged people to commit criminal damage – namely by attacking the Spice of India takeaway in Botchergate, Carlisle.

“Prosecutor Mark Lamberty described how the 27-year-old defendant had read about a police investigation into the systematic sexual abuse of young girls in the city.

“The man arrested for those offences – and later convicted and jailed for 15 years – was Spice of India’s Bangladeshi boss Azad Miah.

“Mr Lamberty outlined a Facebook conversation Clarke had with another man on October 4 last year.

“One comment posted by Clarke stated: “People think I’m a racist because I’m always having a go at these lot. I think this is a good enough reason, don’t you.

““Just remember this, curry lovers of Carlisle – if you get your takeaway from Spice of India, you are funding this sick [person’s] habit of grooming young girls and worse. And if anyone feels the need to smash the place up, I won’t stop you. Ha ha!”

“Clarke added: “The place needs petrol bombed.”

“Police acted swiftly, advising staff at the takeaway to close, which they did. Officers then seized Clarke’s computer from his Ridley Road home in Currock and arrested him.

“In his interview, he described himself as a “keyboard warrior.”

““He said he knew what he put was wrong, but he was having a rant,” continued Mr Lamberty. Clarke admitted being a member of the far right English Defence League (EDL), but insisted he did not intend the restaurant should actually be damaged.

“Judge Batty told the defendant that, given his political leanings, his Facebook comments had an air of “triumphalism.”

“He added: “Fortunately, people in Carlisle have a lot more sense than you appear to have and people in Carlisle let justice take its course rather than following idiots like you and other such idiots who are involved in the so-called English Defence League.”

“Judge Batty imposed a 12- month jail term, suspending it for two years; 200 hours unpaid work; and an electronically monitored night-time curfew for the next six months.”

The Sunday Express published a comment piece by Geraint Jones on the possibility of the far right being handed an advantage in the Police and Crime Commissioner elections on November 15th on account of low voter turnout.

The Sunday Express commissioned a poll which seems to reinforce fears that voters will stay away from the ballot box on the 15th scuppering the PCCs popular mandate and allowing far right candidates to seize the opportunity.

Jones writes:

“Among the assortment of former MPs, local politics veterans and obscure independents competing for the 41 posts are members of the English Democrats and the British Freedom Party, the political arm of the English Defence League.

“Fears about the tactics of the far-Right were heightened after EDL members held a demonstration outside Parliament yesterday after being banned from marching in the London borough of Waltham Forest. The protesters provocatively burned an Islamist flag.

“As the Electoral Reform Society predicts that the turnout at the polls could hit an all-time low, with fewer than one in five people likely to vote, some observers fear the elections open the door to extremists.”

From the paper’s editorial yesterday:

“Our exclusive poll casts a worrying shadow over the Governments inaugural election of police and crime commissioners next month.

“More than half of voters said they did not think the new commissioners would bring down crime or improve policing, 90 per cent could not name a single candidate and just 17 per cent were certain to vote.

“Ministers are facing an uphill battle against voter apathy, not helped by former Met police chief Sir Ian Blair telling people not to bother turning out.

“He may know a thing or two about policing but not, it seems, the dangerous effects of a very low turn-out that skews democracy and opens the door to extremist candidates.

“The only way to stop extremists getting their hands on considerable power and a good chunk of public money is to show up on November 15.”

Among candidates from far right parties – the British Freedom Party and the English Democrats – who are contesting the elections are Bedfordshire (Kevin Carroll, BFP), Lincolnshire (Elliott Fountain, ED), Northamptonshire (Alan Spencer-Bennett, ED), Cambridgeshire (Stephen Goldspink, ED), Essex (Robin Tilbrook, ED), Kent (Steve Uncles, ED) and Merseyside (Paul Rimmer, ED). UKIP is running 24 candidates in the elections.

You can read our manifesto for the PCC elections here.

News agency Reuters publicises the results of a poll published in French newspaper, le Figaro, which shows that “an increasing majority of people in France believe Islam plays too influential a role in their society and almost half see Muslims as a threat to their national identity”.

From the Reuters report:

“The survey by pollster Ifop in Le Figaro newspaper showed that 60 percent of people believed that Islam was “too important” in France in terms of its influence and visibility, up from 55 percent two years ago.

“It found that 43 percent of respondents considered the presence of the Muslim community as a threat to their national identity, compared with just 17 percent who said it enriched society. Forty percent of those questioned were indifferent to the presence of Islam, Le Figaro said.

““Our poll shows a further hardening in French people’s opinions,” Jerome Fourquet, head of Ifop’s opinion department, told the newspaper.

““In recent years, there has not been a week when Islam has not been in the heart of the news for social reasons: the veil, halal food, for dramatic news like terrorist attacks or geopolitical reasons,” Fourquet said.

“The prevalence of halal food and rising immigration – particularly from Islamic north Africa – were hot topics in the campaign for the presidential election as Nicolas Sarkozy sought to appeal to voters of the far-right National Front.

“The publication of the poll also came after a far-right group occupied a mosque in the western city of Poitiers at the weekend and issued a “declaration of war” against what it called the Islamisation of France.

“The survey, carried out on October 15-18 on 1,736 people, showed a growing resistance to the symbols of the Islamic faith. Some 43 percent of those questioned were opposed to more mosque building, up from 39 percent in 2010.

“Sixty-three percent opposed Muslim women wearing the veil or Islamic headscarves in public, compared with 59 percent two years ago. Sarkozy’s previous conservative banned the wearing of full-face veils.”

Recent research on the effects of legislative measures to eradicate Islamic symbols in public life, particularly the veil, found that the veil is increasingly viewed as an ‘unwelcome racial or cultural presence’. The negative impact on Muslim women is supported by research by Irene Zempi of Leicester University which shows that the banning of the niqab in France has increased hostility towards veiled Muslim women in the UK.