Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Africa: The new battleground against Islamic extremism

The brutal and ruthless kidnapping of more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls last month shocked the world, leading to condemnation from global leaders including former Prime Minister Tony Blair. But the incident is the latest in a much wider problem of Islamic extremism that is engulfing many African countries.

The continent has long been plagued by challenges of poverty and war, with several countries sharply divided between Christianity and Islam, some moderate and some extreme. I have spent a great deal of time in both East and West Africa and witnessed first-hand varying degrees to which these two religions co-exist. Unfortunately, I have also witnessed worrying examples of the perversion of both religions.
These terrorist attacks have cast a grim shadow over some of Africa’s most forward-looking countries and created an environment of danger that not only threatens the African people, but is putting Britain’s national security at risk. This tragic scenario contrasts heavily with the huge strides made in the continent over the last few years, perfectly summarised by Nigerian novelist and poet Lola Shoneyin when she said, “Look one way and my country is booming. Look another and there's poverty and fear.”
In Kenya last September, 67 people died and over 175 were wounded during the siege in The Nairobi shopping centre. The perpetrators were Somalia-based Al-Shabaab, a group with a frighteningly expanding network of bloodthirsty supporters. This pattern of sporadic and brutal attacks continued in the tourist port town of Mombasa with bombings at a bus stop and The Reef Hotel, killing three people.
Such attacks, like the acid attack on Jewish volunteer teachers Katie Gee and Kirstie Trup near Stone Town, Zanzibar, do huge damage to the local tourist industry, a vital line of economic support for areas already beset with poverty. A few months later on the island a Catholic Priest was shot to death and his church was burned down.
At home, after British solider Lee Rigby was hacked to death in the middle of a Woolwich street by Islamic extremists, it emerged that one of the accused was seeking training with Al-Shabaab. Perpetrator Michael Adebolajo had previously been detained by Kenya’s anti-terrorism unit and was deported from the country.
These examples to name but a few illustrate a clear pattern of Islamic extremism that is creeping its way into several countries within Africa, poisoning the minds of some of the most vulnerable people in the world and perverting a religion which has in many cases existed in peace alongside other religions for decades.
The situation is so severe that Britain must act urgently, not simply to provide support and guidance, but also dedicated and extensive education to these counties, to help route out terrorist ideologies and develop counterterrorism strategies to fight this evil.
The issue is not simply one of increasing security, as advised after the first round of bombings in Nairobi. We in Britain know all too well the security alone cannot defeat extremism. These problems are much more deep-rooted and need to be tackled through better education and community outreach programmes. By identifying potential extremists and their preachers from the outset, this will help to eradicate Islamic extremism. 
We know from previous examples, such as Al-Qaeda’s rise in Afghanistan, that it is in environments of uncertainty and poverty that extremism thrives. Unfortunately the terrorists are equally aware of this.
The greatest tragedy of all is that, despite high levels of poverty and unemployment, African countries are still full of hope for the future, and Britain has a moral duty to ensure that this hope is not high-jacked and poisoned by extremists.
Britain has knowledge, skill and experience in regards to how to best tackle this growing threat. We should stand shoulder to shoulder with our African friends to stamp out Islamic extremism before it gains a further foothold.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

100 things this Conservative-led government have done

1.      Helped businesses to create 1.7 million new jobs – so more people have the stability and security of a regular pay packet.
2.      Created 1.6 million apprenticeships – so young people have the skills they need to succeed.
3.      Worked to make the UK’s tax system the most competitive in the world, according to KPMG – so the British economy attracts investment and creates jobs.
4.      Helped entrepreneurs to create 400,000 more businesses over the last three years – so our economy is stronger and more people benefit from the security of a job.
5.      Cut the deficit by more than a third.
6.      Cut income tax for over 25 million people.
7.      Kept mortgage rates low by not increasing borrowing.
8.      Funded Councils to help them freeze council tax, to keep your bills down.
9.      Given people the democratic right to veto excessive hikes in council tax.
10.  Cut fuel duty, saving the typical motorist who fills up once a week £360 on petrol.
11.  Cut Corporation Tax, helping to support businesses that invest in Britain.
12.  Taken almost £400 off childcare bills by increasing free education and care for 3- and 4-year olds.
13.  Forced energy companies to put customers on the lowest tariff.
14.  Delivered the biggest ever cash rise in the Basic State Pension.
15.  Scrapped red tape to save businesses £850 million year – helping free businesses to grow and create jobs.
16.  Scrapped Labour’s ruinous plan for a new jobs tax.
17.  Helped 360,000 small firms pay no business rates at all, because of our doubling of rate relief.
18.  Cut the jobs tax of businesses by up to £2,000 from 2014. This means 450,000 small businesses – that’s one third of all employers – will pay no jobs tax at all.
19.  Supported growth across the country through 24 Enterprise Zone, so it is easier to set up a business.
20.  Committed £18 billion for new school buildings so that children can learn in the best environment possible.
21.  Granted new freedoms to teachers in over 3,600 schools, allowing them to help each child to reach their full potential.
22.  Given the green light to 300 free schools being set-up by communities, so they can respond to local need.
23.  Brought in the rigorous new “EBacc”, meaning 60 per cent more pupils are taking the key subjects that they need to get a good job or go to university.
24.  Supported 89 new business and industry linked vocational schools, to prepare young people for work.
25.  Funded the biggest investment in transport infrastructure since World War II (over £70 billion over the next parliament), to support families who need to travel to work.
26.  Started resurfacing 80 per cent of our national roads. This means adding 221 lane miles of extra capacity to our busiest motorways and starting 52 major road projects by 2021.
27.  Started the biggest modernisation of our railways since the Victorians – so families and businesses get faster and more reliable trains.
28.  Capped the amount an out of work household can get in benefits.
29.  Capped benefit rises to stop them rising faster than wages.
30.  Helped people back to work with our Work Programme. We have set up the largest programme to get people into work since the 1930s.
31.  Introduced Help to Buy, so more families can get on the housing ladder even if they don’t have a large deposit from the “Bank of Mum and Dad”.
32.  Made it easier for people to buy their council house, by reinvigorating Margaret Thatcher’s Right to Buy scheme.
33.  Started building the first garden city since the 1920s.
34.  Stopped councils wasting taxpayers’ money on producing official newspapers which contain political propaganda.
35.  Capped social care costs, making sure people don’t have to sell their home to pay for social care. From April 2016 the Government will pay for peoples care once the cost to them hits £72,000.
36.  Committed to a new North-South railway – so we connect up our great northern cities.
37.  Balanced the defence budget – so that our Armed Forces can enjoy greater stability and certainty (crucially, we have eliminated Labour’s £38 billion black hole).
38.  Delivered the latest military equipment – to make sure our Armed Forces are the best in the world. Over the next 10 years, around £164 billion will be spent on new military equipment, including the new Aircraft Carriers, the Type-26 frigates, seven new Astute class submarines and the Joint Strike Fighter aircraft.
39.  Strengthened the Armed Forces Covenant – so we properly support our Service personnel.
40.  We remain determined to hold an in-out EU referendum before the end of 2017 after a full renegotiation.
41.  Got us out of EU bailouts to protect British taxpayers’ money.
42.  Vetoed a new EU fiscal treaty that didn’t guarantee a level playing field for British businesses
43.  Cut the EU budget, saving British taxpayers over £8 billion.
44.  Protected the British rebate from the EU. We have not and will not accept any changes to the British rebate.
45.  Kept Britain out of the Euro. We have not, and will not, join the Euro.
46.  Introduced a ‘referendum lock’ to ensure that any proposed change to the EU treaties that moves powers from the UK to the EU will have to get the consent of the British people.
47.  Used the Government’s balance sheet to back new nuclear at Hinckley Point C.
48.  Granted tax breaks for Shale gas exploration.
49.  Made energy costs clearer and simpler for consumers.
50.  Rolled back green levies. By cutting green taxes we have saved people an average £50 on their energy bills.
51.  Introduced ‘Sarah’s Law’, a child protection disclosure scheme.
52.  Limited the use of ‘slap on the wrist’ simple cautions so criminals are properly punished.  Simple cautions will be banned for serious crimes and carrying a knife.
53.  Made sure prisoners now have to earn privileges – rather than just avoid bad behaviour.
54.  Worked to make sure there are enough prison places – so criminals do serve their time.  There will be more adult, male prison places in 2015 than when we came into power.
55.  Cut police red tape and given them just one target: cut crime.
56.  Put local communities – and voters – in charge of local policing, so police can do what is right for their area.
57.  Created a new National Crime Agency to protect us from organised crime gangs, child abusers, drug smugglers, slave drivers and cyber criminals.
58.  Changed how police are hired and paid – so we can attract the best people to join  the police and protect our communities.
59.  Given police new powers to stop anti-social behaviour so people are safer in their communities.
60.  Opened up Government to transparency, with over 9,000 new pieces of data released.
61.  Made sure parking rules do not discourage visitors to our high streets.
62.  Helped new businesses to open in empty shops.
63.  Insisted immigrants speak better English so they can build relationships with their neighbours and contribute to our communities.
64.  Cut abuse of student visas, and closed bogus Colleges, whilst still welcoming the brightest students so our universities continue to be the best in the world.
65.  Given people more freedoms to build extensions, helping those who want to stay in their home.
66.  Taken action to stop illegal traveller encampments, so that areas are not blighted.
67.  Simplified the planning system, so everyone can understand it. (Our National Planning Policy Framework simplified planning policy down from 1,500 pages to fewer than 50 pages.)
68.  Given local councils new powers to boost local infrastructure.
69.  Protected the NHS budget, meaning that in 2015 we will be spending more on the NHS than when we took over from Labour.
70.  Brought in a £1 billion Cancer Drugs Fund to help patients get the NHS treatments they need.
71.  Hired more NHS nurses than ever under Labour – meaning patients get the care they deserve.
72.  Hired thousands more NHS doctors and midwives to look after patients.  There are now around 7,000 more doctors and around 1,800 more midwives working in the NHS than when we took over.
73.  Halved the number of hospital infections.
74.  Respected patients’ dignity by nearly eradicating mixed sex wards.
75.  Brought back named GPs for the vulnerable elderly.
76.  Ended aid to China and Russia, but kept our promise to the world’s poorest.
77.  Introduced a new payment by results approach to aid, where money is only handed over if results have been achieved on the ground.
78.  Made aid more transparent.
79.  Given same sex couples the right to get married in England and Wales.
80.  Launched a Sports Charter to stamp out homophobia in sport.
81.  Increased spending on disability support, in particular the Access to Work scheme.
82.  Reformed disability benefits so those who need it most get more.
83.  Given young people with special educational needs the right to say which college they want to go to and giving parents of children with severe, profound or multiple health and learning difficulties personal budgets, so they can choose the expert support that is right for their child.
84.  Banned more foreign hate preachers, closed down more extremist websites and helped more people turn away from violence. (For example, we have removed over 18,000 pieces of illegal terrorist material from the internet.)
85.  Rejected Labour’s policy of taxing tourists.
86.  Widened the definition of domestic violence to cover 16 and 17 year olds.
87.  Made forced marriage a criminal offence.
88.  Rolled out superfast broadband across the UK.
89.  Spent £150 million between 2013 and 2015 to improve mobile coverage in rural areas where it is poor or non-existent.
90.  Stopped fish caught from being thrown back into the sea to fulfil EU quotas. (We have negotiated with our EU partners that from 1 January 2015 ‘pelagic’ or sea level fish discards will be banned.)
91.  Invested £2.4 billion in flood defences by 2015.
92.  Doubling dementia research funding.
93.  Invested £2.4 million to create 1 million dementia friends who can support elderly people with dementia.
94.  Increased lottery funding for the Arts.
95.  Maintained free entry for national museums.
96.  Raised the income at which fees have to start being paid back – so graduates only have to pay back when they can afford to.
97.  Abolished the default retirement age.
98.  Introduced a £135 discount on electricity bills for the most vulnerable.
99.  Simplified the state pension so people can be certain of what they will get.
100. Boosted competition in the banking sector to make it work better for customers.