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  • Yasmin Alibhai-Brown and the stoning tweet

    by Sunny
    12th November, 2010 at 9:54 am    

    You may have heard about the Birmingham city Conservative councillor who allegedly tweeted:

    Can someone please stone Yasmin Alibhai-Brown to death? I shan’t tell Amnesty if you don’t. It would be a blessing, really.

    It was in response to some discussion Y A-B was on. Doesn’t really matter what the content of the discussion was - it was a despicable thing to say. But now he’s been arrested.

    Yasmin told the Guardian:

    If I as a Muslim woman had tweeted that it would be a blessing if Gareth Compton was stoned to death I’d be arrested immediately,

    Given what happened to Paul Chambers, that is entirely possible. But I still disagree with Yasmin on this. His comment was despicable but not meant as incitement to violence in my view. It’s absurd to prosecute him over it.

    To clarify one thing: Yasmin Alibhai-Brown did not complain to the police herself. Someone else did. And the police were already aware of other people making death-threats against her, so they had to take it seriously and investigate. Not doing so would have been irresponsible. Anyway - I hope she does not press charges.

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    Reactions: Twitter, blogs
    1. sunny hundal

      Blogged: : Yasmin Alibhai-Brown and the stoning tweet

    2. Matthew Reeve

      RT @sunny_hundal: Blogged: : Yasmin Alibhai-Brown and the stoning tweet

    3. Anne

      RT @sunny_hundal: Blogged: : Yasmin Alibhai-Brown and the stoning tweet

    4. Shirin

      RT @sunny_hundal: Blogged: : Yasmin Alibhai-Brown and the stoning tweet

    5. Likes_a_Rant

      Could we possibly have another #twitterjoketrial in our midst?

    1. Tom — on 12th November, 2010 at 9:58 am  

      It may not be up to her anyway - in 1986 a motorcyclist crashed into our car, paralysing the rider. The police and prosecution service had to prosecute because he was going 80 in a 30 limit, even though my parents didn’t want them to, because the offence wasn’t against us, but against the law of the land. Likewise if the awful Compton is prosecuted, it’s because the law is as big an ass as he is.

    2. Sarah AB — on 12th November, 2010 at 10:06 am  

      I think it *does* matter, to some degree, what the context of the discussion was - this has been covered on two recent posts on HP. If the reference to stoning just came out of the blue then it would seem (still) more offensive and one might decide to infer that the tweeter was Islamophobic. But the conversation on the radio was about stoning in Iran and YAB had suggested, I understand, that Western commentators (or those who had supported the war on Iraq or something) shouldn’t condemn the stoning.

    3. MLR — on 12th November, 2010 at 10:22 am  

      I understand how upsetting it must have been for Alibhai-Brown and her family, of course. But I agree that she’s overreacted by calling it “incitement”.

      The trouble here is that Twitter is a relatively new form of communication which makes it perilously easy to transmit your “thoughts” to the wider world. With traditional forms of communication (letter, phone, even email) Compton would have had to have taken the time & effort to articulate & distribute his thoughts, by which time his better judgment would probably have kicked in and he’d have withheld the statement.

      What I’m saying is there’s an element of deliberation & intention that goes into traditional forms of incitement (eg phoning in a bomb threat, or writing & posting a death-threat letter). But with Twitter the process of getting ‘thought into action’ is incredibly swift - literally a few seconds. Twitter users need to be educated & warned about this; our statutes need to be updated to make provisions for this; and people who are on the receiving end of ill-judged tweets - whether it’s a journalsit or an airport - need to be more proportionate about the degree of malice.

      I hope that once Alibhai-Brown gets over the initial shock, she is able to look at this again and conclude that it really wasn’t “incitement” as most people understand the word.

    4. Katy Newton — on 12th November, 2010 at 10:22 am  

      I wonder about people’s senses of humour sometimes, you know. The tweet was not funny. I can see that he might have been justified in saying “how would you like it if you got stoned” or something along those lines, but saying it would be a blessing if someone stoned anyone is neither funny nor clever.

    5. Yakoub Islam — on 12th November, 2010 at 10:24 am  

      The context is extremely important. She was on the Radio talking human rights, including stoning, and was criticising Cameron. She has included attacks on the Tory party alongside her accusations against Compton. YAB has a long history of making shrill and overwrought comments in support of her own opinions, which should also contextualise her ludicrous claims about his tweet being incitement to murder.

      I find it incredible that someone attacked over their supposed defence of human rights can then make comments that lurk on the borders of Article 19. Compton has arrested under a law designed to protect people from hate mail, not bad jokes on twitter.

    6. Katy Newton — on 12th November, 2010 at 10:25 am  

      I don’t think he should be prosecuted for it. I just don’t understand why anyone would think that was funny.

    7. earwicga — on 12th November, 2010 at 11:19 am  

      Thanks for the context Sarah.

      Katy - you so know that violence against women is ALWAYS funny!

      I’m glad he has been arrested.

    8. harith — on 12th November, 2010 at 11:38 am  

      So earwigca, are you agreeing with YA-B who said that the UK has no right to object to the stoning of a woman by Iran? Or, protesting the imprinonment and persecution of Christian women in Pakistan for heresy?

      Because that was the point Cllr Compton was making, albeit in a very crass way. He was not advocating violence against women, quite the opposite: he was criticisng YA-B for suggesting that we should be silent about it when it occurs in other countries.

      Where do you stand?

    9. Shamit — on 12th November, 2010 at 12:04 pm  

      I have very little sympathy for Yasmin “bonkers” alibhai Brown whose continual portrayal of British society infuriates me.

      However, the Councillor should have been more prudent - it might have been a joke or a caustic response to the idiotic vitriol Ms. Alibhai Brown puts in her column regularly - but it was uncalled for and not becoming of someone who holds public office.

      Yes her sanctimonious pontification is ghastly and almost always stupid - like her rant on the other day about Britain not having any rights to talk about human rights. She also has accused our soldiers in Iraq were looking to kill as many as Iraqi civilians as possible. Yeah her thoughts and rants are despicable in every sense of the word.

      But that was no joke - it was a sarcastic remark which was wrong and rightly the councillor has been brought to book. But I can’t deny that my sympathies lie with him./

      May be someone should file a public interest litigation against Ms. Alibhai Brown for inciting hatred against British service personnel.

      But what is more laughable is her attempt to take the moral highground.

    10. earwicga — on 12th November, 2010 at 12:10 pm  

      Shamit - I’m somewhat in agreement with you.

      harith - *sigh*

    11. harith — on 12th November, 2010 at 12:20 pm  

      I presume *sigh* is an indication that you have arrived at a dead end and you’re now unable to decide whether to plonk Cllr Compton with the ‘racist’ tag for denouncing YA-B for saying that the UK has no moral authority to criticise Violence Against Women in foreign states, in particular Muslim ones

    12. BenSix — on 12th November, 2010 at 12:30 pm  

      It wasn’t funny at all. Then again neither’s Jimmy Carr, James Corden or Rick Gervais and I, in all my tolerance, don’t call for their arrests…

      In other words, free the Tory 1.

    13. claude — on 12th November, 2010 at 1:00 pm  

      I disagree here, Sunny.

      <a href=""<Just think of the alternative. An elected politician getting away with calling for, no matter how jokingly (ha ha ha, me sides are slitting), the stoning of a journalist who’s already had her fair share of death threats?

      Compton is not a bloke down the pub, a kid in a playground, a socially inept blogger, or a Radio DJ.

      He is an elected politician and he holds public responsibilities. I’m sorry but he should have known better.

      He won’t get prosecuted surely, but I believe he should be held accountable for the crap he came up with.

    14. Yakoub Islam — on 12th November, 2010 at 1:46 pm  

      I certainly think the Tories have taken the right course of action in suspending Crompton from the party. Politicians have a bad enough name already, and tweeting politicians cannot simply say or tweet whatever comes into their heads. But as pointed out above, Jimmy Carr et al have told some pretty excrutiating jokes, some of which are inflamatory against women and minorities (travellers). They have not been arrested, and nor should they. Nor Crompton

      The issue is this: Crompton has NOT been arrested for incitement to murder, as YAB wanted. He is yet another twitter victim of the 2003 Communications Act, which was put on statute to protect people from hate mail. And given that YAB’s squeals of protest were accompanied by some Tory bashing asides, I’m concerned that this is an Article 19 issue.

      And if this law is allowed to successfully slap down bad jokes from politicians, it will then hang over tweeters seeking to make robust comments against journalists and others in a position to invoke this kind of legislation against their critics.

    15. harith — on 12th November, 2010 at 1:59 pm  

      Tweeting for YA-B to be stoned to death was intended as a joke because she will, of course, never have to face a stoning squad in her lifetime here in England.

      YA-B on the other hand was not joking, rather she was deadly serious, when she said that the UK had no right to protest against the stoning to death of women in, say, Iran. Which means that the campaign for clemency Sakineh Ashtiani who is under sentence for stoning to death for adultery in Iran would disappear.

      So who exactly is being irresponsible about Violence Against Women here?

    16. Brownie — on 12th November, 2010 at 2:13 pm  

      I believe he should be held accountable for the crap he came up with.

      Which of course can happen without the need for the boys in blue to become involved.

    17. Kulvinder — on 12th November, 2010 at 2:36 pm  

      As somegreybloke said

    18. claude — on 12th November, 2010 at 2:37 pm  

      @14 Yakoub Islam

      But Jimmy Carr is not an elected politician nor does he hold any public responsibility.

    19. John Christopher — on 12th November, 2010 at 2:48 pm  

      An elected official calls for the stoning of an journalist who just happens to be Muslim and this is funny. Katy, I agree with you 100%. This isn’t funny, it’s frightening.

    20. MaidMarian — on 12th November, 2010 at 5:47 pm  

      There is a slightly wider point in both of these stories. There seems to be this argument that somehow because it is on the internet things are somehow, ‘different.’ As others have said it is difficult to have sympathy for anyone.

      But would Chambers have jumped up on a table in the airport and shouted something like he put on twitter? Would this councillor have stood in Birmingham town centre with a megaphone and said what he did?

      The lesson here is that stupidity is not excused by it being on the internet.

      The other unspoken in here is that there is too much recourse to the law nowadays - sad.

    21. Trofim — on 12th November, 2010 at 7:13 pm  

      This is nothing. In 1937, when anxieties about possible war were already at a high level, an English poet publicly, and unashamedly called for the destruction of an English town . I can’t understand why they didn’t haul him in for hate speech. He wouldn’t get away with it nowadays.

    22. MaidMarian — on 12th November, 2010 at 7:27 pm  

      It is interesting that the other current internet free speech story has not been bought up.

      Roshonara Chaudry decided to stab an MP because someone on the internet says it is OK. May not be directly relevant, but it does show up the dangers of being glib on the web.

    23. Don — on 12th November, 2010 at 7:31 pm  

      I agree, the guy is a fool and needs some sort of consequence if only to bring home his folly to him, but prosecution is absurd.

      As for Y A-B, I wonder if, by some freak of circumstance, she found herself facing a sentence of death by stoning, she would high-mindedly reject all intervention by politicians who didn’t meet her personal standards.

    24. Marcella Carmen — on 12th November, 2010 at 7:56 pm  

      I think Ms Y.A.B. is making a big fuss over nothing. Remarks and cartoons just as hurtful to the Pope in person, and to Roman Catholics in general, were made for months before his visit to the UK, and are constantly being made worldwide. Muslims can learn from Christ’s instruction to,”do good even to those that hate you.” No Roman Catholic has stormed a mosque to shoot its congregation as retaliation for “offence!” I refer to the Qur’an burning that never happened! How many, many, Roman Catholic and other Christians have been killed for no other reason than simply being Christian. Recently, a Christian woman who refused to convert to Islam in Pakistan, has been wrongly accused of blasphemy and sentenced to death.

    25. Lucy — on 12th November, 2010 at 8:05 pm  

      It is amazing that no one has bothered to ‘listen again’ to what Yasmin Alibhai-Brown actually said on the Nicky Campbell show on radio 5 live. She was very specific and she didn’t say that stoning should be ignored nor did she say human rights in China (which was the basis for the discussion) should not be attacked, but that politicians, specifically politicians, shouldn’t criticise another country’s human rights record until they get their own house in order, or, acknowledge their own dodgy human rights’ record. But that only applied to politicians. The context was the Prime Minister’s visit to China. She referred to the slaughter and destruction that has been done and unleashed in Iraq under the aegis of the US and the UK…damage which is still ongoing, she said. BUT SHE DID NOT SAY that no one should complain about China or stoning in Iran or other terrible stuff. She said that human rights organisations and other actors should object - and loudly and early and often. Politicians on the other hand, she said, were being hypocritical because they didn’t acknowledge the mote in their own eyes (to put it in biblical terms). Along the lines of ‘let he who is without sin amongst us cast the first stone’,etc. Of course she wouldn’t want to be stoned. Nor would she want to be blitzed by a US Army Apache helicopter soldier or an unmanned drone. Logically, that is the conclusion to the point she was making, I believe. It’s available for a few days more: YAB comes on towards the last part of the tape…

    26. Shamit — on 12th November, 2010 at 9:48 pm  


      May I humbly remind you the serving Prime Minister represents all of us - he has been duly elected and appointed by HM The Queen.

      So when he goes abroad he speaks on behalf of the country - irrespective of whether you or I personally voted for him

      Just like President Obama speaks for the US -

      He did not get into No. 10 through a coup but through a legitimate constitutional process and in this country Parliament is supreme.

      Now, whether I personally like the PM or not - anyone who reaches No. 10 through a constitutional process has all the rights in the world to speak about human rights on our behalf.

      And, who ever holds that office is much more credible than someone who tries to paint our society as one where all Muslims live in fear or our soldiers as blood thirsty civilian hunters. Also she was advocating French type laws to ban burqahs - which I find itself repulsive.

      So, it is rather pathetic on anyone’s part to try to paint Yasmin Alibhai Brown as the paragon of virtue or self restraint. Yes, the councillor was wrong and his conduct was unbecoming of someone who holds public office.

      But Ms. Alibahi Brown trying to take the moral highground vis a vis the Councillor on speech restraint is like Hu Jintao lecturing David Cameron on human rights.

      So could I with all due respect suggest you take your diatribe somewhere else please?

    27. joe90 — on 12th November, 2010 at 9:58 pm  

      human rights is irrelevant when business is the key objective for the camerons and obamas of the world.

      saudi arabia, china, india, central asia all have human rights issues where are cameron and obama with their human rights card?

      It seems it’s only used when they want to invade a country or use it as propaganda against someone they don’t have economic interest with.

    28. Lucy — on 13th November, 2010 at 12:09 am  

      @26Shamit: “So could I with all due respect suggest you take your diatribe somewhere else please?”

      Well, fiddle-dee-dee Mr Shamit, I am distressed that I have so offended your delicate sensibilities that you would prefer to cut off my clearly presumptuous expression of views that (imagine that!) differ from yours. I am grateful that you have had the forebearance to control your self to the extent to which you have. You are the very model of Cameron-like tolerance.

    29. Refresh — on 13th November, 2010 at 12:47 am  


      Thank you, your comment encouraged me to listen to the exchange for myself. And can I say that you summarised it pretty well.

      Yasmin Alibhai-Brown’s comments are definitely worthy of debate. And if this Cllr Compton felt compelled to tweet for her stoning then he deserves to be handled roughly by the law. No sympathy.

      By the way where does she say no one should talk about stoning in Iran?

      There is absolutely nothing wrong with her comment. She, in a very few sentences presents the moral dilemma this country’s politicians now face. That is the price of an illegal war, political, moral and human capital got wasted.

      Supporting torture, or turning a blind eye to it and accepting other peoples people’s deaths as collateral damage to the extent of not counting them let alone holding post mortems says a lot about the position our politicians now find themselves in.

      The one thing I would disagree with Y A-B on is that it is better, for the peoples of the rest of the world, that the Blairs and Camerons and other supporters of war continue to speak up for human rights (whatever their motivation) for the solitary reason that once we lose them from the ambit of human rights altogether, future decisions to go to war or torture or assasinate will become that much easier for them.

      I suspect it could become habit-forming, and we cannot afford that.

    30. Sunny — on 13th November, 2010 at 3:02 am  

      but that politicians, specifically politicians, shouldn’t criticise another country’s human rights record until they get their own house in order, or, acknowledge their own dodgy human rights’ record.

      That’s pretty much what Cameron admitted didn’t he? If he tried to lecture the Chinese govt on human rights, they’d just laugh at him and point to Iraq.

      A group like Amnesty, HRW etc could criticise, but a lot of politicians don’t really have the moral authority. If the Pakistani govt tried to lecture anyone, they’d be laughed at too.

    31. halima — on 13th November, 2010 at 3:23 am  

      This has got to be the funniest article I read this week about Cameron and human rights. ( I realise human rights isn’t a funny topic, but this article is). Welcome to the brave new world - lecturing about human rights while going around with a begging bowl. Still, I am glad we are going around lecturing, it is important, but it makes you think hard about the context and effectiveness of a declining power talking about human rights to countries that obviously will continue to rise.

      Planning the longas march to China

      By Robert Shrimsley in the Financial Times
      Published: November 10 2010 20:19 | Last updated: November 10 2010 20:19
      Like all major visits, David Cameron’s trip to China was planned in advance in detail by diplomats from both sides. The FT has seen a transcript of the final discussion.

      OK, so we’ve all agreed on the itinerary. Now I think we just need to tiptoe into some of the more tricky issues of protocol and subjects for discussion. Shall we start with the welcoming ceremony?

      Analysis: Asia: Elevated aspirations - Nov-10

      Pay-off awaited from quiet diplomacy - Nov-10

      Video: UK plays ‘catch up’ in China - Nov-10

      Cameron warns China of protectionism risk - Nov-10

      In depth: G20 - Nov-11

      beyondbrics: The risks of poppy-wearing - Nov-10

      Yes. Your prime minister will be greeted by our premier, Wen Jiabao, in the Great Hall of the People and inspect a guard of honour. He and his ministers will witness the signing of the deal for 16 Rolls-Royce aircraft engines. Early discussions will then be followed by a banquet, also in the Great Hall, in which we will serve lobster soup and rib-eye steak.

      Well that sounds splendid. Now on the delicate matters of human rights?. . .?The prime minister would like to discuss your relationship with the Dalai Lama.

      We understand the prime minister’s position. We will just need to make some small revisions to the schedule. Instead of Mr Wen, he will be greeted by the second secretary (commercial) at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We will witness the signing of the trade deal for 16 life vests for a Gulf Airstream and then enjoy an intimate dinner at the Number Seven Noodle House in the migrant labourers district.

      I see. Perhaps we can leave the Dalai Lama to one side.

      It might be for the best.

      However, Mr Cameron does wish to talk about Tibet. He wants to say that he spoke about Tibet with Premier Wen.

      Perhaps the prime minister might wish to inquire about infrastructure and modernisation in Tibet. We could talk in detail about that and he can then say he raised the issue.

      Splendid. Well, into the breach then; Mr Cameron feels it is politically impossible for him to avoid discussing human rights.

      Naturally, we are delighted to have your prime minister lecture us on the superiority of your model as he visits, cap in hand, to beg us to fund your debt and buy your products.

      Perhaps if Mr Cameron prefaced his remarks stressing that he has no intention to lecture his hosts?. . .

      So he will begin his lecture by declaring it is not a lecture. That may help, but there is no possibility of him mentioning individual cases.

      Mr Cameron feels under domestic pressure on this. Naturally, he is aware of sensitivities and does not wish to give offence but he will lose face if he cannot tell the British people that he brought up the matter of Liu Xiaobo.

      We understand the importance your prime minister attaches to appearances. Very well, he may brief the press that he raised the matter.

      Excellent, thank you. Now when and how do you suggest he raise it?

      We did not say he could raise it. We said he could tell people he had.

      I’m afraid the prime minister would feel very uneasy lying about the Nobel laureate. Perhaps it could come up in the general conversation with President Hu.

      That would be unfortunate. Mr Hu would feel obliged to raise the concerns of your Mayor of London about the Kosovo-style ethnic cleansing of his City. We may also voice our unease at your use of control orders without conviction and the imprisoning of Mr Vince Cable, who we understand is held under cabinet arrest and unable to speak freely on issues.

      Mr Cameron needs to raise the issue with someone.

      He may mention it to the doorman on the way in but his remarks will not be translated.

      I see, well getting back to the general issue, then?. . .

      The British prime minister may discuss reform but he may also wish to admire our economic success and mention our increasingly pivotal role at the top table of global affairs.

      “Top table of global affairs” – yes I’m sure we can do that.

      In which case we would be content for him to echo the words of President Obama, speaking broadly as a candid friend about the value of freedom and political reform.

      And he would make these remarks during his discussion with Mr Hu?

      We thought perhaps a speech to students might be more appropriate.

      Won’t that look like a lecture? Anyway we agree.

      That would be most acceptable. It may be possible to add pan fried cod in lychee sauce and eight delicacies in pear to the menu for the banquet.

      Pleasure doing business with you.

      One last thing?. . .


      There seems to be a mistake in our list. This photographer is not really part of the official delegation, is he?

    32. Shamit — on 13th November, 2010 at 12:16 pm  

      Not doing anything while there is a genocide is on is also morally wrong. But t

      I guess that does not fit within your paradigms does it now- and there is no way anyone would ever be able to prove that Iraq was an illegal war no matter how much people try.

      And, another more important thing, politicians are our representatives - if you wish to change them stand in elections and persuade people to vote for you.

      If not, accept that the Prime Minister (who ever it maybe) has all the moral authority to speak for the British people. And lecture the Chinese as well as others.

      The politicians come from our society and our families - both rich and poor - and there is a old adage - a society gets the government it deserves.

      And I continue to argue that Cameron as Prime Minister has far more moral authority as one of the biggest aid givers to China to speak on behalf of the British people than Yasmin Alibhai Brown. So please -

    33. Shamit — on 13th November, 2010 at 12:42 pm  

      Halima -

      As you know I have a lot of time and respect for your opinions but I think the expectation that Beijing consensus is going to be the defining economic truth is not only premature but erroneous.

      I would lay out my arguments:

      First China is consuming much much more - and from the factory of the world (using the cost advantage) they are becoming consumers of the world - and that in itself is creating far more inequality than ever ever before. And over the past two years, they have started losing business to Philippines, Thailand, Taiwan as well as places such as Malaysia. And there is a concerted effort on part of the US and India to engage East - ASEAN economies have bounced back over the last year thanks to exports and that has all come mostly at the expense of China.

      Secondly, all chinese manufacturing/private sector is massively supported by the state coffers - which in the long term most economists agree is unsustainable. And its defence expenditures are going very very high - withour investment in social and economic reforms within the state. Something history tells us does not work very well.

      Thirdly, China is very very worried about inflation - and the impact on society from the great inequality. Its not coming from me but from Mr. Wen himself. And the Chinese Central Bank has raised rates twice.

      This year the Chinese Communist Party congress has called for sustainable pace of growth with wage earners getting more share of the national income.

      This is a massive headache and it is not painless - Exporters fear business will suffer if wages soar or the yuan rises fast. Powerful state-owned enterprises, used to cheap credit, land and energy, will resist threats to these privileges - these are coming from senior Sinologists.

      More importantly, with yuan rising - their primary competitive advnatage ie cost is becoming harder to bamk on. And therefore, less money for state owned banks to push through to prop up state backed industry.

      Fourth: the Chinese population is ageing and ageing fast. Compared to its nearest developing nation rival - India its population is twice the age of India.

      And there has been growing unrest in villages - according to the Communist party itself (which is we all know not very open) - the unrest has grown about 200% and they are having to crack down.

      Fifth: Rate of growth is slowing and overall the poverty levels among the masses has not fallen - in fact, the CCP has estimated growth for the next few years at 7.5% while India (according to chinese estimates) would grow at 10%.

      On the other hand, the Indian private sector is becoming global despite the lack of infrastructure and government’s incompetence. And India’s private sector is private and they are booming - and the boom is helping the government to use money for social reforms and not prop up state run industries. So, the infrastructure development in small towns in India is happening at a far greater pace..

      Finally, US and India are conducting more military exercises with each other than with anyone else in the world and they are ensuring they control the Indian Ocean. And India on US insistence is building carriers and now for the first time, they would have american aircrafts along with Eurofighters - And Japan, S. Korea and Asean (except for Singapore whose defence is underwritten by the US anyways) prefer US - India defence partnerships.

      So, Cameron may have gone to China to get business - not really begging bowl and Obama might have gone to India to get business - arguing that the West (especially US as well as the UK) are not powers who can impact things in the world. That is surprisingly the consensus among the intelligensia and the commentators but niether China nor India share that view geo politically. In fact, both China and India rate Britain as a power with massive influence and soft power - as well as Germany. What these both countries don’t rate is the European Union - and they think its just another economic bloc.

      It was most evident in the climate change summit last year - when the actual deal happened - the people in the room were the US, the UK, China, India, Germany. EU leaders got a text which irked Sarkozy massively and Barroso.

      Yes we are moving towards a multipolar world - from a one nation hegemony we are moving towards an oligopoly where soft power is becoming more and more important. And China needs the world now more than ever and the world needs China.

      China needs to move up the value chain if it wishes to sustain itself - so China is happy to be part of the Washington consensus which became evident when China and India took their seats on the IMF board. However, economically, even with an depression - Japan’s private sector still has a massive domination and in the IMF.

    34. halima — on 13th November, 2010 at 12:44 pm  

      Shamit , I reckon we all have the moral authority to speak up for human rights, it’s just that it’s a changing world, and whether we’re listened to will depend on many things, including whether we’re respected internationally, consistently maintain human rights principles, and do no harm to that agenda in actions elsewhere.

      Just pointing out that it is very tough to do. Have you noticed that it’s been a few years since the precedent was set for western leaders to highlight human rights only in universities?

      PS: just crossed with your second post…

    35. halima — on 13th November, 2010 at 1:33 pm  

      Hi Shamit, I shouldn’t be treating this discussion in such a fickle way, it’s just that there’s a lot on the news about begging bowls this week, and this seems to be the narrative from the G20 coverage on the BBC. Might all be unfair, of coarse.

      I respect your views, as you know. I have a hard time getting my head round to how Europe will adjust to a changing, and emerging world. It’s not wrong that Britain raises human rights, I applaud every leader and every citizen that does, and especially in countries where our relative importance and weight is diminishing.

      I agree with your analysis on the economic front - and you have a handle on some of the detail which I couldn’t competently discuss. The government is indeed taking rural inequality more seriously, out of a concern for social stability ( maintain the Communist Party’s power), as well a need to rebalance the global economy. The two goals are mutually complimentary - the second is vital for US & UK. So, we need China to help with the global rebalancing agenda and yes, China needs us - a little, and ultimately they need to send exports somewhere.

      India does consider Britain to be powerful and influential, I agree.

      China, though, considers the US, Japan and Germany to be influential and relevant, and in that order of importance. I don’t have a scientific formulae for this, just instinct, and neither do I consider this to be a bad thing.

      My sense is that China is more concerned about its reputation with other developing countries in Asia and elsewhere.

      The Beijing Consensus - however we want to define it, isn’t about one way being good, and another way being bad. As you rightly point out, the key principles behind the Washington Consensus haven’t been uniformly applied by the IMF in all places in recent times. Even the IMF has come out claiming that the rigid policies associated with the Washington Consensus is dead. Our NGOs said this 15 years ago, but larger organisations take time to catch up. And so, China and India will now take a seat at the table, and I wonder whether they will re write the rules of the game and take us back to the Washington Consensus after all? It is one thing to resist IMF straight jackets for your own country, but it’s quite another thing when it affects other countries. If expedient, they may turn this way. But somehow I don’t think India and China will. They seem to have a healthy/unhealthy understanding around non-interference, and respecting the sovereignty of countries. They will cut trade deals that all but give sovereignty in name in some countries, but I doubt they will impose the same rules.

      I agree that Cameron coming to China was to boost British growth and prosperity - and we could’ve just kept our mouths shut about human rights, but we chose not to. So it is a difficult balance. I noticed that the French visit the week before did not contain much dialogue on human rights - and they left cutting a much larger deal before we got to Beijing. Perhaps they learned a lesson from the last time the Dalai Lama became a diplomatic incident bilaterally. OK, I am not an expert on French-China relations, I just know that the French are incredibly smart tactically.

      But I am not convinced that we are as powerful and as influential as we believe.

    36. Larry — on 13th November, 2010 at 2:13 pm  

      I sympathise with the Tory. That woman is an absolute idiot and I can understand why he’d want this to happen to her. She’s a typical left-wing liberal, who’s content to sit in her ivory tower and talk utter bollocks 24/7.

    37. Joe Six-Pack — on 13th November, 2010 at 2:35 pm  

      England is allowing for Islamic law to be enforceable when not in conflict with British law. This is a small example of the problems that they have unleashed.

      Islam does not recognize any modern government, nor does it recognize the authority and responsibilites of the nation-state. England is in very real danger. Islam has a number of issues that wars are fought over, stoning is only one of them.

    38. dave — on 13th November, 2010 at 2:38 pm  

      Just read “joe six-pack”‘s website link . He’s a far right nutcase with sympathies to the KKK

    39. Refresh — on 13th November, 2010 at 3:19 pm  


      I hope for Cllr Compton’s sake he doesn’t really share your view (much as you would like him to), otherwise he is in for a rough ride through the courts.

      Incidently have you worked out which bit of ‘that woman’s’ comment the esteemed councillor actually disagreed with? I, for one, haven’t a clue.

      What she said was entirely logical, unless you would like our politicians to carry on trudging the globe as if Suez never happened.

      You see I suspect Tory HQ have a better handle on it than you, hence the suspension.

    40. Refresh — on 13th November, 2010 at 3:20 pm  


      I think you need to come off the steroids!

    41. Larry — on 13th November, 2010 at 3:51 pm  


      She once said on TV (on the Wright Stuff, I think) that Harriet Harman is good at her job.

      I thought she was idiotic before that, but that really sealed the deal for me.

      If this country’s national security was left up to that woman, we really would be f’#ked. As it is, with the snowballing problem of Islam in the UK, we’re pretty f@#ked but we could still unf#ck ourselves if we had true statesmen in charge.

    42. Refresh — on 14th November, 2010 at 2:47 am  


      What is wrong with Harriet Harman? And what is wrong with saying that she is good at her job?

      BTW I am glad you didn’t call her Harperson, it would have just grated.

      Harman’s prompt action over Phil Woolas marks her out as someone who knew what needed to be done and did it.

      ‘As it is, with the snowballing problem of Islam in the UK…’

      I think you will find its snowballing racism and bigotry, if left unchecked which will in the end drag the country into the gutter. Its already on its way thanks to illegal wars, acquiescence over torture and scaremongering to cover for that failed policy and to regain votes. Refer again to the case of the hapless Woolas.

    43. Paul Harper — on 14th November, 2010 at 7:22 am  

      It was quite wrong for Erdington councillor Gareth Compton to joke on Twitter about stoning the smug, self-righteous nonentity journalist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. A mild pebbling would suffice.

    44. Larry — on 14th November, 2010 at 10:31 am  

      lol at Paul.

      You got that right.

      People like her sell themselves as intellectually superior and enlightened, when not one of them have an inkling of what the real world is like.

      Refresh, you do realise that Islam isn’t a race, right? You’ll no doubt realise that there are some people with blonde hair and blue eyes who convert to Islam, right? Of course you do, but that won’t stop you from using the race card.

      When all is said in done, when every one of you has quit chasing their tail and frothing at the mouth with your Invasion of the Bodysnatcher screams of “RACISM” and “BIGOT”, you cannot seriously deny that the UK would be a safer and happier place without Islam.

      Islam is a foreign, imperialist, expansionist political movement. Anyone with even the tiniest knowledge of history knows how suicidal it is to allow these people in such large numbers to live over here (most of them on benefits, by the way). The people at the forefront of this culture want Shariah Law in the UK, they want to convert everyone to Islam, and they most certainly are not advocates of Harriet Harman’s obsessive politics of equality. No, quite the opposite - they want women to walk 10 steps behind them while wearing coffin costumes.

      Wake up.

    45. Refresh — on 14th November, 2010 at 11:52 am  


      Had Cllr Compton had your wit, more people would have had a snigger. Though his response would have still remained inexplicable: What was it she said in that comment of her’s that caused him apoplexy?

    46. Peter — on 15th November, 2010 at 12:58 am  

      I just wonder if the tweet had been made about an Irishman then it would not have created the storm it has.

      But then the Irish do not have a history of stoning people.

    47. Refresh — on 15th November, 2010 at 1:13 am  


      You are quite a bright fellow, so I am sure you fully understand the inference of the esteemed Councillor’s tweet. It seems Tory HQ did.

      From your comment, it would be quite appropriate to presume that it is only one step removed from calling for the stoning of the Conservative Pary Chairman.

      Which in turn leads me to think that Cllr Compton is a bit slow on the uptake. You on the other hand have at least your wit to fall back on.

      By the way did it occur to you that the tweet comes across as mysognist?

    48. Larry — on 15th November, 2010 at 3:07 am  


      You people throw these ists and isms and phobes around like there’s no tomorrow.


      Chill out.

      The way you lefties want to control speech, you obviously LOVE tyranny.

    49. Lamia — on 15th November, 2010 at 3:36 pm  

      “Doesn’t really matter what the content of the discussion was…”

      It does. It is central to what he said. She had specifically been discussing stoning. If he had just said it out of nowhere I would consider it far more disturbing.

      The HRW representative put it best when he said that her attitude makes the perfect the enemy of the good. People who face stoning, torture, or other forms of injustice, will most likely be grateful for any help they can get.

      Now it can reasonably be argued that so far as those who have the power over whether, say a woman is stoned to death, some politicians may carry less force according to their political record. Personally I doubt that will be much of consideration one way or another with human rights abusing regimes, but it is at least a worthwhile - because possibly practical - consideration.

      On the other hand, the moral judgment of Yasmin Alibhai-Brown of such politicians one way or another has no significance except as a piece of moral narcissism. Shaming some people into NOT protesting will not save a single life, though by reducing the amount of volume of protest, she can, if anything helping the sort of regimes who go in for stoning.

      Whether Compton or Cameron or any other politician is considered sufficeiently pious or not, their or anyone at all else’s speaking out on such matters means people will hear about it who might not have. Some of those people may get behind campaigns to save victims. Weight of voices do sometimes work.

      If saving those women was really at the top of Yasmin Alibhai-Brown’s priorities she would not have cared about the moral ranking of those who oppose stoning. She clearly cares more about morally denouncing others. That is why her performance has met with such revulsion, and why her follow up article has had all the comments removed (they were overwhelmingly negative). And it is why so many have sympathised with the underlying sentiment behind Compton’s remarks.

      Well how WOULD she like to be stoned to death? And if she wouldn’t, then who on earth is she to tell others - whoever they are - that they shouldn’t protest about injustice? Would Yasmin Alibhai-Brown refuse help from ‘tainted’ British politicians if it was her life in the balance. She wouldn’t - none of us would - so it is utterly selfish to try and stop them doing it for other people.

    50. Refresh — on 15th November, 2010 at 3:51 pm  


      Whilst I understand what you are attempting to say, Yasmin’s point is absolutely valid. And we should be glad for the controversy too. And that is, you cannot continue to ask for others to do one thing whilst ignoring your own vile deeds. That, in truth, has been the modus operandi for longer than we have been around.

      The concept of ethical foreign policy needs to be revived. And lets face it, Robin Cook’s work in that sphere was trashed as soon as the Iraq invasion was decided upon.

      It is hypocritical to have a go at Y A-B whilst completely ignoring how we got to this sad state of affairs.

      As for the HRW spokesperson’s contribution, he also made his point well. But he could easily acknowledge that we cannot expect our own disregard for human rights to not affect our standing on the issue abroad.

      Cllr Compton is not standing up for human rights, he was playing to the gallery.

      What is needed now is a two-pronged campaign, one targetting our own government to put its own house in order, without fear or favour, and the other to continue to push for improvement of human rights wherever we find them - without fear or favour.

    51. Refresh — on 15th November, 2010 at 3:55 pm  

      The irony is that a sizeable number the people who have jumped to Cllr Compton’s defence, or more accurately have jumped on Y A-B have little or no interest in human rights.

      Our own Larry refers to the concept in the pejorative: ‘yoooooman rights’.

    52. Shamit — on 15th November, 2010 at 4:54 pm  

      Dare I say “Ethical” foreign policy is in the eyes of the beholder. What one country finds appropriate others might not find appropriate. And I can highlight thousands of examples.

      As Foreign Secretary, one must push the interests of Britain - and Cook was miserable at that. In fact, he was rebuffed publicly by India (in India), he was told off by Yahoo and the only good things britain did during his tenure as Foreign Secretary was Kosovo and Sierra leone. In both those cases he had very little to do.

      Bernard Kouchner, the former (as of yesterday)foreign minister who came into office talking about an ethical foreign policy - within 6 months of taking office saif it is impossible to create an ethical foreign policy in the modern world - and sadly he is right.

      So yes scoring points in blogs and feeling the glory of moral superiority is commendable of course but sadly it has little to do with the real world.

    53. Shamit — on 15th November, 2010 at 4:55 pm  

      “The irony is that a sizeable number the people who have jumped to Cllr Compton’s defence, or more accurately have jumped on Y A-B have little or no interest in human rights.”

      And you know this because?

      Or is it one of typical Refresh assumptions without any validation?

      Must be.

    54. Refresh — on 15th November, 2010 at 5:02 pm  


      ‘So yes scoring points in blogs and feeling the glory of moral superiority is commendable of course but sadly it has little to do with the real world.’

      Point scoring is of little interest, to me at least.

      As for the real world, do you not think that it has become harder to lecture others abroad regarding human rights since Iraq?

      Well, what validation would you like? I can only go by the comments left on blogs, unless you have a mechanism which is more accurate. And Larry is an example of that, is he not?

      Still you don’t address the central point - has it become harder to push human rights abroad or has it not?

    55. Shamit — on 15th November, 2010 at 5:53 pm  

      - When was it easy to push human rights?

      In 1960 no - in 1970 no - in 1980 no - in 1990 no - In 2000 - no.

      In Iraq, the human rights violations of US soldiers have been prosecuted in Court and seems like British soldiers would be too. However, compared to Saddam Hussein or the Shia militia’s or Al-Qaeda - our soldiers top to bottom are far far far better than others.

      In fact, one could argue that if the anti war group and opportunist group both within and out of the labour party was not so vehement then Blair could have put some more troops in Basra and Southern Iraq - which was the place where massive human rights violations took place because of Sadr’s militias.

      But illegal war it was not - if it was illegal so was Kosovo because there was no UN authorisation on that either.

      And the bottomline, the countries that has the worst human rights record from the 1950s still have the same - although some have improved. Russia - China - Congo - Saudi Arabia - Egypt - Libya - Sudan - still have shitty records.

      So all this point about Iraq making things worse is nothing but an argument to justify a position - nothing more nothing less. And it is an argument which does not hold much credibility except in the minds of those who want to believe it strongly.

      But then again if you continue to repeat a theory no matter how flawed the human mind would accept it as fact - may be thats the case here. Could it be? Who knows?

    56. Refresh — on 15th November, 2010 at 7:00 pm  

      ‘- When was it easy to push human rights?

      In 1960 no – in 1970 no – in 1980 no – in 1990 no – In 2000 – no.’

      And its become harder - that is the point.

      ‘So all this point about Iraq making things worse is nothing but an argument to justify a position – nothing more nothing less. And it is an argument which does not hold much credibility except in the minds of those who want to believe it strongly.’

      Of course it is, no denying that, and there is nothing wrong with it. Whereas your position appears to be Blair can do no wrong.

    57. Shamit — on 15th November, 2010 at 7:54 pm  

      “Of course it is, no denying that, and there is nothing wrong with it.”

      That is a self contradictory statement. And once again the obsession with Iraq is clouding your judgement as much as Alibhai Brown’s. None of you have any monoploy on human rights.

      “Whereas your position appears to be Blair can do no wrong.”

      Once again assumption - which is the mother of all fuck ups they say.

      I disagree with Blair on the Iraq war - it was the right push at the wrong time.

      I disagree with Blair on the Iraq war - there was a better case for it and he failed to make it.

      I disagree with Blair on the Iraq war - he was in a position to demand better post war management, but once again when it comes to detail management he failed.

      I disagree with Blair on erosion of civil liberties and immigration policies - he pandered to our worst instincts pushing for legislation on civil liberties.

      On immigration - he let in too many people whose skills value are questionable - too many British passports given out too easily.

      On public sector reforms - he failed to follow through and started too late. While he talked about devolution of powers - in effect, the target culture took away from the many good reforms that were being implemented.

      On politics - he had the brains and the charisma and the intellect to raise the level of political debate but he failed because he simply wanted to entrench labour.

      On Gordon Brown and Ed Balls and to some extent Ed Miliband - he had the power and the political acumen - he should have ruined all the three careers for backstabbing. Challenging a leader publicly for a change in course of policy or direction is one thing - but continuously backstabbing is someting should not have been tolerated. And for that Labour would have been a better political party.

      But again he promoted Douglas Alexander and Cooper - who deserved it.


      Finally, on human rights, compared to any other major power in the world, our record is the best be it Russia, US, China, Germany who ever you take it — ours is far better than anyone else.

    58. Refresh — on 15th November, 2010 at 9:12 pm  

      ‘That is a self contradictory statement. And once again the obsession with Iraq is clouding your judgement as much as Alibhai Brown’s. None of you have any monoploy on human rights.’

      How is it contradictory?

      Clouding judgement? No, quite the opposite. After the Vietnam fiasco, it was decades before the US went out into a major conflict. And if there is anything to be learnt from Iraq, it is that we do not embroil ourselves in other misadventures, and that means not forgetting. A much better position would be to give up Mr Blair to the Hague, to prove we stand by our commitment to international law. And if, as you say, he didn’t enter into a war of agression then he will be acquitted.

    59. Shamit — on 15th November, 2010 at 9:30 pm  

      I would agree with that as long as you agree that Bill Clinton, Jacques Chirac also are taken to Hague for Kosovo. Oh no we can’t have that because you supported Kosovo?

      Yeah can we send Indira Gandhi (posthumously) of course to Hague for invading then East Pakistan and now Bangladesh? Because the UN Security Council voted against it?

      So just because UN Security Council failed to vote because of Chinese Veto on Tibet - its okay to annexe a country and remove it from UN security council.

      The Universal Declaration of Human Rights has no bearing on anything - am I correct? What about responsibility of states to act when genocide or ethnic cleansing happens?

      Oh so in your world its only okay to step in when christian/hindu/buddhist/communist leaders commit genocide against Muslims? But when Muslims commit genocide or ethnic cleansing its okay?

      So that is why Yasmin Alibhai Brown and you have so little to say about Sudan - don’t you? Bloody idiots.

      Sorry to rain on your parade - Parliament is supreme in our country and the parliament backed the war. And there would be no Hague for Blair - get it.

      So any propoer argument make it - I am getting bored with this shit.

    60. Niaz — on 15th November, 2010 at 9:34 pm  

      “Oh so in your world its only okay to step in when christian/hindu/buddhist/communist leaders commit genocide against Muslims? But when Muslims commit genocide or ethnic cleansing its okay?”

      While in yours it’s the exact opposite … What a revealing comment you just made Shamit!

    61. Shamit — on 15th November, 2010 at 9:45 pm  

      So now you accuse me of being a Muslim hater Niaz.

      Well, for the record, I supported Kosovo and I supported in principle the Iraq war not because of WMD, but because Saddam Hussein committed genocide.

      Although before my birth, I think India’s intervnetion (albeit was for strategic reasons not only for altruism) in East Pakistan now Bangladesh was right because people were being slaughtered.

      In each case Muslims were being slaughtered and I supported interventions - and that is hating Muslims.

      Get a grip - again constipation in the brain with vocal diarrhoea.

      You have no clue - btw, many hindus say that I am not a proper Hindu because I argue Narendra Modi should be in jail and facing the death sentence.

      I thought LTTE was worse than Al-Qaeda in some ways. Oh and i dislike the catholic church and the Chinese leaders who run havoc in Tibet

      So when idiots like you attack me - I think I must be doing something right.

    62. Niaz — on 15th November, 2010 at 9:56 pm  

      Shamit but that’s exactly what YOU do with others as in my quote of you above …. So all your lame insults actually apply to you LOL

    63. Shamit — on 15th November, 2010 at 9:58 pm  

      No I didn’t - there’s history my dear boy - so go through the threads and talk again.

    64. Shamit — on 15th November, 2010 at 9:58 pm  

      as i said constipation in the brain with vocal diarrhoea.

    65. Refresh — on 15th November, 2010 at 10:28 pm  

      Parliament was misled - I think you admitted it yourself upthread, perhaps you didn’t realise.

    66. Shamit — on 15th November, 2010 at 10:40 pm  

      Parliament was mislead - I never said that. Could you please point that out for me?

      I said Blair had a better case for liberal intervention - on ethnic cleansing and genocide as well as a risk to stability - arguments which he failed to make.

      But as Charles Kennedy still says the then PM Blair was genuinely convinced that there was a threat.

    67. Shamit — on 15th November, 2010 at 10:58 pm  

      Refresh -

      “Oh so in your world its only okay to step in when christian/hindu/buddhist/communist leaders commit genocide against Muslims? But when Muslims commit genocide or ethnic cleansing its okay?

      So that is why Yasmin Alibhai Brown and you have so little to say about Sudan – don’t you? Bloody idiots.”

      I apologise for that glib comment - I should not have said that. It comes across as crass and I am really sorry for that

      Good night.

    68. Refresh — on 15th November, 2010 at 11:36 pm  

      ‘I apologise for that glib comment – I should not have said that. It comes across as crass and I am really sorry for that’

      No problem.

    69. Lamia — on 16th November, 2010 at 1:32 am  

      @ refresh,

      “Whilst I understand what you are attempting to say…”

      I have said fairly clearly what I was ‘attempting to say’. Disagree with it by all means, but please don’t patronise me with regard to my ability to articulate what I mean.

      “And that is, you cannot continue to ask for others to do one thing whilst ignoring your own vile deeds.”

      For Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, ‘our [i.e. Britons even today] vile deeds’ include the Opium Wars. Well we are sunk, then. In Yasmin Alibhai-Brown’s judgment we are tainted and guilty forever simply by virtue (vice, really) of being British. By the logic of her example, no Briton ever (apart from herself) has or will have any moral entitlement to criticise human rights abuses. It’s a fine sweeping rhetorical ‘point’, for sure. But even leaving aside the unjustness of it (the last Briton who had anything to do with the Opium Wars died probably 70 or 80s years ago), in practical terms it’s an argument for doing nothing.

      “Yasmin’s point is absolutely valid.”

      It is valid in an impossible world of absolutes; in the real world it’s more of a hindrance than a help.

      “The irony is that a sizeable number the people who have jumped to Cllr Compton’s defence, or more accurately have jumped on Y A-B have little or no interest in human rights.”

      You state that as if it were a provable fact rather than simply an assumption. It’s the latter.

      “‘- When was it easy to push human rights?

      In 1960 no – in 1970 no – in 1980 no – in 1990 no – In 2000 – no.’

      And its become harder – that is the point.”

      I agree with Shamit that it hasn’t. The British have committed injustices over the centuries, as have most nations. We are not on the scale of a number of countries by a long shot. One will always be able to find evidence to support charges of being hypocritical because no nation is perfect. But there are far worse abusers than Britain and if they reject British criticism it is not because they genuinely feel outraged by our hypocrisy but simply because they don’t care much in the first place.

      I believe that Britain should improve its behaviour, simply because it is right to do so. I don’t think that Russia or China, say, will ever like, respect or defer to us any more for doing so. Because they have never done so to Britain or to anyone else in my lifetime or in the decades or centuries before. When countries make concessions/improvement on human rights it is out of a mix of practicality, political embarrassment and occasionally some real humanity. They are not going to be swung much either way by the human rights records of other countries. That is because even the worst countries in the world don’t operate according to the ‘Why should I when he doesn’t have to?’ teenager morality of Yasmin Alibahi-Brown.

    70. Refresh — on 16th November, 2010 at 6:32 pm  


      I was a bit patronising, sorry.

      Agree completely with this:

      ‘I believe that Britain should improve its behaviour, simply because it is right to do so.’

      My reason as to why Cameron should not fall into the trap of holding his tongue because of recent misdeeds is that it could silence us altogether, to the detriment of human rights overall.

      But if you have an interest in progressing human rights everywhere, then you have to acknowledge your failings. Which I think Cameron has been doing to some extent.

      In the case of China, it seems to be a well understood fact that the Opium wars and the various enclaves carved out by western imperialist forces still irritate. In the radio exchange, I thought it was someone else who had raised that topic and not Y A-B (even thought she too would have been right to do so).

      India used to act in the same way, it would accept no criticism from Britain due to its imperialist history in the region. And I believe its still the case, although there is little or no overt criticism being levelled at them these days. That is not to say they do not deserve it, quite the opposite, perhaps its a reflection of the new reality of a growing and stronger India.

      I would invite all nations to strive to get themselves into a position where they can lecture each other on their failings in the sphere of human rights - and not in the usual whatabout sort of way. If that was to happen then we would know they are also striving to improve their own behaviour.

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