Magazine article The Spectator


Magazine article The Spectator


Article excerpt

Returning jihadis

Sir: Coping with those who pose a terrorist threat to the UK but cannot be prosecuted for a criminal offence has been a perennial problem since 9/11 ('Bring jihadis to justice', 9 December). Despite various initiatives, the number of potential attackers has continued to grow.

The latest twist to this story is the return of jihadists to the UK from Syria and Iraq. We should assume that anyone returning from Isis-held territory in Syria/Iraq poses a continuing risk. Wherever possible they should be prosecuted. But criminal cases are hard to build, given the fog of war and the problems of gathering evidence from Isis-controlled territory. I propose, therefore, that those who claim to have repented of their extremist views and who want to return to the UK should be expected to demonstrate their change of heart by giving a full and detailed intelligence debrief to the security services, and by giving evidence in court against their erstwhile colleagues in Isis.

Jonathan Evans

House of Lords, London SW1

Gunning for no deal

Sir: Martin Vander Weyer (Any Other Business, 25 Nov) said it was 'fatuous' of me to state that Wetherspoon was ready to leave the EU now, in response to a BBC question about 'complex supply chains in the car industry'. In fact, catering supply chains are of similar complexity to the car industry. Leaving the EU in March 2019 would allow parliament to eliminate tariffs on non-EU food imports which, WTO rules stipulate, would result in continued tariff-free imports from the EU -- and cheaper food. In contrast, the proposed 'transitional deal' would maintain tariffs and require multi-billion-pound payments to the EU.

The CBI and big business have misled the public about food prices and supply chain difficulties, a pitch has been accepted by credulous economists, journalists and MPs. In reality, it will enormously benefit the UK to leave the EU, without a deal, at the earliest opportunity.

Tim Martin (Chairman, JD Wetherspoon) Exeter, Devon

The Labour abyss

Sir: Your interview with the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, was clearly intended to make this Christmas a very glum one for those of us in the Labour party who are dismissed by young Momentum types as 'centrist dads' ('King John', 9 December). It is not McDonnell and his comrades who are staring into the abyss and considering their own mortality; rather it is we moderate members who are feeling politically suicidal. We yearn for Labour's guardian angel to show us how politics might have turned out had McDonnell failed in his efforts to persuade gullible Labour MPs to nominate his friend Jeremy Corbyn for the Labour leadership in 2015.

With any of the alternative leaders in post -- Kendall, Cooper or Burnham -- Labour would not have spent the past two years in dysfunctional turmoil, and would have presented a more effective opposition in response to the government's travails over the EU referendum. Mrs May would not have been tempted to hold an early election, and her (now obvious) failings as a campaigner would today remain hidden.

A united and effective opposition would have spurred recalcitrant Tories to toe the party line rather than play fast and loose with the Prime Minister's Brexit strategy. And, of course, May would still enjoy the majority she inherited from her predecessor and would not be in hock to the DUP.

Tom Harris


Stokes can't play

Sir: I fear Roger Alton has fallen into the trap of letting the poor start to the Ashes lead him to begging Santa to let Ben Stokes play in Perth ('Why Stokes should be picked for Perth', 9 December). He is right that England's Botham-esque all-rounder is a vital missing link and indeed is probably worth a 10 per cent margin when at his best. But it would be weak and crass if Andrew Strauss and the England and Wales Cricket Board changed tack now on their decision to await the outcome of the police investigation of what is possibly, pending the opinion of the Crown Prosecution Service, a very serious crime, simply because England are two-nil down. …

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