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Today’s press prompts three comments.

First, while Abbott has expressed strong support for Sinodinos, the apparent misjudgements by the latter will make it difficult to restore his ministerial position.

Second, the decision by the US (with Australia following suit) to impose sanctions on a few Russian officials involved in the Crimean take-over is most unlikely to be of concern to Putin: indeed rather the opposite. When attempts to punish fail, they may well encourage more.

Third, it is of concern that Islamism in Australia has reached the stage where a representative group of imams has been created. The claim by the group that it is trying to protect Australia from jihadist activity by those returning from Syria contains little of substance. Fortunately, unlike Russia Australia does not yet have its own Osama bin Laden and group seeking to establish a state with sharia law!

Note also Bolt’s article about (inter alia) the Iranian who appeared on the 7.30 report - as one of a group sent back to Indonesia he not only admitted that he (and others) decided “to go there illegally” but made remarks indicating he would be a risky addition to our population. Bolt also notes that some of Middle Eastern origin are in the bikie gangs whose activities are trying to be restrained by a Queensland government that is being attacked for unfair treatment.



Abbott needs to lead on propriety

Editorial published in The Age, March 20, 2014

There are three important aspects to consider in Senator Arthur Sinodinos's decision to stand aside from his ministerial position. The first is the political dynamic that necessitated it. The second is what may lie ahead as the NSW corruption commission continues its inquiry into Australian Water Holdings. Senator Sinodinos was a director of AWH from 2008 until he joined the Senate in late 2011. The third important consideration is the quality of leadership - or lack thereof - that has been demonstrated so far by Prime Minister Tony Abbott, and it is this matter that we will deal with first.

In his first six months as prime minister, Mr Abbott has stared down a welter of accusations about the conduct of certain senior members of parliament, including serving ministers, and at no stage has he called for any one of them to stand aside. Indeed, his default position has been to stand firmly by their side. This is Mr Abbott's first ministerial casualty, and it is a significant loss. But Senator Sinodinos should not have been the first to go. Recall, for example, the expenses scandal of last year when it was revealed MPs on both sides of Parliament had claimed expenses for attending weddings, sports matches and other social occasions. And two weeks ago, the Senate formally censured Assistant Health Minister Fiona Nash over conflicts of interest in her office.

Yesterday, in announcing Senator Sinodinos's decision to stand aside, the Prime Minister said his colleague had done ''the right and decent thing'', and that the decision was for ''the good of the government''. It is difficult to fathom why, suddenly, Senator Sinodinos had done ''the right and decent thing'' when the Prime Minister had said unequivocally on Monday and Tuesday that he retained his full confidence. Mr Abbott stood by Senator Sinodinos, and did not waver for a moment. Nor did other ministers. The catalyst for yesterday's decision may have been the realisation of the damage and disruption ICAC allegations can cause. What did not change, though, was Mr Abbott's leadership style. He should have set and demonstrated clear standards on propriety, drawn a bright line between what is and is not acceptable. He did not. Mr Abbott instinctively backs his people when he should be more resolute about what stands or falls on his watch.

Which brings us to the political dynamic. It was Senator Sinodinos who offered his resignation as minister, asking to be stood down from the role of assistant treasurer while the ICAC process continues. As a canny chief of staff to former prime minister John Howard, he surely would have recognised potential problems. Senator Sinodinos would have known that for however long ICAC goes on, rightly or wrongly, there will be ructions about what he knew and did - or should have done and known - while on the AWH board. The risk was that the ICAC hearings, and in particular Senator Sinodinos's appearance to give evidence, would disrupt the government's agenda.

To be clear, no direct allegations of wrongdoing have been made against the senator in ICAC, but there are legitimate questions about what appears to be very poor judgment on his part. He was brought in to AWH to improve its access to the Liberal Party, ICAC heard, and while serving on AWH's board, Senator Sinodinos accepted the role of treasurer of the NSW Liberal Party. Counsel assisting ICAC has said ''it is difficult to offer observations on the conduct of Mr Sinodinos'', although ''he has other involvements'' that will be scrutinised in the current investigation.

We await ICAC's findings. Senator Sinodinos, meanwhile, is paying a high price for his short foray into the commercial world.

The man least likely: how did it come to this?

Article by Dennis Shanahan published in The Australian, March 20, 2014

ARTHUR Sinodinos, the integrity watchdog of the Howard government and projected star of the Abbott government, has become the Coalition’s first ministerial loss.

The man considered least likely to get tangled and tarred in the corruption scandal that is NSW politics has been sucked into the black vortex of peddling political influence. Political friends and critics on both sides are scratching their heads as to how this came to be.

In stepping aside as assistant treasurer, Sinodinos has done the right thing by himself, Tony Abbott, the Liberal Party and the body politic, shutting down the parliamentary “distraction” of ongoing damage from NSW Independent Commission against Corruption hearings.

Sinodinos’s voluntary and early action has sucked life out of Labor’s parliamentary attacks and allows him to concentrate on giving evidence before ICAC which he says will clear his name. Sinodinos still doesn’t face a specific allegation from ICAC and even Labor’s snorting warhorse, John Faulkner, was not prepared to make an allegation of corruption against the Assistant Treasurer yesterday.

Faulkner, who called for Craig Thomson and Labor to give an account of fraud and suspicious use of ALP funds when no one else in Labor would, made the fatal observation that Sinodinos’s explanations “stretched credulity to breaking point”.

To make matters worse Sinodinos’s defence necessarily does damage to his political credibility because while denying any corruption he is left to rely on being naive to say the least.

It is clear ICAC intends to portray Sinodinos as being hired as a sleazy Liberal door opener to an incoming state Liberal government rather than for the skills of a merchant of high finance and business for which he felt he was being paid.

How could someone who became chief of staff to a prime minister because his predecessor had to resign over ministerial travel rorts not see the political trap in being paid a large salary, the prospect of making millions on the success of a single contract and being promoted to chairman ahead of the inevitable coming of a new NSW Liberal government? Some Liberals who are critical of Sinodinos suggest he may have been groomed to become the Liberal gatekeeper for a group of Labor investors on a losing side.

Others believe the explanation is more benign: that Sinodinos, after years of public service, became seduced by the society of wheeler-dealers in the Sydney money set, sought to “set up” for life his wife Elizabeth and two children and was ill-prepared, or unwilling, to see the threats to his integrity and dangers to his career.

As the son of poor Greek immigrants, Sinodinos rose through public service ranks on the back of strong university performance to become the prime minister’s right-hand man for nine years to 2006.

After 20 years of public service and the offer from Howard of a diplomatic post to Washington, Sinodinos turned instead to the Sydney business world, working in banking and finance, including at Goldman Sachs JBWere and the National Australia Bank, while becoming NSW Liberal Party treasurer and president, and living in Sydney’s expensive eastern suburbs.

The mess that is Australian Water Holdings, the unholy alliances between the disgraced Obeids and Liberal urgers, was a potent and toxic mix in which Sinodinos became embroiled while maintaining to this day his innocent ignorance of questionable practices.

To what extent ICAC finds the involvement willing, witting and wealth-conscious will decide Sinodinos’s political future. Tony Abbott says he is looking forward to his return to the ministry.

Sinodinos needs a full exoneration from an ICAC hearing that seems keen to build a code of conduct for party officials exercising business influence.

Pictures of illegal immigrants worth a thousand words

Article by Andrew Bolt published in the Herald Sun, 19 March, 2014

THE ABC’s 7.30 on Monday accidentally showed exactly why we should stop the boats of illegal immigrants — and not only to end the drowning.

The ABC’s footage, including video shot by boat people turned back last month, actually showed a dangerous cultural difference.

How could these 34 people from Iran, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal — mostly Muslim countries that are neither war-torn nor famine-struck — think that threatening to kill our sailors, shouting “f--- Australia” and warning of another September 11 would make us unlock our hearts and our door?

And how many people just like them are among the more than 50,000 Labor let sail in uninvited, even taxiing them in on our warships?

Last month our Navy — under new instruction from the Abbott Government — towed another boatload of illegal immigrants back to Indonesia after intercepting them at sea and transferring them into an unsinkable lifeboat.

Some on the lifeboat filmed their tow-back on their mobile phones and, evidently to win our sympathy, gave the footage to the ABC — their friendliest media outlet.

They also gave interviews to tell of the alleged inhumanity of our sailors.

I don’t criticise the ABC for broadcasting all this on Monday and do not accuse it of bias. In fact, I praise it for not deleting footage from the boat people, which actually discredited them.

And here is the point: how complete is the cultural disconnect between such boat people and their Australian audience that they thought their story would soften our hearts?

First, the ABC admitted its main subject, Iranian Arash Sedigh, who is pictured, twice tried to smuggle himself and his wife here by boat after he’d been “refused entry to Australia through the skilled migration program”. Sedigh added: “We decided to go there in illegal way, to make them accept us.”

This sounded like a man we didn’t want telling us we had no right to reject him.

Next, Sedigh said after his boat was intercepted, he warned our sailors: “I will kill you if you don’t take us to that ship. I have nothing to lose. I will kill you. Believe me.”

Then, as the 34 illegal immigrants were towed back to Indonesia, they filmed themselves shouting “f--- Australia” and raising the middle finger.

Sedigh even had himself filmed issuing this warning: “F--- Australia ... If later on you said why they do that to America on September 11, you should know the cause of it is your very deeds.

“Remember 9/11 for United States. All the world should know why.”

Sedigh and his fellow passengers were naturally bitterly disappointed and you could excuse their threats as heat-of-the-moment things, done under stress. Maybe they don’t really think the 3000 civilians who died in the September 11 terror attacks were just asking for it.

But why, weeks later, did they still think we should hear their threats when considering their case?

Add this consideration: life in Australia can also be stressful. An immigrant here may not get a job, or their marriage might collapse. Refugees in particular are much more likely to be poor, with 85 per cent of households on Centrelink benefits even after five years.

How would the ABC’s boat people react to such stresses, once here? With more threats and “F--- Australia” fury?

See, culture counts and under stress some people revert to a cultural identity that helps them explain or disguise their failure — an identity that puts a contemptible “them” against a virtuous “us”.

UNEMPLOYED or unskilled men from Middle Eastern and Islander backgrounds, for instance, now dominate many criminal bikie gangs, turning themselves from social zeros to feared “heroes”.

The mufti of the Lakemba mosque, our biggest, praised September 11 as “God’s work against oppressors”.

Others turn to radical versions of the faith of their fathers, to become fighters of such “oppressors”. About 20 Australians have now been jailed for links to Islamist terrorism and more than 100 are fighting for jihadist forces in Syria. Even an Australian soldier — deserter Caner Temel — two months ago died fighting for the extremist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant against more “moderate” Syrian rebels.

Yes, I am describing only a tiny minority of refugees and boat people, and an even tinier minority of immigrants generally, among whom were my parents.

But it is grossly irresponsible to allow thousands of illegal immigrants from countries very different from our own to crash our borders when we know it exposes Australians to extra risks they don’t want and never accepted.

Stop the boats. Let us choose for ourselves the immigrants we want and judge will fit in. For me, they do not include the people in the queue shouting “f--- Australia” and warning of terror to come.

Barbarity should appal us, or we are in trouble

Article by Andrew Bolt published in the Herald Sun, March 19, 2014

THE most astonishing thing about the weekend’s March in March rallies was not the vicious hatred it promoted against Prime Minister Tony Abbott. No, the Left is the new home of the political feral, so who was surprised to see marchers carrying a banner declaring “F--- Tony. F--- Democracy”?

Who was surprised to also see at these marches around Australia scores of protesters in T-shirts declaring “F--- Tony Abbott’’?

True, there is a new level of savagery in the Left, now drinking at the Twitter sewer, with signs also shouting “Kill Abbott”, “Kill the Politicians”, “I vote for retroaction abortion of Tony”, “Resign d--khead” and “You racist, sexist, elitist, homophobic fascist”, next to a picture of Abbott as Hitler.

In fact, Newcastle Trades Hall Council secretary Gary Kennedy, in a speech at his city’s March in March, declared mining boss Gina Rinehart was a “filthy animal” and Qantas chief Alan Joyce “should be shot somewhere in the back of the head” — a line that got applause.

But what was even more astonishing — and frightening — was the hypocrisy. Put it this way: if a Liberal official called ACTU president Ged Kearney a “filthy animal” and suggested we put a bullet “in the back of the head” of her colleague, Dave Oliver, the ACTU secretary, would we hear the end of it?

Imagine the uproar over a “Kill Gillard” sign.

Actually, we don’t need to talk hypotheticals.

Remember the hysteria from Labor, the ABC and Fairfax newspapers over a “ditch the witch” sign at a rally against Julia Gillard? Where are those critics now, when we’re hearing not just insults but truly vicious and threatening language?

Kennedy’s talk of shooting Joyce was ignored by the ABC and every Fairfax newspaper bar the Newcastle Herald, which merely noted it was “perhaps surprising”.

The ABC published 43 of the rallies’ signs in one story, but omitted all savage or threatening ones that might discredit the protest.

The Sydney Morning Herald’s deputy editor, marching in Sydney and tweeting support for refugees, did note in one tweet a “Kill the Politicians” banner, but fellow Herald writer Benjamin Law responded: “Gold!!!”

This is what is truly astonishing: many journalists do not even register the viciousness before them, nor protest against brutality from the Left that they (and I) would denounce from the Right.

When we’re no longer appalled by barbarity, we’re in deeper trouble than we even know.

Imams accept Syrian war risk is a reality

Article by Shahram Akbarzadeh published in the Herald Sun, March 19, 2014

SOME 20 Islamic leaders, widely known as imams, came together in Melbourne this month to discuss strategies to respond to the Syrian crisis. It was a significant event and ended with a public statement to protect Australia from the risk of spill-over.

Although Australia is far away from Syria, the risks to Australian security are real and imams take it seriously. The first obvious risk is the threat of terrorism.

It is reported that Syria has now become a magnet for jihadis from all over the world. Foreign fighters coming from Europe, Saudi Arabia (and Australia) to fight the Assad regime have caused serious concern. There is a fear that such people will return home, radicalised, brutalised and battle-ready.

That’s why the Australian Government has been advising against travel to Syria.

In some cases, volunteers for humanitarian assistance are drawn into the battle after witnessing the trauma and horrors of the civil war. So even if the original intention of travelling to Syria was not to engage in fighting, those humanitarian volunteers were dragged into the conflict.

Only yesterday this paper reported the death of western Sydney man and former Australian soldier Caner Temel, 22, who is believed to have become radicalised and died fighting with jihadists in January. His death brings the number of Australians believed to have already been killed on the Syrian battle grounds to 11.

The second, perhaps less obvious, risk is the potential for inter-community strife. The Syrian civil war is generally seen as a battle between Sunni fighters and the Shia/Alawite regime of Bashar al-Assad. Sunni and Shia are two major strands of Islam and have had periods of tension as well as coexistence.

To reduce the Syrian crisis to a sectarian warfare is, of course, too simplistic. But it’s an image that has gained popularity among observers and has galvanised Muslim opinions. The growing salience of sectarian affiliation among Muslims in Australia, under the shadow of the Syrian civil war, is a new development. Sectarianism has, at times, spilled on to the streets of Melbourne and Sydney where Shia individuals and Shia-owned shops have been targeted by Sunnis. An incident in Sydney resulted in a court ruling.

It is clear that the Syrian crisis is posing serious challenges to Australia on many levels. There is a potential for terrorism by returning fighters. There is a serious potential for negative publicity for Muslims’ image, as somehow linked to the atrocities in a foreign country. And there is the problem of intra-Muslim discord, which again feeds into the negative imagery of Islam in Australia.

The forum of Australian imams in Melbourne was keenly aware of the complexity of the problem and the need to address it openly.

THE imams advised Australians to stay away from Syria and offer any humanitarian assistance through internationally recognised aid agencies. Some readers may not grasp the significance of this, but it’s huge.

The imams represent all states and territories in Australia and have leadership roles in their states’ Islamic Councils. They are the sources of authority on social and political issues, and are speaking with one voice: Australian Muslims do not wish to be dragged into a sectarian war.

Australian imams are taking a united public stand to protect Australia and to protect its core values of tolerance and civil harmony. Australian imams risk the ire of fringe groups from within the Muslim community to tell it like it is. We don’t want to be infected with the plague of terrorism and sectarianism. This message may have escaped the attention of the media. But it is a responsible and courageous stance that ought to be celebrated.

It is incumbent on other community and religious leaders to support this initiative and add their voice to the urgent message of the imams.

Prof Shahram Akbarzadeh is at THE Centre for Citizenship and Globalisation at Deakin University

Bishop targets 12 in Ukraine backlash

Article by Brendan Nicholson published in The Australian, March 19, 2014

THE search is on in Australia for bank accounts or other assets owned by 12 unnamed individuals subject to sanctions because of threats they posed to Ukraine.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said yesterday Australia would impose targeted financial sanctions and travel bans on the 12.

She told The Australian the eight Russians and four Ukrainians were instrumental in the threat to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.

She declined to name them, to avoid giving them the opportunity to move money out of accounts they may have here.

Ms Bishop said while the travel bans could be imposed quickly, it would take longer to freeze assets and bank accounts. The government was also unable to make public the names of individuals affected by travel bans, for privacy reasons, she said.

Russians have in the past shown considerable interest in investing in Australia. Last month, the Australian Federal Police froze almost $30 million stashed in Gold Coast bank accounts by visiting Russian businesspeople.

While friends of the Russians said they were legitimate businessmen who wanted to invest in Australia, the AFP said the money was “entirely incompatible” with the meagre income they had declared on their visa forms.

Ms Bishop condemned in the strongest terms Russian President Vladimir Putin’s move to annex the Ukrainian territory of Crimea.

The US has imposed sanctions against 11 individuals, including a presidential aide and an adviser; two state Duma deputies; and Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin. It has also imposed sanctions on four Ukrainians including ousted president Viktor Yanukovich.

The Australian list is believed to include most, or all, of those individuals.

Ms Bishop said the unauthorised vote in Crimea on March 16 was carried out while Russian forces were effectively in control of the territory and could not form the legitimate basis for any change to the status of Crimea.

The situation in Ukraine remained serious, with the potential for military confrontation, she said. “The fatal attack on a Ukrainian serviceman in Crimea is deplorable and underlines the volatility of the crisis Russia is fuelling.”

Ms Bishop left open the possibility of placing more individuals on the sanctions list.

“I continue to urge the Russian government to abide by its international obligations, including its responsibility as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, for the maintenance of international peace and security.

“I call on Russia, again, to change course.”

Death of ‘Russian Osama’ verified

Article by Alan Cullison published in The Wall Street Journal, March 20, 2014

A MILITANT group has confirmed long-running rumours that Doku Umarov, the self-proclaimed leader of the Islamist insurgence in Russia, is dead.

The Kavkaz Centre website offered no details on Umarov’s death, only repeating his biography and saying that he “joined the host of sincere Mujaheddin who to the end fulfilled their duty to Allah”.

The Kavkaz Centre has been the de facto mouthpiece for Islamist rebels in Russia. Until now, it had not confirmed speculation about Umarov’s death.

Known as “Russia’s bin Laden”, the jihadist may have inspired Boston bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who spent time in Dagestan, in the Caucasus.

Umarov’s death is a propaganda victory for the Kremlin, which has crushed a separatist uprising in the republic of Chechnya and mostly contained groups in neighbouring Dagestan. But fighter groups continue to stage hit-and-run attacks, and analysts say the loss of Umarov is unlikely to disrupt them much.

While Islamist rebels swore allegiance to Umarov, he was head in name only, and seldom took part in military operations.

In 2007, Umarov — one of the few commanders to survive the second war in Chechnya — proclaimed himself Emir of the Caucasus Emirate, a putative Islamist state spanning Russia’s North Caucasus, where rebels have vowed to impose sharia.

But for most of his tenure he has largely been preoccupied with staying alive, and seldom showed himself except in videos that he issued sporadically from his undisclosed hideouts.

He had been rumoured dead since the start of the year, when he stopped issuing videotapes and audio recordings, smuggled out of Russia by his compatriots and posted on Islamist websites.

Sources close to Chechen rebels said he may have been killed in heavy artillery strikes in Chechnya late last year.

The Russian government was unable to confirm his death, although the pro-Kremlin President of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, said in January that a telephone call had been intercepted confirming he was dead.

Over the years, the Kremlin has stamped out various rebel groups, only to be confronted with new adversaries. Shortly after Vladimir Putin came to power in 1999, Russian forces invaded Chechnya, which had gained de facto independence, and killed or captured nearly all its secular separatist leaders.

They were supplanted by Islamist commanders who mounted ghastly attacks on civilian targets, including a Moscow theatre, where 170 died, and a school in Beslan, where 380 died, most of them children.

London’s booming but the ground elsewhere in Britain is shifting

Article by Greg Sheridan published in The Australian, March 20, 2014

THE next British general election, due in May next year, is one of the most completely unpredictable in modern times. It’s not necessarily that in the end it may be that desperately close. Momentum could shift decisively either way before then.

But at this stage it is absolutely up for grabs and completely impossible to say whether David Cameron’s Conservative-led government will be returned, or Ed Miliband will lead the Labour Party to victory after just one term in opposition.

This will be important to Tony Abbott’s government as it has got a really good thing going with Cameron (and his impressive Foreign Secretary, William Hague) whose government has invested heavily in the Australian relationship, not least as part of its recognition of the growing importance of Asia.

Real democratic elections are always unpredictable. But the number of factors at play in Britain today is bewildering. For a start, Britain has never seemed so schizophrenic and internally disconnected, not that I imply anything sinister by that.

But the London property market has become something like the reserve currency of the world. Prices are insane. London, under its telegenic and eccentrically entertaining mayor Boris Johnson, is booming. Even French people in substantial numbers are flocking to London. Russian oligarchs, Indian millionaires, Chinese leaders — everyone wants a property in London.

Anyone who doesn’t already own a London property will have extreme difficulty in buying one. But overall London and the prosperous south of England will vote for the Conservatives.

The British economy is showing real signs of recovery, better growth, low interest rates, stable inflation. But much of the country doesn’t yet feel that recovery.

One analyst puts it this way. British politics is both chemistry and physics. Miliband just doesn’t have any chemistry with the British people. He doesn’t rate as preferred prime minister. He is not well regarded by the electorate. He comes from the left of the Labour Party and will be easy to attack in a general election.

But then you have the hard physics of the electoral system. There is a substantial anti-conservative gerrymander in British electorates. Cameron had pledged to introduce a stricter, fairer system of apportioning electorates, something more similar to Australia’s. But he botched the deal with his coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats. And when they opposed it he just gave up the fight altogether. So the Tories could win the nationwide popular vote by 3 or 4 per cent and still lose the general election.

The gerrymander is complex and has many causes. One of them is that Scotland has many more seats than its population warrants and Scotland returns hardly any Conservatives.

But Scotland is going to play an even bigger role in next year’s election. In September this year Scotland votes in a referendum on whether to stay in the United Kingdom. Scotland could vote either way but probably it will vote by a narrow margin to stay in.

If it should vote to leave then there is the question of whether Scottish voters would be entitled to vote in a general British election. Without Scotland’s votes Labour would stand no chance of winning.

The way Scottish politics has gone, even if it decides to stay in the UK, the Scottish National Party, which leads the Scottish government, will probably demand ever more devolved powers. Eventually, this will lead to a revolt in England itself.

If health and education, for example, are powers devolved to the Scottish government, then why should Scottish politicians in Westminster be entitled to vote in the British parliament on these matters when they relate only to England, or to England and Wales.

If the logical measure of preventing Scottish MPs from voting on purely English matters ever gets taken up, then Labour, even if it formed government, would never be able to pass any legislation in these areas.

The other big problem for the Conservatives is that they are already a minority governing party in coalition with the Lib Dems and second-term governments almost never win new seats.

But there’s more. In a couple of months there will be elections for the European parliament. Some polls are putting the UK Independence Party in the outright lead for these elections, which would be an astonishing result.

UKIP represents an absolutely deadly threat to the Tories, but it could also hurt Labour and the Lib Dems. The British are extremely ambivalent about the EU. Leaving the EU would be a big step and the British are inherently cautious, but British opinion is strongly of the view that the EU interferes too much and doesn’t add much of value. A perfect way to give a good poke in the eye to the EU is to vote UKIP. This incidentally could devastate the Lib Dems.

But as well as anti-EU sentiment, UKIP also gives expression to the English revolt against special consideration for Scotland, endless trouble from Northern Ireland and even Welsh devolution. UKIP is an expression of Englishness. There are some extremists, reformed or otherwise, in its number.

There are also a lot of old-fashioned cardigan-wearing English types who are unhappy about everything from the economy to the EU, to mass, unskilled immigration. UKIP is starting to give expression to white working-class anger. This anger is a danger for Labour too.

The Conservatives also have a chance to mobilise this white working-class anger — the van man as the English call the phenomenon, what we term the tradies — which is also evident among pensioners. And that may be a route after all to a potential Conservative victory. But given Britain’s first past the post voting system, if UKIP scores big in next year’s general election it must surely hurt the Conservatives most. It means a long-feared splintering of the centre-right vote.

On the other hand it is possible British voters will see the European election as a kind of giant by-election, and vent their frustrations fully there only to return to normality at the general election. A big UKIP vote in the European election, however, will surely exacerbate internal Conservative Party tensions.

There has been much chatter in the British press this week about who could succeed Cameron. But how is it that the party is even remotely talking about succession?

Succession only becomes an issue if the government loses.

And if out of all those moving parts you can tell what will happen next, you are a genius. British politics has rarely been more fascinating, or more fun.

Greg Sheridan is visiting Britain with the assistance of the British Foreign Office.

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