Manchester attacks: Kindness amid the horror

Last night, an improvised explosive device was detonated at Manchester Arena, at the end of a concert by US pop singer Ariana Grande, killing 22 people, including children, and injuring 59 others.

In the aftermath of the attacks, social media is often filled with people spreading false news reports and hatred, typically towards Muslims. It is almost an industry.

Here, we will collect only messages of kindness, solidarity and human decency.

It is not intended as a cocoon, so that people can shield themselves from the news. It is a response to the attack itself. When terrorists kill people in this way they aim to make us afraid and suspicious of one another. Then hatemongers - typically British and American right-wing Islamophobes - help spread that message.

This collection of messages was inspired by the following tweet:

Our response will be to try to contain the blast, by showing that the overwhelming majority of people remain kind, decent, and big-hearted. This is not a platitude. It is a political response.

David Walker, bishop of Manchester, on the Today programme:

"[This is] how we respond to atrocities. We open our hearts. That's often the immediate response. The challenge is to make that a long lasting response.

"I chair a meeting of all the faith leaders from Greater Manchester. We know each other very well, we're very used to coming together and sharing with one another at a very deep level. We all have the interests of the city and one another at heart. We're united. And at a local level within communities in Manchester there's good relations between the mosques, the synagogues, the temples and different faith communities and those with no faith at all. We will keep those channels of communication open and particularly reach out to anyone who might be vilified as a result of last night.

"There's always after an event like last night a tendency to create blame by association. And so we must make clear that is not the way we behave of react. The guilt for last night belong to the perpetrators and the perpetrators alone. It doesn't go beyond them.

"My message to the Muslim community is: you are one with us. Just as you were yesterday, you are one with us. Part of us. A vital part of us. You will go on being a vital part of us.

"You will be part of how we together respond to last night, how we together repair the damage, rebuild what's destroyed and and go forward as the fantastic, diverse community we are.

"Already this morning, when I first made a comment on social media, the trolls were up and about and presenting their malign influence. But they are a very tiny minority and one we need to isolate in this.

"Most of us are good at distinguishing what is the truth in this. We know, again and again, a little phrase: love wins."

Week in Review: The immigration target which isn't meant to be reached

David Cameron went into two general elections promising to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands. It was a lie. He never had any policies to achieve the target. He didn't even try. He never had any intention of reaching it.

His former sidekick, George Osborne, all but admits as much now that he has been freed from the shackles of collective responsibility and instead writes editorials in the Evening Standard. You may remember that Osborne was not just the chancellor under Cameron but also the Tory's chief tactician. And yet he now brands the target he went into two general elections under as "politically rash and economically illiterate".

What's more, no-one else around the prime minister supports it either. "None of [the Cabinet's] senior members supports the pledge in private and all would be glad to see the back of something that has caused the Conservative Party such public grief."

The reason why is simple. It would be devastating to the UK if it ever hit the target. The Office of Budget Responsibility estimates that reducing net migration to 185,000 a year (it's currently at 273,000) would force the government to borrow another £6bn a year - almost three times the negative economic effect of higher inflation or falls in productivity growth. Reducing it all the way to the tens of thousands would cost somewhere in the tens of billions. Katerina Lisenkova of Strathclyde University, estimates that hitting the target would lower GDP per person by one per cent in the long term.

But even if this were not the case, the policy makes no sense on the basis that no government can guarantee it even if it wanted to. After all, using net migration as the target means you are relying on a certain number of Brits leaving the country. The fewer leaving, the greater the reduction of immigrants you require. All of this means that the policy basically encourages the government to make the UK an unpleasant place to live.

So it is economically damaging, impossible to guarantee and incentivises the government to make the country unpleasant. No wonder Theresa May chose to keep it alive in her manifesto this week.

As soon as the document was released, it started falling apart. A tragi-comic interview with defence secretary Michael Fallon on Newsnight last night saw him claim that it was not a policy but an "aim" or an "ambition". And of course the policy was completely without economic justification or elaboration. Fallon was unable to say how much it would cost the Treasury if he achieved it. This is Mickey Mouse economics, if Mickey Mouse was a sado-masochist.

It's quite clear from Fallon's answers that May's administration is doing the same thing as Cameron: publicising the aim without doing anything to achieve it. After all, the raise in financial charges on firms hiring foreign workers and plans to up the income benchmark for family visas won't achieve it. Although, to be fair, the economic catastrophe of a no-deal Brexit might. So perhaps there is a cunning plan behind all this.

However, there is one distinction between Cameron and May in this respect. Those who know her suggest she really does believe in this stuff. After all, this is the home secretary of the Go Home van. That therefore makes this a dangerous moment. As things stand, she doesn't appear to be foolish enough to try to hit the target. But if media pressure for her to do so grows, she might actually try to abide by her manifesto. And that would be far more damaging to this country that the breach of trust she has created by foolishly making this promise again.

Ian Dunt is the editor of Politics.co.uk. His book - Brexit: What The Hell Happens Now? - is available now from Canbury Press.

The opinions in politics.co.uk's Comment and Analysis section are those of the author and are no reflection of the views of the website or its owners.

Tory manifesto: May lays ground for Brexit compromise

There's a strange disconnect between Theresa May's presentation of her manifesto and the actual content. Brexit, she said on stage in Yorkshire, is "the central challenge we face". And yet the Brexit section of the manifesto is really rather short and lacking in detail.

On first sight, that's totally in line with her general attitude to the issue. She has long said that she can't give away details of her approach or else she'd lose leverage. But keeping details out of the manifesto has consequences in terms of negotiating Brexit. Namely, it stops her weakening the Lords.

This was supposed to be one of the primary reasons she was holding an election. When she emerged from Downing Street on the day of the announcement, she insisted she was doing it to stop domestic saboteurs from obstructing Brexit and explicitly mentioned the House of Lords as an example.

This manifesto provided an opportunity to do that. Under the Salisbury Convention, the Lords cannot reject a government bill which has been "foreshadowed" in the governing party's manifesto. If May really thought peers were trying to stop Brexit, putting details of her plan in the manifesto would have been a good way to block them from doing so.

Even if she didn't think so (she probably doesn't) it would prevent them slowing everything down. The Lords like to take their time with things and really dig into the details. That's not ideal with a huge project operating to a two-year timetable.

The fact May has not gone into considerable detail is therefore telling. She has chosen not to muzzle the Lords. The closest she comes is when she explicitly and without caveats says Britain will leave the single market and customs union. There is no more talk of a half-in-half-out arrangement with regards to either.

This could be said to "foreshadow" any number of bills or difficult parliamentary battles, for instance on a hard border in Ireland or the reintroduction of country-of-origin requirements, both of which follow from our decision to leave the customs union. But because it is so vague, Lords will find it pretty easy to get involved.

It is the same all over the manifesto. There is a page or two on trade, for instance, but with very little concrete detail. This again allows the Lords to interfere. They could, for instance, vote against a bill which would allow the importing of chlorine-washed chicken, which would prove a stumbling block in trade negotiations with the US. A more detailed manifesto would have prevented that. May seems to prefer the advantage of keeping her cards close to her chest than the advantage of binding the Lords.

There had been concerns that May might try to make the Lords completely impotent over the great repeal bill by barring them from addressing statutory instruments – clever little bits of law which allow ministers to change legislation without a full debate. The manifesto contains no provisions for comprehensive reform, although it does darkly allude to plans which would ensure the Lords "continues to fulfil its constitutional role as a revising and scrutinising chamber which respects the primacy of the House of Commons". Still, this appears to refer to size rather than powers.

The election was a chance to take on all her parliamentary critics – the ones in the Commons via a stomping majority and the ones in the Lords by the clever use of Salisbury and reform of their ability to scrutinise statutory instruments. She's on course for the first, but not the second.

Elsewhere, there is evidence that May is preparing the ground for some pretty major concessions in Brexit talks. The document says repeatedly that she wishes to "deliver a smooth and orderly departure from the European Union". That seems to rule out - or at least play down the chances of - a no-deal outcome.

She pledges to "secure the entitlements" of EU nationals in the UK and UK nationals in the EU. This is quite revealing in its wording. Europe wants to secure all manner of guarantees for its citizens in the UK, including things like health care and the right to be joined by family. That makes the issue much more complex than British ministers had realised and creates some politically unpalatable outcomes, like giving EU citizens greater rights than UK ones or granting the European Court of Justice jurisdiction over the terms of the arrangement. May could have restricted the wording to just 'residency status' here, but instead has gone for 'entitlements'. That doesn't exactly confirm that the UK government intends to preserve all their rights, but it suggests that that's the way they're going.

On the budget, which is expected to be a major bust-up at the start of negotiations, the wording of the manifesto is also revealing.

"We will determine a fair settlement of the UK's rights and obligations as a departing member state in accordance with the law and in the spirit of the UK's continued partnership with the EU."

That sounds quite a bit like capitulation, albeit presumably on a tolerable payment timetable.

So the overall direction of travel looks this afternoon a lot less like no-deal than it did yesterday. But it's hard to be too confident in any assessment. Partly, that's because the manifesto is lacking in any real detail. And secondly it's because many bits of it contradict themselves, or are so ambiguous as to lack meaning.

It says, for instance, that Brexit must be "smooth and orderly" but also that "no deal is better than a bad deal". It says we are leaving the customs union but that "as frictionless a border as possible" should be maintained in Ireland. None of these ideas really fit together.

Even more tellingly, it says that "workers' rights conferred on British citizens from our membership of the EU will remain" after Brexit and that "protections given to consumers and the environment by EU law will continue to be available in UK law". But then it says:

"Once EU law has been converted into domestic law, parliament will be able to pass legislation to amend, repeal or improve any piece of EU law it chooses."

Presumably that includes the workers' rights, environmental standards and consumer protections the Conservatives are supposedly guaranteeing. Again, it just doesn't fit together. May is trying to placate everyone at the same time – the right-wing Brexit head-bangers and former Labour voters. Who'll eventually win is anyone's guess.

But overall, this is a pretty tolerable manifesto for critics of Brexit, given the circumstances. There are no black-and-white pledges which would make a no-deal outcome more likely, as there were in those early aggressive days at the Tory conference. There are no firm details aimed squarely at weakening the Lords, or outright attempts to muzzle the second chamber. And there are areas where the government seems to be preparing to give ground in negotiation.

But that old question remains, as it always does with May: does she have any idea what she's doing? Maybe she isn't being strategic, but simply inept. Maybe she has no sense of how important the wording is, or what she could have done to control the Lords, or even why the things she says seem to contradict one another. There is nothing in this document to confirm this issue one way or another. It seems we'll have to wait until negotiations start to find out whether the vagueness of her Brexit policy is tactical or merely ignorant.

Ian Dunt is the editor of Politics.co.uk. His book - Brexit: What The Hell Happens Now? - is available now from Canbury Press.

The opinions in politics.co.uk's Comment and Analysis section are those of the author and are no reflection of the views of the website or its owners.

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