Politicians talk about net zero – but not the sacrifices we must make to get there

John Harris
Too few leaders will arrive at Cop26 bearing any mandate for serious climate action, because hardly any have tried to get one

To be facetious about it, they only have 12 days to save the Earth. As politicians and officials from 197 countries begin just under a fortnight’s work at the Cop26 summit in Glasgow, you can sense a strange mixture of feelings: expectation, cynicism, fatalism, anger and fragile hope.
It will be easy to lose track of what is at stake and who is who – although anyone feeling confused should recall the report issued in August by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and its bracing conclusion: that huge environmental changes triggered by global heating are now everywhere, and avoiding a future that will be completely catastrophic demands “immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions” in carbon emissions. The point is simple enough. But one familiar factor may well weaken the resolve of the key people at Cop26: the fact that too few politicians will arrive in Scotland bearing any mandate for serious climate action, because almost none of them have tried to get one.
Two crucial political problems define the contrast between what is required and what those in power have so far chosen to deliver. One centres on the populism and power cults that actively get in the way of climate action – something evident in both the records of strongmen like Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro and Turkey’s Recep Erdoğan, and where our ecological emergency sits in the cultural and generational conflicts that are now bubbling up all over the world.

In the UK, the latest manifestation of the populist right’s belligerent scepticism is the suggestion that we might rerun the Brexit referendum in the form of a vote on whether or not to pursue the goal of net zero carbon emissions. You also see it in those seemingly daily video clips of some or other sub-Alan Partridge TV or radio host arguing with someone from Extinction Rebellion or Insulate Britain, a ritual which feels like a new national sport.
The other impediment to action is more insidious. On both the centre-left and centre-right, there is superficial recognition of the hard yards required to do something about the climate emergency but, so far, an aversion to thinking about the huge changes to everyday life that will be necessary. “We can build back greener without so much as a hair shirt in sight,” says Boris Johnson.
Keir Starmer may not have uttered anything so crass, but he too seems to believe in a modest utopia of a new green economy, insulated homes, increased funding for science, and the day somehow being saved by British derring-do. “Climate change is about jobs,” he insists, which is partly true. But, like Johnson, he doesn’t mention revolutionising what we eat and why and how we travel, or – God forbid – the continuing fetishisation of economic growth.
Might that be an inevitable feature of democracy? Perhaps. But in the UK, the first focus of blame should be the two-party Westminster model of politics kept in business by our stupid electoral system, and the way that it sustains political philosophies that ought to have been left behind in the 20th century.
On the right, notwithstanding Johnson’s swerve into the politics of big spending and economic interventionism, Toryism remains beholden to the market, and dead against the idea of the common good shaping the lifestyles of anyone who is halfway affluent (the poor, of course, are fair game). Its contorted priorities are illustrated by the fact that the government’s current leading lights managed to take us out of the European Union at a huge cost to national income and the country’s economic future. But they cannot muster anything like the same enthusiasm for risking some stability and prosperity in the interests of saving the planet.
And Labour? Here is a radical thought: given his beleaguered position and the urgency of the crisis, Starmer could conceivably go for broke, and predicate his leadership on the climate emergency, finally bringing its scale and urgency somewhere close to the heart of politics. The thought, unfortunately, would not even occur, because of what the Labour party is. Its origins lie in a world of coalmines and smokestacks. Like its sister social-democratic parties in Europe, whatever reinventions Labour has undergone since, it has a deep, sentimental attachment to an idea of the good life centred on work and the factory, and raising people’s living standards so that they can consume with the same enthusiasm as everyone else. At the most basic level, it shares the Tory idea that growth is the sine qua non of economic policy.

During the Corbyn years, some of this stuff was undoubtedly shaken up, although there were also signs of a conservatism that still runs across all wings of the party. In 2015, as he ran for the leadership, Jeremy Corbyn endorsed reopening mines in south Wales. Four years later, as Labour decisively embraced a so-called Green New Deal in preparation for the 2019 election, some of the big unions – who represent gas, oil, and aviation workers – insisted on 2030 being a target for “significant progress” rather than a non-negotiable net zero deadline.
It is worth remembering the view of the then leader of the GMB union, Tim Roache: the latter stance, he raged, would mean “within a decade people’s petrol cars being confiscated. This will mean families can only take one flight every five years. Net zero carbon emissions by 2030 is utterly unachievable.”
So, which way out? As a means of at least trying to reorientate our politics, a lot more people are going to have to vote for the Green party – and, to maintain the sense of last-ditch urgency that Extinction Rebellion have brought to things, the case for what some people call extra-parliamentary activity feels beyond argument. Without wanting to sound overly pessimistic, the most likely outcome of all the negotiations and diplomatic theatre in Glasgow will push even more people in that direction, and their protests will bring on the usual sneers and priggishness, not least from Westminster politicians. But as ever, the people involved will have a simple answer: that if politics endlessly fails, the streets may be all you have left.


John Harris is a Guardian columnist

Brexit will only be judged a watershed if it leads to major new directions in the constitution, political economy, or external stance of the stat

Britain’s oscillation between engagement and non-engagement with the rest of Europe is likely to remain a fundamental part of British politics, writes Andrew Gamble. But whether Brexit marks a major watershed remains to be seen. 

How will Brexit come to be judged? Five years on from the referendum, it is still unclear whether this striking manifestation of popular sovereignty will come to be seen as a major watershed in British politics or not. As with all revolutions, the rupture which is proclaimed at the time often masks much deeper continuities in policy which soon reassert themselves. I explore these questions and other aspects of British politics in a collection of my essays on British politics published over the last forty years. After Brexit was chosen as the title essay because it reflects on the historical contexts which have shaped the British political economy and its external relationships in the decades of European engagement and non-engagement since the Second World War. The European issue has been central in British politics in the last forty-seven years, since Britain first entered the European Community in 1973. But it reaches back before that, to Churchill’s identification of Europe as one of three circles of key external relationships in which Britain was involved (the other two were the Empire and the United States), to Britain’s refusal to become involved in the first steps towards European collaboration after 1945, followed by the two failed attempts to join the Common Market in the 1960s.

When Edward Heath finally secured entry in 1973, he intended Europe to provide a new national purpose and to give Britain a new role in the world, following the withdrawal from Empire. It was regarded as a watershed moment in Britain’s post-war development and a decisive recalibration of Churchill’s three circles, giving top priority (for the first time) to the European circle. In the same way, the decision to withdraw from Europe after the 2016 referendum has the potential to be a major watershed which some of the leaders of the Leave campaign are hoping will recalibrate the three circles again by giving priority to the United States and the wider Anglosphere. If this could be achieved, it might reshape British politics in many different areas – its political economy, its role in the world, its party system and its constitution.

Britain was often a reluctant member of the European Union. But both supporters and opponents of the European turn in British policy assumed that membership was permanent and unlikely to be reversed, despite the presence of a strong and vocal anti-European minority. Europe was always an issue of low importance for most British citizens, but it was a vital matter for parts of the political class as the virulence of the civil war in the Conservative Party attested. Both main parties were divided about the merits of integrating with the rest of Europe and the priority to be given to Britain’s relationship with Europe over its relationship with the United States.

The increasing Europeanisation of Britain’s laws, institutions, policy-making processes and of its regulatory regime over four decades intersected with other domestic issues and debates. These included the response to the relative decline and poor performance of the economy, the character of Britain’s hybrid Anglo-liberal model of capitalism, the reshaping of the post-war Keynesian welfare state, the rise and fall of Thatcherism, the transformation of both the Conservative and Labour parties, the relationship between Britain and the United States, the new regulatory state, and the changing  constitutional order, with the devolution of power to assemblies and parliaments in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.

For all the passions Brexit has aroused, it will only be judged a watershed by historians if it leads to major new directions in the constitution, political economy or external stance of the British state. The most likely form a constitutional watershed arising from Brexit might take is the breakup of the United Kingdom. Brexit has further destabilised the Union, increasing secessionist pressure in Scotland, raising the possibility of Irish reunification, enhancing support for Welsh independence, and accelerating the emergence of a new politicised Englishness. The new disunited Kingdom has been on full display during the pandemic.

A second possibility is that Brexit may mark a watershed in Britain’s political economy. Will it be seen as leading to a decisive turn from the economic principles which have shaped British economic policy since the Thatcher Government in the 1980s? There is talk of a more active role for the state, in part spurred by the Conservative agenda of levelling up to retain its new support in former Labour areas, in part by the demonstration of what an active state can achieve during the COVID-19 emergency. But to make these changes of direction, there would need to be political commitment to a fundamental broadening and deepening of the tax base and some major institutional changes in the way policy is delivered; at present, there are few signs of either.

A third possibility is that Brexit marks Britain’s relaunch as ‘Global Britain’. The initial flurry of symbolic gestures and rhetoric may be a poor guide to the pragmatic choices British governments actually make over the next ten years. One scenario sees Britain inexorably edging back towards closer involvement with the EU and adopting the kind of associate status Jacques Delors once urged the UK to consider. That is because the realistic possibilities for ‘Global Britain’ outside the EU orbit altogether are not great. Promotion of deeper links with the Anglosphere finds little support within the Anglosphere nations themselves. Britain will remain a strong supporter of the western alliance and the leadership role of the United States, but this was Britain’s position before Brexit. Britain was always a reluctant and at times an awkward partner for Europe, but the relationship was also an indispensable one for both sides. That has not changed. The British have won greater freedom of action in some areas by giving up the power to shape and influence the general direction of European policy, much of which Britain will still be obliged to comply with.

Since Britain cannot just cut its links with Europe, the relationship threatens to be one dominated by friction and resentment. But this again is hardly a change from what existed before Brexit. Britain’s European odyssey shows no signs of ending any time soon, because although Britain is now after Brexit, it will never be after Europe. Britain’s oscillation between engagement and non-engagement with the rest of Europe is likely to remain a fundamental part of British politics.

Note: the above summarises aspects of the author’s new book, After Brexit and Other Essays (Bristol University Press, 2021).

About the AuthorAndrew Gamble is Professor of Politics at the University of Sheffield and Emeritus Professor of Politics at the University of Cambridge.


The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill includes major proposals on crime and justice in England and Wales.

David Mead writes that its introduction is an attempt to divert attention away from serious threats – such as climate change and racialised policing – and onto those who try to raise awareness.

‘By giving the police the discretion to use these powers some of the time, it takes away our freedom all of the time’. David Lammy’s closing speech at the end of the Second Reading debate of the Police, Crime, Sentencing, and Courts Bill gets to the nub of the issue – a potentially massive increase in the power of the state to regulate protest and activism. The Bill, despite some of the hyperbole, does not remove the right to protest; it is drafted very carefully to avoid such a charge, but it does render it far more precarious, and far more in the gift of the police. If we hadn’t before, events at the Sarah Everard vigil on the night of 13 March should make us question the wisdom of this Bill very, very closely.

I will not engage with the question of the Bill’s scope and effect (see instead hereand here). What I want to focus on is the parliamentary passage of the Bill, specifically the side-lining of scrutiny. There are three related issues I want to touch on: the provision of information to the public and MPs about the Bill; the speed of passage; and the need for the legislation (and, more importantly, what MPs see as the need).

The Bill had its First Reading on 9 March, and two days were set aside for the Second Reading later that month. Not only is this a 307-page, 176-clause Bill, but at least for the public order sections, there was no White or Green paper, no draft Bill. There had before been some floating of the need to make inroads though nothing officially was said before March. In late November, Netpol – the network for police monitoring – posted about plans for a ‘major crackdown on protest in 2021’, in light of talks it had had with HMICFRS. The plans were said to include equalising the power to impose conditions as between marches and assemblies; lessening of the trigger from serious to significant disruption to the life of the community; and plans to introduce stop-and-search powers to prevent such disruption. The Bill certainly covers the first, to some extent it touches on the second, but does not include the third. The provisions in the Bill that allow for conditions on noisy protests – if the noise level is such as likely to cause some serious unease, alarm or distress – is new, as is the planned power to regulate one-person protests, the power to prohibit obstructions of entry/exit into the Palace of Westminster, and plans to put common law nuisance onto a statutory footing – though the latter dates back to a Law Commission report in 2015.

Of course, the mood music has been playing for a while – most of the past 18 months have featured regular, albeit sporadic calls for action and castigation of activists, going back to evidence given by Met Commander Adrian Usher to the JCHR in April 2019, where he argued for the police to have powers to deal with unlawful protests, in total contradistinction to ECHR case law. More recently, they go back to claims made about Black Lives Matter and Extinction Rebellion, most especially the pulling down of statues and the blocking of the distribution of several Murdoch press titles in September 2020. The Home Secretary responded by labelling ‘so-called eco-crusaders turned criminals’ while some Black Lives Matter protesters became ‘hooligans and thugs’.

It was clear, then, that the tide was turning, perhaps had done so. That does not explain the Bill that has just landed, accompanied by a 161-page HMICFRS report vindicating the government’s approach. Neither does it explain the absence in the Bill of a power allowing the police to impose conditions centrally, so avoiding the restrictions of the High Court decision in the Jenny Jones judicial review. There, it was held the Met had acted unlawfully when a senior officer had imposed conditions on several cross-London Extinction Rebellion ‘pop up’ protests, since the legislation, properly interpreted, required that to be done separately at each scene.

The Bill then is something of an enigma: to what is it supposed to be a response? We soon see an enigma wrapped up in a puzzle when we consider the views expressed by Conservative backbenchers during the debate. Several (not all – see the thoughtful interventions of StephenHammond and Fiona Bruce) managed to convince themselves into holding two irreconcilable positions: that the Bill was proposing things not actually in it, and yet was needed to cater for things that were already covered. For instance, Gareth Johnson said that ‘the Bill seeks to balance those competing rights. It will allow protests, vigils, demonstrations and marches, but not the blocking of bridges or stopping traffic and bringing cities to a standstill. Protests, yes; causing serious disruption to others, no.’ Then, TimLoughton warned that ‘Labour Members may try to claim that they have objections to the new public demonstration conditions proposed for preventing serious disruption to the life of the community’. Finally, Richard Drax was reassured that ‘the Home Secretary indicated in her speech that these new powers are aimed at preventing protesters from stopping people going to work or closing a city like London for days on end’.

Serious disruption to the life of the community has been the trigger for imposing conditions for 35 years, since the relevant Public Order Act 1986. There is nothing in the Bill that adds to the armoury here, yet none of those three MPs addressed the real challenge to peaceful protest, what I term an existential threat: conditions based on likely noise levels. They may simply be repeating a Whip-derived line – that the Bill does not affect the right to protest. But that is nonsense. Any increase in police power has that capacity and potential. Whether it is ever used, whether we think it should ever be used, are entirely different and valuable normative questions. But to deny that this Bill changes anything at all is false. This is compounded with the realisation that, in fact, the Bill does not deal with Extinction Rebellion protests. It does not alter the Jenny Jones decision. Neither does it deal with protests by putting common law nuisance onto a statutory footing. While it is true that since Rimmington a charge cannot be laid if there is a statutory alternative, that is the very point: either there is already an offence in an Act – charge someone with that – or if there is not, the common law provides the charge. This Bill does not change that.

We see the Bill, then, in its proper light: a lightning rod, diverting proper attention away from the imminent threat of climate change and onto those who exhort for a different way of life to tackle it, away from those subjected to racialised policing and onto those who tear down statues. The Bill is the epitome of much wider contemporary political discourse, one that allows government to cast us as good or bad, activists and citizens, reinforcing tensions and division at the expense of collective social solidarity, and for that reason alone we should oppose it.


About the Author

David Mead is Professor of UK Human Rights at the University of East Anglia. He has worked with Amnesty, Greenpeace and Liberty on protest issues, been involved with practitioners in cases up to and including the Supreme Court, and been consulted by the UN Special Rapporteurs on both Peaceful Assembly and on Use of Force. Most recently, his evidence has been relied on by the JCHR in its report on protest under COVID-19. He is a member of Netpol’s Lawyers’ Group. He is the author of The New Law of Peaceful Protest: Rights and Regulation in the Human Rights Act Era.

LSE blog

Budget 2021: a missed opportunity to make permanent the £20 increase to Universal Credit

Posted: 03 Mar 2021 09:50 AM PST

Ruth PatrickKayleigh GarthwaiteGeoff PageMaddy Power, and Katie Pybus comment on the government’s decision to extend the £20 uplift to Universal Credit by six months only. They argue that the increase should be a permanent one, as part of a broader commitment to reforming the social security system.

We’ve learned a lot over the past 12 months of the pandemic. About ourselves, our children, our local areas, but also, inevitably, about our politicians and government. We’ve learned that our government is sometimes willing to make bold policy decisions, such as the recent announcement of the extension of furlough into the autumn. As part of the 2021 Budget, Rishi Sunak promised that he would ‘do everything it takes’ to protect ‘lives and livelihoods’. His government’s budgetary measures simply did not live up to these words.

The decision Sunak announced to extend the £20 uplift to Universal Credit by justsix months is testament to this. Not only has the government missed the opportunity to properly invest in social security into the longer term, but they have also failed to extend the support provided through the £20 Universal Credit uplift to an estimated 2.5 million legacy benefit recipients. They have further failed by not acting to make those subject to the Benefit Cap eligible for support through the £20 uplift.

These failures on the budget are part of a broader narrative emanating from this government on ‘welfare’, which continues to rely on divisions between ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ populations, and shows an unwillingness to retire old (and arguably ineffective) policy tools, such as welfare conditionality. Both Sunak and Johnson have also shown an unwillingness to think more ambitiously and structurally about the social security system. They have been unprepared to delivery long overdue reform to address issues tied to adequacy and eligibility to social security support, whilst they have also failed to address the design limitations with Universal Credit, which negatively impact on the experiences of existing claimants, and the millions of households who have claimed as a direct result of the pandemic.

Through the Nuffield Foundation funded COVID Realities research programme, we are working in partnership with over 100 parents and carers living on a low-income, who are documenting their everyday experiences in online diaries and by responding to weekly video questions. The parents are also meeting up together in virtual discussion groups. In these monthly meetings, parents work with us to develop recommendations for change, recommendations which are rooted in their own experiences, that are all too often of insecurity, of poverty, and of a social security system that is failing them.

After the budget, some of the parents we have been working with gave their reactions to the decision on Universal Credit. Dorothy, a single parent to two children, one of whom is disabled, told us:

I am a bit relieved that they have extended the £20 UC payment, but I’m disappointed it is only for six months because I don’t think the pandemic is going to go away within six months. The cost of living went up so much from the pandemic and from having children at home. In my eyes, the pandemic is no way near over and the £20 just did not go far enough.

Aurora, a widowed single parent, spoke for many who do not receive the £20 uplift at all:

We as the poorest members of society cannot understand why we’ve been overlooked yet again. Why have we been ignored? We have already bared the brunt of austerity and continue to do so. That extra £20 would’ve been going towards feeding us or ensuring we were able to meet the increased costs the pandemic has inflicted on our lives. But we don’t receive it at all because our benefits are capped. I’m just thankful to Covid realities for giving us a voice when no one cared.

The Universal Credit decision extends and perhaps makes permanent the insecurity and anxiety that social security claimants face. Now, Universal Credit claimants must wait till the autumn to find out what will become of their £20 a week, which for many is the difference between keeping their heads above water, and finding it simply impossible to get through the week. Winter explained what this feels like and the difference the £20 currently makes to her family:

The proposed change [removing the £20 uplift] is the difference between paying our bills and not being able to pay some of them. And if [a] one off expenses crop up (like new shoes for kids etc) then you can’t cover it. Amy changes to benefits are very stressful.

From our work with parents and carers, we know how this financial insecurity intersects with, and is compounded by, the insecurity that we all face because of the conditions that the pandemic creates. We also know that the £20 uplift is not a panacea, and it is not enough: families with children urgently need help with the costs of their children, and to address the stubbornly high levels of child poverty. Lexie, who receives the £20 uplift explained:

The £20 is the bare minimum of help to be honest. I know that sounds ungrateful but £20 doesn’t cover much these days. By the end of the month, we are still choosing between eating and heating. We have always aimed to do better by our children than what we had but it’s almost impossible. No one in today’s day and age should be choosing between eating and heating.

As analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies has shown, the £20 uplift to Universal Credit represents the first significant real increase in benefit levels in the last half century for families without children. However, and this is especially important, while a sizeable and significant increase, it has made ‘barely a dent’ in the decline in the real value of the social security safety net (excluding housing) for childless families as a faction of earnings levels, which has fallen almost continually for the last 50 years. The picture for families with children, the focus of our COVID Realities work, is more complicated; but there is a broader message that the £20 uplift is only a partial and limited corrective for decades of decline in the real value of social security, which hastened under the 2010-2019 Conservative-led governments, especially due to the freezing of benefit levels. Against this context, it was especially important to make the £20 increase a permanent one as part of a broader commitment to the social security system in the UK.

We have seen the possibility in their pandemic response for the government to be bold, to spend money, and to intervene to protect livelihoods. But there has been a failure to do this on social security, and this failure needs to be writ large in all the analysis of this budget, in the weeks and months ahead. It is a failure of ambition and a failure to do what our society so urgently needs.


Note: The project on which the above draws has been funded by the Nuffield Foundation, but the views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily the Foundation.

About the Authors

Ruth Patrick is Lecturer in Social Policy at the University of York.

Kayleigh Garthwaite is a Birmingham Fellow in the Department of Social Policy, Sociology and Criminology at the University of Birmingham.

Geoff Page is Research Associate at the University of York.

Maddy Power is a Research Fellow at the University of York.

Katie Pybus is a Research Fellow at the University of York.


En Allemagne l’extrême droite refait surface

Depuis la fusillade raciste de Hanau, il y a un an, qui a fait neuf morts, et avec la multiplication des attaques, le pays a pris conscience des dangers du discours identitaire et de la menace terroriste, trop longtemps sous-estimée par les forces de l’ordre.

PAR STÉPHANE ROLAND INTÉRIM À BERLIN. Libération vendredi 19 février.

Hamza Kurtovic avait 22 ans. Il venait de finir sa formation de magasinier et s’apprêtait à démarrer son premier job à Hanau, une ville située à 20 kilomètres à l’est de la capitale financière allemande, Francfort-sur-le-Main. Ce mercredi 19 février 2020, il attend quelques amis à l’Arena Bar, situé sur la place Kurt-Schumacher. Mais il a la malchance de croiser sur son chemin Tobias Rathjen, qui vient d’exécuter cinq personnes quelques minutes auparavant dans un bar à chicha du centre-ville. Le terroriste lui tire dessus à bout portant. Hamza ne saura jamais pourquoi.

«Pour moi, la violence d’extrême droite, c’était loin. Je n’imaginais pas que cela puisse concerner un jour ma famille,témoigne sa sœur, Ajla Kurtovic, qui a appris la mort de son frère le lendemain de l’attentat. Tout à coup, on a été rattrapés par la réalité.»

Ce jour-là, c’est toute l’Allemagne qui est rattrapée par la réalité. L’attentat raciste de Hanau, qui fait neuf morts et au moins cinq blessés, traumatise le pays. «Ce fut une césure pour le vivre-ensemble et la cohésion sociale», a rappelé il y a quelques jours la chancelière allemande, Angela Merkel, devant les députés de l’Assemblée fédérale (Bundestag).

A l’époque, les Allemands prennent conscience que la violence d’extrême droite n’est plus seulement une affaire de «cas isolés» ou de «déséquilibrés», mais une menace pour une société qui compte aujourd’hui plus de 20 % de citoyens issus de l’immigration. «Pour la première fois, les responsables politiques qualifient cette attaque de “raciste”», remarque Matthias Quent, sociologue et directeur de l’Institut pour la démocratie et la société civile à Iéna (Thuringe). La violence d’extrême droite ne s’est pas seulement manifestée à Hanau. Ce sont 23 080 actes racistes, antisémites ou «dirigés contre le système démocratique» qui ont eu lieu en 2020 – un nouveau record depuis 2001. Selon les chiffres du gouvernement, 109 personnes ont été tuées depuis 1990 par l’extrême droite pour des raisons racistes ou antisémites. Selon les organisations non gouvernementales, ce bilan dépasse les 200 morts.

Balle dans la tête

Hanau est aussi le troisième attentat d’extrême droite en moins d’un an. Le 2 juin 2019, Walter Lübcke, élu proréfugiés du district de Cassel (Hesse), est exécuté d’une balle dans la tête dans son jardin. C’est la première fois dans l’histoire de la République fédérale qu’un représentant de l’Etat est assassiné par l’extrême droite. En septembre, la synagogue de Halle (Saxe-Anhalt) est attaquée par un néonazi le jour de la fête juive de Yom Kippour. Les fidèles auront la vie sauve grâce à la porte d’entrée qui refuse de céder aux tirs du terroriste.

«L’attentat de la synagogue était prévisible, insiste Marc Grünbaum, membre du Conseil de la communauté juive de Francfort. La société allemande a fermé les yeux trop longtemps. Ce qu’il y a de nouveau, c’est que la menace est devenue visible.»Horst Seehofer, le ministre fédéral de l’Intérieur, le reconnaîtra lui-même, et pour la première fois, quelques jours après l’attentat de Hanau : «Le plus grand danger pour l’Etat de droit et la démocratie allemande, c’est l’extrême droite.»

Cette menace a toujours existé. Mais elle n’avait encore jamais été nommée comme telle. Cette haine «ronge notre société depuis longtemps», insiste le leader écologiste Robert Habeck, rappelant qu’en 1980, un néonazi avait fait exploser une bombe à la porte d’entrée de la fête de la bière de Munich, faisant 13 morts et plus de 200 blessés.

L’émergence de l’AfD (Alternative pour l’Allemagne), première force d’opposition au Bundestag depuis 2017, a permis de libérer la parole raciste. Créé en 2013 par des eurosceptiques favorables au retour du Deutschemark, le mouvement est passé sous l’influence de l’aile nationale identitaire (völkisch), beaucoup plus radicale que le Rassemblement national (RN) en France ou le FPÖ autrichien. Pour Angela Merkel, l’AfD souffle sur les braises avec ses discours de haine. «Les paroles favorisent le passage à l’acte», dénonce la chancelière. «Mais l’AfD ne doit pas être considérée comme l’explication du problème. Elle a seulement rendu acceptable un discours d’extrême droite qui était considéré autrefois comme trop radical», insiste Nauel Franziska Semaan, experte dans la lutte contre le terrorisme à la Fondation Konrad-Adenauer.

Les Allemands prennent surtout conscience de l’aveuglement de leurs forces de sécurité. «Les auteurs d’attentat ont souvent été présentés comme des déséquilibrés ou des cas isolés, contrairement aux islamistes», fait remarquer Matthias Quent. En effet, la police criminelle allemande (BKA) n’a fiché qu’une centaine d’extrémistes de droite représentant un «danger pour la sécurité de l’Etat», alors qu’ils sont plus de 700 chez les islamistes. Plus de 1 200 extrémistes de droite fichés bénéficient encore aujourd’hui d’un port d’arme. L’auteur de l’attentat de Hanau détenait lui aussi un permis alors qu’il était fiché et qu’il avait effectué un séjour en hôpital psychiatrique.

Réseau «Hannibal»

L’influence de l’extrême droite au sein même des forces de sécurité est une grande source d’inquiétude. «Nous savons depuis longtemps que la police a un problème d’extrémisme», estime Tobias Singelnstein, spécialiste de la violence policière à l’université de la Ruhr à Bochum. Depuis un an, les procédures disciplinaires se multiplient contre les agents défendant des positions racistes sur des forums néonazis.

Plusieurs scandales ont également ébranlé la confiance des Allemands dans leur armée (Bundeswehr), notamment après la découverte du réseau «Hannibal», un forum entre néonazis et membres issus des forces de sécurité (policiers, militaires, membres des renseignements généraux, etc.). Le procès qui se tient actuellement à Leipzig (Saxe) contre un ancien soldat de l’unité d’élites KSK, accusé d’avoir caché des armes dans son jardin, marque la volonté des autorités de «tuer le mal dans l’œuf».

Jamais le ministère de l’Intérieur n’avait interdit autant de groupuscules néonazis que l’an passé : Combat 18, Nordadler («aigle nordique»), ou encore Sturmbrigade 44 («brigade d’assaut 44»). Pour ne citer que quelques exemples… Et 1 milliard d’euros ont été débloqués pour lutter contre l’extrême droite, avec notamment la création de 600 postes de «surveillants» au sein de la BKA afin de contrôler l’influence des néonazis dans l’armée et dans les administrations. «Les responsables politiques et les forces de sécurité ont tiré les leçons des attentats», estime Matthias Quent.

Dans les milieux culturels, on se félicite de cette réaction bien tardive des autorités. «Nous avons mis en place depuis longtemps des formations spécifiques pour les directions de théâtre afin de les aider à trouver une stratégie contre la menace d’extrême droite, explique Marc Grandmontagne, directeur de la Fédération des théâtres et des orchestres allemands (Deutscher Bühnenverein). L’atmosphère est devenue agressive depuis l’arrivée de l’AfD dont les élus sont présents dans les Parlements.»

Pour discréditer le travail des artistes, les membres de l’AfD remettent en question le financement des institutions culturelles. Ils harcèlent l’administration en déposant des requêtes sur tout. Ils réclament la nationalité des comédiens dans les théâtres publics. Leurs militants interrompent des représentations théâtrales en distribuant des tracts hostiles ou en huant dans les salles. «Ils ont fait une pause avec la crise sanitaire. Mais ils reviendront»,prévient Marc Grandmontagne.

«Élan de solidarité»

Quant à la société civile, elle ne veut pas rester muette face à la flambée de violence. «L’élan de solidarité a été exceptionnel après l’attaque de la synagogue», témoigne Max Privorozki, président de la communauté juive de Halle. «C’est une grande différence avec 1938 [année de la “nuit de Cristal”, ndlr], où les habitants applaudissaient devant les synagogues en feu. Cette fois, les gens sont venus nous soutenir et manifester leur opposition à la violence», constate-t-il. «Il y a eu un élan de solidarité exceptionnel qui nous a montré que la cohésion sociale était encore très forte», ajoute Ajla Kurtovic, à Hanau, dont la famille est originaire de Bosnie-Herzégovine. «La démocratie allemande a su montrer qu’elle était en état de se défendre», confirme Marc Grünbaum, de la communauté juive de Francfort.

Marina Weisband reste même optimiste. Cette Germano-Ukrainienne de confession juive a été la première représentante de la troisième génération de l’après-Shoah à prononcer un discours à l’Assemblée fédérale, le 27 janvier (date de la libération du camp d’Auschwitz), à l’occasion de la Journée nationale dédiée à la mémoire des victimes du nazisme. L’ancienne figure du Parti pirate se félicite de voir que «la société allemande et les forces de sécurité ont pris la menace au sérieux». «Un jour viendra où les policiers n’auront plus besoin de surveiller les synagogues jour et nuit en Allemagne, prédit-elle. Mais je ne vois pas encore ce jour arriver. La société continue actuellement de glisser vers la droite.»


Short on detail but not on ambition: four problems with the new NHS white paper

Short on detail but not on ambition: four problems with the new NHS white paper

Bob Hudson writes that, on the face of it, the new NHS white paper’s recoiling from the primacy of competition and markets warrants a warm welcome. Yet reactions have been underwhelming because there is remarkably little detail on how this ambitious mission is going to work.

White Paper titles are rarely short on ambition; those concerned with the NHS never so. In 2010 there was ‘Equity and Excellence: Liberating the NHS’ and now its successor is provisionally entitled ‘Integration and Innovation: working together to improve health and social care’. The 2010 White paper failed notably to live up to its billing – indeed the new White Paper constitutes a direct assault upon it – but will this new version fare any better?

It would be harsh to fault it on ambition and good intentions, certainly few people will be unfavourably disposed towards innovation and integration. The market system is to be dismantled and collaboration is to take precedence over competition, though there is no proposal to make the NHS the preferred provider of NHS services. In its place there will be new NHS ‘provider collaboratives’ operating at scale and overseen by strategic commissioning groups that will replace the current multitude of local clinical commissioning groups.

These new ‘Integrated Care Systems’ (ICS) will aim to join up the NHS, primary care, local government and the voluntary sector in order to promote system-working at ‘place’ level, probably a local government footprint. Moreover, there will be a ‘duty to collaborate’ placed upon these local partners. New legislation will establish ICSs as statutory bodies and although a consultation on legislative options only closed in January, the die is cast. Several parts of England already have non-statutory ICSs in situ and the intention is that all of England will be covered by the new arrangements.

On the face of it, this recoiling from the primacy of competition and markets along with a rehabilitation of the role of the state might seem to warrant a warm welcome. Yet reactions have been underwhelming. The explanation for this lies in the detail, or lack of it, on how this ambitious mission is going to work. Four particular problems are evident.

Rewriting national-local balance

The 2010 White Paper, in its pursuit of ‘liberation’, provided a degree of independence to NHS Foundation Trusts, and established NHS England as an independent body. Now, these powers (and more) are reverting to the Secretary of State for Health who will also be in charge of every ICS, as well as acquiring new powers to take over public health functions from local government and transfer functions to and from specified arms-length bodies. Quite how the balance is to be struck between allowing local partners to act flexibly ‘in place’ and this arrogation of control to the centre is unclear and unsettling.

Failing to learn from experience 

The White Paper takes a traditional view within central government that organisational restructuring can solve problems. This flies in the face of evidence that past attempts to do so have underestimated the associated costs and disruption. The 2012 Health and Social Care Act abolished strategic health authorities and primary care trusts, created clinical commissioning groups and NHS England, and cost an estimated £3 billion. Now, it’s all change again despite having little to show for the previous exercise.

There is a similar failure to learn from experience with the legislative ‘duty to collaborate’ between the NHS and local government. There have been decades of such ‘mandated collaboration’ imperatives with little to show for the endeavours. The reasons for these failures – differences in funding, accountability, staffing and incentives – are well known but the White Paper has no suggestions for addressing them. Similarly, all other parts of the UK have already adopted their own versions of the ICS model and have messages to share that could warn of pitfalls for England, but the White Paper content suggests little interest in comparative policy learning.

Lack of transparency, accountability, and engagement 

Placing ICSs on a legislative footing should offer some clarity on accountability, but bringing organisations together into joint decision-making forums always renders them remote from public gaze. The White Paper offers few clues on how clarity will be brought into the new arrangements. It remains unclear what powers an ICS would have over an NHS Foundation Trust and even less so in relation to local authorities holding their own line of democratic accountability. Provider collaboratives between NHS providers might make sense but there is no word about how the relationship with providers of social care (almost entirely independent companies) or the voluntary sector will fit in to any arrangements. Indeed, it is not even clear what is meant by the key organising concepts of ‘place’ and ‘integrated care’. Even murkier is where patients, users, carers and the public fit into this grand scheme – something with which the NHS has always been notoriously weak.

Lack of understanding of social care 

Given the recognition of ‘care’ in the White Paper title and the emphasis on ‘integrated care’ throughout, there is remarkably little recognition or understanding of the sector. There are some minor proposals that are helpful, notably giving the Care Quality Commission new powers to assess the commissioning of social care, collecting new data on those who fund their own care and new obligations on assessment after hospital discharge, but these are small beer. Notwithstanding the award of a seat round the ICS table for local government, there is little to dispel the fear that social care is simply perceived as a handmaiden to the priorities of the NHS, especially the reduction of hospital costs. Not only will the local government voice be relatively weak, but the powers given to the Secretary of State could see councils losing control of their social care and public health services to the priorities of the ICSs. In such circumstances, it would no longer be clear what the purpose of democratic local government might be. Meanwhile the long-promised root and branch reform of social care has been yet again kicked into the long grass.

What needs to be addressed going forward

Given the political reality that the government will press ahead with the changes, there needs to be some attention paid to these dilemmas. First of all, the hidden wiring (if it exists) need to be brought into view. It is these practicalities that can make the difference between a successful shared endeavour and an acrimonious shouting match.

Secondly, all of the parties need to have collaborative capacity – the ability to enter into, develop, and sustain robust partnership working. NHS partners might have this but local government and the voluntary sector have been pared back to survival mode. Joint working has no qualities of spontaneous growth or self-perpetuation; it needs perpetual attention and support.

Thirdly, explicit measures need to be put in place to ensure ICSs have some accountability to those who use services and to the wider public. The most influential discourse in adult social care right now is around co-production – developing more equal partnershipsbetween people who use services, carers and professionals – but this seems like a foreign land to the White Paper. Some way has to be found to invest in building the voice of users, patients, carers and citizens into these new arrangements. And finally, given the enormity and complexity of the exercise, there needs to be a smart and accessible policy support function, possibly along the lines that were developed for the Care Act 2014.

Finally, the government needs to snap out of the idea that a policy lever can be pulled in Whitehall and things will magically happen across the length and breadth of the country. Shared endeavours work best when there is a negotiated relationship between all of the local stakeholders based upon a high level of trust and mutual respect. This alchemy is built locally from the bottom-up, not by edict from the top-down. The policy landscape is littered with the corpses of failed top-down experiments; this organisational re-set of the NHS is at serious risk of adding to the number.


About the Author

Bob Hudson is a Visiting Professor in Public Policy in the Centre for Health Services Studies at the University of Kent


Even in the absence of Cummings, the Johnson Administration will continue its mission of ‘draining the swamp’ in Whitehall

LSE British Politics and Policy

November 20th, 2020

Despite being closely associated with Dominic Cummings’s visions, the effort to de-privilege the civil service did not begin with him, but with the arrival of the Cameron Government in 2010, writes Patrick Diamond. The chasm between Ministers and civil servants is a long-term structural trend, exacerbated by alterations in the ideological nature of British Conservatism, and will continue to grow even without Cummings.

Dominic Cummings’ dramatic departure from 10 Downing Street inevitably stirred great excitement among political pundits and commentators in the Westminster village. It raised fundamental questions about the future character of the Johnson Administration. Among the most significant was whether Cummings’s historic project to fundamentally transform the British state was now over. There was speculation that shorn of its permanent campaign ethos, the Conservative Government would revert to a more measured governing style, striving to work co-operatively with the civil service, respecting constitutional convention, upholding democratic norms, while practising statecraft by consent. Many officials will desperately hope that Cummings’s demise amounts to the end of the ‘hard rain’ that has fallen on Whitehall since the Brexit referendum in 2016.

Nevertheless, civil servants would be mistaken to assume that Conservative Ministers are about to revert to a more consensual governing approach where officials are free once again to ‘speak truth to power’. The growing chasm between Ministers and civil servants is a long-term structural trend, exacerbated by alterations in the ideological nature of British Conservatism. The influential ideas of the New Right in Britain and the United States attack bureaucrats as self-interested and incompetent, the very antithesis of the public good. Cummings’s rhetoric has inflamed tensions and certainly not helped matters. Yet he alone is not the driver of the growing division in the ‘governing marriage’ that characterised Whitehall since Northcote-Trevelyan and the Haldane report of 1918.

As Rodney Lowe and Hugh Pemberton outline in their masterful second volume of the Official History of the British Civil Service, six forces have propelled Ministers and officials towards divorce, while fragmenting and destabilising the system of government in the UK.

The first is the growing emphasis in the British state on prioritising a narrow measure of financial efficiency. The focus on cost reduction since the efficiency review led by Derek Rayner in the early 1980s led to a sharp fall in civil service numbers. Over the last decade, numbers have fallen further (although there has been a slight uptick since Brexit). Not surprisingly, the financial squeeze has left the civil service demoralised and weakened the fabric of the state.

The second is the related trend towards outsourcing. Service delivery has come to rely less on the public sector than on a multiplicity of private and non-governmental providers. Civil servants are the managers of contracts, commissioners increasingly detached from frontline implementation. More than ever, capital investment has depended on Public Private Partnerships and the Private Finance Initiative.

The third development concerns governance fragmentation. Compelled to operate within the ministerial fiefdoms of Whitehall’s departmental system, officials have struggled to work across boundaries to shape effective policies. Among the most far-reaching reforms was the creation of ‘Next Steps’ agencies in the late 1980s. Over time, three quarters of the civil service have been transferred to ‘arms-length’ agencies, entrenching the artificial separation between policy determination and operational delivery, making ‘joining-up’ all but impossible.

The fourth trend is centralisation. Policy-making influence in Whitehall has become increasingly concentrated. The growing power of the centre in Number 10 has encouraged group-think and hyper-innovation, marginalising the civil service. Yet paradoxically, the centre has become more enfeebled and brittle, lacking the necessary capabilities for effective decision-making, detached from the realities of ‘street-level’ service delivery.

The fifth accompanying shift is the politicisation of Whitehall. Among the most significant changes is the doctrine of ministerial supremacy. Rather than formulating policy through constructive collaboration between officials and Ministers, the ideas of politicians, often developed in the opposition years, have come to dominate the policy-making process. Ministers, after all, have a direct mandate and their views are held to encompass ‘the will of the people’. Yet side-lining civil servants has created a deliberation deficit which exposes Ministers to the growing threat of policy fiascos and blunders.

The final long-term change has been the ideology of the limited state. The position of the civil service was further undermined by the ethos of small government that prevailed after 1979. The role of the state was now to uphold private property rights and the basic liberties of the individual. Any constructive role for government in developing the industrial base, spurring economic growth and improving productivity was eschewed. This position amounted to a further attack on the efficacy of the public bureaucracy.

Even in the absence of Cummings, the Johnson Administration will continue its mission of ‘draining the swamp’ in Whitehall. There is a persistent belief that government, central or local, is inherently inefficient, even corrupt – underlined by the response to the pandemic. Ministers favour a market state where a politicised centre determines policies, while implementation is carried out by a host of non-state, usually private sector, providers. There will still be a NASA-style mission control centre, accompanied by White House-style press briefings. Civil servants will be further marginalised by trouble-shooting management consultants. The signature reform of the current administration in response to the governance fiasco of COVID-19 is to bring Public Health England, an operationally autonomous agency, under the direct political control of Ministers. For all the rhetoric about levelling-up the UK, there will be no renaissance in the status and legitimacy of the public sector.

Indeed, the effort to de-privilege the civil service did not begin with Cummings, but the arrival of the Cameron Government in 2010. Francis Maude as Cabinet Office Minister was explicitly charged with shaking up the permanent bureaucracy. The technocratic language of managerialism that characterised statements such as the Civil Service Reform Plan (2012) disguised a basic intention to end the civil service monopoly over policy advice. Maude sought to create a more ‘contestable’ policy-making machinery shaped by think-tanks, consultancies and policy entrepreneurs from outside the Whitehall system. Officials were ever more confined to the margins of decision-making.

These developments speak to a continuing ideological shift in state and society. Remarkably, government is still viewed as the obstacle rather than the solution to the great policy problems of the age.


About the Author

Patrick Diamond is the author of The End of Whitehall (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018) and Associate Professor of Public Policy, Queen Mary.

LSE Blogs

Ultradroite : identitarisme et terrorisme brun dessus brun dessous

La menace représentée par les groupes identitaires en France est prise très au sérieux par les forces de sécurité, qui redoutent autant les actions violentes concertées, dont plusieurs ont été déjouées dernièrement, que le passage à l’acte de loups solitaires.


Ils rêvent d’un Grand Soir de couleur brune. Ou d’une «Nouvelle Aurore», d’après le nom d’un groupuscule néonazi repéré dans les environs de Marseille. Surtout, ils fourbissent leurs armes pour déclencher une guerre civile raciale, et détruire un modèle républicain jugé incapable de défendre ses citoyens – comprendre les «Français blancs». Fabien Badaroux, l’homme de 33 ans qui a été abattu par la police le 29 octobre à Avignon, après avoir menacé un automobiliste maghrébin avec un pistolet (non chargé), s’était revendiqué de la mouvance identitaire. Il faisait l’objet d’un suivi psychiatrique. Alors qu’il avait longtemps adhéré au Parti communiste, il portait ce jour-là un anorak bleu arborant le logo «Defend Europe», un slogan de Génération identitaire (GI), le courant d’extrême droite radicale le plus visible en France. De plus, de la documentation néonazie et célébrant l’idéologie des identitaires a été retrouvée à son domicile. Une porte-parole de GI avait aussitôt déclaré : «Cet homme n’a jamais milité chez nous, personne le connaît.» Pour autant, l’attaque d’Avignon semblait être une réplique à l’attentat islamiste perpétré deux heures plus tôt par un Tunisien de 21 ans, qui avait assassiné trois fidèles catholiques de la basilique Notre-Dame, à Nice.
Dans une société traumatisée par les tueries commises depuis 2015 par des jihadistes aguerris ou des individus radicalisés, une autre menace, en miroir, inquiète les services de sécurité : des actions terroristes contre une mosquée, des musulmans, ou leurs prétendus «complices», fomentées par des partisans de l’ultradroite. «En dehors du terrorisme islamiste, qui reste la menace principale, les services de police et de gendarmerie craignent de voir se constituer des groupes prônant le suprémacisme blanc, ou le survivalisme, dans leur composante violente, explique à Libé Laurent Nuñez, le coordonnateur national du renseignement et de la lutte contre le terrorisme. Ces groupes cherchent à s’organiser, à s’armer, pour être capables de combattre une prétendue domination de l’islam sur le pays. Depuis 2017, cinq projets d’attaques émanant de cette mouvance ont été déjoués.»


Parmi ces cinq complots, deux étaient en phase avancée. Le 3 novembre, à l’aube, les policiers de la Direction générale de la sécurité intérieure (DGSI) ont interpellé chez elle Delphine T., aide-soignante à la retraite, ainsi que l’a révélé le Point. Cette sexagénaire, domiciliée à Périgueux (Dordogne), pourrait être l’instigatrice d’un plan d’attaque contre Emmanuel Macron, contrecarré en novembre 2018 et échafaudé par les «Barjols», un groupe d’adeptes du survivalisme. Six hommes, qui évoquaient la possibilité d’assassiner le Président lors des commémorations du centenaire de la fin de la Première Guerre mondiale, ont déjà été arrêtés. L’un d’eux, Jean-Pierre B., retraité isérois de 63 ans, cherchait à se procurer un couteau en céramique, indétectable par les portiques de sécurité. Il avait été intercepté alors qu’il avait rallié la Moselle en voiture, en compagnie d’un complice.

Quelques mois auparavant, en juin 2018, un autre groupe d’ultradroite, l’Action des forces opérationnelles (AFO), était démantelé. Comme les Barjols, les membres d’AFO ne font aucune référence au nazisme ou au fascisme. Pour ces adeptes du «grand remplacement» – cette théorie complotiste selon laquelle les élites au pouvoir veulent substituer des populations venues d’Afrique et de l’Orient aux peuples européens -, l’ennemi est tout désigné : le «péril islamique». En réalité, ils visent tous les musulmans, envisageant des attaques contre des imams «radicaux», mais aussi des tirs et jets d’explosifs sur une mosquée, des agressions de femmes voilées… Jusqu’à l’empoisonnement des rayons d’alimentation halal dans les supermarchés de région parisienne… Pour cela, les membres de ce groupe paramilitaire clandestin s’entraînent dans une propriété dans l’Yonne. Ils cherchent à fabriquer du TATP, un explosif puissant, et veulent se procurer des fusils d’assaut. Le profil des recrues de l’AFO surprend les enquêteurs : beaucoup sont des quinquagénaires ou des retraités, des anciens policiers et ex-militaires, des chasseurs et des adeptes du tir sportif. Ces derniers tentent de faire des émules au sein de deux régiments parachutistes stationnés dans le Sud-Ouest. «Ces individus se considèrent comme la dernière partie saine de la société française. Psychologiquement, ils fonctionnent selon le schéma “militaire un jour, militaire toujours” ou “flic un jour, flic toujours”, analyse le politologue Jean-Yves Camus, spécialiste de l’extrême droite. Pour pallier l’insuffisance, la compromission et la lâcheté supposée des autorités face à la menace, ils sont prêts à reprendre les armes…»
A ce jour, 15 membres de l’AFO sont mis en examen pour «association de malfaiteurs terroristes» et sont en attente d’un jugement. Mais, selon nos informations, l’organigramme de l’organisation, récupéré par les enquêteurs de la DGSI, recensait quelque 110 membres, répartis en 10 réseaux régionaux et couvrant une soixantaine de départements. Certains d’entre eux avaient quitté le groupe avant les interpellations. Par prudence ? Par impatience de passer à l’action ? Parmi eux, un sous-officier de gendarmerie, organisateur, à ses heures perdues, de stages de survivalisme et de self-défense…

Mais alors, l’ultradroite violente, combien de divisions ? Entre 1 000 et 1 500 individus, susceptibles de se mobiliser et de mener une action violente, sont identifiés par les services spécialisés – DGSI et renseignement territorial, essentiellement. Parmi eux, «quelques centaines», détenant légalement une ou plusieurs armes à feu, sont fichés S (pour «Sécurité de l’Etat») et font l’objet d’un suivi renforcé. A ce noyau dur, il faut ajouter un millier de «sympathisants», repérés dans des manifestations ou sur les réseaux sociaux.
Surtout, la menace augmente et se renouvelle. Trois mouvements dissous en Conseil des ministres en avril 2019 (Bastion social, ainsi que Blood and Honor et Charlemagne Hammerskins, deux groupuscules skinheads néonazis) se sont reformés à l’échelon local, sous d’autres appellations, ou poursuivent plus sporadiquement leurs activités. Selon Mediapart, une procédure pour «reconstitution de groupe dissous» vise le Bastion social, ouvrant la voie à de possibles sanctions pénales. D’autres groupes émergent. Ainsi, «les Braves – Vivre européen», drainant plusieurs centaines d’adeptes, prônent le suprémacisme blanc. Son leader, Daniel Conversano, a édité l’an dernier une œuvre posthume de Guillaume Faye, théoricien de l’extrême droite radicale. Son titre : Guerre civile raciale. En attendant, comme d’autres groupuscules, «les Braves» s’entraînent collectivement aux sports de combat, organisent des stages d’été «enracinés»… Au cours d’émissions diffusées sur Internet, certains membres recommandent de s’armer, officiellement pour défendre leur domicile. «J’ai profité du permis de chasse gratuit [pour avoir le droit d’avoir une arme, ndlr]», dit l’un d’eux, goguenard. «Tu peux fabriquer tes cartouches toi-même», glisse un autre.


Les services de renseignement relèvent également une tendance à vouloir créer des lieux collectifs, ou des communautés familiales ou d’amis, conçus comme des «paradis blancs» avec une volonté d’autodéfense. «On note l’éclosion de petits groupes plus secrets, évoluant dans le suprémacisme, le survivalisme, avec des individus baignés dans la théorie du complot, le grand remplacement, relève un haut responsable du renseignement. Dans ces groupes, les appels à la haine et à la violence sont permanents et totalement décomplexés. Toute la difficulté est de déceler parmi eux celui qui est susceptible de franchir la limite.» «De plus en plus, le passage à l’acte violent sera le fait d’individus en rupture avec un groupe, souligne de son côté Jean-Yves Camus. Des gens qui trouvent que cela ne va pas assez vite, pas assez loin, et qui décident d’agir seuls. Un individu peut devenir plus dangereux que le groupe.»

La hantise des services de sécurité reste le cas d’Anders Breivik, terroriste norvégien d’extrême droite auteur d’une tuerie de masse (77 morts, 151 blessés) en 2011. Ou celui de Brenton Tarrant, responsable de 51 morts dans l’attaque de deux mosquées à Christchurch (Nouvelle-Zélande), le 15 mars 2019, aujourd’hui idolâtré sur les forums et réseaux de la mouvance. «A l’image de ce qui s’est passé avec les derniers attentats islamistes, on peut envisager, côté ultradroite, le scénario d’un homme seul, fragile psychologiquement, inconnu des services, qui, après s’être procuré une arme, décide de frapper, sans en avoir parlé à personne», relève Nuñez. Une menace quasi impalpable, nourrie de propagande haineuse, de fake news, et de failles identitaires.

Libération Jeudi le 19 novembre

A Montpellier, les leçons de laïcité du nouveau maire.


Elu en juin, le socialiste Michaël Delafosse continue son travail de professeur d’histoire-géographie et enseigne trois heures par semaine. «Libération» est allé assister à un cours. Au programme : les Lumières, la tolérance, et le blasphème.

Les grandes tragédies accouchent de toutes sortes de douleurs. Chacun les évalue, les assimile en regard de sa propre expérience. L’assassinat de Samuel Paty a bousculé les consciences. La figure d’un professeur de collège convoque la mémoire du plus grand nombre. Les souvenirs des cours d’école refont surface. Comme après chaque attaque terroriste, certains politiques mènent leurs vendettas personnelles. Après le drame de Conflans-Sainte-Honorine (Yvelines), la gauche s’est de nouveau interrogée sur son rapport à l’islam. Un après-midi, on a composé le numéro du nouveau maire socialiste de Montpellier. Et la discussion a vite bifurqué hors du terrain politique.

Michaël Delafosse, 43 ans, est également professeur d’histoire-géographie dans un collège de sa ville. «Je suis maire mais j’ai gardé une classe de quatrième parce que je ne voulais pas arrêter l’enseignement. C’est important pour moi. Forcément, lorsqu’un professeur de ma génération qui enseigne la même matière et le même programme que moi à des gamins d’un âge équivalent est tué, ça résonne d’une autre manière», lâche-t-il, froidement. L’édile de la cité héraultaise répète à plusieurs reprises : «Ça aurait pu être moi.» La conversation s’achève avec une promesse ; celle d’assister à l’un de ses cours.

Chevalier de La Barre

Vendredi 13 novembre : Michaël Delafosse accompagné de son «chat» (sa femme) dépose ses «loulous» (ses enfants) à l’école. Une habitude familiale. Le maire et la directrice d’hôpital s’organisent pour que la famille passe du temps ensemble. Chaque moment compte. Le professeur – qui enseigne trois heures par semaine – ne cesse de s’arrêter dans la longue montée qui sépare l’école de ses enfants de son collège. L’édile raconte ses plans pour la ville et bavarde avec les passants. Un cycliste, un parent d’élève ou un commerçant qui tire la langue à cause de ce foutu virus. Un sens du contact qui fait dire à ses opposants et ses amis que le maire a un côté «Chirac».

Les portes du collège «populaire» Fontcarrade s’ouvrent : les élèves masqués grimpent les escaliers dans le brouhaha. On s’installe au fond de la classe. Le cours commence. Michaël Delafosse enseigne depuis une vingtaine d’années. Le longiligne affiche le même look depuis ses débuts : costume et cravate. Une forme de «respect» pour la profession, justifie-t-il. Les élèves sont calmes, posés, tandis que l’enseignant ne cesse d’arpenter la pièce. Il ne donne aucun répit : «Merci de sortir le devoir que vous aviez à faire à la maison. Et je passe entre les rangs pour regarder.» Une biographie de Voltaire, au programme. Il circule entre les tables, lit au-dessus des épaules et parfois livre à voix haute une citation du philosophe. Puis, à la fin de sa tournée, il prend une craie et écrit le nom des penseurs majeurs des Lumières.

Les élèves ne découvrent pas leur existence. Montesquieu ? Une fille au premier rang dit : «C’est celui de la séparation des pouvoirs.» Rousseau ? Un garçon qui garde son manteau interroge : «Ce n’est pas celui qui parlait de l’école et de l’éducation ?» Voltaire ? Le mot «respect» revient souvent. Le socialiste préfère «tolérance». Michaël Delafosse invite un cas concret dans son cours : le 28 février 1766, le chevalier de La Barre, 19 ans, est condamné par le présidial d’Abbeville, pour «impiété, blasphèmes, sacrilèges exécrables et abominables», à avoir la langue tranchée, à être décapité et brûlé. Les élèves écoutent. Posent des questions sur le mot «torture». Le professeur n’esquive pas : il conte les «supplices subis» par le jeune chevalier de La Barre.

Polémique politicienne

La veille, attablé à l’heure du dîner en notre compagnie, il est revenu sur la mort de Samuel Paty : «C’était un vendredi, une élue de la mairie m’a envoyé la photo de la tête de mon collègue. Sur le coup je n’ai rien compris.» Ce soir-là, la colère gronde face à la barbarie alentour, puis l’émotion et la douleur, surtout. Pas question de participer à un hommage ou d’allumer des bougies, réagit-il au début. Les jours passent. Le courroux cède le terrain à l’envie de se rassembler. Place de l’Opéra de Montpellier, des collégiens, lycéens et étudiants ont lu l’article 11 de la Constitution avec l’artiste Grand Corps Malade.

Michaël Delafosse s’est toujours imaginé professeur d’histoire-géographie. Il ne sait pas trop pourquoi. C’est comme ça. Le socialiste – qui est engagé depuis la fac – a débuté en Seine-Saint-Denis. Il a fait des remplacements à Villemomble, Aulnay-sous-Bois et au Blanc-Mesnil. Les sentiments s’entremêlent. Il garde en tête les difficultés, la violence, les rires et les succès. Les défaites font également partie du jeu. «Comme les médecins ou les pompiers, on ne peut pas toujours gagner. De temps à autre, on voit un gamin sur le fil et il finit par tomber. Ce n’est jamais facile à vivre, parfois, on pleure ou on dort mal la nuit… mais c’est comme ça, c’est notre métier», conclut-il fataliste.

On tente de toucher un nerf avec une question sur la difficulté d’enseigner certaines matières dans les établissements des quartiers populaires. Il grimpe dans les tours. Michaël Delafosse lâche des «ignares» et «ignorants» au sujet des commentateurs sur les plateaux télé. Le professeur d’histoire-géographie livre quelques anecdotes, comme lorsqu’un jeune à Aulnay-sous-Bois lui dit que le 11-Septembre, c’est de la flûte : «J’ai pris le temps de lui expliquer après le cours, tranquillement, avec des faits, des images.» Il s’irrite encore : «Comment peut-on dire que nous ne pouvons pas enseigner la Shoah ? C’est faux. Evidemment, il y a eu des collègues en difficulté mais dans la très grande majorité des cas, les professeurs parlent de tous les sujets et il y a un dialogue nourri avec les élèves.»

A propos de dialogue, quelques voix s’élèvent à l’extérieur du collège. Une partie de l’opposition municipale reproche au nouveau maire son manque d’échanges. Samedi matin : la gauche tendance insoumise se pointe devant la gare Montpellier-Saint-Roch. La conseillère municipale Alenka Doulain et le militant Rhany Slimane décrivent Michaël Delafosse comme un politicard chevronné qui maîtrise principalement le sens de la communication. Selon eux, il marcherait sur les brisées de l’ancien bourgmestre (1977-2004) de la ville, décédé il y a dix ans. «Georges Frêche a imaginé Montpellier et depuis personne ne propose autre chose, Delafosse n’invente rien. Il veut tout faire comme lui», pourfend Rhany Slimane. Les deux trentenaires rappellent avec un petit sourire en coin que l’ancien hiérarque continuait, lui aussi, à enseigner durant ses nombreux mandats à la mairie.

«Espoir» et «gamins formidables»

Ces derniers temps, une polémique politicienne s’est invitée dans la ville. Le maire a mis en place, comme annoncé pendant sa campagne, une charte de la laïcité que les associations doivent signer avant toute demande de subventions. Un collectif, composé de citoyens et de politiques, a vu le jour pour s’opposer à cette convention. Ils y voient un index pointé en direction des musulmans. La loi 1905 suffit, rétorquent-ils. Rhany Slimane comprend la fronde : «C’est de la communication. Le maire a profité des attentats pour en parler partout dans la presse car c’est un sujet qui va dans le sens du vent.» Alenka Doulain poursuit : «Cette charte divise et c’est malheureux. Mais attention, nous ne sommes pas dans la démagogie, Delafosse peut aussi faire de bonnes choses comme le fait de mettre en place des aides aux devoirs gratuites pour les élèves, afin que l’Etat joue pleinement son rôle dans l’éducation.»

Le maire lève les yeux en l’air face aux accusations. Il propose un cours d’histoire pour rappeler les origines de la laïcité afin de souligner la place de la gauche. «Je ne m’attaque pas à une religion contrairement à une partie de la droite et de l’extrême droite. Chacun a le droit de croire ou non, de pratiquer ou pas, tant que ça reste dans la sphère privée. Je suis pour la tolérance et notre charte respecte la loi de 1905, dit-il avant de plonger dans l’eau. A la piscine, tout le monde sait que les shorts et les caleçons sont interdits mais il y a tout de même le règlement à l’entrée. C’est ce que je fais avec la charte, elle représente le règlement.»

A l’intérieur du collège, c’est plus calme. Le cours touche bientôt à sa fin. Michaël Delafosse propose à ses élèves de lire un texte de Voltaire. Le philosophe dénonce la «barbarie» de la France après la mort du chevalier de La Barre. En bas du texte, une note : l’auteur a écrit ce texte à Genève, en Suisse. L’enseignant explique que Voltaire a dû traverser la frontière car les risques étaient nombreux à l’époque. Il demande lesquels aux élèves qui lâchent en vrac des «torture», «guillotine», «prison», «mort»… «Censure», la bonne réponse, n’arrivera jamais. Le professeur l’explique rapidement et promet de revenir dessus la prochaine fois.

Michaël Delafosse range ses affaires dans son cartable. On fait le point avec lui avant que le professeur ne revête sa panoplie de maire. Lorsqu’on le lance sur la photo de classe, il rétorque : «Je ne regarde jamais la couleur de mes élèves.» Par contre, lorsqu’il raconte ses nombreuses anecdotes, il aime citer les prénoms pour en souligner la diversité. Le professeur fait des gestes de la main pour se replonger dans son cours. Il revient sur le moindre détail. Parle souvent «d’espoir» et de «gamins formidables» qui vivent parfois dans le «dur» à l’extérieur de l’établissement.

L’heure tourne. Michaël Delafosse lâche d’un air confiant : «Les élèves comprennent la complexité de l’histoire. Vous avez vu, aujourd’hui, on a parlé de liberté d’expression, de la pression du religieux. Ils savent tous que ça approche, que bientôt nous allons parler de ce qu’on a vécu en France ces dernières années et ça se passera très bien. En prenant le temps, on fait les choses comme il faut.» Dans une époque où la nuance et le temps long ont été remplacés par l’immédiateté ravageuse, l’élu s’interroge souvent face à la montée de la violence. Il s’inquiète aussi lorsqu’il pense à la crise sociale qui grossit. Le professeur, lui, est un poil plus optimiste.

Rachid Laïreche – envoyé spécial à Montpellier, Libération

Rule of law and COVID-19: the need for clarity, certainty, transparency and coordination

Joelle Grogan highlights some points of concern as regards the UK’s response to the pandemic, and advocates areas in which both governance and policy can be tangibly improved.

The promised six-month review of the Coronavirus Act 2020 has been completed, allowing for the extension of powers under the Act, just as a new three-tier system has been introduced in England, the Welsh Assembly adopted a travel ban from high-infection areas in other parts of the UK, highlighting a complicating factor in evaluation of governmental response to COVID-19 which is the divergence of regimes across the UK, as health policy is a devolved competence.

The scale, scope and impact of regulations limiting private and commercial life is unprecedented, and has raised numerous democratic, rule of law, and human rights concerns. There is no perfect legislative or policy response to the pandemic. There are, however, good practices and principles which can guide action and lead to a more effective response which have been observable globally. Central to any response to the pandemic is legal certainty, transparency in decision-making, clarity in communication, an early reaction, and coordinated strategy. Democratic oversight in the form of parliamentary scrutiny and external engagement can lead to better quality law and policy when governments adapt to criticism.

The Coronavirus Act 2020 notably did not give or extend specific lockdown powers to government. COVID-19 regulations in England have been introduced by government under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984. The Coronavirus Act 2020 did, however, extend powers to quarantine as well as to restrict or close premises as well as the power to prohibit any gatherings to Ministers in each of the UK’s constitutive governments. The six-month Parliament review was a concession accepted by government, against criticism of the length of the sunset clause (two years, with the option for Parliament-approved six-month extensions) in the Act. It allowed for a debate on the expiry of the Act. Despite many criticisms of both the framework of the act, and the use of powers under it, the vote in the House of Commons was overwhelmingly in favour.

However, six months from the introduction of the Coronavirus Act (and nearly nine months from the declaration of a global health emergency), Parliament is operational and far more is known about viral transmission, yet the inadequacy of parliamentary scrutiny remains. An overwhelming majority of the COVID-19 measures came into force either the same day, or within a day, of being introduced by government and without scrutiny (albeit subject to the affirmative procedure which requires parliamentary approval within 28 days). There is little justification where the underlying legislation allows only for measures to be introduced without parliamentary approval where the urgency demands it to be necessary. This is all the more concerning where, for example, self-isolation rules with fines up to £10,000 for breach were applicable within hours of being introduced.

A significant number of regulations have been announced first in press conferences, or to journalists rather than first before Parliament despite repeated censure by the Speaker and the opposition. Backbench MPs have also increasingly criticised the government for side-lining Parliament during the pandemic, and called for greater oversight and control over the use of powers under the Coronavirus Act 2020 and the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984. The myriad of regulations introduced under these acts (and with very limited scrutiny) has translated into hypertrophied executive dominance but not necessarily better governance. Legal uncertainty has characterised much of the government’s COVID-19 response; the lack of clarity and the absence of long-term strategizing has also often served to undermine policy and compliance.

While lack of clarity was a point of criticism in a parliamentary committee report on the government’s COVID-19 response, a further point of criticism was that there were only a six-month reviews, and there was little provision for more frequent and thematic debates on individual measures. Of course the executive is typically best placed to respond quickly in the initial phases of emergency, but it is unjustifiable to continue doing so without scrutiny where pandemic management has moved from reaction to control. Beyond the point of legality and democratic legitimation of government action (Parliament, not government, is sovereign after all), there are clear and positive practical effects of having more and greater oversight. Debate and scrutiny allow for the identification and remedy of confusion, contradiction, or inconsistencies in the rules. This is even more pressing when the individual impact and restriction of personal liberties is so extreme. In good practice observed internationally, states which learn from error, engage with criticism, and adapt have higher levels of compliance and fare better.

Following initial responses to emergency, it is good practice for governments to use all available information to produce guides which communicate to individuals and businesses what is expected of them; what restrictions apply and do not apply; and when and under what circumstances or conditions the rules will change. This can help effective short- and long-term planning both for the government and for the public. The introduction of a new three-tier system in England (in force two days after being introduced) to replace the regime of local lockdown regulations operating since July 2020 is helpful and a positive step towards a coherent strategy. However, ongoing uncertainty as to what it means in practice, particularly in the complicated underlying regime of exceptions (and potentially exceptions to exceptions), compounded by uncertainty regarding the basis upon which areas will be moved from one tier to the next, risks a medium to high (or very high) level of non-compliance.

A foundation of public trust in government action, and corresponding compliance with COVID-19 measures, is transparency in decision-making. It should include publishing the rationale which underlies the introduction of restrictive measures (or for not introducing restrictive conditions against the advice of SAGE) is important for justifying the positions taken. Simply, it is far easier to follow a rule, when the reasoning underlying that rule is clear. The absence of information invites speculation and false assumptions. There is a clear need for a transparent process by which, for example, areas in England will be moved from one tier to another beyond this being ‘subject to review’ based on ‘a rise in transmission’.

Beyond clarity, certainty, and transparency in legal measures and policies, a final aspect underlining the most effective and sustainable long-term policy in tackling COVID is coordination. This is not as only between central government, devolved administrations, and regional authorities, but beyond that to the international sphere. As all states face a common challenge, there is a wealth of comparative experience from which to draw the best practices in tackling a global health emergency.

Note: the above is based on the recommendations within J Grogan and N Weinberg, ‘Principles to Uphold the Rule of Law and Good Governance in a Public Health Emergency’ RECONNECT Policy Brief.

About the Author

Joelle Grogan is a Senior Lecturer in law at Middlesex