Another fine mess: politics since the Brexit vote

Also published in Left Foot Forward 

When I worked in Angola in the late 1990s, towards the end of the Civil War, I discovered an important truth: just when you think things can’t get any worse, they can. So has it proven with British politics since the 23 June 2016 when the UK narrowly voted to leave the European Union.

Before the 2017 UK General Election I had thought that a hung parliament was probably the best possible outcome, to force some sanity and compromise into the UK’s intent to exit the European Union. Instead, Theresa May has sought a de-facto coalition with the Irish Democratic Unionist Party, a group so extreme that for them the witch burning scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail is not so much comedy, but a utopian ideal.

For many observers the UK’s attitude to the EU in general and to its putative departure from the Union seems profoundly irrational. The government’s stated intention to leave both the Single Market and the Customs Union, ignores the vast economic cost of such moves. Instead Brexiteers fall back on the slogan “take back control”, dreams of a British Empire 2.0, and cooked-up alternative numbers that have little basis in reality. This is a position that has gone broadly unchallenged by the opposition Labour Party who promise the fairytale of a “People’s Brexit” if the electorate were only to entrust them with the levers of government.

To “take back control” of what the government has never really been clear. Certainly immigration, in spite of the UK’s need for immigrants, in order to satisfy the xenophobic amongst the government and its voters.

The government is also intent to “take back control” from the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the European Union, in spite of the threat that this poses to security and justice cooperation in Europe at a time of rising tensions and increasing violence across the continent. This perhaps gets to the nub of the matter. Because it suggests that rather than the government’s approach to Brexit being only economically incompetent and politically delusional it rather suggests that the government’s intent is profoundly ideological.

Taken alongside the antipathy of Theresa May to the European Court of Human Rights, and the former Prime Minister David Cameron’s decision to remove from the Ministerial Code an obligation for ministers to comply with international law, the UK’s intent to quit the European Union indicates an enduring colonialist instinct in the government that still bristles at the idea of international rule of law. They seem to regard it as an affront to the primacy of the UK parliament, which some seem to believe still should rule the waves.

But, of course, the supremacy of the UK parliament has already taken a kicking in the Brexit process as dozens of MPs, contrary to their judgment as to what is best for their country, voted to uphold the notional “will of the people” as expressed through a blood-stained and, it now increasingly appears, a corrupted referendum.

But this is as nothing to the intent of the Great Repeal Bill, to invest ministers with Henry VIII powers that will enable them to make vast swathes of law for years to come without reference to parliament. In other words the intent of the Great Repeal Bill appear less to do with withdrawal from the EU and more to do with a significant repeal of democracy itself.

The UK may appear to be blundering towards the exit of the EU like a drunk staggering towards the door of a bar. But all citizens must beware that the pantomime shenanigans of Davis, Johnson and Fox, the three Brexit Stooges, mask a much more sinister domestic agenda. And Labour needs to stop being the government’s poodle on Brexit.

 

 

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A Selfish Plan to Change the World: Finding Big Purpose in Big Problems, by Justin Dillon

img_1203Summary: a self-help book like no other I have read, concerned with identification of personal purpose, and giving some important insight into contemporary slavery

I must begin with a declaration of interest: Justin Dillon is a pal, someone I got to know and like over beers and years in the margins of conferences and meetings in different parts of the world.

Justin’s warmth, enthusiasms and likeablity come through strongly in this book, which is part memoir, part reportage, part philosophical treatise.

The book begins, rather disconcertingly, with an account of a performance by the Clash in Dublin. This inspired U2 to become who they are, who in turn inspired Justin, an accomplished musician, to change direction to become the filmmaker and anti-slavery activist that he is today. I think Joe Strummer would be pleased by that.

It is an important book in a number of respects. First of all at a time when much of the global discourse on slavery focuses simplistically on the minority of cases that relate to organised crime, Justin shows with illustrative cases from Haiti to Ghana to India that slavery is a complex issue of power, poverty, human rights and international development, not simply one of law enforcement.

Given this, a further theme of the book is even more apposite. This is the importance of purpose. Even before I got to the section in which Justin discusses Victor Frankl I was reflecting that the book could be considered as an application in the field of activism of Frankl’s remarkable work on humans’ search for meaning. Justin discusses how the lack of resources and power that impoverish so many across the world, their “poverty of means”, is echoed in the “poverty of meaning” in the lives of so many who in other respects seem wealthy. His “selfish plan to change the world” then relates to addressing this poverty of meaning by engaging those who lack purpose with the challenge of empowering those who lack means. In honour of Joe Strummer he exhorts his readers to find their “riot,” the struggle for justice that they they wish to be part of.

Justin describes the book as a “self-help manual”, but I doubt there are many other self help manuals like this, because it is one with a profoundly social purpose. Justin recognises that in order to change the world we may first have to change ourselves, and he shows the desperate needs that still exist across the world that demand we all look beyond ourselves.

Reflections on St Patrick

For many, if they think of him as anything other than an excuse for a party, St Patrick, a Fifth Century priest, may seem a remote figure. But his life still has some powerful contemporary resonances.

Patrick was not born Irish. He was a Briton. Different parts of Britain claim him, but he came from a Romanised family somewhere on the west coast. As a young man he was kidnapped by an Irish raiding party and trafficked across the Irish Sea into slavery. After six years he escaped and returned to his family, and his studies, in Britain. Eventually, after study in other parts of Europe, he became a priest.  His story would probably not be one that is remembered by history but for the fact that after this, in a remarkable display of personal magnanimity, he decided to return to Ireland, the land that had enslaved him, as a missionary.

There are many fanciful legends associated with Patrick, including how he rid the country of snakes. But he left two written documents: his Confessions, a spiritual auto-biography from which many of the details of his life are known; and his Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus, a furious protest against the murder and enslavement of members of Patrick’s congregation by a raiding party of pirates, probably composed of Patrick’s fellow Britons. The anger of this protest was doubtless further sharpened by Patrick’s own bitter memory of the violence of slavery.

There are many powerful echoes from Patrick’s life with the contemporary world: For example, in a world where poisonous xenophobia seems to have taken hold in so many places the story of Patrick’s transformation from immigrant to an emblem of the country he adopted as his own stands in counterpoint. And in his protest against the war crimes of Coroticus and his men Patrick, the former slave, gave nascent voice to the ideals of human rights and anti-slavery in Western Europe.

Across the world today other immigrants work to make their adopted countries better places, other slaves and former slaves resist the systems of slavery that still persist. St Patrick’s Day is a good time to remember them, and remember that after today’s parties a long struggle lies ahead of us to fulfil some of the ideals that they, and Patrick, represent.

Jefferson, Hamilton and moral courage in the struggle against slavery.

Excerpt from a lecture to Gresham College, London, 23 Feb 2017

To this day political figures across the globe covet the title “the new Wilberforce”, in recognition of the towering role that he played in efforts to bring the trans-Atlantic slave trade to an end. This, perhaps, shouldn’t be too surprising. In any given age there are no shortage of people who feel that slavery is wrong.

But, as Batman teaches us, it is not what we feel, but what we do, that defines us. So, anyone who dips their toe into the slavery debate today with dreams of future glory should be aware, that if they lack the necessary moral and political courage, they may become merely “a new Jefferson” rather than a “new Wilberforce”.

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Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson was one of the great geniuses of his age and a declared opponent of slavery. Some of his writings on the subject were described by contemporaries such as John Adams, the United States’ second president, as being more valuable than diamonds in the anti-slavery cause. And yet the vision of the American Republic that he offered was impossible without slavery, and as President he did nothing to end slavery save for a mealy mouthed assertion that it was a task for later generations.

That argument may have comforted him as he sat in his study on his Monticello plantation in Virginia overseeing his own enslaved children. But it was not an argument which impressed Jefferson’s contemporary Alexander Hamilton, who sought, as the United States’ first treasury secretary, to put his anti-slavery convictions into practice by establishing an economic system that would reward free labour over slavery in the hope that that would erode the slave economy and hence end the brutal system.

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Alexander Hamilton

While that did not directly bring an end to slavery in the United States the economic system Hamilton put in place did ultimately provide the North, under Lincoln, with the economic capacity to crush the South and obtain the legal abolition of slavery half a century after Hamilton’s own death: So if Lincoln is the Father of Emancipation in the United States, I would argue that Hamilton is its Grandfather.

And in spite of his incredible gifts Jefferson did not confront the fundamental systems and institutions of slavery when he had the most power to do so. And across the world we see that still.

It will perhaps be a matter for comment by some future historians that at this shameful period of European history some of the most vocal European leaders on the issue of slavery have been noticeably negative with regard to the formulation of an effective pan-European response to the refugee crisis.  It is the absence of this, more than anything else, which has contributed so much to increasing the risks of human trafficking to Europe from the wars of the Middle East. Furthermore the xenophobia and prejudice that have been allowed to poison the political environment against migrants have further betrayed the struggle against slavery by increasing the opportunities for violence and exploitation.

It is a hard lesson of history, that when the moral courage of political leaders fails in the face of prejudice and vested interests, it is almost always the vulnerable who are the ones to pay in the bloody routine of violence that ensues. And, as was true in the days of Jefferson, it is not rhetoric but moral courage that defines leadership and shapes the history of the times.

The violence of slavery: how businesses can respond to forced and child labour in their supply chains

Remarks to conflict minerals supply chain compliance and transparency conference, Berlin, 30 Nov 2016

Investigations into conflict minerals, such as diamonds and oil, over the past twenty years have shown how international markets and northern hemisphere business executives have wittingly and unwittingly contributed to the financing of war affecting poor people in the global South.

There has been some notable progress of course. But recent investigations, such as into cobalt mining in central Africa, shows that much still needs to be done.

Conflict, particularly if it affects places which supply scarce commodities, poses a considerable challenge for businesses wishing to operate ethically. Many of the most basic protections that we take for granted are absent and rule of law, if it ever existed, can become a distant memory. Over 2,000 years ago Cicero noted that, “In times of war, the laws are silent,” because of the damage that war does to the institutions of state, and because war breaks the bonds of human restraint, as Shakespeare recognised, letting slip the dogs.

Consequently conflict creates the conditions in which exploitation and enslavement can be perpetrated to extract minerals for international markets that finance the conflict that in turn perpetuates the conditions in which exploitation and enslavement can continue. It is a vicious circle that I came to loathe during the long and bloody war in Angola, where I worked for five years, trying to ensure basic provision of water and sanitation in the midst of the devastation created by the oil and diamond financed war machines of the antagonists.

Slavery has long been part of war. Caesar enriched himself by the trafficking of millions of prisoners captured in his conquest of Gaul. Islamic State and Boko Haram, drawing on the jurisprudence of Saudi Arabia, seem to have a similar attitude towards those they conquer and subjugate. But the risks of trafficking and enslavement do not end at the edges of the theatres of war. Those who successfully flee the killing fields can find themselves subject to renewed risks if the seeking of refuge leaves them impoverished and without permission to seek decent work legitimately.

I have spoken to humanitarian workers who have found in the refugee camps of the Middle East increased trafficking of children for forced marriage and other forms of sexual exploitation, and of trafficking for forced child labour in agriculture and other forms of production. We may feel shocked when we understand how parents are involved in handing their children over for exploitation, but for many the trafficking of their children into slavery now may seem like a lesser evil than allowing them to starve. Those refugees who have been fortunate enough to make it into Europe may find their troubles are not ended if they also do not have permission to seek work legitimately. They also may find themselves at increased risk of exploitation and enslavement if they seek work in the informal or grey economy.

Put another way, Europe’s political response to the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean has been a direct contributor not only to the carnage at sea, but to increased risks of trafficking on land. For businesses this means that supply chains that had been hitherto thought safe from human rights violations are now considerably less so.

Considering all of this I think it is perhaps more useful at this point in time to take a much broader perspective of the risks that conflict poses to supply chains more generally, rather than those associated only with scarce minerals or other commodities. Because one of the commodities that war and conflict produce in such abundance is forced labour, and that can get into all sorts of places. And even where conflicts are less overt or where societies are ostensibly at peace, human trafficking cannot occur without violence.

For example the enslavement of Dalits and Adavasi across south Asia is one manifestation of the violence that emerges from the discrimination that prevails against them across that sub-continent due to the failure to establish effective rule of law that protects the rights of all citizens equally. A consequence of that are endemic levels of slavery in agriculture, quarrying, including mica, brick kilns, and many other manufacturing sectors including garments.

Consider also, for a moment, North Korea. North Korean exports in 2013 were estimated as being in the region of USD 7 billion. In 2015 the UN special rapporteur on human rights in North Korea estimated that the trafficking by the state of its own citizens for forced labour in other countries, including the building sites of Qatar and farms and factories in Poland and Malta, was worth in excess of USD 2 billion. In other words the repressive apparatus of the North Korean dictatorship and the threat to international peace that its nuclear weapons programme poses is sustained insignificant part by international complicity in the trafficking of North Korean citizens.

Some of this may seem daunting, and business leaders may feel powerless in the face of the social and political systems that underpin contemporary forms of slavery and child labour. It one be foolish for anyone to expect any business to be able to solve all such problems, even only in their own supply chains. The United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights recognise this, stating that it is the responsibility of businesses to respect the human rights of workers, and it is the responsibility of governments to protect those rights. And within this framework I believe that businesses can do more.

The first thing that businesses can and should do is to commit to use whatever power is at their disposal to end the problems that they can end. This will not be everything, but by ensuring transparency in supply chains businesses will not only be able to identify what are the risks of human rights abuses that they face in these supply chains, but understand why these risks exist. In Malaysia, for example, the forced labour of migrants is a particular problem in part because of the tied visa regulations that give employers considerable powers over workers. Ensuring that workers have all the necessary paperwork from day one of their employment to ensure they can leave that employment of their own volition if they so wish would reduce the risks of exploitation. Similarly businesses should refuse to work with labour providers who charge workers fees, often of such exorbitance that they effectively render the workers in bondage.

Second businesses must recognise that the challenges of human rights in supply chains are pre-competitive. No business should be seeking a competitive advantage based on lowering their labour costs to close to zero by effectively enslaving workers. I say no business should do this but of course many do. But likewise no business should be seeking commercial advantage based on simply ensuring that the workers in their supply chain are treated as human beings. That should be the common starting point for all. But in the absence of this there is considerable risk that those who see a commercial advantage in an ethical reputation may be tempted to cover up information about abuses in the supply chains rather than confront and rectify the abuses.

Third businesses should be prepared to recognise when a problem is beyond their power and speak publicly about that. The slavery that exists within the Thai and Irish fishing fleets is in part due to poor regulation and inspection of these sectors. Those are governmental responsibilities. Similarly the child labour that is so endemic in the West African agricultural sector is in part due to the fact that there are too few schools and often these schools are of a poor quality. Again this is a matter that governments should rectify.

Which brings me to my fourth point. Businesses must not be coy about their political voice. Politicians tend to pay more attention to business leaders than to those of non-governmental organisation such as myself. And I get the impression that business leaders are not shy about speaking on a range of what might be called traditional business- political matters, such as tax or trade policy.

But with the globalisation of the international political economy it is important to recognise that human rights and development policy can also have commercial and legal implications for businesses, The US Trade Enforcement and Facilitation Act empowers the US Customs Service to exclude from US markets goods tainted with forced or child labour. The UK’s Modern Slavery Act requires businesses to state what they are doing to eliminate slavery from their supply chains. As I said businesses should commit to doing what is in their power to end slavery in their supply chains, and sometimes the most important power that they should exercise is that of demanding appropriate action from governments.

In the final analysis slavery is a human institution. It can be changed by human action. The great strides that we have seen in against slavery in the course of human history have occurred when businesses have joined with governments, trades unions and civil society to reject this form of violence against vulnerable human beings. You know this yourselves. When we act together, we can overcome.

Keeping the flame: the anti-slavery agenda in a bleak contemporary world

Speech to Annual General Meeting of Anti-Slavery International, 12 Nov 2016 

A few weeks ago I visited Côte d’Ivoire with the confectionary company Mondelez. We have been working with Mondelez for a number of years now, since they bought Cadbury’s and with that Cadbury’s nascent work on trying to tackle the issues of child labour and child slavery in their supply chains.

Both these sets of abuses are rife in agriculture in the global South, often concealed behind the operations of agricultural traders or wholesalers. The reality, however, was revealed at the start of the century with a documentary, Chocolate’s Secret Slaves. This caused a particular shock to both consumers and companies alike and drew attention to the issue, including from the US congress. This in turn forced a rethink by most of the chocolate retailers as to how they were going to manage their supply chains to sustain production and to eliminate the abuses within it.

The response by Mondelez bears Anti-Slavery’s distinct stamp: Anti-Slavery’s work with Mondelez led to their adoption and publication of a new child labour policy that puts transparency and pro-active efforts to identify risks and instances of abuse, at its heart. The effectiveness of this was demonstrated this year by the publication of two independent reports, which we were directly involved in commissioning, on child labour in Mondelez supply chains in Cote d’Ivorie and Ghana. This was the first time to our knowledge that a large company had the courage to publish a report that they commissioned on slavery in supply chains. The recommendations of these reports are now being translated into actions by the coalition of NGOs and businesses involved in the Mondelez “Cocoa Life” programme. A third investigation on Indonesia is underway.

I was able to see the direct impact of this work myself when I visited Ivorian communities where child labour has been reduced, girls’ education boosted, and women’s empowerment helped to establish new community governance structures to ensure that progress is sustained.

I wanted to start with a positive story given the bleakness of the past year. I had some sense we were in for a bad year when David Bowie died on my birthday in January. But just how bad I really could not imagine.

We meet in the aftermath of an election in the US that has brought to power a man who has openly espoused racism and boasted of sexually assaulting women. Closer to home Brexit represents a repudiation of the European ideals of working together bound by common commitments to democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

Brexit poses a more immediate set of challenges to Anti-Slavery. We were the first and only anti-slavery organisation to highlight, before the referendum, the serious risks that Brexit posed to law enforcement cooperation across Europe in anti-slavery operations, and of reductions of human rights protections to non-UK nationals in Britain that can increase their vulnerability to slavery. Further as Brexit withdraws the UK from the Council of Ministers this restricts radically the UK’s ability to influence Europe wide law and policy against slavery.

But the threats are more profound than that. Brexit certainly represents the UK turning its back on Europe. But it also represents a repudiation by the UK of the ideals of rule of law: certainly of the international variety as Brexit represents a desire to be unbound from the international treaties that have drawn Europe together so successfully for so long. But, with the recent attacks on High Court judges for having the temerity of doing their jobs by ruling that parliament is paramount in UK law, we see a repudiation by powerful and vocal sections of the UK population of the ideal of rule of law itself.

Advancing rule of law, particularly obtaining adequate human rights protections in national and international law, is an essential front in the struggle against slavery. The absence of such protections leads to the sort of slavery abuses we see from the brick kilns of northern India to the international trafficking of vulnerable workers to the building sites of Qatar and the servants’ quarters of London.

An immediate threat to the work of Anti-Slavery International is the UK government’s indication that they wish to repeal the Human Rights Act and withdraw from the European Court of Human Rights.

Amongst other human rights issues, over the past decade the European Court of Human Rights have repeatedly held accountable European Governments on their failure to protect vulnerable workers from slavery.

This year the threat of referral to the Court forced the British Government to halt the deportation of a client of Anti-Slavery who had come to us with a credible account and substantial documentary evidence of forced labour in the UK, which the British police had refused to investigate when he approached them in two different UK cities.

This year we have also made a submission to the Court on a case from Greece where a group of Bangladeshi agricultural workers were enslaved with the collusion of the Greek police, a matter that the Greek Government has failed to resolve in spite of the entreaties of the Greek Ombudsman.

Over the past decade, several key judgments highlighted the obligations of the state in relation to slavery – in particular that it is the authorities duty to act on indications of trafficking. Without the Greek government being bound by the European Court of Human Rights there would be no legal recourse for their abject failure to protect the most basic rights of these enslaved migrant workers. Let us hope that Greece is not inspired by the UK’s contempt for the Court to also seek to remove itself from the jurisdiction of the Court.

In the bleakness of the current historical moment I recall how Abraham Lincoln would comfort himself in the midst of another crisis by reflecting on the sentence, “And this too shall pass away.”

There will be brighter days ahead. But we will not be a passive actor awaiting those days. We represent the oldest and deepest tradition of European human rights – remember the Committee for the Abolition of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade was formed by a bunch of awkward Quakers in London in 1787, two years before the French Revolution.

So we will be working for better days. Anti-Slavery will place itself at the forefront of the struggle to protect the Human Rights Act. We will continue to strive with our friends and colleagues in the anti-slavery movements of the global South, for stronger national and international action against slavery and for practical measures to empower those vulnerable to slavery, forced and child labour, in both East and West Africa, in South Asia, in Europe and in the Americas.

That is another reason why I began these remarks with a brief discussion of our work with Mondelez. It represents the real progress for tens of thousands of people that can arise from our sustained work, without artificially imposed timetables, with people of good will from non-traditional partners as well as with the more traditional variety that we work with. That is also part of the Anti-Slavery tradition, stretching back to Thomas Clarkson’s original organising and campaigning against slavery with all sections of society from business leaders to trade union organisers.

The UK’s modern slavery act, which Anti-Slavery played a decisive role in making more fit for purpose than the government’s underwhelming original draft of the Bill, contains a Transparency in Supply Chains clause. This has led to an increased attention by business to the risks of slavery in their supply chains and increased requests from businesses for Anti-Slavery to work with them to help mitigate the risks and hence open greater opportunities for decent work to those currently enslaved.

As we grasp these opportunities we fulfil, I believe, the imperative identified by Roger Casement in 1894, that “… we all on earth have a commission and a right to defend the weak against the strong, and to protest against brutality in any shape or form”. And, in fulfilling that commission, we will keep the flame of human rights alive, and continue to change the world for the better.

The Modi Effect, by Lance Price

Summary: A Spinner gets spun.

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Lance Price presents his book to Prime Minister Modi

The first and most important thing that Lance Price wants you to know from his book The Modi Effect, is that he, Lance Price, is a BIG DEAL. He has worked for Tony Blair as his Director of Communications. He has met Margaret Thatcher and Barack Obama. He even once had a 10 minute conversation with Nelson Mandela.

So it is only natural that Narendra Modi should chose him, Lance Price, to write this book on Modi’s successful 2014 election campaign. Price suggests this is an act of particular self confidence on Modi’s part, because someone who is as BIG a DEAL as Lance Price is not to be trifled with. “You can’t spin a spinner“, Price informs us early on, because he is a BIG DEAL, and used to work for Tony Blair.

To which I thought, “Hmmm… lets see.”

The thing is though Price is not really interested in India, per se. Price is interested in elections. So he is only interested in India insofar as it relates to his story of the conduct of this election. And he is interested in Modi because he won an overwhelming electoral victory in the world’s largest democracy.

Hence we get extensive passages on Modi’s personal fashion sense, branding, merchandising, manifesto writing, use of social media and technology, including the tour through rural areas of his hologram so he could make speeches to communities with no electricity or television. The deeper question, of what Modi really believes and represents is addressed in only a fragmentary fashion

Price discusses some of the key controversies relating to Modi, in particular his relationship with the RSS, the ideological parent of the BJP that many progressive Indians accuse of neo-fascism, Hindutva – the ideology of Hindu nationalism, and the 2002 Gujarat riots in which a thousand people, mostly Muslims, were killed on his watch as Chief Minister of the state. But Price insists on casting these issues in the most benign light possible. The RSS, he suggests, may be no more sinister than the UK’s trade union movement. Hindutva as espoused by Modi, shouldn’t really be seen as that antagonistic towards India’s non-Hindus.

As for the Gujarat riots of 2002, the Indian Supreme Court itself found that Modi couldn’t be held culpable. This may be true. Nehru should not be held directly culpable for the atrocities during the partition of India. But then Nehru spoke loudly against the bloodshed, personally faced down Hindu mobs to protect the lives of Indian Muslims, and ultimately managed to bring Nepalese and southern Indian troops into place to stop the killing. The best that Modi, that master of language, could bring himself to say regarding the bloodshed was if “someone else is driving a car and we’re sitting behind, even if a puppy comes under the wheel, will it be painful or not? Of course it is.”

Price notes that following the 2002 riots Gujarat has been peaceful and economically prosperous under Modi’s rule. Perhaps that shows his enlightenment? Perhaps it shows an effectively terrorised minority? Rather than deign to talk to Gujarati Muslims, Price is content that the carnage of the Gujarat riots “pains” Modi “greatly“.

But the fact that Modi has never been forceful in his denunciation of the 2002 or other alleged Hindu atrocities indicates, at best, a profound cynicism on Modi’s part, that he is not prepared to alienate even his most fratricidal potential supporters. The conduct of the 2014 election in Uttar Pradesh, in which Modi’s BJP stirred up caste and sectarian prejudices to win the election is further evidence that his BJP is less benign than Modi would like to portray. In two of the more interesting chapters towards the end of the book Price finally seems to recognise Modi’s silence on these issues cannot be excused as a mere political calculation, but rather they indicate a profound moral failure, that as elected leader of India Modi is making no effort to confront some of the darkest and most atavistic aspects of Indian society that have disfigured the world’s largest democracy since independence.

Overall The Modi Effect has some interesting information, but it would have benefited from a greater interest by Price in Indian politics instead of just Indian elections. And it would have benefited even more if Price had perhaps been a little more interested in the lives and experiences of the millions of Indians who are not so nearly as BIG a DEAL as he is.