The weekend before before the SPOT (Solidarity with the People of Turkey) delegation arrived in Istanbul, the city was in the grip of freezing temperatures and the heaviest snow-falls for 20 years with over 2 feet (65 cm) of snow paralysing the city. A few days later when we arrived on 11 January, much of the snow and ice had thawed, but it was obvious that the country’s democracy was still in the grip of a deep freeze and the temperature was plunging.
I have recently returned from a visit to Istanbul with the SPOT delegation (Solidarity with the People of Turkey). The following day (15 January) the Turkish Parliament gave preliminary approval to a new constitution which will increase the powers of President Erdogan. There will be a second round of voting later this week and, if approved, a referendum will follow probably in April. It is a power grab by Erdogan. The new constitution will allow the president to appoint and dismiss ministers, and it will abolish the post of prime minister for the first time in Turkey’s history. There will be at least one vice-president! The bill’s final articles were passed late on Sunday, with the governing AK Party (AKP) gaining the three-fifths majority it needed with the support of the Nationalists. It is also rumoured that there could be a general election in the spring.
I have just finished reading ‘Unleashing Devils’ by by Craig Oliver, David Cameron’s former spin doctor (Director of Politics and Communications to give him his official title, a position which he held from September 2011 until Cameron’s resignation in July 2016). It’s an insider’s story of the decision to call the ill-fated (and in my view irresponsible and divisive) referendum and other key moments, through to defeat and resignation. It may seem odd that I’ve read a book written by someone who is diametrically opposed to most of the things I believe in, but it’s fresh history, published just a few months after the victory for the leavers and there are many questions and deeper concerns posed by it, regardless of how you voted in the referendum. Continue reading Making the broadcasters raise their game