I've been away on holiday for the past couple of weeks so have only a vague impression as to what's been going on, but here are a few things I've noticed:
The Labour Leadership Contest
- Jeremy Corbyn has announced that, if he is elected "Labour will apologise for the Iraq War." I think this is a mistake. These "apologies" (for slavery, for the misdeeds of empires etc) are largely cosmetic PR stunts. Corbyn should be above gesture politics. His opposition to the war, at the time and since, is well known, and there is no need to antagonise those Labour members who, however mistakenly, placed their faith in the promises and evidence produced by their then leader, Tony Blair.
- I applaud Corbyn's opposition to the replacement of Trident, which should be the Liberal Democrat position, which I hope will be confirmed at our conference next month. However, I think it is unnecessary at this stage to push also for withdrawal from NATO. I'm sure there's a case for this, but one step at a time. Again, no need to upset the timid unnecessarily.
- His fence-sitting on the European Union is probably the best that could be hoped for. We pro-Europeans need to work for a Union that allows entrepreneurs to exploit the the opportunities of the single market whist respecting the rights and welfare of employees, and Corbyn could be part of that. It will probably be up to we Liberal Democrats to make the political and cultural cases - the "vision thing."
- The attempt to smear Corbyn by attributing anti-Semitic views to him is disgraceful but unfortunately par for the course.
A friend asked me what I thought about migrants. I replied that I admired them. It takes enormous courage to uproot oneself, and sometimes one's family as well, to escape a civil war, the violence of a cruel and capricious dictatorship, or even just to seek a better life.
The tragic fates of so many migrants and asylum seekers is heartbreaking. Yet, following David Cameron, the Daily Express has a front page headline today (29th August) referring to them as "swarms" - a word more appropriately referring to insects. What a shameful country we live in. And even more shameful, our government, rather than taking a lead in helping to negotiate a constructive pan-Europe approach, is one of those countries standing on the sidelines and refusing to co-operate.
(For further views on the migration crisis and what to do about it see previous post).
House of Lords.
Another friend writes:
I am wondering whether you intend to blog on the subject of the dissolution honours list? It is increasingly my view that the British government is undemocratic, corrupt and incompetent, and it seems to me that the elevation to the Lords of an unrepresentative group of people is an example of all three attributes, even though some of the group might have a positive effect there. Undemocratic because the group in no way reflects the general election result, even if the House of Lords is thought to be a democratic institution, which of course it is not. Corrupt because cronies of the 3 party leaders have been presented with an income of £300 per working day for life. Incompetent because it reduces even further the respect of most people for politics and politicians, which is likely to lead to the rise of extremism both on the left and on the right.
I fully agree: and would merely add:
- Cameron justifies his list by a claim that the Lords should more nearly reflect the composition of the Commons. Surely the point of a second chamber is that it should be different from the Commons: act as one of the checks and balances necessary in a democracy to avoid an elected dictatorship (especially when the electoral system is itself corrupt.)
- Some of those "elevated" are among the worst offenders of the Commons expenses scandals, thus bringing politics into further disrepute.
The copy of Jones's book which I read d was borrowed and had to be handed back, but I am sufficiently gripped to have ordered my own copy (via Foyles rather than Amazon). In general Jones does not tell us anything we don't already know, but his book is well researched and referenced,and it is convenient to have available the supporting detail. Highly recommended.