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.
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 NATOReplyDelete
Surely if you're a unilateralist, you must push for withdrawal from NATO? Anything else is rank hypocrisy; it's saying, 'We will not have any nuclear weapons ourselves, but we will remain part of an alliance which requires others to maintain nuclear weapons and use them on our behalf if we are attacked'.
If you're anti-Trident for principled anti-nuclear reasons, as opposed to pragmatic, 'the money would be better spent on conventional forces' reasons (as Corbyn is and as I believe those Lib Dems proposing and voting for their anti-Trident motion are) and you're not for leaving NATO, then you are at best logically incoherent and at worst deliberately mendacious, and in not way deserve a vote.
The attempt to smear Corbyn by attributing anti-Semitic views to him is disgraceful but unfortunately par for the course
I don't think anybody has claimed Corbyn himself is anti-Semitic? The point is that his rabid, over-riding anti-Americanism leads him to support people who are anti-Semitic on the 'my enemy's enemy' principle (basically: as long as you're anti-American, Corbyn will overlook all your other faults, such as anti-Semitism), and that this is evidence of a lack of judgement which should preclude him from ever holding office.
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
This is true, and I hope you agree that this means that part of the point of a second chamber therefore is that when there is a progressive government the role of the second chamber is to stop, or at least slow down, progressive legislation in order that changes should not be rushed and ill-considered but taken slowly and making sure that babies are not thrown out with bathwater, and fences are not taken down without knowing why they were erected in the first place.
The coach of state, after all, needs a brake.
I think Britain’s retention of Trident, or its successor, as an “independent” nuclear deterrent is a sham. It is not independent: it is provided by the US and it is hard to conceive circumstances in which it could be used without the permission of the Americans. The case for its retention is largely a matter of prestige. If “deterrence” (aka Mutually Assured Destruction” or MAD ) is still relevant, or it is important to have some weapons to bargain with the other side in order to reduce the number and finally eliminate them, it is perfectly logical to leave that to the US. Britain’s contribution to international peace keeping could take the form of fully, but conventionally, equipped forces, able to be deployed at short notice, and we should spend our 2% of GDP on those. Whether such forces are better used within NATO or independently is another matter. My own preference would be for all armed forces of all countries to be ceded to the UN to be used as an international armed police force, but that’s looking well ahead.
Criticism of the Israeli government is not evidence of anti-Semitism, but parts of the pro-Israeli lobby are quick to claim that it is. It is also easy to impute guilt by association or implication. For an example, this phrase from an article by Rafael Behr in yesterday’s Guardian (2nd September): " Holocaust denial is brushed off as the dust that gathers on noble boots during the long march to a ”principled” foreign policy." Agreed, it doesn’t; say that Corbyn is a holocaust denier, but the casual reader may not notice. It is often necessary to talk to people with unsavoury views in order to achieve peace. Churchill talked to Stalin, Nixon to Mao, colonial secretaries to “terrorists” in Africa, ministers to the IRA in Northern Ireland.
Yes of course, a properly constituted second chamber should act as a check and balance on any government, be it progressive or regressive
It is not independent: it is provided by the USReplyDelete
The missiles are bought from a US company, but that's hardly unusual in the world of arms; it's not like they Americans keep the launch codes, or man the submarines, or whatnot.
and it is hard to conceive circumstances in which it could be used without the permission of the Americans
Well, ish. First, the same could be said of our conventional forces since Suez. And second, the whole point of putting them on submarines is to have a guaranteed second-strike capability, and in that case by definition there won't be too much left of the UK to worry about what the Americans think.
If “deterrence” (aka Mutually Assured Destruction” or MAD ) is still relevant […] it is perfectly logical to leave that to the US
Well, the practical problem with that is that it's all to easy to imagine circumstances in which an enemy could destroy the UK but make it not worth the US's while to escalate by retaliating on our behalf; in which case we don't really have a deterrent. Just like we have effectively (and shamefully) abandoned Ukraine, the US could abandon us (and for the same reasons), so we can't rely on the US.
More important though for people like Corbyn is the philosophical problem. If you object to possession of nuclear weapons per se (as I believe Corbyn does, and I can't work out form your answer whether you do or not; if money were no object, would you still agitate to get rid of not just Trident but any alternative British nuclear weapons system?) then it is cowardly and hypocritical to shelter beneath another's nuclear umbrella while claiming the moral high ground for not having one of one's own.
My own preference would be for all armed forces of all countries to be ceded to the UN to be used as an international armed police force, but that’s looking well ahead
'We've got the missiles / Peace to determine / And one of the fingers on the button will be German!'
Criticism of the Israeli government is not evidence of anti-Semitism, but parts of the pro-Israeli lobby are quick to claim that it is.
Indeed, but some of those Corbyn hangs around with have gone way beyond '[c]riticism of the Israeli government', and into indisputable anti-Semitism, haven't they?
Agreed, it doesn’t; say that Corbyn is a holocaust denier, but the casual reader may not notice
If you read the context, it makes clear that the charge is not that Corbyn is a holocaust denier but that he is happy to associate with those who are. Which is not a 'smear', it is true.
(And it is also true that Corbyn has drawn moral equivalences between, say, the 2001 attack on New York and the Pentagon and the 2003 invasion of Iraq; Corbyn clearly does believe those to be morally comparable.)
It is often necessary to talk to people with unsavoury views in order to achieve peace. Churchill talked to Stalin, Nixon to Mao, colonial secretaries to “terrorists” in Africa, ministers to the IRA in Northern Ireland.
But how do you achieve peace if you only talk to those with unsavoury views on one side? Surely if Corbyn was trying to act as a go-between to achieve peace he would have to talk to the Israeli government as well as Hamas, or (as the Major government did) to loyalist terrorists as well as the IRA.
He doesn't, though; he only ever talks to, or shares a platform with, the anti-Western, anti-UK, anti-US side. How is that compatible with trying to achieve peace? How can you achieve peace if you ignore one side of the conflict entirely?
On Corbyn's 'Us and Them (and Down with Us!)' view of the world: http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/staggers/2015/09/no-jeremy-corbyn-not-antisemitic-left-should-be-wary-who-he-calls-friendsDelete
Re Trident, you put up a strong case, but it seems to depend on three assumptions:Delete
1. That someone could try to destroy the UK, or parts of it, with a nuclear weapon.
2. That this aggressor would be supremely confident that the US would not retaliate on our behalf .
3. But that, had we our "own" deterrent, we would.
Well , these three are possible, but highly speculative.
I do not accept that it is hypocritical to rely on the US for nuclear deterrence (until all such weapons are successfully eliminated), and to use the resources released for well-equipped conventional forces. I think such a stance would make a greater contrition to world peace than continuing to spend some £100bn on what I believe to be effectively a status symbol.
Well, 1 is not an assumption, it it true: there exist countries which could try to destroy the UK, or parts of it, with nuclear weapons. Russia, China, the USA and France all certainly could. True, in the current geopolitical climate none of them has any reason too; but I wouldn't want to bet the entire nation on that remaining the case, and also on no other countries whihc do have a reason to attack us gaining such technology (given that several countries unfriendly to us are currently actively trying to develop it, such as Iran).Delete
Remember: happy is the city which in time of peace thinks of war.
With regards to 3, the assumption is not that we would it's that we could and they couldn't stop us, which makes the risk too high for them to make a first strike.
So 2. is the real dodgy one: but imagine a US President getting a message from a nuclear-armed enemy which says, 'In six hours we are going to obliterate the United Kingdom. Our submarines are already out there with missiles aimed at every major US city; if you attempt a pre-emptive strike, or it you retaliate on the UK's behalf afterwards, they will launch and your people and ours will all die in fire. But if you just let us blow up the UK and do nothing, then we can all live.'
Would the President then stick by their commitment to us? Or would they sit back and save their country by letting us burn? It would depend on the President, I'm sure, but Reagan is about the only one I'm sure would have pressed the button — and I'm almost certain Obama wouldn't. Who can tell who the Americans will elect in the future? I don't want our security to be at the mercy of an electoral system which currently seems to be favouring Donald Trump, do you?
I do not accept that it is hypocritical to rely on the US for nuclear deterrence (until all such weapons are successfully eliminated), and to use the resources released for well-equipped conventional forces
It's only hypocritical if your reason is, 'we shouldn't have nuclear weapons'. So for Corbyn it is hypocritical.
If your position is, 'the money would be better spent in other ways' then it's not hypocritical, no. Which it sound slike is your position, but not Corbyn's.
Re the New Statesman article, that's certainly a very successful hatchet job, but relies on guilt by association.ReplyDelete
How exactly does it rely on guilt by association?Delete
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