Tag Archives: syria

New Labour turns to dross

When Blair had been prime minister for about 3 months in 1997, the Daily Telegraph carried a huge picture of Thatcher with Blair standing in front of it.   The caption underneath says it all: ‘to Thatcher, a son’.   It was the start of the Labour pseudo-Tory interregnum which has allowed Right-wing rule to prevail continuously in this country for the last 35 years    That Blairite brand is now utterly toxic, made worse by his own insatiable lust for money and publicity.   If Labour is still too craven to make a clean break with prolonged Tory austerity – though that is far and away the party’s best chance of opening up a big lead over the Tories and also stopping the haemorrhaging to UKIP and the Greens in England and to the SNP in Scotland – surely Labour has the guts to slough off its biggest mistake and regain a new identity, as Ed Miliband  has repeatedly indicated he wanted to do, which portrays Labour as genuinely concerned with voters’ needs rather than with the inward-looking selfies of the Westminster bubble.
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Cameron versus Miliband: who would you choose?

Cameron at least has one special skill – to hold together an ungovernable party which is irrevocably split.   He does not appear to have an ultimate belief in anything – only to sustain his own position and his party at whatever cost to the country at large.   That explains his early embrace of driving an anti-climate change sleigh and hugging a hoodies to de-nastify the Nasty Party, only to be unceremoniously junked as soon as he got to No.10.   It explains his latest gyrations over the EU and immigration, promising what he can’t deliver in order to deflect the UKIP rampage, putting Britain at risk of real isolation to score points for personal and party advantage, and alienating the whole of the EU (and the US too, behind the scenes) for the sake of short-term electoral gain.   When tasked about this at PMQs he never answers any questions, but uses the occasion (and his unique privilege in having the last word) to smother his opponents with clouds of party political rhetoric and partisan propaganda.   His Bullingdon Club toff self-confidence (or overweening arrogance whichever way you look at it) is well-suited to this abuse of parliamentary procedure.

But the current chatter isn’t about Cameron because the Tory tabloids (whatever they really think about Cameron, which is often unprintable) are remorselessly determined to retain power for the Tories at all costs.   The talk is about Miliband because the Labour Party is less resolute under fire and, in some quarters at least, panics quickly at the potential loss of their own seats.   The real problem for Labour at this time isn’t Miliband.   It’s Labour’s bizarre economic policy, promising austerity and spending cuts all the way to 2020, exactly the same as the Tories, which is counter-productive and a massive voter turn-off.   What Labour voters need, and indeed the whole country, is HOPE when at present they feel only insecurity, abandonment, alienation.   What is needed is not idle and destructive chatter about a change of Leader (which is frankly inconceivable anyway), but focusing relentlessly on a commanding narrative – restoration of the NHS, reversing austerity via public investment in sustainable economic expansion, Living Wage plus a relentless assault on inequality and tax avoidance, rebuilding public services, restoration of collective bargaining and trade union rights, etc.

Miliband himself has some priceless qualities which his party should be talking up, not bad-mouthing in dark corners.   He has integrity, honesty and vision, none of which Cameron has, and he has courage – he took on Murdoch over BSkyB, the Tory tabloids over Leveson, and Cameron over a missile onslaught on Syria and yet another Middle East War, and won in each case, which no previous leader of Labour in Opposition has ever achieved – certainly not Blair.   The sooner Labour members recognise and promulgate the assets of their leader, the quicker

they might learn to stop throwing the election away.

Labour should make inhumanity of Tories a key electoral issue

The Tory government’s decision to withdraw from the search and rescue missions in the Mediterranean where tens of thousands of refugees are fleeing their war-savaged homelands is an act of pitiless inhumanity.   Already this year alone some 25,000 people have arrived in Italy, and similar numbers from Eritrea, with thousands more from Iraq, Nigeria and Somalia.   The numbers who never got there and drowned on the way are not known, but they certainly run into thousands.   To back out of this humanitarian mission is callous and despicable, especially when the motive is plainly to compete with Ukip in being hostile and harsh to migrants.   It is made even worse when the Home Secretary hides behind the disingenuous pretext that saving lives only encourages more persons to risk this treacherous escape route.   It is a shameful indictment to Britain’s reputation as a haven to the persecuted that the UK has resettled less than a tenth of the number of Syrians taken by Germany and Sweden and is now washing its hands of a fundamental humanitarian duty.
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My speech today in the Commons debate on Iraq

It cannot be emphasised too strongly that this is not another invasion of Iraq. It is a response to a desperate plea by the new Iraqi Government for outside help to combat what is seen as an existential threat to the Iraqi state; nor is ISIL just another enemy in the complex and lethal sectarianism of the middle east. It is a monster, with a bloodlust that can only be compared to the Genghis Khan Mongols or the latter-day Nazis—and one that the world simply cannot turn aside from or wash its hands of. But equally, it is foolish not to recognise the risks of military action through air strikes: the inevitable civilian casualties, the death threats to hostages, the very real possibility of terrorist retaliation on British soil and the risk of mission creep, which the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve) was talking about in terms of taking action towards Syria with a dubious legality—I gather from what he said—and the uncertain and unpredictable consequences for the civil war against Assad.
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How can ISIS be stopped?

Tomorrow’s debate in the Commons brings to a head the issue of what action should be taken to stop Islamic State in its murderous rampage across northern Iraq and Syria.   It is not this time another invasion of Iraq, but a desperate plea by the new Iraqi government for outside assistance to help combat what is seen as an existential threat to the Iraqi state.   Nor is ISIS just another enemy in the complex and lethal sectarianism of the Middle East, but rather a monster with a blood lust which can be compared with the Genghiz Khan Mongols or the latter day Nazis, and one which the world can surely not turn aside from and wash its hands of.   But equally it would be foolish not to recognise the risks of military action via air strikes – the inevitable civilian casualties, the death threat to hostages, the risk of terrorist retaliation on British soil, and the mission creep towards action on Syria with its uncertain consequences on the civil war against Assad.
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UK must not be sucked into yet another war in Iraq

Whatever the result of the Scots’ referendum, an even bigger issue is now rapidly coming down the line.   As the US is being dragged remorselessly into what Obama likes to call a counter-insurgency campaign in Iraq-Syria – a war by any other name – it is vital that the UK doesn’t tamely follow suit as Blair did at Bush’s beckoning in 2003.   A war fought by US bombers and drones, together with a steadily increasing number of US special forces and ‘advisers’ – boots on the ground whether or not they ostensibly have a combat mission – is not going to be won for years, if at all, when the regional coalition-of-the-willing (mainly Saudi, Turkey and Qatar) are unwilling to deploy their own troops, with the exception of the Kurdish peshmerga.   There remains too the further critical difficulty that an attack on ISIS in their real power base in northern Syria has no legality if Assad has not asked for such action (he certainly won’t), there is no Security Council resolution sanctioning such a move, and Russia would almost certainly veto such action in the Security Council and threaten to retaliate in other ways.
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Are we really sure of our objectives over Syria?

Here we go again.   Cameron’s latest declaration from the NATO summit is clearly hinting his intention of joining the US on air strikes against ISIS positions in Syria as well as in Iraq.   This stance is legalised by claiming that the Iraqi government has called for these strikes, which is true, and that president Assad’s rejection of any such strikes is overruled by the fact that his war crimes disqualify him from being regarded as the legitimate ruler of Syria.   The threat of the gruesome murder of the British aid worker is adding to the pressure on Cameron to take action, but after the previous Western interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya have all led to internal insurgencies, instability and chaos, there needs to be a far clearer set of objectives than merely doing something, anything.   What exactly are those objectives?
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Blair should be sacked from his post as Quartet Representative in the Middle East

Following the latest example of Blair’s shameful support for brutal regimes in the Middle East, I have sent this letter to all four members of the Quartet – Ban Ki-moon at the UN, President Obama, President Putin, and President Barroso of the EU Commission:

Ban Ki-moon,
United Nations,
UN Headquarters,
New York,
28 August 2014

Dear Secretary-General,

I write as a former Minister in the Blair government in the UK from 1997-2003 and a member of the Front Bench of my party in the UK Parliament for 29 years (1974-2003) to request that you and other members of the Quartet for Middle East affairs should now urgently review the position of Tony Blair as Quartet Representative.

The third war between Israel and the Palestinians has (hopefully) just concluded, but the task of achieving a long-term and sustainable peace settlement between these two nations will be an extraordinarily sensitive and difficult one, and I wish to propose to you that Tony Blair is utterly unsuited to this task, or indeed to any other representational role in the Middle East, and should be replaced.

He is almost universally viewed, as junior partner with President Bush, as author of the disastrous invasion of Iraq in 2003, the results of which are still today being played out catastrophically across both Iraq and Syria. His reputation is thus indelibly linked with attempts to control the Middle East in accordance with Western interests, which has been the bane of the region over the last century and is fundamentally opposed to the development of free, independent, self-governing, democratic Arab States throughout the area.

In particular in the Israeli-Palestinian context Blair is seen as overwhelmingly pro-Israeli which effectively rules him out as a fair and balanced negotiator working in good faith with the confidence of both sides. His prejudice in favour of Israel was constantly displayed in the UK Parliament during previous wars, and it is perfectly clear he does not command the trust of the Palestinians at all.
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Obama wants jihadi cancer to be halted, but how?

It is extraordinary that after an 18 month ISIS rampage of beheadings, torture and executions across northern Iraq and Syria, and after the killing including crucifixion of 500 Yahidi men because of their Christian faith, the brutal murder of one man has now aroused such passion in the West.   But that of course is because he was an American.   It even brings Cameron scurrying back from his holiday to take charge – but to do what?   This is a real turning point in the West’s confrontation with the international jihadism that was unleashed by the illegitimate and disastrous Bush-Blair invasion of Iraq a decade ago.   The jihadist movement is now far stronger in the territory it holds, in its related clusters in Nigeria, Libya, Somalia and Yemen, in its resources from kidnapping, control of oilfields and smuggling, and in its tactical capacity to disrupt the West.   They face Western nations in the mirror reverse of uncertain response, bruised by a decade of war weariness in Iraq and Afghanistan, hobbled by the veto on boots on the ground, and rather lamely having to appeal to allies in the Middle East to take a leading role.
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