February 4, 2012
February 3, 2012 7 Comments
A problem, at least it seems to me, is that as soon as you get yourself involved in other people’s business you have a responsibility towards them. Once you’ve intervened and influenced things, all of a sudden everything that happens in your responsibility and you have an obligation to see things through to the end, whatever that end might be.
This problem is highlighted by the Taliban’s declaration that they will retake the country when NATO leaves. They’re probably right, unfortunately. Once NATO leaves, the current government (if it can even be called that, it behaves like a nepotistic crime syndicate) will collapse, with most of its members defecting to the Taliban, and the psychopathic, sexually repressed lunatics in charge of the insurgency will roll into Kabul, triumphant in their victory. More than ten years of foreign occupation will have not made one bit of difference to what will ultimately happen in Afghanistan, except perhaps that our governments will be poorer and those in Afghanistan who did not take the side of the occupation will be angrier. Women will undoubtedly suffer at the hands of their rulers, and much of the relative progress that has been made in the country since the invasion will be undone.
We already have a model of how Afghanistan deals with a prolonged military occupation – the invasion in the 1980′s by the Soviet Union. They too were attempting to instil their preferred model of government in the country but could not sustain their military presence faced with a growing Islamist insurgency and impending bankruptcy and economic recession. The Soviet Union left Afghanistan in rubble, with the Taliban strengthened by their apparent victory. Whatever good came of the Soviet presence, secularisation of society, education for women, and an improved infrastructure was vastly outweighed by the damage the occupation inflicted on Afghan society.
February 2, 2012 4 Comments
Since the 2010 general election, there has been much doom written by left-wing commentators about the British electorate leaning further and further towards the right. Ed Miliband’s ever-scathing critic, Dan Hodges, stated that ‘the electorate is shifting to the Right, not to the Left’ and argued that Labour must consequently move there too. There is an element of truth in the assessment that on issues such as Europe, immigration and the economy, the political right is currently more popular. However, there has not been a clear shift of support from Labour to the Tories since the election. Labour has increased its support since 2010, both in terms of membership and according to polls surveying voting intentions. There has though been a different shift to the political right occurring: the transfer of support from the Conservatives to UKIP, a development that could be of vital importance come 2015. Labour can benefit from this fracture amongst England’s political right much in the same way that the SDP/Liberal/Labour divides in the 1980s aided three successive Thatcher governments. Defection of votes from the Tories to UKIP helped Labour squeeze past in marginal seats in 2010. This effect seems only likely to increase as right-wing dissatisfaction deepens with this government.
The problem for Cameron is that many right-wing voters and politicians see his coalition government as weak on issues of core importance. In his memoirs discussing his years in parliament, ‘A Walk-On Part’, former Labour MP Chris Mullin noted on the day of the 1997 election result that ‘victory is not when our side get the red dispatch boxes and the official cars, but when something changes for the better.’ This line of criticism, that there is no point being in power if you fail to get the right policies enacted, can be seen in every negative left-wing account of New Labour. Increasingly, it seems that Thatcherite backbenchers and voters are having this same thought about the present government. Their aims are not being met, dissatisfaction is rumbling ever louder and UKIP’s policies are looking more attractive.
February 2, 2012
Andrew Noakes, Chair of the Young European Movement London
Hostility towards European integration is often associated with conservatism, but a surprising number of progressive voters would also like to see Britain leave the European Union. A Guardian/ICM poll in October of last year revealed that 38 percent of Labour and 44 percent of Liberal Democrat voters support EU withdrawal.
Progressives who, like myself, are enthusiastic about the European project must stop taking support from the left for granted. We must make an active effort to persuade social democrats and liberals to re-invest their faith in European integration as an engine for progress in Europe and beyond.
Of course, there will always be critics on the left who see the European project as a capitalist conspiracy, committed to extinguishing our progressive aspirations. But this is an old-fashioned smear and should be exposed as such. Read more of this post
February 1, 2012
Seamus Peter Johnstone Macleod
It is argued that Scottish nationalism under the stewardship of the SNP has come of age. Gone are invocations of the spirit of William Wallace or Robert the Bruce. Less frequent too are references to the barbarity of Margaret Thatcher’s rule without mandate. It is said that romanticism has been replaced with a clear-minded pragmatism. The dominant narrative north of the border is that Scotland’s prosperity would be ensured and increased if it were free to pursue its own economic and political goals, free of control from Westminster.
There is much that supports elements of this account. The SNP succeeded in presenting a convincing case that a pro-Europe, foreign investment friendly, socially conscious, independent Scotland would constitute a cause for monetary celebration. And it’s not all bluster. Mr Salmond’s high profile publicity trips to the Middle East and China, ostensibly securing bilateral trade and investment ties, are backed up by solid figures that show that foreign money has been flowing into Scotland – at a relatively steady rate – since 2002. The SNP’s dream to follow Ireland’s example of prosperity through low corporation tax, a skilled workforce, and modern infrastructure attractive to multinational companies cannot be discounted merely due to the unfortunate end that met that arc of prosperity. SNP ministers are more likely to be found quoting economic statistics than Rabbie Burns these days.
Scott Hill has rightly pointed out that it is the unionist side that now appear to be the champions of sentimentality and myth. Claims that “we are stronger together” sound hollow and are mostly unsupported by the rationality that appears to colour the rhetoric of the SNP. Melanie Philips does her cause no favours by perpetuating the false notion that Scotland receives a sizeable windfall from taxpayers elsewhere in the UK. Though the truth of this matter depends on which year or years of data are considered and what proportion of North Sea oil is considered to be Scotland’s, it is not the case that Scottish citizens would lose significant funds through independence. Equally, the notion that Scotland would have been bankrupted by having to independently bail out RBS during the credit crunch are grounded more in fiction than in fact. Joint bailouts by groups of states did take place during 2008 and this would likely have happened in the case of RBS given its sizeable presence south of the border. Read more of this post
February 1, 2012 2 Comments
In the somewhat irrelevant, mundane and over-long run-up to November’s presidential election much of the media spotlight has been on the talents – or rather, lack of – within the GOP ranks. Frontrunner Mitt Romney is suffering from what I shall refer to as the sinister and weird Mormon problem, up-and-coming Rick Santorum is, by any true believers’ standards, a complete and utter loon, which is also a tag all-too-easily synonymous with the recently humbled Rick Perry, who, following an on-going drought in Texas, declared official “Days for Prayer for Rain”[i] back in April last year.
Yet, before I sink to the similarly low depths of much of the media, I shall refrain from dissecting the Republican nominees too much; they are not the most important, nor indeed, the most interesting segment of this excruciatingly predictable election campaign.
Instead, I would like to propose that we imagine for a moment, if you will, that a Republican was in the White House and a young, enigmatic idealist named Barack Obama was their greatest challenger. Rather than use those phony, over-polished slogans – “Change we can believe in”[ii] – we shall pretend, for the sake of clarity, that his campaign was made up of pledges mirroring the reality of what has transpired since the 20th January, 2009.