Friday, August 23, 2002

The Politics of War

To talk about the British political implications of a putative invasion of Iraq, feels, even to me, somehow impious.

No matter what happens, hundreds or thousands of people would die in such a conflict. Death, destruction and agony on a massive scale would ensue. Against such a background commentating on the ripple such a trauma would send through British political life is even more insignificant than ever. I mean, it's not even as if we are America.

However, it is the task I have set myself. Why?

I think Robin Cook is pitching to be either the next leader of the Labour Party or the most unpopular cabinet minister at No 10. All the press briefing he’s been doing about how he is privately opposed to any war is designed to increase his popularity amongst trade unions and the wider party and don’t think our friends at No. 10 won’t be seething about such rampant disloyalty.

Think about it like this. The PM could sack Robin Cook from the Foreign office because he had no political base. This hurt a lot. What must have hurt even more is that if the PM had wanted to he could have sacked Robin Cook altogether and there would have been no howls of protest. Cook was expendable.

So since then, what has Robin Cook been doing? As Leader of the house, he’s been championing the rights of the awkward squad and ‘bravely standing up for the rights of members’. Cue decent relationships with significant numbers of backbench MP’s and a lot of time spent listening to their wisdom. MP’s represent a third of the votes in Labour’s leadership election.

However, being Leader of the House of Commons doesn’t get you front and centre on many policy issues. So how do you get your name in the papers and make yourself popular with the remaining 70% of leadership voters? hmmm.. how about letting it be known that you are privately opposed to a policy which is likely to be unpopular in the party? Even better if you can do so credibly as a former minister with expertise in the area.

I don’t question whether Mr Cook’s views are sincerely held. I only question why he has chosen to share them with the national press.

There are two options here. Either Robin Cook really thinks he can make it to be PM and is itching for a fight with old adversary Gordon Brown or he wants to make himself unsackable and play a kingmaker role for the next generation. the latter is more likely.

It’s a risky positioning. Tony Blair has sacked very few people, but no Prime Minister like his ministers briefing journalists in order to make themselves look good- and by implication make the PM look bad. What must be as frustrating is that Number 10 cannot respond in kind. Imagine the way in which the story would have been covered if Alistair Campbell had plunged the knife into Robin Cook’s reform programme.

So in the short term, this is a risk free move for Robin Cook. He gains popularity in the party. He gains support amongst the trade unions by seeming to be on their side on an irrelevant but touchstone issue. On the other hand, he enrages some very important people close to the PM. He'’ betting that their power will wane though and he’s waiting to take advantage.

If war happens and is reasonably successful watch for Robin Cook to “retire from frontline politics” after the next election.

If there is no war, watch for Robin Cook to be moved into some important irrelevancy.

If war is a disaster, watch Robin Cook resign from Government on “a point of principle”.

Whatever happens, he won’t ever be leader of the Labour party.

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Are Bloggers right wing?

Airstrip one picks up on right wing blogging. Umm. He's right. Oh well, just goes to show how much I know.

Bloody hell. I go on holiday for a day and get 51 visitors. And only 1 of them is me. As Dean Martin once said "What are you people doing in my bar?" Thanks to Airstrip 1 and England's sword for the references.

Does this mean I have to try and be interesting now?

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Wednesday, August 21, 2002

Let me get this straight

So, there are Al Qaeda operatives in Iraq. They're just in the Kurdish bits which we protect from Saddam Hussein. Are these the same Kurdish zones that we want to expand?

I'm treating this with too much levity, I'm aware. It illustrates a serious point. There is no direct evidence given that this group are a Hussein front organisation, nor that they have any support amongst Kurds. However, it illustrates one of the dangers of instablity. Any solution in Iraq must find a solution to the inevitable reaction and subsequent chaos.

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Damn, Damn, Damn

Priceless quote in the paper's today. IDS is about to state his support for the death penalty at party conference "but doesn't want to say so now because he doesn't want to be seen as jumping on a bandwagon."

But hold on... surely this story was briefed to a journalist,. Why? because someone close to IDS could jump on the bandwagon. What a joke. Just proves to me that Tory straegists are suffering from Hagueophobia. (or should that be Platellophobia?)

Unfortunately i am a moron and have lost the article I got this from, so you'll have to take my word for it.

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I've been diving into UK based weblogs recently. They all seem to be conservative in orientation.

Is it the spirit of opposition, something about New Labour control freakery? The fact that the Liberal media conspiracy (TM) employs every potential left wing or social democrat blogger? The individualism of bloggery? or is it just that liberals and lefties don't like to play with computers (I present in evidence the walking disaster that is the tribune website)?

For reference, I'm not a Conservative. I'm obsessed by them though. I feel a strange affinity for the characters in "Crash" who were drawn to car accidents. There is a frisson in looking at mangled political bodies and the twisted wreckage of a once proud ideology.

Anyway, what did I read?

Iain Dale of politico's fame. Interesting, if a little predictable. Andrew Sullivan-lite. Lots of self promotion (I can only get away with this calumny because of the shield of anonymity, cause all blogging is self promotion).

Edge of England's sword Pretty damn good. Unashamedly intellectual. He is a Mackem though, which should give all right thinking people concern.

Conservative Commentary He actually is a spotty tory youth. Norman Tebbit would be proud. I haven't read enough of his lengthy posts to reach any knd of educated opinion.

I am politically a very different reature to those listed above. It's important therefore to praise where you find yourself in agreement. Several of these bloggers are repulsed by the emotional coverage of the missing girls case. I agree with much of the Theodore Dalrymple piece many of the above link to, and in my own inferior way made a similar point below.

Mr Dalrymple approaches the problem from a different perspective than I. He is more concened with the feckless behaviour of prisoners than I would be (I doubt that the behaviour he condemns is a new phenomenom), but he is spot on in his description of the mawkishness and twisted sentimentality of the voyeuristic media. I have to read all the newspapers every day. My stomach has been turning at some of the coverage. From calls for the death penalty to renewed calls for a register of paedophiles (which neither of the two charged seem to have any record of, to my knowledge), to frankly exploitative photography, shallow investigative journalism into the suspects' past life and crocidile tears from professional cynics, I've not read a single revealing or insightful piece into the case itself. So much sound and fury.

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Tuesday, August 20, 2002

Tories fall apart

One can only imagine what it must be like to be a young, ambitious Tory these days. I use the word "young" advisedly because the divide seems to be pitched somewhere around the age of 40.

The good news is that you can be a Director of Strategy
(D. Cummings, 30) or Chief Executive (M. McGregor, 41) with your name in the paper every day, the license to dismiss Party Chairmen with a whispered word, Your importance is such that the affection or wrath of such grandees as Tebbit and Maude focuses on you. The very battle lines for the party's soul are fought around over your P45.

Alternatively, you could be running your own Think Tank , (D. Kruger, 29 or 30 I believe) publishing broadsides against your party's leadership in dense pamphlets with a few eminently publishable quotes thrown in.

Finally, and most depressingly, yu might find yourself writing an acerbic website (Jealousy? ohh they only get a thousand times as many readers as me. Long may it stay that way. I'd be out of a job otherwise) . Here you can spew bile over the idiocy of affirmative action, grumble about the dying of the thatcherite light and generally mumble havoc and let slip the dogs of war.

However, no matter how high or low your station, no matter whether mod or rocker, fogey or foetus, pinstipe or casual day, you are united by one common theme. You are utterly irrelevant. Nothing you do matters. Oh, you might generate a page lead in an August broadsheet, but when it really matters, when you actually get down to it, is the nagging, bitter feeling that you're not doing something big, like the transformation of a nation.

That's what the Blairites know they're doing. It might make them arrogant, but by god, what they are doing matters.

It used to be said that the Tories were all about power, while Labour were about beliefs. This apparently explained Labour's losses and now the tables have turned.

I think this is rubbish. The Tories are still all about power. The battles in the party aren't about ideology but about the only question that matters. "How the hell do we get back in?". This is a morally bankrupt starting point and will end in failure no matter which strategy is victorious. The cynicism just keeps showing through.

In the eighties, Labour had to go through ideological purging. The battles between left and right weren't carried out with both parties having their eye on the prize. sure, some on the soft left saw the electoral suicide of their beliefs and throw them away, but in the main, the battles were between true believers.

If the Tories want to win, they need to forget about winning and start fighting about what they believe in. At the end, the bedraggled survivors will pick up the spoils of victory and create a party to believe in.

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Monday, August 19, 2002

You were saying, Andrew?

August 11th. Andrew Sullivan compares the wet and weaselly reaction of the EU with the hard headed realism of the Kremlin.

"You know that the forces of appeasement and moral equivalence are as powerful today as they were in the 1970s when faced with Soviet evil and the 1930s when faced with Nazi evil. In this regard, it is useful to compare the response of Russia and Britain, with the official EU and widespread European hostility to the use of American force in the world.
Both Russia and Britain provided key aid in the Afghanistan mission and both governments have been supportive of American concerns over Iraq. Both countries are acting as if they too have a responsibility to counter international terrorism and to sever its umbilical link to rogue states like Iraq, Iran and North Korea.
Russia, Britain and America may disagree on some matters - their interests won't always coincide. But they share a common understanding of the threat we all face and have found a practical response to it

August 17. Iraq announces it is close to signing a £45 billion trade agreement with Russia. Russia invites Kim Jong Il to Moscow. Russia announces closer co-operation with Iran on nuclear matters.

Allies who share a common understanding of the threat we all face can be so difficult.

Oh OK. The report is sourced from Iraqi officials and is therefore suspect, but I'll keep this up until there is a denial from the Kremlin.

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