Saturday, March 22, 2003

Some praise for Robert Fisk

Along, it seems, with the vast majority of the Blogosphere, I've never had that much time for Robert Fisk's analysis of the run up to war (though I've never been hysterical about it).

So I think I should mention that his report in the Independent today made me think that at least he's prepared to be on the Baghdadi streets as the bombs come down. You can't say the same for many of his critics, myself included.

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I read the news today oh boy...

I've been making a quite conscious decision not to comment on events in the war. This is for one simple reason. I don't believe anything I read or hear until it's been confirmed by so many sources and corroborated so clearly and openly, that it is no longer news in any meaningful sense. This isn't a screed against censorhip or against the 24 hour news channels, which I still watch religiously, merely a sceptisism about the openness of war reporting.

Think about it this way. Neither side has an interest in reporting the real harsh truth. We are unlikely to hear bad news from either side (aside from tragic accidents). The Iraqi's won't want to report retreats under heavy fire, the coalition won't want to report strong resistance. So what news we do see will be that either side wants us to hear, at least until the dust has settled.

There are very good reasons for this. Both sides will in different ways control the access of their reporters. The reporters in Baghdad work under totalitarian conditions. The reporters at the front work under war conditions, shepherded by military press officers and unable (for good reasons!) to range over wherver they wish to go.

It's like this. If there was a redoubt somewhere in Iraq, fighting strongly, causing huge resistance but ultimately likely to fall, who would want to make sure we knew about it? How would any journalist find out about it?

What is needed in this situation for outsiders to make a decent judgement is reliable, provable, definite first hand reporting. Blogging, whatever it's many virtues, tends to provide speculation, speed, rumour, personal perspective.

On the other hand, that means that the only news to believe immediately is bad news and what is undeniable.

This means, I think, that you can read a lot into the absence of such news. For example, the Iraqi's will immediately take reporters to see dead civilians. The fact they have not done so so far, suggests that the Bombing has been relatively precise.

Second, when reporters are allowed into an area and do film it, I believe it.

So, bad news and the evidence of your eyes. Is what I'll be basing my judgment on, and frankly, I can't blog on that.

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Friday, March 21, 2003

and the Lion shall advertise next to the lamb

As someone who is to cheap to pay for my blog, I get those blogspot ads on top of my blog. They're targetted to the things that you write about, apparently. Jolly clever. You generally get an ad for two different sites. Anyway, when I came on tonight the two sites being advertised were "A career in the MOD police" and "Stop the war mousemats for sale". The power of global capitalism, eh?

I should be rather pleased. I clearly have ecumenical appeal.

*Note for Americans: The MOD police is the the police force of the Ministry of Defence....

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Narcissism, solipsism or just plain self centred awfulness?

OK, Like everyone else in the Blogosphere, I read about the Baghdadi Blogger. Please tell me that I was not the only person to think, "oh.. I bet he gets loads more hits than me now and he's only just started blogging". I'm so ashamed....

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I like Polly Toynbee a lot..

but really, this is too much. Italy, Spain, Eastern Europe all exist. Should Europe be run solely due to lthe policy preferences of the leaders of France and Germany?

Still, the point underlying it is well made. The EU is to be defined as a primarily Franco-German project (as a tato munching surrender leprechuan comments to an earlier post points out rather well). Well fair enough, but what does that mean for the small outlying islands?

The most powerful argument is the one that Ms Toynbee makes here "From Greece to the Shetlands, the majority in every country opposes the war, regardless of their leaders' stance. An authentic European peoples' voice has emerged, conscious of its own identity."

This is a vital point. It's true. However, If this is the effusion of a particularly European spirit, The EU would have to expand to cover, well the entire world. America just ain't popular anywhere these days.

To bring my meanderings back to the topic of British politics, this either France or America mentality would be fatal to the success of the cause of Europeanism in the UK. It's emergence is very dangerous for the pro-Europeans. They should not be encouraging the propogation of the meme.

Up until the last few months, Europe was seeing the beginning of the end of Franco-German dominance. The recent summit was a desperate gambit to reclam the agenda, but offended as much as delivered. Not least because of the accession of the eastern 10, The UK was well positioned to take advantage of this change and as Europe changed, it would become easier for the UK to intergrate into the new Europe and in the end, join the Euro.

However if more intergration to the EU was presented as subservience to France-Germany rather than the US then people would be less keen. Simply put why stop being and American lapdog to be a French poodle? In addition there are serious reasons. We disagree with France and German on huge areas of government policy, from trade to agriculture to social legislation to taxation. While the UK was a junior partner in the EU, the thought of EU membership created the imression of unremitting compromise, defeat and concession (I talk of course, not of reality but of surface), this may have been acceptable for the sick man of Europe, self flaggelating itself into obscurity, but right or wrong, it did not sit well with the new self-confident Britain of the last decade.

In the early 1980's we would have voted Yes to the Euro out of unremitting despair, right now we turn it down through unjustified cockiness.

In order to change this attitude, Europe needed to change to suit the newly self confident UK - the accession of the Eastern 10 would provide the shift in power it was hoped (Some felt this was less likely, but at the very least they would take the UK's side in most fights).

Now, the prospect is more stark. France and Germany have used their opposition to the war to grab control of the EU agenda. Spain, Italy, the UK and various other may feel frustrated by this, but it's so.

The definition of the EU in peoples minds is now in direct opposition to British "interest". Aha, You may so, but oePublic thinks Jacques is right, surely he should be embracing the EU in consequence. Well no. It was no mere consequence that as soon as the UK started blaming the French, the polls turned. If theres one lot we like less than the US, it's those frogs. Secondly, the EU will now be seen as a tool for the French to humiliate the UK- through the convention, through common defence policy, through CAP. For a while at least, every dispute will be seen through that lens (Witness the question at todays Blair presser from ITN "Is it true that the French haven't given you their sympathy over the death of the Royal marines?"). So the political debate over the EU will be UK vs. France, where France = EU.

So, while I hesitate to pronounce the death-knell for the Euro, I would definitely be thinking about calling my local priest for absolution. The funny thing is, if the EU chose to humiliate the french, rather than the British, the UK would join the Euro sharpish, the CAP would be reformed, the new EU countries would be delighted and America would be crying tears of happiness. So here's my call to our European brothers. Let's do in the french. They've gone too far. We must take down France to build up Europe. It's a crazy plan, but it just might work

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A little more on Iraq and the Libdems

Harry Steele (My Idol, *swoon*) writes a wonderful post about the LibDems, and links to this piece in the Spectator. Scroll down to the bottom, read the LibDems policy on intervention, rub your eyes, realise you live in an alternate universe.

'arry also challenges me to continue my smooth path to power and glory. Well, I'm a little busy earning a humble crust, but if anyone wants to send the following Paddy Ashdown quote about the need for intervention in Iraq to CCO or Number 10, be my guest.

Hansard, 16th of April 1991

Mr. Ashdown : Notwithstanding the Prime Minister's welcome but long- term plans for Kurdish sanctuary in Iraq, does not our present air superiority provide a means and United Nations resolution 688 provide the authority for action now to prevent continuing genocide against the Kurds in Iraq? Is not the only thing lacking for action the political will and international leadership? Why does he still seem reluctant to provide either?

The Prime Minister : As the right hon. Gentleman is aware, the only comprehensive international plan before the international community is the one that I announced to the European Community on Monday this week. As I said to the House a few moments ago, urgent and intensive international discussions on the plan are continuing at this moment.

As I remember, the French were raisning diplomatic concerns over John Major's plan.

So Ashdown supported intervention in Iraq (using Air superioirity,- which I can't imagine means leaflet drops) before the EU or UN gave specific authorisation. For those who are interested, resolution 688 is here. See how limited it is in scope here.

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Thursday, March 20, 2003

Some additions to the Blogroll

I hardly ever click on other people's blogrolls. I suppose I think that if it ain't good enough to be in the main blog I'm not visiting. Well, this makes me damnable fool because my blogroll is full of damn fine stuff and every one of you should check out the people there. (Statistically speaking, about 10% of you actually are people on my blogroll, so that doesn't apply to you so much) Go on, do it now. Them's some hip young gunsligers in there. Just today I've added some top talent.

Here's Nick Barlow, who is a Liberal Democrat, but aside from that small failing has superlative music and reading taste. Go read him.

Here's Matthew Turner who is perfect for those of you want to read a rather smart fellow, (certainly far too smart to make a foolish decision like joining the Labour party), who is more sceptical about the war (and has fine taste in blogger templates, if I may say so). Scan his words.

Here's Emily, AKA Hawkgirl, who I read before I left and am delighted to read again. Digest her wisdom.

Here's Politix, who are a group a smart people interested in important things. Imbibe their thoughts.

So go on, fill your boots. One day having read these people this early will be as cool as having seen the Silver Beatles in Hamburg. Alright, maybe more like seeing Freddie and the Dreamers in Hamburg, but you get the picture.

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and now, Politics fades into the background

It's War. So as Mickey Kaus says, the next few day's are Jo Moore days. Watch out for small but important political announcements.

Don't be so sanctimonious about it. Every party does it. I'm shocked, shocked to find politics is going on here...

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The Liberal Menace

There is a lively debate going on with Chris Bertram, Matthew Turner and Peter Cuthbertson about the Liberal Democrats and Iraq.

It's not for me to interfere in such highminded policy talk, So I shall intervene a little on the tactics. Much of the debate has revolved around the suspicious unanimity of the LibDem MP's over Iraq. Whatever one may think of the Libdem policy of intervention against Genocidal dictoators without the clear cut support of the UN, (and you might guess I prefer Action Man Ashdown to Lounge Bar Kennedy on this one) there can be no doubt that the Liberals have adopted a policy that is far more popular thant the Liberal Democrats themselves. They are, for wahetver reason, surfing a big wave.

This has a tendency to turn a fellows head. Imagine your typical LibDem MP. A fellow much interested in recycling and proportional representation, he is not often regarded as a leader of a moral crusade to save our society from death and destruction. Suddenly, he is a hero. He attends his local church and parishoners gather round him praising his leaders stance to the skies Friends decry war and praise his leader. He gets invitations to write articles for his local paper on the horrors of war. The Moral Maze or Radio 5 phone him up to hear his views on society and terror. Membership applications come flooding in. His local party smiles happily and thinks of taking control of the council.

Now, this MP may have a very balanced view on the topic on hand, but it is a little hard to expect a politician to make a courageous stand for unpopularity in the face of all this. We are, after all, talking about politicians. This was brought home to me by the speech of John Burnett, a LibDem MP who was clearly straining to support the government on Tuesday, but could not bring himself to do it and ended up looking ridiculous.

Look at it this way. The Liberals are at their highest in mid-term polls since the time of the Alliance. They will, barring some scandal, make big gains in the local elections in May. They may well strengthen their coalition position in Scotland and even in Wales (though there is still the chance of a Labour majoirty there). Politically, this decision of Charles's is paying off in spades.

There are downsides too. The House of Commons clearly regards the LD's with contempt and every speaker is heckled down. The Sun and the Telegraph will never forgive Kennedy- but they were scarcely in love with him to begin with (Though he should be very nervous about any scandals the Sun might try to uncover - if they exist). If it all goes well, Kennedy looks like an idiot. But lets assume that the vast majority of LibDems are dubious about war, in that case, Kennedy can't be faulted for making political capital out of this.

Now, I happen to think he is wrong on the substance and on ocassion poor on the style (his speech in the Iraq debate was awful) but instead of bemoaning their inconsistency, the thing for his opponents to do is to expose it. Where is the file contrasting Kennedy and Ashdown on Kosovo with Kennedy on Iraq? That's what we need. (To be fair IDS had a reasonable stab at this on Tuesday).

Realistically, the Libdems are going to be expecting big gains in the Local Elections, especially in the South of England. (incidentally, Harry Steele asked if there was a north-south divide on the war. there most cerainly is, and there's proof in the polling, basically, the further North you go, the more people support war and want to see Saddam removed.), they'll expect to get a lot of members and perhaps be within striking distance of the Tories. Not a bad return for naked opportunism.

One final point. Watching the debate on Tuesday made me glad of the rebels and the Liberals, even though I disagreed with them. There was a sense that their concerns were listened too, taken seriously, weighed in the balance. It was important that the voice of reasoned opposition was heard. I was glad of it. Those in the country opposed to war can protest, but they cannot say that their case has not been put passionately and strongly in the highest counsels. This is a good thing for our democracy and our polity. For that reason alone I am glad of the sickening moral bankruptcy of the Libdems.

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More on Labour

I really must return to the Conservatives soon but for now, there's only one game in town politically, and talking about the Tories stll feels like poking a sick puppy with a sharpened stick.

Today, as action begins, people are beginning to asess the impact on Labour of Tuesday's rebellion. Included in that is the impact of the heavy lifting whips and ministers had to do to keep the rebellion down. |Three very good articles, each worth a read.

Jackie Ashley has the good stuff on the mood inside the PLP, I think it's generally accurate. One point makes it a little overblown She forgets the scary truth, that we are almost halfway through this parliament and pretty soon MP's minds will turn toward re-election rather than re-selection. This lessens the impetus for rebellion. However, if I was the whip in charge of foundation hospitals, I'd be doing a new headcount pretty soon.

Peter Ridell has a very good case on what this means for the Blair/Brown relationship. I like his division between the 'bold' and 'reconnect' camps. I suspect that the Bold camp will eventually be victorious, because the PM must believe that the election will be decided by schoolsnhospitalsncrimenjobs, and in his view only bold reform will give him the holy grail of delivery. The rhetoric may change a little, but in the end if the PM wants to deliver the results he wants he will need to reform boldly. Whether he will be in as strong a position to do this as he was in Iraq is another question entirely.

Donald MacIntyre focuses on the need to rebuild European alliances in the post war World. His cogent case for being nice to our fellow Europeans causes me to ask one question. Why, if we, Spain and Italy are right and they are wrong is it us who should bend to the Franco-German view? Why not aim to break their vision of Europe and replace it with our own. Let France be faced with the choice between national interest and being communitaire that we have werestled with for perhpas too long. Just a thought.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Predictions summary

One of the things I like doing on this site is making predictions about political events. So, it's only fair to check up on how well these predictions are doing since I came back to blogging.

So far I've suggested that Cook would resign but Short wouldn't, Cook's resignation speech would be superb, The PM's speech would also be superb and that the Labour revolt would be within 20 of the previous vote (Though I later thought the rebellion would be smaller than it was, which was silly of me). I'm pretty happy with that.

I was less happy with my record on the Firefighters, I predicted they would accept the last deal they were ofered, but they didn't. when they turned down the last offer and called new strikes, I then said that they were beaten but just didn't know it. In the end, they would either cave or have a settlement imposed. Now, the news is the FBU has finally realised they have lost. I only hope their members will realise the same.

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Charlie Cook slays Bush

Who? What? Don't you mean Robin Cook, you gibbering buffoon? I hear you say.

Well, Charlie Cook was one of the reasons I started this blog, along with british Bloggers like Chris Bertram and Iain Murray, and US ones like Josh Marshall. He writes a weekly e-mail about the US political scene. It's incredibly high quality, non partisan, focussed on political rises and fals, not on the issues. This week it took my breath away.

It's a sustained, hard, biting attack on the political skills of the Bush administration. Now, we're getting used to Europeans and US Democrats rolling their eyes in dismay and despair at the Bush teams policy, and We're beginning to hear the same about their economic policies from economists, but this is the first time i've seen the CW that Bush might be an idiot, but he's a politically smart operator challenged so strongly. I think Cook is right, and I think this might be the shocking story of the PostWar Bush Presidency.

I raise the issue for three reasons. First, because Charlie Cook, is a leading indicator of US Conventional Wisdom. Second, because it is is the first time I have seen what I regard as the normal Britsish centre and left political class desire to see the end of Bush given any hope. I'd assumed Bush would be a lock for 2004, but this made me think again. This impacts all UK political calculations.

Finally it is a salutory reminder to us all that in all likelihood the next general Election will be about the Economy, Public services, Crime and tax. We live in strange times. No doubt this will distort the political scene for a long time. My advice for all politicians though is to keep your eyes on the prize. In the end Schools, Hospitals, Crime, Asylum, Tax, Jobs and Mortgages will decide peoples votes.

Go and sign up for the whole thing.

"...the conclusion of a war with Iraq means President Bush will face many
formidable policy challenges that are no less daunting than Iraq and
easily could significantly complicate his re-election efforts.

"....Bush will likely find himself playing defense on a wide range of very
difficult issues, with little maneuverability to select and promote
other issues that would maximize his attractiveness to various elements
of the electorate. Whether one agrees with Bush's handling of Iraq, it is hard to argue
with the premise that America's relations with major Western and Asian
nations are in a shambles.

"At no point since the end of World War II have relations between the
United States and the governments of historic allies and adversaries
alike been so strained. And relations are even worse with the general
populations of those respective countries.
..., the United States will find dealing with them in the post-war era
significantly more difficult than at any time in memory. Putting
together coalitions for the foreseeable future will be particularly
problematic given the ill will that has been created over the last year.

"In terms of the world's 1.2 billion Muslims, relations with the vast
majority of peaceful adherents to the Islamic faith are awful, while we
have further antagonized the distinct minority of radicals to the point
that future terrorism is even more likely than it was prior to Sept. 11,

"On the domestic side, the budget is a mess, and moderate Republicans are
about as close to revolt as they can come against their own president.
It's hard to imagine both the House and Senate passing the entire
dividend tax elimination plan -- or even most of it -- without draconian
and politically suicidal spending cuts....

"Prospects for health care reform, particularly the administration's hope
for passing a prescription drug benefit, are not promising either. The
administration's ill-advised and subsequently withdrawn plan to require
Medicare recipients to enroll in managed care plans in order to qualify
for a prescription drug benefit was one of the most politically inept
proposals Washington has seen in years....

"Democrats smell blood on this issue and are more likely to use it to
bludgeon the president during the next campaign than they are to work
with him to develop a more plausible alternative.

"While all of this seems pretty tough on the Bush administration, it is a
dose of reality. The real political consequences of policy
miscalculations have been masked to a certain extent by the halo effect
of the terrorist attacks and the focus on foreign policy. Very real
symptoms regarding the president's political health, the condition of
his agenda and his ability to advance his agenda have gone unrecognized
or with little note. Once the war is over, the problems that remain will
be just as serious but more evident."

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Tuesday, March 18, 2003

A slight redesign

As you will perhaps notice, I've made a few changes. The bright colours of the previous design were getting on my nerves, and I thought the topic and the times required a more sober approach. Let me know what you think.

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Of Resignations, debates and the future

John Denham and Lord Hunt have followed Robin Cook. Clare Short has not, and even in remarkable way she's done it, that provides an out for waverers on the Labour backbenches.

The government's clearly been doing a full court press, with the PM addressing the PLP this morning, meetings last night etc etc.

I think my predictions about the strength of Robin Cook's speech and the strength of the PM's speech were both justified and have by and large come true. IDS did OK I think Kennedy blew it, but he was massively disrupted by the Tories, and may get sympathy for that.

So in the light of that, What will the size of the rebellion?

Well, if we take the 121 rebels, plus the 5 or 6 resigners, we're looking at some increase on that basis alone.
By the signs of the language of the MP's who are giving media interviews now, I now suspect that the rebellion will be, if anything slightly smaller, than the Feb 26th vote even taking into account the resignations today.

UPDATE: Votes just come in- 217 votes for the amendment, slightly up on last time, by 15 or so. take out the 50 libdems and say 20 tories and 10 others, and that makes under 140 rebels. Not quite what i predicted but within my 20 either way margin I predicted the other day. No majority amongst backbenchers, no need to rely in Tory votes. Bad, but easily manageable.

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Robin Cook’s Resignation speech

Well, I said it would be very, very good and it was.

Two points jumped out at me immediately.

First the assertion that Saddam Hussein does not have Weapons of Mass Destruction (at least in a form that could be used on a city). Coming from a former foreign secretary that matters a lot.

Then “If the hanging chads had gone the other way and Al Gore was president, I suspect that we would not now be committing British troops” Killer lines, both.
The latter will strike a chord with many, and perhaps has a semblance of truth. At the very least, I believe a Gore administration wouldn’t have been as cack-handed as the Americans have been. The fundamental error of focussing on Regime change first, rather than of “solving the problem” was one that probably could never be recovered.

However, fundamentally I think the case as set out by Robin Cook was weak.

First he contrasted the action in Kosovo with EU and Nato support, with the division in both over Iraq. However, the reason no UN support was given for Kosovo was the knowledge that Russia (and probably China) would veto. If Russia had been in the EU, or Nato, the result would have been exactly the same. Would Robin Cook have refused to support action in Kosovo if France had been opposed? (I will not repeat the point about the fact that the UK, France, Russia, China and the US have all taken unilateral military action without the permission of the UN.)

Second, he based much of the argument on the premise that Britain could not stand alone with America. He ignored the support of Italy, Spain, most of Eastern Europe, Portugal and a whole host of others. In effect, those two arguments give France, as a member of the EU, Nato and UN Security Council, a complete veto on British foreign policy.

Third, He paid little attention to the question of whether overthrowing Saddam Hussein is a worthwhile (I hesitate to say ethical!) Foreign Policy objective. If it is, and America wishes to pursue it, then we have only one question before us. Should we do what we believe is right or not? In a sense, all other considerations are secondary. If we believe that Saddam Hussein should be overthrown, this is the only chance to do it. Do we want to get rid of an evil, murderous, torturing dictator or not? Yes or No?

This crucial question was elided by saying that it was risky, that it was linked in to other Middle East issues and that Saddam probably does not have WMD that could be exploded over a major city (though why that alone creates mass destruction, I don’t know).

The first two are undeniable and the PM has said as much. The third is irrelevant. We live in a world where those biological agents Robin Cook referred too (they sound harmless enough, no? like a washing powder ingredient) could be sold to a terrorist organisation, without the slightest knowledge of any government. Leave it to them to deliver the weapon to a major city.

My belief in the rightness of action, speaking as a Labour party member. Comes from four policy points and one ignoble political one.We live in a world now with globalised terrorist networks. Failing states with weapons of Mass destruction therefore pose a unique and horrific threat.

In addition, Certain states, we know, have a record of military aggression, of willingness to use weapons of mass destruction. Iraq is in this category.When faced with that threat, you should take every step to secure negotiation, reform, debate, trust and verification. However, you need to know when that process is failing, and be prepared to face the consequences of having to take action, however difficult or unpleasant. After 12 years of containment, we are no further forward in being able to trust and verify. The line has to be drawn somewhere or it will never be drawn. Whenever it is drawn, there will always be a siren song for delay. Sadly in the end, that Siren song has to be ignored.

As a left winger, I find repressive, murderous, Stalinist/ fascist tortuous police state loathsome. Given the opportunity, I see no moral reason why I should not want to see such a regime overthrown. Even if neither of the other two reasons were relevant, the removal of such a regime should surely be something to be hoped for even if it requires outside military intervention. I felt that way about Pol Pot, Cambodia and Vietnam. I feel the same about Saddam, Iraq and the US.

The benefits of overthrow must of course be weighed against the horrific costs of war. But there are costs to inaction too. Torture, repression and violence. The security of dictators, the acceptance of international paralysis, the feeling in other states that you can support terrorism, develop WMD and survive, the humiliation, alienation and withdrawal for international co-operation of the worlds most powerful nation and democracy. That world is not a world to look forward to happily.

My final reason is not a noble one. I want to see the continued strength and delivery of my government. I believe and trust Tony Blair, however unfashionable it is to say. I believe his government is a force for good in Britain and the world. I want to see that government continuing to try and keep international institutions together. I want to see it keep improving public services. Tony Blair has given the Labour party victory after victory. The Labour party has a debt to pay in return. This is not a policy argument.

However, combined with the reasons above, it is an argument for loyalty.

Robin Cook’s case was forensic, intelligent, well argued and coherent. It was also wrong.

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Damn you Blogger!

I've written a long post on Robin Cook's speech, and blogger refuses to accept it... curses.

So, for now, you can find it in the comments on Cook resigns..consequances and predictions (comments 3 and 4)

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Monday, March 17, 2003

This is only speculation, but If Clare Short comes out during the 6 O'Clock news and tells the world why she s not resigning, then Alistair Campbell is a media god. I'm watching her leave number 10, and thinking Campbell couldn't be that good, could he? I mean, to win the 6 on this day?

egg-on-face-ometer for me!

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Cook resigns.. consequences and predictions

Well, the worst kept secret in the world is finally official. Robin Cook has resigned. As I mentioned before, the fact that we expected make the story (qua Story, not qua actual importance) less compelling.

Also, If Clare Short is resigning, she's going about it in an odd way. I half expect her now to come out after cabinet and rather subtly stick the boot into Robin Cook.

However, could be utterly wrong and she piles onto Blair hard and puts Cooks resignation in the shade.

Now, What I do want to say is that despite some of the rather unkind things I have said about Mr Cook over the last few days, he is one of the best speakers in parliament, a great debater and expertise on the topic. (Expect to see a lot of arms to Iraq enquiry references).

So his resignation statement tonight will be superb, and be expected to be superb. (That whole setting the bar high thing). He'll be be very, very good, making clear that he has no desire to bring the PM down but simply could not support that position. Commentators on deadlines will use the words “in sorrow not in anger” on deadlines.

So, the bar will be set very high for the PM for the debate, vote and reaction on Tuesday. Aside from Jack Straw in the Commons I doubt we’ll see No 10 try and ride the tiger, preferring to build the tension for Tuesday’s vote -unless Clare Short sticks the boot into Cook by publicly announcing she’s staying.

By Tuesday, a new Leader of the House (Hilary Armstrong? Nick Brown? Ian McCartney?) will be announced.

The PM’s performance at the debate will be masterful. The rebellion will be roughly the same number of people as before plus or minus 20. A few PPS’s and a couple of junior ministers will do a Wilson (resigning on principle in order to secure future position). Watch out if any surprising names crop up. They’re the people to watch.

Troops will start moving.

All of this will rightly, seem trivial by the end of the week

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I'm waiting for the call

Tom Watson is the MP for West Bromwich East (one of my favourite constituency names), He's young and a representative of two of my personal favourite subsets of MP's. He thinks I should be working for Alistair Campbell. Well, I'd love to. But here's my take on two of Tom's westminster tribes.

1. The New Labour Trade unionist. More old right that new left recidivist, the NLTU is sadly, becoming an increasing rare breed in many union headquarters, but many are still to be found in the environs of Westminster. They are not, as many believe, horny handed (that distinction goes to the now almost extinct former miner breed) but are educated, intelligent animals. They are known for their survival skills and willingness to use all available weapons in a fight (which many believe comes from their tough upbringing, locked in a struggle for survival with the Mad Trot), They don not share this aggressive trait with their more sensitive relative the "constitutional reformer", which occassionally leads to tensions and almost inevitably in victory for the NLTU MP. This success is because, as a group, they are focussed not on polite behaviour and socialisation, but improving the lot of the vulnerable in the tribe. Due to this, they value discipline and loyalty above all else. Often known to be whips.

Do Say: The employment laws are a disgrace, I mean you can't appeal a tribunal decision even if it's a majority decision, That could cost your constituents thousands.

Don't say: You know, I might vote against the governme,,,,,OWOWOWOWOWOW

Really Don't say: We should drop discussion of that health and safety legislation so we can discuss constitutional reform for a few days.

2. The New Constituency MP. In olden times a constituency MP was someone too thick or lazy to be a minister. Then they baecame someone who wasn't interested in office, preferring to pursue their own harmless interests, which it was always assumed the constituents shared. That's all changed now. New campaigning techniques, increased office cost allowances, and yes, the professionalisation of politics have created a new breed of ambitious, hardworking MP's. They raise questions about Schools, Jobs, Crime and Drugs because they know their constituents care about those things. They go leafletting at weekends, have more constituency surgeries than you would think humanly possible and as a result sometimes have a haunted look. They are intensely ambitious, but know that remaining an MP is the key to being successful., so they just don't stop campaigning. Ever.

Want to know if you've got one in your area? Find out by this simple test. Go home, Open up your free sheet. (the one with all the double glazing adverts). Flick to page 23. IS there a shot of your local MP waving a petition about organic allotments, surrounded by somehat stunned vegetable fanatics? Now go to the Letters page. Is there a totally non political letter from the local MP urging all local ensioners to claim their full benefit (and to write to him if they're unsure what they're entitled to?) Is the answer to both these questions yes? Then you have one of this new breed.

Do say: I think that point you made about newsagents selling sparklers to children was very well put.

Don't say: Well I'm off for a weeekends debauchery and drunkenness, Enjoy the leafletting.

really don't say: I don't know why you bother with all that, It all depends on the swing at the General Election, nothing to do with your personal vote....

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Sunday, March 16, 2003

Blowing your own trumpet department...

On Friday I said this..

"If you were really devious and ambitious and wanted to make Robin Cook look like an idiot, I'd consider asking Clare not to resign, and instead tour the TV studio's when Robin quits saying how she felt the same way, but that the Prime Minister's constant efforts in the UN have convinced her that he really meant it and that the french were being unreasonable"

On Sunday, the Observer said this:

"Downing Street is braced for the resignation of Robin Cook, Leader of the House of Commons, by Tuesday night if the second resolution fails but officials said they hoped to keep Clare Short, the International Development Secretary, in the Cabinet."

and this

"Number 10 officials believe that Robin Cook, the Leader of the House of Commons, will resign. They say they are still hopeful that Clare Short, the International Development Secretary, can be kept on board. The publication of the 'road map' to a Palestinian state by 2005 has abated some of her anger about the 'push for war'. The last, final summit on a group of islands in the east Atlantic has also helped."

You read it here first..

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