Saturday, 27 September 2014

ISIL: can we just get this straight, please?

I am pleased to report that the Mother of all Parliaments has finally decided that, although it was perfectly prepared for two hundred thousand Syrians to die over the last three years, a great many of whom have died since its vote on the matter last year, it has finally relented on military action in the Middle East, in order to try to stop ISIL and, quite probably, the disintegration of the entire region. 

However, in order for the West not to be seen to back down on its earlier decision against intervention in Syria, it is only intervening in Iraq (where there are some ISIL fighters) rather than Syria (where there are a lot of ISIL fighters and is their main stronghold). 

We shall see if it is not too little, too late, but what is certain is that a stitch in time would have saved nine. Our last brush with Syria

As a sideshow, we are also being treated now-familiar symptoms of the current political malaise of neo-isolationism, i.e. the onset of chronic logical contortions. In this case, the argument is that we are defending a sovereign, democratic state and that therefore this all perfectly fine where it wasn't before in Syria, a case of mere genocide.

That is not to say, of course, that we do not have good reason to act.

I realise this is churlish of me, and that I should be happy that we are doing anything at all but I can't help but be disappointed at the consistency of my own party on the issue.

Compare and contrast Tuesday's Leader's Speech:
We support the overnight action against Isil, what needs to happen now is that the UN needs to play its part. A UN Security Council resolution to win the international support to counter that threat of Isil.
With yesterday's statement in the Commons debate:
"Third, there must be a clear legal base to provide legitimacy and legal force to our actions. We support this motion today because we would be responding to the request of a democratic state in Iraq fighting for its own survival. This is recognised in the UN Charter."
In other words, in the space of three days our insistence on UN backing we has gone from requesting a Security Council resolution to saying, er, it's in the Charter, so this is all fine.

It is not, I hasten to add, that we need either. We do not even need a Commons debate; that is a very recent convention, introduced by one T. Blair. Our last brush with a vote related to Syria, which faltered over a similar quibble regarding legitimacy, ended disastrously.

But, whether you agree with military action or not, why insist on something in a Leader's Speech which - as I pointed out in my review of the speech here - is not remotely on the table, because the Russians (and quite probably the Chinese as well) will veto? And so you will then have to back down on it and look silly?

Because, I'm afraid, one did not think carefully enough about the realpolitik before opening one's mouth.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Ed’s speech needed to change the political weather. It didn’t

23 September, 2014: the culmination of four years as leader. Milliband’s last major pitch to lead the country, for this parliament at least.

From now, time can only tell whether it has been the gateway to a whole new vista of politics for Miliband and the keys to No. 10; an attempt to convince his party that he would be still the best option after a narrow defeat; or some kind of a swansong.

Now, the central message of the speech is one which resonates – with the Tories, you’re on your own. The many not the few. We all believe in that, it’s what makes us Labour. And Miliband rightly points up the transparent makeover that David Cameron made of his party, in order to get elected, only to be swiftly ditched shortly thereafter. Good attack lines.

The question is, of course, with eight months to a general election, whether we are perceived as offering a credible, viable alternative. But we are getting ahead of ourselves.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Cameron's big gamble pays off

Last time a part of Britain wanted to become independent, we sent in the Black and Tans. This referendum really hasn't gone that badly.

My sixteenth piece for the Independent, making that point, is here.

Friday, 12 September 2014

The Rotherham abuse is merely yet another facet of the disastrous biraderi politics Labour has nurtured

While Westminster’s attention is distracted by Scotland, it is gradually becoming abundantly clear that the grooming of young, white girls by Pakistani-heritage men goes way beyond Rotherham. Last week Uncut’s Kevin Meagher highlighted the next few likely police targets in Greater Manchester and this Left Foot Forward piece gives a first-hand account of grooming in a town in the South.

The true shock for many was not so much the crimes, horrific though they were. The true shock was the conspiracy of silence around them, both inside the Pakistani community and outside it.

And that is not, one likes to think, because we are intrinsically a nation of racists casting around for a reason to heap abuse on British Pakistanis among us, but mostly for the opposite reason: we didn’t want to believe that there could be a clear link between a particular culture and a particularly nasty crime.

There is a link, of course, but it is not a simplistic one: clearly a small number of Rotherham’s population have not become rapists because of the colour of their skin, or where they worship.

What, then, is that link and why should it be anything to do with Labour?

It’s an uncomfortable question, but it’s also one which we really need to ask.


Monday, 1 September 2014

The Stop the War Coalition should do us all a favour and disband

My fifteenth piece for the Independent, on the perennially dreadful Stoppers, is here.

In this latest episode, they rather unpleasantly pretended that the IS threat to the Yazidis was "a false story". When the male population of a whole village was decimated, this text magically disappeared from their website.

Seems they struggle to criticise even a sect consisting entirely of genocidal freaks.
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