Sunday, 20 December 2015

Referendum: The British People Deserves Better Than Cameron, by Dirk Hazell

Cameron more like Baldwin than Macmillan

Cameron may have brought Macmillan’s portrait into Number 10 but, apart from his covert “grouse moor” lifestyle and indulging an Etonian clique, he is no Macmillan.

Macmillan’s strategic insight and genuine One Nation solidarity of all British people was formed by the Great War and the following Depression.

He would have deplored as the act of a charlatan shabbily playing off English nationalists against Scottish nationalists to win a General Election.

His manners were too good to have allowed, for example, the least well off to be exposed to the real fear of the tax credits fiasco.

And Macmillan had an incomparably more insightful and intuitive grasp of the UK’s place in the world. 

While some on the hard right were indulging themselves in the League of Empire Loyalists, as now they do within UKIP and the Conservative Party, Macmillan unlike Cameron did not indulge.

He told the 1961 Conservative Party Conference of our hope that Britain may become more closely associated with Europe, economically and politically and the 1962 Conference that the Governments of the Six are anxious to move forward from an economic to some form of political union, and we want to play our part in devising these new arrangements.

Such strategic insight and courage eludes Cameron. Some rise to the duties of the office of Prime Minister. 

Historians may say Cameron dragged down his office. At best Cameron can now - as was always predictable - leave both the Conservative Party and the UK in worse overall condition than he found it. 

Lose the European referendum with a Brexit vote and he is guaranteed to succeed Lord North with the moniker of Britain’s worst ever Prime Minister. 

Baldwin is a closer precedent than Macmillan for Cameron. Again, though, manners would have prevented Baldwin commissioning a private jet while slashing welfare.

That said, there are similarities between the phoney Zinoviev letter of 1924 on Baldwin’s watch and Cameron’s contrived 2015 scare campaign in England against Nicola Sturgeon.

And Baldwin left the UK chronically misaligned for the European challenges of the 1930s, contributing to the further World War that his generation had so much wished to avoid.

A true heir to Blair would, as Blair did with the Labour Party, analyse in Opposition what was most problematic about his party and deal with it.

A true heir to Blair would, as Leader of the Opposition, have followed Macmillan’s lead and boldly declared the Tories to be a pro-EU party.

He would have taken the hit on the relatively few MPs, MEPs and Peers who might then have walked to UKIP (the problem now is far more acute), and in the process been more likely to win the 2010 General Election.

And he would have been more Tory than Trot by working from within the EPP - Europe’s mainstream centre-right powerhouse - and not flouncing out into malign and marginal hard-right political alliances across Europe.

Anyone really serious about European reform would have treasured the gold dust of close internal party alliance with Europe’s best statesmen like Enda Kenny and Angela Merkel, not allied with the likes of Waffen SS commemorators.

Cameron’s agenda 

So what of Cameron’s four-point agenda for change?

Competitiveness

In terms of practical benefit to all Europeans including the British, the most important is what he calls “competitiveness”. 

Yet, if Cameron really wanted to complete the internal market, secure more trade agreements between the EU and the rest of the World and modernise the EU’s approach to regulation, then he really should have stayed in the EPP. 

He and his party should have pushed hard from inside the EPP family for prompt and practical implementation of policies that, with no prompting from Cameron, already formed the basis of the EPP’s 2014 European election platform and the work programme of the 2014-19 Juncker Commission. 

Is it really credible to claim that the outcome of a referendum is going to be assisted by Cameron’s pretending that this is a British agenda imposed on recalcitrant aliens rather than a shared agenda with like-minded democrats and reformers?

Immigration 

Next to no practical benefit is secured by the campaign, of at best the most dubious legality, to discriminate against non-British EU nationals by denying them in-work benefits for four years. 

A less bad formulation than Cameron’s was that trailed by Sir John Major in Berlin on 13 November 2014 of a time-limited emergency limitation on immigration. 

The simple truth is that most of the UK’s problems, real or imagined, are home grown. 

The prospect of work - and often work that British people are disinclined to do - rather than the specifically British characteristics of our welfare system is the demand-pull for non-British EU nationals to come to the UK. 

Responsibility for the poor state of the infrastructure of British public services lies with the British Government not with those who come to contribute to Britain’s economy and, often, those very public services.

Sovereignty 

Mr Cameron’s demands on sovereignty also point to the wrong target. 

There is always scope to enhance coordination between Member States’ parliaments and the EU Institutions but as Lord Boswell has correctly noted, the Lisbon Treaty is “the treaty for national parliaments”. 

Germany’s Bundestag has an office in Brussels with 70 staff, while Denmark’s Folketing has been a pioneer of holding a national government to account on its dealings in Europe and the Netherland’s second chamber has mainstreamed EU policy in all its committees. 

The British problem is much less Brussels than an over-centralising and chronically under-reformed Westminster: MPs should devolve far more, becoming less social case workers and more analytical interrogators of what the British Government plans to do and has done in Brussels. 

This might require a different type of MP - frankly, a reversal of changes that have occurred under Cameron - but if MPs are not on top of what is happening in the EU Institutions they have mostly themselves to blame. 

Economic governance

This heading of Cameron’s demands is principally about avoiding caucusing against the City.

However, if he wanted to safeguard the UK’s continental-scale financial service sector which depends on British membership of the EU, it might have been wiser instead not to play Russian roulette with the UK’s future inside the world’s single largest economy, ours in Europe, than to chase phantoms. 

The Referendum

Such civil disorder as there is within Britain is generally directed against Cameron’s government: despite decades of negative misrepresentation about Europe by those whose duty it was to know better, there is no genuine mass British uprising against Europe. 

Indeed, one of the principal risks with the referendum is the low salience of Europe as a domestic political issue and any resulting perception that voting Brexit might be a cost-free protest against the British Establishment. 

The structural problem in British politics is not Europe itself but the Conservative Party which in the absence of good leadership has degenerated, since Cameron’s Black Wednesday days as a special adviser, into being essentially a Brexit rump. 

It is too often as though, more than half a century earlier, the League of Empire Loyalists had been allowed control of the Conservative Party’s machinery. 

The British electorate is the world’s most sophisticated. Cameron may need the fig leaf of a Brussels deal to master a mess almost entirely of his own making and to muster belated courage in supporting British membership of the EU, but as John Major has recently affirmed, Britain’s overwhelming interest is to remain in the EU, deal or no deal: as he rightly says, we are safer, better off and more influential inside the EU. 

As Churchill promised in 1940, despite existential threats Europe is freed, and in so many ways we have moved forward into broad, sunlit uplands. 

The European Deal, based on the Social Market economy, improved beyond recognition Europeans’ working conditions, creating social solidarity within an enterprise economy. 

The European Deal made Europe a world leader in environmental protection. 

The European Deal has transformed our part of the world from the destruction of fascism and communism and created instead the world’s largest economy, effectively defining issues like consumer safety across the world and massively enhancing prosperity. 

And the European Deal gives us all a shared identity based on freedom and equality under the law. 

We must hope that, when the referendum comes, Britons will spurn the snake oil of a fake past for the hope and pragmatism of our best hope for the future: much more pro-active and positive British participation in building the EU for generations to come. 

Life is demonstrably better for the British inside the EU and the EU is demonstrably better with the British. 

Yes Europe needs reform but in 2015 Britain needs it even more. 

And it is high time we had a Prime Minister who spoke such truth to the British People.

Britain Turns Its Back on Australia, by Philip Benwell

Just because British Prime Minister, David Cameron, has been outmanoeuvred by Angela Merkel, Fran├žois Hollande and other European Union leaders from introducing reforms on migration from Europe into Britain, it shouldn’t mean that he can now take it out on Commonwealth countries like Australia.

Despite having to go through the ‘Aliens’ channel upon arrival, Australians have hitherto always found a friendly welcome in what used to be termed ‘the mother country’, but no longer.

Whilst the British government blathers on about establishing closer trade ties with Commonwealth countries, and particularly Australia, it seems to be extraordinary that it is to impose stricter visa requirements upon our citizens working in the United Kingdom.

According to journalist Simon Kent: “Australians fear new “discriminatory” UK working visa and migration policies will see thousands of workers forced home with little hope of return.

At the same time Britain is welcoming record numbers of European Union (EU) arrivals who face no restrictions on starting a new life in this country.” 

It doesn’t make sense, unless the true nature of the beast is not to build up Commonwealth trade to replace its current pacts with the European Union but, in a Machiavellian manner, to annoy Commonwealth countries and thus hamper ties so that the only alternative left is for Britain to continue to be within Europe. 

However, I very much fear that the British people will revolt against this. They feel much closer to countries like Australia, New Zealand and Canada than they do to Eastern European countries from which most migrants are now arriving. 

There is also the great fear of the huge wave of refugees from Muslim countries moving across into the United Kingdom. That alone would probably be the greatest incentive for the British people to leave the Union and barricade their borders with Europe. 

Of course, our republicans will point to the British visa restrictions and say that this means that we should be a republic.

That is because they do not understand that Australia is a free and sovereign nation with no legal ties or constitutional links whatsoever to the British government or parliament.

According to a High Court decision in 1999, Britain is considered to be a ‘foreign power’. Whilst we share the Queen with sixteen other Commonwealth Realms, this does not mean to say that we are not our own country, for we are.

That is why it was necessary for the people themselves - and not our politicians and certainly not the British, had to vote at the 1999 republic referendum.

A referendum in which the electorate nation-wide and in all six States voted overwhelmingly to reject a republic and retain the Crown.

Monday, 7 December 2015

Obama’s Speech, Translated into Candor, by Norman Solomon

Here is a condensed version of President Obama's speech from the Oval Office on Sunday night, unofficially translated into plain English:

I kind of realize we can’t kill our way out of this conflict with ISIL, but in the short term hopefully we can kill our way out of the danger of a Republican victory in the presidential race next year.

As a practical matter, the current hysteria needs guidance, not a sense of proportion along the lines of what the New York Times just mentioned in passing:

“The death toll from jihadist terrorism on American soil since the Sept. 11 attacks -- 45 people -- is about the same as the 48 killed in terrorist attacks motivated by white supremacist and other right-wing extremist ideologies.... And both tolls are tiny compared with the tally of conventional murders, more than 200,000 over the same period.” 

 While I’m urging some gun control, that certainly doesn’t apply to the Pentagon.

The Joint Chiefs and their underlings have passed all the background checks they need by virtue of getting to put on a uniform of the United States Armed Forces.

As much as we must denounce the use of any guns that point at us, we must continue to laud the brave men and women who point guns for us -- and who fire missiles at terrorists and possible terrorists and sometimes unfortunately at wedding parties or misidentified vehicles or teenagers posthumously classified as “militants” after signature strikes or children who get in the way.

We can’t see ourselves in the folks we kill. But I know that we see ourselves with friends and co­workers at a holiday party like the one in San Bernardino. I know we see our kids in the faces of the young people killed in Paris.

Also I know we don’t see ourselves in the blameless individuals who have been beheaded by our ally Saudi Arabia, which has executed 150 people this year mostly by cutting off their heads with swords.

Nor should we bother to see ourselves in the people the Saudi government is slaughtering with airstrikes in Yemen on a daily basis.

We sell the Saudis many billions of dollars worth of weapons that make the killings in San Bernardino look smaller than puny. But that’s the way it goes sometimes.

I gave a lofty major speech a couple of years ago about how a democratic society can’t have perpetual war. I like to talk about such sugary ideals; a spoonful helps the doublethink medicine go down.

Let me now say a word about what we should not do.

We should not be drawn once more into a long and costly ground war in Iraq or Syria. The United States of America has colossal air power -- and we’re going to use it.

No muss, little fuss: except for people under the bombs, now being utilized at such a fast pace that the warhead supply chain is stretched thin.

Yes, we’re escalating a bit on the ground too, with hundreds of special operations forces going into Syria despite my numerous public statements -- adding up to more than a dozen since August 2013 -- that American troops would not be sent to Syria.

Likewise we’ve got several thousand soldiers in Iraq, five years after I solemnly announced that “the American combat mission in Iraq has ended.” 

But here’s the main thing: In the Middle East, the USA will be number one in dropping bombs and firing missiles. Lots of them! 

It’s true that we keep making enemies faster than we can possibly kill them, but that’s the nature of the beast. In Afghanistan too.

At the end of last year I ceremoniously proclaimed that “the longest war in American history is coming to a responsible conclusion” and the United States “will maintain a limited military presence in Afghanistan.” 

But within 10 months I changed course and declared that 5,500 U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan into 2017.

Midway through this fall -- even before the terrorist attacks in Paris -- the United States had launched an average of about 50 airstrikes per week in Syria during the previous year, and the New York Times reported that the U.S. military was preparing “to intensify airstrikes against the Islamic State” on Syrian territory.

And according to official Pentagon figures, the U.S.-led aerial bombing in Iraq has topped 4,500 airstrikes in the last year -- approaching an average rate of 100 per week.

Our military will hunt down terrorist plotters where they are plotting against us. In Iraq and Syria, airstrikes are taking out some of the latest ISIL leaders, heavy weapons, oil tankers, infrastructure.

I’ve got to tell you that these actions will defeat ISIL, but I’ve got to not tell you that the airstrikes will kill a lot of civilians while launching new cycles of what gave rise to ISIL in the first place -- inflaming rage and grief while serving as a powerful recruitment tool for people to take up arms against us.

In the name of defeating terrorist forces, our air war has the effect of recruiting for them.

Meanwhile, in Syria, our obsession with regime change has propelled us into closely aligning with extremist jihadi fighters. They sure appreciate the large quantities of our weapons that end up in their arsenals.

You don’t expect this policy to make a lot of sense, do you?

Norman Solomon is the author of “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.” He is the executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy and co-founder of RootsAction.org.