Archive for June, 2014

Cameron and Junker: Kiss and Make Up?

Monday, June 30th, 2014

The British prime minister and the President elect of the European Commission are apparently talking to each other and saying helpful things, in the tradition of consensus democracy, after a bitter personal contest. It has never seemed to this blog too significant who was in charge of what in Europe. What matters is what institutions are they working in, and what is the mission statement of them? Even the Germans, having got their way on Junker, are saying things which envisage shrinking powers for Brussels. This is music to Cameron’s British ears, but it strikes a discordant note in some of the capitals of the smaller, poorer EU members. Having spent generations or even centuries under the domination of leading European powers at different times in their history, they see merit in an impartial bureaucracy in which all member states are represented, as a brake on the freedom of the major powers to have it all go their way.

This contradiction is one of the many discussed in previous posts, which Junker has to balance and which Cameron has to change. Essentially the British have always been primarily interested in trade. All the other founding members were primarily interested in peace being secured on a continent previously repeatedly torn by wars in which tens of millions had died. Trade was to be the first element in bringing harmony, a common currency the second, federalization the third. Whichever approach you take and whatever your priority, all threads now lead not to Brussels or Strasbourg, but to Berlin, for it is here that the true power of the European Union lies, especially since German re-unification and the introduction of the Euro. The counter-weight to Berlin is London.

Another lesson of history: When Britain and Germany are united Europe holds together, but when they confront each other Europe falls apart.

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Europe: Historic Moment.

Saturday, June 28th, 2014

There is general agreement the Cameron’s defeat is an historic moment but exactly what kind of moment is unclear. Initially hopes are raised that having asserted the right of the European parliamentary majority to nominate the Presidential candidate for the European Commission , EU leaders will wake up to the very real prospect of Britain leaving and will fall over backwards to give Cameron what he needs, first to win the General Election in 2015 and then to win a referendum to stay in the EU on revised and better terms.

Unfortunately there may be an element of wishful thinking in this. Germany certainly is willing to help but not every country is and for changes to be agreed they have to be agreed by all. In the days of the small EEC dominated by France and Germany, deals were easily fixed. Now that there are twenty-eight members deals are not so easy. Moreover there is now the Euro. For that to survive, Europe has to go in the opposite direction to the way the UK wants. The Euro has to have more federalization of decision making and economic policy among its members. The UK wants less. There may be a possible solution for a Federalist Eurozone led by Germany, with a Confederate  zone outside the Euro and led by Britain.

The situation is made more complex by the desire of the EU to expand eastwards, before it has reached either an accommodation with Russia or a deal for Russia to join.  Britain now has to make up its mind where it is headed and with whom, a task made more complicated at this moment by the thought that the uncertainty may actually boost the Yes vote in Scotland.

So Junker has three mega problems to deal with, all of which are at opposite polarity to each other; Britain, the Euro and Russia. It should not be long before it becomes clear whether he is up to the job. It is worth concluding on a lesson of history. The Roman Empire, having absorbed all of Europe west to Britain, expanded ever further east until finally it got so big it split into two separate parts. The eastern part lasted nearly a thousand years longer than the west.

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Cameron Battered: What Now?

Friday, June 27th, 2014

Many are saying that the Prime Minister has played his cards badly over Europe, even some who basically agree with him. The big mistake was to quit the Centre Right group in the European parliament, thus detaching from the association where plots would be hatched. This has isolated the UK in the parliament itself, leaving only the Council of Ministers as a place where any attention is paid to UK concerns. Aware of the need to demonstrate greater democratic accountability, the Council has begun to defer to the the parliament. Junker is the chosen candidate of the parliamentary majority. So he will be appointed. Cameron goes ballistic. Why? What is the point of a parliament, democratically elected at an EU wide election with members from every country, if it cannot put forward a candidate to head the Commission?

The problem for Cameron is his party, split here there and everywhere over Europe, forcing him to appease and placate his MPs ahead of forming a coherent policy about which he can talk to his sympathizers across the Channel. So he is forced to talk in riddles, half the time with his foot in his mouth, so that in the end his sympathizers despair and head for Merkel. Hopes are now pinned on the prospect that she will offer him a sweetie to assuage his disappointment. Well, we shall see.

It is the view of this Blog that whatever the imperfections of the EU it would be a mistake for Britain to leave it,  more so if Scotland leaves Britain. There is one caveat. The EU must to stop needling Russia and come up with a coherent strategy to engage with Putin and work a formula to bring the former Soviet superpower into the European family. If all the EU does is to go on pushing East, scooping up some pretty dodgy associations in the process, while NATO does likewise, a powerful case could certainly be made for the proposal that Britain would be better off leaving both.

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Syria Bombs ISIS

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

This Blog has long been railing about the ineptitude of post 9/11 Western foreign policy (led by the US/UK), of which the mounting chaos in the Arab world and the stand-off in Ukraine are ready symptoms. Now we learn that Syria has started bombing Isis positions in Iraq. So the arch enemy Assad is now on the same side as the West. It is mostly all too late, as the chances of preserving the territorial integrity of the original Syria and Iraq are now 80% gone anyway.

The reality of the world now before us, which is not the same as the map in the State Department and the copy of it in the Foreign office, is that it will be impossible for any peace to come to any of these places within the next fifty years (think of Israel and the Palestinians) unless Iran, Syria, Russia and the West come together in a common consensus to find solutions. There really is no point in trying to move forward until this penny drops.

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Hitler’s First Lady

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

My latest novel, Hitler’s First Lady is getting positive feedback that it is a real page turner because its explosive and shocking take on historical facts.

Here are the questions which I am continually asked:

Was Hitler gay? Was the British Royal family looking for a peace deal with the Third Reich? Did Churchill reach an understanding with Hitler, clearing the way for the Nazi attack on the Soviet Union? Did Germany offer Britain peace terms in 1941 so generous that they treated Britain as undefeated and even undefeatable? What part did Hess really play?

Through a lifetime of research, family connections and anecdotal evidence, I have concluded that not all the dynamics of World War II and the rise of the Third Reich are as we have been taught. Murky undercurrents at the heart of the British establishment clouded the facts.

Hitler’s First Lady records a new version of key events, through fictional personal dramas and actual historical sequences. Why? There are no witnesses to qualify my version of events. For this reason I have written Hitler’s First Lady as a work of fiction. The test of the best historical stories is to be judged as “faction” – it’s the only way that I can challenge the accepted view of history. I pass that challenge to you; read Hitler’s First Lady and make your own judgment.

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Expensive Trials

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

Without getting into the specifics of any of them, this blog is concerned about the cost to taxpayers of big set piece trials covering public issues from corporate fraud, through phone hacking, to sex crimes, which have a very high cost to taxpayers running into many tens of millions, yet which nevertheless achieve a  low conviction rate. This is usually because the statute under which the prosecution is brought is ambiguous, or the hard evidence in scant, or  too much reliance is placed on pointing fingers, coincidence, circumstantial evidence and so forth. The combination may look like mega dodgy doings, but that is not enough for a jury to properly convict. A jury is required to be satisfied beyond all reasonable doubt that the accused is or are guilty. They cannot reach such a conclusion if no part of the evidence is conclusive.

Of late there seems to have developed a culture at the office of the public prosecutors that it is enough to put together a collection of suspicions, call it evidence and test it in court. If it could be done free, perhaps, though it would still be unfair to blight the lives of innocent people while the proceedings unfold. But at a time when all manner of needy services are in crisis because of government cuts, there is no excuse to organize cash cow trials for lawyers under the vague excuse of serving the public interest.

The public interest is served first by having laws and regulations which are well drafted and clear, second by having investigatory practices which turn up clear and compelling evidence amounting to proof of guilt, third to prosecute in a concise and expeditious way. It is never in the public interest to launch complex and expensive trials where these conditions have not been met. Even if convictions are achieved they may well be unsound and overturned on appeal.

There needs to be some thinking done here.

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Labour: Is Ed the Man?

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

The answer must be yes. Not least because to embark on the convoluted marathon which is Labour’s election process, in the run up to the General Election would be a suicide jump for the Party. Ed Milliband has done much to make Labour a very effective Opposition, as well has pulling the party together after its defeat in 2010. Is he a popular choice of Prime Minister- in- Waiting?  Hardly. Can you imagine the BBC news running a clip about the Prime Minister with Ed in the frame? No. So is all lost? No again, but it will not be won by tinkering around with unemployment benefit.

Whether the announcement today about Labour’s plan is good or bad is neither here nor there. It will not add up to any significant swing one way or the other. What is needed is not tinkering with bits of the Welfare State, nor populist price freezes. What is needed is Labour’s BIG IDEA for change, social justice, and empowerment. In a country where the rich get richer at the expense of the poor and the middle class is squeezed for the first time for generations, there is need of a BIG NARRATIVE. So far Labour has just not delivered one. If Ed can come up with a clear clarion call that inspires and gives hope he will be Prime minister. If he comes up with a lot of fussy little recipes for changes at the margin he will be toast.

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Sir Malcolm Rifkind: No!

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

Sir Malcolm Rifkind, once a Tory foreign Secretary, made a little intervention in the Commons today earning him a news clip, to urge restraint in building bridges with Iran, likening the potential relationship as similar to that with the Soviet Union in the Cold War. What drivel!

There is a generation of Western politicians who survive from the Cold War which they understood to the finest hairline tuning, but who have entirely failed to rise to the intellectual challenge of the fluid diplomacy of the modern world and the threats it faces from insurgencies, extremists and fanatical religious conglomerations. This is no longer a world of power blocks and rivalries challenging each other from closed spheres of influence and control. It is a world which is globalized and interdependent in a way unparalleled in human history, which requires a new kind of diplomacy to navigate its crowded waters. It is a diplomacy of building alliances on issues as they arise, based on common interest and the advance of the common good. It is more about making friends than confronting enemies; the more of the former, the fewer of the latter.

The spectacular failures of  post 9/11 Western foreign policy become hourly more apparent to all who can see. Apparently Sir Malcolm is not one of them. As Boris would say, time to put…………!

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The Middle East: A Watershed Moment

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

The US and Iran are discussing what to do to curb the ISIS advance in Iraq and how to bring stability to this stricken country. The talks are informal and they are at official rather than leader level. But they are happening and that fact alone is the most significant diplomatic development in the this whole theater of conflict and tension in the middle east since 9/11 for sure, and maybe for decades.

What these two countries now recognize, one a superpower, the other the only Islamic democracy which functions as a stable nation, is that they have a common interest in halting the rise of Islamic extremism as an organised military power grouping, with the potential to cause murder and mayhem on an industrial scale and redraw maps to create a new medieval state. This moves the US closer not only to Iran, which is a very good thing indeed, but also the war aims in Syria of Assad. This is also a good thing but few in the West will dare admit it even if they pluck up the courage to think it. The Sunni royal autocracies in the Gulf will be unsettled, even alarmed. In  Jerusalem (or Tel Aviv) lights will burn late.

There is another aspect. The foreign policies of Washington and Moscow, which have differed somewhat over the middle east, are now drawing much closer together. If the West, Iran and Russia find a common position and press it, it may well be that the Jihadist surge will have reached its high water mark. This may be wishful thinking. We shall have to wait and see. In the end the solution will be political not military, and may involve some kind of federated separation between Shia, Sunni and Kurd in the countries presently organised as the single entities of Syria and Iraq.

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Boris : Leader in Waiting

Monday, June 16th, 2014

The Tory hierarchy is looking a bit the worse for wear. It is beginning to take on aspects of the last year of the Major and Brown governments, with hostile briefings, rows and leaks, as ambitious acolytes try to distance themselves from a busted flush and position themselves for election defeat followed by a new leader. They dream that they will be chosen.This is silly. Defeat, though likely, is not certain, first because Labour has not yet got its act together and may not ever do so and second because Scotland just might cause an upset and vote Yes for independence. Without its Scottish seats, Labour would be hard pressed to form a government on its own, or even with the Lib Dems who look like losing the most in May 2015.

But it is silly also because the Tories already have a leader in waiting who is head and shoulders above the line up of alternatives to Cameron; Boris. Boris is streets ahead in popularity in the Tory party, among Tory voters and among all voters. He is also the only one who could see off Farage. Moreover Boris knows how to say it in a way which resonates. The clip of his observations about Tony Blair and Iraq on the BBC news website is priceless. Especially the ending.

Boris on Blair


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