Archive for March, 2018

May: A Political Transformation

Monday, March 26th, 2018

When this blog was last active on a daily basis, the May government was in trouble on almost every front and GB was more or less ignored on the international stage. Then came Salisbury. At first it was thought that the attack was a sign of Britain’s weakness through its preoccupation with Brexit. Now it is difficult to recall a time since the Cold War, or even during it, when this country exerted so much influence over its allies in the West. Even as the EU summit began many commentators thought there may be some words but few deeds.

In the event there was an unprecedented recall of the EU’s ambassador to Moscow. This has been followed up by expulsions of Russian diplomats in 14 of the leading EU states and an eye catching 60 diplomats expelled from Washington. Trump, thought to be lukewarm, has very much changed his tune. This certainly looks like Global Britain in action.

May is now in a far stronger position within the Tory party  as prime minister to push through the very kind of sensible Brexit that hard-core leavers hate. She also has a new respect among EU members which could translate into concessions to bind the UK to Europe in a format easier for her to sell in parliament.  It might even translate into healthy Tory leads in the opinion polls. But in the end it will all come down to whether people feel better off. If they do her survival till 2020 looks a lot more certain and her re-election a real possibility. If they don’t, world influence will not stave off an electoral pasting. As Churchill found in 1945.

Brexit, Salisbury, Bolton and Boris: Catch Up Thoughts

Friday, March 23rd, 2018

I am sorry to have been silent through such a turbulent period, but I have to give priority to my fiction project. But I follow everything that is going on and here are a few thoughts.

BREXIT.  It is now certain that we are heading for a soft Brexit. First, because nothing else will get through parliament and second because anything else is administratively impossible. The days that Brexiteers hark back to are gone forever like their own youth, as most are elderly like me. This is because in those days there was no EU. A relatively small common market in Western Europe, divided by the Iron Curtain from remaining Europe to the east. The US and Britain dominated the West and the Soviets dominated the East. But now America’s position on most things is hard even for Americans to read and we at loggerheads with them on several issues. Meanwhile Europe has grown into a huge economic power and a political union which stretches to the Russian border, without precedent in history. So even if we think we have left it will only be in our dreams, because in our waking hours the EU will infect every nook and cranny of our daily lives lives.

SALISBURY I agree with all that has been said about the nerve agent poisoning and Russia, subject to the Corbyn provisos that we must have definitive proof of their direct involvement to cement our case and even if we get that we must continue to engage with Russia and Putin. In fact as I have said for years there are more common interests between us than there are issues which divide us. One of the reasons the Tory government has been so assertive has been the hope that it could be a Falklands moment for May. Thatcher was heading for electoral defeat until Argentina invaded the Falklands. May was being crushed by the arguments within her party between hard and soft, leave and remain and was weak in her negotiations in Europe because her government’s future was uncertain. Even Trump could not make up his mind whether she was worth bothering with. Now all that has changed. She has the full backing of both the EU and the US in her stance on Russia and both have been reminded that Britain does have red lines and gets ultra nasty if they are crossed. So Washington, Brussels and the Kremlin are at this moment rethinking their assessment that the UK was  no longer a serious player.

BOLTON and BORIS.  The news that the highly regarded Gen. H R McMaster has been replaced by the super hawk John Bolton, who wants to nuke everybody, will shock loads and terrify many. However keep calm. It is not ideal that in a democracy  no less than three generals run the key departments of the Trump administration. It was necessary in the early days to bring order, but civilians are better. Bolton is in step with Trump’s hard line instincts on Iran and North Korea, but very much out of step with Trump’s cozy relationship with Putin. Coupled with the replacement of Tillerson with Pompeo it will at least bring some order to the disarray which has been America’s foreign policy. But as with everything in Trump land, nothing is forever. As for Boris, if May wants to be taken seriously on the world at large, she must use her new found authority and sack this clown. Britain needs a wise head in the Foreign Office now. Not a showman self publicist who tells porkies when it suits him.



Some Catch Up Thoughts: Themes

Friday, March 9th, 2018

This blog is operating on a now and again basis because I am busy on a demanding fiction project. Thank you for your patience. Over recent days some underlying themes have caught my attention for quick share.


May’s heavily trailed speech laying out the detail of her Brexit plans disappointed everybody apart from her divided cabinet, because, once again there was no detail. However, the hard Brexiteers have gone very quiet. It could be that the truth is now looming before them through their ideological fog. For example:

America has made it clear that if GB exists the EU treaty governing freedom of the skies, it will not give us individually as favourable deal as it has given to the EU. It will exclude any airline not under majority UK ownership. British Airways and Virgin would thus be barred.

Additionally America has made clear that an integral part of any free trade deal (a fantasy anyway) will be full acceptance of America’s agricultural rules and standards, which are entirely anathema to most Brits. Chlorine chicken et al. And then came the steel tariffs, a catastrophe for the newly rescued UK steel industry. Hmmm. No wonder a flustered Dr Fox is off to America next week. This is not what a beautiful trade deal looks like. To us. But it does to Trump. Which is why he promised it.


The world is stunned, in a good way, of news that Trump and Kim Jon Un are to meet. Two things drove this. The first is the north Korea is feeling the pinch of stranglehold sanctions. The second is the presence, in home waters, of the largest nuclear strike force ever assembled, combat ready and able to respond in less than one minute to an order to entirely destroy North Korea. Not one but three carrier groups are visible on the surface, heaven knows what is beneath the waves and still more still over the horizon.

But what gave effect to the meeting plan was the intervention of South Korea as the broker and lead negotiator. And the subtle reason Kim Jon Un went with their plan and the reason President Moon pressed forward with what to many seemed pointless overtures with such vigour, is the evident truth that BOTH Koreas would go under if the US pressed the button. The prize for Kim is what, as this blog pointed out from the very beginning of this drama, he wanted all along. A meeting with the President of the United States on equal terms.


If ever a case needed to be made that privatising water was a big mistake as many Tories thought at the time, it was the shocking fact of Jaguar Land Rover having to halt production because of water shortages due to ruptures in the supply system from the cold weather. It was nothing to do with the weather, which sometimes comes very hot and at others very cold. It  is because the companies responsible have not maintained their networks properly so that they are weather resilient. Too little investment and too many dividends.

Putin’s New Missiles

Saturday, March 3rd, 2018

Since the end of the Cold War I have been arguing and writing for a more inclusive approach to Russia. The reasons are well rehearsed and need not be repeated here. I have also said that however you wish to describe her and however sniffy you are about her interpretation of democracy, Mother Russia is one of the most powerful countries on earth and was critical in the defeat of Napoleon, the Kaiser and Hitler.

It is also interesting to recall that although Russian weapons have never appeared in the same variety as those in the West, enemies have found them to be conspicuously effective. In WWII the Nazis discovered that the T34 was the better tank by far, that the sub-machine gun carried by street fighting troops was deadly in close urban combat, that the Soviet field howitzer was more destructive, and the rocket launched artillery, known as the Stalin organ, was in a class of its own. Not only did they all work, but they were more reliable and in the event of breakdown or battle damage easier to repair in the field.

It is also worth noting that the Russian shooting down Gary Powers’ U2 stunned America, which had no idea the Soviets had developed a missile of such accuracy which could reach such a height. It was Russia that launched the first orbiting satellite, put the first animal, a dog, then the first man, then the first woman, then the first group of three men, into space. Indeed America, continuously trying to catch up, only did so by putting Wernher von Braun, the German rocket scientist who had masterminded the Nazi V2 rockets which killed over 7000 Brits (as a child I was lucky to escape with near misses) in charge of getting the US to the moon.

So it should come as no surprise to discover that Russia, alarmed by America’s abandonment of the Anti Ballistic Missile treaty and its development of a system which offers a degree of protection from missile attack, has now taken a quantum leap forward with new weapons for which the West has no means of defence at all. The questions to be asked are, do these weapons actually exist and do they work reliably? Most Americans will hunker down convinced that the answers are no to both. But within the Pentagon there will be the recognition than even if the answers are no for now, one day the answers will likely be yes.

Meanwhile engaging with Trump’s doctrine of three rival powers, Putin’s message is simple. Russia is once again a rival to be reckoned with.