Tuesday, September 30, 2003
Soldiers have a right to life

One of the more disturbing and amoral qualities, exhibited by the 'Rolls Royce' institutions that we were expected to admire, was their belief that soldiers (volunteers or conscripts) were property of the state. Property can be experimented upon, with unfortunate consequences.

Maddison, an RAF engineer from County Durham, had been used as a human guinea pig by MoD scientists experimenting on the lethal nerve gas sarin. Like hundreds of others from the armed forces, Maddison had volunteered for the trials, believing he was going to Porton Down to take part in some 'mild' experiments to find a cure for the common cold. Instead, by dropping sarin onto Maddison's skin, they used him to help determine the dosage of the lethal nerve agents.

His death was very painful.

'I had never seen anyone die before and what that lad went through was absolutely horrific... it was awful,' he said. 'It was like he was being electrocuted, his whole body was convulsing. I have seen somebody suffer an epileptic fit, but you have never seen anything like what happened to that lad... the skin was vibrating and there was all this terrible stuff coming out of his mouth... it looked like frogspawn or tapioca.'

The government, understandably, transformed the episode into an Official Secret but the inquest has now been reopened. This is another good reason for abolishing a standing army - fewer victims for the state.

(My thanks to Simon Abusch for the link)

Job Done: A Tory Endgame for Iraq

In the Guardian last week there was an opinion poll showing the Liberal Democrats within two points of the Conservatives. This week a poll shows them within three points. Of course we must enter the usual caveats that Tory opinion poll scores are often understated and the memory of Brent East is still fresh while Parliamentary coverage has yet to start. It still needs to be noted as Lib Dem support seems to at least partially ebb and flow with anti-war sentiment. As anti-war sentiment looks likely to remain with this lengthy and costly occupation, the Tories should pay attention.

What is also interesting is the sheer anti-war sentiment among Conservative inclined voters. Not the headline figure, it doesn't take a genius to work out that support for the war while it was on was simply based on the noble and natural desire to support "our boys" when they were under fire. Even in this small corner of reactionary cynicism such support could be found. What is fascinating is that the fastest switchers against the war are Tory voters. Conservative supporters have gone from supporting the war by a margin of 20% to opposing it by 12% That's some switch - and the more remarkable for the fact that the Tories still support the war.

Now allow us to gloat. We warned the Tories that the best political calculation would have been moderate opposition to the war. Not that I'm expecting Conservative Central Office to pay attention (I'm gratified that this is read there at all) but the forecast proved true.

How can the Tory leadership, or any alternate leadership, represent its voters? Continued support for the war is not only unpopular, but even worse it is indistinct from the government. While the Lib Dems have something to say on defence, the Tories don't. It's like Labour not having a policy on the NHS.

The Tories for all sorts of reasons of electoral necesity must find a way of credibly oposing the continued occupation (as well as the occupation being against the national interest, and the national interest is the sort of thing that the Tories are for). This does not mean that the Tories can simply execute a U-Turn. Unfortunately some people will remember where they stood. While U-Turns can often be gracefully performed by oppositions on matters like university funding, the war in Iraq has gone on a bit too long and taken up a bit too much attention for a party to execute a 180 degree turn without a plausible explanation (unlike, say, the Balkans). A credible reason must be found for adopting the right and popular policy.

There are two plausible ways of performing the U-Turn. The first is to say we wuz duped. The intelligence dossier was so far off the mark, and Tony Blair was so dishonest that the whole war was based on a lie. Freddie Forsythe put this case rather forcefully. It does have the advantage that it makes Blair look manipulative, but the public already have the man down as a liar. On the other hand the Tories look like they were misled, not really a good idea for a government in waiting, besides everyone knew that the case for war was not based on the dossiers so who do they think that they are trying to kid?

So how do you oppose the occupation, while admitting that you supported the war but were not stupid to do this? The answer is obvious, all occupations must come to an end, and Iraq's must do to. The conservatives should push for a rapid withdrawal of British forces from Iraq. Yes, getting rid of Saddam was worthwhile - but that was then.

If the Americans believe that Iraq needs to be occupied then that is up to them. They can occupy the southern bit of Iraq. If not then a willing Shia cleric is bound to be found who can rule the republic of Basra.

Saddam's Gone, Job Done. Time to go home.
Monday, September 29, 2003
East Of Suez

One of our remaining commitments is the Five Powers Defence Arrangement securing Malaysia and Singapore.

These are a series of arrangements that were entered into in 1971 by the governments of Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and the UK. Under these arrangements the five governments undertook to consult together for the purpose of deciding what measures should be taken jointly or separately in response to an attack, or threat of attack, on Malaysia and Singapore.

Are these defence arrangements still required given that invasion by an expansionist Indonesia would antagonise all of the powers in east Asia? Given the importance of the shipping channels and the rise of ASEAN, is this commitment still required? I think not. Replace it with security guarantees from the US, Japan, Korea and China, the powers that have an interest in keeping regional trade flowing.
Britain accepts PKK as a terrorist organisation, according to the Turks. This doesn't strike me as quite right, but it could be a concession to offset Ankara intervening in the north of Iraq.
IGC: Stormclouds Looming

The forthcoming intergovernmental conference on the European Constitution has brought forth two separate and contradictory responses, often from the same Member States. On the one hand, the foreign ministers claim that the Convention's task has been completed and that there is no further need for radical change in the constitutional draft; yet, at the same time, they have been sending out signals as they prepare their positions for what appear to be inevitable exchanges and horsetrading.

One of the more worrying developments for the bigger powers has been the unity that the smaller countries have shown in projecting their voice and their position. Nineteen of the Member States met at the United Nations and demanded that the Italian Presidency should ensure that all subjects would be discussed at the IGC.

At the same time, the European Parliament passed a resolution on the role that it should undertake in any constitutional settlement. Their proposed reforms were limited but did seek to expand their own role in tandem with the Commission, whilst reining back the intergovernmental agenda preferred by the larger powers. Furthermore, the call for a greater Parliamentary role in the ESDP was the most visible sign that they wished to curb the influence of the larger powers.

The role of the President of the European Council should be strictly limited to chairing proceedings in order to avoid any conflicts with the President of the Commission or the EU Foreign Minister;
The Foreign Minister should be supported by a joint Council-Commission administration;
The Parliament is to play a more prominent role in the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and defence policy;
The new distribution of seats in Parliament is to be implemented without delay;
Better solutions should be found regarding the consolidation of economic and social cohesion policy, the co-ordination of economic policy, the appointment of members of the Court of Justice and the Court of First Instance, the continuation of unanimous voting in Council for the CFSP and certain areas of social policy.

All of this may be nuts and bolts policy wonking but every aspect of the Constitution, including MEPs representation in the IGC is proving contentious. The European Parliament wanted three representatives from the Centre, the Socialists and the Liberals. (There is no major conservative grouping in the European Parliament, a reflection of its mediocrity). However, the Liberals wished to appoint Andrew Duff, the Liberal Democrat arch-federalist, who has proved almost as stomach-churning for Nulab as he does for us. Therefore, No.3 is being vetoed by McShane.

The negotiations at the IGC are proving to be a potential disaster that the illusory consensus of the Convention hid for the summer. Giscard D'Estaing did the bidding of his country and wrote a document that institutionalised the power of the larger powers, specifically the Franco-German axis, by transferring most decisions to an intergovernmental cabinet. However, as the stakes are so high, all bets are off on who compromises.

After the IGC and the signing comes the 110 metre referendum hurdles. This process is like watching a ship slowly launch into drydock.

(29th September 2003, 23.00)
Sunday, September 28, 2003
Private Widdle Speaks

It appears that the Chief of Defence Staff, General Michael Walker, has (shock, horror) accused the Pakistanis of supporting terror in Kashmir. He actually had the gall to suggest that Kashmir was like Ulster.

"We have a similar problem in our country, which we have been dealing with for some 30 years," said General Sir Michael Walker, Chief of Defence staff.

"It is very interesting to look at the common threads between these two campaigns."

Sir Michael described the conflicts in both places as "terrorist campaigns."

Are you Prince Philip in disguise? It shows that British generals sympathise more with their Indian counterparts.

Please also notice that the US system of placing full stops within parentheses rather than without has taken hold of the Ulster Telegraph.

(28th September 2003, 00.48)
Pocket Battleships

An extremely good article from Mr Lindley-French of the Geneva Center for Security Policy, who encapsulates Anglo-French rivalry in a nutshell. It was originally printed in the Wall Street Journal and reproduced on Strategy Page.

The best quotes follow:

The post-Cold War world has been kind to Europe's two old imperial powers. While the Cold War consigned them to the margins of history, Britain today has the world's fourth-largest economy and the second-most capable military, whereas France has the fifth-largest economy and for all intents and purposes the third-most capable military. Given their respective world views and an ability to influence events that they have not enjoyed since the end of World War II, they have emerged as pocket superpowers, competitors as much as partners.

Lindley-French argues that the France's long-term plan to lead Europe as a rival to the superpower is balanced by Britain's post-war Atlanticism.

France wants to push Europe in a different direction, and is now determined to undermine the political utility of British military power within Europe by trying to marginalize it.

The French realise that they have to use British insecurities to secure their purpose since their political landscape will eventually be undermined by the military capabilities of Britain and its technological links with the United States.

Britain is profoundly unsure of the long-term commitment of an ever more mighty America to a special relationship that seems far more special in London than in Washington.

The game is afoot.

Those in London and Washington who have dismissed France's chocolate summitry should think again. European defense is not about headquarters and capabilities but politics -- France's clever strategy is founded upon that basic truism. In fact, France stands the best chance of winning this battle before real military capabilities, a game in Europe that only the British can win, start to shape policy.

Sooner or later the sun will finally set on Britain and France, but until then they will continue in their own very distinct ways to remain above the European fray and yet be architects of it. Europeans and yet not Europeans. EU member-states and yet more than members. Partners and yet competitors. Like pocket battleships they will continue to pick only the battles they can win until one day the forces ranged against them will eventually force them together. That day is still a long time coming.

I say again. This is a must-read.

(28th September 2003, 00.26)
Galileo: A Commercial Rival to GPS

The satellite system, Galileo, that the European Union has been developing as a rival or replacement for US GPS has attracted interest from other powers with satellite capability. India, Israel and China are all negotiating access to the system as insurance since the United States still views GPS as both a commercial and a security concern. This also allows all three powers to develop their technologies in tandem with the EU.

Israel and India are stepping up diplomatic efforts to participate in Galileo, the European Union's rival to the Pentagon-controlled Global Positioning System, officials said yesterday.

The move could provide the EU's ambitious satellite navigation system with much-needed investment as well as making it a formidable competitor to the US, which so far has enjoyed a monopoly in this sector.

China last week clinched a deal with the EU to invest up to €230m ($263m, £160m) in Galileo in its bid to upgrade its communications systems but also to move closer to the EU on defence issues, even though the EU retains an arms embargo on the Beijing government since the 1989 Tiananmen Square killings.

Like China, Israel and India are turning to Galileo because the Pentagon's GPS system is closed to outsiders.

In certain areas, the United States is motivating the rise of balancing systems as other powers wish to ween themselves off technological dependence upon the sole superpower.

(27th September 2003, 23.59)
Saturday, September 27, 2003

The Politics of Incoherence

On the 23rd September, Denis MacShane, Minister for Europe, made a speech in the "Brave New World: Europe in Transition" conference that ranged widely over the current issues shaping Britain's relationship with Europe and the United States. Whilst he discussed the war in Iraq, anti-Americanism, the European Constitution and enlargement, the overall tone of the piece spelled out, yet again, the incoherence of the government's position on Europe.

In supporting the European Union, the government extolls the virtues of enlargement, praises the positive votes that referenda in Central Europe have produced and cite this as evidence of popular support for the EU's institutions, without explaining that the desire of these nations for security motivated many voters.

There are clear moments of light, which illuminate. These include the massive vote in Latvia on Sunday to say Yes to Europe. While politicians of the anti-European right in our country are saying No to Europe, the voters of Poland, the Czech Republic and the Baltic States are saying Yes, Yes, Yes.

MacShane prefers a "Yes" vote to what he calls the 'politics of negativity', that is, people who criticise Europe. After all, politicians find their trade far easier if people agree with them though MacShane forgets that he is not willing to give his own voters the chance to have a direct say on the proposed Constitution.

A document that he praises highly and one imbued with British common sense:

Jack Straw outlined the case for a constitution for Europe in the Economist last year. The French constitutional expert, Robert Badinter, writing in the Nouvel Observateur, said the Convention draft text should be called 'La Britannique' so thoroughly was it imbued with British down to earth empiricism. It anchors the authority of the European Union in the nation states of Europe.

The Economist thought it was trash but that undermines his argument. Indeed, the ministers don't wish to argue about Europe and all of its gains. Their vision of a United Kingdom, leading the European Union towards a prosperous future and economic reform spells out an agenda of Blairite modernisation that we are so familiar with. MacShane talks about leadership as if it were a rightful inheritance for this country:

The Europe of 25 – and shortly to be 27 - will be based on networks. It will divide into two biggish groups. Not old and new but rather EU member states that embrace reform, create the new economy, are open to the world in contrast to those who think Europe should be based on the acquis of the status quo and protect out-of-date arrangements such as the Common Agricultural Policy.

Britain must be at the head of the Europe of change and reform and modernisation.

The biggest flaw in their argument is that they have already lost the debate. They are no longer able to persuade the electorate of the benefits of Euro membership and greater integration. So MacShane's thoughts here are very important. He despises the debate within Britain, whether it is carried on through the media or in Parliament.

What that really means is that ministers do not make speeches that command the front pages of the tabloids. It was an editor of the Economist who once wrote that the task of journalism is 'first simplify, then exaggerate.' But that golden rule cannot apply to Europe. Britain’s relationship with the European Union is complex, nuanced, changing and has to be painted in different shades.....

This is exceptionally difficult in Britain where we are trained only in the adversarial tradition of debate. If a minister says Europe is not black and white but endless shades of grey, every phrase, tone, or nuance of what he says can be splashed into a headline or hurled about in insults across the despatch boxes of the Commons.

Britain deserves better. One striking aspect of the north London by-election last week was the very low turn-out. I do not think Europe featured much in the campaign. But when nearly seven out of ten voters stay at home, it may be time to ask if the British political tradition of rant and insult, hyperbole and know-all assertion is what people want. I would like as Europe Minister to see if it is possible to hold an adult conversation in our country and I would like to start today by asking my own questions about Europe.

MacShane's answer is to wait out his opponents. New Labour wants the issue of 'Europe' buried, since they are unable to muster valid reasons for their policy. What if the reform movement that the United Kingdom will lead fails? What if the European Union decides to adopt an anti-American foreign policy although the United Kingdom's role is to provide an Atlanticist voice? What if the United Kingdom is overruled? These are questions that Labour does not raise since, to do so, would undermine their implied beliefs that Britain in Europe will prevent these developments.

At some stage, British politics will stop tearing itself apart over Europe.

Britain's politicians are not tearing itself apart over Europe. There was an unspoken pact on this issue once the referendum on the Euro had been agreed. Now, The New Labour government finds that its stance on the European Constitution is unpopular and perceived as arrogant.

Lamenting the rules of the playground in which they fight is a poor argument since thay have already decided that they will act as they see fit.
Friday, September 26, 2003

The Beeb's pro-war bias

I always thought that it was odd that the Beeb is singled out for being excessively anti-war. One left winger told me that she knew how I felt about the BBC and Europe, while some others could not watch the BBC and would prefer to watch the more reliably anti-war Channel 4 News. (The reactions of listeners to the World Service, it must be said, was different and opposite.) So this report that broke before Gilligan and Hutton were ever heard of is quite interesting. The BBC were more consistently pro-war than any other British broadcaster.

I believe that reporting impartialy is impossible, which is one of the reasons I think that the BBC should not be maintained by the state - lying about your impartiality will not help. However, the BBC was not a hotbed of antiwar commentary in comparison with other broadcasters.

If the war had been fought by a Conservative government then matters may have been different, and it was probably New Labour loyalism that kept the Beeb less critical than the near-Trots in the Channel 4 team. However if Gilligan had been under attack by a Conservative government would he have been left out to dry by his managers? I can't think of a similar example. Which makes it all rather funny when thieves fall out and Campbell goes insane, and that could be literally mad with Campbell's history, and attacks one of his more friendly outlets. Perhaps he thought they'd fall in line.

Surely Blair knew that the Beeb has been quite good to him over the last six years. Why did he allow Campbell ruin this cosy relationship. What power does Campbell have over Blair or has Blair simply abdicated on home affairs? The same could be said about naming Kelly. If Blair truly was against the naming of the man (and this is a bit of a stretch if we're relying on simply Campbell's word for it) how did it happen?

I've said it before but the hardest thing in the whole Hutton business is deciding who you want to lose the most.
The Telegraph had an interesting article on Hitler's Second Book, the one that showed (yet again) he was the nutter on the Clapham Omnibus, taking a detour through Munich.

The shameful treatment of this historical resource in the English speaking world (or Anglosphere, for those who like to feel they're a civilisation) is very surprising. The historian who discivered and edited this text was Gerhard Weinberg, one of the German Jews who managed to leave before the outbreak of war. Our good fortune.

Over the next 40 years, Weinberg made repeated efforts to interest other publishers in a new, scholarly edition. "I'm not Hitler's press agent, obviously, but one of the things that outraged me about this is that we're not talking about somebody of no importance. We're talking about one of the central figures of the 20th century - and the man wrote all of two books. One of these is not available in a reliable English-language edition, which is why I am pleased that, at last, it will be."

Hitler wrote this additional text in 1928 as a systematisation of his foreign policy. It contained the usual leavings of rabid volkisch theory: lebensraum, the enslavement of the Slavs, sucking up to Mussolini and a titanic struggle with mongrel America. You wonder if Hitler had published this, would it have made any difference.

After all, one sees nutters on the bus or the train all the time. But we don't end up voting for them. So how did Germany manage to elect a whole crop of muttering, foul smelling weirdos who picked their noses and either espoused nutball racism or looney communism.

Sometimes, I think it was because they weren't Welsh enough. Both Germany and Wales were countries who tried to define their nations through song. Choirs formed an important component of their nascent nationalism, in organisation and artistic expression. Yet the Welsh ended up with Lloyd George and the Germans ended up with Hitler.

To paraphrase Kershaw, the Second Book offered little insight into Hitler's foreign policy. It was merely an expansion of what had already been stated in Mein Kampf. The work was never published, possibly to avoid offending the NSDAP's right-wing backers or to avoid cannibalising sales of the second edition of Mein Kampf.

There was nothing inevitable about Hitler's rise to power, no Sonderweg whereby the Germans were fated to follow the path to Die Katastrophe. He was an extremist who managed to manoevre his way into power in a defeated and revisionist power during a time of desperate economic need.

The only lesson Hitler (and Stalin as well) teaches us is that the extremes are not unimaginable - that they gain power, with public support, if circumstances are bad enough. Look around at the parallel with the extreme fringes today: deep Greens, Islamists, neo-Nazis and Communists.
Thursday, September 25, 2003

The great question

From the left wing blog Nobody Died. Link thanks to the Scarlet Pimpernel.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003
Further detail on the defence concessions that Blair made over the weekend have come to light. His prepared positionover the summer was a rejection of an independent military capability for Member States of the European Union. The existence of this group was considered to be a possible rival for NATO and would undermine the effectiveness of the alliance. Blair agreed that certain Member States could unite in "structured co-operation" without the consent of others although he remained opposed to the symbolic location of the Franco-German defence staff outside Brussels.

Speculation about Blair's concessions on this issue could encompass a number of motivations on his part. The simplest is a possible acceptance of ongoing preparations that France and Germany were making, though this does not fit well with the haggling that characterises EU diplomatic practice.

Before this meeting, France were making public statements calling for a quick recognition of Iraqi sovereignty and a short timetable towards elections. With their threat of a veto over the Libyan deal, it was clear that French demands were reinforced by the implied use of a veto if their demands were not discussed or met.

After this meeting, France was making public statements calling for a quick recognition of Iraqi sovereignty and a short timetable towards Iraqi control. However, Gerhard Schroeder promised support and aid in his meeting with Bush and stated that "differences" had been buried.

Was the softening of the French stance and the American rapprochement with the Germans eased by the concessions that Blair made on Saturday? Were British interests in Europe conceded for German support and French abstention at the United Nations?

One must recall that Blair would not consider these concessions that important since he is ideologically inclined to promote European trends. The diplomatic threads of Europe and Iraq are linked but it is very difficult to construct the narrative that defines these actors and their statements. The speculations above are one possible scenario and probably not the best one.

(24th September 2003, 22.27)
Monday, September 22, 2003
Blair has shown that he is still trying to walk the tightrope between America and Europe. In his meeting with Schroeder and Chirac, the media concentrated upon the clear divisions between the three leaders. France was unwilling to shift from its prepared position: demanding that the occupied country should be placed under the authority of the United Nations. Germany, mindful of the Chancellor's forthcoming visit to the United States, was accommodating and mused about a more supportive role.

However, it was Blair who made more concessions in order to stay at the "heart of Europe". On the issues that the Franco-German axis had recently communicated its concern, Britain obediantly fell into line: a common defence, a growth pact, infrastructure projects and reform of the REACH directive.

In order to maintain a semblance of unity in European affairs, Blair followed the initiatives of France and Germany. The war in Iraq has taken its toll: it has ensured that Blair is even less willing to articulate a distinct British position in Europe. He has to demonstrate his pro-European credentials by towing the line that the Franco-German axis have laid out. Hence his position on the Constitution and the Euro.
Sunday, September 21, 2003
Placemen, Puppets and Toadies

The reform of the House of Lords is a constitutional change and would appear to sit uneasily on a weblog about foreign policy. However, the announcement that the 92 remaining hereditary peers would be removed without consulting the other political parties or consideration of the wider role of the House of Lords in our unwritten constitution, bore parallels with the government's attitude towards the European Constitution.

Although the nomination of new peers would be placed with an appointments commission, the power of the second chamber to defeat the executive would be removed as the governing majority, New Labour, would seek a near-majority to reflect the Commons. Would these Lords resign en masse if another party were to win a general election or would a non-Labour government face a House of Lords dominated by New Labour.

There has been a seachange in this government's approach to reform. In the first years of power, New Labour was cautious and unwilling to court unpopularity, although critics noted its authoritarian and antidemocratic style. With the Iraq war, the dam seems to have burst. Blair has found that he can use the power of his governing majority to attempt to skew the constitutional system in Labour's favour and adopt the European Constitution, by stripping away any remaining checks and balances on the executive, clothed in the agenda of the constitutional reformists of 1988.

There are some who would argue that Blair was willing to countenance radical change without respect for the constitution from the beginning of his administration. However, the battles over devolution and the bloody noses that he received from the Scottish and Welsh national Labour parties may have stunted his enthusiasm. The greatest brake on reform was his own unwillingness to court unpopularity and jeopardise re-election.

The Iraqi war and the Hutton inquiry has proved important as a political gauntlet for Blair. Despite his willingness to drag party, cabinet and country with him, the Prime Minister discovered that the Tory opposition was not invigorated and that Labour's standing in the polls remained steady.

Will Blairism rely upon spin any longer? The manipulation of the media will remain a hallmark of this government but Blair will prove more arrogant and more radical now in his willingness to promote the European Constitution and a gerrymandered legislature, brushing aside criticism or calls for public accountability.

His Jacob(in)ite march through the institutions will tread the BBC down next and, despite my misgivings about the Corporation, I would prefer the status quo to any reforms that this government proposed. Would one wish to see the BBC placed in the hands of New Labour with a new charter that allowed the government a greater role in Corporation policy?

(September 21st, 15.40)
The Latvians have voted "Yes" in the final enlargement referendum for EU membership. On a turnout of 72%, more than two-thirds approved of EU membership.

One can understand their wish to enter the EU, since membership provides a perceived security guarantee that independence doesn't. There was a significant probability that the Baltic States would enter as "one for all".

President Vike-Freiberga said Latvia's entry into the EU would put a final stop to the consequences of World War II: "For Latvia [the vote] is putting the final, full stop to the [consequences] of the second World War and wiping out forever the divisions on the map of Europe that the odious Molotov-Ribbentrop pact of 1939 had placed there. It will be for us a [revenge] in terms of our rightful place in the European scene."

From 2004, the EU will have to deal with a dissatisfied and organised Russian minority as well as the problematic status of Kaliningrad.

(September 21st, 2003, 13.42)
Saturday, September 20, 2003
Visit The Foreign Office - 20th September 2003,

Under the London Open House initiative, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has opened its doors and constructed an exhibition, entitled "Accommodating Diplomacy - From Fine Rooms to Flat Packs".

'The exhibition traces the history of the Foreign Office and our embassies abroad, and looks at how our buildings have changed over the years to meet the evolving needs of modern diplomacy. Illustrated with photographs and images from the nineteenth century to the present day, the exhibition is essential viewing for anyone with an interest in the history of British diplomacy, the workings of the FCO, or the architecture of our buildings.'

The FCO will also be opening its finer suites to the public: the Durbar Court, the India Office Council Chamber, the Locarno Suite, the Grand Staircase and the Ambassador's Waiting Room.

You may also drink some fairtrade tea or coffee, demonstrating the clientele they hope to attract. I exhort all to see the exhibition and ask for freetrade coffee.

The buildings are located on King Charles Street and admission is free.
Friday, September 19, 2003

Biased Brent Coverage

Cut into jerry built studio with John Soft Soap behind a desk, and three bored politicians sitting next to one another.

John Soft Soap

Good morning and welcome to BBC News 24's coverage of the Brent bye-election.

Tonight the Tories are reeling as once again they seem set to badly fail to take Brent East

My panel tonight consists of Ed Anonymous the Liberal Democrat spokesman for Low Profiles, Nick Drizzle the Government minister for eye-popping council tax rises and the Tory Chairman, sorry Chairwoman, Theresa Maybesackedsoon. I apologise to our governors, I mean viewers, for the last guest, but it seems like that's the law. We checked.

So let's kick the Tories, I mean kick this off. Nick Drizzle, it looks like you may soon lose one of your safest seats, doesn't that make it a terrible night for the Tories?


Absolutely terrible for them. If they can't win Brent East they've no chance in places like Sedgefield, Liverpool Wavetree or Glasgow Govan. It can only mean one thing, Iain Duncan Smith must resign.

Soft Soap

Well, Ed Anonymous, are you there? Sorry I couldn't see you in your seat.


Thank you, I'm practicing hiding.

Soft Soap

Bad night for the Tories?


Terrible. Brent East is there 450th most winnable seat and they've muffed it. This will be a stunning victory for the Lib Dims as we overturn a massive Labour majority ...

Soft Soap

Excuse me, may I remind you where we are. This isn't ITV you know.


I'm sorry. This is a terrible day for the Tories.

I mean they have a classic bye-election squeeze on their vote and they only managed to keep their vote stable.

Soft Soap

We actually have some history here. In Greenwich in 1987, SDP challenger in a former safe Tory seat, their share of the vote halved and this time round they do worse by plummeting two percent.

Theresa Maybequitebatty, don't you want to crawl up and die for being a Tory scumbag? It's clear from the coming result that if Labour start losing seats like this you'll be wiped off the face of the earth. And good riddance.


Well I think that the main story is the collapse of the Labour...

Soft Soap

Excuse me, my job is to hold the government to account. The job of the official opposition is to apologise for their very existence.


But Labour seem set to lose one of their...

Soft Soap

I'm sorry but Nick Drizzle has just muttered "desperate" under his breath, so I must cut to him.


This tactic is plainly a smoke screen by the Tories to divert us from the fact that they're on the cusp of losing their safest...

Soft Soap



Sorry, wrong script.

What I meant is that they're on the cusp of humiliatingly holding their vote. And that is the real story. Any talk of a Labour collapse is a diversion from this most important story.

Soft Soap

Ed, so desperate moves from the Tories?

Silence for thirty seconds

Soft Soap

What was that?


It's my new silent speaking technique.

Soft Soap

Very good, I've forgotten you already.


The Tories are certainly desperate. The Brent result shows that we are shunting them out of the way everywhere. Brent East is clearly a template for Chingford, Maidstone East and Worthing West. It's time to go back to our constituencies and prepare for government, as we've been doing since 1979.

Soft Soap

You really think that you'll form the next government?


No, but I'm usually in bed by 10.30 so I start going incoherent when staying up so late.


Like you were over the war?


Absolutely not. Our position on the war is clear cut. Leading up to it, it was unpopular so we opposed it, while it was on people backed it so we supported it, and now people are getting tired of the occupation we're against it again. We have a clear policy on this, we say what people want to hear.


I'll weakly go along with Theresa on this as I don't know how to attack the Lib-Dims.

Soft Soap

We're just going to cut into the count.

TV screen with Rita Minority-Quota on


You're a bit early John. This is an inner London Labour borough, they need three times the amount of people and twice the time to count the votes as anywhere else.

Soft Soap

What, you mean they had a bigger ballot paper?


That's what I was saying, and the fact that half the council worker's at the count can't read their own names.

Soft Soap

Reaching out to the illiterate minority in Labour Brent?


Yes, they've recruited the Inner London Teacher's Association to help count the votes.

Cut back to the studio

Soft Soap

We apologise to our viewers who were tuning in expecting to watch the paint drying championships on BBC1 to come across something that miraculously manages to be even more tedious. Viewers who have not gone into a coma may be interested to know that a film of real time grass growing is on BBC2 to showcase the exciting offerings of BBC4.

TV Switched off to avoid terminal boredom
Thursday, September 18, 2003
Wat Tyler's Organisation - 18th September 2003, 21.24

The failure of the World Trade Organisation talks at Cancun was unsurprising. The developing countries called for the reduction of tariffs and subsidies on agricultural goods in the EU/USA but failed to see that the same advantages would accrue even faster if their own levies were also abolished. The European Union suffered the greatest failure of all since its attempt to undermine the core competence of the WTO with environmental and social assessments proved too bitter a pill for any country to swallow. Eco-protectionism did not have the strength to dominate the multilateral trading system.

In his initial assessment of the failure at Cancun, Pascal Levy stated that the European Union would look towards bilateral and regional trade deals as the current round of trade talks had reached an impasse. This was a standard position of most of the participants. However, like the United States, the EU is now assessing whether the current structure of the WTO accurately reflects their interests. The United States wishes to reform voting to reflect the trading strengths of individual members and we can assume that the EU would wish to include environmental and social criteria in any changes to the WTO's mission.

The rich countries get a bloody nose and, instead of defending the free trade that has enriched their countries, prefer to fix the rules of the game again so that the peasants don't talk back.
Prodi's Pronouncement - 18th September 2003, 21.00

Romano Prodi has stated in the run-up to the intergovernmental conference on the European Constitution that the European Commission should gain more powers over taxes and fiscal affairs, ending the national veto in these competences. He also argued that each country should retain a commissioner and that the Euroland ministers should be able to take policy decisions without reference to Member States who had kept their own currencies.

Prodi's relationship with the European Convention was troublesome since his pitch to strengthen the powers of the European Commission in alliance with the smaller countries proved uninfluential. The President of the European Commission was also weakened by his willingness to pronounce on European matters without consulting his colleagues and he has gained a reputation for waywardness. This latest statement can be viewed as a desperate calculation to encourage the smaller countries in the intergovernmental conference that they can still ally and force changes in the draft constitution to favour their own position and that of the Commission.

It is not clear if the smaller countries will support the radical changes that the Commission favours, since it would involve an extension of the Constitution's powers to a degree that would force both Britain and Ireland into the EEA. Their major goal was retaining the system of 'one country, one commissioner'.

Prodi is not strengthed by the Eurostat scandal that has marred his stewardship of the Commission. This scandal is now spreading as the EU fraud watchdog, OLAF, has begun to examine the European Publications Office, following the audit trail.

On a positive note, his statements may embolden the smaller countries to demand more at the intergovernmental conference, increasing the chances of failure as the fragile consensus on the European Constitution unravels. They also demonstrate that whilst many of Europe's elite favour integration, they no longer favour using the European Commission as a tool to promote this agenda.

We Want Space and We Won't Wait

China to launch its first astronauts. At least they're behind us in something; we've already had astronauts up there, when the Americans have allowed us. Until we have a space programme we cannot have satellite guidance, and until we have independent satellite guidance then we can't have an independent nuclear deterrent.

Like our astronauts our ultimate defence will be at the mercy of the Americans.
Tuesday, September 16, 2003
Overreaching - 16th September 2003, 23.03

With the failure of the talks at Cancun, we have seen the European Commission promote an agenda of eco-protectionism, diluting the core agenda of the World Trade Organisation with environmental assessments and the plastic discourse of sustainability.

However, the greens within the European Commission have started to pick a fight with the major economies over the application of the precautionary principle to their major industries. Their REACH proposal on testing every chemical compound has been received with alarm by the French and the Germans. Both countries already suffer from poor economic growth and can see the depressing consequences of this directive.

It looks like the proposed directive has little chance of being accepted by the European Council and may mark the high tide of green regulation under the Prodi Commission. One wonders what happened to their pledge to make the European Union ultracompetitive by 2010.

Zimwatch: Closing the presses

One question that really bothered me about Mugabe was why this mad despot still let opposition papers publish. It's not an apologist's point (the regime is unpleasant), it is simple incredulity. The Zim situation is more complex than we imagine.

Well, he's closed down the Daily News. If you want to know more then their forum is online, which is where Zimwatching can be done far more effectively than here.
Monday, September 15, 2003

Assassination: Politics by other means?

The assassination of Anna Lindh was a stupid act. It came before the vote on the Euro and almost certainly cut the anti-Euro margin in the Swedish referendum. It was also unjustified as the Swedes were given a chance to vote on the Euro.

Is assassination everywhere and always wrong? On the one hand we would all have breathed a sigh of relief, even anti-interventionists like me, if Saddam had been topped meaning that there would have been no war – and if an unrepentant Bin Laden gets fried is that really so bad for the world? However generally killing people is a Bad Thing, so as with most things there is a line to be drawn.

I would say that violence should be justified only if the political means cannot be reached by means of a vote. In Sweden there is a chance to influence the politics of the Euro. Is it the same in Britain?

For the moment. With the Euro we have a chance to vote for its introduction. However the integrationist agenda is being pushed by other means, notably through the proposed constitution (which may even take away our Euro opt out). Of course we may be allowed to vote, but Blair is saying no for the moment, and it will be introduced before an election.

Assassination of pro-constitution politicians is not justified, nor is it politically wise, as long as there is a chance for a vote on this. If there is no vote…
Sunday, September 14, 2003
112 Gripes about the French - 14th September 2003, 22.47

From a booklet published by the 'Information and Education Division' of the US occupying forces on the lack of respect shown by the liberated.

21. "Why bother about the French? They won't throw any weight in the post-war world."

Apart from reasons of honor and simple decency (Americans are not in the habit of letting their friends down), it is poor politics and worse diplomacy to "write off" a nation of 40 million allies. You may need their help some day.

France still stands as a bastion on the Atlantic, from the Mediterranean to the North Sea. France will still be a strong factor in world political organization. The island bases of France, and her colonies, will still be stra- tegic areas in the world structure of peace. And in the age of the atomic bomb, the physical size and population of a country may be no index of her strengh and potentialities.

Why bother about France? It is not our job to "bother about" France. But it is our job to be seriously concerned about the peace and the political problems of the world. France is very much a part of that world.

David Low, the English cartoonist, once drew a famous cartoon showing the nations in a large rowboat. The European nations were at one end of the boat, which was foundering in the water; Uncle Sam sat in the other end, high and dry and out of the water. And Uncle Sam was saying, "Why should I worry? The leak isn't in my end of the boat" We have paid a terrible price for believing that a leak "at the other end of the boat" does not affect our destiny.

Can anyone give an example of when the French were so magnanimous?
Waving the Veto - 14th September 2003, 11.23

Britain retained the pro-US stance that it has taken throughout this year in the meeting of the permanent members of the Security Council. Under the supervision of Kofi Annan, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the five members attempted to reach a consensus for a new resolution that allowed a greater role for the international community in Iraq.

The diplomatic divisions, as reported, were between the United States and France. The United States wishes to 'internationalise' the occupation and spread the costs beyond its own stretched budgets. France has called for a strict timetable of one month for returning full sovereignty to the Iraqi nation and their representatives. This would overturn the role of the US led administration and, as a consequence, ensure that Europe (France) obtained a role in shaping the future of the country.

These stances are too far apart to secure the necesary consensus required for a United Nations resolution. Whilst the United States has shown some flexibility in the transition process of returning Iraq to sovereignty, because of the pressure of events, France has capitalised on this by presenting an almost impossible target - one month. The French have again abandoned the politics of diplomacy for the politics of posture, perhaps viewing the turn to the United Nations by the United States as a similar 'stunt'. Negotiations under these circumstances will prove drawn out and fruitless, as France is unable to play the game very well. You don't bluff when your hand is visibly weak.

The French cards only contain the veto at the United Nations, a strength that the Germans do not even share. The budget deficits of both France and Germany are already too high to support a rise in military expenditure or the transfer of substantial numbers of troops on peacekeeping duties to the Middle East. All 'Old Europe' has is the threat of a UN veto, and in order to demonstrate their willingness to deploy this diplomatic bombshell, thay are forced to take positions that the United States or Great Britain is unable to accept. This is because they have nothing else to bring to the table.
Saturday, September 13, 2003
Forum Europe - 12th September 2003, 15.55

What are the lobby groups that influence the integrationist agenda in Europe? One is Forum Europe, a lobbying group designed to promote long-term projects that will aid "the needs of big business" in the European Union. Their daughter projects are the 'New Defence Agenda', the ASEAN-EU Business Network and the Euro 50 group.

The 'New Defence Agenda' was launched in 2002 by Chris Patten, Lord Robertson, and Javier Solana. It was designed as a thinktank to promote an EU "rapid reaction force" that complemented NATO and to bolster European cooperation with the United States. Their promotional guff is on a pdf file here.

The last is an elite forum to promote the single currency:

Forum Europe is proud to have been associated with the launch in 1999 by former French finance minister Edmond Alphandéry of the Euro 50 Group. It brings together some 50 senior political leaders, former central bankers and finance ministers, financial and business leaders and economic journalists to act as a discussion forum on issues relating to EMU and the introduction of the euro and to look at the political consequences.

Forum Europe is one of the leading groups organising debates and platforms on various European issues. It is led by Giles Merritt, of the International Herald Tribune and formerly at the Financial Times. Last year, it was providing institutional space for the British defence agenda within the European Union.
Thursday, September 11, 2003
Remember, Remember the 11th September - 11th September 2003, 22.48

Jo Moore certainly does, since her attempt to issue unpopular announcements, proved to be a bucket of mud for the government's off-white reputation. Now, the report of the Intelligence and Security Committee has shown that Blair ignored the advice of the intelligence agencies, especially their warning that an Iraqi war could lead to Islamic terrorists gaining chemical and biological weapons capability.

Moreover, the Hutton inquiry has already resulted in the government reforming its publicity machine. However, the public would be surprised to learn that the government has rejected the recommendations of the Committee on Standards in Public Life to remove the order in council that allowed political appointees to give orders to civil servants.

Instead , the government appointed an "ethics adviser". Since the government has rejected any substantial change in this matter, we can conclude that a cosmetic ringfence has been placed on their current management of 'spin'. For once I agree with the Lib Dems:

"The prime minister's response to the report shows belated recognition of this insidious deterioration, but no commitment to do anything radical about it," said Mr Tyler.

An "ethics adviser" was not required to judge that the use of a terrorist atrocity to conceal a government press announcement was indecent, to say the least. On the anniversary of this atrocity, the government has proved unwilling to make amends.
A Trend? - 11th September 2003, 22.29

In the Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday, Blair may have realised that the issue of a referendum on the 'European Constitution' was exercising Parliament. Blair found himself stating four times that a referendum was not required because a new Constitution "would not cause fundamental changes in the EU".

William Pfaff of the International Herald Tribune has written a piece on how the European project is still sorely misunderstood by Britain, the United States and even more so, by himself. The Europhiles in Britain parrot mantras over EU membership but still justify integration in terms of the domestic political debate: economic and social benefits that will result in the safeguarding and increase of Britain's living standards.

However, the EU debate in continental Europe now appears divorced from the mainstream political arguments concerning economic growth, immigration and quality of life that form the fodder of continental elections. As Pfaff describes,

Europe is beyond ideologies now and, in a certain respect, beyond politics, even though the whole European project is intensely political in detail. The striking thing about its politics is that the debates function within an intellectual - and again, moral - perimeter that no one is prepared to rupture. Everything can be negotiated. Everything must be negotiated.

By placing Europe within a moral continuum, many supporters of integration and a unitary European state place the end above the means that has safeguarded Europe from war since 1945: liberal democracy. Whilst the thrust of this argument may prove attractive to dazzled witnesses like Pfaff, the sense of historical mission and Whiggish inevitability overrides tiresome politics with its requirement of public consent. This does explain one puzzling anomaly of the continental debate - the willingness of politicians to override the central values of their democracies. The missionaries are motivated by a greater mission, and like the nineteenth century liberals that they emulate, argue that the democratic values that they cherish will be realised in the European project. In the 'Springtime of the Peoples', did not a similar argument state that freedom would be achieved through the foundation of nations, individual values attained within a greater whole.

The metanationalism of Europe is a reprise of an older argument and can fall prey to the same tensions that eventually drove liberalism and nationalism apart. The older 'civic nationalism' of the United Kingdom, already multinational in tone, fits uneasily within this structure. That is why the European Constitution may prove to be 1848 for the European Union rather than 1815. If the Constitution were to fail ratification:

The current Italian presidency of the EU is charged with resolving this problem. If it fails, the constitution will fail. In that case it seems all but certain that a two-speed European Union will result. The founding members - the original six at a minimum, or the current 15 (possibly excluding Britain) - will go forward in reinforced cooperation, leaving the others on Europe's outer ring.

It is in Britain's interests that the European Constitution is not ratified and that future negotiations over further integration are undertaken on the basis of 'variable geometry' rather than as a structured consensus.

Martyr for the Yes Vote

It won't win me a prize for the most sensitive post of the year, but the death of the Swedish foreign minister Anna Lindh is a massive fillup for the "Yes" vote in the coming Euro referendum - which means that Denmark will almost certainly vote Yes and England will be isolated. Suddenly a Yes vote here has gone from improbable to unlikely.

Don't just take my word for it, look at what the EU commission has to say:

European Commission chief Romano Prodi welcomed Thursday Sweden's decision to go ahead with a weekend referendum on joining the euro despite the killing of Foreign Minister Anna Lindh.

"You can't stop democracy. If it was decided not to hold the refendum, it would mean that the killer would be stronger than the collective will," Prodi told reporters, after paying tribute to Lindh.

Meanwhile environment commissioner Margot Wallstrom, a compatriot of Lindh, called on Swedes to vote in the Sunday referendum as a mark of respect for the slain minister.

Guess what the theme of this referendum will be. If it worked for Pim Fortuyn...
Wednesday, September 10, 2003




This rather amusing take off goes on here. Courtesy of the Lew Rockwell blog.

To show that contrary to rumours I am not totally immune to linking to other bloggers here's a rather scary statistic from Steve Sailer. No, you'll have to read it.

My e-mail's up again and comments are back on line. And yes, I know I have some permalinking to do, thanks for the patience but saving the world is hard to do when writing a foreign policy web log as well. TTFN
Tuesday, September 09, 2003
Adam died on a Zebra Crossing - 9th September 2003, 22.33

Tony Blair, writing in the foreword of the new White Paper on Britain's welcome to the European Constitution, provided little comfort to those who value Britain's sovereignty. Unless the Constitution encroached on the 'redlines' of tax, defence or foreign policy, then all other areas of competence could sail off to Brussels and qualified majority voting without any opposition form this government.

Peter Hain, in the preparatory statement on the paper, was quick to state that the British people would not be allowed a vote on their own future. The hypocrisy of the government was clearly stated in Jack Straw's speech to the House of Commons. The Foreign Secretary spun the same hoary line that the Constitution was merely a response to enlargement and that the Constitutional document that had emerged was a result of modernisation and did not reflect a huge step towards a single European state.

What we did want was a text which brought these treaties together in a single, more coherent whole. We also wanted a treaty which streamlined decision-making to ensure that the Union was able to act effectively at 25. And we wanted reforms which would enable the Union to deal with the problems of today rather than those of 50 years ago, and ensure that the Union delivers for Europe's peoples.

Since the European Constitution made little effort to bridge the "democratic deficit" that has formed one of the main criticisms of the EU from both Left and Right, this provides yet more reasons to distrust the government. It is the old lie of government downplaying integration in order to avoid giving the British electorate any choices in this matter. After all, the people's government knows best the interests of the people.

However, this attempt to argue that the European Constitution allows national parliaments to limit the power of the European Commission is laughable. The Constitution gives them the power to scrutinise but no veto. From the government that ensured parliamentary Select Committees were pliant echo chambers, the ability of national parliaments to appear to oppose must have appeared a godsend.

The text makes clear in Article 9 that the Union's powers derive from the Member States; any powers not explicitly conferred on the Union by the Member States remain with the national governments. This same article then goes on to establish new procedures for giving national parliaments an effective role in policing the Commission's legislative proposals. Under the draft (III - 160 and protocol) all such proposals from the Commission have to be scrutinised by national parliaments for proportionality and subsidiarity: where the national parliament objects, then the Commission has to take the proposal back for review. This significantly strengthens the powers of national parliaments. The House will wish to know that the House of Lords EU Committee, having examined this in considerable detail, has concluded that the effect of this and other measures in the Convention's text mean that 'it is clear that the balance of power in the European Union is going to shift from the Commission in favour of the Member States if the [Convention's] proposals...are adopted...' [HL 105, 15 May 2003, paragraph 11].

Without the power of veto, national parliaments will find their objections lack force, and that a process of review will not substantially change the proposals of the Commission.

The redlines were also set in more detail:

In the IGC we will not support proposals to extend the principle of Qualified Majority Voting to certain key policy areas. We will insist that unanimity remain for Treaty change; and in other areas of vital national interest such as tax, social security, defence, key areas of criminal procedural law and the system of own resources. Unanimity must remain the general rule for Common Foreign and Security Policy, as proposed in the final Convention text. We will not sign up to any Treaty which does not, in our view, advance Britain's national interest.

If these lines are crossed, how stauch will our government be in defending them. It is clear that this government will sign the Constitution unless it is fundamentally changed without reference to the British people. How will the Tories respond to this?

Sunday, September 07, 2003
Euroluvvies - 7th September 2003, 20.38

We are all used to gems of the acting profession: statements from individuals who suffer from the flaw that celebrity equals authority, providing much mirth for people from Planet Earth. It is becoming clear that those members of the political discourse who argue in favour of the European Union also suffer from verbosity and affectation, divorced from all rational thought.

When reason does enter their hindbrains, one can see that the initial premise of 'Britain in Europe' whose website drapes itself in the Union Jack, its campaign goes down the toilet, and all of its staff depart. Any resemblance to rats is purely coincidental.

Still, never let it be said that Euroluvvies and their supporters in the press will ever balanced reports. Look at what the Guardian made of the recent visit by Dr Sean Gabb and his colleagues to Sweden. At first I thought that Dr Gabb had changed his name and who knows what else besides to Janet Bush but I fear that the Guardian didn't want to draw attention to strong well-written anti-European arguments. Then, I expected to see a contribution from a Swedish eurosceptic explaining why they had invited likeminded supporters from the UK. That was after I had read the responses of Erik Zsiga,

'The picture of British Tory lords telling us what to do doesn't go down well,' said Erik Zsiga, a press officer for the 'yes' campaign. 'Swedes find it a bit odd and wonder what their real agenda is and what kind of other opinions they have. Many people feel they are using the Swedish referendum to give voice to reactionary, semi-nationalistic opinions.'

and Carl Bildt.

However, Carl Bildt, Sweden's former conservative Prime Minister and a fervent 'yes' campaigner, wants British eurosceptics to keep meddling. 'It has been particularly helpful for us,' he told The Observer . 'We've had these loonies coming over here and talking about Hitler, and that has led lots of Swedes to quit the "no" side. Send more of your loonies over.'

Ah yes, engaging with the opposition through ad hominem attacks. Of course, the Guardian couldn't leave it to the Swedish:

Two of the British campaigners, Bush and Connolly, have also been accused of being extremists, and of comparing the euro project to something that Hitler would have loved. Both strongly deny that they made any such claim and say that they have fallen victim to a politically motivated smear campaign.

The Grauniad must feel that smearing loonies is a mug's game. New Labour has stuck to acting rather than politics for almost ten years now and the debasement of our political culture demonstrates that the more thoughtful luvvies might prove a better choice than those who smear, lie and deceive.

An aside: I understand that someone wished to contact me: anarchfree@hotmail.com is checked daily.
Sweden's Euro 2003 Qualifier - 7th September 2003, 20.03

With just a week to go before the Swedish electorate vote upon whether to switch their currency from the Swedish krone to the Euro, the 'No' campaign maintains a slender lead. Those who wish to switch to the Euro form 38.5% of an average of six polls, those who oppose the switch are 47%, with the undecideds at 14.%. "The figures resulted from an average of six polls carried out by six different institutions between August 25 and September 3." From these figures, one can conclude that the Swedish vote could be positive or negative for Euroland.

The result of this referendum has consequences for Denmark. The pro-Euro government are hesitant to organise another referendum on joining the single currency and are watching their Nordic neighbour with some trepidation. Danish ministers have already voiced concerns over the domestic ripples that a No vote could cause.

"A Swedish 'no' would have a psychological effect on some Danes, and would make it even more difficult to get them to vote for the euro in another referendum," said Bendt Bendtsen, the Danish economy minister and deputy prime minister.

Finance Minister Thor Pedersen said a Swedish decision to snub euro membership would undermine whatever Danish enthusaism there is for the euro, at a time when opinion polls are finally showing a more favourable attitude to Europe's single currency.

When the Prime Minister was asked what bearing the decision of the Swedes would have on Britain's proposed 'Euro' referendum, he ducked the issue. However, it was probably an honest response. Blair understands that that the British public are not influenced by decisions taken elsewhere and that if all other EU nations joined Euroland, they could take some pleasure out of being perverse (in the eyes of Europhiles) and retain sterling. Briain's referendum on the Euro will be decided by domestic developments alone.

Saturday, September 06, 2003

Oi, Nutter

Michael Meacher hasn't seen a cause that he has wished to curse. This is the chap who got on to the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party on a hard left ticket and provided crucial casting vote after crucial casting vote for Neil Kinnock's rightward lurch. It is the man who as environment secretary opined that people should not be allowed to own a second home, while he owned three. The man sued a newspaper who said he was middle class, and lost.

If you want any evidence for the fact that Labour is desperately short of real political talent, this man is it. So it is no surprise that he's launched a suicide attack on the antiwar movement.

His piece in the Guardian argues that the war on terror is a pretext for a hundred and other things. So far, so good. After all only the tin foil hat brigade and neoconservatives, but it doesn't do to repeat oneself, seriously contend that Saddam was a serious player in Islamic terrorism. However he then claims that the Administration let the terrorists bomb the World Trade Center (and the Pentagon) to give them a pretext for war.

Now that's plain crazy. I can imagine a foreign government doing this to someone else's citizens, but domestic governments do tend to be different. Does anyone seriously contend that the CIA and the State Department, both stuffed full with non-neocons from the Henry Kissinger mould (like George Bush Snr, the former head of the CIA) would not notice this and do something to stop it? Are a bunch of columnists and second rate policy analysts really that powerful?

And why did the Alcoholic in Chief have to fly around the fruited plane like the draft dodging rich jerk that he is? Don't you think that they may have got him to do reading lessons close to, well you know, a bunker or something? It didn't sound like they were very prepared.

Which brings us on to Afghanistan. What's that got to do with oil? Oh, the pipeline. Like it's better for a pipeline if you take away a centralised government that may drive a hard bargain but at least controls its territory and put it in the hands of fifty seven variety of mountain dwelling Aryan moon worshipping nutball chiefs?

Yes the neocons did do far better than their numbers would suggest because they had a plan before 9-11. So did the isolationists - and one that was both easier to understand and more in tune with American political traditions. But no-one, not even the barking moonbats on National Review, accuse Pat Buchanan or Justin Raimondo of being behind the two towers.

There are questions, and anything that involves twenty men plotting in secret is by definition going to involve conspiracies - but Meacher just gives us conspiracists a bad name.
Friday, September 05, 2003
On:Message, Repeat, Ad Infinitum - 5th September 2003, 23.13

It is clear that many politicians follow the philosophy of repetition. If you repeat your message countless times, your audience will eventually accept and acquiesce. The latest incarnation of this philosophy has become a thread in European political announcements this summer as the supporters of the European Convention defend their achievement, the draft of the European Constitution. Giscard D'Estaing is one of the most vocal defenders understandably and his latest claim is that,

Europe's citizens will reject a draft EU constitution if their leaders water it down in the coming months, the document's chief author, Valery Giscard d'Estaing, told the European parliament Wednesday.

He even claimed that these changes could "detract" from the Constitution's "brevity". In his speech to the European Parliament, D'Estaing did note that the intergovernmental conference would operate under time constraints and the "need for unanimity"; pressures that could prevent countries wishing to dissent from the grand projet.

However, Romano Prodi was already bidding to reduce the intergovernmental component within this process and strengthen the hand of the Commission. His latest proposals have suggested that the areas of unanimity required to construct EU policy should be reduced; that the national veto should be removed for indirect and corporate taxation; that Member States' budgets should be 'coordinated'; and that external relations for the EU should remove duplication (a reference to individual embassies and ambassadors, perhaps?).

D'Estaing did identify the one area where the European political class cannot control this process. That area is the ratification of the Constitution through referenda held in Member States. Both the Dutch and the Portuguese have indicated recently in polls that they favour a vote on the Constitution. This process is encouraging since public opinion has turned away from European integration as problems of immigration, economic decline and terrorism have come to the fore. Do the political classes believe that voters will accept the Constitution because the 'benefits' of European integration are self-evident and an affirmative vote will follow once the arguments are publicised?

Let us hope that this Bonapartist technocracy is about to receive a bloody nose!
9:30am CET 5th September 2003
For Immediate Release


A new report, EU Trade Barriers Kill, published today in the run-up to the Cancun ministerial
meeting of the WTO by the Centre for the New Europe, the Brussels-based think tank, analyses the
impact of EU trade regulations and barriers on the developing word.

The text of the report, by Stephen Pollard, Alberto Mingardi, Dr. Sean Gabb, and Cecile Philippe is

The key findings are:

6,600 people die every day in the world because of the trading rules of the EU. That is 275
people every hour.

In other words, one person dies every 13 seconds somewhere in the world - mainly in Africa -
because the European Union does not act on trade as it talks.

If Africa could increase its share of world trade by just one per cent, it would earn an additional
£49 billion a year. This would be enough to lift 128 million people out of extreme poverty.

The EU's trade barriers are directly responsible for Africa's inability to increase its trade and thus for
keeping Africa in poverty.

If the poorest countries as a whole could increase their share of world exports by five per cent,
that would generate £248 billion or $350 billion, raising millions more out of extreme poverty.

For more information, please contact:

Dr. Tim Evans (President, CNE) +44 07956 969523
Stephen Pollard (Senior Fellow, CNE) +44 07956 118035 Alberto Mingardi (CNE Italian Visiting
Fellow) +393396021870 Dr. Sean Gabb +44 07956 472 199 sean@libertarian.co.uk

The Authors

Alberto Mingardi is a leading Italian journalist and scholar. He is also a Visiting Fellow at the Centre
for the New Europe: www.cne.org

Cecile Philippe is a French academic and writer. She is also the director of the major French free
market think tank the Molinari Institute:www.institutmolinari.org

Stephen Pollard is a prolific journalist who lives and works in London. He is also a visiting fellow at
the Centre for the New Europe: www.cne.org and www.stephenpollard.net

Dr. Sean Gabb is editor of Free Life, the journal of classical liberal ideas. He is also a prolific writer
and lectures in the social sciences:www.seangabb.co.uk
Wednesday, September 03, 2003
One Opens, Another Closes - 3rd September 2003, 22.52

Whilst the British embassy in Iraq reopened on September 1st, the Iranian embassy has swiftly closed its doors following gunshots fired at the embassy. The buildup to this has been slow but predictable with the arrest of an accused terrorist, Hedi Soleimanpour, in Durham at the behest of the Argentinian government. The accused is alleged to have been involved with the Buenos Aires bomb in July 1994 that killed 85 people and destroyed a Jewish Centre. The scale of the bombing, Iran's notable involvement with atrocities like these over the years, and its record of anti-semitic antipathy to Israel do point in the direction of Tehran. Iran's initial reaction was a threat to expel the UK ambassador, but the pressure was increased tonight with gunshots fired against the United Kingdom embassy. This was further fuelled by the recall of the Iranian ambassador for consultations.

Whilst the accusation of Soleimanpour appears to be the initial catalyst for this outbreak of hostilities, one wonders how much has been caused by British actions in Basra. Have we been more successful at curbing Iranian influence than they would like and how far are they involved in attacks upon British troops? After all, the border between Iran and Iraq has become very porous, allowing the hardline Shi'a agents of the Republican Guards to infiltrate and attempt to dominate their Iraqi brethren. Yet, only 5,000 SCIRI affiliated demonstrators marched to mourn the death of Ayatollah Mohammed Baker Al-Hakim in Basra, a testament to their weakness rather than their strength in this city.

"There is no God but Allah. Death for Israel. Death for Baathis," the marchers chanted, also blaming the Americans for their leader's death. "The responsibility of Hakim's death lies with the British and American forces because they neglected security," the marchers shouted. The marchers carried red flags,
representing martyrdom and green flags for the color of Islam. Iraqi police took heavy security measures to prevent violence during the march.

Iran may be decide to up the ante with covert attacks upon our troops as a backlash against British unwillingness to allow them a free hand in southern Iraq.
Hutton: The Pit and the Pendulum - 3rd September 2003, 22.29

The strong performance of Blair last Thursday in a well-prepared brief, that showed no remorse for the bereaved and the departed, appeared to have swung the inquiry in the government's favour. However, this short-term view, propagated by the media over the weekend, was another figment of the Westminster hothouse. The intelligence officers still had to give evidence and Hutton was undoubtedly keeping his powder dry. Their evidence contradicted the government and provided a familiar picture of politicians attempting to edit a dossier in order to justify their political objectives. The cynics will sound surprised.

Brian Jones, a retired branch head of the defence intelligence analysis staff, told the Hutton inquiry there were several concerns about the 45 minute claim and one of his staff felt some of the assessements of the threat posed by Iraq were "over-egged" in the dossier.

The inquiry heard the "shutters came down" on the dossier before intelligence officials' reservations had a chance to be properly considered and there were fears "spin merchants" had been too involved in the dossier's production.

In an afternoon that dealt a series of blows to the government's claims that the dossier was not "sexed up", another intelligence officer, who went under the codename Mr A, said the dossier "had been around the houses" in order to find "words that would strengthen certain political objectives".

After the appearance of Mrs Kelly and the damning evidence of the staff involved in preparing the dossier, this governemnt finds that it has been unable to shift the dominant view of a politicised dossier and a man smeared to save his superiors.
The 'Internationalisation' of the Iraqi Conflict - 3rd September 2003, 22.12

The United States has found that its ability to construct 'coalitions of the willing' outside of the legitimating structure of the United Nations has been found wanting. This presents a real constraint on the United States' ability to act outside of the UN Security Council in military actions that demand a long-term commitment to reform and nation building following an invasion and occupation. Since the two cases involved are Iraq and Afghanistan, those who would crow over a perceived reversal of US power should view this as a particular, rather than a general, example.

The United States has tried to enforce security within Iraq using the same number of soldiers that prosecuted the war. Yet, it is clear in debate and action that the US military is seriously overstretched. Powell and Bush have no compunction about 'internationalising' the Iraqi occupation under US command, if it reduces the number of US soldiers killed and allows a graceful withdrawal of some forces. However, if France holds out for complete UN control and threatens a veto, the Bush administration can then blame a former ally for jeopardising improvement in Iraqi security to its domestic audience.

Colin Powell will be introducing a UN resolution on this matter in the next few days. Of course, if US overstretch is so clear, one wonders how we are coping, although we are not having a debate on how few soldiers we have.
Tuesday, September 02, 2003
Second XV limber up for Convention rematch - 2nd September 2003, 22.37

In a meeting known as the "Dwarf Summit", fifteen small countries, both present and future members met to consider a common negotiating position for the forthcoming Intergovernmental Conference. Their ballast was Poland, proving the sole "big country" in their ranks, whilst the Franco-German acolytes, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands stayed away.

Officials from Slovakia, Hungary, Greece, Finland, Austria, Sweden, Denmark, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Ireland, Portugal, Slovenia and the Czech Republic attended the meeting, amounting to the strongest challenge so far to the EU’s larger countries and their alleged intentions to consolidate the bloc’s power.

Whilst they accepted the majority of the Convention's proposals, the Dwarf Summiteers wished to maintain the power of the Commission with the principle of 'one country, one commissioner' and ensuring that the Presidency continued to rotate amongst all prospective 27 members.

The more division within the intergovernmental conference, the greater the possibility that the draft Constitution will not be ratified in a significant number of European countries. Whilst Germany is cast as the defender of the D'Estaing's reputation, both Britain and Italy have also been preparing their own briefs. Their latest euphemism is "improvements and more detail" but Straw also stated that the major points would not be revisited, applying political tippex to our "redlines"

Now Brussels wants homeowners to pay tribute

Mortgages will cost £1000 more under the Euro. Another advantage it seems.

3. Joining the euro would mean more expensive mortgages

As part of his plan to force the British economy into convergence with the Eurozone, the Chancellor is looking at ways of moving people onto fixed rate mortgages to become more like the Eurozone. However, according to research by the mortgage broker The MarketPlace, such fixed rate mortgages would be at least 1.75 percentage points more expensive than the cheapest loans available. David Bitner of The MarketPlace, said that the move to higher interest rates could cost borrowers £12 billion a year – around £1,000 each.

Bitner said, “The Chancellor is willing to remove the competitive, flexible, choice-driven mortgage market borrowers have become accustomed to and replace it with a system that offers borrowers very little. The knock-on effects of moving to a fixed system could be huge – inflation, property prices and consumer confidence are likely to be dramatically affected” (Sunday Express, 15 June).

Ray Boulger, senior technical manager of broker Charcol said, “On odd occasions, 25-year fixed-rate mortgages have sold well, but only when they have offered very competitive rates. They will never sell in huge quantities.” David Hollingworth of broker London and Country, said, “The cost of a 25-year fix is what puts people off. People who have fixed over the longer term in the past have often got caught out, stuck on a higher rate. This has cost them a lot of money to get out of. Home owners tend to be prepared to look ahead five years at a time, and you can get very competitive deals at less than 4 percent over this period, which adds to the attraction” (Independent on Sunday, 15 June).

Autumnal reading

There are three columns worth reading at the moment. The first is Sean Gabb's published below, the next is the War Nerd's column on what empires involve, and finally we have my antiwar.com improvement Christopher Montgomery's little piece on how Hutton is an irrelevance. Great stuff.

Comments have been down since Friday due to server failure at the main site - as it's a free service I think I'm going to ask for a refund.
Monday, September 01, 2003
Navigating Division - 1st September 2003, 22.20

Dominique Villepin is exerting his muscles in order to find a new equilibrium in which the divisions between the United States and certain former European allies can be accommodated. His latest strategy, raised during a speech to France's collected diplomatic corps, involved the possibility of a new Charter, setting out the ideological differences that divide France and America. As this was couched in the language of European diplomacy, one can view this speech as directed at three particular audiences: an attempt to set the agenda for other continental countries and deter Germany from taking up any of Berlusconi's curious proposals; a desire to demonstrate that France is willing to take diplomatic steps to heal the rift with the United States to a domestic audience; and showing our cousins across the water that France will enjoy setting out various diplomatic ideas, knowing that none will ever be accepted across the Pond.

"We are in a new strategic environment and certain fundamental elements of our relationship have changed," he said. "Our response to threats may differ on points; our conception of the role of the UN is not always the same."

This troubled climate demanded a fresh approach to improving relations. "We have a new history to write," he said. "Perhaps the moment has come to base a new European-American partnership on a transatlantic charter."

The document would set out a new framework for dialogue, highlight areas where cooperation could be better, and "improve procedures for the better management of differences", as well as promoting better contacts between politicians, business leaders and intellectuals.

There does not appear to have been any effort to link this kite with the original Charter upon which all European and American cooperation has been based. The values of the Atlantic Charter are insufficient to warrant interventions but it is hard to see what the French would replace them with. It is noteworthy that the Atlantic Charter appears to uphold the value system that has been used to justify the war in Iraq, perhaps demonstrating that this rhetoric has become a tradition.

Defence is becoming one of the biggest headaches for the European Union. France, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg have continued to plan for a separate EU defence identity based upon a solidarity clause defending members from mutual aggression and breaking the transatlantic link. Villepin's call for a new Charter can also be understood in the context of French ambitions to recast its fading power in the new clothes of the European Union.

Britain has brought forward a paper designed to undermine the ambitions of the "gang of four" and their defence revolution at the invitation of Berlusconi. To the disgruntlement of France, Britain has proposed that all military cooperation should be routed through the NATO headquarters in Belgium (or wherever it is located to) where planning would be coordinated with SHAPE. This is shaping up to be a real test of the Franco-German axis pitching them against the Atlanticists and the neutrals within the European Union. The smaller countries have already had a taste of French bullying over the CAP and may decide to give them a bloody nose when its an issue that really matters: national defence.
Free Life Commentary
Issue Number 111
Monday, 1st September 2003
This article and many replies to it will be published in the next issue of Free Life Magazine:

What is Happening in Dover?
More Reason to Blame Tony Blair
By Sean Gabb

Last Friday evening, the 29th August, my wife and I had Dr Tame and Rebecca Baty over to dinner - as ever, a most enjoyable occasion. After they had left, I turned on the wireless for the news, and heard of a security alert in Dover, which is about seven miles down the coast from where we live. According to the report, the authorities had closed the port and closed both motorways into the town. Traffic was being parked on the motorways outside the exclusion zone. Out to sea, all the ferries had been stopped, and the passengers were reported to be happily making calls from their mobile telephones and consuming their cheap cigarettes and alcohol. The following morning, I turned on the news again, and heard that the alert was over and that Dover was back to normal.

Nothing much here, I suppose. I have spent all my life with security alerts of one kind or another. A generation of Fenian terrorism has accustomed all of us to the occasional disruption. The English are not known for any tendency to panic, and our authorities are usually both efficient and restrained. Anyone from outside the area will have given small attention to the news reports and gone about his daily business without further thought. Those of us in the area, however, have much else to report.

The following afternoon, Dr Tame cycled over for coffee. Afterwards, we went for a walk along the seafront. It was a clear day, and we could see right across the English Channel to the French hills behind Calais. Between the Straits of Dover, we could see dozens of ships all standing at anchor - passenger ferries, cargo ships, and much smaller traffic. Whatever the media might choose to report, Dover was clearly not back to normal.

The next afternoon, Dr Tame called and said he had stood on the seafront in his own town, watching heavily armed military aeroplanes flying slowly towards Dover. Mrs Gabb dissuaded me from getting into my car and driving off to Dover to see for myself what was happening. But that evening, I drove over to have dinner with Rebecca and Dr Tame, David Carr having driven down to join us. Mrs Gabb stayed behind to get on with some painting. At about 9:00pm, there was a long power cut between where she was and Dover. She went out and looked around into blackness in all directions. This morning, she called from her railway train to report black naval ships racing up and down the Channel - one of them with a helicopter pad. All day, I have heard jets flying overhead.

According to the news reports, all the authorities found last Friday evening was a prohibited firearm in a car. Three men with British passports - Amir Khan, a county court bailiff from Kensington, Ramin Malique, a garage manager from Clapham, and Zubiar Khan, from West London - have been charged with criminal offences, and are presently in court at the start of normal criminal proceedings.

No mention on the BBC website of terrorism - though the foreign news agencies mention it. But, whatever the legal process, the reaction to those three men has been wildly disproportionate to what those three men are alleged to have been doing. Mrs Gabb telephoned me earlier to renew her instructions for me to keep away from Dover, and that is as much a bar to my going over there as an armed police cordon. But it would not surprise me to learn that someone had been caught trying to import a mass of explosives into the country, and was now under close siege, and that news of this was being kept from us by a media blackout.

I know that not every terrorist act is reported in this country. About ten years ago, a very close friend was cycling between Holborn and Westminster. As he got to Buckingham Palace, he noticed a large crater in one of the lawns outside the gates. He has always insisted it was a crater, not an ordinary hole left by one of the utility companies. That afternoon, he cycled past again, and everything was back to normal - the crater filled in and turfed over, so that no one would ever notice it had been there. There was nothing of this mentioned in any of the news reports. I have heard other stories - though not at first hand - of unreported gun battles in Central London. It is reasonable to believe that the authorities prevent many terrorist acts frm being reported. The purpose is either to deny publicity to the terrorists or to keep the rest of us from growing too concerned. Is this now happening in Dover? Is this what happened last week, when much of London suffered a power cut? Is this what happened the week before, when much of America had the same? We are coming up to the second anniversary of the September bombings in America. There have been two big terrorist hits in Iraq in the past fortnight, and one in Bombay, with another foiled in New Delhi. Were those power cuts the work of al-Qua’eda? What about Dover?

The answer is that I have no idea, and probably never shall. The real question in my mind, though, is whether the authorities should have the right to keep these matters out of the news. I asked this of Mrs Gabb last night. She was firm in her answer. She wanted to know what was happening, she insisted, so that she could make suitable arrangements. If we cannot be trusted to know about these matters, there is no point in trusting us with the vote.

I tend to agree. Certainly, there is a case for media blackouts when an operation is in progress. But I can see none for routinely covering things up after the event. We are told to be vigilant. It would at least be useful for us to know for sure that vigilance was justified.

The other question, of course, is why there should be any need in the first place for vigilance. Where the Fenians are concerned, we have no choice. The Irish problem is not something our own generation has freely chosen. It is the legacy of an 800 year involvement in Ireland and of things done there that cannot now be undone, however unwise or regrettable they may turn out to have been. There is no solution to that problem - short, that is, of a degree of firmness incompatible with our liberal traditions, or of an abject surrender to the terrorists that not even Mr Blair has been able to achieve. But the main terrorist threat to us at present comes not from Ireland. It comes from the Middle East - a region in which, trading aside, we no longer have any legitimate interests. In the face of domestic hostility and international ridicule and condemnation, Mr Blair took us to war with Iraq last spring. He did so on the basis of claims about weapons of mass destruction that no one with half a brain could have believed at the time, and that have now been shown as falsehoods. With the Americans, we are now occupying the country with pitiably inadequate resources. We cannot guarantee law and order even where our forces are most concentrated. We cannot even ensure regular supplies of water and electricity to the civilian populations - something Saddam Hussein appears to have managed despite a decade of sanctions and occasional bombing. No other big power is willing to lift a finger to help us. Throughout the Islamic world - and this now includes parts of Bradford, Manchester and London, Holy War is being preached against us.

None of this was necessary. How the Americans regard their own government is for them to decide. But for us, it is important to remember who got us into this mess. It was Mr Blair. Why he claimed and still claims to believe the falsehoods with which he pushed us to war is irrelevant. All that does matter is that, as our head of government, he is our trustee. His duty is to protect our lives and property at home and to secure us from foreign attack at minimal cost. He is in negligent breach of that trust.

I do not know how we can get out of Iraq. The best I can imagine is a unilateral withdrawal, leaving the Americans to take up the whole burden. Doubtless, they would punish us in some way for this desertion, but probably not so violently as the holy war against us that a withdrawal might - and I can only say “might” - avoid. But this cannot be done while Mr Blair remains Prime Minister. Therefore, he must go. If he had any sense, he would resign now, before having to face the TUC and Labour Party conferences later this month and then the reassembled Parliament. He could then look forward to the same public hatred and media sycophancy that Edward Heath has enjoyed these past 30 years. We could then all turn ourselves to working on Gordon Brown the traditional British miracle of making a Prime Minister age 15 years in three.

But I do not think he will go willingly. What appears to motivate him is a desire to be remembered as a great Prime Minister. To achieve this, he has gambled recklessly with our lives, our money and our good reputation abroad. If he goes now, he will have failed. So, like other compulsive gamblers, his inclination will be to stay in the game, regardless of the rising stakes. He will eventually go, and will go with every one of his incoming dreams of glory brought to nothing. This is no less than I have ever wished for him. But I also wish - and I really do wish - it could have come at a lower cost.

Free Life Commentary is an independent journal of comment, published on the Internet. To receive regular issues, send an e-mail
To: sean@libertarian.co.uk
Body: Subscribe “Free Life Commentary” Your Name
Clickable version: Subscribe -

Issues are archived at http://www.seangabb.co.uk

Associated websites:
http://www.seangabb.co.uk http://www.samizdata.net
http://www.libertarian.co.uk http://www.hampdenpress.co.uk
http://www.liberalia.com http://www.libertarian.to

This article is being discussed on:
and replies will be published in the next issue of Free Life:

Replies to Sean Gabb , Mobile Number: 07956 472199

Sean Gabb, author of the above article, declares that it may be reproduced in any form, on condition that it is reproduced in full, accurately and without any distortions of meaning; and on condition that if he would under normal circumstances have been paid a fee, he shall be paid the full going rate for the work, whenever it is reproduced.

Blog Archive