Monday, May 31, 2004

How Badly does Howard want to win?

What is Michael Howard for?

His partisans would say that the answer to this question is simple. He wants to be the next Conservative Prime Minister.

On the other hand there are less charitable souls who will look at his age, his ability to give young children nightmares with that smile and the Jeremy Paxman interview and think that he's something other than Prime Ministerial material. Unlike IDS he will not gamble everything on winning, but will concentrate on consolidating a solid Tory opposition. Then another, younger and more human character - Liam Fox, say - can take over.

Well the chance to prove us less charitable souls wrong has appeared. Tomorrow (or today for those of you who read blogs at sensible times) Mr Howard will give a speech against the threat de jour, UKIP, and all the indications are that it will be a scorcher.

UKIP friendly types such as Christopher Booker are worrying that it will be ad hominem, pointing to the fact that there are more divisions and oddballs in UKIP than the average Trotskyite cult. I say fair enough, the job of a party leader is to rubbish other parties, and to use the material at hand.

However the Prime Ministerial mettle will be proved in the use he makes of another piece of ammunition, withdrawal from the European Union. UKIP's signature issue could be a boon for an opposition party leader protecting his flank but a pitfall for any realistic future Prime Minister. Of course withdrawal will be attacked, but it is how it is attacked that will be the issue.

Is withdrawal hasty or unthinkable? That is will Howard rule out withdrawal forever? This may seem simple. After all the Tory policy is to remain in the European Union and this could be a cheap way of pleasing the Tory wets and the dwindling band of corporate donors who are still keen on all things European.

For an opposition leader this is cheap, for a Eurosceptic Prime Minister it will prove very expensive. If withdrawal is not an option then Euroscepticism is just cheap talk and obstructive actions. Any Tory foreign minister will just be Jack Straw with a better suit. Expulsion is Europe’s nuclear option, withdrawal could be our silver bullet. Any Tory policy on Europe will have to at least flirt with withdrawal, and the British public must be taught not to fear life outside Europe.

If Howard rules withdrawal out, it’s time to start speculating on the next Tory leader – one who actually wants to be PM.
So Unbelievable

The Sunday Telegraph, reported yesterday, that senior military staff were unhappy at the decision of the Blair administration to postpone the reinforcement of troops in Iraq due to political considerations.

The Sunday Telegraph said the decision to "postpone" the announcement had infuriated British defence chiefs.

The paper quoted one unnamed senior officer as saying: "Military strategy has become subservient to political expediency. We want to get on with the task (of reinforcement), but we're being held back for political reasons -- namely (next week's) elections."

Blair denied this in a released statement but, in a testimony to his wolfcries: the assurance that the deployment of troops will not be subject to political expediency is not taken at face value.

When the distinction between intelligence and political spin was merged in the run-up to the war, this question was voiced in the minds of cynics: is it not possible that Blair would place the volunteers of the British Army at greater risk in order to improve his political image in the campaign for the elections on June 10th?

(18.05, 31st May 2004)

Thursday, May 27, 2004
Who will rid us of these troublesome judges?

Another example of the grotesque parody that functions as British law arrived on the internet. The parody managed to combine two recurrent themes that shape our institutional decay: legal judgements that demonstrate a contempt for the concerns of the public as opposed to concern for the abstract rights of the accused (but never any consideration for their victims); and the incompetence of the New Labour civil service that could not be arsed to follow procedures and place the Real IRA on the list of proscribed terrorist organisations.

The bollock juggler civil servants who argued that Real, Continuity, Provisional or Official are all the IRA found that their laziness and penchant for shortcuts led to a shock judicial decision: the Real IRA is not an illegal organisation. That cut short their testicle play for today.

Even if they didn't belong to an illegal organisation, the accuseds were still remanded on charges of murder. Even the judges couldn't get them off that hook (unlike Hamza who will probably get off on the grounds he shouldn't be fried).

(23.06, 27th May 2004)
Straw Man

In order to rubbish the claims of the Tories about passing foreign policy to the EU, Jack Straw resorted to satire in front of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, lampooning the ambassadors froom smaller countries.

In an attempt to reassure Eurosceptics, who fear that the new EU constitution will create a rival diplomatic service, the foreign secretary took a swipe at the officials who run the EU's 128 overseas offices.

"You find all sorts of odd bods running these sorts of odd offices," Mr Straw told the Commons foreign affairs select committee. "There are a lot of these people abroad and it is not entirely clear what they are doing."

To laughter from MPs on the committee, the foreign secretary lampooned the airs and graces assumed by some of the EU "diplomats".

He said: "All sorts of people are referred to as ambassadors. I meet them every day. What's astonishing is the less important the country, the more people like this they seem to have. I call everybody Excellency, which doesn't cause any problem."

Straw may have obtained a laugh but it is doubtful that he defused the rightful fears of those who understand the universal sovereignty that the European Constitution imparts. To reassure everyone of his own irrelevance and final divorce from conservatism, the nativist Patten wrote to Straw, criticising his comments as ridiculous and inappropriate.

(22.48, 27th May 2004)
Stealth Tax

It is clear that after the parliamentary outcry over the announcement of large-scale increases in troops, the government is wary of providing further ammunition to its backbench critics.

Therefore, small-scale deployments like today's increase in British forces by 370 soldiers will probably become a regular occurrence, as a response to continuous threat assessments.

(22.40, 27th May 2004)
Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Star Writer

Dr Helen Szamuely that stalwart of the anti-European movement (who I think is George Szamely's sister) is blogging now at http:\\ . Helen has written what is probably the definitive tract on how the Eurosceptic movement is organised, something that anyone who wants to devote any serious time to the Eurosceptic cause should read. She was also a parliamentary candidate for the Anti-Federalist League in 1992, the prototype for UKIP, and managed to garner 41 votes.

Anyone so sensible who was involved so early in the then seriously unfashionable beyond-Bruges Eurosceptic fringe deserves respect.

The Mother of all Stings?

I've been following this for almost a week and refrained posting until now, as I did not want to post on something sensational like this until the story proved had legs.

Well, here's the beef. the American invasion of Iraq has started a chain of events that sooner or later will lead to a Shia theocracy. Fact. Anerica's former blue eyed Iraqi boy Ahmed Chalabi and his Iraq National Congress fed the Americans a load of utter rubbish that scared America into going to war. Fact. These two facts are connected. Still a theory.

You see Chalabi (a Shia, Fact, and a convicted fraudster, also Fact) is suspected of passing intelligence to the Iranians, Fact (Iran is a Shia theocracy, Fact). The supposition is that Chalabi's suspected co-operation with the Iranians extended back in time before the invasion as well as after it.

But how stupid is that theory? All Chalabi was doing was scaring the American regime with false information about the Iraqi threat leading to an invasion. What possible attraction could an invasion that would lead to a next-door theocracy have for Iran?

More on this from Steve Sailer and these barely selected sources:
Monday, May 24, 2004
Breaking News

Joan Collins has joined UKIP and talks sense.

She wrote: “I really believe that we would be better going it alone rather than cede our powers to those faceless, overpaid Brussels bureaucrats who care nothing for the individuality of sovereign states.

“I’m proud of being English and those who say we are such a tiny country that we can’t survive outside the EU are wrong.”

The United Kingdom Independence Party (whose founders included Alan Sked, Paul Coulam and Helen Szamuely) has supposedly emjoyed a late surge in the polls. According to Michael white in the Grauniad, this has two foundations:

In the drive by all smaller parties to eat into the support of the big three, UKIP - with £2m to spend on the campaign - is probably the best funded. It has a simple message too: Britain should leave the EU.

The YouGov Poll on which the figures are based, was taken amongst those 'likely to vote', providing a firmer indication of voting intentions.

The poll gave the opposition Conservatives 31 points, Tony Blair's governing Labour Party 23 points, the UKIP 18 points and the Lib Dems 15 points. The results were the highest ever for the UKIP and suggest a hardening of anti-EU opinion.

However, in the normal polling, UKIP trailed the Liberal Democrats 15% to 18%. This interesting result has been described as a "hardening of anti-EU opinion" although this is not yet borne out in other polling. The answer is that we do not know why there is a surge in UKIP's support: whether it is a genuine growth in the number of floating voters who support them, or a hard core gaining greater influence due to low voter turnouts.

If UKIP does gain more votes and more seats than the Liberal Democrats on June 10th, this will have a profound effect on the strategies chosen by political leaders. Many will interpret such a defeat as a punishment for adopting an uncritical pro-European line alongside a critical stance to the Iraq war. That is, pro-Europeanism is viewed more unfavourably by the electorate than any advantages provided by their anti-war position.

If the UKIP vote surges, like that other wave of electoral protest, the arrival of the Greens in the European elections of 1988, then we will probably see the mainstream parties tack more towards a Eurosceptic or Eurorealist position on Europe. This will prove divisive for Labour and the Liberal Democrats, who hold cohorts of vocal and disgruntled Europhiles in their ranks.

(23.13, 24th May 2004)
Sunday, May 23, 2004
24-1: The Odds on being convinced Blair is a Eurosceptic

The latest meeting on the European Constitution will take place tomorrow. The unresolved issues: the system of voting in the Council of Ministers (including the use of qualified majority voting) and the number of Commissioners per Member State remain issues in search of a consensus.

The European Commission has also retreated in the face of specific threats to gain control over the oil and gas deposits of Member States. Whilst this posed a visible extension of control from Brussels to a strategic interest of the United Kingdom, their climb-down may not be the triumph for the SNP trumpeted by Alex Salmond. Visibly minor concessions to help New Labour in the run up to the European elections may be provided in return for dilution of the "red lines" after June 10th. If this is the case, a "triumph" for the fishermen may be on the cards in the next two weeks.

New Labour will need all the 'triumphs' that they can get in Scotland. An interview with the head of Scottish Labour's MEP list, David Martin, provides anecdotal evidence that events in Iraq are a primary concern with voters and that they have undermined support amongst female voters. Since Blair gained support from women voters in 1997, overturning this traditional Tory advantage, such a psephological turn must be viewed as extremely worrying, especially if it were to have an impact in the General Election.

With this uncertain and hostile landscape at home, it is telling that tomorrow's meetings will not concern itself with the battles taht we are told Labour is fighting on our behalf. The foreign ministers meet tomorrow to thrash out a deal on voting, where a compromise has been reached: raising the population threshold for agreement so that Spain and Poland can rest assured that the troika of Britain, France and Germany could not form a 'blocking minority'. Tomorrow, Britain will just be one of the 'Big Three', although our govt wants us to see them at the heart of Europe defending Britain's interests, 24 to 1.

(22.55, 23rd May 2004)
Thursday, May 20, 2004
Another Nail in Thatcher's Legacy

Jack Straw's recent speech at the Confederation of British Industry's annual dinner was a brief survey of pro-Europeanism, for an audience that is increasingly noted for its Euroscepticism. Neither Brown nor Blair deigned to dine at this club: notable absences that either showed they did not wish to reinforce a pro-business image for the Left; or, that they feared the risk of an unwelcome response.

Instead, the CBI obtained Straw's 'service industry' foreign office. This is not an insult, since a foreign office providing services is more useful than the Soviet contempt broadcast to British citizens postwar.

Straw's pro-European speech was a reminder to the assembled businessmen of the government's perception on Europe. Two items were restated: British power can only be enhanced through European cooperation; and British companies are only able to compete through the deeper opportunities afforded by the single market. These questionable assumptions, overlaid by a thin veneer of sanctimonious support for the neoliberal orthodoxy (sadly unobserved on the home front), demonstrate the true surrender of sovereignty. Unwilling to stand up and admit that economic growth is not dependent upon Europe, the invention of economic and commercial justifications for membership outweigh teh possible damage caused by directives that undermine British interests (where Straw introduced a sly dig on the Working Time Directive, with an unspoken reminder that it was a Tory defeat).

Contrast that with the present problems which we are having in implementing the Working Time Directive. There is much to be said for the principle of this directive; but the fact is that when it was agreed in 1993, it did not satisfactorily protect British interests. We are now dealing with the consequences of that – and the European Commission will release tomorrow some proposals on the way forward.

Sadly, Straw did not take the opportunity to warn businesses that the new Information and Consultation Regulations will introduce central bargaining by the back door. It is just a new way for unions to reintroduce the closed shop. Guess who picks up the tab.

The Department of Trade and Industry estimates that for those firms with no pre-existing structure, who just implement the standard legislative process for informing and consulting, the total set-up costs per firm would be £4,000 for medium-sized firms and £6,300 for large firms.

But Mr Lang disagrees. He said: "The cost in management time of this new directive could be huge, with companies having to think through their processes and then actually provide the information. Time is already short for the first businesses affected to start the process of putting measures in place."

(23.01, 20th May 2004)

Washington and Brussels, by Sean Gabb

Free Life Commentary
Issue Number 122
Wednesday, 19 May 2004
This article and various replies to it will be published in the next issue of Free Life Magazine:

Washington and Brussels: Apology, Retraction, Clarification
by Sean Gabb

In my last Free Life Commentary, I said a number of things that, on reflection, I do not think well suited to winning friends or influencing people. While I try to be a clear and honest writer, I do have a taste for making outrageous statements. Add to this an obsession with the internal balance of sentences and their relationships with each other, and the result is that I sometimes say things that I do not really mean.

Though I will not give all my reasons yet again - at least, not for the moment - I am convinced it was wrong to invade Iraq. It was wrong for the Americans to invade. It was certainly wrong for the British Government to join in the invasion. I also believe that the American Constitution is not presently the restraint on power and the impulse to virtue that its creators intended it to be. But this does not justify me in writing off the entire American people as a race of stupid, scum-descended barbarians.

I am still sorting though my mailbox for all the replies to the last Free Life Commentary. But, if there are several semi-literate death threats that might justify my opinion, there are several dignified rebukes that make me wish I had read the piece before sending it out on the Internet. And I have so far received nearly a hundred orders from America for my compact disk. A nation cannot be entirely bad when it contains so much fair mindedness as I normally find in Americans. Their system of government is corrupt. The nation itself still has far to go before it reaches the degradation that the Roman people achieved under the Caesars - and which we ourselves may be more rapidly approaching.

That is my apology and retraction out of the way. I now turn to a point of clarification. Some of my British readers were highly shocked when I seemed to waver in my dislike of the European Union. I said that the proposed European Constitution might not be so bad as the American alliance. I dislike both. Even so, I agree in my more settled moods - that is, when not carried away by my own rhetorical skills - that the European Union is by far the greater danger to this country, and that finding some means of exit ought to be our highest priority. Let me explain my reasons. Before then, though, let me explain what my reasons are not.

The European Union, as presently ordered, bears no resemblance to the old Soviet Union. Nor does it in any sense resemble the plans for a united Europe devised by the German national socialists. The other member states are not inherently more socialist than our own country. Their laws and institutions are not grossly more absolutist. In some respects, they are less free than we are; in others, more free. I have a strong preference for the traditional ways of my own country; but the French are not slaves because their law is based on codes and not on precedents.

The 25 member states are all liberal democracies. In all of them, the state is sufficiently limited to allow a degree of individual autonomy that is unmatched in most other parts of the world and that would awe any visitor from the past. Yes, the European Union is a bureaucratic nightmare. It is financially corrupt; and its agricultural and fishing policies border on the lunatic. But it is evident that at least 14 of the member states can afford all this - and probably much more - and that the others have offsetting benefits of freedom of trade, investment and movement of people that will soon allow them also to afford it.

Taken as a whole, the European Union is rich; it is at peace; it is an extraordinarily nice place to live. I know this because I have visited and even lived in other member states. I now have relatives in another member state - and they are not desperate to come and live here. I am proficient in French and Slovak. I can read Czech, Spanish and Italian. The Europe that I often see portrayed in some - not all - of the Eurosceptic literature is not the Europe that I know.

There is no burning passion in the other member states to destroy the United Kingdom, or to “bring us down to their level”. There is no Franco-German conspiracy against us. There is no serious Catholic plot to undo the English reformation. As a nation, we are highly regarded for all the proper reasons. Our membership is welcomed by the French because we are a counterweight to German influence, by the Germans because we are a counterweight to French influence, and by the small member states because we are a counterweight to both. Over the past decade, we have nagged and pressured the continental member states into market reforms that they might not have had the will to make for themselves and that benefit all of us. In a sense, the admission of the 10 new member states at the beginning of this month was a diplomatic triumph for this country.

The problem for me with the European Union - in the short term, that is - is not what it is doing to us, but what it is allowing our own ruling class to do to us. Membership has disordered our constitutional arrangements. Sections 2(1) and 2(4) of the European Communities Act 1972 provide that:

All such rights, powers, liabilities, obligations and restrictions from time to time created or arising by or under the Treaties, and all such remedies and procedures from time to time provided for by or under the Treaties, as in accordance with the Treaties, are without further enactment to be given legal effect or used in the United Kingdom, shall be recognised and available in law, and be enforced, allowed and followed accordingly; and the expression “enforceable Community right” and similar expressions shall be read as referring to one to which this subsection applies....

The provision that may be made under subsection (2) above includes, subject to Schedule 2 of this Act, any such provision (of any such extent) as might be made by Act of Parliament, and any enactment passed or to be passed, other than one contained in this Part of this Act, shall be construed and have effect subject to the foregoing provisions of this section; but, except as may be provided by any Act passed after this Act, Schedule 2 shall have effect in connection with the powers conferred by this and the following sections of this Act to make Orders in Council and regulations.

All this makes hard reading on first acquaintance, but its effect is to allow the British Government to legislate by decree. So long as a law comes in through section 2 of the 1972 Act, there can be no meaningful scrutiny in our own Parliament, and our own rulers cannot be held accountable for it, and no election result can lead to its repeal or amendment. This allows our government to do things in the name of European integration that it could never hope to do by the old constitutional means.

I did once approve of this fact - I and many other liberal conservatives. We doubted if the will existed for a purely domestic policy of market reform. This may or may not have been the case. It is undeniable now that the constitutional disordering allows the making and enforcement of often highly illiberal laws. For the enrichment of a few special interests - largely in our own country - much of our agriculture has been regulated into bankruptcy. The same is happening with industry, and may eventually happen with financial services.

Of course, there have been offsetting benefits. The judges have become far more powerful than they were in the past, and have now even taken to themselves the power to set aside Acts of Parliament. There are dangers in this, so far as it encourages the wrong sort of judicial activism. On the other hand, bearing in mind the personal quality of our elected politicians, being ruled by judges is not the worst likely form of government. Moreover, the need for common action throughout the European Union has forced our own rulers to proceed more slowly to a police state than they might without this restraint have proceeded. Membership of the European Union has set our money laundering laws in stone - they are made pursuant to a European directive, and cannot be repealed so long as our membership continues or the directive remains in force. At the same time, our obscene publications laws cannot be tightened by domestic means, and we cannot have those biometric identity cards over which the Ministers are now slavering until a common format has been agreed by all 24 other member states.

On balance, though, membership is bad for us at present; and it will be increasingly bad for us - and for all the other peoples of Europe. It is possible that the next generation will see the emergence of a European ruling class. Local constitutional arrangements will be increasingly drained of force as both real and formal power move to the centre - constitutional arrangements that, however imperfect they may be thought, are organic to the nation in which they arose. The European Constitution seems to provide for a federal government. This may be subject to a federal parliament. But this cannot be a parliament in other than name. Where there are no common bonds of nationality, there cannot be a common electorate. There cannot be a common debate of issues and a common public opinion. Where they have been created from above, and are in no sense part of national identity, common institutions cannot really exist to restrain abuses. It is increasingly regretted in this country that fewer and fewer people vote in elections. This is partly because the politicians no longer wish to offer clear alternatives to each other, but also because they cannot. When 80 per cent of all new laws originate via section 2 of that 1972 Act, there is no point in attending to the predetermined ratification process. One result will be political quietism interrupted by often irrational and sometimes violent outbursts. Another will be the ability of a common ruling class to localise dissent in any one part of a common state, and to rally the nationalities elsewhere against it.

We are not perhaps looking at a tyranny. But we are looking at a recreation of the Habsburg Monarchy, which lasted generations longer than it might by dividing the subject nationalities all the better to rule them - and by infantilising them as it did so. This is not to denounce the Habsburg Monarchy. In its final century, it provided the only means by which a patchwork of mutually hostile nationalities could be held together in reasonable peace and cooperation. Compared with what followed its dissolution, the Monarchy was beyond reproach. But the order it provided was always brittle, and always dependent on a ruling class that was largely detached from any one nationality. I still wish that some federal equivalent of the Monarchy could be recreated in Central Europe, and I regret that I was able to intervene to so little effect in 1991-92 when chance allotted me some small ability to hold Czechoslovakia together. But what may be necessary in Central Europe is not necessary in Western Europe, where demography and political geography so neatly coincide. It is certainly not necessary that Britain should be joined in such a federal project. Our own interests are to live at peace with all the nations of continental Europe, and to be linked by economic cooperation and by social intercourse - but not to be joined with them in any formal political union.

My apparent wavering in hostility to the European project is, oddly enough, because I am a nationalist. Most of my Eurosceptic friends are also Atlanticists. They see membership of the European Union as a wrong turn in our development - which is to be part of an “Anglosphere” led by the United States. For them, every step away from Brussels ought to mean a step closer to Washington. I want Britain - or, perhaps, just England - to be independent of both. I do not regard political isolation as a calamity, but as an essential interest of our country. Even among the giant political blocs of the present century, we are big enough and rich enough and powerful enough to remain aloof, and to work out our own destiny. Philip Chalston says against me somewhere that England is all I really care about. He is right. But what makes my narrow focus legitimate is that England and all it has stood for and can stand again are preeminently worth caring about.

Sadly, there is almost no support for this kind of isolation; and even my attempts to argue for it that do not involve exaggeration or gratuitous insult are misunderstood. I do not think that leaving Europe ought to mean our joining with America, but I do think that it probably will mean this. Given that I am so scandalised by the invasion of Iraq - and I do think it both a crime and a mistake - it is only to be expected that I should be a trimmer. I am hostile primarily to Brussels when the Europhiles are in the ascendant, and primarily to Washington when they are not.

So, whatever I think about their government, I will try in future to be more polite about the American people. I think it was Disraeli who said “Never apologise, never retract”. I suppose I have just done both.

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Wednesday, May 19, 2004
Zimwatch: Slow Decline

The MDC continues to lose ground in its strongholds, such as Matabeleland, to the intimidation and bribery of ZANU-PF. The latest by-election was lost on Sunday with familiar allegations:

The opposition claimed during the two-day weekend by-election that half of the 60 polling stations were manned by village headmen loyal to the ruling party. Those claims have not been independently verified.

Village headmen in Lupane, who are responsible for identifying beneficiaries of relief food in rural areas, were taking down names of voters, the party claimed.

The general elections are due within the year, and the ruling party is short of the three votes necessary to change the Constitution by a two-thirds majority within their Parliament.

Stagnation and starvation will continue to dog Zimbabwe as the opposition do have the power to overturn the kleptocracy. Just more of the same. As North Korea demonstrates, semi-industrial states take a long time to fall.

(23.02, 19th May 2004)

What's the Next Step for the Eurosceptic cause?

The recent silence has not been for the usual reason, pure laziness, but an additional and unaccustomed condition - indecision.

The not so recent concession of a vote on the constitution has created a strange quandry. At the very worst its a giant hurdle to increased European integration as it affects Britain, at its best it stops European integration dead. I am not the type of person who takes an optimistic intepretation whenever there is a half empty glass lying around, so I will stay with the idea that it's a giant hurdle.

Of course there could be a referendum on either the Euro or the constitution, and the British public at some future date may be more favourably disposed towards the idea. Even without the British public becoming more favourable, the Conservative Party may find itself outmaneuvered into not opposing the referendum or the press may fall under the hands of profit averse Europhiles who are prepared to see their circulation fall as they beat the pro-Euro drum. The government may even decide to renege on the very idea of a referendum and assume the very real risk that their party, their support and the country will essentially fall apart. Of course we need to retain and build the overlapping voluntary organisations that can bypass Conservative Party if necesary and form the nucleus for any grassroots No campaign. However any large frontal assault on British sovereignty is unlikely.

Of course an answer of sorts comes screaming out - those crafty Belgian imperialists will simply go the back way. Without us knowing they'll regulate away our rights and freedoms. And that is a fair point. They do. It is hard for a non-lawyer, or even most lawyers, to comprehend the sheer amount of unchecked legislation that is arriving at us from across the channel. Any one who follows the excellent work of Christopher Booker will be aware of the unremmitting flood of new law that is unscrutinised and so largely unknown.

This is a very real problem detrimental to both our independence and our national interest, but how should we deal with it? Some of us are experts in a fairly narrow field and could profitably spend time studying and sumarising for laymen the effect of existing and forthcoming regulations on their area. In some areas, food safety and fishing policy are examples, there are already Eurosceptic technicians beavering away and the results are finding their way into trade bodies, the Eurosceptic groups and sometimes even the media. For those people the return on their time will be far greater than leafletting or attending meetings above pubs.

Not all of us are experts in those fairly narrow fields. Leafletting and meetings may be what we are best at. So what should we do? Simply opposing certain aspects of Europe as they appear may not be a way forward. Of course if something becomes big enough we could stir up a fuss in the public, and may even demand a referendum, but opposing Europe on a piecemeal basis will be a dispiriting treadmill. The problem is not that there is no threat that we're countering but that we need a more fundamental approach if we do not become bogged down in the minutae.

Withdrawal is probably still a step too far. Of course it must be put forward in that it is desireable in and of itself and it is gravely damaging to any British negotiation if it is unthinkable. However for as long as it puts off more voters (and funders) than it attracts we cannot expect the Conservatives to espouse it.

Withdrawal also raises an uncomfortable question for the Eurosceptics, what about America? Our relationship with America is a crucial question. If we were to leave Europe then it is fairly likely that America will ask us to surrender much of our hard won sovereignty to her. That is the brutal way of presenting British ascession to NAFTA, "enhanced" security arrangements and the whole panopoly of "pooled sovereignty" that the idea of the Anglosphere entails for Britain. So how do the Eurosceptics deal with this?

Of course we can ignore it, but Europhiles are already raising the posibility (after unwisely trying to ridicule it for years) and we can expect them to keep raising it when they realise its divisive power amongst Eurosceptics. And let us be honest there are a tiny minority of Eurosceptics (I'll call them hard Atlanticists and not fifty-first staters as that would be nasty) who do not object to supranational Federalism as such, just to who the master is. The problem with European Union is that it stops us being a part of the American project. Conrad Black was probably the most prominent proponent of that approach and there are a clutch of Tory MPs who take this anti-nationalist line, Julian Lewis being the most obvious example but it being an unspoken assumption amongst many even on the front bench. (The objection being that there is no competing nation, but that is still the case with Europe today).

There is another school of thought, one to which I will often subscribe, that although Atlantic Union is not particularly superior to European Union at least it is less well developed and so less of an imminent threat (soft Atlanticists). Besides it is useful in that the British public are not willing to go cold turkey on national dependence and so should opt for the methadone of Washington to wean them off the heroin of Brussels. Then there are those (soft Americosceptics), like me in my less desperate moments, who see the logic in that argument but ask what the point of recovering sovereignty is if you are giving it away again and can't see how this will sell to the British public. The argument between these two schools (who between them make up the majority of Eurosceptics) is one of tactics rather than one of principle, but it could nevertheless create divisive arguments.

Finally you have those who will support European federalism despite their innate scepticism because if given a choice between European and American domination they will choose Europe (hard Americosceptics). There are already people both on the left (Robin Cook - a particularly sore loss) and the right (Stuart Reid of the Spectator) who have deserted the Eurosceptic cause on precisely these grounds. There will be more.

Of course delay may sort out this conundrum. It often does. Even if it doesn't the Eurosceptic movement won't actually lose anything by putting it off. Pushing for independence now will ensure that the debate comes to the fore.

So how do we get on the front foot without having to deal with the American Question? It's repatriation of powers. There is not much qualitive difference between opposition to further federalism and a gentle roll back and so there will not be the immediate defection of activists. It also means that the agenda is with the Eurosceptics, and that ad hoc coalitions can be built around.

To a large extent the strategy has already worked, sowing confusion within the SNP over the fishing policy and also giving Gordon Brown ammunition to persue his vendata against Blair. Look how old the second story is.
Monday, May 17, 2004
European Constitution: Open for Discussion

The Euractiv website contains the latest summary of the documents, circulated by the Irish Presidency of the European Union, for discussion at the next intergovernmental conference, taking place today and tomorrow. These documents demonstrate that there are a number of issues still to be resolves including the scope of qualified majority voting, the future shape of the European Commission (including the number of Commissioners chosen from each country) and the voting system in the European Council. The latter issue was disputed by Spain and Poland, who had obtained key concessions in the Nice Treaty.

However, the Irish Presidency hoped to complete the negotiations for the European Constitution by June 18th, presenting a successful conclusion. The referendum concession by Blair to the British public has ensured that Jack Straw takes a far less conciliatory approach at the IGC in order to maintain the well publicised if far less significant 'redlines'. Less reported is the downfall of the Polish government and the inability of the weak political parties in Warsaw to appoint a successor administration.

Arriving at talks Polish foreign minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz was downbeat about prospects, after, he claimed, making three attempts to broker deals.

“If it goes on like that, I would not bet on an agreement,” he said.

The Warsaw government’s hardline approach to fighting Poland’s corner is compounded by domestic turmoil.

The current acting premier Marek Belka has already lost one vote of confidence in Poland’s parliament and faces another in early June.

A beleaguered and caretaker Warsaw, caution EU officials, may not feel able to sign or compromise on a European constitution.

The domestic requirements of Britain and Poland are effectively preventing the completion of the constitutional talks, and exasperating the Irish desire to meet their deadline. Completion may yet require concessions to Blair and a populist supported administration in Poland.

(22.57, 17th May 2004)
Sunday, May 16, 2004
Strategic Withdrawal: The New American Century Revisited

Strategic failure is the term discussed amongst military and political circles - both in Britain and the United States; in the paradigm of the Iraqi War, it will be viewed as a figleaf for military failure by the antiwar campaigners, the sceptics and the Left; as a change of direction and a retrenchment away from formal occupation by the more farsighted in the Pentagon and State; and as closure for the neoconservative "project".

It is unlikely that the United States will countenance an immediate withdrawal from the Middle East. This area is increasing in strategic importance, as other sources of oil decline and dependence upon Arabian petroleum grows. The advent of new players from Asia, both China and Japan, as well as the EU's ever greater need for oil presages more involvement from the West, year after year, until alternative energy sources come onstream.

The outspoken critics (anonymous whisperers of dissent) of the Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz regime are scathing in their belief that the United States entered the war without a flexible plan of occupation and a clear exit strategy.

Asked who was to blame, this general pointed directly at Rumsfeld and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz. "I do not believe we had a clearly defined war strategy, end state and exit strategy before we commenced our invasion," he said. "Had someone like Colin Powell been the chairman [of the Joint Chiefs of Staff], he would not have agreed to send troops without a clear exit strategy. The current OSD [Office of the Secretary of Defense] refused to listen or adhere to military advice."

For any British politician supporting the war, this must be the most worrying development. The British Army is occupying Shi'a dominated southern Iraq, with no end in sight or viable security replacement on the horizon. They will remain in place whilst the United States attempts to obtain one of two solutions: an 'independent' Iraqi ally that invites US troops to stay and further undermine rogue states in a long-term reconstruction of the Middle East as a vindication of neoconservative ideology; or a massive expansion of troops to obtain a Nixonian withdrawal under Bush or Kerry, peace with honour.

Under the former outcome, it is doubtful that Abu Ghraib will be offered as a base. (As an aside, any halfway decent colonial would understand the symbolic advantages of razing this Bastille of Saddam's regime, rather than applying a utilitarian calculus, and maintaining the fortress of evil as a prison. They do not do empire well!).

If the United States does withdraw from Iraq without gaining the objectives of neoconservative ideology, this does not portend the beginning of the end of US hegemony or its upward ascent towards even greater global dominance. The strategic trends remain the same; only the methods will differ. There will be a turn towards 'imperialism without empire' and a use of proxies and patsies (such as ourselves) to achieve American ends without formal occupation. The future of American political and military reach lies in the lessons learned in Afghanistan and Iraq. There is no doubt that the US Army is now strategically, technologically and tactically without peers.

Military withdrawal by Great Britain, especially under political pressure from Parliament, would be welcome at this juncture. It would divest us of a burden that has revealed our own military weaknesses in equipment and manpower. If Blair were forced to reverse his military policy, via a vote on Iraq in the House of Commons (perhaps even a vote of confidence), the incalculable damage would end his premiership. Such a goal, kicking out this bloodthirsty, messianic, self-righteous socialist, is worth the withdrawal of our troops from Iraq.

(10.10, 16th May 2004)
Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Iraq: I Wish I Had Been Wrong

Free Life Commentary,
an independent journal of comment
published on the Internet
Editor: Sean Gabb
Issue Number 121
11th May 2004

Iraq: I Wish I Had Been Wrong
by Sean Gabb

My normal reaction when I turn out to be right is a combination of surprise and patronising self-righteousness. Where this Iraqi business is concerned, I really wish I had been wrong. Since the American war aims were never fully explained, there is no official criterion for judging the outcome of the war. On any reasonable view, however, the war has been a disaster.

The Americans invaded Iraq on a false prospectus. There were no weapons of mass-destruction. There was no link to al Q'aeda, nor any reason to think an invasion would reduce the will and ability of other terrorist groups. They destroyed the country's administration and much of its infrastructure, and have done little to replace this. They rule the county by armed force. They are censoring the media. They have imprisoned thousands without charge or trial. They have tortured many prisoners. Their military is degenerating by the day into an armed rabble, killing civilians apparently at random. Before invading, they spoke of injecting liberal and democratic values into the heart of the Middle East. Instead, they have simply made themselves hated without being feared.

Of course, the resistance is blamed for this failure. Without that, the country could have been returned to some kind of native rule, under some kind of representative constitution. And money could have been poured into reconstruction projects. But on this reasoning, we could call the German invasion of Russia in 1941 a success but for the weather. The resistance was foreseeable. Certainly, I and many others predicted it. If the Americans and their allies failed to predict it, and are now responding to rather than shaping events, it is not because they have been unlucky, but because they are stupid. We can still debate whether the invasion was a crime. There is no doubt now it was a mistake.

Because the war aims were never fully explained, it is still possible to rescue some formality of success. If anyone in Washington has been shocked into a semblance of strategic sense, the Americans will now be making every effort to get out of the region. They need to find a strong man to put in charge - someone who will be less openly beastly than Saddam Hussein, but no less able to keep the country together. They need to give him as much money and as many weapons as he demands. They also need to bribe the Turks, the Iranians and the Syrians not to invade and divide the country among themselves. They need then to keep their heads down for the next few years and hope for the best.

That is if they have any sense. I suspect they have none - or that no one in charge of policy has any. Instead, it is likely that they will stay in the country until American public opinion grows comprehensively sick of seeing the United States behave like the French in Algeria and forces a sudden and unprepared evacuation. Until then, we shall have the continued treat of watching men in their sixties punching the air and dancing about like the heroes in those ridiculous comic books, while the morons who still bother to vote over there grunt in approval.

It is, I admit, inappropriate to ascribe one state of mind to a nation of more than 250 million people. But Americans remind me increasingly of someone from the lower classes who has come into money, and now is sat in the Ritz Hotel, terrified the other diners are laughing at him every time he looks down at his knives and forks. I suppose it is because so many of them are drawn from second and even third rate nationalities. The Americans of English and Scotch extraction took their values and their laws across the Atlantic and spread out over half an immense continent, creating a great nation as they went. They were then joined by millions of paupers from elsewhere who learnt a version of the English language and a few facts about their new country, but who never withheld from their offspring any sense of their own inferiority. The result is a combination of overwhelming power and the moral insight of a tree frog.

It would be easy to gloat over the hole the Americans have thereby dug for themselves. But we are all of us in it with them. There are British forces serving in Iraq, and smaller contingents from many other western countries. If the Americans are now defeated, we share in the defeat. Moreover, the defeat applies to every member nation of the West, regardless of whether it joined in this ghastly war.

The more I think about it, the more firmly I reject the idea that a conflict is inevitable between Islam and the West. There is a problem in many western countries with large numbers of unassimilated Islamic immigrants. But I have more contacts with these people than most of my readers, and I just do not believe this is a critical problem. Burning hatred of our civilisation is not an issue in Oldham and Bradford. Nor was it in the slums of Baghdad before we began strip searching women there and dragging men off the streets into torture chambers. Islam is not some theological equivalent of Marxist-Leninism. It is an immensely diverse and sophisticated religion. As a classicist, I regret that perhaps two thirds of what used to be the Roman Empire are now within the Islamic world. This being said, Islamic rule for many centuries offered more tolerant and less rapacious government than the Byzantine and mediaeval Catholic states. Islam is Osama bin Laden. It is also Hassan al-Turabi, and Avicenna, and the Shiite clerics who sat in the first Iranian Parliament in 1906. It is not our enemy unless we try harder than we so far have to make it that.

The real enemy is our own ruling class. It is not Moslems in this country who are telling us to be ashamed of our past, and are gutting the museums, and using the schools and media to turn out generations of illiterate sheep. Moslems are not abolishing our ancient freedoms in the name of administrative convenience. It is not Moslems who have bled the old middle classes white with taxes that have then been used to pauperise much of the working class and to raise up a totalitarian clerisy. It is not Moslems who go about insisting that arithmetic is a discourse and the law of contract a set of self-referential artifacts. If our civilisation collapses, it will not be Moslems who have hollowed it out from within. The real enemy is not dressed in a jalabiya or a turban: he wears an Armani business suit, and is fluent in postmodernese.

This being said, it is advisable that, while they should not neglect their own particular interests, the western powers should be ready to come together for the defence of common interests. Whether or not it is to be desired, it cannot be denied that the United States at the moment is the leading western power. It is a defeat for us all if the Americans will turn out to have spent $250 billion dollars on fighting this war - and still have lost to a handful of ranting clerics and suicidal children. It lowers the prestige of the West as a whole, and it reduces our future willingness to act in concert should the proper need arise.

As said, the Americans need to find some exit strategy that does not leave them utterly disgraced. For us, the matter is less complex. We are at best a junior partner in the war and occupation. The last time I wrote about Iraq, I suggested that we had no choice but to continue with our share of the occupation. The escalation of violence there and the revelations of torture have now changed matters. The Americans have promised to hand over power to an Iraqi government on the 30th June. Whether this can be done, and in what sense, are not matters for us of any importance. What is important is that we should get our own people out on that date, and keep them out.

It goes without saying that we should also distance ourselves in future from the Americans. Until they can be brought to understand the nature of what they have done, they are best not encouraged to further lunacy by the fact of our friendship. This need not, but possibly does, mean closer friendship with the European Union. For myself, the events of this past year have made me reconsider my objections to membership of the European Union. This is a danger to us, I still believe, and it would be in our interests to withdraw from it. But that danger is not catastrophic. If forced to choose between the European Constitution and watching our armed forces sent off to fight like Sepoys in some other ill-considered American war, I am not presently sure which ought most to be avoided.

Finally - and this is a point I may already have made elsewhere - we need to free our country from the psychopathic fool who got us into this mess. If it had not required the suffering of so many innocents, it would be enjoyable to watch the moral and political disintegration of Tony Blair. But, as I write, I feel no enjoyment, nor the slightest complacency. I wish this nightmare had never been allowed to start. Short of that, I wish all my hawkish friends had been right. As it happens, I was right from the beginning. But this does not set off the fact that I and mine are less secure than at any time since the early 1940s.


Monday, May 10, 2004
It Takes A Continent of Millions To Hold Us Back

Antony Beevor provides a succinct update on why there is no good reason to vote for the Constitution, although his fears of upheaval and war are coloured by his history writings. This is an orthodox entry into the developments that have taken place in the negotiations for the Eurocon.

Blair finds himself on both the attack and the defensive in these negotiations. Most European countries view the British referendum as a white flag, with the British political classes acquiescing to their own marginalisation within Europe. The core view the Iraqi war as a betrayal of European interests and have moved to ensure that the Constitution institutionalises centralism and proves a "poison pill" for Blair and the British. Hence their enthusiasm for even more centralisation in the new draft:

Among the amendments are moves to greatly strengthen the powers of the proposed EU "foreign minister" - an unelected commissioner - enabling him or her to give orders to the foreign ministers of member countries, including Jack Straw, and to control the EU corps of diplomats.

The powers of the European Parliament in rejecting the Commission's budget - itself a contentious issue - would be greatly increased and there are even possible threats to Britain's right to levy taxes independently.

At the same time, Blair has been formulating his own demands in order to increase the chances of a British 'yes' vote. These demands are for clauses that strengthen the "redlines" which the government has so conscientiously spun since the Convention. In alliance with Brown, Blair has intimated that the British could veto the Constitution, if these conditions are not met. Threat or bluster? It appears that the federalists are deepening their grip on the Constitution and wish to fight off the demands of the Blair administration, providing no concessions for a political decision that jeopardised D'Estaing's pet.

One should recall that Blair is outflanked in his own Cabinet and Parliament by the Eurofederalists and the Brownites. Both of these loose groupings overlap and take advantage of the current pressures to further suggest political tactic that would undermine the PM's position. Charles Clarke has promoted the concept of a dual referendum in private meetings, for the Euro as well as the Constitution. The Eurofanatics also wish to appoint a Cabinet level Minister for Europe, with a high profile, whose raison d'etre would be to spend our money on telling us why we should vote 'Yes'.

The idea of a "two-question" referendum is being openly backed by pro-EU Labour MPs, including the former Europe minister Keith Vaz, and Chris Bryant, a prominent member of Britain in Europe. The issue was raised at a private meeting with Mr Blair last week, but he rejected it, at least for now. He warned it would undermine the careful policy set out by the Government nearly seven years ago, that a referendum on the euro would only be called once economic conditions were right.

Expect more tactical arguments, diversions and spin as the battle hots up and the government becomes more desperate.

(23.02, 10th May 2004)
Sunday, May 09, 2004
Pilate's Intelligence Services

The suspected politicisation of the intelligence services has been confirmed with the appointment of John Scarlett as the Head of MI6. The interpenetration of politics and intelligence was demonstrated during the Hutton inquiry. There was insufficient evidence to confirm if this was an unprofessional friendship or an attempt by the Blair administration to permanently suborn the intelligence services. The evidence confirms the latter campaign.

Scarlett was appointed by an 'independent' committee on the basis of merit. This 'independent' committee was chaired by Sir David Omand, Blair's security and intelligence co-ordinator. By allowing Scarlett to take up his post, Blair has demonstrated his view that the Butler inquiry is a sideshow and, more importantly, shown that he wants 'NuLab' institutionalised in a new establishment before his administration falls.

Instead of ranting myself, the Daily Mail and Daily Star provide good copy:

As chairman of the joint intelligence committee, Mr Scarlett was responsible for the dossier that claimed Iraq could launch weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes. "He saved Tony Blair's political skin at the Hutton inquiry for carrying the can for the farrago of mendacious rubbish that helped drag Britain into the disastrous mess it is still in today," thundered the Daily Mail. The reward for the "toadying placeman" was the top job at MI6.

Describing Mr Scarlett as a "Labour loyalist", the Daily Star claimed the appointment was a "reward for enthusiastic boot-licking".

The Conservative Party will have to use the examples of intelligence failure to cleanse the Augean stables, but the damage may be done. If New Labour has corrupted the intelligence services to its will, then they will have to be purged of the self-serving, politicised scum (noted for their pro-European bent) that sleepwalked into Iraq, at the expense of our national interests.

(20.40, 9th May 2004)
Saturday, May 08, 2004
Where there is discord, we pray for more

Now that we are into the second week of the new 'referendum regime', the outlines of the debate are becoming clearer. The U-turn that garnered such jawdropping amongst the commentariat has proved to have come without a guarantee. The preconditions for holding a referendum have been discussed and two obvious developments are required: you actually need a Constitution in order to vote on it; and the vote may be postponed or dropped, if another country declines to ratify the document via legislative vote or referendum. (The second development deserves greater scrutiny).

The Euro-federalists have attacked Blair for allowing a referendum to take place on the Constitution. Their primary argument is media bias. The Eurosceptic press, or in its demonic mode, the "Murdoch" shilling, will prevent the development of a transparent and honest debate upon this issue. Those who actually vote, the electorate, are proverbial sheep who cannot be trusted to act for the public (read European) good. This self-serving argument ignores the acknowledged pro-European bias of the BBC and the resources of the government that will be directed towards obtaining a 'Yes' vote.

The other common theme of the Constitution's supporters is the 'national interest' argument. Stephen Byers, in a speech this weekend, has forcefully argued that a 'Yes' vote would be a 'patriotic' vote. Through speeches, statements and interviews, the government is using its outlier Ministers and ex-Ministers such as Mandelson, Darling, Byers, and so on to craft public debate and set out positive arguments for the Constitution. Their instinctual response has been to clasp the flag in order to clothe their barefaced nudity and set out the "Dad's army defence". (This phrase was coined by Labour backbencher, Ian Davidson, who has established 'Labour Against a European Superstate'). Such a ploy follows on from the Labour election campaign of 1997 where such imagery was utilised, through the traditional bulldog and the contemporary failure of cool Britannia, to present themselves as trustworthy on security and defence.

Most surprising of all are the vocal divisions that have opened up in the Labour Party. It never fails to surprise how the ideology of Europe gains such a strong foothold amongst certain elements within all three Westminster parties; so strong, that they place Brussels above party loyalty or their re-election hopes. In the 1990s, Euroscepticism scuppered the Major adminstration. Will Eurofederalism play the same role within the Labour party, as disillusioned elements feel betrayed by Blair's decision to allow the electorate to have a say?

There is a Eurosceptic element within the Labour party. They launched their report, "Labour Against a European Superstate" in mid-April, and their spokesman is Ian Davidson, another MP from north of the border (identified here as Unreconstructed Left). The stalwarts of 'True Labour', who still view the suicide note with nostalgia and Brussels as a black heart of capitalism, retain a hold in parts of the Parliamentary Labour Party. The numerical support for Euroscepticism in Labour can be gauged by that other organisation, 'Labour against the Euro'. This attracted 37 MPs and, a pro-referendum sounding around Easter, indicated support from 60 MPs. However, as soon as the organisation was announced, Blair made his famous U-turn a few days later

Now, when looking at the causes of Blair's decision, the announcement of this group may acquire some significance. There has been little information in the media on backbench orientation within the Labour Party towards the European Constitution, but if Blair had learned, through the whips, that a pro-referendum organisation, had acquired significant backbench support, then his decision may been taken to pre-empt dissent.

Whilst 'Europe' as an issue may never acquire the vitriolic and internecine struggles that disfigured Toryism in the 90s and spawned a successor party (UKIP), the Labour Party no longer represents a united monolith and has become a number of fractured voices. Divided parties hasten their own downfall unless one faction (New Labour, the Thatcherites) is purging their opponents.

(22.55, 8th May 2004)
Friday, May 07, 2004

Will America be bad for your career?

A rather good article in the Telegraph by Boris Johnson:

Just remind me, I said, turning to a colleague and friend, what is the case for this war in Iraq? You voted for it. I voted for it. We both spoke in favour of it. We both saw the merits of sticking with the Americans. We both believed that it was a good idea to get rid of Saddam.

But is there not a time when we have to admit, in all intellectual honesty, that our positions have been overwhelmed by countervailing data? How on Earth can we now defend what seems - admittedly at some distance - to be a total bloody shambles?

"Oh come off it, mate," he said, because he is not only a hawk, but has a keen and impatient mind, "don't be so wet. You want a single big argument for the war? The key point is that people are no longer being tortured in jails in Baghdad. That's what we have achieved."

Well you can guess the rest of that story. Personally I've always been doubtful of Johnson's hawkish credentials, but whether it's intellectual conversion or coming out it doesn't matter. There is a rising generation of intellectual right wingers who are still wedded to the Atlanticist truisms of their parent's generation. It's understandable, if not brave, after all Maggie's still alive and to question that generation's political beliefs may put this generation's inheritance at risk. As Michael Howard's elevation, less than three year's after William Hague stepped down, the old generation still have some pull.

However do people like Michael Gove, Daniel Hannan and Andrew Rosindell really believe in the Atlantic partnership? My bet is that they do, but for how much longer? Remember that Maggie herself played a prominent part in the 1975 Yes campaign for remaining in the EEC and pushed through the Single European Act. On Cold War logic alone a United non-commie Europe was sensible (remember that EEC opponents like Enoch Powell doubted the very existence of a Cold War, and as for Tony Benn...) and as the Cold War cooled down right wing Euroscepticism stoked up.

It could be quite quick, it could be quite slow, but Atlanticism will not always be the majority faith on the right of British politics. The first stirrings, like Boris Johnson's piece above, are already out there. And this should be a warning for the generation of wannabe Tory politicians and opinion formers in the wings. Don't be too attached by ideas such as the Anglosphere or Atlantic trading blocs.

By all means espouse the orthodoxy, as your predecesors espoused staying in the EEC in the 1980s, just be prepared to change. There will be a time, probably sooner than you think when Atlanticism is espoused in the Conservative Party by a few people with strong family or business links with America, ideological libertarians and a few assorted misfits and nobody else. Don't think it can happen? Well look at the state of the pro-European faction within the Conservatives - who are they? A few people with strong family or business links with America, ideological centrists and a few assorted misfits...

After all how many young bright energetic pro-Europeans are making their way to the candidates list and a safe seat now?
Thursday, May 06, 2004
EU Security Chiefs

The European Commission has named the civil servants who will head their Directorate on Security.

A European Commission document circulated among Brussels-based transport lobbyists, syas that Jean trestour will temporarily head the Directorate on Security. Mr Trestour is the current head of unit on Shipping Policy. Mr Trestour will combine this assignment with the position of head of unit on "Security Conception, Planning and Analyses". it is expected that a permanent director will be appointed within two months, and will come from one of the new EU member States.

Another key figure in the new security directorate is Wolfgang Elsner, currently head of unit on Ports Policy and Short Sea Shipping. Mr Elsner will lead the unit dealing with Transport of Dangerous Cargo and Intermodal Security.

These details were taken froma recent edition of Lloyds List (no link). Details on Jean Trestour can be tracked through the European Transport Forum and as head of the Galileo Unit in 2000.

In this instance, the European Commission has ensured that the issue of domestic security at a European level is controlled and directed by civil servants with experience in constructing their own intelligence apparatus. Worrying.

(23.05, 6th May 2004)
Wednesday, May 05, 2004

The Torture Fall Out

Although not a fan of torture as a rule, I was not really shocked that the Americans had to resort to some form of unorthodox interrogation methods when trying to run Iraq. This is only fair as when I've been confronted by the Saddam Is Evil justification for going into the war I've often thought so would my accuser be if he had to run that psychotic collection of grudges that is Iraq. Indeed that turns out to be the case.

However if Paul Bremner did not know, and approve, of this then I'm a Chinaman. And to take photographs! That's stupid, stupid, stupid. All par for the course for that neoconservative moron (I repeat myself) Bremner.

The British of course will be put at risk from this, and so the British government must react to distance themselves from this. Of course they won't - after all what is the live of a few British troops, or Londoners, when compared with Tony Blair sitting at some international top table or being called America's best friend. However this blog specialises in lamenting from the wilderness so this is what the British government should do.

First call for Bremner's resignation and arrest. We are not talking justice here, we are talking about colonial rule and that means that some people have to suffer for the metropolitan power's good. It may strike Americans as unfair, but they signed up for it, so tough. Bremner must be humiliated and shamed for the safety of Allied troops.

This call must not be in private, but in public. The aim is not to convince the Arabs that we don't resort to torture - but that the British are willing to break with America when America gets stupid. This is empty spin (apart from for Bremner - but then who care's about his career?) but our government is good at that.

Bremner will not get arrested of course but he will go home in disgrace and possibly symbolically early, then the Americans and the British can say that the whole torture thing was the fault of a few rogue operators - and that these things won't happen again. And get rid of those bloody cameras.

On another related note, what is one to make of the pictures of "torture" in the Daily Mirror. It is starting to appear as if these are indeed fakes (of course more compelling evidence of the authenticity may appear later), but who put them up to it?

The smart money should still be on some money hungry TA types who thought that a tabloid would pay big money. But my conspiracy minded brain finds the incredibly convenient timing to be suspicious. These photos came out almost immediately after the Americans were caught. Remember that the Yanks knew about their photos a fortnight in advance.

The motive is obvious, an intense jealousy of the way the "Brits are better" at this Empire lark (personally I think that's more luck than judgement, although the War Nerd disagrees). The means are the contacts that the American army has up and down our military hierachy - they could easily find some squaddies to put up to this sick stunt. And the oportunity, well the photos were mighty timely for a fake don't you think?
Tuesday, May 04, 2004
Minor Amendments

The Irish Presidency of the European Union has published a series of minor amendments to the draft Constitution, following clarification by "legal experts". These form a tidying up exercise and are designed to defuse any possible disagreements that may hold up a consensus at the next formal meeting of foreign ministers on the 17th May 2004.

These include such important reforms as:

cutting the number of seats for Romania in the European Parliament to 35;
clarifying relationships between various parts of the Commission, parliament and other institutions set up by the Constitution;
promoting parallelism (read agreement) between external agreements and internal legislation (surely this last is a given).

This new paper demonstrates that substantive disagreements on the draft Constitution are not publicised. They may be dormant or non-existent. It is clear that recent publicity on Britain's referendum has dulled the appetite of the Irish for further changes. There will be no further amendments unless an unexpected demand arises out of the official foreign ministers' meetings.

On a more sensible point, the Scottish National Party, have noticed the raw deal given to their fishermen and are unwilling to support a bad deal for Scotland. As Pat Cox, President of the European Parliament, stated, Scottish fishermen must be rolled over by the European bus for the greater good:

"If we all, region by region, sector by sector, said ‘stop the bus mate, we're getting off here, but we want to go on the rest of the journey when it suits us', we would have a chaotic scramble, an a la carte Europe, and a mess where none of us would ever with any predictive capacity, know what to influence, who to influence or how to gain, and we don't need that kind of Europe."

Next thing you know, they'll be demanding control over their own lives and livelihoods. Who knows where such radicalism could lead to....?

(22.50, 4th May 2004)
Monday, May 03, 2004
There is no debt

One of the underlying themes in the discussion of Enlargement, is the historical debt that the West owes to the East for having to live under forty years of communism. This debt is traced back to Yalta and the carve-up of the Europe into Soviet and Western spheres of influence.

The debt assumes two key points in the history of the late nineteen forties:that the West was capable of influencing or overthrowing Soviet control of Eastern Europe; and that there were satisfactory alternatives to the wartime alliance with Stalin. These key, historical, constraints undermine the argument that Poland or Czechoslovakia were geopolitical pawns, consciously thrown to the communist wolves.

A moral debt is a strong, political theme, continually embroidered and memorialised, in order to obtain advantages in negotiations. It is in the interests of the new Member States to mine this seam for as long as Western States are willing to favour such perceptions.

As an argument for enlarging the European Union, or for assessing Britain's interest in this expansion, moral debts have no place. They are not required. The EU should welcome new liberal democratic members that are willing to buy their goods, enter their regulated markets, and redress the socialist balance that the existing membership has created. Britain can welcome liberal leaning nations that will add to the Babel of Brussels, gum up the EU's workings, impede the integrationist ideology and provide a European voice for the nascent potato throwing nationalists.

The only argument that's 25:75 - is it in the interest of the new States to join? When you examine the raft of laws, taxes and regulations that render the acquis communautaire obese, the answer is probably not.

(19.43, 3rd May 2004)
Sunday, May 02, 2004

In the last two days, the scandal over mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners by Americans, has been overshadowed in this country by allegations made against the British Army. These, unsurprisingly, have been aired in the Daily Mirror where the publication of such stories has knowingly raised the temperature of the British occupation in southern Iraq, with all the attendant dangers for the troops:

In a statement, Mr Morgan said: ?There was clearly a small rogue element of soldiers who committed totally unacceptable acts against Iraqi civilians. Acts which have made our battle to win the hearts and minds of this country?s people so much more difficult.

?The Daily Mirror makes no apology for exposing this outrageous and unlawful behaviour, which has been common knowledge among disgusted British servicemen in Basra for many months.

Knowing the background and behaviour of British troops in other camps, the probability of excesses, human rights abuses and other behaviour is quite high. These events will occur during occupations, since abuses of power by the occupying forces can be policed but never fully prevented. That is a fact of life.

The authenticity of the photographs has been questioned and the veracity of certain details thrown into doubt: the type of gun used, the type of vehicle used and the clothing of the captives and soldiers. If this is the case, and the images have been faked, in order to undermine the British occupation and promote the left, then the media will have aided and abetted this effort by placing their wish to air the story above the risks faced by British soldiers. If the photos are authentic, or other allegations are proved, then justice must be seen in public to staunch the loss of morale and reduce the risks of Shi'a retaliation.

Whether the photos are genuine or faked, one course of action is clear: to investigate and resolve this confusion. Until this has taken place, it is not possible to come to any conclusion on this matter. The money quote is Colonel Bob Stewart's:

He said if it was real, those behind the captive's ordeal, or fake, those responsible for mocking it up, were responsible for extra casualties and deaths.

(20.14, 2nd May 2004)
EU Referendum Weblog

A new weblog, providing an orthodox Eurosceptic viewpoint, has been established recently and advertised on Samizdata and, no doubt, other websites. One of the principal contributors is Helen Szamuely.

Whilst still feeling its way, the weblog has started through links to relevant articles and reproducing some of these on its website. The writing is, as yet, more comment than analysis, though the writers will be hoping that the website will facilitate their byline: "To discuss issues arising in relation to the UK referendum on the constitutional treaty".

The weblog is worth reading, as it provides sources for a number of articles and stories. However, on the links front, Google News is not the blogosphere, and they are losing half the potential impact of their endeavour.

(16.11, 2nd May 2004)

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