Tuesday, June 29, 2004
Sticking Plaster

When you look at the hostility with which George Bush has been greeted in Ireland and Turkey, the focus does provide more evidence of the gap in power between the superpower and the pygmies. Very little was agreed in Ireland, but those members of the EU who turned up did nothing to reverese the aura of impotence that has gripped their continent in the last two years.

The NATO conference in Istanbul was a stage for further grandstanding from Chirac and the dawning realisation in the media that European military pretensions had fallen at the first hurdle: Afghanistan. Any promises or pledges had been observed in the breach.

Given the failure to provide security in Afghanistan, it is unlikely that NATO will fulfill its mission in Iraq. looking at Blair's administration over the past year, one can see a disengagement from the alliance, since it no longer serves as the cement for the transatlantic alliance.

With Blair's slavish relationship to the US (or knowing which side your bread is buttered), one wonders if pressure or influence was brought to bear on the UK, once the Bush administration fully took on board the consequences of the EU constitution. To preserve the hollow pretence of a nuclear "frappe de force", and Britain's power in the world, did Blair sanction the referendum for the Constitution as a symbol of his turn towards the Atlantic, and as a signal to the White House, that Britain no longer supported European unification?

(23.06, 29th June 2004)
Monday, June 28, 2004
The Cockpit of the World

If you read the transcript of the interview that Tony Blair gave this morning with the Iraqi Defence and Foreign Ministers, you perceive that our Beloved Leader feels once again the hand of histrionics upon his shoulder. The phrase that Blair repeats during his short introduction is the link between Iraq, the Middle East and the Earth itself:

And this is a hugely important struggle therefore on behalf as I say not just of the people of Iraq, but the wider region and the world.

Blair, aware of the forthcoming handover, was unable to refrain from polishing his symbols, and exaggerating the importance of this event, and by reflection, his own role. Like all politicians who achieve a measure of longevity, Blair now displays a consciousness of his historical role. Yet, in this media-driven age, comparisons with past role models focus upon the symbols and remembered phrases of their time: Churchill's speeches, FDR's fireside chats, that air of gravitas which elevates statesmanship above politics.

Blair is grasping for statesmanship like a dying man gasping for oxygen. Like Bo and Duke, in the only way he knows how, Blair's hopes can be divined through his mediocre speeches demonstrating the vain ambition to employ the rhetoric of moral certitude. After thirty years of comprehensives, his own party have produced a generation that resonate more to Blunkett's nailjerk rhetoric than Blair's novocaine.

Still, teh handover should be welcomed as one step closer to the repatriation of our troops. In closing, it was clear that the new Iraqi government may have a problem in spotting their enemy. In one press conference, the Foreign and Defence Ministers were contradicting each other:

I believe today we will challenge those elements in Iraq - the terrorists, the criminals, the Saddamist anti-democratic forces - by bringing even the date of the handover of sovereignty before June 30 as a sign that we are ready for the challenge.

The security situation in Iraq is quite stable, although you hear sometimes otherwise, up to 90%, but the car bombs and explosions that are taking place are single incidents that are taking place and it is 100% done by insurgents from outside Iraq.

Now there's a job for Peter Mandelson!

(23.02, 28th June 2004)
Sunday, June 27, 2004
We Must Support...

That is usually the argument promoted by supporters of a particular action in foreign policy. The latest heresy is, as always, put forward by the Left that blends a stew of strategic need and moralistic reasoning.

Lord Andrew Phillips, a Liberal Democrat peer, embodies this reasoning with his arguments for supporting the current regime in Iran. A noticeable strain in his thinking is the reference to Europe's needs. As our political classes have become used to viewing the world from a 'European perspective', realism has been reintroduced and restructured by the needs of Europe.

With abundant oil and minerals plus a steady 6 per cent annual increase in GDP, Britain, the Germans, French and Italians have recognised Iran as a coming powerhouse. More than $4 billion of foreign investment has gone in this year.

Communication with countries like Iran may have contributed to the release of the British servicemen; or, not wishing to piss off the superpower on your doorstep may have had a role. Phillips writes a self-serving article designed to promote the stabilisation and reinforcement of the current regime in Iran.

The terrorist activities and nuclear brinkmanship of the fundamentalists are dismissed. Their calls for Israel's destruction are ignored. There is nothing alleged about this menace:

The Americans justify their stance by pointing to Iran's refusal to recognise Israel, its alleged support of Islamic militants and its human rights record. Then there is Iran's nuclear obstinacy and its potential troublemaking in Iraq, though by and large, and despite anxiety about Americans on their borders, the Iranians were unobstructive over the invasion.

The Iranians are a destabilising influence in the Middle-East, supporters of Al-Qaeda and Hamas, guilty of providing the money and arms that have killed innocent civilians in Germany, Argentina, Israel and the Lebanon. They will soon acquire nuclear weapons unless Israel or the United States takes the necessary steps to defends its borders and deconstructs their capabilities.

Since our troops are still located in south of Iraq for the foreseeable future, a nuclear armed Iran presents a clear and present danger, not a welcome advance. Replacement of this backward, fundamentalist regime by some form of secular and representative government would reduce the risks to our soldiers. Better for us and better for the Iranians.

Withdrawal would be a better scenario, but this outcome is unlikely to happen in the near future.

(23.04, 27th June 2004)
Wednesday, June 23, 2004
Ever Closer Union

The US website, Foreign Policy in Focus, tends to favour articles that diminish democratic accountability and promote international bureaucracy and regulation. It is not a website that is designed to stand out from the crowd.

A recent(ish) article on the Special Relationship recounts the one-sided nature of the relationship and provides some biased historical perspective on our submission to the US. Nothing untoward or unsurprising there. Of note was one little noted development of the 'war on terror': Britain cleaving to the policy of the United States in the Middle East and surrendering its carefully constructed influence in the region:

Until recently, the two sides also agreed to differ on the Middle East. Britain, even under Margaret Thatcher, regularly voted for resolutions at the UN that the United States vetoed. However, under Blair's second term, even that difference has been half-resolved. More out of loyalty to the United States than to Israel, Britain now regularly abstains rather than defy Washington on such issues. Apart from any ethical dimensions such as Palestinian rights, this recent course of action is likely to erode Britain's close commercial relations in the Arab world that were so assiduously cultivated by Thatcher.

There is a space in foreign policy to criticise Blair for his pro-European deceit and his slavish support for the United States. When Britain does obtain manumission, it will be from both continents.

(23.09, 23rd June 2004)

Tuesday, June 22, 2004
European Constitution held hostage

Perhaps it is not too surprising that the twin pressures of public sector reform and victory in a referendum on a European Constitution will prove mutually exclusive. The recent electoral results for New Labour paradoxically demonstrated its strength and its weakness. With the overrepresentation of Labour constituencies, the Conservatives could obtain a far larger share of the vote and still lose the election. (I'd like to see Labour spin its web on that one!) Therefore, Labour's strength is that it is guaranteed victory at the next election, unless a catastrophe intervenes. Its weakness is that the party will lose the referendum on Europe, unless it marshalls all of its allies on a pro-European campaign.

The unions are aware that Blair has invested the government's prestige in the referendum campaign. Before they contribute time or money, they will demand a quid pro quo from the government. The present sounds from Amicus appear to indicate that their demands will include further concessions in labour relations and a watering down or reversal of the milkwater that is often presented as public sector reform:

But Amicus, which has 1.2 million members and gave £500,000 to Labour last year, said it still harbours grave doubts about Mr Blair’s plans and is worried by the tone of his plans for public sector reform.

"It will be very difficult for any trade union leader to persuade their members to be voting, or campaign for the constitution if it only creates a businessman’s Europe and not a working man’s Europe," said Derek Simpson, its general secretary.

"The government has got to make clear that it’s fully supporting the European social agenda and intending to give British workers the same advantages they have elsewhere in Europe."

He added that three other unions - the TGWU and the GMB - will follow his line. "It says everything that the only person to come out in favour of this constitution so far is Digby Jones at the CBI," he said.

Blair has already conceded that "when considering whether a strike is illegal, the European Court of Justice needs to give only "due regard" to national laws." The first of the 'redlines' has fallen in less than a week, demonstrating that the Prime Minister himself misunderstood or wilfully ignored the consequences of the negotiations.

This will provide further succour to the Eurosceptics who are coalescing in "Labour against a Superstate", uniting the traditional left such as Diane Abbott and Dennis Skinner with moderates like Frank Field and Kate Hoey from the centre-left who defend the supremacy of Parliament. This group faces an uphill struggle to gain support as other sympathetic MPs are unwilling to give voice to concerns that could undermine their ministerial hopes. The greatest obstacle facing the development of Labour Euroscepticism is government patronage.

(23.03, 22nd June 2004)

And what about the IRA?

There are still some people out there, bless 'em, who think that the American government gives a rat's a*se for Britain's interests.

Of course they don't, nor in any rational world should they. (Yes, neither should we, but that's what this blog is all about). However this Speccie article is instructive.

Essentially it rails about how Blair has, again, assumed the position for the Yanks - this time on extradition. The Yanks need produce far less evidence for us to extradite than we need for them. This is even true in the case of British subjects!

One thing I'm not at all sure of is this fact:

"the US has never extradited to Britain for trial any alleged IRA member"

I vaguely remember George I trying this. Did he succeed?

Free Trade or Managed Trade?

What are the advantages of free trade? A simple question really, but the wrong answer can be devastating.

The wrong answer is that it enables us to sell to other people and make profits. Well of course some people will be able to do that but many others won't. Not only that but there will be other people who will actually suffer as they find that what they used to sell at a profit is undercut by better producers. Expanded markets are a byproduct of free trade (as is greater domestic competition) and it is very much a game of swings and roundabouts.

The right answer is that it enables us to buy from other people, and so have a wider and cheaper range of products. Thus our living standards improve as we can better satisfy our needs, even if it is on the same amount of money.

To see why this seemingly petty distinction matters, read this article about British second hand clothes reaching Zambia. Now are the Zambians better off as they can buy (presumably better) clothes at a fraction of their old price and so free up their money for other uses or are they worse off because they now have empty factories? That's why this answer matters on free trade.

However this is not about making Zambians needlessly pay more for clothing themselves. This is about us. How should we respond to, for example, Germany subsidising East German coal miners (presuming we don't pay towards the subsidy)? Either we could look at our dwindling coal miners and be slighted at the German's pushing our coal miners out of work. Or we could re-employ the out of work miners somewhere else (some of those jobs we seem to need immigrants for) and quietly thank the Germans for subsidising our energy consumption.

Tarrifs are not so easy, but again the issue is crucial. If we believe that the primary benefit from free trade is that we can sell to outsiders then we "should" only let down our tarrif barriers when they let down theirs. However if we believe that it is our consumers who are the primary beneficiaries then keeping up our tarrif walls is pointless. Sure we'd like other people to let us sell them more stuff but it is a secondary benefit (besides if they are concentrating more of their labour and capital on satisfying domestic markets it cuts down on our domestic consumption).

It also eliminates the need for free trade agreements, free trade areas or customs unions. If anything by holding out for concessions they block access to all these great other goods.

This article from the Mises institute makes roughly the same point.

I do accept that there may be other, essentially non-economic, reasons for tarrif walls - but it is useful to clarify why free trade is good before we start rushing into sacrificing sovereignty on its altar.
Monday, June 21, 2004
I'm rather pleased with this. It only took half an hour to write. SIG

Not Arrogance but Genius
By Sean Gabb Published 06/21/2004
Available at: http://www.techcentralstation.be/062104G.html

When Tony Blair returned to London after signing the European Constitution, he was accused of arrogance by the leader of the UK Independence Party. There is truth in the accusation. After all, it
is barely a week since the various Euroskeptic parties in Britain received more than 50 percent of the vote in the European elections. More than arrogant, though, it is probably an act of strategic genius.

Undoubtedly, the Constitution is not popular in Britain. Though the Europhiles insist it is just a tidying up exercise, it is suspected -- and probably rightly -- to be the charter for a United States of Europe. But this does not mean that signing it was an act of political madness for Tony Blair. Before it can be ratified by Parliament, there must be a referendum. This will be next year, or the year after -- almost certainly after the next election. Before then, it may be rejected in another
referendum elsewhere, or something else may intervene to stop the thing from ever coming into force. If not, Blair may no longer be prime minister, and this will be a problem for his successor. Until the British referendum, though, the government can insist on refusing to discuss the particulars of the Constitution, instead talking vaguely of its alleged merits and promising full discussion at the proper time.

Until the referendum, therefore, the debate will not be between those for and those against the Constitution, but among the various groups opposed to it. The government and the UK Independence Party are agreed that Britain must either accept the ever-closer union desired by the other member states or leave the EU. We either accept the deal as it is offered or we walk away. There is no middle position. The Conservatives under Michael Howard insist that it is possible to reject the Constitution and remain inside the European Union. So convinced of this do the Conservatives seem to be that any elected Conservative who breaks ranks and calls for even a discussion of withdrawal may face expulsion from the party.

We do not need to decided for ourselves which position is right. We need only realize that the Conservatives and UKIP will now join in furious debate over which position is right. The Europhiles
can sit back and watch the Euroskeptics tear each other apart. If they still have any by the time of the referendum, they will use up their remaining energies on competing with each other for the
majority of state funding.

Tony Blair leads the minority in the debate over Europe. His great advantage is that he leads a united minority. There are Europhiles who will find the Constitution as he has had it watered down a
disappointment. Nevertheless they will accept it as a step towards what they want. But he may now face a majority so fractured that his minority will be able to prevail. At the very least, he can look forward to a quiet life on the European front for the remainder of his time in office.

Divide and conquer -- that is how great leaders win their battles.

Probably nothing will be done by the Euroskeptics to counter this. But what could be done, assuming more strategic intelligence on their side than has ever so far been apparent? The answer
is simple. It may be that the Conservatives are technically right in their claim that Britain can reject the Constitution and stay inside the European Union. But the emergence of UKIP as a party of hard-core Euroskeptics makes it political lunacy to keep up the claim. Howard's only chance of forcing the prime minister into a personal catastrophe over Europe, and of becoming premier himself, is to drop the claim. How he does this without losing too much political face is for him to decide -- and, whatever he cannot do, changing principles at the drop of a hat is one of the qualifications for political leadership. The Conservatives must close the dangerous gap that has opened within the Euroskeptic movement. They must find some way of making it clear that they will consider withdrawal as a serious option.

Of course, this involves a big risk. For all the talk of a Euroskeptic breakthrough in the European elections, barely 10 percent of the entire electorate voted for a party advocating outright withdrawal. It may be that much less than a majority of those voting in the next general election will really want
to withdraw. Against this risk, though, is the certainty that the Euroskeptic movement in general and the Conservative Party in particular will fragment over the next few months, leaving the
Europhiles able to do as they will.

In the next ten days, we shall see if Michael Howard is the man to beat Tony Blair -- or just another failed contender, like all the other Conservative leaders since Margaret Thatcher.
Sunday, June 20, 2004
The End of the Beginning

Now that the phoney war is over, the acceptance of the European Constitution by the political classes on the Continent, with a choreography of conflict (to convince the British public), leads to reflections on how we came to this point.

When the European Convention was established after the Amsterdam Treaty was signed, the purpose of this institution was to present a redesign of the European institutions that would confer greater democratic legitimacy upon the whole enterprise. A constitutional debate and subsequent negotiations resulted in a draft that perpetuated and reinforced the power of the bureaucracy and the Council of Ministers. Divisions and arguments arose between countries and factions over the apportionment of power, but no voice championed greater democratic scrutiny or the repatriation of powers to the Member States.

There are a number of reasons that explain why the drafters of the Constitution could view an extension of the 'democratic deficit' as a form of deepening democratisation, providing a greater voice for the peoples of Europe. One of the causes is ideological: the ideology for 'Europe' is now institutionalised and shared amongst the majority of politicians. It provides an answer to their political, social and economic problems; promises a progressivist narrative that meets the demands of a vast proportion of the political spectrum, from corporatist Christian Democrats to the greens; and reinforces the deception that Europe can punch above its weight. This ideology is a powerful force because it overrides the divisions between Left and Right that were constructed and maintained during the Cold War. Its development is a consequence of the end of the Cold War and a replacement for anti-communism.

This Broad Church allows the European institutions to co-opt and provide a voice for politicians, commercial groups, single-issue lobbyists and professional associations. By establishing a marketplace for regulation at a European level, these groups have been drawn to Brussels, like moths to a flame. The incentive of influence over regulation that affects millions of lives on a continental scale has converted these groups to European action. Their conversion was guaranteed when they understood that they were being listened to and, as a consequence, regulation would include their recommendations. The result is that a co-ordinated grouping of single-issue lobbies, such as the Greens, has more power over the law, than one country like the United Kingdom.

In order to maintain this Broad Church and unbrella ideology, the European institutions have to ensure that law and policy proceeds through consensus. Every directive, every regulation will have winners and losers, but no victory or defeat can be so great that the social representative becomes disaffected from the corpus of Europe.

This corporatism underlies the political economy and ideological prespective of Brussels. The constitutional draft contains the contradictory and elephantine demands of these lobbies and their political representatives. That is why it can be criticised for being both too liberal and too socialist. Like the Bible, there are many possible readings, depending upon your point of view.

It also resolves the puzzle of why a constitution that reinforces the pwoer of European harmonisation and integration is considered, by pro-Europeans, as a successful step forward in bring Europe closer to its voters. The politicians now view elections as merely one method through which the views of Europeans are represented. Lobbyists and non-governmental organisations are viewed as a focus group for wider dissatisfaction on certain issues: they are a jury of their peers. Indeed, elections are now seen as an inefficient and cumbersome device, if they reverse the ideological momentum.

The ratification of this Constitution institutionalises the corporatist politics of Brussels and provides a firm date when the liberal democracies of the nation states became legitimating and interlocking inferiors to a superior bureaucracy, staffed, in part, by their own elites.

(23.17, 20th June 2004)
Friday, June 18, 2004

Will Saudi Fall Soon?

This chap thinks that it will.

What does Britain do then? Follow whatever damn fool course the Yanks go on or keep our troops at home and make a packet selling our expensive to produce North Sea oil?

I know what I'd put my money on.
Wednesday, June 16, 2004
Elections? What Elections?

The leaders of formerly free Europe are meeting for a final agreement on the European Constitution. For observers of the European scene, this is not news. Blair, in his response to the toothless lobby, gave little away and decided not to modify his position. Apart from a flanking movement to undermine Digby Jones at the CBI by attempting to retain Britain's labour laws, his supine attitude towards the other redlines is fairly clear.

Asked to explain our problems with the Charter in terms of the UK's employment laws, the PMOS said that the Charter codified existing rights. It did not create new ones. We wanted to be absolutely clear that it would not impinge on our laws relating to strikes. Asked why the Prime Minister was so concerned about this particular issue, the PMOS said we wanted to be sure that nothing in the Charter would impact on national law regarding strikes. Clarification was therefore critical in the negotiating process.

Even this is a half-truth since the powers contained in the Constitution allow the European Commission/Parliament/Council to legislate on industrial relations, if they view this as a core competence.

The continuous meetings of the foreign ministers have laid the groundwork for a common consensus in many areas, by adopting qualified majority voting as the main modus operandi. They have agreed the following issues:

the creation of the posts of Council President and EU Foreign Minister;
qualified majority voting (QMV) to become the normal voting procedure while unanimity voting will continue to remain in the financial, foreign policy, social policy and common commercial policy in the domain of cultural and audiovisual services;
the budgetary powers of Parliament and Council;
inclusion of a solidarity cause in case of a terrorist attack;
possibility to allow the emergence of an avant-garde of countries in the field of defence;
possibility of one million citizens to request the Commission to initiate a legislative proposal.

The remaining disagreements are based upon how votes will be cast in the Council of Ministers, the composition of the Commission and the minimum number of MEPs for smaller Member States. The first is the perennial hardy championed by Poland - the other two are the areas where the smaller countries can hope to retain their power and influence within the redesigned constitutional structure. In the United States, smaller regions are given equal representation in the Senate to ensure another check in favour of constitutional republicanism and against jacobin democracy. In Europe, the process of centralisation appears to favour democracy (as in the block vote beloved of the trade unions) to wear down the influence of the smaller Member States, and reduce their ability to act as a check upon the bigger countries or the central institutions, except acting in concert.

Blair is hoping that the divisions of the other countries will enflame passions and prevent the meeting singling out the famous 'redlines'. However, since he has always refused to stand out as a force of one, we can expect concessins to be spun as triumph, in order to ensure that Britain is not cast as the odd man out.

(22.46, 16th June 2004)

Monday, June 14, 2004
The Way Forward

It is now clear that the European elections cannot be examined without reference to the local and metropolitan elections that were conducted at the same time. The Labour Party provided some imaginative wheezes, hoping that the increased turnout, would soften the blow of the protest vote that they expected. Instead, they will be looking very closely at the effects of linking two or more elections. This linkage was one of the main reasons why the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) polled more votes. Since voters had already expended one vote on national issues, a significant proportion were able to assess the European elections on a European basis.

The long-lasting irony of this result is that the European elections in Britain were probably decided by voters who cast their votes on what they thought of the European Union rather than as a protest against their own national parties. Hence, the upsurge in UKIP's support. However, the election was also structured by a more traditional protest vote which helped UKIP and led to an increase in support for the Liberal Democrats.

Whilst UKIP has the initials, it remains a party of England, rather than of the Celtic fringe. Nationalist parties slumped in Scotland and Wales but UKIP does not appear to have made inroads into the quiet Tory resurgence that is reviving the party in these countries. More telling of UKIP's radicalism is the presence of a party organisation in Northern Ireland, although they still polled less than the Progressive Unionist Party at 2.9%. (Note that the BBC does not publicise the name of their candidate). At least, they are not observing the redundant conventions of the major parties that deny Northern Irish voters the opportunity to vote Labour or Tory, although you could call that a blessing.

Therefore, UKIP, the party of disaffection and rejection, follows in geography and vote, the Tory core, notwithstanding its ability to hoover up Eurosceptic votes from other parties. This model is Howard's greatest challenge in the run-up to the next election. The UKIP vote is a warning that the Tory grassroots remain far more Eurosceptic than the Parliamentary Party. Yet, Howard and his strategy of triangulation, is the only game in town. A rejectionist manifesto would demonstrate that the Tory leadership is weak, that the party remains vulnerable to a faction, and that its divisions had not been healed. Floating voters shy away from a divided party, and a lurch in a Eurosceptic direction, would jeopardise the Tory revival.

UKIP also faces a number of unpalatable outcomes. The party leadership know that they will not achieve a similar breakthrough in votes at the general election. However, if they run against the Conservatives, they may provide the same role as the Referendum Party did in 1997, guaranteeing another Labour majority.

Both parties should assess the outcome of these elections very carefully. In 1997, tactical voting, aided by an informal understanding between Labour and the Liberal Democrats, magnified the "anyone but the Tories" reaction. The local elections appear to indicate that a similar phenomenon is taking shape, but that the boot is kicking Labour. If history is a guide, both parties should take to heart the lessons of the last two general elections and strive to come to an informal understanding on tactical voting that will achieve the primary precondition for any Eurosceptic political action: removing the Blair administration at the next general election.

(22.40, 14th June 2004)

Update: IOU

Mea Culpa. Saw UKUP as UKIP. Cock-up on the old glasses front.

How Howard could finish UKIP

Interviewer: So Mr Howard does the Conservative Party definitively rule out withdrawal?

Howard: Let me make this entirely clear, the Conservative Party is committed to continued membership of the European Union. We believe that it is best for our trade and investment. However, we will be tough with the European Union to ensure that it is still in Britain's interest to remain a member.

Although we would avoid withdrawal only an utterly irresponsible Prime Minister would ever rule it out no matter what deal they offer us. Parliament will always have the power to withdraw from the EU. Europe needs us more than we need them, after all they run a massive permanent trade surplus with us - does anyone think that they are stupid enough to put so many of their workers on the dole queue?

So while I reject withdrawal as an aim in itself, I think that the price is far too high, it may be a means.

(Trade Mark Maggie Thatcher Swamped Speeches Ltd)
Friday, June 11, 2004
The LibDem Favour

For foreign observers of the local elections, the narrative adopted will mirror that of the Liberal Democrats rather than the Conservatives or the mainstream press. The vicious withdrawal of support from the Labour Government can be traced to public disillusion, in which Iraq plays a part, but it is only another stepping stone on the long retreat from the political dominance achieved in 1997. That is why the "midterm blues" model, beloved of the BBC and Labour, does not fit the current psephological phenomena.

In the Arab World, Labour's drubbing is predictably caused by an anti-war and anti-Iraq vote: as Al-Jazeera's original report on the run-up to the elections made clear. A quick survey of other titles from India, the United States and the old Commonwealth, clearly show the reaction of the press to Labour's third place in the polls. The words, 'kicking', 'bloody nose' and 'Iraq' are all interchangeable.

We should be careful about citing Iraq as the major cause of Labour's defeat. It acts as a shorthand in the press for the disillusionment and disaffection that many show towards Blair's administration: qualities that were demonstrated just as clearly in 2001, without a war to spur them on. The causes of Labour's defeat are primarily domestic and the Tories still have a large mountain to climb before they can overcome the electoral handicaps of a shires party.

This election, just like the results published on Sunday, will affect foreign policy. First of all, those who backed Iraq as a campaign issue, will argue that the strategy worked and tapped into the disgust of the British electorate. They have to justify their choices. Secondly, this will ensure that Iraq, and, as a corollary, the alliance with America, will be questioned more often in the future, usually in relation to the preferred alternative of the critics, the European Union.

Foreign policy may become a more partisan and open debate. If the liberal Democrats can only offer 'Europe' as a viable alternative to a deeply sceptical public, the opportunity may exist for a Third Way: neither America nor Europe. Only time will tell if such an opportunity exists.

(23.15, 11th June 2004)
Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Thank You Reagan

If you were to press a right wing Conservative why if they are in favour of withdrawal from the EU (and how many nowadays are not, in private?) whey did/would they have voted Yes in 1975 they go away puzzled. Even the growing number of Eurosceptics too young to vote know in their hearts that they would have voted Yes. So why?

Similarly go to the same right wing Tory, who is likely as not to support British membership of NATO, what problem NATO is trying to solve - he will also stutter and stammer. Britain can obviously be subservient to the US outside NATO, as she has been in Iraq - what useful purpose does it serve?

Well the answer is obvious. The Cold War. British involvement in these institutions made perfect sense if you believed that Russia was posed to take over Western Europe and use that as a launch pad for invading Blighty. Some rather right wing people, like Enoch Powell or General De Gaulle, were sceptical of this and so tended to be more sceptical of these institutions than there more credulous (and I do not mean this in a derogatory way) right wing colleagues.

Which brings us to Reagan. Reagan's arms build up bankrupted Russia and forced her to drastically cut back on her overseas military presence and her attachment to Marxism. Russian aggression in Chechnya is not as frightening as Russian aid to the Vietcong. Whatever one's view of the Cold War, one can agree that it is over. And that is thanks to Reagan.

So back to NATO and the EU. These two institutions made plenty of sense when Russian tanks were on the Oder and Danube. They don't make sense now. This seemingly obvious statement has massive implications for the British right. It is not good enough to point to cultural comminalities and a roughly equivalent language and hope that these will override strategic realities. Nor is it to look longingly at America's greater economic freedom and make the leap that this must mean that she has the same national interests as we do (come to think of it, how many British Anglospheracists aren't also recognisable Thatcherites?). Nor can we accept, however naturally it comes to a conservative, that what worked well in the past should not be disturbed.

Ronald Reagan bequeathed a world where Britain can again be independent of America. It would be churlish not to accept that present.

Vote YanKIP

Advising Airstrip One readers how to vote is probably one of the least effective things one could ever do. Firstly you are a rather, ahem, select bunch. I prefer to think of you as the remnant, others would be more vulgar and just say that we have a small readership. The other reason is that the sort of people who not only understand the importance of British independence, but can also follow the argument tend to make up their own minds when voting. I'm glad this is not Samizdata, but I do have my regrets.

However, I will still go ahead and say who I will vote for and why I have reservations about my choice. Firstly however I will say who I will not vote for. Labour has been a disaster for this country and it's independence. With Blair it's not even been the competing treachery argument of whether our independence should be given away to Europe or America, they've done both. They deserve to be punished.

On the competing treachery question I don't think that there is one contributor to Airstrip One who does not see Europe as a more invasive and immediate threat than America. On that basis the Liberal Democrats - and various Celtic nationalists - are also out (although they are better than Labour).

RESPECT are laughable, and if they were to get an MEP then the anti-war movement would be stuck with this albatross of socialism and America hatred forever.

The BNP should be ruled out for different reasons. As both BNP sympathisers and opponents of this blog have pointed out their foreign policy is hostile to Europe and America. However I disagree strongly with their flat earth trade policy (and general ignorance of the benefits of a market economy) and their immigration and repatriation policy manages to be both vindictive and daft. There's also a sneaking feeling that while they have certainly cleaned up their public act there are still the same old boneheads - and should the cause of British Independence be linked with the fash? Try arguing for tighter immigration controls and count the number of sentences before you are accused of supporting the BNP, and you will see what I mean about the danger of the BNP hijacking the case for a patriotic foreign policy.

So the choice is between UKIP and the Tories. Both parties are too close to America, so I will come on to this subject later. On Europe the Tories actually deserve a lot more credit than they are getting. They are actually calling for repatriation of European powers, although as these are fishing policy and foreign aid where only a European Commisioner could pretend that Europe has succeeded in these areas. The government is also proposing repatriation of powers, on the more radical area of regional policy. However repatriation of powers is being publicly broached, and the Tories deserve credit for this.

The Tories also deserve credit for blocking the constitution. IDS's supposed obsession with this meant that Blair found himself with little other option than to concede this point (after Howard took over) before the Euro elections.

However the question is whether the Tories go far enough when there is a perfectly acceptable and electable alternative. The Conservatives still wish to remain in the EU (although they avoid saying "forever") while UKIP doesn't. The Tory representatives will still sit in the European People's Party, an avowedly Federalist party, despite earlier efforts to extricate themselves from it - and Michael Howard is now a patron of the Federalist Tory Reform Group. It is not unfair to say that UKIP would not exist if Ken Clarke were retiring - so why is Howard bringing him forward.

The Tories have brought on themselves. In this election it is UKIP that deserve's your vote. They will fight like ferrets as soon as this is over, they are far too pro-American (there is a good - but sadly off line - article in the New Statesman about their commitment to America, there's also a back handed compliment from pro-war Nick Cohen saying that little Englanders provide the "only unanswerable" antiwar case) and they won't win in Westminster. But the European Parliament is a joke that's elected by Proportional Representation.

They deserve UKIP.
Tuesday, June 08, 2004
Fat Pang of the Remove

With his owlish features and acknowledged desire to reinforce the low opinion held of him in Britain, Chris Patten has decided to respond to the mocking remarks that almost propelled Jack Straw into the Eurorealist camp.

After spending so many years away from home, he appears to have developed the thin skin that you expect from the proselytisers of victimhood, rather than an ex-Tory Minister. He has taken up his pen and written a response to Straw explaining that his words are "inappropriate" and have caused offence. Who ever said that Europeans didn't have a sense of humour!

The Guardian article is green stuff, as their recycling mentality has been extended to the news and the environment. Thankfully, Euractiv had more detail on the missive. Chris Patten praises the efforts of the Euro-pygmies in bringing the benefits of Yoorp to natives crying out for subsidies and a dependency culture:

While underling that there is no Commission ambition to become "some sort of twenty sixth Member State", Patten goes on to praise the work that the 123 Commission delegations carry out in "detailed trade and other negotiations [...] high quality political and economic reporting [...] delivering over 5 billion Euro's of external and development assistance in support of the EU's agreed goals [...] in places as far-flung and as difficult as Afghanistan, Somalia and New Guinea".

Patten has demonstrated that his antennae no longer follow British politics. Ensconced in Europe for too many years, he cannot recognise the flanking rhetoric of a Europhile government. Unless he longs for Charles Kennedy as PM, he has long drifted away from the orbit of the Tory party.

What is more shameful: the sight of a former Tory gone native, reduced to ridicule; or the mugging of Eurosceptic discourse by a government that wants to be a part of Europe and propagandise a myth of sovereignty on the home front. Patten is a disgrace to all former Tories, amongst whom, I include myself.

(22.50, 9th May 2004)
Monday, June 07, 2004
He's done a Hutton on the pavement

The Guardian is currently publishing a series of strong articles on Britain's place in the world. Disagreeable they may be, but worth reading. The latest is an extract from Timothy Garton Ash's "Free World: Why a Crisis of the West Reveals the Opportunity of Our Time", to be published in July.

Garton Ash, a liberal whose reportage on Eastern Europe is always worth reading, argues that Britain should find a new role by balancing the best of the Old World and the New. The whole piece is laminated with a patina of idealism that leavs you thinking Garton Ash lives behind a rose-tinted mirror looking out at the world. Who else would write this:

We need a revolt of the politicians, who should finally summon the courage to face down the media barons. But we also need a revolt of the journalists. After all, journalists, not proprietors, actually write and edit these papers.

A Britain thus politically focused, educated and informed would have notable strengths. Being so intimate with Europe and America means we have the chance to take the best of both.

The concept that our politicians and journalists are revolting is quite common; unique is that perception that this quality may have positive consequences.

Garton Ash falls into the post-imperial trap of viewing Britain as a far more influential and powerful player than we actually are, based upon the foundations of our influence in Europe and America. In reality, the article becomes an apologia for Blairite strategy in Europe, the new Third Way clothed in the ideology of Europe.

Tony Blair has grasped and articulated this British national interest, role and chance better than any of his predecessors.

What we need is nothing less than a historic compromise with our ancient enemy, France. Britain alone is too small and weak to be a major partner for the US, especially since American leaders generally feel they can take the British for granted.

Crucial to this new understanding will be the voice of Germany. In its own enlightened self-interest, Germany should play the role of "honest broker" between France and Britain. This alone will allow it to continue its own balancing act between Paris and Washington, which has served the Federal Republic so well. America, too, should support this reconciliation in its own enlightened self-interest.

When the structural mist is deciphered, Garton Ash has written an article explaining why he thinks Blair's approach is best. This is probably expanded upon with historical argument and example in his new book.

What if France doen't wish to compromise? What if Britain, home of chavs, declines to follow the path of self enlightenment as plotted by Garton Ash? What if the Germans prove duplicitous? With so many unknowns, Garton Ash unwittingly exposes the flaws in Blair's foreign policy.

(23.06, 7th May 2004)
Friday, June 04, 2004
Remembrance and Reconciliation

As I mentioned in yesterday's posting, the historical events surrounding D-Day have been subject to a revisionist retelling of teh Second World War. In its milder variant, it is a self-congratulatory extension of the European ideology, where 'liberation' is a European, rather than a purely national experience. Freud would be delighted to learn that even the Germans were liberated from themselves.

Denis Boyles in the National Review chronicles this move of D-Day into an artificial story where the victors and the defeated stand together. The French are embittered:

Le Monde took advantage of an arte television documentary showing D-Day from the German perspective to explain that the Allies in Normandy were slipshod and mismanaged because their leaders were inept, a point of view that suggests to the French a certain similarity to Iraq.

The Germans are more admiring:

The most influential media are contributing strongly to the generous mood by avoiding national self-pity and voicing admiration for the allies, dwelling on the awesome logistics and statistics of D-day.

The public TV channel ZDF is screening a five-part documentary series called simply Liberation.

The news magazines Stern and Der Spiegel have the D-day landings on their covers this week, contrasting the heroics of the longest day with the dysfunctionality of the Nazi regime - Adolf Hitler slept through the invasion at his Berchtesgaden eyrie, his aides too frightened to wake him. And Erwin Rommel, the "Desert Fox", who was in charge of organising the defence of France, spent D-day in the forests of south-west Germany celebrating his wife's 50th birthday.

Should we support this narrative if it obscures the sacrifices and deaths that the Allies suffered in order to snuff out the Nazi regime? That is irrelevant. This whole concept of the Grand Crusade has proved colossally damaging to the realist cause, since rose-tinted glasses and moral ballast have prevented many from critically assessing what happened to bring us to where we are now.

(00.07, 5th May 2004)
Thursday, June 03, 2004
Edward VII is to blame

Occasionally, the Guardian will print an article that sits at odds with its post-modern take on our world, where all history is invented and all culture is a construct. Hywel Williams, writing in the shadows of D-Day's anniversary, ignores this theoretical scaffolding and plunges into millennia of cultural conditioning - of the type beloved by Anglospherical anthropologists.

His excursion starts with "where did it all go wrong" and concludes, correctly, that 1940 was the year that Britain became a European country:

The collapse of France in the spring of 1940 turned Britain into an European country within a matter of days. Much against its will, Britain was forced into being a truly continental power. Had it remained such a power in the four years that followed, Britain and its empire would have followed the French and theirs.

However, the unique experiences of the war divided Britain from the Continent and set the stage for Britain to cement its role as the junior partner of the United States, a role that the elite grips as a comfort blanket to shield them from the need to act independently.

Williams meanders across a thousand years of European history and argues that the Anglo-American invasion is a revisitation from the Norsemen, whose historical role French identity ignores in its 'turn to the south' and identification as a Latin country. Whilst Anglo-American soldiers may have shown some Viking tendencies (given the revisionist "European" coverage in newspapers that emphasizes French hostility and plays up the 'civilised role' of the Germans), it is doubtful that the liberation can be cast in such terms.

The use of such cultural explanations are always troublesome and panders to cultural conservatives who identify a Herderesque essentialism within the way we live that the rest of us are blinded to by deracination, cosmopolitanism, mongrelism, rationalism or some other mote.

Williams other paragraph of note argues that the Entente Cordiale is a mistake:

Resentment at the French for having got us into this mess in the first place has been a powerful current in postwar British life and politics. Historically, British foreign policy had been based on the existence of a strong and independent France. Britain had always used the European states' fear of French might as a convenient justification for its own juggling system of alliances.

A strong France, standing in an adversarial relationship to the British, had therefore been to Britain's competitive advantage. And that system of strength and security through rivalry had only broken down when the two countries were foolish enough to sign the entente cordiale of 1904.

That disastrous alliance had issued from Edward VII's boulevardier enjoyment of chorus girls and French food. But its more concrete consequence was the accentuation of the German neurotic fear that the two powers were out to get them; 1904 led directly to 1914.

Whilst there is a case to be made for viewing the Entente Cordiale as a disastrous entanglement, the blame must be laid at the destabilising consequences of German unification, and the attempts of an enfeebled France in relative demographic decline to counteract this through alliances with Britain and Russia. Even the European Union is the latest incarnation of the struggle by continental powers to cope with a strong German power at the centre of Europe.

Does Britain require intervention in Europe to prevent the rise of a unified continent, the siren call that led to the disastrous alliances and entanglements of the twentieth century. Or do weapons of mass destruction change the terms of power and allow Britain to coexist peacefully with a unified Europe, secure in the knowledge that we should remain divorced from post-modern polities?

(23.26, 3rd June 2004)

Vote UKIP for a Better Tory Government

Free Life Commentary,
an independent journal of comment
published on the Internet
Editor: Sean Gabb
Issue Number 123
1st June 2004
Hear this article read by Sean Gabb

Vote UKIP for a Better Tory Government
by Sean Gabb

That Michael Howard is the best Conservative leader since Margaret Thatcher is an undeniable if also unflattering proposition. That this country would become a better place were to be become Prime Minister is more arguable. However, I believe that it would; and so, were there to be a general election this 10th June, I should almost certainly vote Conservative. But the next general election is at least several months away. Next week, we shall be sending representatives not to sit in our Parliament but in the European Parliament. And so I shall, next week, vote for the United Kingdom Independence Party.

My reason is that, while I admire him, I do not trust Mr Howard to do in office all that is needed. It is possible to see in the past six months the beginning of a great reaction that will so far as possible undo great evils. It is also possible to see those months as a return to the politics of the Quisling Right.

I have written at length elsewhere about the Quisling Right. Here, I will simply define the term as the tendency of Conservative politicians to imply more than they promise, and to seem to promise less than really is promised - and, once elected to office, to do far less than was promised. Is this now happening? If we look behind the image that Mr Howard projects, is there the same lack of substance? Perhaps there is.

Some years ago, I wrote that, to be successful, a party needs a mission. This legitimises the often ruthless methods used to keep the party together. It allows otherwise fatal differences of personality and emphasis to be reconciled. It means that a clear distinction can be drawn between matters that can and matters that cannot be compromised. It gives activists a reason to go out knocking on doors and more passive supporters to continue voting during times of disappointment. The Labour Mission of the 1940s was to build Jerusalem in England's green and pleasant land. The Conservative mission of the 1980s was to smash the unions and generally reform economic management. The Conservative mission now must be to withdraw the country from the European Union, and perhaps to begin the work of reforming dying and replacing dead institutions. This is not a mission the Conservatives have themselves defined. It has been given them by events. If they take it up, they will win as they did after 1974. If they take it up only to drop it again after a successful election, they will be destroyed.

Are the Conservatives intelligent to understand the mission that events have shaped for them? I hope that they are, and Christina Speight believes that they are. Her repeated line is that the Conservatives do not need to alienate support by promising to leave the European Union. It is enough for them to reject the European Constitution. Hardly anyone would see this rejection as unreasonable; and if it is attended by our somehow leaving the European Union, there would be limited grounds for objecting. But there is much to separate hope and belief. Christina may be right - or she may be projecting her own clear apprehension of what needs to be done onto men who would sell their own mothers into whoredom just to sit again in those shiny black cars surrounded by the red boxes of office.

I have spent too much of my life looking at Conservative politicians to think well either of their morality or their intelligence. I hope that this time it is different. But I look at the public blandness of their faces and hear their convoluted answers to common questions, and I can easily imagine their private complacency. At last, they have acquired a leader as nearly first rate as can be imagined in our current politics, and bleeding to death in front of them - and from self-inflicted wounds - is a Prime Minister who could once depress all their hopes with a curl of his lip. I can almost see them rubbing their hands and waiting for the votes to roll in.

That is why the European elections next week are so important. We shall not be electing a government, nor sending representatives to a body that is of any real significance. We shall instead be taking part in an extended opinion poll. We need Labour to lose, but we also need the Conservatives not to win. The ideal result must be for Labour to be put on firm notice of dismissal, but for the Conservatives to remain on probation. No doubt must be left in their minds that they must try harder.

That is the value of UKIP. It contains many patriots. I am on terms of personal friendship with several of its candidates. But this is not a party that I could ever wish to see with a solid presence in the House of Commons. Its unity is too fragile, many of its leading personnel so privately compromised. It is too infiltrated and too controlled by the security services. It must not be seen as a party of government. But it is a way of making clear to the political establishment of this country that withdrawal from the European Union is not the obsession of a minority. The function of small parties in our system is to force the larger parties to shift position. The Commonwealth Party went nowhere after 1943 - few today even know about it. But its bye-election successes brought a general leftward shift in British politics. That is what we must hope of a UKIP success next week.

In a speech made earlier today in Southampton, Mr Howard attacked UKIP with his usual bluntness. I would not read too much into this speech. He is competing for votes, and he cannot be sure that the UKIP message really is popular. But a large UKIP vote next week will reveal the true nature of his leadership. His response might be to start speculating on the circumstances in which he would take us out of the European Union - or he might stand by in silent relief as Downing Street sends in the security services to complete the disruption begun after the 1999 election. Clear answers are seldom to be found in British politics. Much against his will, Mr Howard - and the Conservative Party as a whole - may be about to give one.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004
What Howard did not say

Howard's speech in Southampton is finally up on the web. Quite hard hitting, although if you've paid any attention to the campaign there are few overt surprises.

There are the attacks on UKIP, now seen as a significant opponent:

At one extreme there are the candidates from the UK Independence Party. They represent a party that wants to pull out of the European Union altogether. They have frequently failed to vote in the European Parliament on issues that are vital to Britain.


But the fringes at both ends of the European debate are united in one thing. Both give the British people the defeatist message that we cannot have a flexible Europe. They argue that we have to put up with what we are given or leave altogether. Both sides peddle this myth for their own political ends. And they are both wrong.

Some say "that sort of Europe is not on offer". I reject that defeatism. It is on offer from the Conservative Party. And it makes sense - not only for countries like Britain who do not want to transfer any more power to the EU. But also for those countries who want to integrate more closely but feel held back by other member states.


And let me make this clear. Only the Conservative Party can deliver this Europe. Not the Labour Party. Not the Lib-Dems. No other party.

There is the affirmation (or admissions) of the Conservative's pro-EU past:

We have always supported Britain's membership of the European Union. But we have also always been prepared to stand up for Britain's interests in Europe.

And there is the future - probably unattainable - view of a flexible Europe which the Tories want to remain a part of - just like most voters do:

I want to build a Europe of nation states. I do not want to build a nation called Europe.


Saying ‘no' doesn't mean we must leave the EU – just as we can say ‘no' to the Euro without leaving the EU.


We want to create a more flexible Europe. Individual countries should be free to integrate more closely if they want to, so long as they do not force other countries to follow them. And, in the light of experience, we should look at taking back powers from Europe that would be better exercised at a national level here in Britain – and in other countries too.


Britain's interests are best served by staying in Europe - but by using our influence to make the EU confront its failings and become more tolerant. That is what the mainstream majority in Britain want - and that is what a Conservative Government will give them.


So what was missing? In the whole speech there's not one mention of Britain remaining in Europe for ever under any circumstances. There's no mention of the idea that a Conservative government would "never" contemplate withdrawal. Howard, it seems, has untied his hands.

The ball is now in UKIP's court. This election gives them the golden opportunity to ask the Conservatives if they still would "never" leave the European Union, under any circumstances. An evasion of the question would be one of the most significant steps to withdrawal that Britain has ever made.
Tuesday, June 01, 2004
Less Irrelevant than you think

Thomas Fuller in the International Herald Tribune writes an informative article on the growing power of the European Parliament. This power has been clouded by the low turnout in elections across Europe; this will be seen again in the forthcoming elections on June 10th, including the new Member States of East-Central Europe.

The European Parliament's main powers set laws on the single market. Yet, if one analyzes their role in this area, the centralised power of European institutions is clarified:

The paradox for the European Union, analysts say, is that in recent years the European Parliament has become increasingly powerful, in some cases surpassing the lawmaking powers of national Parliaments.

Experts estimate that the majority of laws passed in Parliaments in Paris, Berlin or other capitals in the EU originate in Brussels, suggesting that Europe is more centralized than most voters think.

Yet, according to Fuller, the Parliament is only one of eighteen ways in which the European institutions can pass laws. In the last five year term, as one of the European methods of legislating (leaving out the Commission), it has managed to pass 400 laws.

Whilst the national electorates will continue to vote on the performance of their national governments, these MEPs, elected on a minority of a minority, will continue reinforce the work of the Commission and structure our lives in ways that favour harmonisation across the Continent.

(23.04, 1st June 2004)

Where is Howard's Speech?

Michael Howard made a well trailed speech but there is no sign of it in the list of speeches from Conservative Central Office, only this rather lame news release, the BBC is no better. Anyone got a full copy of the speech on line?

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