More Politics

According to the press there will be an anti-discrimination bill protecting religions but not gay people.

Last week I made note of Brian Sedgemore’s comments in the House of Commons when the debate on the Prevention of Terrorism Bill was in place. I also suggested people may have lost interest in politics. Well, when politics is as blatently vote grabbing at this piece in the Sunday Times reveals, it’s no wonder:

This week a new bill giving Muslims protection against religious discrimination will be published, but there will be no equivalent right for gays, as had been planned by ministers.

[Source: Sunday Times: Discrimination bill snubs gays to save Muslim vote].

I guess I should be angry and I should write to my MP or something but I am resigned to the fact that nothing will happen and it will make no difference. It’s the obviousness of the whole thing that frustrates.

Prevention of Terrorism Bill

Veteran Labour MP Brian Sedgemore said the government should be “damned” for moving to a style of justice used by South Africa under apartheid.

They say that the people have lost interest in politics, and maybe they have. But, every now and then, there are some great speeches in The House and I am very glad that the web makes them available to me:

They voted: first, to abolish trial by jury in less serious cases; secondly, to abolish trial by jury in more serious cases; thirdly, to approve an unlawful war; fourthly, to create a gulag at Belmarsh; and fifthly, to lock up innocent people in their homes. It is truly terrifying to imagine what those Members of Parliament will vote for next. I can describe all that only as new Labour’s descent into hell, which is not a place where I want to be.

Mr Brian Sedgemore Labour, Hackney South and Shoreditch [source:].

It amazes me that this has not been picked up more by mainstream media. Yes, it gets some mention, but nowhere near as much as it deserves.

A New World Order

America is the only real super-power with the economic and military force to pretty much try and do what they like around the world

Where does Britain go next? Polly Toynbee wrote an excellent piece in Friday’s Guardian [via Politix] about the state of the Union (European) and our (so-called) special friendship with America. Sadly, I really believe that the friendship is now very much a one-way street. We support the US or we don’t. They don’t much care.

America is the only real super-power with the economic and military force to pretty much try and do what they like around the world. Yet a European Union – in several guises – could be a threat to that power and, therefore, a stabilising influence on a very one-sided world. And, if we are honest, even the Americans should understand that could be a safer way for the world to be. A second democratic super-power born not out of ideological fights but pieced together from a similar model to that from which the US grew. In essence, a powerful and united European Union (united by stance and not necessarily under one flag) would provide the series of checks and balances the United Nations seems unable to provide at the moment.

Depending on your viewpoint, this war may (or may not) be right in many ways. Regardless we are there now and we are fighting alongside the US and other nations. When the dust settles on Iraq – as it eventually will – what will the new world order be like? Will we follow the US into any nation they care to wage war against (rightly or wrongly)? Can we still hold our head high at meetings of the EU and look our neighbours in the eye? Are we capable of stepping back and looking for our appropriate place in the new world order? I hope we can.

To Be A Politician

On Iraq, I believe that the prevailing mood of the British people is sound. They do not doubt that Saddam is a brutal dictator, but they are not persuaded that he is a clear and present danger to Britain.

It must be an odd career being a politician – whatever you do somebody will disagree. After all, there is there is always somebody with a different coloured rosette. If your opinions are not being shouted down in some debating chamber due to political differences then you run the risk of being called self-serving. It’s one job where you know you will not be popular everywhere.

So is Robin Cook, former Foreign Secretary and now former leader of the House of Commons, a man of integrity or self-serving? I don’t know him so I can’t answer that. What I do believe is his resignation speach last night was one of the best speeches I have ever seen by a politician. It wasn’t bitter (although there was a sadness to it) and there were no personal attacks (even though he resigned because he disagreed with Government policy). He is not leaving his post because of some scandal but because he feels he can’t continue to serve in a Cabinet that supports a war he does not. With it he loses the trappings of office (house, car, staff?) and returns to the back benches.

I don’t know much about Robin Cook. I know that last night’s address was remarkable. He was eloquent and appeared to speak with a sincerity and conviction you do not see often in the modern politician. His argument (regardless of your stance) was delivered with a calm clarity that is, also, unusual. I admired the fact that he spoke to the House of Commons before the press and seemed, genuinely, to respect the workings of the British democracy. Isn’t it a shame more politicians don’t do that?

Now, some have suggested throughout the day that he was positioning himself for a role if all goes wrong for Tony Blair. But doesn’t taking a stance and having the integrity to declare when you believe something is right or wrong mean that you are positioning yourself. You can’t do anything about that. If he is proved to have been right then it’s only proper that people turn to him in the months to come. If he is wrong at least he has his integrity intact. If more of our elected representatives cared more for the policies than public opinion or their image and more spoke with the passion that Robin Cook did, I think British politics would be a better place.

Perhaps Claire Short should take another night to think about it.

Continue reading “To Be A Politician”

Dear Mr. Secretary

The sacrifice of global interests to domestic politics and to bureaucratic self-interest is nothing new, and it is certainly not a uniquely American problem

U.S. Diplomat’s Letter of Resignation

I am surprised the resignation letter of John Brady Kiesling (political counselor at the United States Embassy in Athens) has not been more widely reported (New York Times | ZNet). In the letter he says:

“The sacrifice of global interests to domestic politics and to bureaucratic self-interest is nothing new, and it is certainly not a uniquely American problem. Still, we have not seen such systematic distortion of intelligence, such systematic manipulation of American opinion, since the war in Vietnam”.

Many good points are made, some of which I believe we in Britain ought to be asking ourselves. Why, Mr Blair, have you been unable to convince your fellow MPs? Why has America and the UK failed to convince a great deal of the rest of the world that this is a proper course of action? While I have no doubt that there is much that can not be made public, the fact that we have failed to convince foreign leaders of the rightness of our approach is, to me, the most serious cause for concern. If we have to go to war, I would like to believe that it is being done with the backing of the world. The current talk of re-building the Middle East seems to be the worst kind of message coming from the West, and especially the US. Who gave them (or, indeed, us) the right?

Although I don’t like it, I am not anti-war. But war only if appropriate and only when all other reasonable actions have been taken. Then, with the support of the rest (or at least a majority) of the world, I would concede war is necessary. Until it does, we have to be very careful indeed.

As Mr Kiesling says, it all smells suspiciously like something in Vietnam. And we know how that ended up, don’t we?

Continue reading “Dear Mr. Secretary”