Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Responsibility to Protect

I lost a debate last night. Not so terrible, you might think. We all lose arguments and perhaps I was wrong. I was defending the intervention in Libya by the USA, UK and France under UNSC 1973. My argument was based on the development of the Responsibility to Protect. I am disappointed not that I failed to persuade people that this intervention is a good, practical example of the doctrine, which is arguable. No, I am downhearted that radical, peace-loving people rejected the whole concept. Some went so far as to say that national sovereignty is essential to democracy ! As Lord Lothian proclaimed in 1935, "Pacifism is not enough". I am convinced that national sovereignty is the root cause of war. There is nothing surprising about right-wing opposition to the evolution of supranational democracy and international law. Those like Murdoch who wield global commercial might will always resist it as it constrains and regulates them. I remain astonished at left-wing opposition. How do people who recognise the dangers of concentrated private economic power propose to challenge it if they will not support the construction of supranational governance and if they insist on the untrammelled sovereignty of nation-states ?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

BBC promotes bias against ECHR

Tonight's Report on Radio 4's Six O’Clock News on the subject of the European Court of Human Rights and Prisoners’ Right to Vote was a model of tabloid bias and I have told them so.

Both the headline and the full report on the ECHR decision to refuse an appeal today was inaccurate and descended to tabloid levels, saying that the ECHR had demanded that prisoners must have the right to vote. The Court did NOT. It ruled that barring convicted prisoners in detention pursued a legitimate aim, but that a blanket ban was not proportionate. The Court acknowledged that the right to vote was not absolute and that states had to be given a margin of appreciation - a broad discretion- to decide what limitations on that right would be proportionate.

You can find more in the House of Commons’ library's publication.

This is not a question of getting the emphasis slightly wrong or simplifying to fit the constraints of time in the broadcast. By reporting the court’s judgement wrongly, the BBC fuelled the rampant xenophobia displayed by the tabloids and indeed the MPs who took part in the Commons debate on the subject. The BBC's error is not minor. It has political import and should be corrected.

The bias of their report was clear; they referred to the clash between MPs' "opinions" and the court's "demands", which they had misreported.

Global action against military spending day

Today is Global Action Against Military Spending Day promoted by the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF).
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute estimates that in 2010 global military expenditure was $1,630 billion. Globally it would cost $10 billion to provide universal primary education, $30 billion to eradicate world hunger, $30 billion to provide clean water to everyone without it. Which is the better investment ?
Take a look here for more information and do look at the video.

Liberals in literature and films (13)

I am very grateful to Malcolm Baines for the following information.

"Despite being a Tory MP from 1927 to 1935, Buchan has sympathetic portraits of Liberals in quite a few of his books and short stories. In "Castle Gay" for example, published in 1930, there is a thinly disguised Lloyd George renamed as Foss Jones. In "The Gap in the Curtain" from 1932, the 5 major characters are all able to look a year ahead to the then copy of "The Times". Whilst two of them see their own obituaries, another, a leading Labour politician, sees that the leader of the small Liberal Party has become PM. He spends the next year working out how this could happen and getting it spectacularly wrong, leading in the process to the ruin of his own political career. The Liberal leader combines some of the characteristics of Gladstone, Grey and Campbell-Bannerman - not always the most appealing ones!"

Monday, April 11, 2011

Will the Liberal Democrats disappear ? NO !

Someone asked me: "Do you think that the Liberal Democrats are being drawn into things they do not want but have to accept in order to continue to have a say in what is being proposed. Are they being sucked so far in that they will disappear?"

The difference between government and opposition is this. In opposition as the third party we could only propose amendments to proposals by the government. Sometimes the Speaker did not call our amendments and they were not even debated. If debated, they were nearly always defeated. In government, actually with fewer MPs, we help to write the proposals which then are passed by parliament. Each proposal is of course a compromise. I accept that. It's what happens in coalition. I think that Nick Clegg has been too keen to present the government as united so the public believes the compromises are what Lib Dems wanted all along. At Spring Conference in Sheffield, Nick and other ministers repeatedly said, "We didn't win the election. This is the policy we wanted. That is the policy we got." Nick even said that a Lib Dem majority government would cut tuition fees. I want the public to get this message and reward us for the changes we have made instead of punishing us for the changes we could not stop. We may have bad council results in May. We may even lose the referendum but the Liberal Democrats will never disappear. Liberals survived a party split in the '30s. We survived the'50s when we had only 4 MPs. We must stand for Liberal ideas in government or out. With apologies to Tennyson, "For men may come and men may go, but we go on for ever."

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Liberals in literature and films (12)

Crichton-Potter shuddered. Larry Boot-Heath had once talked to him for three and a half hours about land taxation. Admittedly the party was in favour of land taxation, but Crichton-Potter had never had the faintest idea what it was or where he stood on the issue He knew exactly where he stood, however, on the question of people who talked to him for three and a half hours about any aspect of policy.

Thus Mark Tavener described the views of the leader of the Reform Party (for which read Liberal Party) in his first novel "In the Red" later produced as a serial on BBC. Mark himself had worked for the BBC, oh let's be honest, "worked" is too strong a word, spent days at Broadcasting House or at least in a pub nearby.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Liberals in literature and films (11)

"Some Tory MPs spend the week in their clubs, camping out in attic bedrooms but lounging in some of the more elegant of London's drawing rooms...Labour MPs shared digs, Dennis Skinner and John Prescott being seen as the People's Party answer to that other 'odd couple', Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon. One Welsh Liberal MP even lived in the regent's Palace Hotel."

Thus, Julian Critchley's view of how MPs spent their allowances in his novel "Hung Parliament".

Did Skinner and Prescott really share digs ? Who was the Welsh Liberal MP ?
Answers on a postcard...

Friday, April 08, 2011

Liberals in literature and films (10)

Liberal: "I will pick up that label and I will wear it as a badge of honour"

So said Matt Santos in the final series of the West Wing. It turns out that Martin Sheen who played Josiah Bartlett is a real-life liberal too. Listen to him on Desert Island Discs.

Does identity require hate ?

The picture shows a guide to voting on the basis not of what you like or value but of whom you hate. Historians maintain that nobody really felt English until the Hundred Years' War against France. I have seen a set of football scarves and hats which proclaim "Love Team A, Hate Team B". You can fill in A or B yourselves - I hate all soccer and would rather listen to Colin Rosenstiel explaining STV...well maybe not. Which would be harder to sleep through ?

Can we only establish our identity in distinction from other people's - not just distinction, but contempt, loathing and even violence ? I do hope not. I am indubitably and proudly British, I never miss the Last Night of the Proms, but I do wish the Census Form had allowed me to describe myself as more than one thing - British and European would have done for me.

P.S. (OK,I know there's no signature)I don't hate the Labour Party but if I have to listen or watch Caroline Flint sneering again, I might begin to. As for the Tories, when seeking selection I was asked if I hated them and I replied that we should follow the advice of the Church of England: Hate the sin and love the sinner !

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Liberals in literature and films (9)

Quiz No.2:
Which play has the following exchange and who wrote it ?

DOTTY:Archie says it was a coup d'etat not a general election.
GEORGE: Glib nonsense. It is unthinkable that the Radical Liberal Party could manipulate the democratic process...Furthermore I had a vote.
DOTTY:It's not the voting that's democracy, it's the counting.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Liberals in literature and film (8)

The Old Liberals
by John Betjeman (Picture shows statue outside St. Pancras)

Pale green of the English Hymnal! Yattendon hymns
Played on the hautbois by a lady dress'd in blue
Her white-hair'd father accompanying her thereto
On tenor or bass-recorder. Daylight swims
On sectional bookcase, delicate cup and plate
And William de Morgan tiles around the grate
And many the silver birches the pearly light shines through.

I think such a running together of woodwind sound,
Such painstaking piping high on a Berkshire hill,
Is sad as an English autumn heavy and still,
Sad as a country silence, tractor-drowned;
For deep in the hearts of the man and the woman playing
The rose of a world that was not has withered away.
Where are the wains with garlanded swathes a-swaying?
Where are the swains to wend through the lanes a-maying?
Where are the blithe and jocund to ted the hay?
Where are the free folk of England? Where are they?

Ask of the Abingdon bus with full load creeping
Down into denser suburbs. The birch lets go
But one brown leaf upon browner bracken below.
Ask of the cinema manager. Night airs die
To still, ripe scent of the fungus and wet woods weeping.
Ask at the fish and chips in the Market Square.
Here amid firs and a final sunset flare
Recorder and hautbois only moan at a mouldering sky.

Sack Simon Harwood !

How can we have confidence in policing as long as Simon Harwood remains a policeman ? This bully has form. He had been investigated twice for violent behaviour before he struck Ian Tomlinson. He had left the Metropolitan Police on "medical grounds" with a disciplinary charge hanging over him. He later joined the Surrey Police and then the Met again. Children's authors need a CRB check to talk to a class of children with their teacher present but the Met's vetting procedure is so feeble it let Harwood return and use force on behalf of the state. Today at the inquest he cried crocodile tears for Ian Tomlinson. He's suspended on full pay. Here's a simple public expenditure cut. Sack him now !

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Liberals in literature and films (7)

Firstly, the answer to Liberals in literature and films (6) was "Trouble with Lichen" by John Wyndham.

Now the new one. "He was Asquith's new blood in the Home Office"..."A man by the name of Strafford. But that's literally all I know of him - a few years of office, then nothing..." I hope that phrase won't be heard again.

This comes from the opening pages of Robert Goddard's "Past Caring", the first novel by John Major's favourite author, which goes on to explore what happened to Strafford.

Is Baroness Ashton the problem ?

Excellent article by Joan Marc Simon in the New Federalist. Joan Marc says the problem with EU Common Foreign Policy isn't the High Representative herself but the impossible role of that office.

I agree with Joan Marc's general point but still think that Baroness Ashton could achieve more. Her background and her approach are managerial where what is needed is something a little tougher, a little more imaginative. The High Representative's job is impossible so she needs to enlarge the area of possibility, to push the envelope, to take a risk, to challenge the national leaders. This calls for political instinct not technocratic competence.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Liberals in literature and films (6)

"A rumour raced round the market that a certain Q.C. had been heard to state in the National Liberal Club the previous evening that as it was already an important part of a doctor's function to extend lives threatened with extinction, and one that was practised daily, he entirely failed to see that any question should arise."

Liberals in literature and films (5)

In the film of "The Hireling" chauffeur Ledbetter (Robert Shaw)invites his employer Lady Helen Franklin (Sarah Miles) to come to his boxing club where she will meet Captain Hugh Cantrip (Peter Egan). She asks, "Isn't he a Liberal ?". Ledbetter replies "Well, his politics may be a bit funny but he's a good bloke" or words to that effect. I don't have L.P.Hartley's book so I can't say if this is the original dialogue.

Talking of dinosaurs...

Here's another one who opposes both electoral reform and reforming the House of Lords, which he now belongs to, none other than the former Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, John Prescott.

Chris Davies explains the deficit and the cuts

Excellent explanation by Chris who, as we all know, cannot be described as an Orange-Booker !

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Liberals in literature and films (4)

The importance of being Liberal

Lady Bracknell: What are your politics ?
Jack: Well, I am afraid I really have none. I am a Liberal Unionist.
Lady Bracknell: Oh, they count as Tories. They dine with us. Or come in the evening at any rate.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Can I remain a member of the Liberal Democrats ?

As the Sturdyblog points out the real problem is a deficit in humanity. My personal problem is "Can I remain a member of the Liberal Democrats ?"

Liberals in literature and films (3)

"It must have been a week or so after the departure of Claude and Eustace that I ran into young Bingo Little in the smoking-room of the Senior Liberal Club. He was lying back in an armchair with his mouth open and a goofy expression in his eyes, while a grey-bearded cove in the middle distance watched him with so much dislike that I concluded that Bingo had pinched his favourite seat. That's the worst of being in a strange club -- absolutely without intending it, you find yourself constantly trampling upon the vested interests of the Oldest Inhabitants.

'Hello, face,' I said.

'Cheerio, ugly,' said young Bingo, and we settled down to have a small one before lunch.

Once a year the committee of the Drones decides that the old club could do with a wash and brush-up, so they shoo us out and dump us down for a few weeks at some other institution. This time we were roosting at the Senior Liberal, and personally I had found the strain pretty fearful. I mean, when you have got used to a club where everything's nice and cheery, and where, if you want to attract a chappie's attention, you heave a bit of bread at him, it kind of damps you to come to a place where the youngest member is about eighty-seven and it isn't considered good form to talk to anyone unless you and he were through the Peninsula War together."

"This club," I said, "is the limit."

"It is the eel's eyebrows" agreed young Bingo.

The Inimitable Jeeves, Chapter 17.

Hannay was in Galloway

Iain Brodie Brown has pointed out that Hannay was in Galloway, not the Highlands. I've checked the chapter called "The adventure of the radical candidate". The meeting was in a town called Brattleburn, described as "an infernal Tory stronghold". It doesn't appear to be on the map but there is a Brattleburn bothy just North-West of Moffat pictured above.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Liberals in literature and films (2)

"There was never a by-election like it, Tom, there was never any election like it. We are born, we get married, we divorce, we die. But somewhere along the way, if we get the chance, we should also stand as Liberal Candidate for...Gulworth North..."

Thus begins Chapter 11 of John le Carré's A Perfect Spy. As far as I recollect the BBC version with Ray McAnally as Rick Pym, the candidate, based upon le Carré's own father does not mention his political allegiance.