Sunday, April 23, 2017

John Simpson claims that Brexiteers are as intolerant as Erdogan

Last week I listened to a report from Istanbul by John Simpson, the BBC's world affairs editor,  with a mixture of alarm and disbelief. Maybe it was my own sensitivity regarding the ongoing Brexit debate, but he seemed to put undue emphasis on the 48% who rejected  President Erdogan's proposal to extend his powers in Turkey's recent referendum. In fact, there was so much emphasis on this minority and Simpson's expressed belief that President Erdogan must listen to them, having only received a slim majority thus a questionable mandate, that I suspected an ulterior motive, a veiled message specifically designed for a British audience and, in particular, a pro-Brexit one.

In my view, he was mischievously using the tenuous and entirely coincidental parallels between Brexit and Erdogan's referendum victory to confirm his own prejudices and question the Leave vote's legitimacy. He wanted his audience to believe that last summer's victory was some kind of moral equivalent to Erdogan's rigged vote and corrupt, autocratic regime.

The fact that 48% rejected Erdogan's argument, the exact same as the percentage who wanted to remain in the EU, was too delicious a coincidence to ignore. He thus set out to extract greater meaning from it than it deserved. If Erdogan must listen, so too must the Brexiteers, it said. 

Okay, I thought, perhaps I'm the one extracting too much meaning from a short news report by an experienced and highly respected journalist. Perhaps I'm suffering from 'reds-under-the-bed' syndrome. But then I read John Simpson's article in this week's New Statesman. I wasn't imagining it, after all. My suspicions were correct. On this occasion, though, he was less subtle. He explicitly, unashamedly used Erdogan to denounce and delegitimise Brexit: 

'It's been impossible not to be reminded of...Brexit...during the past week or so,' he said. 'Like the Brexiteers, he only just managed to squeak through; like them, he and his allies are shouting loudly about the will of the people and the duty of everyone else to accept the result. And like them, his instinctive response in victory is to be aggressive.'

So let's get this right: Brexiteers are indistinguishable from Erdogan's administration and supporters. They crush dissent, rig elections and play lip-service to democracy whilst undermining its defining precepts.

Pull the other one, John. You're meant to be an intelligent man. The only aggression in this country is coming from the forever whinging, forever whining Remoaners who control the airwaves through the all-powerful BBC - a fact ironically demonstrated by you this week. I don't see Erdogan's opponents controlling Turkey's primary media outlet, do you? Nor do I see thousands of Brexiteers marching on Parliament and angrily accusing their opponents of racism and xenophobia. The amusing irony is that John Simpson has more in common with President Erdogan than any Brexiteer. He has used his privileged position to make entirely false comparisons and angrily denounce his opponents. Hard to believe and very alarming indeed.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Brexit rejected Blair's utopian vision

'A new age is dawning, is it not?' These were the words of Tony Blair after his landslide election victory in 1997. They were meant to usher in a period of 'friendly' capitalism, unconstrained by the astronomical and punitive levels of personal taxation beloved of previous Labour governments, but ultimately altruistic and caring when it came to protecting society's most vulnerable. Bankers, traders and entrepreneurs of every hue would be free to let rip, get filthy rich and, in doing so, help finance public service reform.

In reality, though, not only did these words inaugurate a shameful period, characterised by stealth taxes as the government deceived the voters and refused to admit to the contradictory nature of its message; they were also and more importantly the starting gun for an aggressive, intolerant, insidious and mendaciously executed assault upon the very foundations of our national identity. Mass immigration was encouraged, multiculturalism promoted, and anyone who objected to the truly radical changes being forced upon their communities was denounced as a bigot, a racist and a xenophobe. Remember Gillian Duffy?

This latter point is of most concern here. Brexit was a rejection of Blair's internationalist vision in which borders and nations no longer exist. It has indeed uncovered a new political battleground, inadvertently crafted by the master of spin himself.  The old left-right divide, based upon the size of the state and reflected by our political parties, still exists, of course, but its remaining, much reduced importance is mainly predicated upon habit and brand loyalty, which is diminishing by the day. In short, our existing political parties are anachronisms that no longer reflect voters' concerns. Due to Blair's disastrous assault upon Britishness, people are now and understandably exercised more by threats to the survival of our culture and national identity than the level of taxation. A new age has certainly dawned.

But anti-Corbyn Labourites (and, in particular, Blairites like Tristram Hunt, the MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central who resigned last week, exasperated by the current leader's open contempt for Blair's beloved centrism, and still kidding himself that elections are won on the centre ground) seem to think, rather astonishingly, that if only a Blairite could take the reins, everything would be okay, the nightmare would be over, Labour would be back in Downing Street quicker than an undergraduate can accuse a middle-aged white man of being a tory supporting, safe space desecrating, racist, misogynistic scumbag. And that's pretty quick. Tony Blair even wants to make a comeback, seemingly unaware of the Leave vote's message. It was a great big collective raspberry blown at the ex-Labour leader's vision and worldview.

He really is, along with his fellow travellers, deluding himself. Labour centrists are now as unelectable as Jeremy Corbyn. They just don't seem to get it.

As Brexit exposed, the public is now split between a minority of internationalists who believe in uncontrolled migration, multiculturalism, open borders and the death of the nation state, and the patriotic majority who still cling to notions of nationhood, loyalty and shared identity. Recently, after years of bullying by the former, the latter has struck back. They have finally spoken and been heard. The nation does still matter, they said.

Both the Corbynistas and the Blairites - once seduced and, in Corbyn's case, still possessed by Marxist utopian aspirations - have naively embraced and pushed the country towards a romantic and delusional vision of a post-nation-state world in which war is abolished and different peoples and cultures, all equally valid and valued, co-exist peacefully. This is a nonsense promulgated by dreamers.

It's also the reason why both factions are unelectable. The public has at last seen through the lies and pretensions and woken up to their real intentions.

So where does this leave the Tory party? Well, Theresa May has rightly promised to honour the referendum result and seems to understand and accept the new mood of the country. But her parliamentary colleagues remain a concern. Indeed, the majority of our parliamentarians, even Tory ones, either explicitly or tacitly support Blair's vision. This is a democratic problem that needs to be urgently addressed. Voters are currently unrepresented.

With its rich history, having been home to the likes of Thatcher and Churchill, the Conservative party is perhaps best placed to reinvent itself as the patriotic political representative of post-Brexit Britain. It needs to encourage integration, reject multiculturalism in practice as well as theory, and control immigration. But to do that, many of its 'heirs to Blair' have to go, especially the ones who still refuse to accept the public's vote last year. They don't belong in a modern, unapologetically patriotic, post-Brexit Conservative party.

If the party doesn't embrace change and re-invent itself, it, like Labour - both Old and New -, will face extinction. A re-alignment in British politics is now inevitable. Whether any of the established parties survive the upheaval is very much open to question.

'The kaleidoscope has been shaken, the pieces are in flux, soon they will settle again.' It wasn't Brexit that shook the kaleidoscope, but the venal utterer of these words - Tony Blair himself.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Obama’s foreign policy closes on a typically low note

Let’s face it: Obama just wasn’t cut out to be the leader of the free world.
First he jetted around the globe and apologised to all and sundry for his country’s previous and myriad misdeeds, by making sententious speeches and highfalutin gestures that amounted to nothing less than America’s humiliating retreat from the international stage.
The era of Pax Americana was declared over in a series of beautifully delivered, high-sounding speeches that, in reality, ushered in an eight-year period of Russian expansionism and Middle-Eastern anarchy. He might make a good speech, but he’s been a disaster, most notably in terms of US foreign policy.
Even his embarrassing intervention in our domestic squabble over EU membership was a cock-up. Just like the Russians and Syrians, we ignored the incompetent numpty.
This brings me to the civil rights lawyer’s latest forays into the realm of international relations. Today he’s been ignored by Vlad the Impaler of House Russia after expelling 35 Russian diplomats over their involvement in attempting to influence the outcome of this year’s presidential election.
Barack is upset. Very upset. The trouble is, nobody cares, least of all Vlad, who decided to dispense with convention and retaliate by inviting all US diplomats and their families to a New Year’s Eve bash at the Kremlin.
Obama’s going. And no matter how many times he implies that he could’ve won a third term in office, if only given the chance by his country’s outdated constitution, he ain’t comin’ back.
Mind you, even if he were to somehow circumvent the Constitution and affirm his pretentions as the chosen one, I’d very much doubt if Vlad’d care. To paraphrase Brian Clough, the man floats like a butterfly and stings like one. He looks the part and certainly talks a good game, but plays the international stage with all the innocuousness of a hot air balloon.
I must be honest: I’m also slightly confused by these Russian developments, and can’t help but doubt their veracity. It seems like a final, last ditch attempt by the sour-faced losers of the liberal-left and Democratic party, led by their outgoing, anointed messiah, to delegitimise Trump’s victory.
Their tactics have been so outlandish, desperate, anti-democratic and extreme so far, along with their anti-Brexit counterparts here in Britain, that I’d put nothing past them, I really wouldn’t, even if it means damaging America’s reputation and strategic position.
Obama hasn’t really done much to burnish his pro-American credentials thus far in his eight-year tenure, after all. So why would he start now?
To add insult to an injurious foreign policy, his Secretary of State has now publicly excoriated Israel’s government for being the most right-wing in history.
That’s correct: he hasn’t criticised Saudi Arabia for sponsoring terrorists; nor has he berated Iran for supporting Hezbollah and other extremist, destabilising Shia radicals in Iraq and Syria; no, his boss apologised to them during his first speech in Egypt back in 2009.
Instead he attacked America’s one true ally in the region. You couldn’t make it up.
Kerry’s attack on Israel is indeed totemic. It neatly sums up Obama’s approach to foreign policy. Abandon your friends; apologise to your enemies; self-flagellate; talk incessantly, but, ultimately, do nothing. Barack, nobody’s listening anymore.
First published on ConservativeHome on 31st December 2016