Wednesday, 23 February 2011


Discussing the crisis in Libya with diplomat Sir Jeremy Greenstock on Radio Four this morning, the ever gung ho 'Lord' Owen was calling for foreign air strikes on Libya and foreign intervention in that country. Libya is apparently 'ringed with NATO airfields'.

Owen was always a Tory, wasn't he...

I know he reads my blog so the thing is, David, the amazing and inspiring revolutions and uprisings which have taken place across the region have been led by the educated young people of these countries taking control of their destinies. These revolutions have been blissfully free of the religious nutters that are supposed to infest every Arab country. Well, we've seen very clearly that they don't and that Arabs are perfectly capable of doing it for themselves. Libya is a terrible disaster at the moment but we must let Libyans free themselves from this dictator, as it seems the east of the country already has.

Send in a few thousand US and British troops or air strikes to help and bingo, you've got yourself a conflict with the West, whatever the motive and however careful the operation. As any fule kno, war is chaos and it would be a matter of hours before the wrong target was destroyed. Gaddafi is a madman and he would not hesitate to hide in a school or a hospital.

As Owen's disastrous and impotent intervention in Bosnia demonstrates (doubt me? Check out the ludicrous Vance-Owen Plan), he simply doesn't get grown up foreign policy. He is like a child with a set of soldiers. If this fool had ever got control of the newly formed Social and Liberal Democrats all would have been lost, which is why I remain a huge fan of Saint Paddy, not to mention the honourable Robert McLennan, who saved us from a fate worse than David.

UPDATE: I changed the heading from 'idiot' to 'fool' because, like a good Lib Dem I find it hard to be nasty even to the man who very nearly killed the party at birth because of his own selfish ambition.

Thursday, 17 February 2011


I was stunned into inaction this morning during the normal rush to deposit two children at school (i) dressed (ii) fed and watered (iii) provisioned for the exertions of the coming day with bags, lunch, coats etc. Stunned because of the return of perhaps the most oleaginous and disreputable politician of the late 20th century*, David Mellor. And if you think about the competition, that's saying something

This duplicitous wretch was on the Today programme (how many people had they rung before they settled on him, I wonder) defending - yep, defending - the King of Bahrain as a good friend of Britain and thus diminishing the importance of the crackdown which occurred early this morning in which at least 2 people were killed by the inappropriately named 'security forces'. His tone and his complete assurance had the ring of a 19th century nabob defending the local tribal chieftain for the massacre of a neighbouring village because it was good for Britain.

I was lucky enough to be in Wandsworth Town Hall in May 1997 when Mellor lost his Putney seat. It was a night of rare theatre and the thought remains that it couldn't have happened to a more deserving person.

I like David Cameron more and more as I think he's playing it straight but I think he still has the sheerest of mountains to climb in his ambitions to change the Tory Party when there remain individuals with the attitude of the hated Mellor within his ranks.

This must be time to repeat my regular assurance to anyone who will listen (shades of the drunk in the bus station, but who cares) that this Lib Dem will never enter into any formal electoral or other agreement with the Tories. I don't think Nickers will either but if he has a weak moment, I'm an independent from that moment.

*Editor's note: Tony Blair is of course utterly disreputable for his decision over the illegal and devastating Iraq war but that complete breakdown of the man's judgement and morality occurred in the 21st century.

Friday, 11 February 2011


What a wonderful moment in Egypt and what a strange situation, with people celebrating a military takeover. Its a supremely optimistic moment which ranks alongside Europe in 1989. Let's hope the promise of the last 18 days can be sustained. This is a famous victory for people power in the most important country in the Middle East. There are a few moments when all the cards are thrown up in the air and this is one of them. As a student of international relations, I'm utterly enthralled.

For dictators in Libya, Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia and across the region this is a wake up call. The lesson is that you can't keep people down forever, even with the most vile repression. Let's hope there's more to come and let's cross everything that any further popular movements are as dignified and controlled as the Egyptian uprising was.

The big risk now comes from outside interference. Egyptians have shown themselves to be organised, peaceable, intelligent and perfectly able to change their country. Let's hope their 'friends' in powerful countries don't decide to 'help' them too much. Let's hope those friends do what the best friends do: leave them alone to sort themselves out with as much guidance and support as they ask for and no more.

And as for the inevitable blathering about an Islamic takeover, let's hope the bigots grow up and look at the individual country and the protesters, not just wikipedia. Egyptians aren't the bearded cave-dwelling maniacs who give Islam a bad name, they're people with jobs and families and bills to pay who want to get on with their lives, not conquer Europe in the name of a religion.

Finally, we must all hope that the innumerable commentators take home one simple fact: this has nothing to do with Israel. Nothing. It is a popular uprising in Egypt.

If I had a hat I'd take it off to the millions of Egyptians who have achieved an immense victory today.

Friday, 4 February 2011


I do like a good headline, regardless of the story beneath it and this one from the BBC website is a gem of the highest order:

'Malawi row over whether new law bans farting'

What's not to like?

Tuesday, 1 February 2011


Steve Richards in the Independent offers a useful consideration of the Iraq Inquiry and the lessons it might hold for the situation in Egypt.

Most importantly, he concludes with a note about 'imperialist swagger', the assumption clearly held by one of our recent Prime Ministers that one can go in and change a country for the better by bombing its citizens to freedom.

The situation in Egypt is fascinating so far because this is a developed country with a long history and quite simply no one knows what is going to happen. Even the legendary Robert Fisk was wrong when he said he thought the whole revolution - let's call it that out of a cherished hope that it will turn out to be so - would fail because of Mubarak's power. Fisk wrote a weighty tome on the Middle East - 1300 pages of doom and gloom which I waded through a few years ago. His conclusion was stark, simple and it should be written on the moon for every leader to see every night as they go to bed. To paraphrase the great journo rather crudely, the lesson is that foreigners should butt out and let the Egyptians, Algerians, Tunisians - whoever - deal with their own problems.

There will be trouble, there will be bloodshed, there will be problems but it is a fair bet that those problems will be less than a couple of hundred thousand tons of American ordnance and a slapdash, shamefully unplanned occupation can offer.

Egypt is on the edge but it is for Egyptians to decide what happens. They've done brilliantly so far. I want my government to stand on one side and offer support to the decision made by Egyptians, not empire builders in countries with pretty abysmal recent records in intervention.

The other startling conclusion Fisk made in his book was that pretty much every international trouble spot across the world has its origin in a single year: 1918. The end of the First World War and the start of a conference at which European 'statesmen' decided the fate of the world. Well, let's reflect on how that turned out for Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, Ireland, Yugoslavia, the Soviet Union, even Germany, for whom the settlement led directly to the rise of a madman who plunged the world into darkness.

Just as Tony Blair's gravestone should bear the single, damning word - 'Iraq', so politicians minded to 'help' the Egyptians should have a single date handed to them on a piece of paper - 1918.

Egypt goes back thousands of years. How many other countries can say that? Let's trust them to make the right decisions for themselves.

[NB: Fiskophile pedants who shared a similar trawl through those 1300 pages, please don't pick my simplistic summation apart. Go for a walk or de-scale the kettle: it will be more rewarding.]