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Questions for William Hague….

Councillor Rupert Read has been a Green Party City Councillor in Norwich since 2004, to find out more about Rupert visit his blog and twitter.This article was cross-posted with the kind permission of the author from Left Foot Forward and can be found here.

William Hague has come under increasing pressure in the last few weeks, criticised for a series of blunders over Libya, Egypt and the whole Middle East, culminating in the disastrous SAS mission, which further unravelled yesterday, The Sunday Times reporting (£) that rebels had accessed secret MoD computer codes on “scraps of paper” captured from operatives on the bungled operation, described by one expert as “so inept, it is unbelievable”.

The questions facing the under-fire foreign secretary include:

Why was he so slow to grasp and show any support at all for the Middle East / North African democratic revolutions?

Even Cameron got there quicker, showing sympathy for the Egyptian protesters and antipathy toward Mubarak, even while Hague was still virtually parroting the Israeli line of support for Mubarak.

How can Hague justify having visited the autocracy of Bahrain to assure them of British support at the very time when the widely predicted (and then brutally suppressed) Bahrain democracy protests were getting underway? See here and here.

What is Hague’s explanation for his bizarre and jejune outburst about Gaddafi’s allegedly having fled to Venezuela? Was it any more than an opportunistic attempt to smear Chavez?

(Not that Chavez needs much help: since then, he has smeared himself disastrously, by in effect aligning his regime with Gaddafi’s.)

Why didn’t Hague oversee a more effective operation to evacuate British civilians from Libya? Surely someone must carry the can for this?

Why did Hague send the SAS into free Libya, rather than simply phoning up the revolutionary forces’ HQ in Benghazi to establish good diplomatic relations with them? Craig Murray’s hypothesis is a particularly worrying one.

Why has Hague, unlike Cameron, been so slow to support the free Libyan forces? Why has he not pressed for most of the measures advocated by Carne Ross to be implemented by Britain and the EU, and why has he not enthusiastically backed Cameron’s call for a No-Fly Zone to help save the Libyan revolution?

Labour is of course in a poor position to attack Hague over Libya, for reasons I document here; as a Green, thankfully, I am not.

But, crucially, it is not even just over issues of foreign policy that Hague is now in trouble. As I pointed out recently over at Open Democracy, Hague has been spreading untruths about the BNP and AV, too. It would be extremely unwise (to put it mildly) of the prime minister to repeat these untruths, as I point out here.

He would be better off in fact distancing himself from the completely unsound Tory BNP-AV canard which Hague has promoted, for sooner or later he will surely have to admit the truth: that AV is demonstrably the worst of all possible systems for the BNP, because voters can gang up against them, and don’t have to try to figure out which party is best-placed to beat them and vote tactically for that party.

Ed Miliband, Caroline Lucas and Nick Clegg may even need to be ready to call Mr Cameron and Hague outright liars, if they go on pretending AV will electorally benefit the BNP.

If, as the charges against him mount up, Hague eventually had to go, who should replace him? Surely the time is ripe for the coalition to start to consider moving beyond the usual suspects, and picking a figure of genuine weight not tainted by Hague’s prototypically-Conservative failings.

The huge but also hopeful ongoing crisis that the world now faces, with revolutions in the Middle East and the possibility of an enduring war and humanitarian crisis in Libya – in which we should break with Britain’s sorry past and side with the free Libyan forces – brings to mind two names which would actually carry some international weight.

I am talking about two senior figures who would be believable as more than just narrow interpreters of Britain’s ‘national interest’: Ming Campbell or Paddy Ashdown.


Filed under: Conservatives, Electoral Reform, International Politics, , , ,

Brown, #Gaddafi and Megrahire…

Councillor Rupert Read has been a Green Party City Councillor in Norwich since 2004, to find out more about Rupert visit his blog and twitter. You can view the original post here and here .

Away from the view of journalists, Gaddafi is attacking his own people ferociously in Libya, to try to win back control over towns and cities which have been freed by acts of incredible bravery. It is time the international community acted decisively: at a minimum, we need a no-fly zone over most of Libya now, to stop Gaddafi bombing and strafeing his own people. This is what the many former Libyan diplomats who have resigned from the Libyan government are saying. The world needs to act on this now!

Meanwhile, I wonder if Gordon Brown is (now) regretting having taken the extensive actions that he did and his government did, as we now know, to get Megrahi the Lockerbie bomber released back to the care of Gaddafi. These actions by the British government basically sent Gaddafi the message loud and clear that all that Britain cared about was making money with Libya, not justice and the rule of law, let alone the fate of the oppressed Libyan people themselves. The heartrendingly unprecedentedly savage treatment that Gaddafi is now meting out to his own people who are daring to stand up for their freedom was in effect given the green light in advance by Britain, as soon as Brown started helping Libya to get Megrahi back.

It is time for Britain to decisively change course, and abandon its support for Middle Eastern and North African rulers (including also those of Bahrain, Djibouti, Yemen plus of course Israel) who fire on people. This process might be helped along if Brown (and Blair, who initiated the process of making friends with Gaddafi and who played a role it seems, according to the Wikileaks cables, in the dubious freeing of Megrahi:) himself were to speak out, expressing regret that the last government didn’t take a far stronger line against the oppresive, murderous Gaddafi.

At the moment, the signs that the British government is contemplating a serious change of course are limited, to say the least. Yes, Britain has now stopped certain arms exports to Bahrain (and Libya) – but recall that just a week before the Bahrain uprising began, William Hague was in Bahrain in effect pledging our support to the autocrats there, warmly shaking their hands, pushing for more economic and trade links, and making a few gentle noises about ‘reform’ to cover his tracks. Meanwhile, we have the astounding situation that LibDem peer Emma Nicholson is in Yemen to conduct trade talks, during the uprising there. I can find no record of Nicholson speaking out about what the government there is doing to its people (see here for example) right now. This really is a quite appalling, though not unexpected, state of affairs.

The British government needs to wake up. The world is changing. It is simply no longer acceptable to be complicit with the violent and provocative repression of peaceful protests abroad – or, indeed, at home…

Which brings us to the latest appalling event: Cameron’s trip to the MidEast to see dictators to do business with them and sell them arms. I kid you not. A cleverly arranged PR opp in Cairo, and its off to Kuwait to sell arms etc. to a genuinely autocratic regime…

You couldn’t make it up.

Filed under: International Politics, Uncategorized, , , ,

The Equality Movement…

Derek Wall is former Principal Speaker of the Green Party. He keeps a regular blog from an eco-socialist perspective at Another Green World whilst regularly contributing to the Morning Star.

Last Friday night I went to one of the most exciting political events I have ever been to. It was a Friday night, yet at least 600 people are crammed in, cheering the news of the revolutions in Egypt, Libya, Yeman wildly. I would say 95% are under the age of twenty, this is Britain’s revolutionary youth fresh from fighting the EMA cut and looking to new battles.

The audience is young but very diverse. In the front row are women in hijabs, applauding Clare Solomon the President of the University of London Union, as she puts LGBT rights at the centre stage of the politics of resistance. The Equality Movement put together by rapper Lowkey and journalist Jody Mcintyre is perhaps the biggest thing on the British left.

The event entitled ‘How do we resist?’ heard from John Rees, back from Egypt, Joe Glenton who refused to fight in Afghanistan and a host of other speakers but the rappers and poets made the event. Crazy Haze, Sanasino and JJ brought the meeting to an electrifying conclusion with some great poetry, see the video above.

The Equality Movement is something to watch, more details here


Filed under: Activism, International Politics, The Left

Exclusive Footage: Behind the scenes of UN talks re #Lybia

By Jane Watkinson and Darrell Goodliffe

Filed under: International Politics

Labour has forsaken all bonds of fellowship….

By Darrell Goodliffe.

At the very end of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Aragon gives quite a rousing speech as he leads the combined forces of Rohan and Gondor in a seemingly suicidal all-out attack on Sauron’s Mordor. He talks of a day when all bonds of fellowship are broken and boldy intones ‘today is not that day’. However, for Labour today is that day. In Egypt, pro-Mubarak thugs are attacking the forces of democracy in a clear provocation which no doubt is intended to actively engage the army on the side of the regime. Meanwhile, in Westminster all Ed Miliband can do is prate about democracy and is too busy playing the statesman to express some real practical solidarity.

A Labour leader looking to express solidarity would have done alot more than Ed. A Labour leader doing this would, for example, made it quite clear the British government should break off all diplomatic relations with the Muburak regime. They would have insisted that the Muburak regime immediately be de-recognised as the legitimate government of Egypt and that Britain would only deal with a transitional government comprised of all the major opposition groupings. They may even have raised the possibility that Muburak be internationally indicted as the criminal he is.  They certainly would not have ‘pacifically’ questioned a Conservative Prime Minister to the point where even The Spectator is brimming with praise. The labour movement and the Labour Party was founded on the values of solidarity and internationalism – two values that the leadership is solely lacking.

No doubt some will praise Ed for his ‘statesman’ like behaviour but I cannot find it in my heart to care about his poll ratings and presentation points today. What matters is the lives of those who are currently being crushed under the jackboot in Tahrir Square and thats all that should matter to any Labour Leader. What the Muburak regime is doing is terrorism. Just because the state sponsors it in this case should not make it any less morally repellent than the other variety. However, it seems the Western ‘war on terror’ has hit the buffers in Egypt. We don’t like it when its on our shores but when its despots across the Arab world cracking down on our own people our governments simply seem to care and be prepared to settle for doing an awful lot less. Words are all we get and, let’s be honest, there is usually a qualification and caveat to them.

This double-standard will come back to haunt us as all our historical double standards currently do in the shadowy and barbaric guise of Al Quaeda . If the Muslim Brotherhood gains support in Egypt then we have nobody to blame but ourselves because when we had the choice our leaders were prepared to doing nothing practical to assist the Egyptian people in bringing the Muburak government down. They on the other hand have at least stood, fought and died for regime change; that is not to recommend their vile politics but is to recognise how these politics gain popular currency. Ed Miliband would do well to reflect on this today because today he let the Labour Party down and he also let the Egyptian people down….

Filed under: International Politics, Labour

Vodaphone uses national security as an excuse for Egypt….

The below first appeared on Liberal Conspiracy. It is reproduced here with the kind permission of Sunny Hundal and Rupert Read.

Customer service representatives from Vodafone have justified cutting off telephone communications in Egypt using ‘national security’ as an excuse.

The statement was made to Liberal Conspiracy reader and Green party candidate Rupert Read in a reply to a query.

The email read:

From: Webform
Sent: Monday, January 31, 2011 7:53 AM
Subject: Re: Restoring coverage [#5593488]

Thank you for your email.

Vodafone restored voice services to our customers in Egypt on the morning of Saturday 29th January, as soon as we were able.

The decision to cease service, in certain parts of the country, was made following instructions from the Egyptian authorities. The authorities have the right to instruct operators to take extraordinary actions on national security grounds, and the operators are required to comply. Moreover, we would like to make it clear that the authorities in Egypt have the technical capability to close our network, and if they had done so it would have taken much longer to restore services to our customers.

It was therefore clear to us that there were no legal or practical options open to Vodafone, or any of the mobile operators in Egypt, but to comply with the demands of the authorities.

Moreover, our other priority is the safety of our employees and any actions we take in Egypt will be judged in light of their continuing wellbeing.


Vodafone Customer Services

Rupert Read told us:

Do you know what you are saying here? You are taking the side of a dictatorship that has been suppressing and murdering its people, in the name of national security…
Frankly, it’s no wonder that more and more people in this country are campaigning against you … and that with the hundreds of thousands of protesters in Egypt, your name is mud.

Pretty much.

Update: Great article by Salil Tripathi on what other steps Vodafone could have taken


Filed under: International Politics, , , , ,

Political violence is American as the Baked Alaska….

Derek Wall is former Principal Speaker of the Green Party. He keeps a regular blog from an eco-socialist perspective at Another Green Worldwhilst regularly contributing to the Morning Star.

There has been huge shock over the shooting of Arizona Congresswomen Gabrielle Giffords and the accompanying killing of six people, including a nine year old girl and a judge, this weekend.

Many commentators on what passes for the US left have pointed to incitement from former Republican Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who used the slogan ‘”Don’t retreat, reload.” and produced a map with cross hair targets above the names of congress members who supported health care reform on her website.  These included Gabrielle Giffords.

US politics has become increasingly polarized and violent.  Support for mild reforms of healthcare are labelled as Marxist revolution and supporters of the Tea Party dance around with banners of Obama disguised as Adolf Hitler.  It would be amusing if it didn’t lead to violence.

Fox TV and right-wing shock jocks pump out hatred.

It looks like, given the continuining decline of US power and economic chaos leading to unemployment and desperation, right wing movements will grow and violence will intensify.  Some even talk of the coming of an age of American fascism.  The violence, though, is not an exception.

Guns have long been used in US politics.  Radicals or even centrist democrats have long been demonised by the media, the process fuels ‘lone gun men’ (rarely women) and the job is done.  From Martin Luther King, Jr to JFK some of the best known American leaders have been assassinated.

It goes beyond this, the US state has been prepared to kill on occasion after occasion.  In 1995 I had the pleasure of meeting Ramona Africa, she was a member of controversial ecology group the MOVE organisation.  In 1985 the FBI dropped a bomb on her home in Philadelphia, killing nine adults and five children. Ramona was the only adult surivivor.  The most prominent journalist who defended the MOVE organisation, has been in prison since the 1980s on charges that many commentators argue were fabricated.

Members of the Black Panther Party were killed by the authorities in cold blood during the 1960s. For example, Fred Hampton a Panther activist who set up a free breakfast programme for kids in the ghetto, died after over 50 FBI agents raided his flat and pumped in over two hundred bullets in 1969

Activists with the American Indian Movement have also been executed by the authorities. And of course the violent suppression of indigenous people was a necessary condition for the colonizing of North America by Europeans.

Of course, it couldn’t happen here in Europe, or could it?  The well known leader of the student protest movement in the 1960s Rudi Dutschke was defamed for months by the Springer Press who published the German equivalent of our tabloid newspapers.  A ‘lone’ gun man’ Josef Bachmann shot Dutschke, calling him ‘a communist bastard’.  Like Gabrielle Giffords, Dutschke survived a bullet to the head but was severely injured and he eventually, several years later, drowned in the bath.

Political violence is not uniquely American but it has strong roots in the country, non-violent protest is the norm but repression from the authorities, often using violence or incitement for others to use violence, is common.  Protest in the UK has already led to the worst kind of tabloid demonisation, where might this lead?

Filed under: International Politics, , , , , ,

How to support our troops in Afghanistan – Bring them home

Councillor Dr. Rupert Read. Rupert Read has been a Green Party City Councillor in Norwich since 2004, to find out more about Rupert visit his blog and twitter.

It’s right that we should honour our war dead. But it is terribly important that such remembrance doesn’t get confused with the cause for which they fought. Because sometimes (e.g. WW2) that cause is more honourable than others (e.g. Iraq, Afghanistan).
The British soldiers who are now dying in Afghanistan are not in reality dying to preserve our peace and freedom. They are dying to save the government’s (and the Americans’) face, and to prop up a corrupt unelected puppet regime in Kabul. This is a terrible betrayal. Our government is lying to them about the cause for which they are fighting.

It’s important that we don’t betray them by pretending that the cause for which they are fighting is democracy, peace and freedom.. It’s important that we remember them and their fallen comrades, especially at this time of year. And it’s equally important that we support our troops in the best possible way we can: by undercutting lies about what the occupation of Afghanistan is really about, and by bringing them home.

p.s. For more info on what the ‘war’ in Afghanistan has really become, information which sadly you won’t hear on the BBC, read the scintillating piece nested here:

Filed under: International Politics, , , ,

Using the Tea Party to Split the Right?

By Rupert Read

Rupert Read has been a Green Party City Councillor in Norwich since 2004, to find out more about Rupert visit his blog and twitter.

The below is instructive. What is totally missing from the analysis are two massive downsides of this strategem:

1) That acting in ways such as this confirms the electorate’s perception of the Democrats as unprincipled, as ‘politicians not statesmen’, etc. – it cancels out any efforts that they might be making (and that Obama did make) to rehabilitate politics itself. This is bad news for politics in general and for the Democrats in particular.

2) That the danger of this strategem is not only that it COULD lead to the far Right (e.g. Palin, following Bush) being elected, but that, whether it does or not, it is LIKELY to lead to the agenda moving Right. If Tea Party people become ‘normalised’, that is a disaster. “Sure, you might be forced to debate a reactionary nut job. But this only makes you look more reasonable.” But, over time, you look less and less reasonable, and what really is reasonable looks more and more ‘extreme’, as the whole debate shifts rightward.

…In other words, this is a typical example of a short-term political tactic that is in fact strategically disastrous. It fails to take into account everything that George Lakoff has been trying to teach us: it ignores questions of deep framing, and focuses only on short-term advantage, without thinking of long-term effects.

The following is the article that Rupert is commenting on:

Using the Tea Party to Split the Right – by Mark Engler

Are you a Democratic congressional candidate in a tight electoral contest? Here’s an idea: Help to recruit a Tea Party candidate to enter the general election and siphon off voters from your Republican opponent. Sure, you might be forced to debate a reactionary nut job. But this only makes you look more reasonable. More importantly, the new entrant splits the right-wing vote. You waltz to victory.

At least one Democratic candidate—Bryan Lentz, who is running for Congress in Pennsylvania’s hotly contested Seventh District—is pursuing this strategy for the fall elections. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Tea-Party-identifying candidate Jim Schneller, a new addition to the race, owes almost half the petition signatures he submitted to get onto the ballot to a drive by Democrats:

Democratic volunteers, including campaign workers for the Democratic candidate, Bryan Lentz, collected 3,800 signatures for Schneller. The campaign made no attempts to hide its involvement….The move is not illegal, although some in political circles view it as hardball (or low-rent) politics….

While the practice is relatively common at the state level, it is not typically seen in congressional races, said G. Terry Madonna, a political analyst and professor at Franklin and Marshall College. And it’s even more rare to clearly see a candidate’s fingerprints on the effort, he said.

“This is one of the top 10 congressional races in the country,” Madonna said. “It just shows you how rough and tumble this race already is.“

There’s some polling data to support the strategy—and to suggest that the Tea Party is doing the Republicans more harm than good. Back in March, CBS news commented onQuinnipiac University poll indicating that the Tea Party could foil the Republican Party’s hopes of taking Congress:

Given a choice between a generic Democratic or Republican candidate in November’s mid-term elections, voters preferred Republicans by a margin of 44-39 percent. The presence of a Tea Party candidate on the ballot, however, dramatically upsets that balance.In a potential race between three candidates, 15 percent of respondents would vote for a Tea Party candidate. Thirty-six percent would vote for a Democrat, while only 25 percent would opt for a Republican, the poll finds.

An example of that dynamic played out in New York’s 23rd district special election last fall. Pressured by conservatives and Tea Partiers, moderate Republican nominee Dede Scozzafava elected to drop out of the race to clear the way for Conservative Doug Hoffman. The result: Democrat Bill Owens won a seat that had been strongly Republican for decades.

Is there a down side to this type of thinking? Only the possibility that Tea Party candidates could actually win, in which case we’d be governed by the far Right.

I’ve worried about this with regard to Sarah Palin. Some progressives have hoped that, amid a weak field of Republicans, Palin will emerge as the Republican nominee for president in 2012. They have faith that she would be a weak and polarizing candidatein the general election, leading to an easy Democratic win.

I’m inclined to think that this strategy is playing with fire. Sure, Palin makes egregious gaffes on a regular basis. Similarly, John Heilemann and Mark Halperin’s Game Change reports in detail how McCain campaign staffers found her to be a liability in the fall of 2008 and often regretted putting her on the ticket. Still, as a friend recently remarked to me, plenty of people thought George W. Bush was a bumbling, unelectable dimwit—and look where that notion got us.

Electoral strategies that must rely on too-clever maneuvering can only conceal a party’s more fundamental weakness for so long. At the local level, you can make a case for trying to split the right-wing vote. But, at the risk of being trite, I think there’s a better case for progressives learning to defeat conservative ideas on their merits.

Filed under: International Politics, , , , , , , ,


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