As I have previously mentioned, I hold no brief for any American president, and have not liked a single one I have seen during my lifetime. Kennedy was an unfaithful womaniser, and a liar. Johnson was also a liar, and Nixon topped them both by taking blatant lying to a new level. Ford was unimpressive, Reagan seemed mad, (and lied) both of the Bush family are best forgotten, and Bill Clinton was a womaniser and a liar. (That again) Obama knew how to play the game, but kept few promises, and didn’t achieve much for people of colour, the poor, or women, all of which was expected from him.
So, that covers my life from the age of 9, until the year 2016. But one thing about all those former presidents is worth mentioning. They all knew how to behave in public. They understood the ‘game’, and how to play it on the international stage. Some may have been caught out with their sexual indiscretions, or behind the scenes deals and interference in other countries. But they spoke well, and (most of the time) appeared to be dignified, and statesman-like. They represented their country as we had come to expect them to, with concern for their allies, and suitable expression of the power behind their office, at least on the surface.
The along comes Donald Trump. He throws away the rule book. He has no class or style, treating his job as if he is the CEO of The World. He is a womaniser, and he lies, so no change there, but he doesn’t really hide either fact, preferring to boast about his conquests and bad behaviour like men drinking in a bar. He doesn’t know how to speak in public, let alone how to behave. By appealing to the lowest common denominator, he attracts a lot of support in his own country, whilst alienating almost every other country on Earth. Using his daughter as The First Lady is just too creepy for words. She always looks under control, never happy to be doing what she is doing. He goes to NATO and talks to other leaders as if they work for him, and are not being productive enough. Then he comes to Britain and upsets just about everyone you can think of, even those who want to be his friend.
In 2016, I thought he might learn. He was inexperienced as a politician, but obviously no fool, nor the buffoon he was painted in the press. He made clever use of social media, and could have used his business skills to learn from those around him, perhaps really making ‘America Great Again’. But he got rid of everyone who knew what they were doing, and replaced them with a succession of yes men and women who follow his lead. I have rarely seen such displays of arrogance from the leader of a powerful western nation, at least not since newsreels of Mussolini, or the overwhelming self-confidence and condescension displayed by Margaret Thatcher, when she was Prime Minister in the UK. He lives in a world he reinvents day by day, in his own head.
A note to America. You really should try to stop him leaving your country on these visits.
Ever since this country voted to leave the EU in 2016, the issue has consumed the news media, as well as being a source of heated debate among the population, with the great division caused by the vote. Even though I voted to leave, I never had much confidence in any government actually taking us out, in the spirit of the referendum. Sadly, it seems that I have been proved right.
The people who wanted to remain, so lost the vote, have waged a relentless campaign ever since. This has taken the form of court actions, public protests, outright insults against those who voted to leave, and the non-stop pressure for a second referendum, hoping to get the result they wanted in 2016. Despite her famous cry, “Brexit means Brexit” it has been obvious to anyone with half a brain that Theresa May never really intended to leave the EU, in anything but ‘name only’. The failed discussions, the intransigence of the EU negotiators, and behind the scenes deals with the German leader Merkel were all visible signs that she would return with a suggestion of a revised Brexit, that was much the same as remaining in the EU.
Foreign companies are queuing up to announce that they will pull the plug on their UK operations, if we leave without the deals offered by the French and Germans. Many of those industrial giants (including car companies, and drug companies) are run and owned by Germans. Fishing quotas are also in dispute, and many of the EU fisherman demanding access to UK waters after Brexit just happen to be French. Like anything in this world, all we have to do is to ‘follow the money’. The EU is run by Germany and France for their own ends, and everyone else either falls into line, or faces threats and financial sanctions.
Today, the minister responsible for negotiating Brexit from the start has resigned. A meeting of the government last weekend resulted in a decision to carry on with talks for a totally watered-down Brexit that would still leave this country inextricably tied to Europe. Theresa May told the German leader of that decision before announcing it to Parliament, or the British people. The referendum has therefore been proved to be meaningless. The voters who thought they had succeeded in their desire to leave the EU completely have been betrayed, and with them the whole idea of any fair and free elections in this country. If they don’t like the result, they won’t implement it, simple as that.
Before all those who see this as a ‘victory’ of sorts start to celebrate, they might want to think about what it means in the wider scheme of things. No election or referendum will ever really mean anything anymore. Democracy in Britain, such as it was, is now just a memory.
Lots of news about antisemitism in the Labour Party lately. From historical comments made when some politicians were young and impulsive, to personal attacks on Twitter. Some of the concerns seem to be very real, but others perhaps inflated in their importance, and their meaning slightly skewed.
I was a member of the Labour Party for a long time. During that time, I never heard one antisemitic statement, or a single word against anyone Jewish, based on their religion. I also didn’t hear anything bad said about or against people who were black or Asian, religious or atheist. In many ways, it was a party where political correctness found an early voice, and women were as active in the party (and as welcome) as men too.
There were people we didn’t like of course. Far Right supporters, old-school Tories, (any Tories in fact) wishy-washy Liberals, and even some of the Labour stalwarts of the day, including Harold Wilson and Jim Callaghan. Most of us were opposed to the House of Lords, many of us were in favour of a republic, with no Royal Family, and we didn’t have much time for people like Margaret Thatcher later on, that’s for sure. But I never heard a word mentioned about Jews, or someone even being called ‘Jewish’, in an insulting sense.
Very few of us approved of Israel. That country was dominated by right-wing politicians, interfering in other countries like Lebanon, and being tough on its own Palestinian population. Bullish, belligerent, unacceptable, fascist, Zionist, controlling, uncompromising. I did hear those words used to describe Israel, and I used some of them myself. (And still do) But it was never about the main religion of that country, Judaism. It was about the politics of a small nation, propped up by America, supported by international financiers, and constantly citing The Holocaust as a ‘reasonable excuse’ to behave in a fashion that was unacceptable to many of us on the Left of politics.
Even then, valid criticism of Israel was attacked as antisemitic. It was, and still is, a very easy ‘get out’. If somebody criticises that country, they are immediately labelled as an anti-semite, or a racist, and face censure and disgrace, in some circles. It would appear that Israel is supposed to have a ‘get out of jail free’ card for life, and no matter what they do, or how their armed forces behave, woe betide anyone who protests those actions, for you must also be against their religion, obviously.
But that accusation could not be further from the truth. No different to someone being critical of Irish or Italian politics, with no mention of the main religion of Catholicism in those countries. If I write or say something against Saudi Arabia, does that mean I am an anti-Muslim racist? Of course not. Jewish people really do have to get over this idea of equating attacks against Israel with antisemitism. It just isn’t true, and it doesn’t convince anyone. (Anyone sensible, anyway)
For clarity, I should add that it is a long time since I was in the Labour Party, and hold no brief for that party, or any of its politicians or party members.
After another apparent ‘chemical attack’ by the Syrian government, it might seem that the world is on the brink of the worst international crisis since the Cuban missile affair in 1962. The US President is threatening to use cruise missiles to attack Syrian military bases, and the British Prime Minister has also expressed a desire for this country to tag along on the American coat-tails. Despite claiming to have ‘proof’ that chemicals were used against civilians in Syria, the French President is adopting a ‘wait and see’ stance on whether or not France will also join in.
Meanwhile, the Russians, currently allied with President Assad in Syria, have stated that they will intercept any missiles fired at Syrian bases by the US, UK, or France. In response, Mr Trump has been bullish in the extreme, telling the Russians and Syrians that they can expect to be attacked very soon.
As far as the UK is concerned, our Prime Minister has decided that the people do not need to be consulted about military intervention that could lead to direct conflict with Russia. She is having a series of meetings with colleagues, to explain the reasons why she feels it necessary to embark on what is basically an undeclared war.
Those of us blessed with a reasonable memory will recall Tony Blair telling us that we had to attack Iraq, because they had chemical weapons that had been used against civilians, as well as the much-quoted ‘weapons of mass destruction’ that were never actually found there.
I think it is time to ask some hard questions.
Do we actually want the Syrian rebels to win?
Will the world be a safer or better place if Assad is removed?
Will any intervention not just stir up the hornet’s nest of anti-western feeling that already exists almost everywhere?
Is NATO actually capable of defeating Russia in a conventional conflict, albeit one fought by proxy in another country?
My own answers to these are No, No, Yes, and No.
Syria is a sovereign country, engaged in a civil war against various groups, including some of the same Muslim fundamentalist organisations that we have supposedly tried so hard to eradicate elsewhere. Their war is not our business, other than for the fact that western leaders would like to see Assad removed from power. If they succeed in doing this, the chances are that they will be back fighting whoever takes over from him, as they will surely be no friend of NATO and its allies.
So what is the point of this escalation, something that might drag us into a global conflict? As always, follow the money. More arms, more money for arms companies, more money for the companies that supply the logistical needs of armies, and more money for the companies that supposedly ‘re-build’ after the conflict has stopped. Add to that some school playground-style chest-thumping from inexperienced ‘world leaders’, and we are in danger of seeing a powder keg ignited, becoming a war that will surely not stop at the Syrian border.
Senseless, in my opinion.
Tony Blair was arguably the worst thing that happened to the Labour Party in Britain. Admittedly, we had Neil Kinnock and Michel Foot, and they were never going to win anything. But victory at any cost has never been something I supported, and the arrival of the smarmy Blair in 1997 was the kiss of death to moderate left-wing politics in this country.
Little more than a closet Tory, sucking up to the Royal Family and America, he even changed the whole idea of the party, going so far as to change the name to New Labour, whilst disassociating himself from the trade unions and working classes who created and supported it. At the earliest opportunity, he plunged the country into pointless and deceitful wars against Iraq and Afghanistan, so that he could have ‘his war’, just as Thatcher had The Falklands.
Facing criticism and possible investigation, he resigned as Prime Minister and as a Labour M.P. in 2007. That should have been the end of him as a political figure. But no. He was immediately appointed as Special Envoy to the Middle East (Who by? I don’t know either) on a huge salary, and began the usual round of incredibly profitable public speaking, and selling his memoirs. This a man shamed for lying to his own government, and the British Public, to take them into a war he knew to be based on falsehoods and big business corruption.
He now runs this outfit, the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change. Supposedly a non-profit organisation (whenever I see non-profit, I always know there’s a lot of profit there somewhere) that was funded to the tune of almost $10 million. I have no idea who put up this money, but I have my suspicions. The first thing that Blair did with this new institute was to become active in the Remain campaign, urging people to vote to stay in the EU. He was interviewed as if he was some kind of revered expert, and allowed to offer his opinions unchallenged. Once the vote went against his ideas, he returned to agitate for a second referendum, and keeps popping up with his ‘I told you so’ soundbites and comments.
Then yesterday, he appeared again, this time pontificating on the nerve agent issue in Salisbury. Warning us about Russia, Putin, and a new Cold War, as if he was the only one to be counted on to have drawn the right conclusions. This man has personal wealth in excess of £60 million. He is completely out of touch with any ordinary person in Great Britain, and owns no less than ten houses and some 25 apartments around the world. And his family is just one wife, and three children, so they have plenty of space to spread out in. And in case you think this is a personal attack, here is part of a newspaper report, from The Guardian.
“How much money will it take to make Tony Blair happy? Given the opportunity, most people would surely rest after a decade of running the country. Blair, on the contrary, appears to have spent every waking hour focused on amassing as much wealth as possible, seemingly intent on increasing his worth to match that of a small country. It should come as no surprise that the Blairs have thrown themselves into the property market, since no dollar is too dirty for them. Blair did, after all, give paid public relations advice to a Kazakh dictator after the police shot 15 protestors dead.
Tony and Cherie Blair’s property empire worth estimated £27m
So of course the Blairs have jumped on the property gravy train, snapping up more than two dozen flats in Manchester through a company Cherie and one of their sons, Euan, own; passing on properties from Cherie to her children as gifts, thus avoiding stamp duty, and ultimately amassing £27m worth of property, much of which is let out and has all already risen in value.”
This was a man who supposedly represented the working classes of this country and was the head of the only socialist party left in Britain. A man with no shame. A profiteer. A man who used his position and influence for personal gain, and family fortune. Why is anybody interested in what he says?
He needs to go away. he really does.
I have been patiently waiting for more details to emerge about the nerve agent attack in Salisbury that left two Russian nationals and an English policeman seriously ill in hospital. In a country with more CCTV surveillance than almost anywhere else on Earth, no doubt footage would emerge of suspects, and the security services would be able to name those concerned. The authorities would then tell us how the attack was engineered, and how it happened to be carried out in broad daylight, in a chain restaurant situated in the heart of a small English city.
I have seen countless news reports of specialists in protective clothing removing cars, and erecting covers around the still closed restaurant. Police tape closed off some public spaces nearby, (that tape presumably effective against unknown nerve agents) and various uniformed figures appeared on TV to issue grim statements about the despicable nature of the attack. But still no real information has been disclosed, and the great British public are none the wiser. The target has been identified as a former spy, and possible double agent for Russia. His daughter was with him at the time, and seems to have been ‘collateral damage’. So too the policeman called to investigate in the first instance. The local hospital where the victims were taken was closed for a while, but otherwise, life in Salisbury continued as normal.
There are around 50,000 people resident in that ancient city, yet only three are reported to have been affected by the release of a ‘deadly’ nerve agent. None of the staff in the restaurant were harmed, nor were any of the other customers eating in there at the time. Despite closing the hospital, sealing up the restaurant, and removing cars and ambulances, no further cases of contamination have been reported. Instead, the government and news media here have been quick to accuse the Russians of ordering and carrying out the attack, using a nerve agent that only they have access to. Our bumbling Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, went so far as to accuse Vladimir Putin directly, and compared Russia to Nazi Germany too.
So much for international diplomacy, and waiting for evidence.
Even before the international ‘experts’ arrived to test the substance, Britain expelled 23 Russian diplomats, amid a torrent of accusations and unfounded charges, all based on assumption and rumour.
So what if we say it probably was Russia? The targets definitely appear to be Russians, living openly in the UK, despite their background in spying. Not many countries have access to biological warfare weapons, so Russia has to be high on the list of ‘possibles’. And Russia has been accused of colluding to influence the US Elections, supported the Assad regime in Syria, and is also reasonably friendly with Iran. It is the ‘go-to’ bad guy for almost anything that happens these days, at least since North Korea started to ‘play nice’.
But I think something is very wrong with all this.
Not far from Salisbury, just 6 kilometres in fact, is one of the largest and most sophisticated chemical and biological warfare installations in the world. Porton Down was built in 1917, and became the UK Armed Forces’ primary facility for the development of gas warfare, chemical warfare, and biological warfare too. The scientists there are world leaders in the field, and have worked alongside other countries to develop and supply all manner of toxic substances for use in modern warfare.
The ‘former’ Russian spy was eating not far from this place, and presumably either lived in the area, or was visiting from somewhere else.
This happened just before the recent Russian elections.
Very little information has been forthcoming, and some questions will never be answered, in ‘The Interests Of National Security.’ That again.
I prefer proof to coincidences and unfounded allegations. That’s what got us into a war with Iraq, and led to wars in other countries too. Can it be possible that this whole thing was constructed to discredit Russia just before the elections, and their hosting of the Football World Cup? To add more fuel to the American allegations, and inspire the international community to put pressure on Putin?
Anything’s possible. But they should all remember one important fact.
Russia is not Iraq.
Politics tends to be quiet, at this time of year. But look between the headlines, and you may well discover that it is all still ‘happening’.
North Korea is making overtures. They say that they will negotiate the removal of their nuclear weapons, in return for talks on lessening sanctions, and a better relationship with the south. That might be a great thing to discover, if the DPRK actually had a viable nuclear weapons option, which they patently do not. Nice bluffing from Kim. Will that bluff be called?
The Brexit negotiations are apparently ‘bogged down’ over arrangements about a hard border, in Northern Ireland. That, and the argument over free trade, after we leave the EU. Anyone but the blind, and hermits, will realise that this is all just ‘Brexit stalling’, arranged by the pro-remain politicians who are laughably in charge of settling our withdrawal from the EU. Despite clarion calls to the contrary, it is looking more and more as if a ‘second referendum’ is likely, urging the British people to vote to stay in the EU, in all but name.
As the old saying goes, “Don’t piss in my face, then tell me it is raining”.
Mr Trump continues to play ‘silly buggers’, over in America. His latest wheeze is to threaten to impose trade tariffs, strangling imports of cars, steel, and other goods from countries outside the influence of the US. I don’t think he is mad, as many others assert that he is, but he is getting increasingly silly, that’s for sure.
People are still dying in Syria, every day. Assad is the leader of that country, like it or not. Most of his opponents are from fundamentalist Muslim groups, the kind of groups we are constantly fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet for some reason, in Syria, they are ‘good groups’, and Assad is the devil. Regime change is a slippery slope, as we have discovered in Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, and other countries. Best avoided? Not in Syria, apparently.
So, as Mrs May hangs on for dear life to her job, Mr Trump continues to befuddle and confound, Assad seems to be winning in Syria, and Kim finally plays his ace in the DPRK; the EU try to cling on to British membership for fear of a collapse, and the Saudis remain unrestrained in their support of the terrorists, rest assured that everything is still very much ‘going on’.