Tag Archives: Tony Blair

gordon brown

What Noughties Labour Left Behind

Ed Miliband sometimes sounds like he’s running against Tony Blair for the leadership rather than against David Cameron for the premiership; Miliband’s speeches should emphasise the persistent values at the heart of his party and the principles on which it was founded.

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gordon brown

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One of the key defences used by both Prime Minister David Cameron and his deputy Nick Clegg is that obstacles such as the deficit have been left behind by the Labour Party and must be ‘cleaned up’ by the Government. Cameron used his first House of Commons speech as Prime Minister to emphasise this argument, and it has remained a frequent response to criticism from the opposition during Prime Minister’s Questions. However repetitive this argument might be, the coalition’s desire to emphasise the inherited failings of its predecessor is politically understandable. What is more curious is Labour leader Ed Miliband’s apparent enthusiasm for doing the same thing.

Upon assuming the role, a new party leader might be expected to give a speech or two in which, by criticising old policies or established members of the party, they attempt to create a sense of renewal and innovation. But Miliband has repeatedly introduced Labour’s record – and, in his view, its failings – into the discourse on numerous issues over the course of his leadership. There have been frequent admissions by the Labour leader regarding the mistakes he believes were made by his party’s government. According to Miliband, Labour was wrong on issues such as the economy, immigration and Iraq. Leaving aside what one may thinking about Labour’s previous approaches to these and any other issues, it seems reasonable to wonder why Miliband is so keen, insistent even, on reminding everybody about his party’s failures, real or perceived.

It has been suggested that Miliband’s recent remarks to the Fabian Society, which took a similarly apologetic approach, are part of an ‘attempt to distance himself from elements of the last government’s record considered toxic by many strategists.’ While it is important for Miliband to be honest and self-critical about his party’s shortcomings, there is something self-defeating about his constant referral back to New Labour’s record if his aim is to disassociate himself from it. These kinds of apologies can be useful in the first year or so of opposition as a way to rebrand, but after three years out of power, Labour needs to focus on establishing its new approach and produced a clear pitch to the electorate about its policies. Labour’s Policy Review should eventually shed more light on the tangible elements of the party’s approach, but Miliband should nevertheless emphasise the future rather than dwell on the past in the meantime.

Of course, Labour has already made policy suggestions on various issues, but these often focus on ‘learning lessons’ and accepting hard truths about Labour’s past efforts. For example, on immigration, Miliband told the Fabian Society that during the premierships of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown ‘high levels of migration were having huge effects on the lives of people in Britain – and too often those in power seemed not to accept this. The fact that they didn’t explains partly why people turned against us in the last general election.’ And on the economy: ‘One Nation Labour has learnt the lessons of the financial crisis. It begins from the truth that New Labour did not do enough to bring about structural change in our economy to make it work for the many, not just the few. It did not do enough to change the rules of the game that were holding our economy back.’ In these remarks, Miliband is trying to demonstrate the heightened self-awareness and self-improvement of ‘One Nation Labour’ in contrast to the old and often mistaken ‘New Labour’. Yet this ploy, along with the attempt to play down Labour’s record by giving it extra attention in speeches, treats the electorate with little respect. Voters remember New Labour, favourably or not, and they will not be convinced that there are no similarities at all between the brands ‘New’ and ‘One Nation’ any more than they will forget the successes and limitations of Blair and Brown.

Perhaps most disappointing, however, is that Miliband and his strategists seem to have assumed that the argument over New Labour’s record was lost along with the 2010 election. Indeed, Miliband’s tone contains none of the positivity exhibited by his predecessor in the last days of the 2010 campaign, during which antipathy towards the party was exceedingly high. Despite Labour’s damaged image at the end of thirteen years in power, Gordon Brown retained a sense of pride in his party’s accomplishments in this speech, without any of the obligatory qualifiers and ‘howevers’ that seem to accompany the current leader’s reminiscing monologues. Both the content and the delivery of Brown’s speech demonstrate that celebrating New Labour’s record is politically credible and potentially convincing. Even if Miliband feels morally or politically obliged to remind everybody of how poor he believes Labour’s performance has been in the past, he should also feel more confident about celebrating such political events as the minimum wage, the renovation of thousands of schools or the cancellation of developing world debt.

Ed Miliband sometimes sounds like he’s running against Tony Blair for the leadership rather than against David Cameron for the premiership. To correct this, Miliband’s speeches should emphasise the persistent values at the heart of his party and the principles on which it was founded. Crucially, he should not be afraid ask David Cameron what the coalition is doing to maintain and build on the progress in healthcare and education left behind by the Labour government.

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Photo credit: Policy Network

london education cuts protest

Are Protests A Complete Waste Of Time?

As the NUS prepares for another round of protests on the 21st of November, one can only ask whether it is a waste of time or a vital action that may lead to positive results.

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london education cuts protest

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20th October 2012 saw one of the largest protests in recent years. Titled “A Future That Works”, around 150,000 students, activists, politicians and other members of the public filled the streets to voice their disapproval and anger at the public cuts, welfare budget cuts and against austerity measures put forward by the Coalition government. Additionally the protest aimed to change the way politics works in Britain. Their objective is to create a nation which pays workers a living wage, where bankers do not get high bonuses, where the government ensures the inequality between the rich and the poor is shrunk.  These objectives are not new and throughout the years citizens have demonstrated against their government’s policies in hope of change. But does change ever come?

Undoubtedly some protests can have devastating effects on the governments. The Arab Spring is a perfect example of small scale marches turning into full-blown revolutions which resulted in regime change in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya. Protests have also had a positive impact in America where slavery and segregation were abolished thanks to the protests and marches organised by Martin Luther King. Finally, Gandhi had an innovative idea of protesting – peaceful non-violent civil disobedience which led to the independence of India from the British Empire.

However, recently a large number of people have claimed that protests do not achieve anything and looking back over the last few years it is understandable why that is the case. Almost a million marched against the war in Iraq in 2003, yet the march did not prevent the invasion. Thousands of students marched against the rise in tuition fees, yet once again the results were unsuccessful. One has to also ask what the Occupy Movement has achieved over the last year except media coverage.

Evidently some protests and marches achieve their aim and some do not. Perhaps one explanation for this could be the cause of the protests. While most marches have some validity, one can argue that marching against authoritarian regimes and against slavery and segregation is far more important than marching against a tuition fee rise or austerity measures. In addition, some of the causes which have been successful are quite objective. Anyone with any sense of morality would agree that racism, slavery and life under a dictatorship is wrong and thus it was inevitable that change would eventually come. Austerity measures, education cuts and even the invasion of Iraq are issues which are less clear cut and can be viewed as rather subjective.

Does that mean that less important matters should be left untouched by activists and protesters?  Absolutely not: the secondary aim of marches is to illustrate the dissatisfaction of citizens against a particular policy and additionally to spread the narrative among the public who may not be aware of the damage these policies may be causing. This is exactly what the protests against the invasion of Iraq, against the tuition fee rise, and the most recent austerity march has achieved: the illustration of anger at the government and widespread media coverage attracting others to the cause.

Let us also not forget that student demonstrations can be very effective. For example, thousands of students took over the university as part of the uprising of the Polytechnic University of Athens. As a result the military junta stormed the university gates using tanks. The outcome was the killing of many students by the dictatorship, however, a few days later a nation-wide uprising took place against the junta. This demonstration resulted in the creation of the famous legislation known as the Students Asylum or Academic Asylum. This law was introduced to protect freedom of thought and expression on campuses in 1982, when memories of Greece’s repressive military dictatorships of the late 1960s and early 1970s were still raw.

So where does this leave modern day protests and marches? As the NUS prepares for another demonstration on the 21st of November, one can only ask whether it is just another waste of time or a vital action that may lead to positive results. From the examples given in this article it is clear that many marches do create change, regardless of whether it takes weeks or years. In addition these marches can achieve much more than transformation of the society. They can ensure the government is well aware that their citizens are not prepared to stand back and let the establishment make unpopular choices. Demonstrations keep the government on their toes and ensure politicians are always accountable for their actions. For these reasons, protest and demonstrations are vital ingredients of our political system and have an intrinsically important role to play in society.

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Photo credit: Selena Sheridan

B1-B US Bomber on a night mission

Is Iraq The Only War Tony Blair Should Be On Trial For?

Kosovo was not a question of defending people from ethnic cleansing and genocide. Tony Blair’s support for intervention led to more deaths than likely would have occurred without the bombing campaign.

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B1-B US Bomber on a night mission

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Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has been back in the headlines recently (though not quite as he would like), with Archbishop Desmond Tutu calling for him to be put on trial, a call supported by, among others, Guardian columnist George Monbiot, who has been promoting citizens’ arrests of Blair. Their argument is that Blair prosecuted an illegal war without UN authorisation, an act of aggression justified on spurious grounds, which led to countless unnecessary deaths.

The facts are certainly on their side, but perhaps more than they themselves realise. For whereas they point only to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, I would suggest that these arguments also hold true for the 1999 bombing of Yugoslavia (now Serbia), of which Blair’s UK was, as in 2003, a main instigator.

A Moral War?

Like the attack on Iraq, the bombing of Serbia lacked UN authorisation, and so was illegal under international law. The bombing also carried a terrible direct toll (at least 500 civilian deaths and billions of dollars of damage, as NATO targeted Serbia’s civilian infrastructure), including war crimes such as the deliberate targeting of Serbia’s media.

Despite this, the Kosovo intervention is usually seen as justifiable on humanitarian grounds, as it defended the Kosovars (Kosovo Albanians) from genocide and ethnic cleansing, and liberated them from the oppressive rule of the ‘Serbian Saddam’, Slobodan Milosevic.

It is this justification – the moral case, as Blair would call it – that this article will focus on. As we shall see, the situation was no-where near as black-and-white as presented, and, far from preventing violence or promoting compromise, the NATO bombing actually caused a huge escalation of the conflict and eliminated all possibility of compromise: it caused the very disaster it claimed to be preventing. So if Tony Blair ever does face trial for his wars, there is a strong case for including this one in the Prosecutor’s brief.

Kosovo: The Story Before the Bombing

Kosovo is a case – of which there are many in the world – of a territory contested by two national groups, Serbs and Albanians. Serbs, who by the twentieth century formed about a quarter of the population, considered it an integral part of Serbia, and were never too happy about the presence of an Albanian majority there since the nineteenth century. Albanians, two-thirds of the population, wanted the province to be part of Albania rather than Serbia, and were never too happy with the Serbs being there. Whenever one group had control of the region, they oppressed, abused or persecuted the other, in a fairly predictable cycle.

The most recent part of this cycle began in the late 1960s, when communist Yugoslavia transformed itself into a loose federation of which Kosovo, run mainly by its Albanian majority, was de facto an equal part. Despite this unprecedented degree of autonomy, in 1981 Kosovo was shaken by Albanian riots demanding the severing of the symbolic links with Serbia that remained. Soon, abuses of Serbs by Albanian nationalists, acknowledged and described by the province’s Albanian leaders themselves, and the persistence of separatist feeling in the province, became major issues throughout Yugoslavia.

It was this situation itself which helped lead to Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic revoking Kosovo’s autonomy in 1990, now bringing Albanians under a discriminatory and repressive Serb regime. Faced with Serb military strength, the Kosovo Albanians adopted a largely pacifist resistance. Their openly declared goal, however, was not merely civil rights or autonomy, but secession from Serbia and, ideally, unification with Albania.

In the second half of the 1990s, meanwhile, a group of radicals called the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) – described as ‘a terrorist group’ even by US negotiator Robert Gelbard, among others – began a violent campaign against Serb rule, targeting not just Serbian police and military, but Serb and Roma civilians too, and any ethnic Albanians they deemed ‘collaborators’, or simply rivals. (Former KLA leaders are on trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) for some of these crimes). Their goal was to provoke Serb response and thereby greater Albanian support for the KLA, and eventually international intervention. As one of their officials later admitted: ‘every single Albanian realized that the more civilians die, intervention comes nearer… The more civilians were killed, the chances of international intervention became bigger, and the KLA of course realized that’.

The KLA managed to take control of much of the province, and, predictably, the Serbs responded with a brutal counter-insurgency campaign, until the threat of NATO bombing in October 1998 forced an uneasy truce and de-escalation. Over the following months the KLA used the ‘truce’ to re-take lost territory – British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook himself noted the KLA was the truce’s chief violator – but the presence of large numbers of OSCE and EU monitors kept the conflict at a relatively low level.

Thus, the conflict in Kosovo before the NATO bombing was one between two rival nationalist forces, a repressive state apparatus on the one hand and a rebel group on the other, with each guilty of crimes. The Serbian counter-insurgency campaign was brutal and often indiscriminate (like many in the world), but the available evidence does not suggest that it had the goal of ethnic cleansing – no Albanians were being forced out of Kosovo. The number of casualties – although high considering the size of Kosovo’s population of two million – was also hardly exceptional: according to the pro-Western Humanitarian Law Centre (HLC) in Belgrade, which has painstakingly documented the killed and ‘disappeared’ of the Kosovo conflict, there were about 1,500 dead in 1998, 300 of them non-Albanians.

The Negotiations That Never Were

Though harshly critical of the Serbian side, Western states at the time did not endorse Albanian nationalist goals. Rather, they advocated a compromise between Serb and Albanian national projects: extensive autonomy for Kosovo within Serbia, as had existed in the 1970s and 80s. In February 1999 negotiations were held in Rambouillet, France, with the supposed aim of reaching this outcome. Serbia’s negotiating platform was for autonomy, but at a lower level than had existed previously, and with built-in protections for non-Albanians (not just Serbs, but also the Roma, Muslims, and other groups in Kosovo). The Albanians, on the other hand, would reluctantly accept expansive autonomy only temporarily, under the condition of a future referendum on independence.

Whether Milosevic was really prepared to compromise is debatable – he was undoubtedly exploiting the crisis to strengthen his own authoritarian rule – but it is notable that his stances were actually closer to the envisaged compromise than the Albanians’. Moreover, just three years earlier he had indeed shown himself willing to claim victory in peace, forcing the Croatian and Bosnian Serbs into abandoning most of their goals.

Negotiations, however, were not given a chance, as Western negotiators instead sabotaged them to create a pretext for bombing, proposing a draft agreement that included a referendum after three years. In a signed promise given behind the back of the Russian negotiator, US Secretary of State Madeline Albright promised the Albanians that this meant a referendum on independence, whose results the USA would respect. This was not a compromise, but the victory of one side, and an agreement that no Serbian government would ever have been able to accept.

When the Serbs rejected the draft in March 1999, NATO then ordered the withdrawal of all OSCE and EU monitors from Kosovo, and began bombing.

Escalation

Predictably, NATO’s bombing caused a massive escalation of the conflict. Serbian forces now not only cracked down on the KLA but also launched a campaign of ethnic cleansing, executing thousands of Albanians and ordering hundreds of thousands out. When Serbian forces withdrew as part of the June 1999 peace deal (which did not include a referendum on independence), these Albanians were able to return alongside NATO/UN peacekeepers. But so did the KLA, which in turn orchestrated a wave of ethnic cleansing against Serbs, Roma and other non-Albanians, kidnapping and executing many, and forcing the majority to flee the province. As has been revealed and extensively documented by former ICTY chief prosecutor Carla del Ponte and the Council of Europe’s investigator Dick Marty, there is convincing evidence that several hundred of the ‘disappeared’ non-Albanians had their organs removed by the KLA and sold on the international market. Former KLA leaders, such as current Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, remain dominant in Kosovo today, sitting – according to leaked NATO intelligence documents – atop an apex of organised crime, including the heroine trade.

The HLC has reached a figure of about 10,500 Albanians and 2,500 Serbs and others killed or ‘disappeared’ during the whole Kosovo conflict. (10) These numbers testify to the disastrous role played by NATO intervention, as the overwhelming majority of Albanian deaths took place after NATO began bombing, while a further 1,500 Serb civilians were killed or ‘disappeared’ after Yugoslav withdrawal on 10 June 1999. Moreover, although large considering the population size, the total number of Albanian victims was nowhere near the genocidal levels alleged by NATO (US Defence Secretary William Cohen had talked, during the bombing, of ‘about 100,000 military aged men missing… [who] may have been murdered’). Proportionately, in fact, the Kosovo Serbs suffered a similar number of victims, and – shockingly – as many Kosovo Serbs were killed in post-war peace as Albanians during the fighting in 1998.

Before the NATO bombing, meanwhile, there were no refugees outside Kosovo. During the bombing, however, about 800,000 Albanians were forced out, and afterwards about 200,000 non-Albanians, with very few of the latter ever returning.

Kosovo Today

Unsurprisingly, the result of this escalation was not a compromise between Serbs and Albanians. With the province now outside of Serbian control, the Albanians no longer had any incentive to compromise, and Western states eventually abandoned their support for autonomy. Thus, with Western backing, sensible Serbian offers of a Hong Kong-type arrangement for Kosovo were ignored, and in 2008 Kosovo declared independence.

The end result of the whole intervention is thus one great mess: Kosovo is ruled by organised crime, recognised by only a quarter of the world, and still has no control over a Serb-majority region in its north, which functionally remains a part of Serbia. Albanian-Serb relations within Kosovo remain poor and Serbia refuses to recognise the province’s secession, indefinitely hindering its EU prospects. The Kosovo precedent, meanwhile, has been cleverly used by Russia to justify its 2008 war with Georgia and subsequent recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. More devastatingly, the NATO intervention, which took place without UN authorisation, provided an important precedent for the attack on Iraq four years later.

Conclusions

There can be a ‘moral case’ for the NATO bombing only if all the deaths that it caused were inevitable; intervention somehow managed to prevent a far worse sequence of events; and the current situation is the best possible outcome. This seems highly unlikely. Before the bombing the Serbs were conducting counter-insurgency campaigns, not ethnic cleansing, and Western pressure and monitoring was keeping the fighting to a low level. Milosevic had previously shown himself to be susceptible to Western pressure and willing to compromise when necessary, and, even if an agreement proved elusive, it is doubtful that, under the pressure and watchful eye of the West, the conflict would ever have escalated so drastically.

To put it simply, Kosovo was not a question of defending people from ethnic cleansing and genocide, or liberating people from their oppressor. It was a matter of resolving a nationalist dispute between two peoples – and even if that is difficult, bombing one side is usually not the best way to find a solution. NATO’s bombing campaign was illegal, included clear war crimes, and caused the very catastrophe it claimed to be preventing. So if Tony Blair is ever put on trial, there is a strong case for adding it to the list of charges.

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Photo Credit: expertinfantry

Amy Winehouse and close up text

What Do You Think Of David Cameron?

Artist Annemarie Wright is creating a unique piece of artwork based on public opinion and she needs you to contribute your opinion of David Cameron to make it happen!

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Amy Winehouse and close up text

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[dropcap]A[/dropcap]nnemarie Wright is a text based artist specialising in the production of handwritten artwork. She is most well known for a piece of Tony Blair – “Their families have been told“ – created using the handwritten names of fallen British troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

She has now turned her eye to our current Prime Minister and is calling for the thoughts and opinions of the public to create a life-sized image of David Cameron. This piece is to remain objective and we are encouraging contributors to be constructive with their comments.

Comments will be collected until the 10th August 2012 to allow Annemarie sufficient time to finish the piece before the Conservative Party Conference in October. There are several ways to contribute, the preferred being Twitter, though if your opinion needs more than 140 characters then you can get in touch via Facebook, email or the comments section below.

I am going to create a piece of work that will bring people together and allow them to get involved in something. This will not only make it more special for me, but will allow people to actually voice their opinions in an illustrative way.”

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Web: WhatDoYouThinkOfDavidCameron.com // Twitter: @WDYTODC

Email: [email protected] // Facebook: facebook.com/WDYTODC 

Tony Blair at the Leveson Inquiry

The Leveson Inquiry & Tony Blair’s Dignity

Behind the LOL’s, BSKYB bid and phone hacking, what has the Leveson Inquiry disclosed to the public about the way Prime Ministers wish to communicate with their citizens?

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Tony Blair at the Leveson Inquiry

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[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hilst ongoing, the Leveson Inquiry can conflate a multitude of issues within its broad terms of reference. One issue of great significance is the assessment of any patterns of behaviour that were antithetical to open, fair and transparent decision-making. This therefore requires the evaluation of relationships between press and politicians in the past few decades and to assist with this topic, Tony Blair gave evidence to module 3 of the Inquiry earlier in the month. There remain many reasons why one may be at variance with Blair’s substance and style of government. Some of these could include the processes his media management operation enacted, especially towards the end of his premiership. After his testimony he was predictably dismissed and criticised by his detractors in the press. They presented him with a charge sheet that suggested he and the party acted without dignity, were part of a conscious deception, created artificial news through leaks and briefings, damaged opponents, perverted facts, bullied, fed the media a desperate diet of anti-news and precipitated the nadir of trust between the public and newspaper reporting.

Yet was New Labour’s communication strategy inappropriate when the media can be considered the significant factor in determining a governments tone, presentation and possibly even electoral success? New Labour had a frightening context to consider with when they began in 1994. Neil Kinnock believed that “for the Labour Party, all trails trace back to the media.” The 1992 election campaign saw memorable, personal attacks on Kinnock. Lord McAlpine, Conservative Party treasurer, wrote that the heroes of the 1992 campaign were Sir David English, Sir Nicholas Lloyd, Kelvin MacKenzie and other editors of the grander Tory Press. In 1992, the Conservative Party was supported by Rupert Murdoch’s three News International papers as well as Sir Nicholas Lloyd’s Daily Express and Conrad Black’s Daily Telegraph. When the Today newspaper decided to support the Conservatives, News International had gifted the Conservative Party with a combined circulation of over 10 million, with the Conservatives securing 70% of circulation to the Labour Party’s 27%. The influence of these newspapers on the outcome of the election remains widely contested. What is hardly contestable was, that when Tony Blair took over the leadership in 1994, Labour had to contend with a culture in which the electorate were not just being “lied to, they were systematically denied the facts on which they might have been able to form a sensible judgement,” as made clear by Ian Aitkin. This accounts for New Labour’s media policy that commentators have claimed constituted a project of malevolent self presentation but those who were part of it maintain it was just the creation of a ‘permanent campaign’.

Whether the party acted proportionally is still questioned; there still remains no substantial evidence that policy concessions, amendments or a “Faustian pact” were offered to any media proprietors. I believe they reacted with equal and opposite force to that exerted on it previously and they did this in order to neutralise negative and inaccurate reporting.

Blair was not ashamed when the inquiry came to the party’s media policy. He gave a testimony that commanded and captivated. It was a demonstration of why the modernisation of the Labour brand secured electoral success – it was presided over by a “great actor manager.” The extravagant fake hands were salient and the offensive, confident self-belief striking. It was also a testimony that not merely defended but was an unapologetic doctrine supporting realpolitik.

Blair’s evidence rekindles memories of an historic era that the current political parties need not replicate with as much virulence as New Labour did. Interaction and obsession with the press (in particular those that have lowered the tone and quality of British press) to the extent seen in the past is no longer as beneficial for politicians, the media or the public. Those at Westminster and in the press share the dubious honour of maintaining the lowest levels of public trust between all professions across the country. Yet Westminster may soon be hand delivered recommendations that could “eradicate the cancer” in the British media. This is even more likely as Lord Justice Leveson is keen to make a lasting change that transcends the current media panic and the excitability of media historians. If the recommendations are robust then the realpolitik in this age will be to grant them Royal Assent as soon as possible. There is an opportunity to begin a definitive alteration in the relative power of press and parliament, in favour of the latter.

Rupert Murdoch

Politics & The Press: One Big LOL

The government is too preoccupied with courting the press rather than scrutinizing them: the relationship is one big LOL, but not the lots of love kind.

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Rupert Murdoch

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Propaganda is information that is not impartial, but biased and often misleading. It is dispensed with a certain political agenda and therefore used to promote or publicise such causes with the intention of influencing the masses and directing them towards that agenda.

[dropcap]O[/dropcap]ver this month, Module 3 of the Leveson Inquiry has proceeded to examine the relationship between politicians and the press. The highlights of this week have been particularly engaging, starring John Major, Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband as witnesses in a decisive case against Rupert Murdoch. But why does Murdoch matter so much?

The Murdoch Empire has been labelled the biggest media player in Europe – an unquestionable cause for concern predominantly in the fields of British politics and populace.

A tabloid can be defined as ‘sensational in a lurid or vulgar way’ and with particular emphasis on the latter, The Sun is a fitting example. It is part of Murdoch’s News International Corporation and has a national daily circulation of over 2.6 million, which makes it the most popular source of written news in the United Kingdom. To put it plainly, the Murdoch Empire has a mass audience in Britain and therefore potential mass influence. This provides a basis of explanation as to why the relationship between the press and politicians has become so intimate and ultimately concerning.

As the 1997 election approached, Conservative Prime Minister John Major was heavily encouraged to strengthen relations with the Murdoch press and on Tuesday, Major revealed that in  February prior to the election a significant conversation between Murdoch and Major occurred amidst their fine dining. It culminated with a statement similar to the following:

 “If you don’t change your policy my organisation cannot support you”

Murdoch outright threatened to remove support for the Conservative Party unless Major changed certain policies towards Europe, which is likely to have referred to a referendum on leaving the EU. Although Major was admittedly “too sensitive to the press” which he even once called a “source of wonder”, the matter was not pursued and the Tory’s lost the election, Murdoch’s support aligning itself with the new Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair. Twelve years later in September 2009, Prime Minister Gordon Brown refused any negotiation with Murdoch and support from The Sun was withdrawn and naturally, returned to the Conservatives. The Tories won the following election.

With such a blunt correlation between party politics and the press, Ed Miliband’s suggestion that “one person should not control 34% of the British press” is extremely accurate and quite frankly, exceedingly long overdue. This is because ultimately if the Murdoch Empire has the power to change British political policy whilst having significant access and influence over the population, his tabloids can be described as the most useful instrument to promote and publicise particular political agenda and can therefore be labelled as pure propaganda.

Nobody can deny that the government is far too preoccupied with courting the media rather than scrutinising them and as a result the relationship between editors and politicians have consequently ended in one big lol, but not the lots of love kind.

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The Israeli Lobby In The UK: Conspiracy Or Anti-Semitic Stereotype?

It is in the government’s interest to disassociate itself from the Israeli lobby in the UK.

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[dropcap]A[/dropcap]t a Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI) business lunch in 2006, Prime Minister David Cameron stated that he is not only a proud Conservative Friend of Israel, but that he is proud of the central role Friends of Israel plays in his party. Friends of Israel (FI) is a lobbying group with branches in each of the three major British political parties. Since FI boasts 80% of Conservative MP’s as its members, it is important to ask how influential the lobby truly is and whether it is to be deemed pernicious.

The Israeli lobby is involved in two main public domains: politics and media. Its influence in the political sphere is attested, for instance, by the fact that the two Prime Ministers preceding Cameron had a deep connection with pro-Israel lobbies. One of the first things Tony Blair did once he became an MP in 1983 was to join the Labour Friends of Israel (LFI). After his election in 1997 he appointed Michael Levy, a Jewish businessman, former board member of the Jewish Agency and chief fundraiser for the New Labour, as the government’’s envoy to the Middle East raising obvious issues over conflict of interest.

Gordon Brown, the day after becoming Prime Minister in 2007, accepted the post as Patron of the Jewish National Fund, an organisation responsible for the land from which Palestinian refugees were evicted. Just like Tony Blair, Gordon Brown received generous donations from people closely linked to the Israeli lobby. David Abrahams, a Jewish millionaire and member of LFI, donated £600,000 to the Labour Party, causing a scandal when it was revealed that the donation was not – contrary to British electoral regulations – publicly announced. Gordon Brown then made Jon Mendelsohn, ex-chairman of LFI, as his chief fundraiser for the 2010 elections and James Purnell, also an ex-chairman of LFI, secretary of state for culture, media and sport.

The link between lobbying in the political and in the media domain is easy to spot. For instance, once Lorna Fitzsimons, member of LFI, lost her seat as Labour MP in 2005, she was made chief executive of the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM). BICOM is reputed to be the main pro-Israel lobby group in the media. Founded in 2001, BICOM’s main source of income is Paju Zabludowicz, a man who inherited a fortune from his father Shlomo, the founder of Soltam (an Israeli arms company).

Many major British media outlets have succumbed to some sort of pressure from organisations within the Israeli lobby. BBC correspondent Jeremy Bowen was investigated by the BBC’’s editorial standards committee after the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland and the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) complained about some of Bowen’s reports from Jerusalem. Bowen had merely stated the common known fact that Israel’s occupation of the West Bank is illegal under international law.

Sam Kiley, former correspondent for The Times, resigned after publicly stating that since the newspaper had been bought by media mogul Rupert Murdoch, known to have business interests in Israel, it had become impossible to write freely about Israeli policies. Kiley concluded that “no pro-Israel lobbyist ever dreamed of having such power over a great national newspaper”.

Perhaps the most explicit case of the lobby’s pressure in the media was when David Seaman, at the time Israeli Government press office director, boasted to have been behind the decision to remove the award-winning Guardian correspondent Suzanna Goldenberg from her post in Israel.

Although the pro-Israel lobby in the UK cannot claim as much influence as the renowned lobby in the US, it has made remarkable achievements. Lest the mentioning of these facts be interpreted as typical anti-Semitic propaganda, it needs to be noted that lobbying is certainly not new in the British political system, counting among the groups also the Muslim Friends of Labour, an organisation which has itself been embroiled in a scandal involving illegal donations to Gordon Brown. Furthermore, Israeli lobbies in the media have been described by Dennis Sewell, a journalist of the New Statesman, as nothing “more than a two-men-and-a-dog operation located above a shop”.

The fundamental faults with the pro-Israel lobby, namely using money through donations instead of factual argumentation in order to convince MP’s of the righteousness of their cause, is a sin it shares with all the other lobbies and is thus not unique to it. What distinguishes it is the particularly delicate area of influence, namely politics in the Middle East. At a time of sweeping changes in the Middle East where US influence is waning and with it the Israeli cause, it goes against the government’s interest to be seen as unconditionally siding with Israel.

Also, since the lobby’’s fundraising has been tainted by scandals and given rise to conflicts of interest it makes the political establishment look murky to the public. Further, its pressure in the media has arguably biased information, attacked reliable journalists and, at least in some cases, prevented freedom of speech, a constitutional right. Although the lobby is no grand Jewish conspiracy, it does seem to have a considerable degree of negative impact on public domains. It is thus in the public and government’s interest to distance itself from it.

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Rightly Or Wrongly, An Israeli Attack Is Inevitable

The timer to the first of many Israeli missiles killing the first of many Iranian citizens comes increasingly and inevitably closer to zero.

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[dropcap]I[/dropcap]srael has a history of taking preventative measures to stop Middle Eastern states from challenging its nuclear hegemony over the region. The attacks on Osirak and Al Kibar (Iraq in 1981 and Syria in 2007 respectively) exemplify what is known as the BeginDoctrine: “under no circumstances will [Israel] allow the enemy to develop weapons of mass destruction against our people”.

Whilst this has been somewhat neutered by the lack of an Israeli offensive against the manufacture of various chemical and biological weaponry in the Middle East, the Jewish-majority state has been consistent in its implementation in regard to nuclear capability.

The reasoning behind such a policy lies in the depths of mankind’s turpitude. The horrors that befell the Jewish nation during the Second World War catalysed the Israeli assertion of “never again”: Israel will not allow any state to reach a stage where it may threaten her existence, no matter how remote such a possibility may be.

This is notable as Iran does not pose an existential threat to Israel (even if one does believe everything a populist politician says, the mistranslation of Ahmadinejad – ‘Israel should be wiped of the face of the earth’ – is exactly that, a mistranslation). Iranian foreign policy since the 1979 revolution has, with few exceptions, veered away from the ideological and towards the pragmatic: she has been a rational actor. As such, many of the torts regarding the Islamic Republic’s probable actions following its ascension to the nuclear club are incredulous in their ignorance.

As Shashank Joshi has capably argued, Iran will not initiate a nuclear showdown. She will not provide terrorist organisations with a nuclear weapon (more significantly, Hamas and its ilk would never dream of detonating a nuclear warhead in Israel). And, if past experiences are anything to go by, Iranian acquisition of nuclear weapons will not spur a mass proliferation among Arab states in the region.

But it is easy to dispense with such sentiment from the comfort of our Western armchairs. After all, we are not in the firing range of Iran’s Shahab 3 missiles. Similarly, whilst Seamus Milne is correct in asserting that an Israeli assault would give the “strongest incentive possible” for Iran to assemble a nuclear weapon, such sentiment does not hold weight among swathes of Israeli society. The possibility of an Iranian nuclear breakout capability is threat enough.

if we are right, as I believe with every fibre of instinct and conviction I have that we are, and we do not act, then we will have hesitated in face of this menace, when we should have given leadership. That is something history will not forgive”

Quoting Tony Blair is an inherently dangerous affair, but his sentiments beautifully illustrate the Israeli dilemma.

All parties accept that Israeli military action will bring untold mayhem and carnage to a region already reeling from decades of mismanagement, destruction and suffering. But what politician can reject the founding conviction of their state? What politician will run the risk of condemning their state’s history to a chapter in an ancient textbook? What politician will risk their nation suffering a second genocide? However implausible, such a scenario is not beyond the realms of reality.

The CIA doctrine towards Iran of “delay delay delay” until another solution presents itself was possible three years ago, but with sanctions already crippling the Iranian economy and no sign of the nuclear programme letting up, it appears that alternative options are scarce. Continued Iranian intransigence toward IAEA inspections is ratcheting up pressure on the Israeli leadership: how much longer until a strike would fail to make an impact on the Islamic Republic’s nuclear programme?

The Begin Doctrine has been reiterated by numerous Israeli politicians since the founder of Likud’s death, including current Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu: the leader has affirmed his commitment that a nuclear Iran will not happen under his stewardship. But as domestic sentiment and internal political rivalry in the Muslim country forbids the fundamentalist regime from backing down, the timer to the first of many Israeli missiles killing the first of many Iranian citizens comes increasingly and inevitably closer to zero.