Posts Tagged ‘Politics’

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Protest against Trump state visit, London (Photo: Beki Dambrauskas)

There have been some voices today, from the usual quarters, pointing out past occasions when the Queen has been forced to endure the company of odious tyrants. The point they’re trying to make, of course, is that Donald Trump should be allowed to have his state visit.

Conservative apologist Iain Dale lists Nicolae Ceausescu in 1978, Robert Mugabe in 1994, Bashar al-Assad in 2002, Vladimir Putin in 2003, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in 2007 and China’s Xi Jinping in 2015. He neglects to mention the ex-IRA commander Gerry Adams in 2015. The argument seems to be that the Queen has met monsters before, what’s one more? First let me say I’m glad to hear Conservative voices putting Trump among the company he deserves — it’s an admission, of sorts, of what he is.

Now let me point out why this occasion is different. Many of these past visits were attempts to build bridges with countries we’ve not traditionally enjoyed good relations with, or whose values don’t resemble our own; democracy, tolerance and free speech. I don’t necessarily agree that this is a good idea, but that’s the aim.

The United States, however, is a country with which we have long had good relations. It’s a country whose values have long been recognisable to us as similar to our own. Under Donald Trump, that is changing. He is a tyrant ruling by executive order, flouting the judiciary and openly lying to his people. He has vowed to demolish the constitution he pledged to defend. He’s a self-confessed sex pest, so soaked in tawdry allegations that we’ve ceased to notice the stench. A thin-skinned vainglorious idiot who blacklists whole peoples from the land where “huddled masses” have long aspired to freedom. And don’t get me started on his cabinet.

His state visit will be no bridge-building exercise, comparable to the examples above. We have no hope of affecting a positive change by our good example. This man is running roughshod over the values our countries have long shared and, by inviting him now — in record time for a post-war president — we are endorsing him. This is made abundantly clear by the deafening silence from Downing Street about his de-facto Muslim ban. It’s not what we would do, they pathetically mewl. They promise UK exemption from the ban, even as the US embassy in London denies it.

There’s a reason for this: Theresa May is in a position of weakness unusual for a UK Prime Minister and it all comes down to Brexit. This calamitous decision to leave the European Union, the world’s largest economy and our biggest trading partner, has forced us to drag our begging bowl across the pond to this Toytown Hitler. Is this taking back control?

I note also that Nigel Farage, the privately-educated ex-stockbroker who crusaded for Brexit while moaning (hilariously) about the elite, is now calling for a similar “Muslim ban” here. This sort of politics is the baggage of Brexit and we will hear more of it as this madcap scheme continues. I think we can also safely dispatch with the notion that the driving principle of UKIP is some sort of libertarian streak; no, it’s the same old bigotry we all thought it was.

“They think the Queen can’t cope with Trump,” says Mr Dale. Nonsense, the Queen has coped with fascists all her life. But we should have enough respect for ourselves and the USA, that she shouldn’t be exposed to a fascist American president.

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Photo: Dave Radcliffe (www.flickr.com/photos/libdems)

Photo: Dave Radcliffe (www.flickr.com/photos/libdems)

Whatever one may think of the current Labour Party, there’s no denying that it knows how to lose an election.

The morning of May 8 brought a crushing defeat, but for all the upset there was no time wasted. Miliband resigned and straight away conversations started about what could be done differently – and under who – to win in 2020.

Coming, as it did, on the morning the party hoped to walk victorious into Downing Street, this was admirably resilient. But what of the night’s other losers, the Liberal Democrats?

While there is no consensus on why Labour lost it, the Liberal Democrats can be under no illusions: five years of propping up a Tory government had ground voter support down to a nub.

Yet somehow, the party seems to have missed this message. Its leaders speak as if the electorate lost the election, not them – as if no mistakes have been made, save for by the voters.

Nick Clegg, stepping down, said the results had been “crushing and unkind.” Paddy Ashdown said the outcome was “cruel.” You’d think the public had failed to support them out of spite.

Clegg went on to say his MPs had lost their seats because of “forces entirely beyond their control” and that the “politics of fear” had cost them – the latter point was echoed by Vince Cable.

In a moment of undisguised contempt for the electorate, Clegg evoked a Liberal Democrat councillor who, on losing his seat, said he wholeheartedly accepted the voters’ verdict if it was their thanks for the scraps begged from the Tory table.

The notion that the coalition might have been a mistake, meanwhile, is not indulged at all. The party is agreed – it was brave and selfless to leap at power like a dog after a stick, and a move all should admire.

If a failure must be considered, it’s that the party did not adequately communicate its greatness. Yet this too can be someone else’s fault. One councillor told me they blamed the lack of a Liberal Democrat mouthpiece on Fleet Street.

Even Norman Lamb, who at least accepts some wrongdoing, seems to only give ground on the tuition fee U-turn, otherwise defending the Liberal Democrats’ time in Toryland.

One might expect something like humility from a party that lost 85 per cent of its MPs, but the talk is mainly of rebuilding, and – with the coalition not disavowed – it’s on these toxic foundations.

The year after entering the Conservative coalition, Lib Dem party membership plummeted 25 per cent. Herein lies the key.

The Liberal Democrat voter base was, in no small part, composed of people on the centre-left. Did Clegg and co really expect to get into bed with a right wing party and retain that support?

For many, this loss will seem well earned and richly deserved. Here is a party that not only helped the Tories into power, but continued to support them even when its own values were the cost.

Whether or not the party did the right thing by sporting a Tory leash (it didn’t) is neither here nor there. The voters have decided it was wrong and, until the survivors distance themselves from the decision, they will be starved of support.

Clegg may mourn a sad result for liberalism, but liberalism is alive and well. Its followers didn’t abandon his party, his party abandoned them.

What matters now is who liberals choose to support in the future and, at this stage, it’s not the Liberal Democrats.