La La Land

I went to see this film today, much against my better judgment (I am generally not crazy about musicals, finding them excruciatingly embarrassing) and lo and behold, how pleasantly surprised and uplifted I was by the whole experience. From the moment the film opened I was smiling from ear to ear, not realising the import and how subliminal the messages about life today, I would understand from this seemingly simple film.

The opening on a packed and stationary motorway (In USA, but it could be anywhere) so resembled our crowded, packed and meaningless lives today and was then transformed through song and verse into a wonderful cabaret of joy and happiness. It appeared to be so easy, and maybe that’s exactly what it is.The story follows two very young and very ambitious, struggling pair of male and female artists who are reaching for the stars. Trying to find that one moment when they are not only accepted but also “found” which will ensure their individual fame and success.As you may expect, they encounter all sorts of rejection and obstacles. They constantly question themselves. Why am I doing this? Am I good enough?

They never ask themselves, however, why they are not happy just to be themselves.

There is one moment in the film where they have found each other and not realising it, have a conversation about not staying together because of their own individual dreams of stardom.

Such a poignant moment, as I reached across to hold my wife’s hand, of 46 years, just to say thank goodness we never lost each other.

They did.

The film then charts their individual “success” and “fame” and closes when the woman who has by now married another and is a successful playwright, walks into the jazz club where the love of her life is being feted by all around him. Their eyes meet. He then plays their favourite song. There is then a montage of the “what might have been” if they’d stayed together and worked and triumphed together, because of the bonded love they would have created together. And so, it is of course wonderful to dream, to struggle, to work, very very hard to achieve all we want in this life, but if at the end one does not share the end of your life with people who love and care for you, with whom, you have built care, understanding and love over many years, why bother?

My greatest happiness is found in sitting down to a meal with my children, grand children and wife on special and those not so special occasions, comfortably in our own special cocoon, to laugh, discuss politics, religion, the media and any other rubbish we want to talk about, with lots and lots of laughter and loud voices and seriousness and most of all fun in the complete understanding, that no matter what happens, the love we have for each will always transcend any difficulties we may have.

Where am I going to buy that?

Is my name in lights, lots of money and the platitudes of admirers ever going to replace that?

I think not!

TRUMP

I woke this morning to another devastating blow to democracy and freedom. Another shift to the right, that emphasises the differences between us all and highlights not what brings us together but which polarises us all apart.

The “Land of the Free”, the country to which the rest of the world look to for examples of democracy and true representative freedom have elected a man who has openly stated throughout his campaign, racist, misogynist and homophobic views about his own countrymen and women. Those he wishes to lead.

I am at a loss as to say what this will mean for the rest of the world because Trump has not articulated any political policies merely hatred of others. The worry of course is that so many people who then went on to defend or condone those views and voted for him to attain the highest office in the world, have ignored this.

I believe we can relate all of the seismic political shifts over the last few years, to the bankers who devastated the economies of the world through their greed and whilst they continued to collect their mega bonuses after a short period of contrition, more and more people lost out and became poorer and poorer. In the biggest capitalist project in the world this is unforgiveable and it only needed a Trump to emphasise those differences and create the necessary unrest to give us the result we have today.

Career politicians just don’t get it! We do not trust them. We don’t trust them to tell the truth, we don’t trust them to answer the question, we don’t trust them to act on our behalf, we don’t trust them to collect the taxes due from the rich, we don’t trust them to regulate the behaviour of bankers and other greedy capitalists and we don’t trust them to behave appropriately with their expenses.

 

And so we get BREXIT and Trump. Well Trump’s theme tune throughout was The Stones classic track “You don’t always get what you want” and that maybe true but perhaps we’re getting what we deserve?

 

“Black Lives Matter”?

Well actually all lives matter, you might say and of course you would be quite right. It isn’t just black lives that matter in any caring, democratic society but all it’s citizens irrespective of their difference. Surely that isn’t what the “Black Lives Matter” movement is trying to say, is it, that only black lives matter?

It’s trying to say that all lives do matter and in our society and throughout the world we live in, that if you are black or from a minority ethnic background, (BAME) your life does not matter as much as the others who inhabit the uplands of power and wealth, hold sway over your life as a black person, and are mostly white.

Over 1000 black people killed by police and only a minor number of prosecutions.

5 police officers killed by a lone gunman.

Virtual unfettered access to high-powered military assault weapons.

The civilian deployment of military technology, against citizens, in order to kill, rather than arrest.

Over 3000 people killed every year where guns and assault weapons are available to anyone who walks in off the street, with minimum checks on their suitability, to own such a weapon.

All this in the land of the free where all men originally and now women, are born equal!

It couldn’t happen here could it and why should it? We are not the USA and all people irrespective of their background are treated equally and we have legislation to ensure that fairness happens.

Right?

You may believe that, but for BME people in this country that is not how it feels. If one is black or Asian or from an Ethnic Minority (BAME), then what can you expect in this country?

You can expect: –

A higher risk of being stopped and searched by the police.

To be more harshly dealt with in a criminal court sentence than one’s white contemporaries.

To be more likely to receive a custodial sentence.

To be less favourably treated in job interviews, if you get to the interview stage.

To be less likely to rise to high political, legal, military or establishment office.

To be less likely to be well educated than one’s white peers.

To be less likely to own one’s own home.

To be more likely to be involved in crime and drugs.

If you believe that this is untrue then here are some statistics.

 

The UK population is some 63million. 13% are from a BAME background.

Custodial Sentences at Court. 27% White, 30% Black, 32% Asian.

Prison population is 25% BAME.

Judges, 6% BAME.

Police Chief officers, 5% BAME.

FTSE 100 Directors, 1.9% BAME.

Members of Parliament, 3% BAME.

Teachers, 6% BAME.

Military, 7% and Military Officers 2.4% BAME, with none above Brigadier rank.

University Professors, 92% are white.

There are over 500,000 stop searches by police per annum and 86% result in no arrest.

One is 7 times more likely to be stop searched by police if one is Black.

One is 5 times more likely to be stop searched by police if one is Asian.

 

All these statistics are available from current government sources and have not improved dramatically whatever political hue has been in government in the last 50 years since the Race Relations Act outlawed race discrimination in the 1960’s.

Yes that’s right!! The 1960’s!

I would argue that discrimination or systemic processed racism in society is so subtle and so nuanced that even some BAME people do not see it.

Let’s take the 2012 and 2016 Olympics as an example of this subtlety. There is a great feel good factor and adoption of many black icons in Olympic sport, which fulfills our need for nationalism and pride in our country. Mo Farah is proclaimed ‘one of us”, British and proud to bear the flag and most of the population will be pleased to see him knighted. None or little mention of his Somalian, Muslim heritage.

The great British public has assimilated Farah into the epitome of Britishness and there can be no room for anything else. One of the worst things a white person can say to a person of colour is “I don’t mean you, you’re one of us,” when referring to BAME people in general.

Returning to the Olympics, Rowing, Cycling, Equestrianism, Sailing, Tennis, Rugby, Hockey and Golf all have one thing in common. They are generally the preserve of the white middle classes, why? Because they cost a lot of money and so why be surprised when the people who dominate the medals in those sports for our country are white and middle class.

Which are the sports that cost very little to participate in and are almost always community based and not dominated by elite clubs and money and so indirectly lack of opportunity? Boxing, Track and Field.

Where does all the money go? To the elite sports where people who are privileged have the best opportunities, not to finding great BAME Hockey players, or Rowers or Cyclists, or Sailors etc from those communities, that because of systemic disadvantage cannot even show what they could do.

In the Sunday Times today 21/08/2016, quite rightly the contribution by LGBT competitors was highlighted. What a pity that all the pictorial representation was, you guessed it. White! Whenever gender imbalances in society are mentioned, again all the pictorial and anecdotal references are of white professional women

Cameron proudly proclaimed “One Nation” and we are all in it together, May declares to govern for all not just the privileged few.

Words are cheap and sound bites sound very nice to welcoming ears.

It is change we want and so when Black people stop holidaymakers heading to the ports blocking the roads by laying down in them under the banner of “Black Lives Matter” –they do!

 

 

 

BREXIT- Disaster or Opportunity?

We are now in uncharted waters and our country faces the biggest constitutional crisis for over 500 years. This is bigger than the abdication crisis in the 30’s because we have a huge proportion of the population (under 40 years old) who have always been European and British.

The debate whether intentionally or not opened up the deep schisms in our society and the fault lines lie along age, wealth, education, race, social mobility and opportunity.

It is a very blunt instrument when one is in the privacy of the ballot box to place a cross because of personal anger based on lack of housing, jobs and job security, a good education and self esteem based on the fear and blame of “other”, or to place a cross which says, “I’m alright Jack” I own my own house, my kids go to a good school and I know they will have unlimited opportunities to be a success both personally and professionally.

Is it any wonder that if people like Farage, Gove and Johnson who conflated constantly during the debate, the racist attitude towards people from Europe, that the electorate will also do so, not realising that the fault clearly lays with the national politicians that they put in power in the first place. Who then pursued a policy of ideology of small government, big business, tax avoidance and evasion and low personal taxation which stripped our public services, which of course they do not use and only wish to put in place as cheaply as possible, irrespective of the service they provide, because actually they want everyone to pay for them directly.

This has never been a one-nation government and quite clearly it has always been a part nation government. A government of the haves, of the educated, of the homeowners, of the specialist holidays, of the professional elite, of the internees working for nothing, of those who exude privilege and entitlement. Is it any wonder that the other half of the nation, because surprisingly it is half the nation, have stuck up two fingers to indicate very clearly, NOW are you going to listen!

What of the future?

As an analogy, in any divorce, if people indicate they do not wish to live together, they separate tout suite, there are no long goodbyes because both parties feel hurt, rejected and worthless. So you don’t want me anymore, then be gone and you are not having the car, the house or the kids and believe this, I will fight you tooth and nail for all those things that we built together with so much love and care because I sweated and toiled to create them. They are more mine than yours.

Europe has already indicated how hurt and angry they are. This constant carping child we raised for the last 40 years has now come of age and we are no longer responsible for what they do or say, so be gone. This is my house, my money, my family and you are no longer welcome. But can I come back periodically please and have the benefits of your food and shelter, of your money and friendship? NO! Go and set up your own house, earn your own money and create your own new family! That’s the nature of a divorce.

Our “new’ Prime Minister is then going to go to Brussels and beg to be allowed into the EEA but significantly reduce the free movement of people. The “Brexiteers” still do not understand that that is nonsense. The fundamental purpose of the EU is Free Trade and Free Movement of Workers and our PM will be negotiating from a position of weakness. What exactly is it we have to offer that cannot be gained from elsewhere within Europe?

If I am a tomato farmer in Spain, will I sell my produce to a marketplace of 26 countries and 450 million people with little or no encumbrances or into a marketplace of 60 million where it will be difficult to sell because of trade barriers? That is just the economic case.

What will happen in our home?

Scotland has indicated very clearly that a 2nd referendum is on the cards, as they do not want to leave the EU. It may or may not be successful for the SNP but what leader did not see this precipitation of future possibly cataclysmic events?

The Tory party will lurch to the right because that is the heart of a BREXIT government. There will then need to be a General Election, no new PM can govern for a further 3 years without a mandate. This creates huge uncertainty in the negotiations with the EU.

We do not have a credible opposition or government in-waiting under Corbyn, so again more uncertainty.

Irish Republican politicians are taking the opportunity to move for a United Ireland. This is perfectly understandable in the circumstances, and so we may see the break up of the UK within 5-10 years.

How has this hubris been created?

  1. Lack of political leadership.
  2. Lack of engagement with Europe.
  3. Lack of engagement with the electorate.
  4. Individual posturing of an egocentric and ethnocentric without precedence.

 

What needs to happen?

  • There needs to be a period of calm.
  • We need a stable coalition government.
  • We need to make peace with our European partners.
  • We must not leave the European Union and the next government must manage that process.

 

Can we draw a straight line between now and the perceived imperial nature of our long history? I believe we can and some of the things I have heard over the length of the campaign lead me to believe that the xenophobia and sense of superiority over others is reflected in these words.

 

An Englishman

The Zulus have their thumping impis, crushing the baked earth under stamping feet.

The Germans have their phalanxed formations of marching elite,

But an Englishman, is just English

The Indians philosophise and bring us nearer to nirvana,

The Americans have their raucous Stars and Stripes reminding all of Boston and that party.

But an Englishman, is just English

The Australians have their sports stars, driven by chipped shoulders draped in green and gold,

The Arabs have their God who they say is very bold.

But an Englishman, is just English

The West Indians have their cricket and tinkling steel drums,

The Canadians have their quiet and unassuming aplomb.

But an Englishman, is just English

The Irish sing and reel endlessly for the craic,

and the Scots Ceilidh from the first light until the sky is black.

But an Englishman, is just English

The Welsh have their boyos crossing the try line,

And the French have their tricolour gaily entwined,

But an Englishman, is just English and inexorably apace,

has trod in all those places, of earth’s great space.

 

Tod O’Brien September 2013

The European Referendum

The EU referendum is probably the most dangerous of times that we as a nation have ever lived through since the Second World War. The result may mean if we leave, that we then become isolated, unheard, lacking global influence and inconsequential on the world stage, both politically and economically.

Firstly, lets be honest, this referendum has nothing to do with Europe. This is much more to do with the machinations of our internal political parties and the lack of leadership and honesty around their pursuit of power in government.

The debate has been toxic and dominated by old white men of a certain class overall. Where are the voices of ordinary people throughout this debate? Why would a certain elite wish to return to the days of warm beer and skittles, deference and class, them and us, the haves and the have not’s? I suspect they hanker for the days when everyone knew their place did not question their “betters” and the rich got richer and the poor did what they were told and asked nothing because “That’s just the way it is”.

However we are now saddled with this referendum and it is important that our national decision is the correct one, not just for some sections of the public but also for the greater good of all, now and in the future. The long term future of our country hangs in the balance like never before and it is not the foreign jackboot and gunfire which is the threat but the jingoism, isolationism and xenophobia of our own citizens which may cause the greatest damage to our country ever.

The “LEAVE” camp conflates EU membership constantly with immigration and at every opportunity. Why? Clearly to pander to the fears of ordinary people that immigration is the root cause of all our national problems. Conveniently, they ignore the greed and endemic, culturally, unethical behaviour of the bankers who caused a global financial crisis which led to a government which ripped the heart out of our public services in the name of “austerity”, causing more and more suffering to disabled people, reducing the income of the working poor and made housing the aspiration and investment cachet of rich, tax avoiding/evading oligarchs.

Let us deal with trade. It is quite right we have always been a trading nation. Most of that trade has been founded on our Empire, which we no longer have and we need to trade on equal terms with the rest of the world. Do we want to trade with a common market of 500 million people who set standards about working conditions, pay, workers rights and manufacturing standards or do we want to trade with people who employ 58 million children in child slavery and 200 million children forced to work and not be educated because they are the main breadwinners in families who are desperately poor. Do we want to trade with countries where there are factories run like sweatshops and degrading conditions just so we can have the latest must have “designer gear” at rock bottom prices?

I do not want to do that!

Let us also examine “Unelected bureaucrats”.

The complaint put forward by the “LEAVE” camp is that we (interestingly, who exactly are “we”, is it the politicians and business mandarins or “we” the public?) have no say in how laws are made in our own country.

The EU Commission is a body of experts who are authorised to environmentally scan the global environment and devise legislation to be put to the European parliament for acceptance. No laws are passed without the authority of the MEPs. That is democracy.

I heard Michael Gove recently answer, when this point was put to him by an interviewer “Yes, but we keep getting defeated in the votes and overlooked” You can’t have it both ways Gove, that is democracy. Work with our European partners, form coalitions and get our point across in Parliament, that is the role of our MEPs! Maybe our national parliament should work with our European MEPs more closely?

Who devises our legislation?

I do not believe that our MPs sit up all night reading and writing new laws, guess what, it may actually be the faceless bureaucrats called “Civil Servants” who do all the donkey work. Are they elected? No!

This system is no different to the European system. What our political classes really dislike is being held to account by the Human Rights Act and the European Court of Human Rights. Are you really happy to trust your Human Rights solely to a minority elected British Parliament elite, which is in thrall to big business?

I for one do not want that either.

Conclusion.

What is clear overall is the lack of leadership displayed by all our political parties over the last 40 years in engaging with the European political system to get adequate reform of the things we don’t like and support the things we do, to get the best deal for the citizens of this country. They have let us down and now blame the European Parliament for their failure. Disgraceful!

“REMAIN” is the only option if we want to be secure, economically stable, kept safe as individuals from government and big business and part of a club which commands the world stage, setting standards for business, public office and individuals.

Action or Apathy?

When I am asked, as I often am by people discussing politics and the state of humankind generally “Why are you so angry?’ my reply is “Why are you not?”

I find it astounding the acceptance by others of inequality and injustice and just general unfairness in our and other societies as greeted with “It’s just the way things are and we cannot change it”.

If we can’t, who can?

The lack of quality of leadership and gravitas exhibited by people in the institutions and the business world is breathtakingly arrogant and exudes entitlement and privilege. There is currently in recent times a litany of this as demonstrated in;

MP’s expenses, with very few prosecuted for what is theft, the referendum on Europe, prompted only by the internal machinations of the Tories and UKIP and which if BREXIT happens, to use the current parlance, will result in an inability of ordinary people to take their case to a higher European Court, thus reducing individual Human Rights even further. The LIBOR rate fixing scandal for which no-one has ever been prosecuted except a minor player but none of the big Bank bosses who organized it, the lack of accountability exacted against the instigators of the Iraq war, Blair and Bush, who in any other realm would be facing charges at the Hague Court, (perhaps that is why the Chilcott report is taking so long to produce) the current Investigatory Powers bill being whooshed through parliament which will invade our privacy beyond belief in the name of “Security” , The shrinking of the Freedom of Information Act which will prevent us from knowing more and more about what our elected leaders do and hold them accountable for it. Further afield, the FIFA fiasco in which millions of dollars have been illegally appropriated by a few corrupt people and again no prosecutions yet, the IOC debacle where the Deputy Seb Coe has now been elected to oversee a reform when he originally did not want the extensive doping revelations publicised by The Sunday Times and insists he knew nothing about them, tax evasion and fraud on an industrial scale by the rich and corporations, depriving ordinary hard working and tax paying citizens of their right to good healthcare, education, infrastructure and security The litany goes on and on and still the privileged elite continue to dominate our societies, impervious to any sanctions either legal or imposed by their peers.

Furthermore, the unelected in this country deciding on new legislation and having access to government to lobby policy decisions, as endemic in the Business Corporations, the House of Lords and the Monarchy.

Why wouldn’t one be angry?

Clearly the only non-violent way for this to be overturned and to increase the accountability of the elite is more transparency not less. 25 per cent of people voted for this Government, which is not 25 per cent of the country but only 25 per cent of those who voted, which was 66 per cent. How can this be democratic?

7 per cent of the people attend public schools and then go on to populate by over 50 per cent the best universities and then through their networks occupy all the best and elitist positions in society across all the public and private institutions. How can that be democratic and demonstrate equality?

So, how do we answer this? Perhaps the people of Iceland most recently have answered, by causing their Prime Minister to resign due to the overwhelming demonstrations against him in light of his family involvement in the Panama tax evasion/avoidance scandal currently rocking the international media.

We need more internationally agreed transparency in all business dealings so that no longer will people and corporations be able to move money around anonymously and avoid the tax in the country in which they earn their money.

All countries should legislate a form of the Freedom of Information Act to cover all public services and businesses.

Genuine democracy in the form of Proportional Representation, which causes politicians to work together, and not against each other for the benefit of all people should be the norm.

And so nationally in Great Britain: –

  1. Give wider powers to the Freedom of Information Act and include companies.
  2. Bring in proportional representation now.
  3. Reduce Government spying on it’s own citizens.
  4. Hold the Police and Intelligence agencies accountable for their actions.
  5. Get rid of the Monarchy and House of Lords.
  6. Set up an open business register for all companies showing all associated companies and locations and the Directors.

 

Conclusion.

We are sick and tired of the lack of leadership, which puts self interest before ethics as constantly demonstrated by the rich and powerful of the world. We can only change things by holding them to account. That can only happen if we insist our politicians enact legislation, which allows that to happen, and wrongdoers are punished in the courts, either nationally or internationally.

We can only ensure this happens if we hold politicians to these principles in their manifestos and what they do in office and if they do not then vote them out. As demonstrated in Iceland, the people can be very powerful without violence.

A Time for Strategic Leadership to Defeat the Threat to World Peace

I watched Question Time this week as I always do on Thursday nights but it had more poignancy than usual because it was solely devoted to the issue of the French Terrorist attacks last week and the bigger issue surrounding the safety and security of World Peace. The panellists were Evgeny Lebedev, the Russian owner of The Independent, Medhi Hasan the journalist from Al Jazeera, Anna Soubry the Business Minister, Natalie Nougayrède the editor of Le Monde and one time editor of the Guardian and Max Hastings the respected journalist and war historian. This was a considerably high profile panel to produce some clear and succinct answers to the threat the world faces.

With exception of Anna Soubry, all panellists offered some tactical answers but none offered global strategic solutions to the problems we as humankind face. Unfortunately for Soubry she demonstrated a clear lack of understanding of the nuances and subtleties of the interconnected issues we are facing and in a quite one-dimensional and non-intellectual way offered very simple solutions to a very complex problem. This, from a Minister, who sits, and has influence at the Cabinet table. Most worrying.

 

I suggest that this particular threat even more than the conventional inter- state problems faced by the world in the Second World War is very different and requires strong international alliances, which are unbreakable and determined.

My strategic solution initiated and sanctioned by the UN is fourfold: –

  1. Defeat ISIS by use of conventional force.
  2. A pan-European solution to the refugee egress.
  3. Intelligence to defeat the instigators of Civil War
  4. Deny Funding.

 

Defeat ISIS by conventional force.

I would advocate that through diplomacy we ensure a UN Security Council determination to facilitate a conventional military defeat of ISIS. The command and control should belong to those states most affected by the threat in the region but fully supported by hardware, materials and personnel by those nations most able to supply the necessary expertise in these areas.

The tactical application of military strategy to be determined by the conventional forces involved in the conflict.

So, should ISIS dissipate themselves into a non conventional guerrilla force which is most likely when confronted, the strategic response maybe formulated and assisted by others, but the tactical and operational application should be determined by the ground commanders. A sound post conflict response is probably the most important aspect of this part of the strategy and is too big to be dealt with here. 

A pan-European solution to the refugee egress.

At a time of threat of this magnitude, it is important that Europe responds cohesively and this is almost certainly not a time to be questioning the bonds, which have kept European peace for over 70 years. We must be in Europe, not breaking a treaty, which has clearly stood the test of time. This is a European problem and all member states must fully shoulder the burden of responsibility and not leave the issue to a few guardian Border States.

Close the external European borders. All refugees presenting themselves at the borders must be given entry and then detained in order to be biometrically assessed. Then an assessment of their status to determine whether they are genuine asylum seekers under international law. If so all European countries must take a proportion of those refugees based on a pro-rata basis. This is the international law but nobody must expect only a few member states to shoulder a disproportionate burden irrespective of the internal political fallout.

All economic migrants should be denied entry post assessment and returned to the country of origin to apply to enter the country of their choice in the normal way.

Intelligence to defeat the instigators of Civil War.

The terrorist threat we face as individual states is in fact a Civil War. People who are of the country in which the acts are carried out perpetrate all of the terrorist acts. I recognise that this is often as result of training and hardening of attitudes in other countries but the radicalisation of people starts in the home countries and so I would define this as Civil War. To combat Civil War requires the gathering, analysis, dissemination and operational actions based on intelligence. It is a civil problem not a military one.

Combatting our own countrymen who would commit Civil War against us depends on our ability to act on the whole of the CONTEST strategy, which has to date been very effective, by community, the police and intelligence agencies and the rest of the public services. If not properly supported, it will inevitably fail. We will never have complete security and so the whole population needs to be educated as to the content of the threat.

I was on a train recently and spotted a bag lying between seats unattended. I was the only person who questioned why it was there and who it belonged to. This, only 2 days after Paris. Astounding.

The current government has a problem, aspiring to small state and low taxes. Now is the time to park some of those aspirations and keep us safe and secure. If that means raising taxes and increasing the size of the state, then so be it. Better to have our state that not!

Deny Funding.

It is clear that the people who would harm us whether internally or externally receive huge amounts of money to fund their infrastructure and subsequent actions. They are a sophisticated enemy who require a sophisticated response. This means unfettered neo-liberal markets provide the oxygen of both publicity and the means of making huge amounts of money. Money never has an intrinsic value only an instrumental value and allows the enemy to purchase expertise and ordnance. There must be a coordinated global response through the business world and real legal action must be taken against those who supply or assist the enemy in any way through materials both hard and soft.

That justice against perpetrators must be seen to be done and the International Court is the place for that to happen.

Conclusion.

Many more informed and influential thinkers have written many more words than I have on this subject, and I am not proposing this as the only set of solutions, but it seems to me that at the moment when we most need it, a strategy needs to be put in place that we can all recognise and act upon, at an international, national, community and individual level. It will require international co-operation not seen in our lifetime, but I believe that is what is required and it is now time for the International institutions to play a world role.

 

Nuclear Deterrence or not?

As a professional soldier for over two decades, soldiering through the Cold War of the sixties, seventies and eighties, I was briefed and learnt the principles of nuclear deterrence which I never really questioned as they seemed to make so much sense to me. Surely, it was sensible that if the enemy had nuclear weapons then so should we, in order to deter them from using them. It also seemed to work, Europe had over 70 years of relative peace and even though the political philosophies of East and Western Europe were completely at odds, it never manifested itself in all out European war and we enjoyed the most peaceful period across the continent since time began.

Business flourished as a result, borders became open and European countries drew ever closer to each other despite their differences. Then in 1989 the unthinkable happened and the Cold War ended with the symbolic destruction of the Berlin wall. What can be wrong with nuclear deterrence if it can achieve all that?

The primary principle of nuclear deterrence, I was taught, was based upon the theory of “Graduated Response”. This means that we never resort to the ultimate destructive nuclear weapons we possess but in fact gradually increase our response to the threat posed. So, in any conflict situation we respond initially with conventional weapons, and then escalate to tactical battlefield nuclear weapons and finally intercontinental nuclear weapons whilst constantly keeping all diplomatic channels open to resolve the political issues before the conflict is escalated. Deterrence is based on the fact that the enemy never knows or can guess our level of response and so by keeping them guessing we never enter into a nuclear response and peace is maintained. Ultimately, we always keep the option of any of these responses as a first strike option. I therefore ignored the CND marchers, passing them off as naïve do-gooders and never voted for Foot and the Labour party during this time of my militancy.

And then a funny thing happened. Corbyn got elected to lead the Labour party and he again espoused what I believed to be a dead dogma of nuclear disarmament once again and this got me thinking about the subject once more and my conclusions surprised me completely.

To replace Trident will cost upwards of £50Bn and we know from past experience how these costs can often spiral out of control and so the cost maybe a lot more than that. The current government is adamant we need this deterrence in light of how dangerous the world is at the moment with the threats posed by Putin (now also in Syria militarily and Ukraine) Islamic State and the threat that poses in the Middle East, the turmoil in the Levant, mostly caused by our illegal war in Iraq and the constant thorn in the side of peace in the region caused by the military autonomy of the Israelis and their persecution of the Palestinians with complete impunity and lack of action and in fact subliminal support by the West.

Whether any of these threats will ever require the ultimate nuclear response is very doubtful.

So the use of our nuclear weapons to be effective will either require a pre-emptive strike or a retaliatory strike. It is upon this basis that we maintain the peace. No state will contemplate the use of nuclear weapons because the opposition hold the ultimate response of complete destruction of our enemies either pre-emptively or retaliatory.

Let us then examine the pre-emptive strike option.

Can anybody ever imagine the circumstances in which we will use a pre-emptive strike against our enemies? Throughout all the wars, which have happened throughout the world since the end of the Second World War, no nuclear weapon has ever been deployed. I believe this is because the response would be so catastrophic to us that the benefit of deploying it to bring the enemy to heel would be lost in military, political and economic terms.

It would effectively be like shooting ourselves in the foot. When engaged in conflict with enemies who did not possess nuclear weapons, the end clearly did not justify the means, and so we have never used them, again for the reasons given.

A pre-emptive strike is a game changer bringing about Armageddon and no military benefits.

Let us now examine the retaliatory strike option.

The only circumstance in which this could happen would be in response to an incoming nuclear strike, but the same rules apply to our enemies as to us and so when would an enemy use the nuclear pre-emptive strike option when trying to exercise political will against us? That’s the first question. My next question is, even if they did use a nuclear strike against us what benefits do we achieve militarily by a retaliatory strike. If it means we then stop the conflict, that’s fine but we don’t know and never will know that.

So this leads me to the question, how effective is nuclear deterrence?

I now believe that there is no justification for spending huge amounts of public money on a tool, which will never be used and does nothing to keep us safe and secure. I now believe, like Corbyn and many other people over the years like him, who advocated using that public money, particularly in todays economic climate, to bolster public services and improve the capability of our Armed Services, where I believe our primary and ultimate deterrent lays.

I am not a pacifist and firmly believe in national self defence and that military action is the ultimate extrapolation of political policy. What I cannot believe is the huge cost, which this government tries to dupe us into believing is required to preserve our national safety, whilst ignoring the plight of the poor and underprivileged in our society during these very difficult economic times.

£50Bn would go a long long way.

Benefit Entitlement or Charitable Patronage

This government has demonised benefit claimants and now reduces benefits on the back of a political mantra which portrays all benefits claimants as scroungers and feckless wasters. Much of the electorate have clearly swallowed this lie (even the previous Labour Party administration under Harriet Harman) and support government moves to cap benefits for all including working people by reducing working tax benefits whilst allowing employers to continue to exploit “hard working aspirational” people (the governments words) to work on zero hours contracts at a minimum wage, which it is recognised has fallen far below the level of a living wage, thus further increasing working and non- working poverty.

In any civilised society where a huge amount of wealth is created such as ours, (The 4th largest economy in the world) there is a recognition that not everybody can be financially successful as everybody else. This is due to the intrinsic difficulties in creating a fair society where the rich get richer through their elite networks and establishment power and the less advantaged have less access and opportunity. Therefore the government through taxation wishes to equalise this difference by creating a welfare system which prevents people going hungry, homeless, and without the opportunity to progress through education and training. It is not based on subjective factors but objectively assesses individual need and distributes on that basis. (There maybe a good case to means test therefore and eliminate universal benefits).

Cameron recently, in political terms, espoused a political philosophy called the “Big Society”, this was actually a wish to return to the Victorian era of philanthropy where business guilds and crafts would set up financial trusts which subjectively gave monies and help to people who applied for it and who they believed “deserved” their help. This was a value driven basis for giving and inevitably some applicants did not reach the required level of “acceptance” by the Boards dishing out the money. A great example is JB Priestley’s play – An Inspector Calls.

The Labour government in 1945 recognised that this was fundamentally wrong and that the state had a role to play in ensuring that citizens in need should be looked after by government and not the subjective wishes and values of well meaning but unenlightened interventionists. This fundamentally and still does oppose the Tory political philosophy of self determination and the fact that it is not the role of state to help individual citizens. Unfortunately with a Tory majority and a certain five years in government we can expect much more of the same. The rich will inevitably get richer and the poor will inevitably get poorer under this austere regime.

That does not detract from the fact that we have created a society where people do have entitlements and that includes the entitlement to benefits when needed and those should not be subject to the whims and vagaries of people imposing their values and beliefs on the recipients, which is ostensibly how this government is transforming the benefits system and encouraging people to believe that it is their money that they are giving away, to people who do not deserve it.

In the recent book The Great Tax Robbery by Richard Brooks, he demonstrates the lie perpetrated by this government by emphasising the facts. For every £1Bn of tax/benefit fraud there are 9000 prosecutions for benefit fraud and only 5 for tax evasion by the big companies and rich individuals, but only £1Bn represents benefit fraud whereas over £30Bn is represented by tax avoidance/evasion. Therefore, this incumbent government bring the full force of the law to bear on the poorest in society whilst ignoring the richest and their criminality.

To summarise, when a person says I am entitled to the benefits provided, then, they are and we should not be hankering for a return to where people stood in line to beg from rich benefactors who often would say No! based on prejudice and discrimination.

The “Great Trek” to Freedom

We now see huge swathes of humanity trekking across Europe to seek freedom. Freedom from oppression, freedom from persecution, freedom from totalitarianism and lastly freedom from lack of hope. The power of people to exercise their innate freedom is expressed in the determination of the “little trek” from Budapest’s Keleti rail station to the Austrian Border. People are fleeing the wars we in the West, either directly or indirectly started and then did not deal with in terms of the post conflict construction, both economic and political.
We then see the political leaders of Europe, with the exception of Angela Merkel (who will be the next recipient of the Nobel peace prize?) like rabbits in the headlights, as no longer are people just grainy images on our TV screens and people we can ignore whilst collecting money to salve our consciences to send to the refugee camps where they are incarcerated for years, but now sleeping on the streets of the great European cultural centres’ such as Vienna, Berlin, Budapest et al. Meanwhile, I am deeply ashamed at the xenophobic and selfish attitude of my own country. A country that I fought for and thought, believed in democracy, freedom, justice and social equality. I am deeply ashamed that we elect a Prime Minister who unlike Angela Merkel, washes his hands in public, much like Pontius Pilate did over 2000 years ago and says “This is not our problem”, purely for such transparent and narrow political interests.
Of course it is our problem, it is also the problem of the rest of Europe in which Germany is taking the lead. The world is no longer defined by national borders or narrow nationalistic interests. These things no longer define our world; it is defined by all of humanity irrespective of colour, religion, faith, gender and all those other characteristics, which define us as individuals.
People define it. People, who wish to be safe, work and be treated as equals, care for their family, get educated and make their way in this life, irrespective of their socio-economic background. People are curious, innovative, creative and determined and so no matter how much the European politicians rail against the sea of humanity seeking a better life, then they had better deal with them and not ignore them.
Surely it is not beyond the wit of a sophisticated and developed Western Europe to recognise that now is the time for leadership not prevarication and blame transference. Take responsibility and recognise that the problem is twofold.
Deal with the wars and unrest in the Arab region, this must include the Israeli-Palestinian problem and surely the answer is a two-state solution, and secondly, set up reception centres in Europe, process people as either Asylum seekers or economic migrants and then allocate to individual countries based on a system of land mass, GDP and familial association. There is also the thorny question of what is America’s role in this humanitarian crisis, which they are also in part responsible for. Obama appears to be very quiet on the whole issue and needs to lead the United Nations towards a pan global solution
This will not go away, the “Great Trek” has begun and once again the world is changing.