The Party Line is…..Trump Unbound??

Rarely in history has a US president incurred the wrath of his or her citizens and especially not in his second week in office, but then the USA has never known a President like Donald John Trump.

Calls for the country to unite behind its new president have been drowned out by songs of protest and reaction to President Trump’s increasingly extreme policy announcements.

First it was the Wall.

One of his key election pledges, Donald Trump used his first day in office to sign an executive order to allow for the construction of a wall along the US- Mexican border at an estimated cost of over 12 billion US dollars.  But it’s alright he said, the Mexicans will pay for it!

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Trump’s wall: Bigger than the Great Wall of China?

Cue Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto denouncing the move and cancelling a proposed visit to the US. Looks like the Mexicans won’t be paying for it after all.

Next it was Obamacare.

The defining domestic legacy of the Obama administration, Obamacare or to use its proper name the affordable care act is designed to improve access to health insurance for US citizens.

Without the benefits of a national health service like we have in the UK, every citizen requires health insurance to pay for everything from routine medical procedures to complex operations.

Despite criticism in some quarters, mainly from the Republican party, who disagreed with its slightly socialist overtones, President Obama managed to get this important piece of legislation through a Republican dominated congress.

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Obamacare: Illustrated

Mr Trump’s second act as President was to sign an executive order repealing Obamacare, despite having no clear replacement policy and leaving millions of Americans without health insurance.

A visit from UK Prime Minister Theresa May followed, with some very public hand holding and a lot of talking between the two leaders. Mr Trump seemed more controlled, less prone to an outburst and more likely to be willing to consider his options rather than carrying on regardless.

I felt a certain sense of optimism, like the feeling you get when you wake up and you think things are going to be alright.

But at 4:47pm that bubble burst with the signing of an executive order allowing for the following:

  1. Suspension of the entire US refugee admissions system for 120 days
  2. Indefinite suspension of the Syrian refugee program
  3. Banning entry to the USA of people from  seven majority Muslim countries Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for a period of 90 days.
  4. Banning of Dual-nationals from those seven countries from entering the country for a period of 90 days.

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Cue chaos at airports across the US as millions attempting to enter the country were turned away, with US border officials struggling to cope with the new regulations.

Cue widespread condemnation from the international community.

Cue a weekend protests in the streets and throughout American society.

Cue a seemingly ceaseless number of stories of hardworking and loyal Americans being turned away from their native land for simply being born somewhere else.

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Did I miss anything out?

So here we are, the ban is almost 3 days old and people are still struggling to come to terms with it. Seeing things from an outside perspective gives you a unique understanding of the problem and for me the problem is simple: Logic.

Donald Trump is a man who has no previous political experience, but has considerable business experience as typified by his status as one of Americas leading businessmen.

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Brand Trump- In Numbers

Business people follow logical patterns of thought, if a person isn’t doing their job they get fired, if the business doesn’t make a profit they fire the CEO, if that doesn’t work they spend money to try to get out of the hole.

Donald Trump is applying business logic to international politics: High number of illegal migrants from mexico harming American business? Simple, build a wall. Obamacare costs too much? Simple, get rid of it. Europe has terrorism primarily undertaken by Islamic extremists? Simple, stop Muslims from coming to the US, no problem.

International Politics is rarely that simple. I wish it were.

Donald Trump is a man who has been given the keys to the car without first learning the responsibilities entailed in driving it. Most of the senior politicians in the world have considerable experience in politics, having come up through the ranks of their respective political parties and serving on various committees and bodies.

With experience comes the tempering of the judgement that got them elected, forcing them to compromise or die.

Mr Trump has had none of this experience having won the election straight to the top job in the US government. There has been no tempering, no compromise.

But he is not entirely to blame for this, the problem is that he is bypassing the US senate and signing executive orders without consulting them. He doesn’t need them.

The US political system is set up in such a way that the President (or the executive branch) can issue executive orders to help officers and agencies of the executive branch (the various departments: State etc) manage operations within the federal government itself.

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The Three Branches of the US Government

These orders are independent of the Legislative branch (Congress) and the Judiciary branch (The US courts) and do not require their assent or consultation to be put into law.

Our system here in the UK has a similar equivalent, Prerogative powers which can be used without the assent of Parliament. These were recently called into use by the government to try to trigger Article 50 without Parliamentary assent, but were vetoed by the supreme court after a legal case.

There is no such check on Mr Trump, nothing to stop him signing whatever he deems to be correct into an executive order and making it law.

The Republican party, buoyed by its resounding dominance of the senate has been completely sidelined by the Presidents position. They cannot check his power because they have no constitutional mechanism to do so, save for impeachment.

But he’s not doing anything wrong and is acting completely within the bounds of his role as the head of the executive branch of the US government.

The outcry that has followed this new immigration ban must give President Trump a clear moment of pause to reconsider the office to which he has been given and the clear responsibility to his 320 million stockholders. He would be wise to calm down his more extreme policies before America yells in a collective voice “You’re Fired”.

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The Party Line is ………Coherence

Modern civilisation exists as a coalescence of nations and communities, with a common set of ideas at its heart and with the aim of the advancement and perpetuation of the species. Today’s political parties are a macrocosm of this coalescence in so much as they exist to advance a common set of ideas to the advancement of the party’s goals.

When declaring that their political ideas match those of a group or political party, the individual forfeits their individual perceptions of what it means to have these ideals and suborns them to the will of the political party. Or at least that’s how it should be.

As more and more voices enter the fray, the debate over the content of the political ideas that the party purports become less and less important and somewhere along the way the politics of idealism is replaced by the politics of compromise.

A common ideological thread is essential to the success of a party, as its easier to sell a single political ideology to the people than the din of parties ideological rambling.  This set of principles must be simple and easy to state to any voter or member of the press.  The most successful ideologies in politics are those that are the easiest to explain.

But where does that simplification begin?

Fundamentally, this simplification begins at manifesto level.  A political parties manifesto provides the medium by which a parties’ ideas are encapsulated and presented to the public at large. This is the key document which defines it as a political organisation, existing both in print and latterly on the internet.

This is where the simplicity exists and also where it ends. Once it becomes subject to interpretation the message is lost in translation and loses its effectiveness as a political belief system. The clarity of the manifesto is what makes it palatable to the people, once that dies you can never resurrect it.

It is wrong to blame just the party members for this ideological death, as the leaders of political parties are equally culpable and can impede the effectiveness of political doctrine delivery.

Just look at the impact that Donald Trump has had on the perceived political position of the Republican party in America. The politics of the individual can sometimes have nothing in common with the overriding politics of the party.  For example, how many Republican politicians would extoll a political credo so extreme that it borders on racism? Simple answer: None. They would offend their core voting base and would potentially forfeit their political standing.

On the other side of the coin, how much does Mr Trump’s political position have in common with the politics of the average Republican voter? Zero. This is an example of how an individual’s politics at leadership level results in the divergence of the political parties’ ideology from its core message.

Should an individual, at leadership or parliamentary level be allowed to force or purport a message which results in this sort of political divergence? If the party wants to be a successful one then theoretically no, it shouldn’t, it should speak with one voice and present one message to the people of the country it wishes to govern.

Politicians lend a great deal of belief and conviction to their speechmaking and general conduct while in the political sphere and limitation of this to a set message and delivery would detract from their impact and the effectiveness of the party. Think of the truly memorable politicians and they have all been individuals of singular personality and powered by strong idealism.

There must be a happy medium that would allow a party to conduct itself to a coherent and unified message but not compromise that message in its delivery. An argument can be made that this exists in the written and online world, but there is one very crucial difference: A party and its policies online rely on the individual interpretation of the individual accessing them, whereas the party and its policies in the public sphere can shape that individual’s perception and interpretation.

In assuming the leadership of the Labour party, Jeremy Corbyn has been keen to unify these many conflicting fields into one party with one message. He has been keen to create a unified opinion on all of the pertinent issues that the British public have been faced with and has utilised online media to create a unified identity for the Labour party.

The problem is that in creating this supposed unity, he has in fact created the conditions for widespread opposition not from the current membership, but from his parliamentary colleagues within the party. Members of Parliament finding that their views have been supplanted in favour of a unified position have instituted a backdoor coup against his leadership and although it will not succeed, the political damage done to the party is far reaching.

The Labour party has become the party of Jeremy Corbyn in the same way that the Republican party in America could effectively become the Donald Trump party after the election in November.

The crucial difference in this is that the American political system lends itself to an individual as its figure head but the British political system is a system of parties and organisations and as such does not allow for the coalescence of the party thesis into the central figurehead.

A simpler approach to politics is required, where the party maintains one coherent message that every member agrees on and can be easily espoused, interpreted and perceived by the public that it serves is a practical necessity.  The problem is that a singular message does not lend itself easily to the community led nature of the political party.

© R Simmons 2016. All Rights Reserved.

 

The Party Line is………Perception

At any point in the day, our brain receives trillions of sensory impulses from our body which flow from our nerves directly to our brain for processing and interpretation. It is these impulses which shape how we perceive the world, covering everything from pleasure and pain to the baser level bodily functions.

The interpretation of this data by our brain shapes our perception of reality at the sensory level. At a psychological level this shaping is more pronounced, if we have a negative experience of reality we are far more likely to behave negatively and vice versa.

The shaping of reality or perception at a psychological level can be influenced by individuals through behavioural training and learning more about our own character. An entire industry exists, generating millions of pounds, to promote these ideas and to enable individual introspection, character adjustment and behavioural modification with the ultimate aim of becoming more positive and productive individuals.

Take the simple idea of sensory based reality, substitute the brain for the collective consciousness of society at a political and sociological level; you have an almost infinite range of perceptions and impulses, experienced by the society as a whole and reflected in what it does, how it acts and how it responds in the world.

As with the brain, this reality can be shaped, tailored and where applicable manipulated to suit the overriding imperative of the government or society where they are experienced.

So how does a society experience and perceive politicians?

A perception of a politician is experienced at many different levels:  there are the acts of the individual within their local community and how they are perceived, how society perceives them in relation to their wider party affiliation and how they exist in the public eye.

The first two can be controlled, or at least attempted to be controlled, by the politician through the medium of spin.  This is a low-level example of the manipulation of perception to ensure a positive outcome for that individual, in the same way that you would use behavioural training to shape your behaviour.

Spin is a product of the media age and media as a whole contributes dramatically to how a politician is perceived in the public eye. Once an individual enters public life, their life essentially becomes public knowledge, with their every move scrutinised and commented on by countless individuals, even more in the world of social media and the internet. Politicians experience this on a much more fatalistic level, with every misstep potentially contributing to the end of their political career.

Indeed once an individual involved in the political sphere makes a political gaffe, or is involved in a scandal, the media can shape the public perception to such a degree that the individual can no longer function as a politician.

These two necessary functions of modern politics sometimes work in synergy with each other, but the sheer levels of exposure and potential profit render the media far more likely to want to cause damage to a politician than prevent it (as seen this week with the Keith Vaz sex sting scandal).

The public largely perceive two types of politician: the institutional politician and the populist politician. The institutional politician is seen as a stuffy, privately educated individual who is more likely to want to enhance their own position rather than act in the best interests of the people. By contrast, the populist politician is seen as a self-made individual, someone who the common voter can relate to and retain an interest in, a true man or woman of the people.

Go up a level to the international stage and the perception/manipulation of it becomes less obvious, but wider ranging in its implications.  Shaping public perception of the country involved is a national occupation and is vital to the longer term success of that country.

Manipulation at this level involves a more subversive method: that of propaganda.  The use of propaganda has been one of the bedrocks of statecraft for almost 500 years now and is enjoying a renaissance in the age of the internet.

Propaganda can be used to assert, subvert and otherwise engender the ideology of the country using it or be used to destroy the ideology and people of a target country.

Overtly obvious use of propaganda today is largely confined to those restrictive regimes, who need the constant reassertion of their ideology to place their message into the minds of their people, thus shaping their perception to embrace that ideology fully.

In those less restrictive regimes, pronounced propaganda as asserted by a regime or government cannot exist because it would inevitably clash with the fundamental right of freedom of speech, i.e. the freedom to express a contrary opinion to the prevalent political line of that country. The contradiction between these two precepts forces the use of propaganda away from the political sphere and back into media sphere.

As with the politicians, the media can be used as a tool by the government to create negative opinion about opposing countries and regimes, shaping the public perception subconsciously and not endangering the fundamental freedom of speech rights.  Indeed, the media is perceived as the guardian of free speech, despite increasing evidence that it is becoming the mouthpiece of political parties and governments.

The one thing that this manipulation can sometimes struggle to keep up with is the change in political position in respect to a country. For example if a rogue country moves overnight from a totalitarian regime, which is universally hated, to a democratic regime, the government of the opposition country may need to soften its political stance towards it and change its relationship. We’ve seen it recently in the open dialogues between the USA and its old adversaries Cuba and Iran.  The public’s perception, previously shaped to a negative opinion of these regimes, had to be shifted to a positive one in the long-term to ensure the opening of good relations between the nations. Again the media and government play a part in moving this process forward.

Another recent example of this is the softening of the negative opinion on Britain leaving the European Union. During the referendum campaign extremely negative sentiments were expressed about the potential consequences of leaving and our eventual place in the world. Politicians, both domestic and foreign were keen to add their opinions to the seemingly unceasing tide of negative press about Brexit. However once the vote was concluded and the decision to exit confirmed by the UK government, the overriding need to proceed with the publicly voted for mandate prompted an almost immediate shift in media and government communications from being negative about the consequences to active examination and criticism of the implementation process.

The perception that a country has in the world can often have a negative impact on how that nation is treated by its neighbours in the international community.  For example, while the Russian federation does not exhibit any overtly evil or totalitarian qualities, it is perceived as being a totalitarian regime or “evil empire” when in fact the truth can be something entirely different.  This perception and the implementation of it by the other nations of the world causes much of the diplomatic conflict which exists between Russia and the wider community, particularly the USA who has been the historical enemy of Russia for many years.

Another example of this is how the USA is perceived in the Middle East.  With significant interests in the oil rich nations of the middle east, the USA has always been keen to provide stability for the region through support of vassal regimes and clients. Additionally, the USA has been the most ardent supporter of the state of Israel, viewing it as a key ally in the region.

This support and, dare I say it, interference in the affairs of the region, while well-intentioned, does not garner popular support from the various tribes and ethnic groups of the region. Combine that with a secular religion that does not view outsiders as friends and you have a recipe for extremist opposition. A sort of opposition that manifests itself in the various terrorist organisations that operate in the region, opposed to the interests of the USA and their perceived puppet states.

Consider the political effectiveness of a nation if it was in tune with how it is perceived in the world, has full cognisance of the consequences of its actions and is in possession of a coherent and appealing ideological standpoint. Such a nation would have the blueprint for longer term stability and success, effectively making itself immune to all potential issues which would arise in the course of its life.

With the obvious example of a politician in the public eye being able to shape his or her perception to suit their objectives, you have to wonder why more countries do not employ this sort of perception manipulation in their political armoury.  With so much at stake, can they afford not to?

 

© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.

The Party Line is………. Consequences

As human beings, we exist in a world where we are constantly confronted by decisions. We examine the options involved and once we have decided, we make our choice, one action over another, stay or go, do or do not. These instances of choice shape hundreds of choices which follow the initial one, cascading outwards like the ripples in a pond after a stone is thrown into it.

Without exception every decision we make carries a consequence or in the case of a larger decision a set of consequences which can shape our lives entirely.  Unfortunately, and paradoxically, we cannot understand the nature of the consequence until the action or decision has been made, sometimes far into the future.

In a political world, a decision and its consequences are a more public animal.  The intense scrutiny placed by society on political decisions merely increases our understanding and analysis of the decision being made, and the potential consequences of that decision.  The difference between a political decision and a personal one is that the potential implications and ripples have a wider range and affect more people.

It has been a year of big political decisions with far reaching consequences, some of which we’ll examine here.

We cannot talk about 2016’s big political decisions without addressing the elephant in the room: The EU referendum. As decisions go they don’t get much bigger, especially in terms of the long term future of the population of the UK.  In the aftermath of the vote, you got the strong sense that it was an unexpected choice that none of the politicians were prepared for. This was certainly true in the first 48 hours after the vote, when politicians railed against each other and the premiership of David Cameron came to a very abrupt end.

A quick leadership contest and cabinet reshuffle later and we can finally see the first of the wider implications of that decision as we look to commence negotiations to leave the EU. We face a European bloc eager for us to leave but with a definite resolve to make it the right sort of exit to ensure their long term security. Additionally, we have a new government with a strong desire to enforce the vote of the people but with the added obligation of ensuring that Britain remains a stable economic power as it moves on its own.

Despite the warnings and naysayers, so prevalent throughout the stages of the referendum there seems to be a definite appetite to see things through and no shortage of countries and businesses eager to do business with the newly independent UK.  A period of intense negotiation between the two parties is required, but with the UK reluctant to start negotiations right away this period seems further and further away. Only after these negotiations and the resultant exit period have concluded will we understand the fuller consequences of our decision.

One of the immediate ripples reverberating from this decision was the abortive coup d’état that has engulfed the Labour party for the majority of the summer recess. It began as a concerted effort to remove Jeremy Corbyn from power, but it has spiralled into a second leadership contest in twelve months. The summer months have been characterised by massive infighting and resignations, which only serve to destabilise the Labour party further. If as predicted, Mr Corbyn wins the leadership election in September, then we can expect a winter of discontent within the party and the potential for a split between those loyal to Mr Corbyn and those who are not.

A party in turmoil, members trying to halt an unstable political force that they themselves have unleashed?  You only need to look across the Atlantic to see another example of this; the startling rise of Donald Trump. Known primarily as a businessman and celebrity, the meteoric rise of this plain speaking plutocrat has captured the American imagination in a way which has echoes of a Hollywood movie.

With no previous political experience at all, the Republican establishment must have thought that he was merely indulging in a vanity based publicity stunt and tolerated his attempted campaign histrionics. Now just over a year later, the Republicans must be ruing the day that this egotistical hurricane entered their domain.

Seeing the rise of Trump from political joke to presidential candidate the Republican Party moved to counter, pitting the might and the finances of the Republican establishment against the man from New York.  Leveraging candidate after candidate, they all fell down before the brusque showmanship of the Trump campaign leaving him as the official nominee of the Republican Party and the opponent of the victorious Democratic nominee: Hilary Clinton.

The long term consequences of this decision will not be known until America goes to the polls in November, and it’s easy to think that the brash politically inexperienced Trump will lose against the more moderate grounded Clinton. However, since the Democratic nominee is dogged by accusations of being a corporate stooge, along with allegations of impropriety in respect of sensitive emails, who can say with any certainty who will win? What will that person bring to the White House and how will their presidency be remembered?

Although the civil war in Syria has been the source of much consternation and politicking over the past 4 years, 2016 was the year where the problem became a truly international one with the migrant crisis. Scenes of families and large groups of people making the long march across Turkey and Greece toward Europe are common place and sometimes these migrations have tragic consequences.

One can argue that the migrant crisis affecting Europe is a consequence of the failure of NATO and the west to directly address the Syrian civil war when it began in 2011. This inaction left the Assad regime to its own devices and allowed it to carry out a campaign of terror against its own people, causing them to emigrate in massive numbers to Europe.

The Russian intervention on the side of the Assad regime has only served to exacerbate these numbers and, ultimately, the migration crisis affecting Europe as a whole. As long as there is continued unrest in the region, there is no easy solution to the problem which will allow these migrants to return to their own country.

As free thinking individuals in the world, we deal with the consequences of our actions and hope to learn from our mistakes, trying not to repeat them over again.  Politically we face a harder road, as political society is not endowed with a collective will and is thus limited in what it can do and learn in the long term.

If the recent history of civilised man is any judge of how quickly political society learns from its decisions, consequences and mistakes then we face a far longer journey to the sort of society where decisions made politically do not engender potentially negative consequences.  That is not to say that political society is not evolving in its understanding, but that learning is coming very slowly and at an increasingly high cost to the people of the world.

 

© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.

The Party Line is ………Identity

A golden tipped plane arrived at London Heathrow earlier today, carrying the victorious athletes from the Great Britain Olympic team. In an enthralling display of sporting prowess, they netted an astonishing 67 medals achieving a feat unsurpassed in British Olympic history and very rightly are welcomed home as national heroes.

As a citizen of Great Britain, it makes me very proud to see our athletes doing so well and beating nations like China and Russia who both have far bigger populations than our 65 million Brits. In our pride we venerate our victorious athletes and vicariously, our nation.

But after a while the pride subsides, the medals fade and the apathy sets in. We become nonchalant about being British, unwilling to maintain that level of pride we settle into a practiced negativity talking down our nation and undervaluing our achievements.

It’s a cycle that repeats itself not just at the Olympics but other sporting and social festivals: We are proud to be British as long as it’s convenient or allowed, but as soon as convention dictates we go back to our national apathy.

If we could, would maintaining our national pride make us a better nation? How would we do it?

The issue is that the notion of Great Britain lends itself to a historical slant rather than a current one, we revel in our glorious past without considering the potential for our future. So much of British society is set up on the traditions of the past: our Parliament, our Royal Family, our class system (yes it still exists) and most importantly our national zeitgeist. Even the name Great Britain lends itself to a time past when we commanded a vast empire.

In our rush to become a truly multicultural nation, we have effectively negated the British identity relegating British nationalism to extremists and the ignorant. It has become almost a societal taboo to express British nationalism except in those instances previously mentioned.

Far too often nationalism is confused with National Socialism but many people forget that for all their extreme politics the Nazis brought the German nation from economic and societal destitution to unity and almost total European domination in 9 short years in power.

Nationalism created the American identity, allowing it to go from a collection of colonies into a World superpower. It energised a people, enabling them to explore outer space and win the ideological war against Communism.

Our problem is we are afraid to use practical nationalism for fear of it becoming fascism. We are right to fear because it is a very fine line between the two as both champion the superiority of one group over another.

But what if there was a way to be Nationalistic without being fascist?

In choosing this course we have to first tackle one of the issues I previously mentioned: The British reliance on its past.

In all seriousness, who wouldn’t want to rely on a past where we dominated over 3/4ths of the Earth, where we were the undisputed masters of the sea and were the pinnacle of civilisation for a time?

The problem with over reliance on the past to generate a national identity is just that, it prevents you from crafting an identity which is current and pertains to the people of this generation.

A current national identity, generated by the people living today would engender a greater sense of what it means to be British than the collection of past glories and traditions being churned out in today’s society. It would connect the people of this country to this countries identity in a very tangible long-lasting way as they would become de facto stakeholders in the British experience and identity. I’m not saying ignore the past entirely, but don’t overplay it as we have done.

An example of doing this would be to drop the “Great” in Great Britain and just continue as Britain. This would have the effect of absolving our ties to the past nation. The slight issue with this is that there may be negative consequences, but if spun correctly this could be used as a challenge to the people of this country: Make Britain worthy of the title Great again.

Just as the American dream provides a notion for all to strive for and achieve, the new British identity and quest for greatness could provide a similar vehicle for national growth and expansion.

A seed change of this sort would have to be instigated from the top of society downwards, in a way which affected the lives of all citizens. It would require a prompt and I can think of no greater prompt than the death or retirement of either the Queen or Prince of Wales.

This tragic but foreseeable future event would undoubtedly prompt introspection on what it is to be British. A new individual on the throne for the first time in almost a century inspires a period of renewal in their country: there is a feeling of newness and the society can capitalise on that feeling to a positive end. A precedent for this sort of sweeping societal change exists in the cultural revolution that took place in the aftermath of the Second World War. In that case a new society emerged from a great tribulation and began an explosive period of renewal, cultural growth and enterprise which greatly benefitted Britain.

This period of renewal could begin with the formalisation of a written constitution to govern. For all its history, Britain does not possess a formalised constitution in the same way as many other nations in the world do, we instead rely on traditions accumulated throughout the centuries. A formal process to create a constitution with public engagement on all facets of the process would give the people of Britain a legitimate and long-lasting say in what their country should be and how it should be run.

The impact of this change cannot be underestimated, here enshrined in the rule of Law is the constitutional nation of Britain. It is something which can be defined, defended, studied and improved as required. It would make people feel connected with their country.

Renewal once is not consistent change, so the constitution could be renewed every five years in line with the election of a new government. Additionally, the public could be asked to vote on the inclusion of amendments to the constitution at the point of renewal, thus maintaining their aforementioned stake in how the country of Britain evolves.

A society where this sort of nationalism is only practiced on a singular basis will inevitably fail to embrace this change. The ethos of this New Britain must be extolled at every level from school children to the elderly and must be made part of every institution that exists in this country.

We need to spend less time venerating pointless celebrities and more time recognising the people who do great things for this country and its people.

Once again, we near the line of fascist nationalism because extolling the virtues of the New Britain over the other ideologies of the world implies that ours is the better ideology. We should be keen to champion other ideologies and governmental systems but a British society must be able to push itself to the fore in its own country.

Using the energizing spirit of this renewal, the government can inaugurate a culture of British achievement in all fields from construction to agriculture to information technology. Government departments can be rebranded and repurposed with the aim of using them to promote Britain rather than just the current error prone standard of government department. The constitutional change can facilitate this as parts of it can be used to create new ministries and entities.

The cynics among us may well say “well where is the money for this change going to come from?” and obviously there would be financial concerns in play at the point of renewal, but we spend billions on unnecessary social and political programs designed to make changes that simply do not have any chance of making real change.  All too often the act or program is instigated and shelved as soon as a new government is appointed or the public appetite shifts, wasting a lot of money and time.

Creating a constitution that everyone agrees on and has a stake in reduces the risk of these sorts of programs occurring, allowing for the funneling of those funds into projects which will actually be relevant and useful to the community at large. It also serves as a checking mechanism to the more out of touch ideas that the politicians have in government. The more these ideas are found and stopped the less likely they will occur giving the politicians a greater sense of what the public actually want and how to serve their respective communities.

Challenges such as these demand a higher standard of politician, one that goes beyond the current crop of elected individuals and could see them replaced by individuals who are more geared to the new ethos of the British state. The period of renewal in British society could and in all honesty should wipe these individuals away, as they are remnants of the traditional society rather than the new.

With a population hungry for change and the appetite to make this change at a societal level, there is no limit as to what changes could be made. The recreation of Great Britain under a newer more relevant guise could make this country what it needs to be: A more United Kingdom and a truly resurgent world power.

 

 

© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

The Party Line is……….Insurrection

People often have differences of opinion, it’s a fact of life. One person says one course of action is good and another says something different. If your anything like me an argument usually ensues.

But fundamentally, differences of opinion are vital for humanity to succeed, promoting agents of change and societal progress. They provoke debate, with each person seeking to prove the legitimacy of their argument.

Politically, we’ve just had a massive debate prompted by a difference of opinion: The EU referendum. Ultimately, one side triumphed over the other and regardless of the tactics used a debate was had and settled in a vote.

The voracity of the debate polarised the UK, splitting the people in two. It was as though some great force had woken up the populous from their political slumber, provoking a furious response. Once this issue was settled, you could sense that the UK had become a more extreme place to live. This manifested itself in an upsurge in racist attacks on immigrants and online abuse of many individuals on both sides.

With so many winners and losers, it’s becoming harder in the UK to find common ground. Political opportunism is becoming the language of the day.

But what if someone decided that they didn’t like the result? Someone with the means, motive and method to effect an insurgency against this political settlement.

It sounds fantastical I know, but it all stems from a difference of opinion.

Let’s play this little scenario out, shall we?

An insurgency or coup relies on an unpopular decision being made and the popular will to oppose it. If the individuals are rebelling against a popular decision, individual or government then the coup will struggle to achieve the sort of popular support required to legitimise it because they have already lost the battle for public opinion.

Anyone planning this sort of insurgency would have to have large scale support and important allies.

The first being a prominent public figure, someone to serve as a legitimate figurehead to the insurgency. This would most likely be a politician, someone serving on the counter side to the prevailing argument and a well-respected individual.

The second important ally would be the military as they would provide the platform to create the coup, leading the insurgency and once it has achieved its objectives allowing it to stay in power.

There would have to be sufficient military support to both lead the insurgency and then to ensure its long term success, anything other than this and you risk the failure of the coup, as you saw in Turkey.

Speed of movement is essential to the success of the coup, because as soon as you trigger the process mechanisms will work against you to counter your plans almost immediately.

The awareness and preparedness of the opposing forces determines the speed of their response, an unaware opposition being ill prepared to counter and vice versa.

Only if you had a combination of these elements, would your insurgency have some fighting chance of success. But what would a practical coup in the UK look like?

Step one would have to be the securing of London. As its capital city and central hub, London is integral to the UK and would have to be captured and secured before the coup could move forward.

Securing a city like London is no mean feat and would require the cooperation of local authorities, but if these authorities are not privy to the plot, how would you ensure their compliance?

The simple answer is a phony terror plot or state of emergency. This would allow the free movement of the Army through the city under the pretext of preventing loss of life. It would mobilise the metropolitan police, keeping them busy and occupied until the principal targets had been taken.

An additional benefit of utilising the terror plot is the ability to place army personnel close to high value individuals, allowing them to use subterfuge to complete step two.

Step Two involves the capture and forced detention of the Royal family, the Prime Minister and any other high value members of parliament who are otherwise uninvolved in the coup.

By securing these individuals early on in the insurgency, the insurgents would have crucial leverage against any opposition forces that may instigate a counterinsurgency.  They could also be used for blackmail and ransoming should the insurgency fail.

Crucially, securing the Prime Minister would allow them temporary access to the nuclear launch codes that he possesses. I say temporary, because there are redundancies which prevent these from being used in the event of involuntary imprisonment or coercion (Yes, I’ve seen the movies).

Step Three would involve the securing of all the transport hubs in and out of the country, the airports, train stations, ferry ports and most importantly the Channel Tunnel. As the primary entry and exit points, they provide an escape for any high value individual fleeing the country and an entry point for any counter insurgency forces. These must be secured to avoid either eventuality, with the Channel Tunnel being the most likely candidate for destruction.

If steps one through three are achieved, then they will have gone 50% of the way to achieving their aim of taking over the UK.

The remaining 50% of this process is step four: the securing and holding of the UK.

Any individual or group in opposition to the insurgency, not captured or detained by it would immediately become a threat and must be dealt with. The wholesale detention and potentially execution of these individuals becomes a crucial part of enforcing the insurgency on the UK.

Likewise, there must be a concerted effort to prevent external interference from any foreign power, most likely the European Union, who inversely would have the most to gain from a pro-EU insurgency. The difficult thing is utilising already overstretched military forces to combat this while maintaining control of the UK as a whole.

Would the EU welcome a new regime in the UK? Ideologically no, the idea of a coup in a civilised nation such as ours is a complete antithesis to the co-operative community spirit of the EU. However in reality, the interdependency of the nation states of the EU on each other and the UK makes provision for a middle ground/areas of compromise.

This is where the second part of step four comes into play: utilising political means to provide legitimacy to the new regime, while giving the required time for it to bed in and for the people of the UK to adjust.

By providing a public face and voice to the insurgency, the insurgents stop the regime from being considered a rebellion and open up the lines of diplomacy with other nations.

It also allows for that crucial thing: Political continuity. No power vacuum, no alternative means of government just a transition between the previous government and the new. This makes it possible for the completion of step five:  Onward political progress.

I say onward political progress, because as important as it is to conduct the coup and see it done, it is just as important to reinstate the status quo as quickly as possible. The only difference being that the insurgents now sitting at the top of the pile rather than being the unheard minority.

Steps One through Three could be achieved in as little as 5 days, with the right preparation and timing.  It naturally follows that the greatest chance of success would be a coup effected at the weekend as this would maximise the chance of catching the enemy unprepared.

Steps Four and Five would take significantly longer to achieve, but are possible within six months to a year. Longer term success being down to the aforementioned populous and the stability of the new regime. A collection of disorganised and warring individuals is far more likely to collapse than a well-disciplined regime centred around a political figurehead.

At the end of the day, this is speculation and it couldn’t possibly happen in a civilised country such as the UK, could it?

I imagine that the Stuart monarchy felt the same when faced with opposition from Parliament unaware of the civil war that awaited them. Almost 400 years later we are the beneficiaries of that unexpected coup, just as the Stuarts were the casualties almost bringing to an end their short reign.  Things can change just that quickly in the world.

 

© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.

The Party Line is…….Summer Holidays

Ah, the summer holidays have arrived for millions of children. For their parents this means six weeks of keeping their children occupied, going on overpriced holidays and long stints out of the office. For me it means more available seats on the train, little kids on bikes doing wheelies down the wrong side of the road and a quieter period at work.

School children aren’t the only ones to enjoy an extended break, as Parliament has closed for the summer. It’s a curious notion, that all politics should cease from July and not recommence until September, with MP’s flying off in their droves to be photographed in their trunks by an unforgiving media.

Even the political commentators have quit for the summer and as their subject matter disappears from view so have they from our screens and newspapers.  What is there to talk about?

The EU referendum? Old hat. David Cameron’s resignation honours list? The establishment rewarding itself isn’t anything new.  Labour leadership election? A foregone conclusion.

It’s a desperate period for the press, who have to provide media regardless of the availability of sensational stories as this preserves their existing readership, attracts new readers and ultimately keeps their profit margin

Newspapers fill this time with stories about heatwaves, miracle drugs, NHS scandals and the always inevitable rehash of some older story like the London riots.

Doesn’t leave much for a political blogger like me, does it?

But then again there is the Olympics in Rio.

An epic contest between nations which is all about politics? Yes, that sounds good to me.

The modern Olympiad, which has its roots in the ancient world was envisioned as an environment where nations could compete against each other in a non-violent arena with medals being the prize for the victorious.

Nationalism was ingrained in the contest from day one, with each nation seeking to outdo each other, to prove that its citizens were stronger or better than the rest. In the 1930’s this became more pronounced in the Munich Olympics of Hitler’s Germany.  But in the face of that profound evil, sport proved itself greater than nationalism in the victories of the American Jesse Owens.

World War two put paid to all thoughts of Olympic glory as national contest was replaced with national warfare, but the spectre of nationalism would not easily leave the Olympic experience.

Once the travails of the Second World War were over, a new contest began between the two superpowers: The USA and the Soviet Union for Olympic and World domination. The contest became a means by which nations would attempt to prove their greatness and by virtue the validity of their ideology.  A communist athlete could not be seen to be outperformed by a capitalist athlete as this could undermine communist ideology and vice versa.

A profoundly nationalistic climate such as this produced truly great national athletes like Nadia Comaneci, Mark Spitz and Olga Korbut. They reached the pinnacle of human excellence in sport winning numerous medals and adding substantive weight to their respective nations standing in the world.

However, with every great performance and athlete there were just as many accused cheats and supposed cheating governments, supplying their athletes with performance enhancing steroids. The only difference between this and todays controversy being the absence of sufficient technology and robust governance to prove the allegations.

For many other nations, the possibility of having an Olympic medallist coming from their country is a huge public relations boost enabling them to increase tourism and accrue revenue that the country would not otherwise receive. With the superpowers, there was always going to be more to it than that as past history has proven.

The Cold War rumbled on, manifesting itself in the US led boycott of the 1980 Moscow games and the reprisal boycott of the 1984 Los Angeles games by the Soviet Union and her Warsaw pact allies.

The fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990’s should have prompted the end of this version of statecraft, but it didn’t. It was merely suborned by a greater spirit of friendly completion and cooperation in the sporting arena.

Such a thing could not last and after a brief lull, nationalism in sport has begun to rear its ugly head again. The crucial difference between the nationalistic meddling that pervaded the cold war Olympiads and the nationalistic meddling that now exists is that it is easier to prove.

A prominent example of this is the recent Russian doping scandal which has overshadowed the build up to the Rio games. This wrongdoing at a national level is made all the more scandalous by the allegations that the Russian Anti-Doping Agency was a willing participant in the very thing it was designed to prohibit.

Add to this a regulatory body riven with allegations of corruption in the IAAF and you have a recipe for a culture of doping and performance enhancement.

Infiltration of Russian officials into testing centres by covert means, widespread tampering with urine samples to induce false results and surveillance of International Anti-Doping agency officials.  Preliminary findings indicate this goes back to the Winter Olympics in Sochi but the uses of these sort of tactics could go back even further.

It all sounds very subversive doesn’t it?

Not when you look at the prime motivator of this action, the Russian premier Vladimir Putin, himself a product of the Soviet Union and more specifically the Cold War KGB. Although the communism that he was raised in no longer exists, Mr Putin has applied his own brand of Russian ideology to his country.

It is an ideology that does not allow for failure and promotes Russia as the pinnacle of nations. As with the Soviets, political ideology has invaded sport, skewing it from being about competition between nations to Russian supremacy at any cost.

This new perspective is already creating tension with the old enemy of the United States in the political arena, but it now pushes the two old adversaries into conflict in the sporting arena.

We’ve seen evidence of it in the early days of this Olympics, with the Russians being branded cheats and ostracised by the other athletes. It has resulted in a lot of negative press for Russian sport and it will continue as long as these alleged incidents of doping go unchecked.

It is always remarkable how something created quite innocently can become a political animal and vehicle for countries to exert nationalistic and ideological sentiments, which in turn can create larger conflict between nations.  A harder line needs to be taken to eliminate political interference in sport, but without a powerful motivating force this seems unlikely to occur in the near future.

 

 

With thanks to Russell McIver for the idea.

© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.

The Party Line is………………..Schism

The British parliamentary system of government is a system of duality. It is a system which requires two parties to function effectively: one in government and one in opposition. The principle function of this is for one to provide an effective counterpoint to the other and vice versa. This ensures that the opposing viewpoints are aired and a consensus prevails.

When one party ceases to provide this effective counterpoint the system becomes prejudiced towards the other. In the unfortunate event of both parties ceasing to provide counterpoints to each other you inevitably see the sort of political and economic confusion that has existed over the last few weeks in the post referendum world.

With its speedy appointment of Theresa May as prime minister, the Conservative party has been the first to emerge from this land of confusion to a state of reasonable (if only perceptually) stability, allowing them to get a hold of the Brexit juggernaut and move toward a coherent exit plan.

On the other side of the aisle, the Labour party however has become embroiled in a civil war between its members of parliament and its leader Jeremy Corbyn. The only recently elected leader has found himself the subject of an attempted coup from within the Labour party. Using the pretext of Labour’s failure to effectively campaign in the EU referendum, a group of dissenting MP’s resigned and have pushed the Labour party into its second leadership contest in as many months.

A Labour member of Parliament for almost 35 years, Mr Corbyn is a man of deep conviction and an entrenched socialist, who matured in the staunchly union version of the Labour party that existed under the tenure of Neil Kinnock. He is not a man who conforms to the New Labour stereotype and was never expected to be anything but a backbencher in the young dynamic Labour party.

Yet it has been a rise as meteoric as much as it has been unexpected.

Winning a leadership election with almost 60% of the vote has given him almost unlimited carte blanche to turn the Labour party into his version of socialism and to steer it away from the Blairite version of new Labour.

The politics of new Labour and its chief architect; Tony Blair have been the prevailing political sentiment within the Labour party for the last 20 years and have shaped many of the politicians which now form the Labour parties front and back benches. It is a politics of reform and accountability.

The nascent politics of Corbynism which finds its voice in more traditionalist Labour values has moved in to replace this ideological standpoint, but New Labour is so entrenched in recent Labour philosophy will not leave without a fight.

A fight which has created the first schism in the Labour party, but a schism of their own making.

By contradicting the party zeitgeist, he has won a legion of new supporters in the party, but very few friends in Westminster.  Not every Labour party leader has been popular amongst his peers, but popularity in Parliament does not matter as much as support from within the party membership.

Indeed, by their actions, Labour party front and backbenchers cannot be called upon to offer Mr Corbyn the kind of support he needs in this second leadership contest, so he must look to other sources for assistance.

Historically, the largest and strongest support that Labour party leaders can call on comes from the Trade Union movement. An integral partner in the party since day one, prospective leaders have had to court union support to succeed in their rise to power.  They are the largest proportion of membership within the Labour party and are also its largest donor.

The candidate who can call on Trade Union support can win the leadership contest, regardless of the popularity of the other candidates as we saw when Ed Miliband famously “stabbed” his more popular brother David in the back to win the Labour leadership election in 2010. He could not have done so without the crucial support of the trade unions.

Jeremy Corbyn with his socialist background appeals to the union mentality of Labour and as such the Unions have been unswerving in their support of him, despite the attempted coup by the rest of the party.

The traditional support mechanism of the Unions has been joined by a new political group, that of the organisation known as Momentum.

Momentum, inaugurated in the wake of Mr Corbyn’s victory in 2015 is a group made up of those individuals who so vociferously campaigned for Mr Corbyn to be elected leader. It portrays itself as a unifying presence, a grassroots movement designed to strengthen the Labour party, increase its support and unify the party behind Mr Corbyn. It has a manifesto of broad social reform very much in keeping with core Labour values but remaining an independent organisation within the Labour party.

It is currently embroiled in campaigning to get more of its supporters elected to the Labour National Executive Committee, the key ruling council of the Labour party. Councillors have found themselves being supplanted by organisation members in their own constituencies and individuals within the party have been coerced into supporting Momentum’s aims.

Momentum has become extension of the Corbyn political machine, which has now dedicated itself to keeping him in power.

The Labour party is a party of communities, of organisations, of unions, which finds its strength in the politics of consensus rather than focusing itself on an individual, as Momentum does with Mr Corbyn.  A conflict between these two ideologies is inevitable as each is an anathema to the other.

It is this conflict, if unchecked that has potential to split the Labour party in two. This will undoubtedly lead to the end of the Labour party as it is known today.

This is the second schism which is rocking the foundations of the Labour party. Both threaten the core if a political settlement is not reached.

But what of those MP’s who openly rebelled against Mr Corbyn’s leadership?

If he does, as expected win the upcoming leadership election they will find their position is almost completely untenable.  If they do nothing, they will be forced out of their positions by Mr Corbyn and Momentum, but if they do choose to act they risk their entire political careers by going against the party which they represent.

There is no easy answer.

The only winners in this sort of scenario are the other main parties, who can sit around in their stability and watch as the Labour party implodes. There is potentially every chance that many of the rebel MP’s will choose to defect to parties which more closely match their views.

We could see the growth of a new political party distinct from Labour which could amalgamate with the Liberal Democrat party, a virtual non-entity since it was cast out of number 10 in 2015.

Whatever the scenario, the Labour party has a rocky road ahead of it.

© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.

The Party Line is……..Purge

Politics and political parties exist in a state of constant flux, where ideas and aims are discussed, implemented and sometimes jettisoned like driftwood.

What works in some countries does not work in others and can often have disastrous results for both the incumbent government and the populous as a whole. It is a precarious balance, that if not maintained allows the country to teeter and slide into disorder and barbarism.

With so much at stake, it is natural that individuals and groups will rail against the authorities that govern them particularly if that government exerts an agenda which compromises the basic rights of the individual regardless of political persuasion.

Over the preceding weekend, a section of the Turkish military attempted to seize control of Turkey by targeting vital infrastructure points around the country. Britain’s news agencies, still primarily covering the Nice attack rapidly received and digested this fluid situation.

And just like that, it was over.

President Erdoğan, forced at one point on Friday night to make emergency broadcasts to the Turkish people from his mobile phone was back in full control of Turkey, to the rapturous acclaim of the general populace. The defeated rebels found themselves the target of a vengeful people and government.

Erdoğan, with the support of a grateful people has begun a wholesale purge of turkey’s social and political structures in an attempt to restore Turkey to her former glory.

Thousands of public servants, military personnel and opposition politicians have been suspended or detained pending investigation on charges of conspiracy to commit treason.

A state of emergency has been declared for the next three months in which the President can enact laws without the need for parliamentary consent and detain who he wants when he wants without political check. The instruments of democracy no longer exist in Turkey.

As an observer and student of history, you cannot but view these events with a sense of fear. Far too often, the action of a purge has been responsible for some of the worst acts of peacetime violence seen in political society.

Think of the Soviet leader Stalin in the 1920’s and you have some equivalent idea of what I’m talking about, the forced elimination of all opposition from the political process.

When a country or government has to resort to such methods to exert its will, it devalues the political process as a whole and more importantly calls into question fundamental freedom of expression.

But what if the coup was engineered with this objective?

The military machine for all its breadth of action is a very tight-knit family with a clear hierarchical structure. Not much is undertaken at the lower levels without the informed consent and knowledge of those higher up in the chain of command. If a small section of the military had seditious intent, the sheer number of people involved makes it highly unlikely that the rest of the military wouldn’t know about it.

A successful coup d’état could only be launched if the entire military were involved in the plot as control of such a large populist country could only be secured with sufficient forces and the armaments to back them up. The military would not proceed with the coup unless they were absolutely sure of total victory.

The launching of the coup would undoubtedly trigger a quick response from the loyalist factions in Turkey and the fight would be on.

But it didn’t happen, did it? The coup ended as quickly as it had begun in total defeat for the rebels.

The only reasonable conclusion is that the indirectly involved members of the Turkish military were a willing accomplice to the counter plans of President Erdoğan. The speed at which the coup was overthrown seems to bear this theory out.

Would the coup had ended so quickly and as bloodlessly if those military units engaged had the full unswerving support of the whole military?

No, they would have fought to the last man, confident that their overwhelming numbers would win the day. In an army numbering almost 350 thousand men the small number of military personnel arrested and the speed to which the coup was quashed lend themselves to being ill prepared for the lack of widespread support.

Does ill prepared sound like something the military would be?

No, the military are by their virtue always the most prepared for the consequences of their actions, randomness, chance and lack of preparation are completely foreign to them. Everything is accounted for and planned against, with defeat only occurring due to external forces.

This splinter in our mind’s eye, leads us to ever more fantastical thoughts on this subversive style of political will. Were the bombings that occurred in the preceding month’s in Ankara and Istanbul part of an elaborate plan to create the perfect conditions for a purge?

President Erdoğan, in allowing the coup to happen, creates the conditions required to exert his extreme agenda with the support the Turkish public as a whole. He can now arrest who he wants, when he wants and no one will express dissent for fear of being his next target.

A cleaning of house is underway in Turkey and when it is completed a newer stronger nation may arise or in the extreme it may slide into a potential civil war against President Erdoğan, the situation is that tenuous.

Whatever its rightness or wrongness it is taking place and looks set to change the lives of millions of Turkish citizens for the better or for the worse. In our political history we often see the echoes of the past in the signs of the future, hoping to not repeat the same mistakes and trusting ourselves to a higher power, be it a god or otherwise.

 

© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.

The Party Line is…………Hindsight

Throughout our lives, there are times when we make the wrong decisions. We choose one course of action over another, we support one thing where another may have been the more correct point of view and we express remorse when our decisions are proven to be wrong.

Hindsight is a beautiful thing and with hindsight I would say that at the time I would never have supported the war in Iraq.

I should qualify that last statement: I supported the British government undertaking to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq. I believed that it was a logical and highly justified endeavour, I mean why wouldn’t I? This was a concerted military action to remove a tyrannical despot from power and free a people from a regime of terror that claimed so many of their fellow citizens.  It would also serve to protect us from his potentially hostile intent. I refused to believe those who said that it was an illegitimate war and supported the Blair position in this area.

But 13 years and almost 300,000 deaths later, I can say unequivocally that I was wrong.

The process by which a government admits it made a mistake is a much more complicated one and is generally not legislated for in any constitution. It becomes the province of the individual politician or government to determine the legitimacy or illegitimacy of any action undertaken, they have to be seen to take responsibility for their actions both previous and current. In the continuance of this imperative, the UK government called for a public enquiry into the government’s actions in both the lead up and the aftermath of the Iraq war.

Testimony was taken, evidence analysed, reports written and a week ago the results of this enquiry were made known to the general public and more particularly to the families of those who died as a result of this war.

At 6,000 pages the report is the most detailed examination of the Iraq war to date and its publication has shown the failings and backroom politics of the Blair administration during this period.

So you might be wondering, what else is there left to say that hasn’t already been said?

While the individual truths of the conflict and the lead up to it are slowly being disclosed, the key thing that characterises both the war in Iraq and the lead up to it is failure. Failures of international systems of law and governance and failures of the political process in the UK.

The Prime Minister of the time, Tony Blair has become a scapegoat for the systemic failures that allowed the war in Iraq to take place in the first place. If these systems had been as robust as is intended and portrayed, then war would have been impossible. Any concerted action by the Prime Minister with such a course in mind should have been checked at once by the cabinet, the party and the people of the UK. It was not, and the actions that Tony Blair undertook to force the country to war qualify as an abuse of executive power.

In his eagerness to support our American allies, he became blind to the severely questionable legality of invading a country which posed no immediate threat to the United Kingdom. The intelligence and security services failed to produce significant evidence of any so-called “weapons of mass destruction” and the case for invasion was a fudged coalition of half-truths, presented to the British people as concrete facts.

That is not to say that there was not significant opposition to the potential invasion of Iraq. Four senior ministers within the cabinet publicly voiced their opposition and were forced to resign. Public protests were widespread in both the UK and the US and many of our international partners voiced their opposition in the EU and in the United Nations.

Mr Blair conducted secret meetings with individuals outside of the regular parliamentary system, ignoring political procedure when it suited his aims. Political pressure was brought to bear on members of parliament, by both whip and lobby to force them to vote in the affirmative for war.

This absence of cabinet legitimacy prevented the instruments of government being used effectively once the decision to go to war was taken. As a direct result of this failure to utilise effective government our troops went into the war without the tools to effectively wage it, which contributed to the high number of service deaths in the conflict. Indeed, once the war ended, this failure to use government prevented the ability to produce a coherent strategy for the post war environment, allowing the Bush administration to pursue its damaging policy of complete structural destruction of the Iraqi system of government.

A country should at its heart, not plan for war and should exercise all possible actions to avoid this through diplomatic means. It is impossible to talk about the diplomatic methods to avoid war without addressing the chief diplomatic body of the time: The United Nations.

An organisation of mutual collaboration, designed to provide a check to the dictatorial and despotic ambitions of member countries as the previous League of Nations failed to do. In this endeavour it utterly failed to provide a significant check against the invasion ambitions of the US and UK. Its resolutions, while well-meaning were completely ignored when it suited the Bush administration and by proxy the Blair government. It should have pressed the member nations to exert political pressure on the US and UK and backed it up with the prospect of sanctions, both pre and post invasion. The gesture of placing Weapons inspectors in Iraq was a token one and achieved absolutely nothing but prolonging the period before war was declared regardless.

All efforts at diplomacy failed, but realistically was there any chance of them succeeding at all? Old animosities from the previous Iraq conflict, coupled with the American desire to fight back at the so-called “Axis of Evil” made the chances of a peaceful diplomatic solution very slim.

The American people, shocked out of their isolation by their biggest tragedy since Pearl Harbour in 9/11 can be somewhat forgiven for having an appetite for revenge. The American congress, however cannot be forgiven for allowing President Bush to pursue this agenda without a clear plan for the aftermath and for allowing their intelligence agencies to manipulate intelligence to suit a flimsy case.

An American politician advocating peaceful solutions at this time would like their UK counterparts be shouted down albeit more vociferously by their own people. In the aftermath of the war, the public opinion changed dramatically, as the US Army and its government became bogged down in the quagmire.

The failure to clearly plan for the aftermath of the War and the rush to utterly destroy the existing political structures of Iraq created the power vacuum and ultimately created the conditions for the Islamic State movement to exist. This is the greatest failure of the war in Iraq and has contributed to many more deaths and terrorist acts over the years following the cessation of operations.

The civilian enquiry into the War in Iraq should be applauded for both being thorough and unequivocal in its judgments, but such a mechanism should be in place in the constitution of this country and should not have to rely on civilian oversight. The problem with this, particularly in the UK is that Parliament is essentially the presence of the Crown in politics and as such cannot be seen to be wrong.

The weight of evidence, high number of deaths and obvious manipulation of government necessitates the need for strong political changes in this area. These changes must occur not just in the UK but in both the United States and the United Nations.

What can we do in the UK to prevent such a situation occurring in the future?

Changes in legislation to ensure that a Prime Minister cannot operate independently of his cabinet, the introduction of large-scale political engagement in the war making process be it from the populous or ministers independent of cabinet and party and the reintroduction of the historic practice of impeachment for those who flout constitutional law.

Additionally, we have to create a mechanism where civilian oversight in both foreign policy and the practice of war making becomes a legitimate function of government. Abuses of executive power should be documented and prevented via legislation and judicial restraints. It should not take a public outcry for these things to come to light, it should be parliamentary practice to review.

We have to create a climate where making war truly becomes a last resort and is conducted as a legitimate constitutional act, controlled by parliament and with the full consent of the people. I do accept that there are always situations where wars do not conform to these sorts of absolute aims, but by maintaining these absolute maxims and conditions we can more effectively manage the hardest duty of any government: declaring war.

 

© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.