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Archive for November, 2011

The United Kingdom, Israel, and the United States would be foolish to rule out an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report this week is expected to reveal that Iran has an active nuclear weapons programme and is close to achieving it’s goals.

Israel, the United States and the United Kingdom have all suggested in recent weeks that that a military strike on Iran cannot be ruled out. Russia and China have both voiced opposition to the IAEA report, fearing that Iran will respond negatively and accelerate it’s programme in self defense.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the President of Iran has said that the contents of the IAEA report are “fabrications”.

For several years, the IAEA has warned of Iran’s nuclear facilities, and in the past Israel and the United States have applied sanctions to the regime to slow their nuclear weapons programme. Israel and the United States have, according to. There have been fears about “undisclosed nuclear activities involving military related organisations”, including research into the process required to enable the initiation of a nuclear chain reaction.

So – What are the option? Unless Iran backs down, which is unlikely, it seems that the alternatives are further economic sanctions, which tend to hit those that are not responsible for them, or it is military action, potentially along the lines of the Operation Opera strikes that the Israelis conducted against Iraq’s nuclear facilitites.

One thing is clear – Iran can not be permitted a nuclear bomb. A country which has nuclear weapons, like North Korea, but in the heart of one of the worlds oldest conflicts would produce a human disaster on a scale not seen since the 2nd World War.

Military action may distasteful, but it may be the only way to stop a belligerent Iran from developing atomic weapons. Proactive counter-proliferation has been the best mechanism for preventing the spread of nuclear weapons since the Cold War.

Tony Blair, speaking on the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks said:

If Iran were to acquire nuclear weapons capability it would destabilise the region very, very badly.

 

Once they have a nuclear bomb, it is too late to do anything about it.

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Tony Blair pays tribute to Philip Gould, “a constant advocate for the British people”

Credit/Office of Tony Blair

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair said:

Philip was such a huge part of the renaissance of the Labour Party. To me he was my guide and mentor, a wise head, a brilliant mind, and a total rock when a storm was raging.

“He became indispensable. He was always a constant advocate for the British people, their hopes and anxieties. So his political contribution was immense.

“But then as his illness gripped him, he became something more. In facing death, he grew emotionally and spiritually into this remarkable witness to life’s meaning and purpose. No one who saw him in those last months was unchanged by him. And the bond between him and his wonderful family was a joy to see.

“I feel very proud and privileged to have known him and to have been his friend.”

Alistair Campbell has also written a moving tribute to Philip Gould.

RIP

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We are exactly one year away from an American General Election that may see Barack Obama ousted as President of the United States. It is unlikely, but it is possible. There are no left-wing parties in Government in major western democracies outside of America and Australia. The last significant left-wing Government in Western Europe, that of Spain will almost surely fall in their National Elections on the 20th November two weeks from today.

The challenges for the Left in the West are immense. In recent years the Left has taken what could be generously described as an electoral hammering, and this is a trend that is unlikely to falter in the wake of the financial crisis. This crisis has undoubtedly been the biggest single challenge to face the Left since the rise of Thatcher in the UK and Reagan in the US.

In Greece, a Socialist Government is trying as hard as it possibly can to destroy the Eurozone. By putting the question of the next bailout to a plebiscite, it is likely that Greece will reject austerity and bailouts from the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund will cease. Greece will become bankrupt, and will leave the Euro. Italy, which has the second highest debt:GDP ratio in Europe (around 120%) will almost surely follow. The Italian Government is planning €47bn of cuts before 2013, when the next elections are scheduled. Meanwhile, the assortment of left wing parties in Italy embark on large anti-austerity protests and marches.

Meanwhile, what could charitably be called the “organised Left” in Britain, the Occupy London Protests are sitting outside St Paul’s Cathedral engaged in “protest”. It pains me to use that expression for what they are doing. Polling has shown that their general aims are supported by only 20% of people whilst 46% are opposed. Clearly, the 99% that the OccupyLSX protests claim to represent aren’t very keen on the idea. Ed Miliband, writing in the Observer has expressed sympathy with the protesters.

In short, words fail me at the state of the Left in Europe.

However. There is hope.

In France, the victor of the Parti Socialiste primary elections, Francois Hollande, has the best chance of any in Europe of forming a left-wing Government. It is not a finished matter. The unpopularity of the incumbent President, Nicholas Sarkozy, will not be enough to persuade the French People to elect their first left-wing government since 1988. The relative popularity of the French National Front, and their leader Marine Le Pen, are polling around 20%. The moderate Hollande also faces opposition from the hard-Left.

If the election were held today, Hollande would win 39 per cent of votes, up eight percentage points from three weeks ago, whilst Sarkozy would have 24 per cent, up three points according to French pollster LH2.

A squeeze from both the far-Right, with le Pen pushing an anti-Corporatist, anti-EU, anti-bank agenda, and from the hard-Left whose candidate polled a respectable 17% in the PS Primary. Hollande faces a tough test to make it through to the 2nd round of the election, and then beat Sarkozy or le Pen.

He must build the broadest possible coalition to defeat Sarkozy.

Francois Hollande represents the best chance that the Left have to regain a foothold in Europe.

To be successful once again, the Left must emulate the great left-wing leaders of the 20th and 21st Centuries. We should look to the Blair’s, and the Obama’s for the future of the Left. Where people’s personal finances are in danger, they will look to the Conservative alternative for a smaller state, lower taxes and fiscal credibility.

The Left should not forget that fact.

Fiscal credibility, in an age of no money for the Left to spend will be more important than ever. The State must be made more efficient, and will inevitably have to become smaller in some areas. We should set out a strict deficit reduction programme to regain the Nation’s economic trust. Francois Hollande has committed himself and his Party to reduce France’s deficit to less than 3% of GDP. We should do the same. We should set out a vision for the future, and a plan for growth in the new economy.

But. And it is a but. We should remember our achievements in Government. We introduced the National Minimum Wage. We gave record investment to schools and hospitals, and achieved record levels of literacy and numeracy in schools.We are not in the financial position that we are in because we employed too many teachers and nurses. We cut crime of all types by 32%. We devolved power to Scotland and Wales.

More importantly, we found peace in Northern Ireland. People had been searching for 400 years, and the Labour Party found it.

This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t apologise for our mistakes. We should say sorry. We should then say “but”. We are not sorry for our achievements in Government. We should not be sorry for our successes.

We can, should, and must do it again.

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