Friday, May 27, 2005

Iranian CDs

And the lesson for the US government? I would start thinking a little bit harder about how to tap into all that soft power,and put some of the hard talk aside.
"Menace of the dream machine", Peter Aspden,  FT Magazine, 7 May (subscribers only, ungoogled - I'm making up a word here: I mean there were no hits, not even the 'subscribers only').

The same could apply to Syria. Another quote from the SyriaComment post I linked to yesterday:
[US] Embassy officials in Damascus have been repeating for some time their key phrase: "Pressure works."

Clearly Bashar has taken the decision that he must attempt to stop that [mantra] which has become dangerous.

"Uzbek massacre: soldiers used Land Rovers in defiance of arms control promise"  (behind registration ---  link )
I am unlikely to blog any more before 9 June. I'm off on holiday.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Syrian crack-down

The Syrian government has begun what seems a sweeping crack down on civil society leaders and opposition members. This is coordinated with cutting off CIA and intelligence cooperation with the United States.
At dawn this morning, the Syrian authorities, represented by the Political Security Apparatus headed by Mohammad Mansoora, arrested the Board of Directors of the Jamal Atassi Muntada (Forum). Early reports are that the people arrested were: Mrs. Souhair al-Atassi, Dr. Hazem Nahar, Mrs. Nahed Badouiah, Mr. Hussein Al-Oueidat, Mr. Youssef al-Jahmani, Mr. Jihad Masooti, Mr. Abdul Nasir Kahlous, and Mr. Mohammad Mahfoud.

On May 22, Mohammad Mansoora's security people raided the office [of] the Arab Human Rights Organization and arrested its leader Mr. Mohammad Ra'adoun.
SyriaComment, 24 May 2005

German crisis (part 2)

(part 1 here) Oskar Lafontaine is set to leave Schröder's Social Democratic party (SPD). He hopes to create a new leftwing grouping to run against it.
The Alternative Labour and Social Justice (WASG), a splinter group of former SPD supporters, scored 2.2 per cent of the votes at an election in North Rhine-Westphalia last Sunday despite a low-key campaign. The neo-communist PDS, meanwhile, is credited with 4-5.4 per cent of the votes nationally.

"It makes no sense for two small parties like the WASG and the PDS to run separately against the SPD," Mr Lafontaine said. "If it comes to a joint list, I am ready to join it." (Financial Times, 24 May 2005, 20:49)
Interesting discussion here. Schröder said a couple of years ago in an interview with the FT that he and Blair were trying to get to the same place, but coming at it from different directions, with Britain needing to rebuild public services, after the years of Conservative rule. Kohl, on the other hand was no Thatcher.

Update: I don't think it's true that 'the ECB seem to want inflation to fall as far as it can possibly go'. The problem, as an orthodox economist would see it, is that it is not possible to increase growth in Germany and France by monetary policy without creating higher inflation, because of the 'structural problems' and 'inflexibility' that their model of 'social protection' entails. Translated, that means that benefits for the unemployed are too generous and tax rates are too high.

Schröder is now committing suicide and leaving the conservative CDU and Angela Merkel to sort out the 'reforms'.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Iran´s Gorbachev

Comments here: Supreme leader Khomeini has called for the disqualifications to be reviewed (BBC World Service, 2100 GMT. The news bulletins were the normal length, but the rest of the current events coverage was cut). Update: by 16:00, 24 May, the decision (to bar Mostafa Moin) had been reversed.

Comments from France Inter -  Géopolitique  La voie chinoise de l’Iran:
Alors que Mohammad Khatami était le Gorbatchev iranien, un homme sorti du sérail mais décidé à marcher vers la démocratie, Ali-Akbar Rafsandjani incarne lui une voie chinoise, maintien de la dictature politique, libéralisation économique et recherche d’un modus vivendi avec les Etats-Unis.
They also had ... L'Irak évolue vers une guerre civile entre chiites et sunnites ? Question directe du 24 mai 2005, avec Hosham Dawood, Anthropologue irakien.
 Malgré la présence d'un gouvernement élu qui avait pris l'engagement d'imposer le calme, tous les jours des attentats frappent l'Irak, de plus en plus meurtriers. Période charnière où se construit un système politique, avec une nouvelle Constitution en août prochain.
Tout est en oeuvre pour casser ce processus politique ? l'Irak entre-t-il en guerre civile, déchiré entre sunnites et chiites ? Alors que le Président américain George Bush affirme que ceux qui sont à l'origine des attentats sont sur le point d'être vaincus.
It was not as bad as this editorial slant might lead you to believe. Asked by a listener whether he would describe the insurgents as terrorists, he replied that, given that they are hardly killing any American soldiers these days, but planting bombs in market-places to kill civilians, including women and children, and targeting Iraqi security forces, it is hard to describe them as anything else. (Actually, about 12 US soldiers have been killed in the last couple of days.)  Somebody else said that one of the journalists released in December had said we need to be very careful with language (hostage-takers could be upset if they are described as 'terrorists').

See Tribus et pouvoirs en terre d'islam, Hocham Dawood, mai 2004 ( previously published, with Faleh A. JABAR, Tribes and Power: Nationalism and Ethnicity in Middle East,  London, Jan 2003).

Anyway, it made a change from the debate on the EU constitution, where all the arguments seem to be played-out.

'Liban : vers de nouvelles cassures ?' There was quite a long article by Lebanon's Minister of Communication and Tourism, Charles Rizk, in Le Monde (2-3 Mai 2005), which I've only just got round to reading. (  buy  ---link )

Monday, May 23, 2005

Iran´s elections

Only six are to be allowed to stand for the presidency. 'Among those eliminated are Mostafa Moin, who was the choice of the country's largest reformist party. ... Iran's former parliamentary speaker Mehdi Karrubi remains on the list, but correspondents say he had not been the reformists' main contender.'  The reformist candidate will be facing Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and four conservatives (or hardliners).  (Iran 'bars pro-reform candidates' )

See also 'Iran's candidate cull'... this ... and this.
It gives a lot of responsibilities to the president without giving him enough authority. Responsibility and authority should come together. You cannot give responsibility to someone without giving him authority.
Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, in 'a rare interview'. It came over a little more strongly on the radio. The implication is that there are those with authority and no responsibilities.

From the FT Magazine, 14 May, "The King and Mao" Isabel Hilton (subscribers only ---  link ).

And maybe an interesting blog:  Paramendra Bhag / For a Democratic Nepal  ... Who could resist a title like The Maoists Have Been Reading My Emails, Blog Entries ?

German crisis

Shock horror!! A decent article in The Spectator. Mind you, it is by an FT man - 'Anti-Americanism, anti-Semitism, anti-capitalism ' It's about Germany (and France).

I meant to post this yesterday; since it has been overtaken by events. Gerhard Schröder's supporters were said to be shocked when he announced national election following the defeat in North Rhine-Westphalia. BBC (R4) chose not to lead with that news, but with its own strike. Anyway, here is the text of Schröder's statement.

Dr. Elisabeth A. Lloyd on the Logic of Female Orgasm :

the most convincing theory is one put forward in 1979 by Dr. Donald Symons, an anthropologist. That theory holds that female orgasms are simply artifacts - a byproduct of the parallel development of male and female embryos in the first eight or nine weeks of life. In that early period, the nerve and tissue pathways are laid down for various reflexes, including the orgasm...
There is no pun intended in the title of this post.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

US Torture

The New York Times report on the abuses of Afghans here ('In U_S_ Report, Brutal Details of 2 Afghan Inmates' Deaths'). The BBC WS had someone on who said something like, 'We were trained not to use torture because it was against the Geneva Convention and it didn't work, but after 9/11 this changed and we were not trained for this new environment.'

The Guardian continues to give house-room to John Laughland, for some reason. His thoughts on Uzbekistan can be found on this thread by Eric the U.

Much more worth one's time is Tim Whewell's piece on From our own correspondent (BBC Radio4). Monica Whitlock's on the World Service version was somewhat different, but I couldn't find that online.

Friday, May 20, 2005

British neo-cons

"Gently does it" by Simon Kuper (FT Magazine, 30 Apr, subscribers only) on Nicholas Boles: he narrowly failed to win the seat of Hove and Portslade, 'co-edited a book of Conservative essays called A Blue Tomorrow with Michael Gove and Ed Vaizey', ' foreign policy he calls himself “a bit of a neo-con”, by which he means he shares the view of the US “Vulcans” that the government should act to spread democracy abroad'. He runs a think-tank:
Policy Exchange scoured the world, and decided that the main thing wrong with Britain compared with other countries was that it was run almost entirely from the capital city. Policy Exchange commissioned a keynote pamphlet by Simon Jenkins, called Big Bang Localism, published last November. In it, Jenkins argues that the second world war, Clement Attlee and then Margaret Thatcher had centralised Britain to the umpteenth degree, but that Blair then made it worse.
“The great cities were built by strong local leaders who said, ‘It’s an outrage that there are open sewers, it’s a public good that we’re going to provide.’ Or Robert Peel saying, ‘I’m fed up with aristos hiring their own personal thugs, I’m going to create a police force.’”
Personally, the only Tory who has impressed me recently is Michael Gove. For example, he has always backed Tony Blair's policy on Iraq. Another neo-con, then. And he was elected on 05.05.05.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

UK vote?

Denis MacShane on C4 News, Wednesday night - interview referred to on BBC news the following morning, question as to whether UK should still hold a referendum if the French vote 'no'. Somebody who was recently in the government says that nobody in Europe thinks there would be, but the official line is still that there would be. Here's MacShane in The Observer, a few days ago...

'the foot of one of the attackers, in a marketplace bombing last week that killed 22 people in south Baghdad, had been found taped to his vehicle's accelerator. In another case[...] the attacker's hands were taped to the vehicle's wheel. The implication was that those planning the attacks wanted to be sure that the vehicles would continue to their targets even if the drivers were killed by American or Iraqi gunfire as they approached.' Generals Offer a Sober Outlook on Iraqi War.


'Uzbek troops are reported to have retaken the border town of Korasuv. [...] A number of explosions and some gunfire was heard, but the takeover seems to have been largely peaceful with no reports of loss of life. The uprising's leader, Bakhtiyor Rakhimov, who said he intended to build an Islamic state, has been arrested.' ( Uzbek troops retake rebel town - earlier report here.) Ian MacWilliam, now in Osh, reports that Kyrgyz border guards claim that special forces were used (BBC radio). By contrast, there are reports that troops were stoked up with vodka before the operation to 'regain control' in Andijan.

Take this together with an Uzbek 'army source' telling the BBC that the death toll was higher than the official figure (I commented on this here - the BBC gave it some prominence a couple of days ago, with its implication of splits in the regime); and the fact that it took 5 days for any action to be taken. It may well be that there was an internal power struggle and elements in the military insisted that opposition be suppressed more efficiently and less indiscriminately.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005


Europe again (see here and here for previous thoughts).

Laurent Fabius on France Inter states that France and Germany need to have equal weighting, whereas under the 'qualified majority' of the constitution France would have 30% less voting power than Germany.

He 'thanks' Nicolas Sarkozy for making the argument that a 'oui' to the constitution is needed to bring about a 'less social' France.

Asked by a listener which clauses in the constitution prohibit a 'social Europe' or impose a 'liberal Europe', he cited two which for social or fiscal harmonisation require unanimity. Surely this is the case under the existing treaties? Anyway, apparently that was OK for the Europe of 6, but not for the enlarged EU, where there is a wide divergence in social protection.

Of course, renegotiation is possible in theory, but the issue is one of practicality. If enlargement is a good thing, as he claims, and France now rejects what has been agreed by the 15, how can it expect to get a 'more social' Europe when the 10 new members will have their say?

Comments here (bits of the above in French).

Tuesday, May 17, 2005


Channel 4 News (UK), Monday night, showing pictures from Andijan. BBC WS (9:00 GMT) reports that a Ukrainian TV crew got into the town.

BBC radio reports, Tuesday morning, that funerals are winding through the narrow streets of the old quarter. The bodies are not being buried all at the same time.

Monday, May 16, 2005

More nightmares

Adam Curtis's thing goes international. From Chrenkoff...

See Nightmares... More Nightmares... Part 2... Part 3...Last thoughts (almost) ... finally.


Christopher Caldwell had an interesting piece in Saturday's FT - "The leader that Britons deserve" (subscribers only): 'but giving up its special relationship with the US would have considerably weakened Britain within Europe. It is unlikely the electorate would have been pleased with the result over the long haul.'


BBC carrying the news, Sunday, that residents of Korasuv took control of their town from the Uzbek government. 'They then set to work to rebuild two bridges over the border river, reuniting the Uzbek and Kyrgyz sides of the town. The bridges were ripped up more than two years ago in what the government said was a crackdown on cross-border trade. But correspondents say locals saw the move as an attempt to grind them down by denying them access to the thriving market on the other side.' Uzbek troops seal off second town

Quote from an Andijan resident: 'I want to tell the world, Karimov's people fired on women and children' (BBC radio).

The BBC website has comments from many in Uzbekistan: 'If Western powers don't get involved a horrible tragedy will happen. The current leadership wouldn't hesitate to spill the blood of thousands to remain in power. Here is the chance to bring the democracy to my country. Please do not demonise the protesters as Islamic radicals. The majority of them are ordinary people who strive for survival and want happiness.
Anonymous, ... (originally Marghilon, Farghona province)'

Comments on Harry's Place (Monitoring Bush: the Uzbekistan test) Gene: 'It's hard to tell exactly what's going on in Uzbekistan...', In Andijan, 23 businessmen of a moderate Islamist persuasion were arrested and put on trial by the Karimov regime, who accused them of being 'extremist'. Analysis: Uzbekistan's 'Islamists'. Many of the employees of these men, who lost their jobs as a result, joined the protests. It's not that difficult is it?

Nevertheless, some good stuff in the comments (of the HP post): 'The EU has no influence in Uzbekistan, Karimov has no intention of quitting, the Russians are right behind him, and the US response has been mealy-mouthed. If President Bush wants to live up to his inaugural address he need not make any public declarations, but he must get on the phone to Karimov and make it clear that: a. there must be no more deaths, and  b. he must open up to civil society or else face an Islamicist opposition which has garnered popular support for want of another focus.' (Martin Morgan)

'Get all your coverage on Uzbekistan here. In addition, this chap has been working tirelessly to translate the Russian language reports coming from the region - which seem to differ from the English langage reports.' (Tim Newman).

As for the lies of the Uzbek government, I will restrict myself to the 'negotiations' with the protesters that almost certainly did not take place in Andijan, Friday.

Jack Straw, for the UK, is taking a slightly more 'pro-liberation' position than the US.

Sunday, May 15, 2005


Media reports on the number killed vary from 9 (accepting the government's figure) to 300 (from local sources, BBC radio on Saturday morning). Around 15,000 people came out on the streets on Saturday, compared to about 3,000 before Friday when government forces opened fire on the crowd. The courage of these people is amazing.

Weasel words from the State Department. Can anyone tell me one thing, or at least ask the question: OK the US needed a base in Uzbekistan for its operation to get rid of the Taliban, but why does it need one now ?

Much media reporting and comment seems to go along with Karimov's designating of any opposition as 'Islamic extremists'.
Browsed the Politics section of Ottakars (bookshop), which is arranged in alphabetical sequence by author. This is logical enough, but it means Pilger is next to Plato.

Friday, May 13, 2005

British election, again

More on the remarks here. I have replied to an e-mail as follows:
Of course I care who governs the country. I believe that, not 'proportional representation', but some sort of alternate or transferable vote is the way forward. The Labour manifesto talks of reviewing the experience of the new electoral systems, says 'A referendum remains the right way to agree any change for Westminster.' and leaves it at that ( Comments here ) .  I have e-mailed my MP about this.

Birmingham Edgbaston (which I mentioned previously in my weblog) was not actually a very good example, but Burton is certainly interesting. The vote for the Tory actually went down a little, but if the UKIP/Veritas/ BNP vote had all switched to the Tories (an assumption which could certainly be challenged) and the increase in the LibDem vote had gone back to Labour, in spite of Iraq,etc. (which is even more open to doubt), the Conservative would have been within 0.9% (about 425 votes) of winning.

Nevertheless, I feel this would have been a fairer system.
Regarding Peter Riddell's comments, personally I would like both a positive outcome in the European constitution referendum and for Tony Blair to stay on as long as possible. To beat Mrs Thatcher's record he would need to stay on another 3 years 5 months. As I pointed out at the very beginning, there are precedents in other countries for him staying right up to the next election. But I don't think either of those is going to happen.

Central Asian  stirrings

Soldiers in Uzbekistan have surrounded a crowd of 2,000 protesters in eastern Andijan's main square, following an overnight jailbreak. There are reports that protesters somehow managed to pull down three government snipers from a roof.
Andijan is one of the main cities in the most politically sensitive part of this country [...] It is the barometer of feeling for a long, densely populated valley called Ferghana with a long tradition of independent thought, and the authoritarian government in Tashkent has always eyed the valley with suspicion  (see --- also ).
The previous day it was reported that the government of Tajikistan was cracking down, exerting more control over the media, mindful of what happened in Kyrgyzstan.

Update (14:40): comments (or unashamed self-publicity) here. Later reports from the BBC (9:10 GMT) indicate that the situation in Andijan is grim. This is a mini-Prague or Beijing 1989.
'The US state of Connecticut has executed a serial killer...' (BBC web). In over 50 years, there has been only one execution (in 1960) in New England (North-East of the United States) - BBC WS. Michael Ross 'insisted he wanted to die for his crimes'. Anyone remember Gary Gilmore? Maybe we should remember Wilfred Owen's words: 'though nations trek from progress'. 
Can anyone decode Gisela Stuart's remarks: 'if French voters were committed pro-Europeans like her, they should ask themselves whether the document was good enough for their vision of Europe' ? (MP doubts EU constitution value )

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Nuclear options

BBC radio said they had an interview with a former US negotiator with North Korea on their website, but I couldn't find it. These are interesting, though.

European Officials Warn Iran, Dafna Linzer, May 12, 2005

Iran: Nuclear Pursuits, Joseph Cirincione Director for Nonproliferation, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, May 11, 2005

After what seemed to me a strange lack of comment on the effect of UKIP/Veritas, I see there is a raft of letters in The Times: 'John R. Gregory (letter, May 10), the Labour majority could have been reduced to less than 20 if it were not for the intervention of the UKIP'.

Also, Peter Riddell says, 'A “no” vote [on the European constitution] could also be presented as a riskless way of getting rid of Mr Blair as Prime Minister. The only way that might be avoided, and the vote won, is if Mr Blair announced beforehand a firm date for leaving office regardless of the outcome.' Fair point. Bernard Guetta is mentioned in The Times, too.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Cold War memories

I get e-mail alerts from Foreign Policy, so here is Apocalypse Soon, by Robert McNamara:

The SAC commander’s orders were to answer the telephone by no later than the end of the third ring. If it rang, and he was informed that a nuclear attack of enemy ballistic missiles appeared to be under way, he was allowed 2 to 3 minutes to decide whether the warning was valid [...], and if so, how the United States should respond. He was then given approximately 10 minutes to determine what to recommend, to locate and advise the president, permit the president to discuss the situation with two or three close advisors [...], and to receive the president’s decision and pass it immediately, along with the codes, to the launch sites. The president essentially had two options: He could decide to ride out the attack and defer until later any decision to launch a retaliatory strike. Or, he could order an immediate retaliatory strike, from a menu of options[...]
To declare war requires an act of congress, but to launch a nuclear holocaust requires 20 minutes’ deliberation by the president and his advisors.
What is shocking is that today, more than a decade after the end of the Cold War, the basic U.S. nuclear policy is unchanged.

What is also surprising is that the issue is hardly ever mentioned by the supposed 'left'. (They, of course, are making a great fuss in opposition to the overthrow of the Iraqi dictator in the direct line of Stalin and Ceausescu.) Twenty years ago it was the touchstone issue. Although there were specific reasons for this - the deployment of tactical weapons in 'forward' positions, it is hard to escape the conclusion that the issue has lost its potency precisely because of  the end of the Cold War.


I finally got round to listening to an interview I recorded some time ago - with Czech writer Ivan Klima (see here). Although he was not able to get any sort of job in publishing, not even as a proof-reader, he continued to write and get about a hundred copies of his works produced. These were then circulated quite widely. He also got a deal with a Swiss publisher and had money remitted.

If you consider countries like Poland, where there was a grudging toleration of the Catholic Church, Hungary and East Germany, obviously life was pretty grim under Soviet-backed rule, it wasn't as bad as under the Nazi occupation (or indeed Stalin's Russia in the 1930's). And there were no gas chambers (although a continuing amount of anti-semitism).

In a surprisingly sensible article in the Daily Mail a few days ago on the sixtieth anniversary of the end of the war in Europe, historian Andrew Roberts reaches a similar conclusion. This is not online, but I found this by him. While googling I also came across this, which led to some indexes of journals from IS / SWP (US and UK).


I will add this weblog to the side-bar, when I get around to it: Leila Abu-Saba at (Dove's Eye View - commenter at  Syriacomment).

Monday, May 09, 2005

Two weeks behind...

I know I am, but the FT Magazine (23 Apr) contains so much good stuff, it has to be read.
John Lloyd, "Lies from on high", not online, so a brief extract on 'efforts by the commentariat to show the political class [especially Blair] as lying liars'.  'These books are themselves a particular kind of mispresentation.' By their standards, Churchill's speech in June 1940 was "worthless".  'Gorbachev was a greater man than he knew, doing a greater task than he comprehended. At least as he was doing it: and to do it, he needed guile, hypocrisy, bullshit and plain lies...'

John Lloyd again - "United we understand"     (link here), on Iraqi Trade Unions.

Ian Buruma, "On the offensive"  (link here): Citing the views of Moshik Temkin, 'the accused professors [at Columbia University] may often be wrong about Israel, however their accusers do not aim to promote “fairness”, but to “shut down debate, particularly about the occupation”... It is easier in Tel Aviv to discuss the politics of Israel and Palestine than it is in New York.'

Tim Harford, "Odd Numbers" (link here),  on Steven Levitt, 'puncturing a much-cherished set of myths about why crime fell in the US in the 1990s. It wasn't the economy or "zero tolerance" crime policies, said Levitt. It was because the likely criminals of the 1990s had been aborted in the 1970s, after the Supreme Court's Roe v Wade decision legalised abortion across the US'.


I heard about this interesting weblog via a mention on the BBC's Broadcasting House (Sunday, 1 May) - "Big Pharaoh". A sample here. Comment here.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

MacShane goes

Denis MacShane has been sacked as Europe Minister in Tony Blair's post-election reshuffle. This is what happens when a British politician gets a full-page feature in Le Monde (2/3 May, about two-thirds of a page actually). Or perhaps, as Anne MacElvoy said, he was just unceremoniously heaved out to make room for a Brownite.

Also, the DTI has gone anyway, or maybe it's just been renamed.

Update (9 May): more on the general situation. I know there is an argument that, with Iraq out of the way, Labour could win a fourth term with an even larger majority. However, we seem to face a period of party squabbling and weak government. A number of Labour MPs have called for Mr Blair to step down more or less immediately. Even in purely tactical terms, this is surely wrong. Blair needs to stay on in case the European constitution referendum is lost (if there is one in the UK).

Then, there was the Sun, in its famous 'red smoke' edition, deciding to give Labour 'one last chance'. I did happen to see a copy of the paper on May 5th and, although its front-page header had 'vote Labour', its editorial inside could be summarised as: vote (and vote for anyone but the LibDems). 

Friday, May 06, 2005

Algeria and Syria

The lively, even scurrilous, press scene in Algeria changed abruptly after the re-election of Abdelaziz Bouteflika as President on 8 Apr 2004.
The authorities no longer need to employ censorship. Newspapers, anxious to avoid harassing legal proceedings, take care of it themselves.
(translated from Le Monde, 20/21 Apr 2005)

From an interview in Reason Magazine with Yassin al-Haj Saleh (via
The regime never allows us to criticize it in Lebanon or in any other place. It is far from being happy that Syrian intellectuals have a window through which they can express themselves, speak to their people, and address their country's problems. But the regime has only two options: either to arrest people and put them in jail, which would cause an outcry among intellectuals and journalists in the Arab world and Europe; or to tolerate its critics, many of whom are former political prisoners or well-known intellectuals. In addition, the regime has not been able for the last two years to exert credible pressure on Lebanese newspapers and magazines, where we can now express our opinions. The Internet has also helped Syrian activists and intellectuals to break out of the embrace of censorship.

The regime has already lost the moral and cultural battles. Its main weakness is on these fronts. Its tools for domestic violence and suppression are still intact, but it doesn't have the spirit to use them effectively as it did previously. I think the regime will continue to "allow" us to write in Lebanese press. The alternatives are becoming more and more unthinkable.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

It was...

The Independent, The Guardian and Channel 4 News wot won it

6 May 2005    Shock win for Michael Howard

The Conservative leader is expected to become Prime Minister later today. Although the Tories are unlikely to dispose of an overall majority in the newly elected House of Commons, they will be able to form a government with the support of the LibDems. Charles Kennedy, LibDem leader said, 'We do not foresee any circumstances in which we can prolong the existence of a Labour government that took this country to war on false premises...'

Following the revelations about the legal advice prior to the 2003 Iraq war, given such prominence by The Independent, The Guardian and Channel 4 News, opinion polls showed a decline in support for Labour. But even they failed to reflect the extent to which former Labour voters have deserted the>
On the other hand, the bookmaker Paddy Powers as long ago as last Friday paid out on bets for Labour to be the largest single party.
Update: There was a report on the BBC recently about how the US media were covering the British election with one piece for the whole campaign. I suppose they were talking about broadcasters. I found this without even trying.
Comments here on napalm.
Update (the real 6 May): My 'prediction' did not come true. Fortunately. The exit polls at 10pm gave Labour a majority of 66. This looks to be about spot-on. However, the predictions gave the Conservatives 209 seats and the LibDems only a gain of 2. It now looks like the Tories will have about 10 less than that and the LibDems will have more. Now for the European constitution...

Update : That Labour majority included a number of people like Bob Marshall-Andrews (---map---) who can be counted on to vote against the government on just about every crucial vote. Strangely, I got the impression from the BBC that he was heroically defending a wafer-thin majority. Looking at the website, he had quite a large majority (70 on the Tories' target list) and did not do any better than the national trend (though maybe better than many in the South-East).

Looking at my own constituency or Gisela Stuart's,  it seems that the Tories' vote has hardly changed and Labour have been helped by increases in the vote of UKIP/Veritas and the BNP.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005


I know some of my posts are half in French, but I am a UK citizen and I do have a vote in next week's election. This post could have been called 'The future of the left (Part 5)' (Part 4 etc. here). This is where, after stating the general principles, you get into the small-seeming details.

Reasons to vote Labour (things that have changed since 1997
  • Network of cycle tracks (which no one seems to use).
  • Free access to Internet in libraries, community centres and so on (mentioned in the election leaflet of my County Council candidate). This is quite well-used in my experience.
  • In general, a small but important redistribution of wealth to the poorest.
On the other hand ... (things Labour have failed to do)
  • House of Lords reform (the 'Billy Bragg proposal' seems eminently sensible) and electoral reform ('the single transferable vote, not the hopelessly corrupt and over-centralised party list systems that give proportional representation a bad name' - SIAW again).
  • Raise the top level of income tax from 40%.
That last point might lead one to support the LibDems, but they want to abolish the Department of Trade and Industry. And then, of course, there is their policy on Iraq...
Friday at 1:30pm, BBC Radio4 had a phone-in with Charles Kennedy. First caller was a Mr Chalabi (I didn't catch the first name, but it wasn't Ahmed), asking how a 'liberal' party could be so opposed to the overthrow of a tyranny like Saddam Hussein's... Sadly, I didn't have time to listen to the reply.