What Would #Labour’s Bevin Have Thought of #Corbyn’s Request for My Views on #Syria (#SyriaGasAttack)


I am convinced he would have thought twice about extending the Royal Air Force’s strikes from Iraq into Syria, but I am even more convinced that he would shape any response to ISIS in the terms of this philosophy that he expounded in 1950:

“Foreign policy is a thing you have to bring down to its essence as it applies to an individual. It is something that is great and big: it is common sense and humanity as it applies to my affairs and to yours, because it is somebody and somebody’s kindred that are being persecuted and punished and tortured, and they are defenceless. That is a fact.”

I mention Bevin for two reasons, he is more in tune with those who vote Labour today than is Jeremy Corbyn and he was in very much the same position in his own day. He also persuaded the Labour Leader of his time, considered to be the one with whom Corbyn has the most in common, to resign as Leader of the Labour Party.

He addressed George Lansbury thus:

“You are placing … the movement in an absolutely wrong position by hawking your conscience round from body to body asking to be told what to do with it.”

They say history repeats itself, first as tragedy then as farce. Is Corbyn now setting the stage for a farce? Bevin ended the tragedy of the early 1930s thus:

“(George) Lansbury has been going about dressed in saint’s clothing for years waiting for martyrdom. I set fire to the faggots.”

Lansbury’s successor was Major Clement Attlee.

I am ever more certain that Corbyn does not look at how policy, foreign or domestic, applies to an individual. He thinks in terms of abstracts.

Corbyn recently said, “How dare Cameron’s Conservatives pretend that they speak for Britain.” I assume that this was an attempt to challenge any suggestion that Corbyn, personally, is unpatriotic. Corbyn went on to remark:

“We stand for this country’s greatest traditions: the suffragettes and the trade unions … the Britain of Mary Wollstonecraft, Shelley, Alan Turing and the Beatles … and perhaps our finest Olympian – and a Somalian refugee – Mo Farah … an Arsenal fan of course.

And for the working people of this country who fought fascism … built the welfare state … and turned this land into an industrial powerhouse.

The real patriots.”

Setting aside the fact that Corbyn’s idiosyncratic list is one requiring many footnotes, he succeeds in making his definition of patriotism an exclusive one. He divides when he should be seeking to unite, even in the margins of quite a lengthy, rambling speech. Please, Seumas Milne, I beg of you, get Jeremy Corbyn enrolled on some public speaking and presentational skills courses, pronto! And fire his speechwriters whilst you are it!

Corbyn could not, it seems, bring himself around to put the case, the extremely credible case, that, without the support of Major Attlee and Arthur Greenwood in May 1940, Winston Churchill might well have been forced to sue for terms with Hitler by the leaders of the rump of the Conservative Party, Neville Chamberlain and Lord Halifax. Churchill, supported by Attlee as his Deputy Prime Minister, went on to lead a coalition of all the political parties, represented in the House of Commons. Any other Leader of the Labour Party, except seemingly Corbyn, may cite the history of the darkest days of 1940 to show just how patriotic the Labour Party is when it really matters. One in the eye, surely, for Tories like Cameron?  Tories, who have much more in common with a Halifax than a Churchill, but not one in the eye for many a Conservative voter who would, I am sure, recognise the contribution that Labour made, alongside their chosen party, in defeating Nazism.  There is no Left or Right in a foxhole.

On 2 September 1939, Neville Chamberlain spoke in a Commons debate and said, in effect, that he was not declaring war on Germany immediately for having invaded Poland. This non declaration greatly angered Leo Amery, a Conservative Member of Parliament present in the House at that moment, and was felt by many present to be out of touch with the temper of the British people. As Labour Party Leader Clement Attlee was absent, Arthur Greenwood stood up in his place and announced that he was speaking for Labour. Amery called out to him across the floor, “Speak for England!” —which carried the undeniable implication that Chamberlain was not. England then meant the United Kingdom.

Corbyn now has the chance to speak for the UK (and not just Islington Man and Woman), to craft a compromise that would put him at the head of the Labour Party and allow him to create a (temporary) coalition within the House of Commons to defeat David Cameron’s plan to extend the Royal Air Force’s strikes from Iraq into Syria. He must, however, do more than merely oppose the Government. He must stop adopting the persona of a rather irritated headmaster of a third rate prep school, who, a few months off retirement, is wearily having to correct, once more, the homework of the school dunce. He might start by arguing that extending the RAF’s operations into Syria would be a diminution of force, a weakening of its efforts in Iraq, and that its schwerpunkt, its main effort, should remain Iraq and Iraq alone.

Corbyn must also accept that he is not only the Leader of the Labour Party, but the Leader of the Opposition, a role which requires him to make alliances across party lines, if he is to be effective. He must articulate an alternative course of action around which his party may unite and which will attract the support of the other opposition parties and those members of the Conservative Party, who are doubtful of the arguments presented to date by David Cameron. Corbyn must accept the fact that until now he has managed to do what Miliband never did, make Cameron look statesmanlike!

If Corbyn needs any advice about how to build a consensus on a single issue then he need look no further than Labour’s leadership in the House of Lords, but of course the party there is headed by a woman and Jeremy shares David’s disease, when it comes to women. If he needs advice about what might constitute an effective considered amendment to that being put down by Cameron then he should consult with, not lecture, his colleagues in the Shadow Cabinet and Parliamentary Labour Party. He should speak with the leaders of the other opposition parties, including Nicola Sturgeon; experienced statesmen like Lord Ashdown; foreign affairs and defence experts and last, but not least, representatives of the victims of ISIS.

Corbyn must not think, for one moment, that his 50:50, Phone a Friend and/or Ask the Audience approach is anything, but an abrogation of his responsibilities as the leader of the Labour Party, his own 21st Century take on Lansbury’s “hawking” his “conscience round from body to body asking to be told what to do with it.”

Corbyn needs to understand and seek to address the genuine concerns and positions being taken up by MPs, like Chuka Umunna. Umunna has said he would vote on his conscience whatever the leadership decides and is minded to vote in favour of the government’s plans:

“My own personal view is that where are our national security is threatened it would be wrong simply to leave it to others to deal with it. We can’t ignore the barbarity of this death cult, who throw gay people off buildings, systematically rape women, [and] carry out mass executions. Now, do I think that military action – and by the way I am minded to support military intervention, but we have yet to see the wording of the motion – is going to resolve this conflict? Of course not. Do I think it is the only solution? Of course not. But what I do think it can do in the interim is … start to dismantle what Isil are doing.”

Corbyn may be paralysed by Iraq, but others genuinely fear that inaction may have worse consequences than action. No one, I am sure, wants to see any reruns of what happened in, for example, Rwanda. Yes, the deaths there were on a massive scale and one hopes unrepeatable, but then how often before has the human race said that? Moreover, one preventable death is one too many and to misquote Harold Wilson, to the murdered man or woman, murder is 100%.

Corbyn runs the risk of not just portraying the Labour Party, under his leadership, as unpatriotic, but as a national socialist party. A party for whom troubling issues in faraway countries, of which we know little and care less, are best left to media columnists, those with views of disturbing certainty, and the echo chambers of the Internet. Such an isolationist policy is similar to that advocated by Farage. The Labour Party of Bevin was, as is today’s, an internationalist socialist party. Bevin spoke for the many not the few and, especially the working classes when he said, “I’m not going to have my people treated like this!” The people of whom he was speaking at that moment? They were the Jews and trades unionists being persecuted by the Nazis.

Corbyn’s indulgence of the (self appointed) fascists of Momentum (aka New, New Labour’s Sturmabteilung or Thought Police) and their bully boy tactics provides unwanted echoes of the 1930s and is a sure fire recipe for splitting the support that brought him to power. Momentum’s bend your conscience to our way of thinking or face deselection approach is not endearing itself to many who voted for Corbyn as Leader of the Labour Party. People, who I am convinced, believe in freedom of conscience, even for elected politicians.

Will Momentum, the militant wing of the Stop the War Coalition, soon don (ethically sourced) oatmeal coloured hair shirts in order to police Labour Party meetings? Many of them are not Labour Party members and would fall foul of its rules, if they tried to join the party today, but will that obstacle be removed in the coming months as dissatisfaction with Corbyn’s leadership increases and he feels ever more besieged?

Corbyn’s “sudden consultation with party members” is one “for which there is no constitutional basis in the party, and anyway is so haphazardly organised that it cannot be a reliable test of party opinion,” and it “also looks like an effort to ally the leader with the party rank and file against MPs.” In fact, Corbyn’s poll was “statistical junk”.  Yet another example of Corbyn adopting an exclusive, not an inclusive approach which is unlikely to be sustainable in the medium to long term.

Corbyn won the leadership of the Labour Party not a General Election in September 2015. He was elected leader of the Labour Party with 251,485 votes out of the 422,664 cast. The turnout was 76.3% and the total number of eligible voters was 554,272. The party’s national poll ratings are currently around 27%. They are heading towards parity with the polling figures for the Scottish Labour Party, currently at 25%. The Labour Party received 9,347,304 votes on May 7th 2015. Jeremy Corbyn’s 251,485 equates to 2.7% of the voters represented by the Labour Party as a whole.

“A mooted emergency meeting of the national executive, asserting that the terms of the Labour conference motion on Syria have not been met, would also portray him as the party democrat fighting his out of touch MPs.” A viewpoint that may be undermined when people wise up to what Corbyn means when he talks about indicative online polling. Such polls will not result in binding resolutions and may well be ignored, if they produce results which do not accord with the views held by the person who put the poll in the field.

Corbyn is considered to be doing badly or very badly by 13% of those who voted for him as leader and 1% are unsure about him. A 14% drop in support in about 3 months that equates to a decline in support from 59.5% to 51.2%. Does Corbyn really want to be remembered as the Leader of the Labour Party, who ruled, not led the party, with the help of Ken Livingstone, George Galloway and Diane Abbot and the support of intimidatory tactics deployed by Momentum? One might think that Momentum, going on current form, see themselves as the descendants of Mosley’s boot boys.

Chamberlain’s Government fell at the end of the Norway Debate in May 1940. Amery spoke in that debate, “This is what Cromwell said to the Long Parliament when he thought it was no longer fit to conduct the affairs of the nation. You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go.”

Corbyn may face that injunction, possibly from the trades unions, if he does not stop following a Bushite line. Remember if you are not with us then you must be against us? The Labour Party is a broad church and rarely has less than three strands of opinion on any issue. And you may not call yourself a socialist, if unable to start a disagreement about ideology, with yourself, in an empty room!

Oh, and, if you are unfamiliar with the biography of Ernie Bevin, he was a British statesman, trades union leader, and Labour politician. He co-founded and served as General Secretary of the powerful Transport and General Workers’ Union from 1922 to 1940 and as Minister of Labour in the war-time coalition government. He succeeded in maximising the British labour supply, for both the armed services and domestic industrial production, with a minimum of strikes and disruption.

Bevin’s most important role came as Foreign Secretary in the post-war Labour Government, 1945 to 1951. He gained American financial support, strongly opposed Communism, and aided in the creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. Bevin’s tenure also saw the end of the Mandate of Palestine and the creation of the State of Israel. Bevin was arguably the greatest British Foreign Secretary of the 20th Century. He was, to quote his own words, “A turn up in a million” and he never forgot “it is somebody and somebody’s kindred that are being persecuted and punished and tortured, and they are defenceless. That is a fact.”


My Response to #Corbyn4All’s Request for My Views on Syria @UKLabour #ImWithCorbyn #InOurBritain


My response to Jeremy Corbyn’s request for my views on Syria:

I think that Jeremy Corbyn is a moral coward. He wants the prerogative of the harlot down the ages, power without responsibility, but he cannot have it. To govern is to choose. And, although sometimes the only choices you have are bad ones you still have to choose. If he cannot accept that then he must ask himself what is best for the future of the Labour Party. As Tony Benn once said, no one is bigger than the party.

We are engaged in combat with ISIS in Iraq, therefore, we are at war with them and they will not exempt us from any future attacks, just because we are bombing them after our help was sought by the Iraqi Government and, only given, after a vote in the affirmative by the House of Commons. ISIS has declared war on all who do not share its narrow, intolerant interpretation of Islam. They strike out as easily at co-religionists, with whom they disagree, as they do those of other faiths or no faith. ISIS destroys our shared history and culture, when not selling it for hard cash, without a qualm.

If Corbyn really wants advice from me, rather than my joining his claque, I would suggest he put down a reasoned amendment that, whilst Labour will not support the extension of air strikes in Iraq to Syria, Labour will support British military forces replacing French troops operating under the flag of the United Nations (and, if appropriate, in France’s Overseas Departments and Territories) so that they may be redeployed where they may do the most good. We would then, as Corbyn has himself promised, be providing practical support to the French Government. Moreover, Labour would support the despatch of naval units and auxiliaries to the Eastern Mediterranean to support humanitarian aid activities as well as the deployment, where possible and appropriate, of UK land forces, in particular, medical, logistics and catering troops to assist, support and protect those providing help to refugees.

The Leader of the Labour Party should be looking to find a way to unite our party around a series of actions that are more than a gesture and that will make a difference to the men, women and children, who are, as I type, being killed, maimed, tortured, raped, forced to change their faith or die, sold into slavery or sent out in the world with just the clothes on their backs by ISIS.

I think that as every day passes, Jeremy Corbyn and a fair few of his supporters, particularly those not part of the Labour Party, display a frightening lack of emotional intelligence. Their seeming lack of concern about the plight of the victims of ISIS is only exceeded by their view, that no matter how hard the Tories make life for their fellow citizens, it is better to have a principled and unbending, but unelectable man leading the Labour Party than someone who is electable, but in their opinion unprincipled, at the party’s helm. Someone who, after the next General Election, will be able to begin to reverse the damage of 10 years of Tory misrule. I do not want to have to explain to voters after the next General Election that Labour losing for its principles is somehow a better outcome than putting their interests first and winning in an ‘unprincipled’ way.

Who set up Corbyn and his claque to have the final say that no loaf is better than even a few slices? A Prime Minister, born into the working class, once said, you may keep your principles shining bright and not get your hands on the levers of power or get them a bit tarnished, get your hands on the levers of power and do something (for the condition of the working class). I share that sentiment. Does Jeremy Corbyn, who comes from an affluent, middle class background, do too? And, if he does not, why does he thinks he speaks for me and my family, that he may include us in his definition of our people?

My Facebook page with the above post and comments!

sod it


Jade Azim

If I were an MP, I’d be in the ‘making it work’ faction, being silent but face-palming almost constantly at The Labour Party.

Though, as a Twitter friend pointed out yesterday mid-my rant about feeling silenced, I have never been ‘silent.’

I think if there were ever an adjective my friends would use to describe me in one word, it’d be ‘outspoken’. I’ve been pretty loathed in a lot of circles, I’d imagine. A lot of my Twitter has probably been met with eye rolls. Particularly regarding one aspect; I have never been lowkey about my background. I use it (ahem, weaponize it) in arguments a lot, because my go-to motif has always been that the political is personal.

If someone wants to debate an abstraction about ‘Red Tories’ or ‘real Labour’, I’d happily use the story that I got into politics because, shortly after the 2010 election, my family was plunged…

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Paul Bernal's Blog

The aftermath of the events in Paris has shown many of the worst things about the current media and social media. I’ve been watching, reading and following with a feeling, primarily, of sadness.

What depresses me the most – and surprises me the least – is the way that the hideousness has been used to support pretty much every agenda. I’ve seen the events used to ‘prove’ that we should leave the EU (‘control our borders’ etc) and that we should stay in the EU (‘solidarity’ with France), that we need less surveillance (it didn’t work this time, why not direct the effort and resources elsewhere) and that we need more surveillance (the threat is real, we must do everything needed). I’ve seen it said that we need to clamp down on Islam, that we need to support moderate Islam, that terrorists are all Muslims, that the vast majority of…

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The case #Corbyn for a stronger United Nations to protect & keep the peace #Labour Hilary Benn #Aleppo


Rt Hon Hilary Benn MP, Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary, in a speech at Coventry Rising 15, said:

It is a great honour to have been invited to contribute to Rising 15 and to do so on 11 November here in Coventry.

This cathedral – the old and the new – stands as a reminder both of the consequences of war and of the enduring power of faith to inspire.

Two weeks ago I was in Jordan listening to a mother describe how she fled there from Syria with her children after her husband, a baker, was arrested, tortured and killed by President Assad’s forces.

There is not one of us who does not ask why human beings do this to their brothers and sisters? Maybe we shall never know, but there is another question that we can try and answer. What should we do when these things happen ?

I was brought up on the parables of the New Testament, and the one that left the greatest mark on me was the Good Samaritan.

St Luke’s gospel records that it was the question “And who is my neighbour?” that prompted Jesus to tell the story of the man on his way from Jerusalem to Jericho who was robbed and beaten and left for dead by the side of the road.

While the Priest and the Levite both, separately, chose to pass by on the other side, it was the Samaritan who stopped to help.

And having told the story, Jesus then asked his questioner:

“Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves ?

And he said, He that shewed mercy on him.

Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.”

I have chosen this parable as my text for today.

When we see the extreme suffering of others, what is our responsibility to our neighbours?

For some, this is an uncomfortable moral choice and they hope it will pass them by.  Some say it is none of our business. Others respond by renouncing violence – an aspiration we should all share – but until all 7 billion of us do so, we have to face up to the effects of violence on its victims.

War is often the handmaiden of poverty and civil wars on average result in 20 years of lost development.

It is no accident that Afghanistan and Somalia have the highest rates of infant mortality in the world.

Both are poor and both have been wracked by conflict.

The causes of war are many. The legacy of colonialism. Resources. Ethnic and regional tensions. Politics. Nationalism. Ideology. Religion. Terrorism.

And in the years to come, we may see added to this list people increasingly fighting over energy, land or water.

So when is it right to act to prevent these things?

Looking back on the Second World War which led to the bombing of this cathedral, did more people die than would have lost their lives if Hitler had not been confronted? Maybe. Was the war an expression of failure? Most certainly. And yet, was the second world war justified?  In my view, it was.

And from its ashes came a determination that such a conflict should never happen again.

Its expression was the founding of the United Nations in 1945 and three years later, the UN General Assembly adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Article 3 states: “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.”

Article 28 says: “Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realised.”

And yet, for millions of people these rights – so nobly expressed – have remained just words on paper.  The refugees from Syria I met in Jordan could not have been clearer. They said simply: “The world has forgotten us”.

Why is this so? Because those affected lack the means to do anything about these conflicts themselves and because we, the rest of the world, lack the will or act imperfectly or not at all.

This will not do.

First, and most importantly, because we should uphold the principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They mean something as the ultimate expression of our responsibility to one another. And yet without the rule of law and peace in all countries they mean nothing.

Imagine if the world consisted only of the United Kingdom and someone argued that it would be alright to have peace in Coventry, but civil war in Leeds and genocide in Glasgow. What would we think ?

Of course, this doesn’t happen because these rights are enjoyed in all parts of our country. And yet, we are one world and having created the United Nations, we have a duty to ensure these same rights are available to our fellow humans whichever part of the  planet they were born on

The second reason why this matters is because  interdependence defines the condition of humankind today more clearly than at any other time in human history.

The effects of conflict elsewhere are felt here, whether it is watching it on television, seeing the flow of refugees, feeling the repercussions in our politics or experiencing the impact of terrorism on our own lives. And as the world’s economies become more dependent on each other, the consequences for trade and travel are increasingly serious.

The third reason is that no country can progress while it is mired in conflict.

So those who care most passionately about overcoming the scars of poverty, disease and squalor, must be equally passionate about the part that peace and stability play in helping to bring this about.

And the fourth reason is that new threats beckon.  Unchecked, climate change will affect our future security. If people can no longer live where they were born because their homes are under water or it has stopped raining, then they will do what human beings have done throughout history. They will move in search of a better life. They may be coming to live near you or me. And their number will dwarf anything we have seen thus far.

What recent history teaches us is that whether it was Sierra Leone under the RUF and the West Side Boys, the Rwandan genocide, Kosovo when Muslims were being murdered in Europe’s backyard or Syria today, the world needs to find a way of dealing with crimes against humanity.

In some of these cases we did act; in others we failed.

It is not that the international community does not care. But there is not yet a settled and united will to act, and we lack the capacity to do so in an effective way.

So how can we build this capacity?

One of the problems we face is national sovereignty. A country invading another is one thing, but when terrible events happen within a country some still say that this is an internal matter and none of anyone else’s business.

We used to hold the same view of domestic violence here in the UK. Forty or fifty years ago, if the police were called because of reports that a man was beating up someone in the street, he would be swiftly arrested. But if the victim was his wife or his partner behind a closed front door, then the prevailing attitude was ‘it’s a domestic dispute and not for us to get involved.’

That doesn’t happen anymore. A crime is a crime, and the sovereign state of the kitchen or the bedroom no longer provides any protection against enforcement of the law.

I think we are currently witnessing the world going through exactly the same process internationally for exactly the same reason. An increasing number of voices are saying that leaving people by the roadside of conflict to fend for themselves simply cannot be right.

And so was born the concept of Responsibility to Protect – the idea that the international community does have a responsibility to stop people becoming victims of the most terrible crimes.

Developed by the Canadian Government’s International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty in 2001, it led – following Ban Ki Moon’s report on implementing the Responsibility to Protect – to the UN General Assembly adopting a resolution in 2009.

Seeing state sovereignty not as a privilege but a responsibility, R2P seeks to prevent and stop genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing. And it explicitly accepts that the international community does have a responsibility to act in certain circumstances.

I support R2P very strongly, but it is not without controversy, so I want to try and address directly the reservations and concerns people raise about it.

The first is authority. Who is to decide what should be done?

For me the answer is clear. It should be the Security Council of the United Nations. That is why we created it. The UN has both a unique responsibility because of its authority and a unique legitimacy.

And yet we see from history that the UN has not always been capable of agreeing on what should be done or of acting effectively when it has.

We have to accept that the veto exists to bind the world’s major powers – the five permanent members of the Security Council – into the United Nations, but with it comes a great responsibility. That is why the French Government has proposed that in cases of mass atrocities permanent members of the Security Council would voluntarily agree not to use their veto. I think this is an important proposal and it should be strongly supported by the UK and others.

But what if the UN will not or cannot act – then what?  Is that an argument for standing on one side?  Not in all cases some would argue, including me, as our support for intervention in Sierra Leone and Kosovo demonstrated. Others, however, take the view that in the absence of a UN mandate there can be no legitimacy for any action.

The second issue is that people fear premature military intervention. That’s why diplomatic and public pressure should always be the first resort. It can work.

Western sanctions have played an important part, for example, in persuading Russia to implement the Minsk Agreement in Ukraine.

We have also learned that a single camera or a single reporter bearing witness to an atrocity – and the shame that can be brought upon those responsible – can have a power equal to a thousand resolutions. The reason why the UK Government changed its mind in September about Britain taking more Syrian refugees was that photograph of little Aylan Kurdi’s lifeless body lying on a beach in Turkey.

The third issue is deciding when states should act.

Agreeing a threshold is difficult and highly contentious and achieving consensus about whether or not diplomatic options have been exhausted is fraught with difficulty. And yet, if we wait for evidence of genocide to become conclusive then it may be too late to do anything or to save anybody.

The fourth issue is practicality. If a decision is taken to act, then who is going to undertake the work? If it involves military intervention, then whose troops will be used?  How many?  Under whose command?  With what resources and what mandate? And what is the plan for after military intervention?

One way of answering these questions is to continue to build capacity regionally to be able to handle  peacekeeping. Was it right for the African Union to take the lead in Darfur and Somalia? Absolutely.

Both because western forces in an Islamic country in those circumstances would not have been accepted and because these were conflicts in Africa’s backyard.

On mandate, peacekeepers need the tools to do the job, and that includes the ability to protect and intervene if necessary under Chapter VII.

Where there are people to protect or a peace to keep, we need more peacekeepers. At present there are close to 125,000 military and civilian UN peacekeepers compared with only 11,000 a quarter of a century ago.

Despite this, there still aren’t enough for all the missions the UN would wish to run, and to the high standards we expect of them. For as well as numbers, there is also the question of training, equipment, and capacity, particularly as regional institutions build their own peacekeeping.

This is an area in which Britain could and should play a much bigger part given the skill, experience and expertise of our armed forces. There are currently just under 300 British peacekeepers contributing to UN missions although another 300 are soon to deploy to South Sudan and Somalia. That simply is not good enough and I call on the Government to set out in the forthcoming Strategic Defence and Security Review how the UK can play a much bigger part in UN peacekeeping in the years ahead.

And when action has been taken, it needs to be followed up with stabilisation, a political process and decent governance. There is no substitute for the parties to a conflict finding their own way out of it.

Lastly, what is the consequence? There are two types of consequence; that of acting and that of not acting.

In the case of Sierra Leone, the outcome of British and UN intervention was beneficial. The country remains poor but it is largely free of violence now and has taken the first steps on the road to recovery.

In the case of Afghanistan, where the world responded to 9/11, the removal of the Taliban enabled about three and a half million of the estimated four million refugees who had fled the country to return. The conflict however continues – many lives have been and are being lost – but the aim remains enabling the elected Afghan government to look after its own security as politics brings a peace settlement.

In Somalia, the American troops who went in to help with humanitarian relief ended up in a gun battle. They were replaced in time by African forces, but despite recent progress, parts of the country remain deeply troubled and insecure as the recent attack by al-Shabab in Mogadishu demonstrated. More positive has been the impact that international co-operation has had on piracy off the country’s coast. And, by contrast, Somaliland shows what can be done if politics is made to work.

For the people of Rwanda the consequence of our not acting was devastating. In 100 days just under one million people were killed – the equivalent of 6 million people being murdered here in the United Kingdom on our street corners, and in our schools and on churches – as the world stood by and watched.

Anyone who has read Romeo Dallaire’s book ‘Shake Hands with the Devil: the failure of humanity in Rwanda’ will weep with him in rage at what happened while we failed to help.

And while the Syrian civil war has continued, over 200,000 people have been lost their lives, half the population have had to flee their homes and the barrel bombing by the regime and brutality of ISIL/Daesh continue.

The world has to be much more effective in dealing with conflicts like this before they turn into brutal and bloody civil wars. The responsibility to protect was meant to be about that, but let us be honest: in Syria, no-one has taken responsibility and nobody has been protected.

Now we do also have to deal with charges of selectivity and, at times, hypocrisy; that we have not been consistent in our choice of when to act, or that countries have chosen to act when there is much at stake for them but not when there isn’t.

It is a reasonable criticism, and it has on occasions force.

And yet the argument that just because you have failed to do the right thing everywhere you should not attempt to do the right thing anywhere is one I find profoundly unconvincing.

Of course, in the case of all conflict, prevention is better than cure. There is nothing more important than putting time, effort and energy in trying to prevent violent conflict in the first place.

Particularly important is the UN’s capacity to mediate and so help the parties to resolve their differences without turning to violence. So we need skilled, readily deployable teams able to go and support peace talks around the world, as Staffan de Mistura and Bernardino Leon are currently trying to do in Syria and Libya.

Few civil wars arise from nowhere. So we need to be better at monitoring and understanding the causes of tension; the exclusion and injustice that makes people angry.

The establishment of the Atrocity Prevention Board by the US Government is a particularly good example of what can be done.

If all this sounds depressing, two decades ago things were much worse. Half of the countries in Africa were then affected by violence – many in regional conflicts across West and Central Africa.

Now, we can look back and say that sub-Saharan Africa was the only region in the world to see a decline in violent conflict at the start of the 21st century.

Much of that is down to the pioneering work of the African Union and its Peace and Security Council. It can deploy military forces in situations which include genocide and crimes against humanity and can also authorise peacekeeping missions. The AU has put troops on the ground in Burundi, the Central African Republic, Darfur, and most recently in Somalia in the form of AMISON – a regional mission operating under a UN mandate

We are getting better at negotiating peace. According to the Human Security Report, the international community has negotiated more settlements to conflict in the last 15 years than in the 185 years previously.

Finally, when all of this is done, we need to end up where we started – with the rule of law so we can call those responsible to account.

That is why the UK has been such a strong supporter of the International Criminal Court. The message it sends is clear and simple. Anyone who is planning crimes against humanity will think twice because they will know that the international community will in the end catch up with them, as Slobodan Milosevic and Radko Mladic both discovered.

The reason why we should want international action at the UN to succeed is that this is all about demonstrating that multilateralism – countries working together – can provide the answer to that uncomfortable question – what is to be done?

And the more it does succeed, the stronger is the argument we can make with those who would act unilaterally that there is another way.

I would like to end on a note of optimism. 100 years ago this year my grandfather William fought in Gallipoli in the First World War. He lost his younger brother in that campaign and his eldest son in World War Two. This is what he wrote about war:

“Is there anyone, now, who will deny that, step by step, warfare degrades a nation? …[Soldiers] know from bitter experiences what militarism really means; its stupidity, its brutality, its waste. They are chivalrous because they have learned the one good thing that war can teach, namely that peril shared knits hearts together – yes, even between enemies. They have mingled with strangers. They know that common folk the world over love peace and in the main desire good will.”

Nearly a hundred years after he wrote those words, they remain true.

Human beings everywhere yearn for peace and if together we can make our politics work in the service of humankind then we will bring nearer the day on which that hope is realised.

Thank you.

DWP Cuts Disability Employment Advisers In Job Centres By 60%


Same Difference

There have been deep cuts to the numbers of full-time specialist disability employment advisors posted in Jobcentres, new figures show.

Between 2011 and 2015 the number of Jobcentres employing a full-time advisor to help disabled people navigate the support system and find employment fell by over 60 per cent from 226 to just 90, with reductions in every recorded year.

Charities say the specialist advisors are crucial for people with disabilities who have to navigate the support system and that their reduction will undermine the Government’s own goal of getting people in to work.

But the Government is intent on reducing the numbers of disability advisors and instead wants disabled people to be dealt with by general non-specialist “work coaches” as part of its Universal Credit programme.

The cut to specialist employment support for people with disabilities comes despite Iain Duncan Smith telling the group they should be working their…

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Surveillance: thinking outside the box


Paul Bernal's Blog

One of the more common responses to criticism of the Investigatory Powers Bill – and indeed pretty much any extensive surveillance plan or law – is something along the lines of ‘but if it solves a single terrorist plot we should do it.’ The implication is that those of us who criticise the plans are someone being ‘soft’ on terrorism, or even on the side of the terrorists. Or, more usually, that we’re indulging our own personal, individual and selfish ideas of privacy at the cost of critical security. I’ve written about some aspects of this many times before – about how privacy isn’t an individual right but one that underpins community rights such as freedom of assembly and association, how it’s critical for freedom of speech, and so forth – but there is another crucial side to this. Neither I nor any of those I know who advocate for…

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