Gladstone Was Right 62

My MA thesis was entitled “Midlothian and Gladstone”. Here is an extract from one of Gladstone’s Midlothian campaign speeches, in Dalkeith, while the Second Afghan War was raging.

Those hill tribes had committed no real offence against us. We, in the pursuit of our political objects, chose to establish military positions in their country. If they resisted, would not you have done the same? … The meaning of the burning of the village is, that the women and the children were driven forth to perish in the snows of winter … Is that not a fact ?” for such, I fear, it must be reckoned to be ?” which does appeal to your hearts as women … which does rouse in you a sentiment of horror and grief, to think that the name of England, under no political necessity, but for a war as frivolous as ever was waged in the history of man, should be associated with consequences such as these?

There could be no clearer indication of how far we have diminished as a nation. Remember, Gladstone was campaigning in opposition to become PM again, for a third time. No senior politician would ever dare today to say:

If they resisted, would not you have done the same?

Anyone who suggested today that the Afghans have a right to resist foreign occupation would be drowned out in screams of “Wooton Basset” and the false, flatulent patriotism of newspaper proprietors and editors sat on their well-padded arses in comfortable offices,

Gladstone won both Midlothian and the general election. But there are no politicians of anything approaching his stature today. Charlie Kennedy actually understood what Liberalism is; Nick Clegg has neither courage nor prinicple.

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62 thoughts on “Gladstone Was Right

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  • brian

    not sure you’re right here. don’t think there’s a big leap from ‘our troops should come home’ to ‘afghans are entitled to defend themselves’ and most people i know are firmly in the ‘our troops should come home’ camp. in fact the only people that seem to think our troops should be there are some politicians, and right wing nutters who think we’re in the middle of a holy war fighting against a global caliphate.

  • Craig


    It’s a small logical step but a big emotional leap when they are fighting British troops. But no mainstream political party leader is even saying bring our boys home.

  • mike cobley

    Agree with you completely. Especially about Nick Clegg – I dont think I’ve been so disappointed in a leader of the LibDems, my own party (about whose program I am becoming increasingly dubious). Clegg has missed innumerable opportunities to give the government a kicking and nail the party’s colours to the mast of real, national issues. The man is insipid and ineffective, steering the LD party along a lowkey course in the belief that, come the next GElection, another dozen or so seats will turn LibDem by default.

    For all the furore over MPs expenses and El Gordo’s demeanour, we are still being governed by a party of warmongers and neoliberal, atlanticist Washington boot-lickers. I’m still going to vote, and almost certainly for LDs on the basis that they are least likely to be as godawful as the other two.

    Also, a Liberal Democrat govenment would be significantly more responsive to public opinion than either Tory or Labour. Put it this way – if a Ld prime minister tried to carry out the kind of ghastly atrocities we’ve seen in the last 30 years, they would be faced with revolt in the ranks.

    Well, no doubt someone will find something in the above to sneer at.

  • Subrosa

    Gladstone’s right of course but then he was a man of principle and values which have disappeared.

    Did you ever get the chance to visit Fasque when you were studying Craig? Back in the early 90s the family opened the house to the public but few visited really. I was one of the few and it was an exciting period in my life. The family made all his records available and you could sit and browse his journals et al at your leisure. No facilities to photocopy anything of course so notes had to be taken in shorthand and quickly transposed to English before I forgot the meaning.

    Just a couple of years ago the family sold the house and much of the content.

    The more I think about his work, the more I realise this country will never have his like again.

  • Tom Welsh

    Thanks for the Gladstone quote. Yet more evidence, were any necessary to those of us who know any history, that the Victorians could teach our leaders a thing or two about morality and common sense.

    “Anyone who suggested today that the Afghans have a right to resist foreign occupation would be drowned out in screams of “Wooton Basset” and the false, flatulent patriotism of newspaper proprietors and editors sat on their well-padded arses in comfortable offices…”

    Very nicely put. It is remarkable, isn’t it, how easily most people can blind themselves to mass murder for which they – thanks to our wonderful democratic system – are indirectly responsible?

  • Anonymous

    all ages are repleate with people who can teach us a thing or two.

    the problem is with the sheep like actions the majority of the populous, ‘it doesnt affect me its not my problem & what can I do?’ attitude

  • Andy


    It’s not often I have cause to quibble with anything you say on here but I feel I have to pull you up re Charles Kennedy.

    Have you forgotten that it was he who sacked Jenny Tonge for making the following statement –

    “If I had been a mother and a grandmother in Palestine living for decades in that situation, I don’t know, I may well have become one (a suicide bomber) myself.”

    I was disgusted by his lack of courage.


  • Craig


    It wasn’t Charlie’s initiative and he didn’t want to do it. Sorry there are some things I know that I can’t divulge.

  • Chris

    If Charles Kennedy was still leader of the Lib Dems then we would actually have someone to vote for… as it is with Clegg I find it hard to find any substantive differences between any of the parties as they all pursue a neo-liberal course.

    Very depressing.

  • Philip

    Going by the quote, Gladstone’s objection to the brutality appears to have been that it was carried out under no political necessity – in other words, the Afghans had the right to resist violence which was unlikely to do the British ruling classes any good. I’m not sure there’s anything there for our modern paragons to argue with.

  • Philip

    In that case, good for him. From my vague recollections of O level Social and Economic History, he certainly doesn’t seem to have been the triangulating kind.

  • Jon

    Agree with @mike_cobley about the Lib Dems in general. They previously had a redistributive perspective on tax, but now we have a 50% bracket, they’ve dropped their support for it. This is presumably intended to hoover up a few middle class centrist voters angry with Brown/NL, but still not yet ready to vote Tory i.e. not very principled.

    I would have echoed @Andy’s comments about Jenny Tonge – the Lib Dems were the one party (OK, except for the Greens and a few independents) who I would have thought would not have fired someone for understanding the Palestinian plight. But Craig’s note is curious – one can only hope that information reaches the public domain from someone else; I am guessing that someone with Israeli sources of funding was threatening to withdraw substantial financial support for the party.

  • Mark Golding - Children of Iraq


    ‘right wing nutters who think we’re in the middle of a holy war fighting against a global caliphate.’

    A sniff round ForcesReunited proves what you are saying, Brian; what the hell are we doing in Afghanistan? 99% solid!

    You have put your finger on the reason why 39% of America (right) support this insane ‘war’ and murder of civilians.


    A brief and by no means exacting account of murders recorded:

    Sep 2009: Up to 142 civilians die in Kunduz province when hijacked fuel tankers are bombed.

    May 2009: US says 26 civilians died in raid in Farah province; Afghan officials say 140 died.

    Nov 2008: Raid on a Kandahar village destroys a housing complex leaving nearly 40 civilians dead.

    Aug 2008: Up to 90 people, including 60 children, killed in Herat province, UN says.

    July 2008: Raid in Nangarhar mistakenly kills about 50 civilians at a wedding party.


    Source: BBC

  • Stuart

    What do you expect when most of the ruling elite have degrees in law not history. The paradox of this is that most of the laws drafted by these “lawyers” are so badly drafted that you can drive a coach and horse through the loopholes. I dont know who to vote for anymore they are all so tied up in the propoganda of war in order to control the population and cling onto power absolute that any vote would be wasted. Bring our brave boys home and stop this stupid wasteful war so no more British or Afghan mothers will loose their sons or daughters. I just dont understand why the political class of all sides cant see that being there makes the home grown terrorism threat so much worse. I am sure this whole western Jihad against the bogeyman Al Qaeda is to get Bin Laden for something he knows or has relating to the Soviet days of Afganistan whatever it is I am hope it is worth all the lives lost and the turmoil it has caused. Gladstones words are as relevant now as they were then. The whole problem has now shifted to Pakistan we have to face it we cant win this one lets all just try and live in peace and stop killing each other.

  • arsalan

    Isn’t saying Afghans or anyone else have the right to defend themselves a criminal offense here?

    I think people have been put in prison with very long sentences for saying that.

    They use the Glorification and incitement laws.

  • arsalan

    Uzbekistan is really useful to America and the UK because they can get whatever inteligance they want from it.

    If they want to prove a nation they want to invade has WMD, or a critic is a terrorist all they have to do is speak to Karimov who will round up some farmers, torture them in to giving Europe and America whatever information they need.

    So how do you get rid of a uppity Muslim journalist? Have Karimov boil a farmer to death, to make him sign a document to state the Journalist who the farmer had never heard of belonged to a organisation that the farmer never heard of.

    and this is how Iraq was invaded.

  • writerman

    But the point is the way the war in Afghanistan is framed. It isn’t framed as an occupation; this much is obvious. We aren’t there to establish a bridgehead in a strategically important part of Asia giving potential access to vital sources of oil and gas; that would be too complex and sound like blatant imperialism.

    The war is framed, by the politicians and a compliant media/priesthood, as a war of necessity, a war to bring hope and freedom to the long-suffering people of Afghanistan. It’s all framed as a crusade for freedom, where we help the Afghans and at the same time help ourselves.

    The kids my wife teaches believe they are going to Afghanistan to help, that it’s a job worth doing. Of course it’s all propaganda, but it’s powerful propaganda – a crusade for freedom.

    The big problem with our type of society is that the state/system’s capacity for spreading propaganda is, unparalleled in history. Control the mind, and the body will follow.

    Breaching this wall of propaganda is a collosal task, and it won’t happen until the entire system begins to collapse under its own weight. This could take a long time.

    The fact is, we don’t live in democracy anymore. We live in a kind of inverted democracy, a form of oligarchy, where the rich rule, the rich have the power over our lives.

    Only when the bloated state, market democracy, begins to rupture and split apart, will there be space to wedge in alternative ideas and concepts. Times like these come rarely, when the ruling elites grip on power weakens for whatever reason, and others have a chance of wrenching power away from the elite, society enters a period of flux and possibilities open up for change.

  • Mark Golding - Children of Iraq

    Nice piece writerman; on a slightly optimistic note, we have witnessed a crack in the oligarthy rather than a rupture, which was rapidly filled with hard earned notes from the peoples pockets. We have won back a major chord from the elite and that opens up a possibility for change.

  • KingofWelshNoir

    Amazing quote. You’re right, no pubic figure would dare state the bleeding obvious like that now. Reminds me of the time Cherie Blair was crucified for having the temerity to suggest that suicide bombers might be acting out of a feeling of hopelessness.

  • Mark Golding - Children of Iraq

    We have diminished as a nation and ‘frivolous’ wars are ‘de rigeur’ in the name of ‘terror.

    Terror, with its roots in 1997 when Binyamin Netanyahu granted Mossad agents the job to assassinate Khaled Mash’al in Amman, Jordan. They used forged Canadian passports from Shawn Kendall, 28, and Barry Beads, 36. Chased by a bodyguard, who despite being hit by a blunt object that caused a deep gash, managed to force the Mossad agents to the ground. The episode triggering outrage and a huge diplomatic crisis with Jordan. Danny Yatom, the then Mossad chief, was forced to quit. Ephraim Halevy, a quietly spoken former Londoner, was brought back from retirement to clear up the mess.

    Again for the recent Dubai hit, Netanyahu gave his authorisation, in effect signing Mabhouh’s death warrant. The hit may hoxever turn out to be far more damaging ?” not least because the political and diplomatic context has changed in the last decade. Israel’s reputation has suffered an unprecedented battering, reaching a new low during last year’s Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip. The “midrasha” has ‘fucked up’ badly this time and Meir Dagan, the 64-year-old head of the agency, will get – a severe bollocking.

    Israel in the same vein of ambiguity offered to it’s nuclear arsenal, is refusing to confirm or deny any involvement in the Dubai incident and the dumb ass main media are playing ball to cool the situation.

    Mossad is murder by stealth and deception and this ‘special operation’ activity palls to insignificance compared to its operations in Iraq and more recently Iran, where the trick is to assassinate key nuclear scientists and undermine nuclear security by subverting dissident Iranians to assist in sabotage and murder. According to my own sources this a priority above any work to incite riots.

    Israel excels in psychological warfare and is adept at false-flag operations meticulously planned and executed with cunning and ruthlessness.

    If we admire this modus operandi then Israel will continue to steal land and expand in the West Bank with impunity. Even anger is not good enough as witnessed by the disregard for the massacre in Gaza and mute concern for Obama’s ‘intolerable’ statement on the occupation.

    Mossad continues to recruit Farsi speaking men and women as intelligence officers and others include code-breakers (top job), researchers, analysts, security officers and wireless/aerial engineers.

    I wonder how many more passports are forged for false-flag operations and how many more ‘patsies’ are used to fuel the Israeli ‘war on terror.

    Mark my words the mad-man Netanyahu controls Israels nuclear arsenal and the Zionist routed bastard has vowed “Shema Yisrael” – pre-emption to guarantee the survival of Israel.




    BiBi reports

    Washington Post,

  • anno

    Mark, ‘sahih’.

    The turning moment for me when a politician could no longer be an analyst, moralist or truth-speaker, was when Mrs Thatcher stated that market forces were the only motivating factor in people. I was a bookbinding craftsman at the time and quality was no longer a permitted motivation. It was obvious to me even then that paying the bankers extra to motivate them to be honest was rubbish – and it has proved to be fatal.

    One lady cannot change the world. She must have been tapping into an already existing moral ‘diminishment’ in the UK. Although Craig doesn’t like toffs, and I agree, they really believed in the mantra of market forces, it has to be said that much of the blame for Mrs Thatcher’s destruction of the UK has to be laid at the door of the former working classes, who followed their example and became New Labour. Now it is normal to refuse to engage in evidence, or analysis or morality of anything except the amount they are paid. In my opinion, this way of thinking does not come from lawyers, but from Mrs Thatcher’s deliberately re-defining morality from the Christian to the secular scale. She got up in pulpit and told us that Christianity was about taking responsibility for your family, NOT your soul.

    Like the sexual revolution, the social revolution started by Mrs T. has created a sociopathic nightmare. This freedom has brought me personally freedom to discover and practise Islam. It has also brought the War on Terror which is a war on spiritual vision. God help us!

    So I’m not complaining. But I think that the diminishment is collective and universal and cannot be attributed to one political party, or even a particular nation. We are approaching the vortex of Qiyama, the Day of Judgement, and we may as well reconcile ourself to the idea that truth, analysis and morality are going to be commodities in increasingly short supply world-wide.

  • anno

    As Mark says, ” if we admire this modus operandi “…

    I think this way of thinking is already part of our culture, the world of political spin and TV soaps.

    I can only imagine that the BBC told Craig’s story to blacken New Labour in front of the election.

    In my opinion, Islam is correct to edit out the disaster of rule by the majority, instead of the wise, the rule of man-made laws, onesidedly applied and sexual temptation. But when you tell people that this is the cure for the way of thinking Mark describes, they say ‘that’s going too far, there’s another way.’

    Mark my words, it isn’t going too far. It really is the only way. Cruising along and going with the flow IS in reality to allow the situation that so appalls us to succeed and take over. Anger is not enough, as Mark says. Islam is not angry, it is putting on an armour of protection against our deadliest enemies. That’s as close as I get to shoving Islam down your throats. You decide. Cameron said that Islam was like Hitler, forcing people to obey their rules. As soon as New Labour falls he will be ready to pick up the flag of Zionism and spike it into Palestine.

  • Herbie

    What do you mean that there are certain things you can’t divulge?

    In this context, if Charlie didn’t want to do it, then he must have been put under pressure by someone else. And it also means that no MP can ever tell this simple truth about Gaza.

    In what way is that something that cannot be divulged?

    It needs to be divulged, otherwise we’ll be in this war on terror nonsense for eternity.

  • Craig

    Hi Herbie,

    Simply that I was told something on condition I didn’t tell anyone. I gave my word. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t know either.

  • Richard Robinson

    But. If the Lib-dems, in opposition, will carry out initiatives that are not theirs, against their own wishes, for reasons that can’t be spoken of … would they behave like that in government ? Why would we vote for people who can’t make their own decisions ?

  • Herbie

    I think they’re all in that boat.

    Peter Oborne did a very interesting prog on the pro-Israeli Lobby in Britain, uncovering their tactics. Everything from carrots like financial support and free trips, to sticks like threats and boycotts.

    Funnily enough, Jenny was castigated by a committee of the House of Lords for pointing out this influence.

    Looks like the British political and media class have something of a dark Faustain pact with these extreme right wing Israeli supporters.

    No wonder we’re in such a mess.

    They’re quite a nasty bunch, even attacking and threatening Jews who don’t support their activities.

  • anno

    Mark Golding

    ‘Mossad is murder by stealth and deception.’

    Mark, thank you for your boldness in what you wrote. USUKIS took control of Iraq by stealth and deception and false flag operations, igniting a civil war and bringing a country to despair.

    The UK has always done the same, e.g. Northern Ireland. I question whether Craig really knew anything about the dirty clandestine history of this country when he joined the FCO. The activities of the US and IS in the last decade have shone an unpleasant torch on the history of our own country. Tony Blair’s participation in Bush’s colonial crusades have raked up bitter memories which in my opinion would have been far better forgotten after the second World War. I don’t know why he couldn’t learn the lesson of history, that even the most powerful empires can fall. London and the UK cities were on fire, but we were given a second chance to mend our ways, respect our own citizens and respect our partners abroad.

    Why did he want the UK to be a BIG player? Presumably because he didn’t know anything about the dirty reality of being a superpower. New Labour took us sleepwalking down the Zionist’s dirty war against Islam, for no conceivable benefit to this country, except the kick-backs to politicians.

    In his new book, the disgusting Mark Urban revels in the incompetence of the British Army in Iraq in a war which had no legitimacy, or morality or purpose. Praise be to God we are no longer the vicious killing machine of our history. As for the post-war colonialism which Craig is reporting from Ghana, these dinosauric attitudes of exploiting third world countries should be prosecuted. They stir up the shame of our colonial past, which would be far better left alone.

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