Daily Archives: April 19, 2011


AV Referendum and Nick Clegg

Paddy is getting his knickers well and truly twisted about personal attacks on Nick Clegg in the AV referendum campaign.

There are two strange things about this: firstly Paddy has been around long enough to know that a high profile complaint that the campaign is about the personality of Nick Clegg, will just focus all the media comment on the referendum still further on the personality of Nick Clegg. Secondly, I really cannot find much evidence of these deeply personal attacks on Nick Clegg by the No campaign. Where are they? It is almost something they don’t have to say. Such is Mr Clegg’s reputation that “AV? Nick Clegg” (snigger) is enough to almost kill the Yes campaign. I wonder if my commenters can help identify these deeply personal and unfair attacks.

Actually, if Paddy had the sense to read this blog, he could have learnt six weeks ago that Clegg would cripple the Yes campaign. I can’t see why it is a shock. And if Clegg is that unpopular, perhaps he should ask why, on the day that three quarters of English universities confirmed they are charging £9,000 a year tuition fees.

I shall vote for AV. It is a little bit better than first past the post. John Reid and David Cameron are both against it, which is good enough for me. One day I hope we will get real reform to STV. AV is a very slight improvement – actually more equally sized constituencies will do more than AV to improve our democracy. That ploughs on despite intense New Labour opposition.

Meantime, what has happened to the coalition promise of a fully elected House of Lords, elected by STV? That is a genuinely liberal measure, which is doubtless why Clegg appears quietly to have jettisoned it.

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Bahrain: The Rest Is Silence

The western media continue to scramble to re-heat stories of how terrible Gadaffi is. This is to set up a complete Aunt Sally – the vast majority of people in the UK and US who are against the Libyan war have no illusions about Gadaffi, who is indeed a brutal dictator. The questions are, is war for regime change legal? Will it make the situation in Libya better or worse? Will it cause blowback damage elsewhere? Is it a dangerous precedent?

You ought to be pretty sure of the answers to those questions before you attack another country, kill or wound thousands, and spend hundreds of millions of pounds you don’t actually have. War for regime change is certainly illegal – SCR 1973 specifically calls for a ceasefire and negotiations, which presupposes the existence of a Libyan government to negotiate. It specifically and deliberately does not call for a change of government by force. In fact anyone who tells you they are sure of the answers to the other three questions – either way – is a liar.

Meantime, the other side of the equation of death works its way through. I was the first to break the news that Clinton had done a deal with the Saudis and Emirates. In return for Arab League support for the attack on Libya, the US and its partners would turn a blind eye to the crushing by Saudi troops of pro-democracy protestors in the Gulf.

The blind eye has been duly turned. So effective is the de facto link between the Western political establishment and the mainstream media, that the killing of over 200 Bahraini pro-democracy and human rights campaigners since the Saudi Anschluss there has gone almost entirely unreported. The Guardian reports on disgraceful action against Bahraini students in the UK. Bahrain’s two largest political parties, both representing the majority population, have been outlawed.

William Hague is totally silent on the crushing of freedom in Bahrain, as is Jeremy Browne, the absolutely disgraceful Lib Dem MP who is supposedly minister for human rights in the FCO, evidently chosen because there is no evidence that he has now or has ever had the slightest interest in human rights.

Hague of course spends much time, in Doha and in London, in the company of the Emir of Qatar. Qatar is the base for the Libyan “transitional government” and the international “contact group”. It is an absolute monarchy where political parties are banned and executive power is reserved to members of the royal family. I think that tells us all we need to know about how genuine is the wsetern demand for Middle Eastern democracy.

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