Daily archives: August 12, 2011

The Limits of Debate

An organisation called Intelligence Squared recently sent me an email asking me to promote their next debate, on the War on Terror. Speakers are General Musharaff, Colleen Graffny (ex senior Bush diplomat), Jeremy Greenstock and Bernard Kouchner.

But who, I inquired, is on the other side? The rather surprising answer I received is that Musharaff and Graffny are speaking for the War on Terror, and Greenstock and Kouchner against.

Which just about sums up the current lack of political debate in this country. Jeremy Greenstock is the Ambassador who assisted Straw in presenting the lies about Iraqi WMD to the UN. Bernard Kouchner is the intellectual poster-boy of “liberal intervention” and fan of Tony Blair. “Liberal intervention” is the highly fashionable theory that bombing brown people is good for them, as currently on show in Libya and Afghanistan.

Now Jeremy is a good man, but if he was against the “War on Terror” he signally failed to do anything about it when he was UK Ambassador to the UN. He did in fact tell one of his staff morning meetings in New York that one of my telegrams from Tashkent, condemning US support for Karimov and other dictatorships, was just the kind of thinking and reporting we needed. But he received every one of my telegrams condemning the use of torture in the War on Terror, and did not join in to support me on any of them.

Like many in the FCO, Jeremy would not himself have instituted the attack on Iraq or extraordinary rendition, but did nothing serious to try to dissuade ministers from them either.

It is quite extraordinary that an organisation like Intelligence Squared, which is happy to invite along extremist neo-cons like Douglas Murray to participate in debates, cannot contemplate giving a platform to an actually anti-war, and anti-war on terror, speaker (like Ray McGovern, for example). I am of course reminded of the New Statesman’s refusal to allow any whistleblowers on the panel of their “debate” on whistleblowing.

These are small straws in the wind, but as our society becomes increasingly dysfunctional, the scope of “respectable” or “acceptable” thought ever narrows.

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Peter Oborne

An extremely good article on the riots by Peter Oborne in the Telegraph.

Indeed, I believe that the criminality in our streets cannot be dissociated from the moral disintegration in the highest ranks of modern British society. The last two decades have seen a terrifying decline in standards among the British governing elite. It has become acceptable for our politicians to lie and to cheat. An almost universal culture of selfishness and greed has grown up.

It is not just the feral youth of Tottenham who have forgotten they have duties as well as rights. So have the feral rich of Chelsea and Kensington

I really am quite a fan of Oborne, whose books are well worth reading.

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The Destruction of Higher Education

In our discussions of the riots, a commenter noted that while I had grown up in comparative material poverty, I had benefited from an environment which was socially and intellectually rich – by contrast with the looters. It was a very good point, and I don’t think I had thought of it that way before. I recall a survey of educational achievement by children which found the most significant of all correlations was to the simple number of books in the parental home.

But nevertheless, my own progress – and that of my siblings – was entirely due to the availability of public funded excellent education. I was not only given higher education free, but given a full maintenance grant I could actually live on. Without that, I would have had little more opportunity than my father, forced to leave school at 13 to work.

To me, it is the greatest betrayal in the modern history of Britain, that my generation, which benefited hugely from free public education, has destroyed it rather than pay for it for the next generation.

A betrayal instigated by one Tony Bliar, public school and Oxford.

Now a survey indicates that with new tuition fees, average graduate debt might soon reach a staggering £53,000. This is in fact already blindingly obvious to those of us who are parents.

The government has effectively withdrawn all public funding from university teaching in England and Wales, the finance for universities solely covering part of research costs. No other major country in the world has done this. It is an act of crass philistinism, from a government of millionaires who never needed public educational provision and whose social circles do not need it now.

It is an act of class war, pure and simple.

That level of existing debt as graduates launch their careers (those who can find one) is also going to contribute to the inevitable major collapse of the housing market. To add to the mountain of lunacy that this policy comprises, it is further evidence of the ludicrous fallacy to which this government is so attached, that it is only public debt which damages the economy.

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