Monday 8 April 2024

In Respect of Arms

"Havana syndrome." Amazement that Iran might react to the Israeli bombing of its consulate in Damascus, a breaking of the taboo against the violation of diplomatic missions that has already opened the way to the raiding of the Mexican embassy in Quito. The most transparent cock and bull from the IDF about the killing of seven aid workers, with the fall guy Officers merely moved to other duties, and with even the official line being that those NATO British, NATO American-Canadian, NATO Polish, and Five Eyes Australian citizens were only supposed to have been collateral damage, so that was all right, then.

Delight that NATO, based on what has been said of it, must have kept Britain, the United States and every other member at perfect peace since 1949. Cogitation over whether it would be better for our troops to continue to be commanded by Officers who were answerable to Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, or whether those troops would be better commanded by Officers who were answerable to a Kemalist. Heebie-jeebies that North Korea may or may not have fired a missile at, well, whom, what or where, exactly? Ostensibly serious suggestions that China had been enticing British Members of Parliament to display their genitals on WhatsApp. And so much more besides. What a time to be alive.

"When Britain and America do it, it's just called "friendly fire", so there," opines Richard Tice, supposedly the great patriotic insurgent, not feigning his ignorance of what some of us had said at the time about the incidents in Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. "Tommy Robinson" agrees with Tice, and adds that aid workers in Gaza are just Hamas supporters or patsies who had in this case got what they deserved. Centrism and right-wing populism are con tricks to sell exactly the same economic and foreign policies to different audiences by pretending to wage a culture war.

Stephen Yaxley-Lennon has close ties to the inexplicably important Suella Braverman, whose second dismissal as Home Secretary was because she had incited him and his supporters to riot at the Cenotaph on Armistice Day, stabbing the Police, yet who now tours the Israeli elite discussing who knows what, on who knows what authority, and at who knows whose expense, although we could probably guess that last one. What does the Foreign Secretary who says that British support for Israel is not unconditional say about that? And what specific conditions would he attach to that support?

On behalf of the Keir Starmer who encouraged the starvation of Gaza and thus the bombing of aid convoys, and who said that a ceasefire would "embolden Hamas", David Cameron is Shadowed by David Lammy, who invented out of thin air the claim that Hamas had "raped babies" on 7th October. He seems to want to be Tobias Ellwood, who demands conscription as part of yet more military spending in order to "prepare for war". Yet Britain's is already the sixth highest in the world, for only the twenty-second most populous country. How much more do Ellwood's future employers want? And prepare for a war over what? Which country Kharkiv should be in?

Still, hope springs eternal. The Iranian consulate bombing demonstrates that the Israelis make no practical pretence to believe in the existence of an Iranian nuclear weapons programme. Ellwood's call for conscription is a useful reminder to ignore anyone who advocated any military intervention unless you could imagine that person as an 18-year-old in battle, which rules out almost all politicians, including Ellwood in spite of his five years in the Regular Army in his late twenties, ending 28 years ago. Part of Israel's defence of its bombing of our aid workers is that it was the work of trigger-happy teenage conscripts. Why would we want any of our own?

Even Jens Stoltenberg has effectively told Ukraine to sue for peace. In the race to succeed him, Kaja Kallas has stood aside in favour of Mark Rutte, which is a very small mercy, but a mercy all the same. Slovakia has elected Peter Pellegrini. Centrists who rejoice that our Armed Forces are under the command of those who are answerable to Erdoğan and to Viktor Orbán, and who would once again subject us to Orbán's legislative will, have the same questions to answer about Pellegrini and about Robert Fico, if they hate them so much.

And the arms trade itself is now up for debate. The point is well made that we armed all sorts of horrific regimes, including several in the Middle East, although in that case, then so much for Israel as our closest ally there. In what way is Israel our ally at all? What specific form does that alliance take? What do the Israelis do for us?

To anyone wondering how the fourth highest military spending in the world might still not be enough for some people, those people are the hired megaphones of corporate greed, and in any case a huge proportion of that figure is Trident, which is what we have instead of tanks, fighter jets, and indeed personnel for our own country, never mind also for Ukraine, or Taiwan, or who knows where next. Then again, we do know where next. Prove to me that Kim McGuinness's husband is not flying arms to Israel from the British bases on Cyprus, or bombing Yemen from them. Do not risk endorsing either of those actions by voting for her. Vote for Jamie Driscoll.

Instead of NATO, we need bilateral nonaggression treaties with all other European countries including Russia and indeed Ukraine, with the United States, and with Canada. We need nonaggression treaties with the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and with the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, and preferably with each of their members bilaterally. There should be no foreign military bases on British soil, while military force should be used only ever in self-defence, and only ever with the approval of the House of Commons, the composition of which therefore needs to be changed dramatically.

BAE Systems should be renationalised as the monopoly supplier to our own Armed Forces, with a ban on all sale of arms abroad, and with a comprehensive programme of diversification in the spirit of the Lucas Plan. Armed neutrality never includes the nuclear weapons that are purely offensive. Instead of Trident, an extra £70 billion should be given to each of the Royal Navy, the British Army, and the Royal Air Force. This would not entail depriving anything else of funding. As a sovereign state with its own free-floating, fiat currency, the United Kingdom has as much of that currency as it chooses to issue to itself, with the fiscal and monetary means to control inflation, means that therefore need to be under democratic political control in both cases.

Wishful thinking? Well, when I tell you that there is going to be a hung Parliament, then you can take that to the bank. I spent the 2005 Parliament saying that it was psephologically impossible for the Heir to Blair's Conservative Party to win an overall majority. I predicted a hung Parliament on the day that the 2017 General Election was called, and I stuck to that, entirely alone, all the way up to the publication of the exit poll eight long weeks later. And on the day that Rishi Sunak became Prime Minister, I predicted that a General Election between him and Starmer would result in a hung Parliament.

I have no plan to join the Workers Party of Britain, although nor would I expect to stand against it. If, however, it did not contest North Durham, then I would. To strengthen families and communities by securing economic equality and international peace through the democratic political control of the means to those ends, including national and parliamentary sovereignty, we need to hold the balance of power. Owing nothing to either main party, we must be open to the better offer. There does, however, need to be a better offer. Not a lesser evil, which in any case the Labour Party is not. We have made a start.


  1. A tour de force.

  2. How is McGuinness keeping International Romani Day?