Progressive Politics UK
Thursday, February 26, 2004
  So just how ‘Progressive’ are you?

Some times an issue arises that really puts to test just how ‘Progressive’ you really are. Gay marriage is one such issue.

For some out there it may be an opened and closed issue but for others it raises some uneasy moral and ethical questions that are not easily resolved. A case in point is the position taken by Stephanie Herseth, Democratic candidate for South Dakota's at-large congressional district. She is clearly caught between a rock and a hard place. Maintaining a progressive liberal position on this issue would severely impact here chances of winning the election and she has clearly attempted to walk the tight rope of basing her position on the argument of State’s rights. American liberals are castigating her for her stance but I for one think that she has a point.

The US Constitution without a shadow of a doubt comes down on the side of the legality of gay marriages. Hence the need for a new Amendment to ban them! It clearly backs moves to bring the legal status of gay couples in line with those of heterosexual couples. On the matter of Civil Unions I feel ‘Progressives’ must make a stand and to be fair the opposition to such a position appears limited. However, the use of the word “marriage” appears to trigger a whole other debate. I guess this is due to the word’s religious connotations. On this point I fear that we as progressives must be weary of pushing to far against the general consensus. This is where the argument for State’s rights is so important. Undoubtedly Massachusetts, Hawaii and northern California are comfortable alien themselves with such countries as Canada, Belgium and the Netherlands on this issue. If so, then so be it. By the same argument however States with alternative values should be allowed to take alternative positions in line with the democratic rights. We may disagree with those values but that is the price of living in liberal democracies. It is up to us as ‘Progressives” to win the arguments and pursued others, not impose our values on them.

By emphasising the importance of State’s rights I feel that ‘progressive’s reinforce two important points; we show our support for grass-roots democracy and we nullify gay marriage as an election issue by basing our argument in support of it on traditional Republican values.

Undoubtedly Karl Rove wants to fight the US election on the battleground of social issues but Democrats must not let him pick that fight. Their battleground of choice should remain jobs and Iraq.
 
Tuesday, February 24, 2004
  Hello again…

It seems like an age since I last updated this blog and when a week in politics is a long time I guess it has been an eternity. I will admit that I bit off more than I could chew… my aspirations failed to match my ability… I failed to grasp that maintaining a worthwhile blog whilst holding down a full-time job, completing one’s Masters degree and getting married was rather ambitious. I had rather hoped to get some collaborators aboard to share the workload but I now realise that this is a journey one starts alone.

So let me make a fresh start…

The aim this time is to learn to crawl first… and my nursery will be here on blogger. It is all very well building a dog’s bollocks web-site but rather pointless if one has nothing to publish on it. I fear I was caught up in that modern ailment of image overriding substance. Hopefully I’m cured?

Well we have much to look forward to in the coming months and the top of the list is undoubtedly the US presidential election. The coverage of the race will be unashamedly biased on this blog. US politics is normally a fascinating side-show for us over here. Since 1945 it has rarely mattered what administration has occupied the White House. The “special relationship” has always flourished. However, with the present Republican Presidency there is a very real gap opening up between the interests of our two countries. More and more it appears that merely a common language and the sheer will of Tony Blair are bridging the gap. This is not a health state of affairs and one that needs to be addressed. The obvious solution is for regime change in Washington. The sooner the Democrats retake the White House (and the Congress too) the better for all of us.

So okay the outcome is important but so is the dynamics of the process. Lessons can be learnt that can be applied here in the UK. The UK has a great political blog community but they’re to few in number and to insular in readership to have the effect of those found in the US. How can we translate the model of their success to our very different political system over here in the UK? How do we deal with the fact that our natural home as progressives, the Labour Party, may no longer be such a sure bet? How should we deal with a government increasingly mirroring the authoritarian policies of the Republican administration in the US and not the aspirations and beliefs of the people who voted them into power? Maybe it is time for us to tailor our strategy more towards the candidate and less towards the party. Maybe there will be occasions where it is better for us to vote and support a genuine, freethinking, honest and open candidate, even if they’re a Tory or a Lib Dem, if it means replacing a “Yes” person or a “Tony Crony”? But exactly how do we go about putting that into practice collectively?

So lots to ponder and plenty to learn! Enjoy… 
Wednesday, September 24, 2003
  Hi, just a quick post to plug one of my favorite websites www.GlobalSecurity.org. This is the site of a Virginia based military think-tank which has tended to be a few steps ahead of the mainstream media when it comes to events on the ground. Although there is no such thing as objective reporting in war this site has tried more than most to maintain a studied objectivity. As such they are a major source for military information for a number of international media outlets. Kindly GlobalSecurity republish all articles they have contributed to on their website. Yesterday they posted the following article from Al Jazeerah Sharon Policies Will Put Israel in Dire Peril. It provides a rather scary window on the Arab prospective regarding events in Iraq and the Middle East. 
Wednesday, September 03, 2003
  Greetings,

Well “La Grande Vacance” is finally over. Time to get back to business. During my metaphorical sojourn on the Côte D’Azur all hell appears to have been let loss. Yet nothing has really changed! The notable exception is Alastair Campbell’s resignation. This undoubtedly will have a monumental effect on the New Labour project. However, this move was far from unexpected amongst political commentators. Neither the debate regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction, the death of Dr David Kelly or the Hutton Inquiry were the catalysts for this resignation. For that, one needs to look back to the Carole Caplin episode.

My views on this whole episode are that we are watching a tragedy unfold before our eyes. Clearly Dr Kelly was a man of old fashion principles and values caught in the midst of a modern maelstrom of media and political intrigue, where very different principles and values applied. One can only feel sorrow for his family and their loss.

So Tony Blair will survive this, as he survived the fuel crisis. He has no opposition, the economy is still motoring along nicely and he's throwing money at the public services like confetti. More importantly though, the public at large is numbed to this story. Unless something totally sensational is unearthed, which is unlikely, then this enquiry will not impinge on the public consciousness in a major way again.

After thirty plus years in Northern Ireland the British public are resilient to the steady stream of army deaths in Iraq. The US public isn’t! The fallout of the fall of Baghdad will be felt most in the USA. Bush is facing a sinking economy, a record Federal deficit and the prospects of a prolonged guerrilla war in Iraq. The rumour mill is already speculating that Hillary Clinton has smelt blood and is preparing to enter the race for the Democratic Presidential nomination. If so, all bets are off on a Bush re-election!

Finally let me turn to the really sensational news of the summer. The “Russian Revolution” at The Bridge! Roman Abramovich’s millions have been a breath of fresh air in the Premiership. Finally it looks like the tedious Man U and Arsenals stranglehold on the title may be broken. For us denizens of SW6 life doesn’t get much better than this! 
Monday, July 28, 2003
  On a lighter note… What a great sporting weekend! I was privileged to watch a truly classic King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes at Ascot on Saturday. Alamshar was a worthy winner. At the same time Michael Vaughan was coming to England’s rescue and almost single-handedly saving the follow on. Add to this Chelsea’s deserved victory in the Asia Cup and things couldn’t be better.

However, pride of place must go to two men… Lance Armstrong and Hamilton Tyler. Together they have proved that it’s still possible to be an All-American hero and have the French and the world love them!
 
  Okay let me make clear my position on the whole “Iraq war”, “Weapons of Mass Destruction”, “Dodgy Dossier”, “Dr Kelly” thing. I supported the war but with my eyes wide open. The lack of Al Qaeda/ Saddam connection was self-evident and Saddam was never a clear and present danger. However, he was an evil man and the job started in 1990 needed completing. His presence in such a strategic region as the Gulf was destabilising for the whole Middle East. So yes, I am happy that a “war of example” was fought for control of the world’s oil reserves.

However, I do take issue with how the war was sold to the British people. I am far from convinced that the Iraqis could have fired any weapons of mass destruction in 45 months what about 45 minutes. Saddam would have used WMDs if he'd had them! He was cornered, had nothing to lose and had not refrained from their use previously. Therefore a rigorous journalist investigation of the Government’s allegations were necessary in a liberal democracy such as our own.

It is regretful that it has taken the death of Dr Kelly to lead to a judicial inquiry. The parliamentary committees have proved ineffective at getting to the truth and the Official Opposition has maintained its usual levels of political ineptitude.

For my part I want to read the inquiries findings on why Dr Kelly was talking to Andrew Gilligan and other journalists in the first place. Surely he had signed the Official Secrets Act and was therefore committing an offence by doing so? The usual reasons for talking to the press are either for the monetary reward or due to a crisis of conscience. With Dr Kelly I suspect there was a third motive. He was playing the game. Clearly a very intelligent man, he no doubt enjoyed having the ear of both the Government and the journalists. Unfortunately, unlike the people he was dealing with, he will not have the opportunity to redeem a battered reputation with the inevitable lucrative memoir. 
  Today sees the release of Tony Martin … I wholeheartedly backed the view that he deserved to go to jail. Although I can understand the emotions that would lead a man to protect his property, the shooting of a teenage burglar in the back is clearly a step to far. Manslaughter was a just punishment for the crime. There is no place in a civilised society for any sort of vigilantism.

Having said this, I’m horrified by the revelation that the second burglar, Brendan Fearon, has also been released today after serving less than a third of an 18 month sentence for an unconnected conviction for heroin dealing. A career criminal, with more than thirty convictions, he makes a mockery of our legal system. Rehabilitation is a waste of time and money for him and if ever a man advertised the merits of a “three strikes and you’re out” Mr Fearon does.

Mr Martin has now done his time and he should now be left alone to live his life in peace. If Mr Fearon or his friends and relatives show any signs of pursuing this vendetta that is rumoured, then the whole force of the law should be brought down on them as firmly as it was on Tony Martin! 
Thursday, July 17, 2003
  Well today Blair jumps from the frying pan into the fire. The crisis of confidence that has been engulfing the Blair regime over the past few weeks has finally caught hold in Washington. It’s been a slow burner for weeks but the tipping point appears to have not been the open revolt of soldiers from the US 3rd Infantry Division on prime time US TV. These are the guys who took Baghdad in record time.

They did the job they were asked to do and they did it well! Supposedly rotating out of active duty about now having been replaced by the 4th Infantry and 1st Armoured Divisions, instead they still languish in the Sunni triangle, attacked daily by Iraq irregulars. Little wonder then that one 3ID sergeant says he has his own ‘Most Wanted’ list. "The aces in my deck are Paul Bremer, Donald Rumsfeld, George Bush and Paul Wolfowitz," he said. He was referring to the four men who are running U.S. policy here in Iraq. When the reporter asked, "If Donald Rumsfeld were sitting here in front of us, what would you say to him?" Spc. Clinton Deitz put up his hand. "If Donald Rumsfeld was here," he said, "I'd ask him for his resignation."

Well, at this site, we love to see Bush and his neo-cons put on the back foot and to see Dem Presidential candidate Dr Howard Dean’s star rising. But this is more serious than party politics. Iraqis are dying daily, have little electricity or drinking water and coalition troops are under daily attack! It may not yet be Vietnam 1968 but Mr Blair is walking into a hornet’s nest. He must realise by now that Bush and his cronies won’t do him any favours for his loyalty, rather that they see him as a perfect scapegoat! They’ve already blame him for the UN fiasco and for the Niger Uranium - State of the Union speech fiasco. He has to wonder what next!

What’s the answer to Blair’s quandary? Firstly lay off the BBC, they aren’t the enemy! Second lay into the Conservatives, they are and they’re hypocrites to boot! Thirdly placate the party activists… subtly begin to distance the UK from the Bush regime's madness… let's help fight Al Qaeda but keep clear of North Korea!
 
Friday, July 04, 2003
  Today Tony Blair has begun the process of re-energising the Labour Party behind a progressive agenda. In a speech at a Liverpool community centre he has elaborated on the themes of last months speech to the Fabian Society urging the Labour Party to "remember who the real enemy are".

Let us be clear here… for the first time in over a decade we have been witnessing the Labour Party self destruct in recent months. The iron discipline has collapsed in the face of a real crisis of conscience for the party. Although no one can doubt Tony Blair’s sincerity in going to war in Iraq, he is in the minority when it comes to troubling affair. Allying with Bush, Aznar and Berlusconi, the absence of WMD, Saddam still at large and the continued chaos and guerrilla war in Iraq do not sit well with the British public or the Labour rank and file. The government’s new position on fox hunting, legislation that is sure to be bogged down in the Lords has not placated internal labour frustrations. Tony Blair needs to be wary of falling into Lyndon Johnson’s trap of having all his domestic good works undone by an ill-conceived foreign adventure.

There is little Blair can do about Bush’s failure to appreciate the complexities of a post war Iraq and put enough troops on the ground but he at least can control and reinvigorate the domestic agenda. It was therefore good to hear him say that

"Our historic mission is not to be a party of protest, not to stand outside and complain about what those in power are doing,… No progressive who is truly interested in transforming the life opportunities of all in our society can be content with the passivity and the sheer powerlessness of eternal opposition. Our mission instead is to govern for a progressive purpose - to make changes not just for a few years but to build the good society for generations to come."

Blair went on to say that reforms were essential if progressive values were to win the day, that the "mission" was to renew the welfare state. He said that the government’s aim was to make the public services and welfare state a basis for "opportunity and security for all". We all agree that the health service and education should be at the forefront of the Labour government’s agenda but least he forget the one thing that would get his and the parties polling figures back up… sort out our transport system once and for all!
 
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