Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Neocon Party

This article of mine on how a David Cameron government would be brimming with hawks, appears in the First Post.

The Iraq war is widely discredited. George W Bush and Tony Blair are both out of office. Barack Obama has talked of a "new beginning" in his country's relationship with the Islamic world. Surely it's game over for the neocons, the small group of hardline hawks commonly held responsible for the US-led attack on Iraq in 2003?

Don't bet on it. If, as bookmakers believe, an overall majority for the Conservatives in the next election is a racing certainty, then the proponents of 'Shock and Awe' will once again be back in the corridors of power in Britain.

To understand why the neocons would be in such a strong position if David Cameron does make it to Number 10, we need to go back to the autumn of 2005, the time of the last Conservative party leadership election.

Fearing that in a head-to-head contest between popular former Chancellor Kenneth Clarke and right-winger David Davis, the more charismatic - and anti-war - Clarke would win, the neocon faction within the party started to champion the cause of a young, relatively little known MP for Witney, promoting him as the man who would 'modernise' the party and lead it back to power. The strategy worked a treat, and the little known MP - David Cameron - pulled off a surprise victory.

Cameron's campaign was masterminded by a triumvirate of MPs: Michael Gove, Ed Vaizey and George Osborne.

Gove, who believes the invasion of Iraq was a "proper British foreign policy success", is the author of the polemic Celsius 7/7, which has been described as a "neo-con rallying cry" for its attacks on Islamism, which he describes as a "totalitarian ideology" on a par with Nazism and Communism, and says must be fiercely opposed.

He, along with Vaizey, is a signatory to the principles of the ultra-hawkish Henry Jackson Society, an organisation founded at Peterhouse College Cambridge in 2005 and named after a warmongering US Senator who opposed détente with the Soviet Union.
The Society supports the 'maintenance of a strong military' with a 'global reach'; among its international patrons are the serial warmonger Richard 'Prince of Darkness' Perle, a former staffer of Henry Jackson who was considered one of the leading architects of the Iraq war, and Bill Kristol, the influential American journalist, formerly with the New York Times, who called for military strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities in 2006.

As for Osborne, Cameron's Shadow Chancellor and right-hand man; he praised the "excellent neoconservative case" for war against Iraq.

There are other strong neocon influences on Cameron. Policy Exchange, which has been described as the Tory leader's 'favourite think-tank', and which will have an open door to Number 10, was set up in 2002 by Michael Gove and fellow hawk Nicholas Boles, a member of the Notting Hill set who the Tories plan to parachute into the safe seat of Grantham and Stamford at the next election. Dean Godson, the group's research director and adviser on security issues, has been described as "one of the best connected neoconservatives in Britain".

When Godson, a former special assistant to the disgraced publisher Conrad Black, was dismissed by the Daily Telegraph, the newspaper's editor Martin Newland said of him (and Black's wife, fellow neocon Barbara Amiel, who also wrote for the paper): "It's OK to be pro-Israel, but not to be unbelievably pro-Likud Israel. It's OK to be pro-American but not look as if you're taking instructions from Washington."

In 2007, Policy Exchange was accused of deliberately stirring up anti-Muslim sentiment in Britain after a controversy over the veracity of some of the evidence it used in its report 'The Hijacking of British Islam'.

Although he said that Britain should learn from the 'failures' of neoconservatism in a speech in September 2006, and denied that he was a neocon himself, Cameron's public pronouncements on foreign affairs since then certainly give the Tory uber-hawks no grounds for believing that they have backed the wrong man.

Last summer, during the South Ossetia conflict, he called for Russia to be expelled from the G8, for Georgia's Nato membership to be "accelerated" and lambasted the British government for allowing Moscow's "aggression" to go unchecked.

He has consistently called for a tougher stance on Iran, warning that "every week, every month that goes by brings Iran closer to possessing a nuclear weapon." And, while staying largely silent on Israel's military assault on Gaza, he has declared his belief in Israel to be "indestructible" and pledged that he would be an "unswerving friend" to the country if he became Prime Minister.

Just as significant has been the way Cameron has protected his neocon allies during the expenses scandal - although they were arguably among the worst offenders. Gove, the Shadow Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, who was described by the Daily Mail's political commentator Peter Oborne as "one of the most notorious milkers of the expenses system", for spending thousands furnishing his London home before 'flipping' to a new property and claiming £13,000 in moving costs, came under no pressure from Cameron to stand down. He is likely to play a major role in the next Conservative government.

So too will fellow flipper George Osborne and Ed Vaizey, who claimed for over £2,000 in antique furniture bought from a business owned by David Cameron's mother-in-law.

The trio will not be the only hawks in Cameron's Cabinet. Shadow Defence Secretary Dr Liam Fox, is the founder and UK Director of the 'The Atlantic Bridge', an organisation which promotes closer US/British foreign policy ties. Members of the group's advisory council include Gove, Osborne, Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling and Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague, a strong supporter of the Iraq war who has attacked Europe's "extraordinary weakness" in dealing with Russia.

It's a sobering thought that before the Iraq inquiry has finished its work, some of the war's most fervent supporters may, if the bookies are right and the Tories win the May 2010 election, once again be guiding Britain's foreign policy.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson R.I.P.

The King of Pop is dead. On this very sad day, let's remember some of the wonderful music Jackson created. My all-time favourite Jackson number is 'Can You Feel It?' by the Jackson 5, which you can hear above (video by tahuexo 1). For my money the best dance record of all time. What's your favourite Jackson track?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Errol Flynn: First of the Hellraisers

Here's my piece from the Daily Express to commemorate the centenary of one of the all-time greats from the Golden Age of Hollywood- Errol Flynn. A man from Down Under, who, so they say, was pretty big Down Under too, if you get my meaning. Flynn was a man whose life was even more remarkable - and adventurous than any of his films. Above you can see Flynn taking part in the quiz show 'What's My Line' (video Norbert R33).

If you're looking for some good summer beach reading, then I can heartily recommend Flynn's autobiography, 'My Wicked Wicked Ways', which was completed shortly before his death in 1959. It's easily the most entertaining showbiz autobiography of all time, and also, for my money, the best written. What a shame that neither the BBC nor ITV saw fit to commemorate Flynn's centenary by showing some of his great swashbuckling films.

HE WAS once described as "probably the greatest symbol of masculinity and virility developed in the modern age".

Errol Flynn - born 100 years ago this week - found fame with his portrayals of swashbuckling heroes such as Robin Hood and Captain Blood yet his real life was even more adventurous than any of his films.

The original serial womanising, heavy-drinking, drug-taking hellraiser packed more into his 50 years than most would do in several lifetimes.

Born in Hobart, Tasmania, Flynn worked as a gold prospector in New Guinea before fleeing after being accused of murdering a native. He dodged bullets and bombs as a reporter in the Spanish Civil War; he was a skilled yachtsman; he relished brawling; he was a drinking partner of Fidel Castro; and there were also allegations that he was a Nazi spy.

Yet it is for his incredible sexual exploits that Flynn will most be remembered. He had, in the words of biographer David Bret, "a quite staggering appetite" for sex.

"I know if I touch the arm of a girl or woman who fires me I have got to go as far øas she will let me, " he confessed. "In like Flynn" became a popular saying.

His obsession with sex was probably a reaction to his mother - whom he detested - trying to drill into him her belief that sex was "disgusting" and "dirty".

Flynn decided to have sex whenever he could and with whomever he fancied. He was 12 when he lost his virginity to his parents' maid, who was promptly dismissed.

From his early days Flynn was set upon a hedonistic approach to life.

"I believe I'm going to front the essentials of life to see if I can learn what it has to teach and, above all, not to discover when I come to die that I have not lived," he wrote in his journal at the age of 23.

But his sexual career could very nearly have come to a premature end when he was knifed by an irate rickshaw boy in Colombo, Ceylon. The knife narrowly missed emasculating him.

After becoming established in Hollywood Flynn soon assembled a coterie of close pals who joined in with his sexual adventures.

One was the young British actor David Niven, a co-member of the Hollywood Cricket Club.

The pair rented a house where they shared lovers, sometimes several in one night. Flynn was still married to his first wife at the time and would leave the orgies about twice a week to visit her.

Later Flynn and Niven shared another bachelor pad in Malibu, nicknamed "Cirrhosis-by-the-Sea" on account of the huge amounts of alcohol consumed.

Flynn also held sex, alcohol and cocainefuelled parties on his boat. Women would be shared between Flynn, the crew and friends.

His home at Mulholland Farm in the Hollywood Hills, where he moved in 1941, was designed with his favourite pastime in mind.

The bathroom was full of aphrodisiac potions. His bedroom had a huge circular mirror on the ceiling above the bed, as did the main guest room.

But what Flynn's guests didn't know was that the mirror was two-way so Flynn and his pals could enjoy watching their activities in the room above.

According to David Bret, Flynn's sexual conquests included men.

Bret claims one male lover was actor Ross Alexander, who played his sidekick in Captain Blood.

Another was Tyrone Power, who is said to have fallen passionately in love with Flynn but the affair floundered because for Flynn the relationship was purely physical.

Yet his alleged bisexuality was hotly disputed by his surviving wives and friends.

One actress who did not end up in his bed was Olivia De Havilland, his co-star in eight films.

This week the 92-year-old admitted she and Flynn did fall in love but "his circumstances at the time prevented the relationship from going further".

Flynn's shenanigans often landed him in trouble.

In 1942, in a case that stunned America, two underaged girls accused him of statutory rape. Robin Hood Accused Of Rape was one headline but Flynn was acquitted at trial.

"Rape to me meant picking up a chair and hitting some young lady over the head with it and having your wicked way.
I hadn't done any of those things, " he wrote.

Flynn's war record was also controversial. In a 1980 biography it was claimed he was a Nazi sympathiser who had spied for Germany while reporting on the Spanish Civil War and that he had wanted to enlist the IRA's support for the Axis cause.

The case rested on Flynn's close association with Austrian fascist Dr Herman Erben but no concrete evidence to support the claims has ever emerged.

On the contrary, in 2000 it was revealed that the Home Office possessed documents detailing how the actor offered to help Britain's security services.

Flynn had been keen to join up to fight in the war for the Allies but was ruled out on health grounds.

Even though still in his early 30s his hard-living had taken a heavy toll.

In 1941 he collapsed in an elevator and a specialist gave him only five years to live, telling him his heart and lungs were irreparably damaged. But Flynn refused to change his ways.

For a period in the early Forties he became addicted to opium, believing the drug would heighten his sexual pleasures.

In 1943 he married wife No2, redhead Nora Eddington, 20, who ran the tobacco kiosk at the Los Angeles courthouse and who had caught Flynn's eye when he had been on trial.

Flynn had no intention of becoming a faithful husband. He installed his wife - and new child - into a home of their own so he could continue his sexual adventures unhindered.

FLYNN explained: "This was the only way I would be married to anybody. Separate house, separate lives, separate people. The Christian concept of monogamy is to me nothing more than a travesty of human nature. It doesn't work, never will."

Flynn revelled in his reputation for being the world's most famous womaniser.

Co-star Robert Douglas recalled going to Flynn's dressing room and seeing the star naked in his armchair, with one woman on top of him and another waiting for her turn.

When Flynn's father visited Hollywood for the first time and turned up unannounced at his dressing room he was shocked to see his son making love to a naked young woman against the wall.

Yet Flynn's womanising and film success did not seem to bring lasting contentment.

"I could have anything money could buy. Yet I found that at the top of the world there was nothing. I was sitting at the pinnacle with no mountain under me".

As he approached his half-century Flynn was a physical wreck.

Bloated and overweight he was unrecognisable from the slim young actor. But there was still some adventure to come.

In 1959 Flynn travelled to Cuba to make a film on its revolution and befriended rebel leader Fidel Castro. "He will rank in history with some of the greats, " he predicted.

Even in his final years Flynn, now living in Jamaica, was still addicted to sex.

He embarked on a relationship with a 15-year-old blonde called Beverley Aadland, whom he called his Wood Nymph. He started writing his "'kiss and tell" autobiography My Wicked Wicked Ways (Flynn had wanted to call it In Like Me but the publisher refused).

His co-writer Earl Conrad was shocked that the actor would get pimps to supply him with under-aged native girls.
He would go upstairs for five to 10 minutes with them, then return to carry on with the writing.

Flynn died of a heart attack in October 1959 just four months after his 50th birthday.

True to form he was buried with six bottles of whisky in his coffin. Shortly before his death Conrad asked Flynn if he had any regrets. "Just the one, sport - that I never learned to play the piano".

Flynn was a man who lived the life he had set out to lead from an early age and accepted the consequences with magnanimity. There have been lots of Hollywood hellraisers but there was only one Errol Flynn.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Non! Why Sarkozy’s planned burka ban is a challenge to the left

This article of mine on why Nicolas Sarkozy’s plan to abolish the burka is not just moderne, but is politically very clever, appears in The First Post.

They said that a short-assed, half-Hungarian Frenchman with Jewish roots who openly admired America would never become the President of France. Then they said his Presidency would prove disastrous and his popularity would soon plummet.
But in the Euro elections earlier this month, Nicolas Sarkozy's UMP party trounced the Socialist opposition, becoming the first French ruling party to come out top in European parliament elections since 1979.

The secret of Sarkozy's success is that he knows how to spot a vote winner. While the left sought to focus on the underlying causes of the riots which plagued Paris in the autumn of 2005, Sarkozy, as Minister of the Interior, simply sent in the riot police and denounced the rioters as racaille or 'rabble'.

Faced with the impact of the global recession, he ditched his flirtation with Anglo-Saxon capitalism and adopted more traditional dirigiste Gaullist policies - in the process completely wrong-footing the left.

Now it seems he's played another trump card by announcing on Monday the establishment of a commission to consider banning the wearing in public of the burka - the garment worn by some Muslim women which covers the entire body, including the face.

His argument for doing so is not just that the burka represents an assault on French secularism, but that it is degrading to women. By championing the rights of women, Sarkozy is able to pose as the defender of the founding principles of the Republic. He also gains kudos for dealing with a hyper-sensitive political issue head-on. And here's the really clever part: he manages at the same time to expose divisions on the left.

Consider these opposing views. Andre Gerin, the Communist MP who tabled the Parliamentary motion last week calling for the establishment of a commission, and who is to lead the inquiry, has likened burkas to "mobile prisons". But Martine Aubry, leader of the Socialist Party, says: "If a law bans the burka, these women will still have it but will remain at home; they will no longer be seen."

The fact is that the left - not just in France, but in Europe generally - is in a dilemma over the issues raised by large-scale Islamic immigration to the continent. For some leftists, civil liberties, a strong belief in multiculturalism and a determination to fight the rising tide of Islamophobia come first. For others, defending Enlightenment values and the rights of women are paramount.

While in Britain a 2006 opinion poll showed 77 per cent to be against a ban on the veil, in Republican France, officially and proudly secular, there are undoubtedly more votes to be had in taking a tougher stance. Wearing the burka in state schools has already been banned, as the result of a 2004 law which prohibits students from wearing any ostensible religious symbols.

While the French Council for the Muslim Religion is against a general ban, the head of the Paris Grand Mosque, Dalil Boubakeur, supports such a move, saying that Islam in France must be an "open Islam".

There is, in fact, a compelling Islamic case for a ban, on the grounds that wearing a burka has nothing to do with religious belief (it is not mentioned in the Koran, but is merely traditional dress in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

This could - and should - provide the French left's get-out clause. It gives them the chance to adopt a position consistent both with their opposition to Islamophobia and their belief in progressive values, instead of rushing to defend an oppressive and degrading practice which surely has no place in a modern European state (Gordon Brown please note).

If not, they will be handing Sarkozy, their wily and unashamedly populist bete noir, yet another strategic victory.

Introducing Mr Speaker: John 'Flipper' Bercow

The Daily Mail reports:

he had 'flipped' the designation of his main home, to avoid paying capital gains tax on either the sale of his house in the country or the subsequent sale of his flat in London. He has agreed to repay £6,500 to the taxman.

Then it transpired that he has also repaid £1,470 to Parliament for unspecified office expenses for which he now realises that he should not have claimed. He has twice billed taxpayers for advice from his accountant on filling in his tax return.

Mr Bercow now has his hands on a job which, even if he is sacked tomorrow, gives him a pension of £40,000 a year for life. In his pitch to the Commons, he talked about reform and the need to be a 'different style of Speaker' in public, but in private has called for MPs' pay to be increased to £100,000

Ladies and Gentleman, I give you Britain’s new Speaker, Tory MP Mr John Bercow.A man who got the job not because of his popularity- but because of his unpopularity-Labour MPs voted for him to annoy the Tories- who can’t stand him.

That such a self-regarding mega-creep has been elected to such high office is surely only further proof of "what a desperately pathetic little country the United Kingdom has become'.

I've never met Bercow, but my father has and found him to be extraordinarily bumptious. It's an opinion that seems to be widely held.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Denis Macshane and the 'European Policy Institute'- 'scooping' British taxpayers' money

I’ve written before on how keen Parliamentary supporters of the neocon Henry ’Scoop’ Jackson Society seem to be on ‘scooping’ British taxpayers’ cash.

Today’s Mail on Sunday has more. It’s not often a story in a leading British Sunday newspaper originates as a comment posted on this blog.

Bravo to regular reader and commenter ‘Coventrian’ for his brilliant detective work regarding the Brothers Matyjaszek and the ‘European Policy Institute’. And remember, if you are a British taxpayer- its YOUR money that is being 'scooped' here. No wonder Macshane has such a broad grin in the photograph above.

Labour MP Denis MacShane charged taxpayers more than £8,000 for ‘translation services’ carried out by a mysterious think-tank run by his poet brother.
The former Europe Minister submitted more than a dozen invoices to the Commons bearing the heading of the European Policy Institute (EPI), with each bill justified by just one line – ‘research and translation’ – followed by a demand for fees ranging between £550 and £950.

The names and signatures on the bills, sent between August 2005 and January 2008 and totalling £8,050, have been blacked out by the Commons censors, but The Mail on Sunday has established the EPI is controlled by his brother Edmund Matyjaszek.
Mr Matyjaszek, a 59-year-old poet and playwright, kept the surname of their father, Jan Matyjaszek, while his brother adopted the maiden name of their Irish mother, Isobel MacShane, when he joined the BBC in 1969.

The link between the siblings is not apparent from the documents submitted by Mr MacShane.

The EPI appears to have a ghost presence on the internet, with the only identifying information appearing to be the London phone number of a direct-mailing company called European Marketing Services.

The company, which has its website registered in the name of an ‘Edmund Matthew’, is listed by the Poetry Society as the contact point for its Isle of Wight branch – which is run by Edmund Matyjaszek.

Last night, when he was initially contacted, Mr MacShane said: ‘It is no secret that I do more work for Europe than any other MP, and people connected with the institute help me with that. That is all I can really help you with.’ The line then went dead.
A couple of hours later, Mr MacShane, who served as Europe Minister between 2002 and 2005, sent a text message saying: ‘The EPI was set up 20 years ago by a network of people on the Left working in Europe and the US. It has organised conferences and published books and reports.

‘Ed is my brother, but simply administrates it. The claims refer to work in connection with my well-known Parliamentary activity on European and global politics. When I stopped being Europe Minister, I used the EPI to claim for research and translation relating to my work as an MP on European politics.’

Mr MacShane was first dragged into the expenses controversy when The Mail on Sunday disclosed last month that he claimed nearly £20,000 a year in expenses for an office based in the garage of his South Yorkshire home.

The claim, totalling £125,000 over the past seven years, covered the costs of running his official constituency base from the shabby-looking garage at his semi-detached home in Rotherham.

According to literature distributed by ‘Tongues & Grooves’, a poetry club, Mr Matyjaszek ‘has had more than 80 poems published, many of them prizewinners in various competitions.

His prize-winning play The Consultation on the Israel/Palestine issue was performed at Sevenoaks Arts Festival.

‘Poetry-reading is a particular interest, and he has written and performed scripts on subjects as various as the War Poets, John Donne and Ted Hughes.’
The telephone number given to book him for readings is that shared between the EPI and European Marketing Services.

Mr Matyjaszek’s wife answered the door last night at his £500,000, stone-built home in an exclusive area of Ryde, on the Isle of Wight, and said he was not available for comment.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Iraq war inquiry: redefining the term 'whitewash'

Michael Crick writes:

I'm interested to see that the distinguished war historian Sir Lawrence Freedman has been appointed to the new inquiry into the Iraq war, announced by Prime Minister Gordon Brown today.
Critics of the war might argue Sir Lawrence was himself one of the causes of the war!
The professor once told me how, back in 1999, he was contacted by Downing Street seeking his thoughts for a speech on humanitarian intervention which the-then Prime Minister Tony Blair was about to make in Chicago.
When was military action justified for, liberal, humanitarian reasons?
Sir Lawrence says he was astonished when he heard and read Mr Blair's famous Chicago speech - perhaps the most important of Blair's premiership - that it was based largely on the memo he had sent to Number 10.
And the rest was history.
Nor will critics of the war be very happy about the appointment of the other historian Sir Martin Gilbert, the official biographer of Winston Churchill.
In 2004, he went so far as to compare US President George W Bush and Mr Blair to Roosevelt and Churchill.

I don’t know about you, but I’m really disappointed that Gordon Brown hasn’t gone the whole hog. Why doesn’t he put 'Neo' Con Coughlin, Nick Cohen, and Melanie Phillips on the inquiry team too?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Robert Baer on the Iranian elections

For too many years now, the Western media have looked at Iran through the narrow prism of Iran's liberal middle class — an intelligentsia that is addicted to the Internet and American music and is more ready to talk to the Western press, including people with money to buy tickets to Paris or Los Angeles. Reading Lolita in Tehran is a terrific book, but does it represent the real Iran?

Most of the demonstrations and rioting I've seen in the news are taking place in north Tehran, around Tehran University and in public places like Azadi Square. These are, for the most part, areas where the educated and well-off live — Iran's liberal middle class. These are also the same neighborhoods that little doubt voted for Mir-Hossein Mousavi, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's rival, who now claims that the election was stolen. But I have yet to see any pictures from south Tehran, where the poor live. Or from other Iranian slums

Before we settle on the narrative that there has been a hard-line takeover in Iran, an illegitimate coup d'état, we need to seriously consider the possibility that there has been a popular hard-line takeover, an electoral mandate for Ahmadinejad and his policies. One of the only reliable, Western polls conducted in the run-up to the vote gave the election to Ahmadinejad — by higher percentages than the 63% he actually received. The poll even predicted that Mousavi would lose in his hometown of Tabriz, a result that many skeptics have viewed as clear evidence of fraud. The poll was taken all across Iran, not just the well-heeled parts of Tehran.

You can read the whole of Robert Baer's brilliant article on the Iranian elections, and their aftermath, here.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Ahmadinejad’s landslide victory- and how the west got it hopelessly wrong.

Oh dear. How very embarrassing. For the last few days we have heard ad nauseum from western reporters and foreign policy ‘experts’ telling us that the Iranian elections were ‘too close to call’ and that there was a real chance of the man the west wanted to win -Mousavi- triumphing.

And what was the result of the election that was ‘too close to call’?

A landslide victory for President Ahmadinejad.

How did the western reporters get it so wrong? Well, wishful thinking undoubtedly played a part.

But I think the main reason is that they spent too much time chatting to English-speaking well-heeled middle-class types in the posh suburbs of Tehran and not enough time to ordinary working-class Iranians for whom Ahmadinejad is a hero.

The coverage of the Iranian election reminded me of the way the western media portrayed the Presidential election in Belarus in 2006. The reporting made it seem as if there were huge sections of the population in favour of the-‘pro western’ candidate, who was going to privatise the economy, line up obediently to join NATO and the EU and embark on the economic ‘reforms’ so beloved by western capital.

The result of the election: a landslide victory for President Lukashenko.

The western media had neglected the opinions of old age pensioners, peasants, factory workers and the working-class in general. In other words they'd forgotten about the majority of the population- the people who have benefited most from Lukashenko's rule. And of course when the result was announced, there were the inevitable cries of 'How can it be so!', and 'It's a fix!', as there have been after the Iranian poll.

Let’s hope that after getting the Iranian election so embarrassingly wrong, the western media learns its lesson. As Abbas Barzegar writes in this excellent piece:

In the future, observers would do us a favour by taking a deeper look into Iranian society, giving us a more accurate picture of the very organic religious structures of the country, and dispensing with the narrative of liberal inevitability. It is the religious aspects of enigmatic Persia that helped put an 80-year-old exiled ascetic at the head of state 30 years ago, then the charismatic cleric Khatami in office 12 years ago, the honest son of a blacksmith – Ahmedinejad –four years ago, and the same yesterday.

A final point regarding the western coverage of the Iranian elections. It seemed compulsory for western commentators to use the adjective ‘hardline’ whenever they mentioned the Iranian President.

And to use the word ‘reformer’ when mentioning his main challenger.

Here's what those terms actually mean in this context.

Friday, June 12, 2009

This socialist paradise

This article of mine appears in the New Statesman.

Want to visit a socialist paradise, where the needs of local citizens are put before capital? Where locally owned businesses rather than multinational chains dominate the streets? Where public transport is not only publicly owned, but free? And where the sense of community is so strong that crime is virtually unheard of?

The surprising news is that this leftist Shangri-La is only three and a half hours away from London by train. Hasselt is the capital of Limburg, a Flemish province of Belgium. It is only 250 miles away from London as the crow flies, but light years away from the British capital when it comes to notions of how to run a modern city.

The man who has transformed Hasselt into the kind of city that progressives the world over dream of is the charismatic Flemish Socialist Party politician – and local bar owner – Steve Stevaert. Stevaert, an unashamed populist who says he bases his policies on “the wisdom of the people”, became mayor of Hasselt in 1995. He remained in office for ten years, then became the first ever Socialist governor of Limburg province, a post from which, after four years, he has recently resigned.

As mayor, he made all public transport in the city free and greatly increased the number of bus routes. Regional buses that service Hasselt also became free to residents. Then a comprehensive system of cycle paths was introduced, which now runs through the whole of Limburg. In his mission to reshape Hasselt as a socialist haven, Stevaert has also restricted out-of-town development, providing protection for local businesses.

At first the mayor had his detractors. He was nicknamed “Steve Stunt” when his free bus scheme first went into operation. But the results of his policies speak for themselves: by 2006, use of public transport in Hasselt had increased thirteenfold. The ease of getting around is an enormous boost for business – and because most of these businesses are locally owned, the money stays in the community.

Increasing social interaction is also among Stevaert’s policy concerns. Because Hasselt operates on a principle of providing “the right of mobility for everyone”, getting out and socialising is easy, even for those whose health or finances might prove restrictive elsewhere. In Hasselt, nobody need be stuck at home feeling lonely and isolated. No wonder it feels like such a happy place. The positive effect of these policies is apparent to anyone who spends time in the city. In 2004, Hasselt received the title “most sociable city in Flanders”. In my view, you would have to go a long way to find a more sociable city anywhere in the world.

There are aesthetic benefits, too. While many British towns have been turned into drab clones by the effects of market forces, Hasselt retains a refreshing individuality. For the British visitor, used to seeing a Starbucks, Pizza Hut or McDonald’s on every corner, the number of individually owned shops, cafes and bars on Hasselt’s streets is a particular delight.

The mayor’s brand of organic, localised socialism has proved hugely popular with the city’s inhabitants. In fact, I have failed to find anyone in Hasselt with a bad word to say about the mayor.

Could the Hasselt model be applied here in the UK?

We could certainly learn from its example when it comes to transport. Ken Livingstone’s attempt to reduce London public transport fares in the early 1980s was struck down by reactionary judges. If towns and cities in Britain are to introduce cost-effective, zero-fare public transport, bus travel must become publicly owned again, as it is in Belgium. Otherwise, it will only mean that more taxpayers’ money goes to profiteering private bus companies, which received £2.5bn from the public purse last year.

As to helping local businesses stand up to the threat posed by global chains, there is another European example to which the British left could look. In 2007, Lyne Cohen-Solal, the Socialist deputy mayor of Paris, launched a £21m plan to save the Left Bank’s independent booksellers, galleries and writers’ cafes, by buying up properties and thereby stopping speculators from converting them into yet more bland chain stores.

Hasselt is proof that increased mobility, greater high street diversity and putting people before profits are interconnected. For too long in Britain, corporate profits have determined how our cities look and how we get around in them. The most sociable city in Flanders is proof that there is another way.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Battle for our NHS (2)

The pro-privatisation vultures are circling above our country's hospitals. The NHS is 'bankrupt' they say- so it needs radical reform i.e. privatisation.

I've written before about one of the pro-privatisation pressure groups 'Reform', and its director, Andrew Haldenby has a vicious piece of anti-NHS propaganda in today's Daily Telegraph.

Haldenby calls for more NHS patients to be treated privately. Apparently he has heard of "new companies that treat NHS patients twice as well as the rest of the service (measured by complication rates after operations) at 20 per cent lower cost. "

What Haldenby doesn't mention in his propaganda piece is the way private health companies have ripped off the NHS- and the British taxpayer- for £1bn for operations and treatments they have failed to carry out. More details at the Campaign For Public Ownership website.

So if we are serious in improving the financial health of the NHS, then the first step should be to abolish 'Independent Sector Treatment Centres' and end all NHS contact with profiteering private health companies.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Left Out: How the Far Right stole the working-class

This article of mine appears in today's First Post.

With global capitalism in crisis and Europe in the midst of its worst economic depression for 70 years, one might think that it would be the parties of the Left who would have reaped the electoral dividend in last week's European elections. But with one or two exceptions, they fared badly across the continent.

Candidates of the centre-Left who enthusiastically embraced globalisation, free markets and privatisation were annihilated - the British Labour Party polled its lowest share of the vote for a century and the German Social Democrats slumped to their worst ever showing. While parties espousing more traditional socialist policies did better, even they did not make as much progress as they ought to have done, given the severity of the economic crisis.

What went wrong?

It's clear that a large percentage of working-class protest votes across Europe have gone to populist parties of the 'far-Right', who combine traditional left-wing anti-capitalist and anti-globalist economic policies, with unequivocal opposition to mass immigration and an uncompromising stance on law and order.

In Britain, the BNP gained votes not from the Conservatives, whose share of the vote was virtually unchanged from five years ago, but from Labour. In the Labour stronghold of Barnsley, for instance, the BNP won as much as 16 per cent.

In Hungary, Jobbik 'The Movement for a Better Hungary', which is denounced as 'neo-fascist' by its opponents, became the country's third largest party. It had attacked finance-driven globalisation and the 'unpatriotic' pro-globalist elite, in a way which clearly resonated with ordinary people. In Austria, far-right parties polled an unprecedented 17.7 per cent of the vote.

If the European Left is to claw back working-class votes from the far-Right, it not only needs to oppose the neo-liberal model of globalisation, but to jettison its politically correct approach to issues like immigration and law and order and adopt policies which are popular with its core constituency - the working class.

Since the 1960s, as European Left parties have gradually become more middle class, they have gradually lost their link with their indigenous working-class voters. Just how out of touch the British middle classes are with working-class opinion can be seen by their utter bewilderment at the rise of the BNP.

For years, working-class concerns about immigration levels have been denounced as 'racist'. Working-class displays of patriotism - such as flying national flags -areregarded with deep suspicion.

"The ersatz English pride expressed by the entirely bogus St George's Day celebrations is deeply creepy. I hate it," wrote leftist commentator Martin Bright in the Spectator. "Wandering through London this week and bumping into people wrapped in red and white flags or dressed as knights has made me feel deeply embarrassed to be English." For middle-class leftists, large scale immigration means cheap Polish plumbers and some great new ethnic restaurants. How on earth, they wonder, could anyone be opposed to it, let alone vote for a party which promises an end to immigration?

The middle-class takeover of the Left has also meant a lack of focus on the basic problems which most concern ordinary people. Instead it's middle class issues and preoccupations - civil liberties, identity politics and human rights, which come to the fore.

Post-1968, the European Left, dominated by the middle-classes, has preferred to put cultural leftism before economic leftism and now it has paid a huge penalty.

This year's Euro elections make it clear that the Left will never make significant electoral headway unless it rethinks its stance on immigration and other important issues. It needs to oppose the free movement of both capital and labour - not on racist grounds, but because neither are in the interests of ordinary working people.

It has to acknowledge the innate social conservatism of most working-class voters and drop its aggressively liberal approach to social issues which anger so many. And it needs to become more openly patriotic - and not be ashamed of occasionally wrapping itself in the national flag, even if it does make smart media commentators like Martin Bright feel "deeply embarrassed".

In the last few weeks in Britain we have been bombarded with articles from the liberal elite and Church leaders lecturing the plebs on the dangers of voting for the BNP. In spite of that - or possibly partly because it - the BNP now has two seats in the European Parliament.

Patronising ordinary people is not going to stop the rise of the far Right: unashamedly populist left-wing parties, putting forward policies that the working class actually support, might.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Britain's Anti-Democratic Democrats

I've always found in life that the people who make the biggest noise about being supporters of 'democracy' are in fact the most anti-democratic people around.

The point has been proved again today by the hysterical reaction of so-called 'democrats' to the BNP's success in the Euro elections. I am not a supporter of the BNP and did not vote for the party in the Euro elections. But I respect the right of people to vote BNP, if they so wish, in the same way I respect the right of people to vote Communist, Lib Dem, Green or any other party. One commenter on a website I was reading said that last night's results meant that Proportional Representation must never be introduced in Britain. That's right- we have to stick a hideously undemocratic electoral system, because parties the official 'democrats' approve of might win seats.

For anti-democratic democrats, 'democracy' means the people only being allowed voting for parties which they officially approve. Yugoslavia was bombed for repeatedly voting the 'wrong way' in the 1990s and electing a socialist government which didn't 'restructure' the economy in the way global capital required. Belarus is labelled a 'dictatorship', because Western 'democrats' don't like the independently-minded Lukashenko. And Hugo Chavez gets called a 'dictator' too, despite holding regular elections and referenda.

I've no doubt that if the BNP, the Socialist Labour Party, the Communist Party, or any other grouping that does not meet with approval of our anti-democratic 'democrats', gained enough support to form a government, then Britain- and its leader- would face similar treatment.

And all in the name of 'democracy'!

UPDATE: I spotted this wonderful example of anti-democratic democracy earlier this afternoon. It's a comment on a 'pro-democracy' website by 'field'.
If you see any more classics like this, please send them in!

This just underlines my point that we need a British equivalent of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution in Germany. If it is the case that the BNP, whilst presenting a patriotic, pro-indigenous and pro-democracy front is actually controlled by Nazi conspirators who intend to destroy democracy and bring in race rule, then clearly it is seeking to crush our constitution and should be banned, with ringleaders being given long prison sentences for conspiracy.
Of course banning a political party is a very serious matter and one that must be subject to lengthy due process. But I believe it is essential for all democracies. (!!!!). Only democrats should be allowed to enter the democratic fold. Totalitarians and monarchists should not be allowed to stand. Of course these rules would have to apply to Islamists and Marxists as well as Nazis.

Why, of course. And while you’re at it ’field’ why not ban parties who oppose Zionism (they’re all anti-semitic obviously), parties who oppose privatisation (they're against the 'rights' of global capital to make money) - and parties who don’t have the ‘right’ policies on trans-gender rights- as well? Oh, and if we're banning Islamist parties, we need to ban Christian Parties (some of them have some awfully conservative views)and Hindu parties. And of course, not only Marxist parties, but neo-Marxist parties and crypto-Marxist parties.....

Friday, June 05, 2009

Wally of the Week: James Purnell

This week's winner is the "first Cabinet member with the balls to tell Prime Minister Gordon Brown his time is up- though not with the balls to tell him face to face."

But such underhand, cowardly behaviour is typical of the nastiest group of people in British politics- the uber-Blairites. The Brown government has, as Seumas Milne highlights, been inching towards a more progressive agenda in the last few months (45% top rate of tax, slightly softer foreign policy stance), and Labour's uber-Blairites- and their Conservative allies can't stand it.

For them, Purnell, lauded by neo-con Michael 'I love Tony Blair' Gove for being a "strong believer in an interventionist foreign policy", is a hero. Purnell is the man the Conservative Party's uber-Blairites would love to see as Labour leader. He'd press full steam ahead with 'reform' ie privatisation of the public services and welfare state, and get the country involved in more illegal wars as Tony did.

But for the rest of us, Purnell is a backstabbing, cowardly wally.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Which for Real Democracy?

This article of mine, on how we can best cast our votes for public ownership in today's Euro elections, appears in the Morning Star. It's also cross-posted on the Campaign for Public Ownership website.

If you're a U.K. voter and support public ownership, please spend a couple of minutes reading it before going out to vote!

On democracy...

"The people of Britain are what is called a democracy," said Moung Ka.
"A democracy?" questioned Moung Thwa. "What is that?"
"A democracy," broke in Moung Shoogalay eagerly, "is a community that governs itself according to its own wishes and interests by electing accredited representatives who enact its laws and supervise and control their administration.
"Its aim and object is government of the community in the interests of the community."
"Then," said Moung Thwa, turning to his neighbour, "if the people of Britain are a democracy-"
"I never said they were a democracy," interrupted Moung Ka placidly.
"Surely we both heard you!" exclaimed Moung Thwa.
"Not correctly," said Moung Ka, "I said they are what is called a democracy."

From The Comments Of Moung Ka in The Square Egg by Saki.

After the revelations of the last few weeks there can be few people in Britain who would take issue with the cynical view of British "democracy" expressed by the great Edwardian comic writer Saki.

But it's not just the MPs' expenses scandal which damns our present system of government. It's the way the leading parties ignore public opinion on the most important issues of the day.

Take public ownership. Despite opinion polls showing a clear majority in favour of renationalising the railways, not one of our leading parties even considers the measure.

The neoliberal, pro-privatisation model has never been so unpopular, yet here we have an election where the four leading parties, according to opinion polls, can only offer more of the same.

Labour offers little for supporters of public ownership - the Labour government, despite Britain's disastrous experience of privatised railways, has been pushing for other European countries to "liberalise" their excellent domestic rail services.
The prospect of Virgin Trains, First Great Western and Arriva being allowed to run services in countries like Belgium is too depressing for words, but if Labour has its way, it could be happening a few years down the line.

In their Euro manifesto, the staunchly neoliberal Conservatives boast of being "strong defenders of the single market" and say that their aim is "working to open up new markets."

At the top of the party's list in the South East region in the poll, is MEP Daniel Hannan, an enthusiastic privateer.

In a recent appearance on Fox News in the US, Hannan claimed the NHS was a 60-year "mistake," which made people "iller" and he urged US viewers not to support plans for socialised health care.

The Liberal Democrats are singing from the same pro-competition hymn sheet. While the party did call for the renationalisation of Britain's railways in its 2005 manifesto, it has embraced a more "free-market" approach since the elevation to leadership of the Blairite banker's son Nick Clegg.

The policy to renationalise the railways has been dropped. Instead, all the talk is about opening markets and increasing "competition."

In its European elections manifesto, the party promises that "Liberal Democrat MEPs will continue our campaign to extend the single market in the areas of energy, financial services and transport to so that British firms can provide services across the EU."

So if you do want to see Stagecoach buses on the streets of Belgium, the "progressive" Lib Dems will be trying to make it happen.

Then there's UKIP, which if opinion polls are correct, could do very well in the poll.

UKIP claims to be a "moderate democratic party." But there's nothing moderate about its economic policies.

UKIP says that although it will maintain the "free at point of care" principle, it will "radically reform the working of the NHS."

On rail, it says that it will "make customer satisfaction number one for rail firms," but there's no talk of returning the railway to public ownership.

Tim Worstall, fourth on the party's list in the London region, is a fellow of the extreme neoliberal Adam Smith Institute, whose model of railway privatisation was adopted by the Major government in the mid 1990s. Worstall considers rail privatisation to have been "rather a success actually."

It's clear that the four parties currently leading the opinion polls offer nothing for supporters of public ownership.

So what about the other parties?

The Greens, to their credit, promise to spend £2 billion on a railway system "brought back into public ownership" and to reduce Britain's sky-high rail fares to the "European average."

Leading Green candidates, such as my fellow Morning Star columnist Derek Wall who is third on the party's list in the South East region, are strong supporters of public ownership.

It's disappointing though that the party's European manifesto does not pledge to renationalise bus transport as well - or bring back energy and utility companies into public ownership.

On the threats to Europe's state-owned health-care systems, the Green manifesto says that the party will "support moves for a framework to limiting market penetration into public services."

Limiting "market penetration" is clearly better than allowing it to run wild, but why not work to stop all market penetration into public services?

The Christian Party/Christian Peoples Alliance pledges that "multinational companies will be compelled to act in a transparent and accountable manner," but there is no mention of nationalisation in its programme.

The BNP opposes the privatisation of the Post Office and other "public services" including the NHS. It also supports renationalisation of the railways and the public utilities. But the party's racialist stance in other areas precludes it from being a party that progressives could consider supporting.

There are though two non-racialist parties standing in the Euro elections which are strong supporters of public ownership and unequivocal opponents of privatisation.

In its election campaign, No2EU - Yes to Democracy has drawn attention to the recent extension of European internal market rules to cover health care, which are designed to pave the way for private companies to take over state health-care systems, such as the NHS. No2EU leader Bob Crow, whose RMT union has consistently campaigned for the renationalisation of Britain's transport network and which has fought alongside fellow unions in Europe to fight privatisation, says that anyone who believes in "the NHS and public services should be voting No2EU."

The Socialist Labour Party, which, like No2EU, is fighting every seat in the elections, is also fervently committed to public ownership. The party invited me, in my capacity as co-founder of the Campaign for Public Ownership, to speak at the launch of its Euro elections campaign at the Hay Festival.

The SLP, which favours Britain's complete withdrawal from the EU, calls for the renationalisation of all industries and services privatised in the last 30 years.

Supporters of public ownership should use their vote in the election wisely to make sure it goes to parties opposed to the neoliberal privatisation agenda in Britain and the rest of Europe.

The prospect of Britain sending more enthusiastic privateers to Brussels at a time when the neoliberal model has never been more discredited would make a mockery of the idea that Britain is a democracy. Saki would regard such an outcome with a wry smile - as proof that he was right all along.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Muslims for Serbia!

Svetlana reports:

Foreign ministers of the 57-nation Organization of The Islamic Conference (OIC) did not adopt the original text, written by Albanians, of the resolution pushed by Saudi Arabia — American proxy in the Middle East — which urged all the members of the international Muslim organization to immediately recognize independence of southern Serbian province of Kosovo and Metohija.

What good news.

The modus operandi of the neocons and their ‘liberal’ imperalist allies is the same as all imperialists down the ages: to divide and conquer. In the Balkans that meant pitting Orthodox Christians against Muslims, Catholics against Orthodox Christians- Serbs against Croats, Kosovan Albanians against Serbs and so forth. And while Serbs, Kosovan Albanians, Bosnian Muslims and Croats were fighting each other-in conflicts instigated from without- the imperialists came, set up military bases and stole their land and resources.

It’s good to see that the vast majority of Islamic countries aren’t falling for it.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Syria: Enemy of Our Enemy (2)

This is the second part of my essay, published in December in the anti-war magazine The American Conservative, calling for an end to the neo-con induced hostility towards Syria. Apologies for its late posting, but I forgot that I hadn’t posted Part 2. You can read Part 1 here.

Assad, the wily old "Lion of Damascus," died in June 2000. Since then, under the leadership of his shy, soft-spoken son, Bashar, hundreds of political prisoners have been released and some media restrictions have been lifted. Syria may still be along way from a model Jeffersonian democracy, but it's certainly a less totalitarian society than it was a decade ago. Yet Washington's attitude toward the Arab republic has only hardened.

Syria was castigated for opposing the illegal invasion of Iraq, even though the war was opposed by almost all Syrians. Then when Saddam's WMD couldn't be found, neocons advanced the ludicrous fiction that Iraq's stockpile had been moved to Syria just prior to the invasion.

Syria's military presence in neighboring Lebanon came in for renewed attack when Lebanese President Rafik Hariri was assassinated in Beirut in February 2005. The neocons lost little time pointing the finger of blame at Damascus, even though the political upheaval caused by the killing was to Syria's great detriment.

The country's great crime in the neocons' eyes is not its poor human-rights record--human rights in "friendly" countries such as Jordan and Egypt do not seem to concern them unduly--nor its involvement in Lebanon. No, they resent Syria for its refusal to accept U.S.-Israeli hegemony in the region and for its support of the Palestinians.

When Washington's hawks accuse Syria of being a "destabilizing" force, they are referring to Syria's patronage of both Hamas, the winners of the 2006 elections in Palestine, and Hezbollah, the paramilitary organization formed to resist the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982. Both groups are regarded as terrorist organizations for their attacks on Israeli civilians and security forces, and their violent acts should be condemned. But the U.S. makes a mistake when it conflates Damascus's support for groups it views as resisting a regional hegemon with the sponsorship of Islamic terrorism generally--much less Islamic terror directed against America.

Yet ironically, while neocons continue to foam at the mouth whenever Syria is mentioned, Israel--the country they most admire in the region--is itself adopting a more pragmatic approach to its neighbor. In May, it was announced that Israel and Syria were engaged in indirect negotiations, carried out through Turkish mediators, for a comprehensive peace treaty. Realists in Tel Aviv accept that there can be no lasting peace in the region without some arrangement with Syria--a peace deal that could involve Israel handing back the Golan Heights, which they have held since 1967, and making concessions on Palestine in return for Syrian recognition of Israel and a commitment to use their influence to rein in Hezbollah and Hamas.

And while Syria continues to be lambasted by laptop bombardiers in Washington, it's been receiving plaudits from those closer to the action. Late last year, then top American commander in Iraq Gen. David Petraeus praised Syria for taking steps to reduce the flow of foreign fighters through its borders with Iraq.

Moreover, neocon attempts to isolate Syria are proving increasingly unsuccessful. In July, President Assad made a high-profile visit to France, which in 2005 had cut off diplomatic relations with Syria. Six weeks later, Nicolas Sarkozy, the man whose elevation to the Champs-Elysees the neocons hoped would reposition French foreign policy to their liking, became the first Western head of state to visit Damascus in five years. And in October, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al-Muallem flew to London to meet with his British counterpart, David Miliband, for talks.

It was during this visit that the U.S. attack on Syria took place, leading some analysts to claim that the raid was designed to counter diplomatic moves to bring Syria in from the cold: "a final vengeful lunge against a country that others are now wooing but which still attracts profound hostility in Washington," as the Guardian's Middle East editor, Ian Black, put it.

But while diplomatic approaches to Damascus are welcome, it is important that the West engages with Syria for the right reasons. Renewing relations merely to isolate Iran, its longstanding ally, would only make an attack on Tehran--and a potentially catastrophic Middle East conflict--more likely. It is in America's interest to build a new, positive relationship with Damascus for its own sake: Syria has done the U.S. no harm and has the same desire to counter Islamic fundamentalism.

During the recent presidential elections we heard a lot from the Obama camp about the need for change. A visit from the new U.S. president to Damascus and a return invitation to Bashar al-Assad to visit Washington, together with the repeal of the Syria Accountability Act and the adoption of a new, less aggressive tone toward Syria, would go some way to showing that the new administration really does want to make a clean break from the disastrous foreign policies of George W. Bush.

Sadly, the US, despite a thaw in relations since the change in administration, has renewed sanctions against Syria for another year. In a letter notifying Congress of his decision, President Obama accused Syria, of among other things, “pursuing weapons of mass destruction”. I wonder where we’ve heard that one before?

Monday, June 01, 2009

The Questions Euro MP candidates don't want you to ask

video: robertb85.

This piece of mine appears in The First Post.

British voters go to the polls on June 4 to choose who will represent them in the European Parliament. Canvassers will be on your doorstep soliciting your vote. How to respond? Here are some questions which show up the contradictions - and sometimes the absurdities - in the parties' policies.

Questions for Labour

1. Why did your party break its promise, made it in its 2005 manifesto, to hold a referendum on the new EU Constitution?
2. Why does your party support the UK's opt-out from the EU's Working Time directive, even though a majority of Labour MEPs oppose this opt-out?
3. Why, after the unhappy experience of railway privatisation in Britain, has the British Government pushed for other European countries to 'liberalise' their excellent domestic rail services ?

Questions for Conservatives

1. Why, when your leader is calling for a work-life balance, does your party campaign for Britain's continued opt-out of the EU's Working Time directive, which would restrict the working week to a maximum of 48 hours?
2. Why does your party support a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, but not one on Britain's continued membership of the EU?
3. Does your party agree with views expressed by leading Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan on Fox TV in America, that the NHS was a 60-year "mistake" which has made British people "iller"?

Questions for Liberal Democrats

1. If your party is so committed to 'Europe acting together', why is it against the formation of a European Army to replace the US-led Nato?
2. Can you explain how your party would reduce unemployment when it is committed to a 'liberal and open system' of global free trade and supports the elimination of subsidies?
3. Why, if your party says it doesn't want to compromise 'Britain's traditional legal system and civil liberties', does it support the European Arrest Warrant, under which a British citizen can be deported for something which is not considered a crime in this country?

Questions for UKIP

1. Why does your party say 'No to the EU', but 'Yes' to the EU's generous MEP salaries and expenses?
2. You claim that your opposition to the EU is due to a desire to protect Britain's national sovereignty. But why do you support British membership of other bodies such as the World Trade Organisation and Nato which also impinge sovereignty?
3. Why does your party refuse to publish details of its MEPs' expenses?

Questions for the Green Party

1. Where would the money for your proposed £45bn 'Green New Deal' come from?
2. How do the introduction of Eco Taxes, which hit the poor disproportionately harder than the rich, square with your commitment to greater equality and social justice?
3. Why does your party not address in its manifesto what Sir David Attenborough has described as "the frightening explosion in human numbers" and the effect that population growth has on the environment?

Questions for the BNP

1. How can you claim not to be a racist party, when membership of your party is restricted to 'indigenous British ethnic groups deriving from the class of "Indigenous Caucasian"'?
2. Your party's website states that "anyone not born here who commits a crime here should be deported". Would that apply to the likes of Sir Cliff Richard (born in India), Joanna Lumley (India), and Peter Hitchens (Malta)?
3. Why does your party's website put the word British in inverted commas when describing the black UKIP candidate Rustie Lee, a British citizen who has lived in the country since childhood?