And they’re off!

by Chris Bertram on April 6, 2010

Now that we have a British general election called for May 6th, I suppose we should have an open thread on the subject. The Tories are favourites, but by no means certain to get an overall majority. I’m still undecided how to vote, with Labour, the Lib Dems and the Greens all possible recipients of my support. Some academic colleagues are even making pro-Tory noises on the grounds that David Willetts “understands what universities are”. Well good luck with that one, in the event. And of course, this may be a good election to lose, so that some other party ends up screwing us all at the behest of Standard and Poors and the bond markets.

{ 100 comments }

1

Barry 04.06.10 at 2:23 pm

“Some academic colleagues are even making pro-Tory noises on the grounds that David Willetts “understands what universities are”. “

And therefore know how to conduct more efficient liquidations? It’s like voting for the efficient mass-murdering dictator over the semi-efficient sometimes murderer.

2

ajay 04.06.10 at 3:03 pm

Some academic colleagues are even making pro-Tory noises on the grounds that David Willetts “understands what universities are”.

Which is an odd reason to give, since the current prime minister actually is a former university lecturer, and David Willetts isn’t.

3

Harry 04.06.10 at 3:07 pm

That’s unfair to Willetts — the fairer point is that the pressures on him aren’t going to be different from the pressures on Labour. A fairer point still is that there’s little reason to believe he’ll end up with the HE portfolio. The fairest point is that voting on a single issue, especially this one, is bizarre.

Wouldn’t hung parliament in 1997 have been so much better than what we got. Now, who knows….

I can vote, but in a safe LibDem seat. I’d vote LibDem in that seat even if I thought Labour were the main challenger. But not in every such seat — if the parliament turns out to be hung the politics of your candidate within their party may turn out actually to matter (in other words, I’d vote for the most left wing candidate who has a chance of winning, regardless of party; that will only very rarely be the Tory, but in some constituencies it will be Labour, in others LibDem, and, perhaps, in one or two it will be Green, Plaid, or SNP (I notice that Tatchell dropped out of Oxford East, which presumably helped Andrew Smith a lot).

4

Harry 04.06.10 at 3:09 pm

My ‘unfair’ comment was a response to i). Ajay’s comment is odder — in my experience lots of people who have never been university lecturers understand what universities are better than lots who are, let alone who were for a short period while trying to become an MP.

5

mds 04.06.10 at 3:11 pm

David Willetts “understands what universities are”.

If he’s referring to a chimera of research-oriented businesses with special tax advantages, and vestiges here and there of “airy-fairy” education in “useless” subjects, then he might indeed understand. Naturally, he will want to cut the latter, just to show Gordon Brown how university gutting is done by professionals.

so that some other party ends up screwing us all at the behest of Standard and Poors and the bond markets.

Isn’t it already a bit late for that?

6

ajay 04.06.10 at 3:38 pm

4: that’s a bit dismissive. Ceteris paribus, you’d expect the guy who was a full-time lecturer for four years to know a bit more about it, no? Willetts is a Treasury type with a background in monetary and fiscal policy. He’s been a visiting lecturer for a few years while actually being an MP.

7

Peter Briffa 04.06.10 at 3:39 pm

Why don’t you vote for whoever is most likely to privatise our universities? That way you can be free of political interference.

8

gmoke 04.06.10 at 3:46 pm

Here’s Tory David Cameron talking about the Next Age of Government at TED:
http://www.youtube.com/v/3ELnyoso6vI&hl

Interesting that he’s all about community and transparency and his favorite speeches of the last 50 years are by JFK and RFK. Good thing that Maggie Thatcher has no short term memory left.

9

Steve LaBonne 04.06.10 at 4:58 pm

Interesting that he’s all about community and transparency and his favorite speeches of the last 50 years are by JFK and RFK.

Yeah, well, on this side of the pond GWB was a “compassionate conservative”. Good luck with that.

10

Harry 04.06.10 at 5:16 pm

I don’t doubt that Cameron and his leadership are, really, very different from what the Tories offered before on social (compassionate conservative) issues, whereas GWB was, well, different in the other direction. In that way the frequently made comparison between his leadership team and the Blairite group is a fair comparison (they both really are different from what came before, and are not much different from each other). The difference, it seems to me, is that the Kinnock/Mandelson/Clarke/Blair/Brown group genuinely changed the character of their party, right down to the roots, and for a very long time (maybe for good). I think that because I watched the whole thing pretty closely, knowing a fair number of party members who genuinely moved quite quickly to the right, not insincerely and not particularly self-consciously. The question is, has the same thing happened to the Tories? I doubt it, myself, though I can’t have access to the kind of information that would give me confidence in my judgment (Peter Briffa, since you’re here, what do you think??). If I’m right, and the Tories win with a small majority or have to strike a deal with the LibDems, life will not be much fun for Cameron and his team.

If Labour wins, David Miliband is going to be feeling a bit of a chump, I suspect.

11

Peter Briffa 04.06.10 at 5:26 pm

Harry, my pennyworth is that it’s pretty skin deep. Most of the new Tory candidates are much more anti-EU, pro the small state and more social reactionary than Cameron makes out he is, so he’ll be hard-pressed to move the party against them. He’ll probably do a lot of triangulation early on, with big eye-catching moves to try and get the Guardian-tendency on board, but he will also find it doesn’t work in power as attractively as it does in opposition. He’ll find it easier to talk left and act right. I think that’s generally the way the floating voters, and the Tories like it.

12

Enzo Rossi 04.06.10 at 5:38 pm

Brown was a lecturer at a Polytechnic in the 70’s, if I’m not mistaken. That does fit with Labour’s approach to higher education. (And no, I’m not being a snob: I teach at a new University).

13

Harry 04.06.10 at 5:55 pm

Thanks Peter, that has been my impression, but I suspect your pennyworth is worth more then my 20 dollarsworth. I think that (like even Blair whose party’s transformation was much deeper) he’ll have a much easier time, esp in the first 2-3 years, if he gets a very big majority, but whereas that looked certain (to me) a few months ago, it now looks quite unlikely.

Am I the only person who thinks that Labour deserves a very very bloody nose for Iraq? (see next post). Not sure I could vote even for these Tories to deliver it, but I wouldn’t think ill of anyone who did.

14

Enzo Rossi 04.06.10 at 6:11 pm

@ Harry

The British electorate have lost their chance to give Labour a bloody nose over Iraq. This election can only be almost exclusively about popular perceptions of the economy.

15

bert 04.06.10 at 6:50 pm

A small Tory majority will spell trouble on both Europe and Northern Ireland. And sooner rather than later. But surely even the most loyal Labour supporter can’t imagine that a further lease of life for Gordon Brown’s political career will do anything but harm.

The best outcome for all concerned?
Labour lose narrowly. Ed Balls is hit by a bus. The tabloids print pictures of George Osborne in a dress. Chancellor Vince! And another election within 18 months.

Unfortunately, my money is on a small overall Tory majority and some highly unpleasant post-defeat score-settling.

16

Darius Jedburgh 04.06.10 at 7:49 pm

The REF, and particularly the “impact agenda,” will without doubt seriously distort and mediocritise academic research in the UK for no good reason, and could not have been proposed by anyone who understands what a university is (by which I mean, what a university is supposed to be). Willets has expressed opposition to both; this is pro tanto evidence that he knows what a university is. Nothing follows about whether one should vote Tory, or whether the Tories will cut the UK HE sector (they probably will, savagely).

17

Harry 04.06.10 at 8:04 pm

Bert’s best case scenario is novel-worthy.

18

dsquared 04.06.10 at 11:01 pm

Willets has expressed opposition to both; this is pro tanto evidence that he knows what a university is. Nothing follows about whether one should vote Tory, or whether the Tories will cut the UK HE sector (they probably will, savagely).

quite: the proverb “money talks and bullshit walks” comes to mind.

19

Phil 04.06.10 at 11:58 pm

Some academic colleagues are even making pro-Tory noises

Guilty as charged, on the grounds stated by Darius, although on mature reflection I agree with his conclusion. And besides…

I’d vote for the most left wing candidate who has a chance of winning, regardless of party; that will only very rarely be the Tory, but in some constituencies it will be Labour, in others LibDem, and, perhaps, in one or two it will be Green, Plaid, or SNP

Emph added – it’s really hard to imagine circumstances in which it would be possible to advocate a Left vote for the Tory candidate, particularly given the heightened levels of party-mindedness prevailing at election time. This partly derives from tribal identification but partly from rational calculation – I mean, I think my Lib Dem MP is genuinely to the Left of his Labour challenger, as an individual, but returning him would also give the Lib Dems one more parliamentary vote on party-line issues, so I’ve got to consider whether I want my vote to contribute to that. (I’m probably going to cop out and vote Green, with an eye on the next election or the one after next.)

20

Phil 04.07.10 at 12:00 am

I’ll rephrase that.

Some academic colleagues are even making pro-Tory noises

Guilty as charged, on the grounds stated by Darius, although on mature reflection I agree with his conclusion.

21

Neil 04.07.10 at 12:34 am

This election reminds me of Australia 1996. Many on the left are saying that Labo(u)r have it coming to them and that the other lot are in any case indistinguishable from them. At worst, they said, it didn’t matter who won (Geoffrey Wheatcroft in yesterday’s Guardian is only the latest example). They were wrong in 1996 because once in power the right could drop their lies, and incumbency has power. They will make things worse for those who are already vulnerable.

22

john b 04.07.10 at 1:14 am

Neil @21, see also US 2000. I can’t believe that after eight years of GWB, anyone on the left can even *possibly consider* suggesting that the two sides are indistinguishable.

Or, specifically, suggesting that in a tightly-fought centrist vs far-right-in-centrist-clothes battle won on FPTP, there’s some kind of merit or moral purity in voting for further-left-leaning candidates with no hope of winning.

If you live in a Labour/Tory marginal seat in the UK, and you don’t vote Labour, you are not left-wing. You’re supporting and contributing to every nasty, repressive thing that Chris Grayling believes. Ditto if you live in a LD/Tory marginal and you don’t vote LD.

(obviously, if you live in any other kind of marginal seat, or in a seat you’re confident will remain safely incumbent-held, you’re free to vote for whoever you like and still class yourself as left-wing…)

23

john b 04.07.10 at 1:15 am

I don’t *think* there are any SNP/Tory or Plaid/Tory marginals, but if there are then the same rules apply…

24

Salient 04.07.10 at 1:30 am

johnb, I am sympathetic to you, but…

I can’t believe that after eight years of GWB, anyone on the left can even possibly consider suggesting that the two sides are indistinguishable… If you live in a Labour/Tory marginal seat in the UK, and you don’t vote Labour, you are not left-wing.

…This part of your comment would make a lot more sense if Labour under Blair hadn’t supported the War in Iraq. I guess you can assert that Labour didn’t start the Iraq War — that’s… something? — but would the Tories have started it, either?

25

Neil 04.07.10 at 1:36 am

Salient, my original comment did not say, and as far as I can see john b did not interpret it as saying, that Labo(u)r was virtuous, or decent, or even not bad. It said that there was a difference, and that difference matters to the lives of the most vulnerable. Blair may be guilty of war crimes (for all I am saying here), but I think it is very likely that (a) no one vulnerable was worse off for him being in power rather than the Tories and (b) some vulnerable people were better off for him being in power rather than the Tories. We can hope for, and work for, better, and we should. But we shouldn’t think that it does not matter who wins.

26

john b 04.07.10 at 2:07 am

Iraq’s an area where Labour did something morally wrong for a stupid reason (ie “maintaining our Special Relationship with the US”) that the Tories would absolutely, definitely and unequivocally also have followed. So yes, if Iraq’s the sole issue that floats your vote, then there’s no point in voting for either the Tories or Labour, because they had the same policy and it was wrong.

But if you’re actually left-wing (rather than, say, George Galloway), and base your vote on a range of things rather than just on the attitude the party had two Parliaments ago to a war that’s now all-but over, and you live in a constituency where the winner will either be from a right-wing party that was wrong on Iraq or a centrist party that was wrong on Iraq, then you’re still morally obliged to vote for the latter.

It’s also worth remembering the very limited harm that was done by Tony Blair’s decision to get involved in Iraq. The net result was that:

a) a lot of people internationally thought the British were slightly more wankerish than they previously thought us, at least until they forgot about it again.

b) the risk of Islamist terrorism against UK nationals rose from imperceptibly low to still imperceptibly low but slightly higher than before.

(also, some of the military casualties of the war became people with British passports instead of people with American passports. As far as I can see, that doesn’t affect the total harm done…)

27

christian h. 04.07.10 at 2:34 am

While I agree there’s a difference between Labour and the Tories, particularly in that Labour despite everything is still a party anchored in the organized working class (much more so than the US Democrats who can go to hell), it’s still the case that voting for them because the other guys are worse is a long-term recipe for a continuing rightward shift. It’s not so much the voting as such as the related desire to avoid embarrassment for Labour – “let’s not strike now” etc. (we saw in the US how a desire to protect Democrats undermined the anti-war movement starting in 2004) – resulting in no pressure from the left on the political class, compared to constant blackmail from the bosses combined with the natural tendency of capitalism to move towards increased exploitation and aggression if left unchecked, that leads to this steady movement to the right.

In the end, voting for Labour (or Democrats) over and over without making the effort to build an alternative to the left (something that can’t be done without voting for people with no chance of winning for some time, unless the remaining few Labour left people jump ship… if there are enough left of them) will only delay the inevitable, and make any recovery from it that much more difficult. If I had to decide, I’d vote Labour only under one of the following conditions: (a) candidate is best placed to keep BNP out (Hodge in Barking); (b) candidate is, in fact, a socialist (eg Corbyn); (c) Labour/Tory marginal with at least acceptable Labour MP.

28

christian h. 04.07.10 at 2:39 am

john b, Blair provided extremely useful cover for Bush’s decision to go to war. In my opinion it is highly questionable the Iraq war would have happened without British support. As for the other issues someone left wing might care about, Blair consciously continued Thatcherite policies. There’s absolutely nothing left wing about New Labour – it’s simply not quite as horribly right wing as the Tories are.

29

Salient 04.07.10 at 2:39 am

Apologies, I misinterpreted as something more along the lines of “if you vote e.g. Lib Dem in a district Tories might win, you can’t call yourself left-wing.” Which wouldn’t make sense, for example, if a voter felt a moral obligation to only support political parties which have not recently advocated for or supported an unjust war.

I confess to not understanding enough about current partisan politics in the U.K. (though I’m trying to learn) to know whether it could make sense to vote for a particular Tory despite having little in common with the Tory party platform, but around here it can sometimes make sense to support a local Republican, as while the Republican is clearly more problematically conservative on issues x, y, z, the Democrat has, say, corruption issues which prevent supporting them. Conversely supporting a Republican for federal office as a potential maverick is currently insane; whatever their personal politics, they’ll vote with the block for sure. In the 90s that wasn’t so much the case.

30

harry b 04.07.10 at 2:48 am

Phil — its all much too hard to decide in particular cases, but some Tory MPs are to the left of some LibDems, and maybe some Labour MPs, at least on issues where they might have some impact. It could only matter in a hung, or very narrowly held, parliament, in which parties will have great difficulty controlling their fringes. But that is the hoped-for outcome, and if the election goes solidly Tory it doesn’t matter much who wins your seat.

Salient is right about the US, which is mostly different from the UK.

31

derrrida derider 04.07.10 at 4:09 am

From this distance (Australia) the best outcome would surely be a hung parliament because the Lib-Dems would, if they have any sense at all, make getting rid of FPTP their number one condition of supporting any government. You would not then be facd with these dilemmas in future. But is a hung parliament likely?

32

Keir 04.07.10 at 4:40 am

Brown was the Rector at Edinburgh while still a student (1), so `four years as a lecturer while trying to become an MP’ is a bit of an understatement.

(1) Yes this was a bit of an odd occurrence.

33

john b 04.07.10 at 5:15 am

Blair provided extremely useful cover for Bush’s decision to go to war. In my opinion it is highly questionable the Iraq war would have happened without British support.

That’s your opinion, and you’re entitled to it. I’d note for the sake of the record, however, that the opposite opinion is held by absolutely every serious commentator on the war, irrespective of political hue.

34

christian h. 04.07.10 at 5:34 am

john b: Oh dear, really? By absolutely every serious commentator on the war? I’m not sure what “political hues” you consider to be “serious” – although I can guess Nick Cohen is the extreme left of the spectrum – but in any event I’d be careful with the use of words like “every”. Let alone “absolutely every”, emphasized by italics.

It’s nice you think I’m entitled to my opinion. I won’t return the favour. Your defence of war criminals and murderers is, frankly, despicable. But then, you are a self-identified liberal, so I guess it’s par for the course.

35

Chris Bertram 04.07.10 at 6:45 am

_I’d vote for the most left wing candidate who has a chance of winning, regardless of party; that will only very rarely be the Tory_

Quite possibly this applies to the unique case of John Bercow, Speaker of the House (and as such, irrelevant), who is widely suspected by his Tory colleagues of not being a Tory.

36

novakant 04.07.10 at 7:50 am

I’m just glad the whole carnival lasts only a month in the UK.

37

ajay 04.07.10 at 8:46 am

Agree with 32: people like Donald Rumsfeld were looking for reasons to go to war with Iraq while the dust was still rising in New York. He ordered CentCom to update its Iraq invasion plan as a matter of urgency (and gave them a week to do it) while they were in the middle of running the battle of Tora Bora. I really doubt that the juggernaut would have been delayed by Tony Blair’s decision to put the British Army into Afghanistan instead of Iraq.
Note that the US tried hard to get France and Germany and Canada into Iraq as well – but when they refused, the war wasn’t derailed. Why think it would be any different for the UK?

There’s absolutely nothing left wing about New Labour

Check inequality and child poverty statistics since 1997 and then get back to us.

38

Chris Bertram 04.07.10 at 9:06 am

_If you live in a Labour/Tory marginal seat in the UK, and you don’t vote Labour, you are not left-wing. You’re supporting and contributing to every nasty, repressive thing that Chris Grayling believes. Ditto if you live in a LD/Tory marginal and you don’t vote LD._

This is such transparent shite that I’m almost embarrassed at being bothered to comment on it. But since I’ve got over that hurdle, let me start by pointing out the really obvious point that since an individual’s vote is highly unlikely to make a difference to the constituency result it can’t be taken to be helping Chris Grayling either. More generally, though, anyone building a new political movement (green, socialist, whatever) is going to have to regard that as involving _inter alia_ increasing their national share of the vote over several, even many, electoral cycles. There wouldn’t be as many Lib Dems as there are today if, in the deepest troughs of their electoral performance, committed Liberals hadn’t carried on voting for them in hopeless constituencies.

39

Phil 04.07.10 at 9:34 am

I wouldn’t let Labour off as lightly as John does. New Labour has done some really awful things in the last 13 years*. Some of them the Tories would have done anyway (Iraq, lying about Iraq); some the Tories are happy to oppose now but would almost certainly have done anyway (PFI, ID cards). But that still leaves a couple of really awful policies which are very New Labour, with Old Labour connections (ASB and the ‘Respect agenda’, counter-terrorism) – and yes, some Tories have stood up against them.

But politics here is still tribal, which I think is basically a good thing. Radical change will come – if it comes at all – from a united party with mass support, not from a constellation of individual MPs in different parties whose radical leanings happen to coincide. And there’s the other tribe to think about – electing a Tory would mean electing someone subject to Tory party discipline.

I personally think the Labour Party is more or less dead, which is why I’m in favour of voting Plaid, SSP, Green, RESPECT or TUSC – the hacienda must be built, as the man said. But – as I said in the blog post I linked to above – the question “Labour or Tory?” causes me about as much hesitation and heart-searching as the question “What’s your name?”

40

Phil 04.07.10 at 9:38 am

*Forgotten footnote:

Interesting slip: I wrote “New Labour has done some really awful things in the last 13 years” but originally wrote “11 years”. Which is the period from 1979 to 1990 – two and a half terms of a popular and charismatic reactionary, whose successor was widely believed not to have a hope of winning an election in his own right…

41

Chris Bertram 04.07.10 at 9:47 am

_The REF, and particularly the “impact agenda,” will without doubt seriously distort and mediocritise academic research in the UK for no good reason, and could not have been proposed by anyone who understands what a university is _

It isn’t clear to me that the REF will have this effect any more than the RAE has done, and REF is, essentially, just a new name for RAE. Is academic research in the UK more mediocre than it was pre-RAE? I don’t think there’s any good evidence for this. “Impact” is more worrisome, I agree. But what the impact of “impact” will be is very uncertain, so your lack of doubt about the specific effects of this policy seems unwarranted.

More of a threat, imho, is the culture of managerialism in British universities, a culture that has grown up partly in response to demands from politicians for “accountability” and the conditionalization of more and more funding streams on conformity to political objectives. “Impact” is just one example of that rather than being a qualitatively new departure. Senior university managers have the power they have because of the way they mediate the relationship between funders (essentially government) and academics.

One way of escaping from this would be, as Peter Briffa says above, to go private. Would private universities, lacking, as they do, the kind of endowments top US schools have, be able to generate the revenues necessary to pay top international scholars across a wide range of disciplines? Doubtful. If a university went private, would government allow it to continue to bid for RCUK support? (If no, we’re broke, if yes, we’re still having to respond to the “impact agenda” etc.) And fee paying students would, no doubt, want value for their money. So we (or most of us) are stuck in dependence on the taxpayer. And when politicians ask, on the taxpayer’s behalf, what they are getting for their N-billion pounds of funding (in the middle of a squeeze, many that might be spent on other stuff), that doesn’t seem unreasonable, in a democracy.

Now you might say, and perhaps you’re right, that all this monitoring, checking, accounting for the dosh is actually counterproductive. That it results in a worse university system producing poorer research than we would have if the state just handed over the cash and left us to get on with it. But even if you are right, the fact is that the public and the political class simply do not trust us enough to do that. As far as they’re concerned academics are just another interest group with a particular flavour of hand-wringing and special pleading.

42

ajay 04.07.10 at 10:51 am

Also raises the question of why academia should be the only group of society that gets given money by the government and allowed to do pretty much what they want with it. Should, for example, military procurement be run entirely by the armed forces with no input from the MoD? Should the national curriculum and the entire education department be abolished, in favour of a small office that simply writes a capitation cheque for every school in the country?

I’m not saying that these are necessarily ridiculous ideas, but they seem to be analogous.

43

Chris Williams 04.07.10 at 11:31 am

Ajay, how about: “Because disgruntled clever people with a sense of entitlement have been a source of massive political instability in post-feudal Europe, and this is a cheap way of keeping them occupied now that we have no empire to send them to?”

44

ajay 04.07.10 at 11:41 am

43: I hope you’ve read Bruce Sterling’s “Distraction” in which a hyperactive political consultant starts brainstorming about how to save a lab whose funding has been cut: “Maybe we could say you’re all insane and research is your group therapy!” And he goes on to suggest that another way would be to set up a protection racket: getting paid by established industries not to research the disruptive technologies that would undermine their entire business models.

45

steven 04.07.10 at 12:01 pm

Harry @ 10 —

I don’t doubt that Cameron and his leadership are, really, very different from what the Tories offered before on social (compassionate conservative) issues

Really?

46

dsquared 04.07.10 at 12:07 pm

Should, for example, military procurement be run entirely by the armed forces with no input from the MoD?

As opposed to the current state of affairs (ie, largely run by the aerospace industry), I can see some points in favour of this idea.

47

dsquared 04.07.10 at 12:13 pm

Also:

Also raises the question of why academia should be the only group of society that gets given money by the government and allowed to do pretty much what they want with it.

this is arguably the case today, but this is because academia is basically a nationalised industry. When we had lots of other nationalised industries, decisions about funding of plants were in principle left to the management, and the inevitable periodic political interference was always a bad idea. I think something like the NHS model with broad outcome-related targets (oh noes! targetssess we hatesss em!) might make more sense than the idea that you can measure the quality of individual departments at the sort of resolution that the RAE presumes – the whole framework is more or less set up so that it’s bound to deliver completely useless semi-detached metrics like journal impact studies.

48

Stuart 04.07.10 at 2:02 pm

getting paid by established industries not to research the disruptive technologies that would undermine their entire business models.

Joining think tanks is already a viable way of getting paid for academics.

49

ajay 04.07.10 at 4:00 pm

48: for some academics. Not so much for astronomers or population geneticists or palaeontologists.

50

christian h. 04.07.10 at 4:09 pm

Agree with 32: people like Donald Rumsfeld were looking for reasons to go to war with Iraq while the dust was still rising in New York …

Even in a completely undemocratic country like the US, decisions to go to war aren’t made by a couple people. They are the result of various pressures being brought to bear. A clear anti-war line by the UK would have tipped the balance. There’s a big difference between dismissing “old Europe” and going to war with one ally, and dismissing the Anglo-Saxon brother nation that never capitulated to fascism etc. I am frankly stunned at this attempt to make excuses for Blair and New Labour.

Check inequality and child poverty statistics since 1997 and then get back to us.

Inequality increased steadily. How’s that a sign for left politics? I’m baffled. Or maybe you fell for deliberately misleading graphs claiming to present “income inequality” statistics when they really only present income tax data?

To repeat myself, there’s something left about Labour – namely its roots in the Labour movement. There’s nothing left about New Labour, though.

51

ajay 04.07.10 at 5:41 pm

I am frankly stunned at this attempt to make excuses for Blair and New Labour.

Saying that the war would have happened anyway is not making excuses for Blair.

And note that the “old Europe” description doesn’t pre-date the Iraq War buildup – it was a post hoc justification for why not having French and German support didn’t matter. France wasn’t “old Europe” when it was sending its troops into Afghanistan.
Note also that Canada is not part of “old Europe” and is as close a US ally as the UK, if not closer.
Note also that Turkey is not part of “old Europe” either; that Turkish participation would have been invaluable, both in the sense of having a large Muslim ally with a large army on board, and because of the value of being able to invade from Turkey into the north; that the war plans for Iraq originally presupposed Turkish cooperation, in the form of acting as a base for (IIRC) 4 ID and the 101st Airborne; and that when this was withdrawn, the war went ahead anyway.

I’m not aware of anyone in a position to know in the US saying “British support was vital; without it we wouldn’t have gone ahead.” In fact, Rumsfeld for one said exactly the opposite: that allied support was nice to have but not essential, and that the US would go ahead without them if necessary.

Incidentally, what happened when LBJ asked Harold Wilson to send British troops to fight alongside the US in Vietnam, and Wilson refused? Did that stop the Vietnam War? Did a clear anti-war line by the UK tip the balance in that case?

52

ajay 04.07.10 at 5:42 pm

Re inequality, this might be of interest.
http://www.ifs.org.uk/projects/323

53

Chris Bertram 04.07.10 at 6:05 pm

A correspondent writes, re my remark:

bq. Now you might say, and perhaps you’re right, that all this monitoring, checking, accounting for the dosh is actually counterproductive. That it results in a worse university system producing poorer research than we would have if the state just handed over the cash and left us to get on with it. But even if you are right, the fact is that the public and the political class simply do not trust us enough to do that. As far as they’re concerned academics are just another interest group with a particular flavour of hand-wringing and special pleading.

to tell me that this is a false dichotomy, and that “no accountability” and “this regime” aren’t the only options. I’m happy to concede that he’s right about that point.

54

Anderson 04.07.10 at 6:18 pm

Even in a completely undemocratic country like the US

That suggests a paucity of adverbs to describe the relative democratic status of North Korea or the People’s Republic of China.

… But what I meant to ask was, for the benefit of American readers, is there any realistic prospect that the Lib Dems might cut a deal with the Tories if no party secures an absolute majority? Or are they pretty much stuck riding shotgun with Labour?

55

ajay 04.07.10 at 6:31 pm

1) There doesn’t have to be a formal coalition (with a shared cabinet, etc) for a government to be formed in a hung parliament. It’s perfectly possible for the Lib Dems to say “we will vote with the Conservatives as long as they, in their first year, introduces bills on the following Lib Dem policy priorities”. The Conservatives would be the government, with a minority of seats, but they’ d be able to function as long as they got Lib Dem support.

2) But the Queen will, custom dictates, ask the leader of the largest party to form a government. So you won’t see a Labour minority government, judging by current polls – it would have to be a formal coalition.

3) If a Lib-Lab coalition doesnt form and the Conservatives can’t strike a deal with the Lib Dems, the Conservatives could still form the government, but they wouldn’t last very long because they’d lose a vote of confidence and have to call another election.

4) I would not say that a Lib-Con coalition is very likely. A Lib-Con deal (see above) is probably more likely but still not very.

56

Anderson 04.07.10 at 6:34 pm

Thanks Ajay!

57

mds 04.07.10 at 7:00 pm

The best outcome for all concerned? Labour lose narrowly.

I’ll drink to that.

Ed Balls is hit by a bus.

Can we have this one regardless of electoral outcome? Sweet, sweet irony points because it would presumably be a red bus. (I suspect that Ed thinks he’s affiliated with a fan club dedicated to the American entertainer.)

The tabloids print pictures of George Osborne in a dress.

They’ve sat on them for this long; why change now? Because he’d be a smug little twit with power? … Hmm, I concede the point.

Chancellor Vince!

This would be nothing short of awesome, but would run afoul of the immutable physical law that no one who was at all correct in advance about the global financial crisis can be promoted over those who were utterly, idiotically wrong. See also: zombie economics.

And another election within 18 months.

As long as we’re being fanciful, can’t we keep Chancellor Vince for a little while longer?

58

curious 04.07.10 at 7:14 pm

Ajay isn’t quite right.

The Queen doesn’t pick the party with the largest number of votes. She appoints as govt the party who can gain the confidence of the House of Commons. This could be the second largest party–for instance, Labour–if Labour could show that it had the support of the Lib Dems or some other party or parties, and together the number of seats outnumbered the Conservatives. Moreover, the incumbent PM (Brown) has the right to remain on and face Parliament if there is a hung parliament–so if there were a hung parliament Brown has that option open (politically–that’s a different matter).

Minority govts can work quite well because a minority govt doesn’t necessarily equate to a majority opposition–often opposition parties don’t want to be seen as the party which caused a fresh election. But certainly point 1 is more likely.

59

William Uspal 04.07.10 at 7:59 pm

re: ajay and curious, is there a precedent in British politics for any government, (minority, coalition, &c.) that doesn’t include the party with largest number of seats? For instance, I just looked at the Lib-Lab pact of 1977-79, and Labour, while in minority government, was still the largest party in Commons.

If I’m not mistaken, some of the opposition to a Liberal/NDP/Bloc government in Canada stemmed from the lack of precedent for a coalition that excluded the largest party.

60

Anderson 04.07.10 at 8:11 pm

William, it’s happened in Canada, hasn’t it?

In September 1925, King requested dissolution of Parliament to call an election, which Lord Byng granted. In the election Arthur Meighen’s Conservative Party won 116 seats to 99 for King’s Liberals. Counting on the support of the Progressive Party (which had 24 seats) to overcome the Conservative plurality, King (who had lost his seat in the election) did not resign and remained in office with the support of Progressive Party, as a minority government. Strictly speaking, this was not a coalition government, as the Progressives were not given any cabinet seats and were thus not a part of the government.

61

tomslee 04.07.10 at 8:20 pm

“If I’m not mistaken, some of the opposition to a Liberal/NDP/Bloc government in Canada stemmed from the lack of precedent for a coalition that excluded the largest party.”

Well, some of the opposition from conservative supporters :). As it turned out, the coalition was never put to the test, so we don’t know what opposition there would have been.

62

mds 04.07.10 at 8:25 pm

If I’m not mistaken, some of the opposition to a Liberal/NDP/Bloc government in Canada stemmed from the lack of precedent for a coalition that excluded the largest party.

Given the fluid nature of Westminster conventions, I suspect there would have been little formal trouble with a minority government that failed a confidence vote being replaced by a majority coalition. The practical issue hinged more on the optics of forming said majority coalition without an election intervening. Regardless, Harper Imperator didn’t want to put it to the test, which is why he dissolved Parliament the first time and spent the resulting downtime demagoging the notion of majority rule and a governing coalition that included the BQ, aka his minority government’s previous primary source of support.

63

chris y 04.07.10 at 8:54 pm

William Upsal @59. Yes, Labour in 1924.

64

christian h. 04.07.10 at 9:53 pm

I’m not aware of anyone in a position to know in the US saying “British support was vital; without it we wouldn’t have gone ahead.” In fact, Rumsfeld for one said exactly the opposite: that allied support was nice to have but not essential, and that the US would go ahead without them if necessary.

And again this is utterly irrelevant. Of course people who wanted war would say that, and make it appear inevitable – it’s a marketing technique. There was no reason for the question “do we go to war without UK support” to come up since Blair was such an enthusiastic supporter of the enterprise. Do you seriously believe that politics in any country – even North Korea, say – is just a game played by a handful of people who happen to have executive authority, without any regard for what everybody else thinks, or how everybody else acts? Because that’s just bollocks.

And note that the “old Europe” description doesn’t pre-date the Iraq War buildup – it was a post hoc justification for why not having French and German support didn’t matter. France wasn’t “old Europe” when it was sending its troops into Afghanistan.

I’m not sure if you are missing the point on purpose, or just missing the point. The war faction in the US considered it necessary to dismiss French, German and Russian concerns in the public discussion (weird too, if you’re right that nothing anyone did could have changed the outcome). It would have been much harder for them to do so had the UK been opposed to war.

Saying that the war would have happened anyway is not making excuses for Blair.

john b precisely introduced the subject in order to make excuses for Blair, as in, the Iraq war should not be taken as a reason not to vote Labour, since what Blair did made no difference (according to john b, you, and “absolutely every serious commentator” which I suppose means “Eustonites”).

65

Anderson 04.08.10 at 1:40 am

FWIW, my impression is that Blair’s support for the Iraq war did a lot to persuade American liberals and independents who might have been on the fence or opposed, otherwise. But that’s a subjective impression; as I occasionally pinch myself & remember, the damn war started a long time ago.

66

john b 04.08.10 at 2:25 am

@64 ITYF that Eustonites are among the few people not to take that line on the war, because they believe both that the war was Excellent and that Blair was Excellent.

@65 agreed, but at that stage the US government didn’t need the support of liberals and independents – the US public was 63% in favour of the war in Jan 2003, with another 15% fence-sitting. Bush’s personal public rating at the time of the war buildup varied between 60-70%.

In general – no, Washington isn’t a North Korea-like fiefdom – but in the US political system, if you have a combination of an angry nation, a highly popular president who wants a war, and a group of advisers to the highly popular president who also want a war and are happy to use their media influence to spread absolute lies about how their plan for war is directly connected to the source of the nation’s anger, then a war isn’t going to be avoided just because the leader of a borderline-relevant former imperial power and usual ally doesn’t approve of it.

(Vietnam’s a good example: unlike Iraq, that one was massively unpopular domestically, the US’s only allies were SK, Aus and NZ, the UK not only didn’t participate but actively opposed it – but it still happened and continued happening because that’s what the American system tends to lead to…)

67

christian h. 04.08.10 at 3:10 am

A war in Iraq was not, originally, popular in the US. That’s simply incorrect. It was made popular by a marketing campaign that – especially in its effect on the vaguely liberal elite that controls significant parts of published opinion in the US – crucially relied on the cover provided by Blair (he’s soooo much more eloquent than Bush) and – to be clear – other liberals, not to mention the “intelligence” coming from the UK used by Powell in his UN presentation. There was absolutely nothing inevitable about the Iraq war in the fall of 2002 and even Winter 2002/2003. Obviously all alternative history is guess-work, but absolutely any commentator who claims to be sure the decision of the UK government to support the war had no impact is, I’d say, not serious. Or anyway cannot be taken seriously.

Blair and New Labour share responsibility for the disaster visited on Iraq, and nothing can wash that stench of blood away. If you have to rely on the smoke and mirrors of highly questionable hypotheticals like this to save the country from the Tories, maybe it’s time to jump off the sinking New Labour ship and try something different anyway.

68

ajay 04.08.10 at 8:59 am

Christian, I’m curious to know why you think not only that UK support was vital to the war, but that this is so obviously true that anyone who disagrees with you must be a fool or a lying apologist for aggression?
Labour won’t be getting my vote this year for the first time, solely because of the decision to invade Iraq – so I’m hardly an apologist for Blair.
As I’ve explained: there were many other US allies who demurred from the Iraq war; their refusal did not derail the process. Many of them had considerably more strategic importance. Previous UK refusals to join US wars did not stop those wars (eg. Vietnam). You’ll need to explain why the UK is different from all other allies, and why Iraq was different from all other wars.

One way I suggest you approach this question is through falsifiability. You believe that UK support was crucial. Imagine a counterfactual in which UK support was irrelevant. How would that have looked different from the reality?

69

Richard J 04.08.10 at 9:20 am

The tabloids print pictures of George Osborne in a dress.

As I’ve heard it, Osborne’s skeleton in his closet isn’t wearing a dress.

70

Chris Williams 04.08.10 at 9:34 am

What’s this about the UK opposing the US in Vietnam? I was under the impression that the UK gave the US political support over Vietnam, but not military suppport. In other words, Wilson’s position was “We think that it’s good for the Americans to be doing what they are doing, but we’re not going to join in.” Please correct me if I’m wrong.

71

engels 04.08.10 at 9:41 am

Even if the Iraq war would have gone ahead in an imaginary world in which the British government had not taken part, why would anyone think this makes them any less responsible for the part they did, in fact, play in it?

72

engels 04.08.10 at 9:47 am

Compare: I’m offered a sum of money to carry out a contract killing. If I don’t take the money I know someone else will. Does that mean I won’t be responsible for the murder, or that it doesn’t really matter what I do?

73

Phil 04.08.10 at 10:08 am

Labour won’t be getting my vote this year for the first time, solely because of the decision to invade Iraq

They got your vote in 2005, then?

I’m actually considering the possibility of voting Labour this time, because (a) no Blair and (b) Cameron. But Iraq wasn’t the deal-breaker for me – I loathed New Labour from day one.

74

ajay 04.08.10 at 11:06 am

70: it’s a bit more complex than that.
Wilson tried to negotiate peace and opposed the bombing of Hanoi, but his predecessor Macmillan sent Robert Thompson and the BRIAM team to Saigon in 1961. It certainly wasn’t unfettered Israel-in-Gaza type support, or out-and-out opposition; probably closest to the German or Canadian attitude towards the Iraq war, actually.

71: It doesn’t, of course. This was addressing two points: christian’s assertion that “Blair provided extremely useful cover for Bush’s decision to go to war. In my opinion it is highly questionable the Iraq war would have happened without British support” and john b’s point that “It’s also worth remembering the very limited harm that was done by Tony Blair’s decision to get involved in Iraq”. Guilt and responsibility are a separate issue – both those points are looking at outcomes.

73: OK, I misspoke. I was unexpectedly unable to vote in 2005 (out of the country without time to set up a postal vote). I should have said “I will be voting for someone other than Labour for the first time this year.” Had I been able to do so, I would have voted for someone other than Labour in 2005 too, for the same reason.

75

engels 04.08.10 at 11:24 am

Well isn’t equally as absurd in this case to say that there was ‘very little harm done’ as a result of the decision to go to war? There was a great deal of harm done: for example, large numbers of people were killed, maimed, or driven from their homes by British armed forces. That you think a great deal of harm would also have been done (by other people) if a different decision had been made doesn’t seem to me to change that

76

Abelard 04.08.10 at 11:40 am

The debate about whether, counterfactually, Blair’s support was necessary for the Iraq war. Obviously it’s a tricky one, but:

i) it’s correct to say (I think) that Blair’s support played a major part in building the US consensus for war. People unsure about Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld, but supportive of the Clintonite wing of the Democratic party trusted Blair’s judgement, I think; 67 is correct about the use of Blair’s “eloquence” in American political discourse at the time. I was in DC for a bit of this period and was just shocked by the extent to which Blair, the British parliamentary debate just before the war, etc etc, were a part of ordinary political discussion. (I was, repeatedly, congratulated for having Blair as a prime minister – by shop assistants and hotel receptionists and etc etc.)

ii) the fact that American debate dismissed the complaints of usual allies (France, Germany) only made the British more important. The support of the British government left the pro-war people ascribing French and German opposition to the particular perfidy of those peoples, because, look, the British can see the points we’re making.

So I think the argument could go like this: the Iraq war could have been a hugely divisive, more strictly partisan, proposal. Instead of this, it was generally consensual at an elite level: about 2/5 of House Dems, and a majority of Senate Dems, voted in favour of the AUMF, and of course a lot of “respectable” liberal opinion went in favour of the war. I think British support had a surprising amount to do with the latter outcome – specifically, that it legitimised Atlanticist, moderate-leftish, support for the war.

There might have been other ways in which liberal support would have coalesced (not as much, though?) around the war plan. But, supposing it hadn’t, the question comes down to this: would the Bushies have been willing to go to war on a narrowly partisan basis, with a much more divided/opposed media, with perhaps just enough support from a couple of hawkish Dems in the Senate to narrowly pass an AUMF? I’m not sure they would (though it’s clearly debatable).

77

engels 04.08.10 at 12:26 pm

Interestingly I was told by Blairites at the time that Blair’s desire for removing Saddam was such that he’d have been pressing for military action even without American support. It was nothing to do with going along with Washington it was a matter of conviction.

78

mds 04.08.10 at 12:41 pm

But, supposing it hadn’t, the question comes down to this: would the Bushies have been willing to go to war on a narrowly partisan basis, with a much more divided/opposed media, with perhaps just enough support from a couple of hawkish Dems in the Senate to narrowly pass an AUMF?

Yes. This isn’t even actually a particularly debatable hypothetical. The Bush administration definition of “mandate” demonstrably wasn’t the same as yours or mine. Combine that with an inner circle full of people who spent the nineties agitating for another war with Iraq, an inner circle whose first thought on 9/11 was “Now we can take out Saddam,” and it’s a foregone conclusion. The Onion put it best: “Bush on North Korea: We Must Invade Iraq.”

And no, this doesn’t excuse Blair’s obsequiousness and rhetorical support for a war under false pretenses. The Downing Street minutes made it clear that the Bush administration was falsifying intelligence. Even if the US had gone ahead regardless, the right thing to do would be to come out against it. Instead, Tony parroted the lines even after he knew they were false. On the other hand, he probably thought it was worth it. Why, look at all the help he got in return from the Bush administration on Israel / Palestine.

79

engels 04.08.10 at 12:44 pm

Another case: A and B jointly attack and beat C resulting in his death. The attack is so severe that C would have died from injuries inflicted by either A or B alone, that is, without either A’s or B’s involvement the outcome would still have been death. Would you say that the harm done by either A or B was ‘very limited’?

80

Ceri B. 04.08.10 at 12:59 pm

I don’t think Blair’s support of Bush made one bit of difference out in general public land, USA. But as others have suggested, there’s a big Anglophilic streak in the upper-middle-class and professional class stratum that fancies itself liberal Beltway in outlook. Blair brought acceptable manner to the thuggish desire for war, and so provided cover for all the American elites wanting not to be too overtly bloodthirsty in their savagery (including lying to themselves about it, of course). I suspect from the vantage point of 2010 that they’d have found a domestic voice to do it if Blair had refused, but he sure helped out.

81

engels 04.08.10 at 1:09 pm

Can we all agree that, even granting the assumption that US would have invaded anyway, John’s claim that ‘very limited harm’ was done by Blair’s decision to go to war is false?

82

Harry 04.08.10 at 1:26 pm

Are engels’s posts invisible? Or is he unanswerable?

83

ajay 04.08.10 at 1:31 pm

I suspect from the vantage point of 2010 that they’d have found a domestic voice to do it if Blair had refused, but he sure helped out.

Colin Powell, I think.

84

chris y 04.08.10 at 1:32 pm

I’m not a professional ethicist, but I’d take a punt on ‘unanswerable’.

85

LizardBreath 04.08.10 at 1:40 pm

Blair brought acceptable manner to the thuggish desire for war, and so provided cover for all the American elites wanting not to be too overtly bloodthirsty in their savagery (including lying to themselves about it, of course).

As an American who was against the war from the beginning, I found Blair’s support disturbing: I understood (or thought I did) why the Americans cheerleading for the war were doing it, and disagreed with them, but I couldn’t figure out why Blair would be other than a sincere belief that it was a good idea. Not knowing all that much about UK politics, I thought of him as intelligent, basically goodwilled, and not subject to the same domestic political rewards for blowing stuff up that American politicians are, so I gave a fair amount of weight to his belief that invading Iraq was a reasonable thing to do. I eventually gave up on figuring it out, and decided that he could be wrong without my understanding why he was wrong, but if I had been shakier about my opposition to the war, Blair’s support might easily have shaken me.

That’s one anecdote, but if there’s any reasonably sized population out there that mostly thinks like I do, but is slightly more predisposed to be persuaded that war is a good idea, Blair probably had an influence on them.

86

Harry 04.08.10 at 2:52 pm

I’m with Lizardbreath (again) — I had numerous discussions with left-leaning Americans who were shaky or whatever in opposition to the war and who were being influenced in exactly the way LB describes by Blair (I thought that he was sincerely a liberal imperialist, and utterly naive about what a war would be like especially one led by the Americans, and I said so — I also said that I believed this meant that the WMD evidence played not much role for him, and remember explaining to about 10 people who Robin Cook was and why his resignation would have been decisive for me if I’d had any doubts at that point). This must have happened all over.

87

Chris Bertram 04.08.10 at 2:58 pm

John B seems to have given up responding here, but has reposted the claim about the “limited harm” done by Blair on his own blog. Maybe he’ll get round to explaining the defects in engels’s arguments there. Or maybe not.

88

ajay 04.08.10 at 3:24 pm

It’s very interesting to hear how much of a difference Blair personally seems to have made to the debate in the US. It sounds like it was more than I thought. However, see 80: I’m not sure how much difference it would have made if Bush had realised in January 2003 “oh no, we’re losing the educated upper-middle class Anglophile elite vote with this war thing!”

Comment 87 is pretty low quality. I wasn’t aware that john b was under some sort of obligation to the blog to hang around indefinitely and be called an apologist for genocide or whatever christian h. comes up with next.

89

LizardBreath 04.08.10 at 3:30 pm

However, see 80: I’m not sure how much difference it would have made if Bush had realised in January 2003 “oh no, we’re losing the educated upper-middle class Anglophile elite vote with this war thing!”

Speaking as the self-appointed voice of the affected population, I’m not sure. On the one hand, we’re not that big numerically. On the other hand, I’d bet that a pretty big chunk of the media, both the professional media and the 2003-era blogosphere, fell into that demographic. Without Blair, Bush might have drawn a lot more heat from the media.

Probably wouldn’t have stopped the war, but you can’t tell.

90

christian h. 04.08.10 at 3:41 pm

Well ajay, I’m still not sure if you are deliberately misreading me. I never claimed, as you assert, that only “fools or lying apologists” could think the Iraq war would have happened without Blair’s support. It was john b who claimed serious people can have only one opinion on the matter. I happen to think, for example, that mds is anything but an apologist for Blair, or a fool. He makes good points in 78, although I believe he also misjudges – as in overly personalizes – the way decisions are made in any political system, including the American one.

john b also claimed (and repeated that claim on his blog now) that Blair’s decision caused “very limited harm”, and he did so in the context of arguing for a Labour vote over a vote for a left alternative. How this can be interpreted as anything but making excuses is beyond me. (And I of course agree with engels on the “very limited harm” point.)

91

mds 04.08.10 at 6:53 pm

Without Blair, Bush might have drawn a lot more heat from the media.

[Insert soundtrack of hysterical laughter here]

and he did so in the context of arguing for a Labour vote over a vote for a left alternative.

How “left” does the left alternative have to be, by the way? If I were a citizen of the UK, I would probably be going LibDem, especially after the shameful Labour-Conservative lovefest that rammed through the Digital Economy Bill with minimal debate, over protestations from the Liberal Democrats. But are the LibDems particularly “left”? Other than by default, given how New Labour has leapfrogged over them to the right on basically everything, I mean.

92

Abelard 04.08.10 at 7:53 pm

89 et prev: the political risks the Republicans took would have been much, much greater without the bipartisan/internationalist cover that Blair helped provide; conceivably elements of the party would have balked sufficiently to create serious division within the administration and thus inaction. Compare that they did, in the end, take a UN route, as Blair and Democrats wanted & as the administration hardliners did not want. Compare that they did not, in the end, bomb Iran, despite apparently yearning to do so quite as much as they had previously yearned to do in Saddam.

I would be really interested to read a proper study of these questions involving actual facts & reasoned interpretation, btw.

93

Alex 04.08.10 at 9:10 pm

It’s also worth remembering the very limited harm that was done by Tony Blair’s decision to get involved in Iraq. The net result was that:

a) a lot of people internationally thought the British were slightly more wankerish than they previously thought us, at least until they forgot about it again.

b) the risk of Islamist terrorism against UK nationals rose from imperceptibly low to still imperceptibly low but slightly higher than before.

The London bombings were justified by pointing to the war in Iraq.

And you forgot c) hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died.

But they’re not “UK nationals” so who gives shit about them, right?

94

Alex 04.08.10 at 9:11 pm

Well that blockquote failed. I’ll repeat with quotes this time, just to be clear:

“It’s also worth remembering the very limited harm that was done by Tony Blair’s decision to get involved in Iraq. The net result was that:

a) a lot of people internationally thought the British were slightly more wankerish than they previously thought us, at least until they forgot about it again.

b) the risk of Islamist terrorism against UK nationals rose from imperceptibly low to still imperceptibly low but slightly higher than before.”

The London bombings were justified by pointing to the war in Iraq.

And you forgot c) hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died.

But they’re not “UK nationals” so who gives shit about them, right?

95

James Conran 04.08.10 at 9:11 pm

“A and B jointly attack and beat C resulting in his death. The attack is so severe that C would have died from injuries inflicted by either A or B alone, that is, without either A’s or B’s involvement the outcome would still have been death.”

This analogy is invalid because whatever would have happened without UK involvement the UK certainly wouldn’t have invaded Iraq without US involvement. It’s more like big bad A beats C to death while A’s smaller friend B (who wouldn’t have dreamed of taking on C without B) offers rhetorical support and the occasional supplementary kick.

96

Salient 04.08.10 at 9:19 pm

A vociferously defiant Tony Blair could have let to Colin Powell being unwilling to lie to the U.N., and/or greater U.N. resistance, which might have changed the tone of media reporting on the buildup to war — more talk of daring world-defying actions, perhaps. And maybe the scales would have tipped to Kerry in Ohio in 2004, or maybe Bush would’ve won by a larger margin.

But don’t forget just how many people were protesting the war in 2003-2004. The war was not terribly popular when first publicly proposed and it took a hard, crude sell of ‘they will kill you with imminent doom weapons’ to bring a majority on board, and that hard sell was made all the easier by the ability to point to an “international coalition” which apparently all acknowledged the threat (goodness, just thinking of the number of times I had that phrase thrown in my face in 2003… brings back memories).

97

engels 04.08.10 at 9:32 pm

James – it’s not an analogy. I thought John’s opinion must be based on a principle something like this: if I decide to participate in a project X which causes much harm, but X would have happened without my involvement, then my decision led to ‘very limited harm’. The example shows, I think, that this can not be true. Do you disagree?

98

Salient 04.08.10 at 9:44 pm

Like, does everyone remember the part where they were like ‘doooom weapons!’ and we were like ‘wha? feh’ and they were like ANTHRAX IN YOUR MAIL and we were like WAIT WUT and they were like ANTHRAX IN YOUR SENATOR’S MAIL and we were like …… oh crap and they were like YEAH AND NEXT IS WMD and we were like …… you’ve got to be shitting us and they were like EVEN THE U.N. AGREES and we were like …… wow, way to go U.N. ya basterds and they were like WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION and we were like ok, this is total b.s. and they were like CHEMICAL WEAPONS NUCULAR WEAPONS and we were like, wait don’t we have inspectors? and they were like INSPECTIONS FAIL SADDAM KICKS THEM OUT PLANS IMMINENT ASSAULT and we were like …… imminent? and they were like NUCLEAR SUNRISE IS GOING TO HAPPEN ANY DAY NOW and we were like …… and then some of us were like man this is b.s. they just want oil and some folks who used to be with us were like what, do you think it’s an international conspiracy to fight for oil? and we were like …… well uh …… yeah way to go U.N.

99

Salient 04.08.10 at 9:49 pm

And that guy Blair was like IRAQ IS LYING THEY HAS WMD and a lot of us kind of shut up about oil for a while because,

10,000 litres of anthrax; a far reaching VX nerve agent programme; up to 6,500 chemical munitions; at least 80 tonnes of mustard gas, possibly more than ten times that amount; unquantifiable amounts of sarin, botulinum toxin and a host of other biological poisons; an entire Scud missile programme

sounded not a lot like oil

100

Anderson 04.08.10 at 9:53 pm

unquantifiable amounts

Well, he did get *that* right. In some sense of the adjective.

Comments on this entry are closed.