The 6.5 year long Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq War says that Saddam Hussein was no imminent threat and Tony Blair “exaggerated” the case for war. The 2003 invasion of Iraq was “unnecessary”, not a “last resort” as the EU had reluctantly sanctioned, and Saddam Hussein was “no imminent threat”.
“We have concluded that the UK chose to join the invasion of Iraq before the peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted. Military action at that time was not a last resort.” – Chilcot
It is shocking in the extreme that Blair favoured guaranteeing a war over negotiation! See pages 3-4 of this document. In addition, that he gave Bush and America, seemingly unconditional backing, irrespective of the people or Parliament:
“I will be with you whatever” – Tony Blair
Making the case for war
Whilst the “dodgy dossier” may not have been “sexed up” it was certainly “exaggerated” with an end plan in mind to “regime change” to remove Saddam and then going looking for any evidence to sell the casus belli. Something, both Bush and Blair as religious persons would have wanted to do in line with Just War Theory.
Iraq Regime Change
“[Afghanistan] is our one act of regime change so far, so it had better be a good advertisement” – Tony Blair (p5)
He says the “overwhelming weight of international legal opinion” says the invasion was illegal. It had devastating consequences, he says, fuelling terrorism and war across the region. By any measure the invasion and occupation of Iraq “has been for many a catastrophe”. He says it has led to “a fundamental breakdown of trust in politics.” – Jeremy Corbyn
Nobody had an exit strategy, where have you heard that one before? There was little thought given to post-War reconstruction or politics. A travesty for the 180,000 civilians who have been killed in the 12 years since, now some 1-2,000 a month, only recent numbers of which can be blamed on ISIS. Rather than one Saddam Hussein, Iraqis now feel that they have “One thousand Saddams now”.
The Iraq War and the EU Referendum may be chalk and cheese in reality, but politically they are similar. They are momentous decisions with long-term consequences, mass public demonstrations, Parliamentary democracy and sovereignty issues, and the ability to end political careers. It also demonstrates the danger of siding with America against a European consensus. We may have a “special relationship” with the US, but we are also closer to Europe on other issues including a tendency to peaceful negotiation rather than international interference as the self-appointed “world’s policeman”.
So, politicians “exaggerate” the facts to fit the cause they have already made their minds up to pursue. Somewhat like the EU referendum campaigns! Perhaps a 6.5 year long inquiry into Brexit would drag the whole process until the next generation of voters vote to Remain! Indeed, Chilcot said that on a decision as momentous as war, “Regular reassessment is essential.”
Were there to be a Brexit Inquiry, its findings, I can tell you now, would be that both sides “exaggerated” the pseudo-facts, “exaggerated” the costs and benefits, “exaggerated” the fear and threat, leading to the travesty of a divided Britain, rising hate crime, decimated political leadership, and 3-10 years in economic doldrums whilst we negotiate our way back up the international leaderboard.
Between you and me, I once voted Tory – 30 years ago, and never yet Labouruntil Jeremy Corbyn inspired me. The Labour Leadership campaign, until Corbyn’s shoe-in to liven up the deadly proceedings, had initially deadened me to more of the same public school Oxbridge blue Labourites. Corbyn added heart, soul and principles – I don’t have to agree with him entirely, but we need a Tony Benn or Michael Foot for their beliefs and ethics, not just electability or the in-word according to Radio 4, credibility.
In the intervening 30 years I’ve voted LibDem and Green believing in free speech, equality and the environment. I have an Economics degree to my name, and so understand the economy – but it’s not an exact science, it’s more like being a meteorologist or historian with failed predictions and over-analytical hindsight still not faithfully dictating future outcomes.
“true Labour not blue Labour”
Corbyn has injected humane passionate inclusive positive politics back into the mix, he’s avoided criticism of the other candidates and made politics appealing to all ages once again. He’s packed out halls up and down the country. He’s apologised on behalf of Labour and welcome new and old members to Labour’s fold. He is, “true Labour not blue Labour“.
Globalisation is here to stay – and that is a good thing. I believe in a true globalisation, a fair trade where second and third world (what classist terminology) countries can export through economies of scale and relatively cheap labour until they rise up the economic rankings like the BRIC nations have but Africa, bar Nigeria and its oil, haven’t.
Capitalism and the not-so-Free Market
Capitalism exists not because of free market forces, but because those with power and economic privilege are able to fix the market. Under a true free market capitalism the banks, Iceland, Greece etc would have been allowed to go bust and would no doubt have been reformed and rebuilt (probably with outside support and freedom to reset currency) like Germany and Japan were post-War.
The EU or the fixed federal currency market, is not a free market, nor is protectionist America.
I no more believe in socialism as a divorced from reality theory than I do conservatism or capitalism, I do however believe in equality, human rights, opportunity and globalisation – as opportunity and undeniable reality. What this means is that my voting intentions lie across the field from Green to Liberal, Labour to Conservative, though given half the chance north of the border I’d probably vote SNP.
Nationalisation and Investment
I do believe in the re-nationalisation of basic transport, energy, and broadband, or their shared ownership by not-for-profit community interest companies as an alternative to buying them back. The Internet and fast transport are the modern industrial revolution, changes that cannot and should not be rolled back.
I also believe in responsible re-investment whilst interest rates are low and we have AAA rating. In infrastructure, for example, that will enable entrepreneurial expansion – something even Corbyn has voiced, he is not stuck entirely in the 1970s or the 1790s as Boris Johnson has termed it. Housing, transport, green/new-energy and technology need investment. Corbyn has said, as part of his Better Business plan:
“The current government seems to think ‘pro-business’ means giving a green light to corporate tax avoiders and private monopolies. I will stand up for small businesses, independent entrepreneurs, and the growing number of enterprises that want to cooperate and innovate for the public good.”
Vulnerable people need protection – Capitalism does not provide that. There has to be compromise with free market economics to achieve community care, compassion, and ethical responsibility. The focus on prosperity and opportunity ignores the needs of fair provision for all people and those disadvantaged by lack of possibility.
Socialism cannot meet that need without compromises either. I’ve always been a free market relative small-‘c’ capitalist with a socialist heart, green environment and liberal free speecher – that doesn’t mean a compromise candidate, but a strong-valued candidate willing to balance means and objectives, and prioritise people not power, not compromise principles. Labour has gone too far down the compromise route.
The language of “we cannot deliver principles or priorities until we have gained power (by any means)” leads to voter distrust. The politics of the majority may well be those of aspiration but the needs of the many are actually those of desperation and disenfranchisement.
“Something deeply attractive to most people in society of the idea of the cohesive, the coherent, the collective. The idea you don’t blame minorities, the idea you don’t make people with disabilities suffer, you don’t walk away from people with mental health conditions, you don’t walk away from people with problems. There’s something strong about a cohesive society…” – Jeremy Corbyn
Jeremy Corbyn & Political Change
Personally, switching from privilege to privation, through life and mental health circumstances, changed my politics. Politics now lacks principles and heart, Corbyn, Nicola Sturgeon, Natalie Bennett and Leanne Wood bring back something of that. They may yet reinvigorate the electorate.
Andy Burnham appears to be an opportunist, accused of flip-flopping policies for best outcome – remember he’s stood for leader before. Yvette Cooper has political history and association with the Blair-Brown years, and Liz Kendall is way too Blairite – and now cursed by the other Miliband. A cabinet composed of all of them stands a chance but bar Burnham (who seems to be manoeuvring himself to hedge his bets whilst everyone bets on Corbyn 1/4 whilst Burnham is 4/1) the others have stubbornly refused to share a table with Corbyn and Labour luminaries have done everything possible to derail and invalidate the democratic revival the leadership race has brought.
Democracy and Mass Appeal
By mass appeal I’m not talking majority aspiration, but appealing to the masses, the people who exist near the bottom bent under the weight of everyone else getting ahead by aspiration and avarice, and leaving them behind. Those forgotten, that even David Cameron cynically swore in 2010 before the election that he would not forget, during austerity. The poor, those on benefits, immigrants, the disabled, those with mental health issues, the forgotten and might as well be ‘disappeared’.
If print media column inches are counted then Jeremy Corbyn is streets ahead, and if social media is anything to go by then his Facebook campaign has 62,000 supporters (& 78k on his personal page) to Andy Burnham’s under 5,000 (18k on his personal page) Yvette Cooper’s 400 (20k on her personal page) and Liz Kendall’s 115 (7k on her personal page). Among my friends alone, 70 have liked Corbyn’s campaign page, 1 Burnham’s, and another has a declared interest for Kendall. It may be the Facebook generation that he is reaching, but by a long chalk he is the one Labour leadership contender reaching it. A spoof page for Liz Kendall for Tory leader has 3 times as many likes as the one for Labour leader.
Aside from social media, Corbyn is taking towns and cities by storm to packed-out venue crowds and queues down the street if feedback from Norwich is anything to go by. More than 1500 registered to attend an 800-seat event, so Jeremy stepped outside to address, without notes, those who couldn’t get in. Many chose not to attend once they knew it was over-capacity. this was Norwich’s biggest political rally in decades. This over-capacity story was repeated in Ealing, Glasgow, Leeds, London, Newcastle and other locations.
“This is a phenomenon, the like of which I haven’t seen in 40 years of watching Labour from close-quarters. Because it’s feeding off an aching for change that’s coming from ordinary Labour supporters below, not being imposed by rulers from above” – Brian Reade in the Mirror
Opposition – A Party of Protest
We could not have a better Leader of the Opposition for the next 5 years, certainly post-Miliband’s silent slide from the scene post his #EdStone and election loss moment, than Corbyn. During the interregnum Labour has been impotent and were the SNP to be a UK-based party one might have seen Nicola Sturgeon as the true heir to opposition leader in Parliament.
The fear that Labour would be consigned to “oppositional politics” or be a “party of protest” were Corbyn to be at the helm, is not a bad thing. The third of the electorate that don’t vote include people disillusioned with politics and politicians who all seem the same, 50 shades of austerity rather than any alternative vision. We have had more Blue Labour post New Labour and at the last election could barely tell the parties apart.
Janet Daley, among others, writes that the Tories are now waking up to the fear that Corbyn may win, after their initial glee at his rise, thinking that Labour had shot itself in the ‘Michael Foot’. Electing someone the Tories fear will create true opposition and debate, not an establishment bi-party centre-right duopoly. We’ve had the political equivalent of price-fixing for too long. The female-led Greens, Plaid Cymru and SNP gave us a taste of political change but could not break the mould other than in Scotland.
When the Right calls a political spade a spade:
“The only way that Labour can win that contest is to become (as they see it) a Tory-lite party: Conservatism with a human face. And that is not, absolutely not, what they are interested in. If, in order to be electable, you must relinquish all your socialist precepts and learn to love the free-market economy, then there is nothing perverse in turning your back on electoral victory.”
And, when Right wing Boris Johnson and Janet Daley are in agreement with Labour’s Dan Hodges, one has to wonder that a politician this scary may actually be quite good.
Principles over Power
Standing up for principles over power, may inadvertently deliver power. Focusing on power at any cost, as Blair did – delivered electoral victory and increasing disillusionment among the faithful as they witnessed the rise of Tory Blair.
In fact, the interventions of Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, David Miliband, Alastair Campbell, Peter ‘Machiavelli’ Mandelson, and even Neil Kinnock are all proving counter-productive and appear as attempted establishment saving, rather than actually listening to the disenfranchised, for whom Labour was founded. The new class war is for the voiceless and voteless against the vices of the entrenched political victors (New Labour and New-but-increasingly-old Conservatives).
We could perhaps have a golden age of re-expansion with current cheap, albeit borrowed, money and investment, but it needs to be carefully managed not overspent – I’ve no idea who could deliver that, but I’d rather a realistic way to deliver Jeremy Corbyn’s heart were found than a heartless way to deliver Kendall’s power-hungry realism were.
Sue Townsend (1946-2014), creator of Adrian Mole, aged 13¾, has died of a stroke, aged 68. Despite failing her 11-plus exam, leaving school at 15, and being a three-child single mother by 23, she went on to write 17 books, 11 plays and receive half-a-dozen awards including two honorary doctorates. She shared the Freedom of Leicester, where she was born and based the Adrian Mole books, with Leicester-raised singer Engelbert Humperdinck. Her humble writing roots were not dissimilar to JK Rowling’s and she wrote for 20 years before being published. The first volume of Adrian Mole’s Diary was written was working 3 jobs and living on Leicester’s Saffron Lane estate.
Stephen Mangan, who played the television role of Adrian Mole in 2001, said on hearing of her passing, “Greatly upset to hear that Sue Townsend has died. One of the warmest, funniest and wisest people I ever met.”
The Adrian Mole books described the growing pains and internal worries of a teenage boy, his loves and woes, such as glue sniffing and ending up with model aeroplane stuck to his nose! Her first book, The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13¾ became one of the bestselling books of the 1980s in which it was also set.
Within a decade the first book had sold in excess of 2 million copies. To date some 20 million+ copies of the books have sold, as it has spawned numerous sequels and translations, making both Sue Townsend and Adrian Mole famous.
“Perhaps when I am famous and my diary is discovered people will understand the torment of being a 13 3/4 year old undiscovered intellectual.”
Indeed, that is how Adrian saw himself, an aspiring yet unrecognised intellectual with the following catch or caveat:
“I have a problem. I am an intellectual, but at the same time I am not very clever.”
This was evidenced by his confusing “Pride and Prejudice” with “Prejudice or Pride” and not getting the association of Pandora and Box – a tenth unpublished Adrian Mole novel was to have been titled “Pandora’s Box”. Similarly he confused the genders of Evelyn Waugh and George Eliot. His mother found his poetry funny rather than deep, because “she was not an intellectual”.
“Now I know I am an intellectual. I saw Malcolm Muggeridge on the television last night, and I understood nearly every word. It all adds up. A bad home, poor diet, not liking punk. I think I will join the library and see what happens.”
Books offer both the ticket and journey out of dead-end life circumstances. Townsend saw a life littered with literature and books as an opportunity for economic, mental, and social escape.
“To unlock the heavy outer door and to walk into the hushed interior, with the morning light spilling from the high windows on to the waiting books, gave her such pleasure that she would have worked for nothing.” – Sue Townsend, The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year
In “Rebuilding Coventry“, a 1988 Townsend novel about Coventry Dakin, a woman on the run in London after killing her neighbour with an action man – he was in turn killing his wife at the time, she again writes of her novels characters’ love of books:
“I’ve always loved books. I’m passionate about them. I think books are sexy. They are smooth and solid and contain delightful surprises. They smell good. They fit into a handbag and can be carried around and opened at will. They don’t change. They are what they are and nothing else. One day I want to own a lot of books and have them near to me in my house, so that I can stroll to my bookshelves and choose what I fancy. I want a harem. I shall keep my favourites by my bed.” – Sue Townsend, Rebuilding Coventry
One obituary, in the Telegraph, describes her self-taught literary Damascene journey: “the internal, secret world of books increasingly played a central part in her existence. Having started on Richmal Crompton’s Just William, she quickly graduated to Jane Eyre, and from there to Dostoevsky. ‘Jane Eyre was the first book I read right through, non-stop,’ she said. ‘It was winter, freezing cold, and I remember seeing this thin light outside and realising it was dawn. I got dressed reading, walked to school reading and finished it in the cloakroom at lunchtime. It was riveting.’ She devoured ‘all the Russians, then the French, then the Americans. I remember getting in trouble for reading The Grapes of Wrath under my desk in a boring lesson.'”
Whilst Adrian Mole’s father read Playboy he read Charles Dickens by torchlight and wanted to escape his housing estate existence and find true love with Pandora. His were the trials of a teenage boy, intellectually and sexually thwarted, at one and same time. “Somehow,” writes David Walliams, “Townsend understood what is was to be an adolescent boy better than any adolescent boy.”
“I have realised I have never seen a dead body or a real female nipple. This is what comes of living in a cul-de-sac.”
Her novels featured wry humour, social commentary on class and economic inequalities, and an independent feminism and socialism. The working classes were seen as separate to the pro-Royal “Marks and Spencer set”.
“Well, there are people and people, aren’t there? It was hardly the Marks and Spencer set, was it? Tattooed grandfathers, single parents, Alsatians, delinquents and maladjusted children. Hardly a discriminating public was it?” – Sue Townsend, Bazaar and Rummage [Gwenda speaking] (see more on this)
Although she is most famous for creating a teenage boy and all his adolescent angst, it was her female characters that most reflected her own ideals. For instance, Pauline Mole, Adrian’s mother reads Germaine Greer’s “The Female Eunuch“, cuts her hair short, goes on an assertiveness course, camps out at Greenham Common and seeks to become an independent woman. Similarly, love of Adrian’s life, Pandora, wants to be a free woman yet also a feminist mum, saying:
“I should like to have one child when I am forty-six years of age. The child will be a girl. She will be beautiful and immensely gifted. Her name will be Liberty.” – Sue Townsend, True Confessions of Adrian Albert Mole
In 1987’s “Ghost Children” Townsend explored heavier themes of abortion, body-image, abuse, bereavement, reconciliation and redemption – quite a departure from her usual fare but no less observationally sharp.
Her books appealed to boys and girls, and adults, alike and captured a snapshot of over three decades of British social and political life from Thatcher to Blair (see the satirical “Number Ten“). The Falklands, Old and New Labour, Tony Benn, old-school Communist OAP Bert, even the break up of the SDP all featured. Adrian espoused mixed political beliefs between his desire to get a paper round so that he could afford to go private to sort out his acne and his confusion over the cult and personality of Mrs Thatcher:
“I’m not sure how I will vote. Sometimes I think Mrs Thatcher is a nice kind sort of woman. Then the next day I see her on television and she frightens me rigid. She has got eyes like a psychotic killer, but a voice like a gentle person. It is a bit confusing.”
Tony Blair did not get off lightly in the books either:
“Glenn has been excluded from school, for calling Tony Blair a twat.”
Adrian’s obsession with Tony Blair is described in excerpts from Adrian’s middle-aged diary and his description of Blair surrounding himself, not with “Blair’s Babes” but rather, “Alpha Males” such as Margaret Beckett!
“I am not a trained psychologist but I am wise beyond my 40 years and think that I have discovered why Mr Blair was so keen to become a war leader and to swagger alongside George Bush. He thought it would give him another pair of testicles and would promote him to Alpha Maleness.”
She had planned to write one or two more Adrian Mole novels, the 10th and 11th, to cover the Coalition years of the current Government.
Read more reader suggested memorable quotes from Adrian Mole in the comments section of this Guardian piece.
Her last published novel in 2012, “The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year“, described as “a funny and touching novel about what happens when someone stops being the person everyone wants them to be.” Reviews said it was “deeper and darker than comedy” (Sunday Times) and “Bursting with witty social commentary as well as humour” (Women’s Weekly). It is a witty and wry observation on life that will be missed.
Sue Townsend, will undoubtedly be missed, despite her few critics and doubters – as evidenced in some comment threads, but most especially for her warmth, generosity and a style of satire, so eminently British, that is paradoxically both sharp and soft on its targets. She was never vicious and left enough humanity in each character she penned or real people she had her creations criticise for each reader to be left to make up their own minds. Take just a sampling of some of the endearing praise on this theme that the media has printed over the last few days:
“…a political fantasy where the Queen is invited to move to a council estate after the creation of the British republic. It’s a gentle approach, but no less powerful for that. Her humour allows you to rise above the politicians and the divisiveness. No one ever got hurt or beaten up because of a Sue Townsend novel, but their conscience was raised nonetheless.” – Bob and Roberta Smith
“A lot of modern comedy is based on cruelty and snobbery, but she found decency and even heroism in Adrian’s delusions of genius, his pointless adoration of Pandora, and his loyalty to Bert Baxter.” – Frank Cottrell Boyce
“While her satire was sharp and scabrous, she treated her characters with a warmth that made them stay with us over the years…warm, satirical style” – Luke Wright
“So funny, without ever being cruel or mocking.” – Isy Suttie
“There was also a kindness in her writing. She treated her characters – and her readers – with such humanity. Always funny, always inclusive, and never cruel.” – Leviathan212
“She was loved by generations of readers, not only because she made them laugh out loud, but because her view of the world, its inhabitants and their frailties was so generous, life-affirming and unique.” – Tom Weldon, chief executive of her publisher Penguin Random House UK