I share everyone’s disgust at the sight of children dying on our TV screens from the effects of chemical weapons. They were made illegal in 1925. But napalm isn’t illegal. Agent Orange ( used by America in Vietnam) isn’t illegal and nor is the most poisonous and indiscriminate weapon of all, nuclear bombs. The latter is possessed in large number by the United States and France who look most likely to “fire a shot across the bows” of President Assad of Syria sometime soon.
I have always had a problem with rules of war. It makes the whole ghastly business seem like a game. I suppose we need rules on the treatment of captured servicemen but we had better realise that war is bloody where awful things can and will happen. Trying to regulate it is going to be increasingly difficult now that people in the West are heartily sick of kicking over hornets nests in the Middle East.
Britain and France share historic blame for carving up the Middle East in the way we did in 1919. We hadn’t a clue about Sunni and Shia. T.E. Lawrence had a better plan for Greater Arabia. But we are where we are. On the one side Assad who’s very ordinariness personifies the blandness of evil. On the other a mixture of liberals, religious fanatics and terrorists. Removing dictators is problematic. For instance Israel is not seriously threatened by Assad but if Syria is taken over by an Iranian friendly regime a general war could break out from the flashpoint of the Golan Heights.
Russia rather than America offers the slimmest possibility of sorting this out. Will Putin rise to his responsibilities or stick with being a well buffed semi dictator?
We probably have Ed Miliband to thank for stopping David Cameron and President Obama firing “shots across the bow” of President Assad last weekend. But no sooner had Ed got the credit for reflecting public unease on action against Syria than he was facing a big problem back home. The GMB union has cut its affiliation fees to Labour by a million pounds. This follows Miliband’s decision to try and make membership of the Labour Party honest. At the moment it is padded out by trade unionists who are deemed members unless they opt out of the political levy part of their membership fee.
The leader’s move will cause Labour huge financial problems and he is likely to get a cool reception at the Trades Union Congress in Bournemouth next week. But ultimately there is a lot in the idea of getting people either to engage with the party properly or walk away and take the consequences of continued Tory governments.
If Labour is impoverished and the election battle becomes unfair as it tries to fight a well funded Tory Party perhaps pressure will build to limit donations to them too. That would be a good thing for politics, after all much of the money raised is wasted in a poster arms race at election time.
THE NEXT STRAW
They don’t do dynastic succession in Blackburn. There was a possibility that Jack Straw would retire and hand the seat to his son Will in 2015.Instead Will is taking on neighbouring Rossendale currently marginally held by the Tories. Let’s hope we have the benefit of both generations of Straw speaking up for the North after 2015.
THE LAST FROST
When I interviewed the late Sir David Frost about his book on the Nixon interviews, I asked him if he had reflected on the fact that in the autumn of 1962 while Frost was launching That Was The Week That Was Nixon lost the governorship of California following his Presidential defeat two years earlier. He bitterly remarked to the press “You won’t have Dick Nixon to kick around any more”.
However he did come back and they did kick him around over Watergate which provided Frost with his greatest interview. David smiled at me and said no he hadn’t “That is a special Jim thought”. Nice man. We will miss him.