The political commentariat and politicians were quick to say that Nick Clegg had won the first debate last week, no doubt because he appeared as they thought a statesman should appear: polished, shallow, evasive and calm. I, on the other hand, care passionately about liberty and democracy and not so much about whether I might get a bit sweaty on camera. And it seems, given the polling results from the viewers of the debates, that the majority agrees with me.
Ahead of the second round tonight, the war of words is hotting up, this time over my comments about the role of the EU in the violence in Ukraine and an interview I gave to GQ magazine back in February. It’s provided the anti-Ukip brigade with a wonderful opportunity to completely misrepresent what I said to Alastair Campbell and try to paint me as some kind of Putin supporter. To clarify, I said that while I thought he was a formidable operator, as a human being I did not like him at all and I made a point of highlighting the number of journalists in jail in Russia.
Nick Clegg has wasted no time in his condemnation of me. After all, he supports an expansionist EU foreign policy and seems to have turned the Liberal Democrats into a party that supports all military action. Our Westminster politicians seem to think that in any conflict there must always be a “goodie” and a “baddie”. They like to make it simple: anyone who is in the West equals goodie. Anyone who looks like an underdog equals goodie. They appear to make little effort to find about out which people they are supporting.
With Syria, of course, William Hague was denied the opportunity to use taxpayers’ money and our dwindling armed forces to bomb civilians to kingdom come, an outcome that delighted Ukip supporters.
But it hasn’t stopped Government ministers, right from the start, deciding that the “rebels” were the goodies because they were opposing Assad. Syria led by Assad forms an alliance that dares to defy the US in particular. It is the smaller state in the trio also made up of Iran and Russia.
What is happening in Syria is the enactment of a global conflict of ideas, fought in one country, thinly veiled by the gossamer threads of civil war. And Putin stuck to his alliance. He didn’t back down to the West.
Back in 2007 Commission President Manuel Barroso said the EU was an “empire” and their eastward expansion shows the trajectory they are following: wider still and wider. It should come as no surprise that the leader of a powerful country with historical ties to the countries being wooed by the EU wants to fight back. The EU knows it is poking the angry bear that is Vladimir Putin with a big stick but, unlike Russia, it won’t put its money where its mouth is. So the people on the Western side of Ukraine were abandoned by the political establishment they were encouraged to join, and the people on the East were backed up by troops, weapons and money.
As it happens, I don’t like either player in this wicked game now being played out in Ukraine. I abhor the loss of lives of people fighting for what they believe in, and protest and free speech must always be allowed. But unlike Clegg and other MPs, I am not prepared to stick my head in the sand and think that these “rebels” will be any more democratic and peaceful than the other regimes the West have supported in civil wars across the decades.
That doesn’t mean I always go for “Better the devil you know”, but it should mean that we must stop interfering in every single international conflict and thinking that we know best. Our track record in Iraq and Afghanistan shows that wading in to fight regimes we disapprove of doesn’t always end in peace just because we topple a few leaders.
A sell-off that was far too rushed
I was never in favour of the privatisation of Royal Mail. It only happened as part of the EU directive on the liberalisation of the postal services across the EU, which allowed other companies to cream off the profitable parts of the delivery market. So, as the business post was “liberalised”, the Post Office and Royal Mail was left with the unprofitable part of the market: delivering letters to all parts of the country and the world for a fixed priced often more than it actually cost.
And to make matters worse, it is my opinion that the sale of Royal Mail was a rushed affair which did not get the best deal for the taxpayer. The share price was obviously too low and a bargain bucket for speculators, evident in the huge rise in value which has occurred since the sale last year. Not that I ever expect politicians to act in the best interests of the taxpayer: they have a long history of spending money which is not theirs on vanity projects and spending excessive amounts of money on simple tasks.
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