The Syriza victory might – just might – be the best thing to have happened to Greece since the end of the civil war.
Greece has vast oil and gas reserves on its doorstep, in the Ionian Sea and around Crete. This could prove to be a huge bargaining chip in Greece’s favour in any restructuring negotiations.
But it will require a very tough government to refuse demands for Greece to hand over control of its oil for a fraction of what it is worth. It will also need great determination not to let the oil companies take the lion’s share.
Alexis Tsipras might be the person to exploit this wealth and rid Greece of its debt. However, I fear that Syriza may well squander this bonanza if cronyism, tax evasion, byzantine bureaucracy and downright corrupt practices are not eradicated.
If this new left government fails, there is nowhere else for the Greek people to turn. The traditional post-junta centrist parties have been rejected – since they are largely responsible for the crisis. The extreme neo-Nazi right has lost any support it had – since its criminality has become apparent.
So what does that leave? Another military coup?
Throughout the media, Syriza has been referred to as the “hard” or the “extreme” left.
Syriza has stated that people will no longer have their electricity, gas or water cut off; that evicting people to survive on the streets while leaving their homes empty will cease; and that it will make sure that people in urgent need of medicine and healthcare will receive them.
Syriza has also said that it will enforce tax payments and root out corruption.
Since when did common human decency become labelled as “hard left”? By the same token, Harold Wilson would now be regarded as a revolutionary.
The Europe-wide implementation of 1930s economic policies has brought 1930s results. But, somehow, these policies are never labelled as “extreme right” – which objectively they are.
Beware of Greeks bearing debts.
We should refuse to grovel to despots
In the late 1950s, my father, having been unfairly sacked, had just managed to secure some part-time teaching at the Liverpool College of Commerce. While there, he was offered the chance to teach Saudi children and was paid inflated rates. Because of this he put in extra (unpaid) time. But his pupils were not bright and were unlikely to pass their test.
We were very poor at the time, only just having enough food, so it must have been tempting when my father was offered a substantial sum to rig a pass for these students. He refused – and did not get any more work from the Saudis.
I am proud of my father and wish that, as a country, we could summon the courage to do what is right, rather than grovel to despots.
A short while ago they linked hands in support of free speech. The other day they attended the funeral of a tyrant viciously opposed to free speech. Who? Politicians of course.
St Andrews, Fife
The Saudi regime has the same programme as Isis. Prince Charles and David Cameron went to cosy up with the Saudi regime. There are legal moves to stop people from the UK who go and cosy up with Isis from returning to the UK. Prince Charles and David Cameron should not be allowed to re-enter the UK.
Blair was not just Bush’s poodle
Though “The Iraq Report” (24 January) was a welcome refresher course on why Chilcot is so important, it is still wrong to imply that Tony Blair was George Bush’s poodle and only signed up for the invasion of Iraq because he felt it was in Britain’s interest to show loyalty to the US.
Blair has been a cheerleader for intervention and regime change since he began lobbying President Clinton to invade Iraq as far back as 1998 – 9/11 was merely the camel that broke Jack Straw’s back.
But whatever his motives, stupidity remains a more plausible explanation for his actions than malice; just as with Bush and Cheney, it seems likely Blair acted with good intentions, calculating that a white lie was a price worth paying for the sake of what he saw as a better world.
The problem is that his vision of a better world, despite his Christian values, offers little sympathy or hope for those who are so driven to despair by our complicity in the political injustices of the Middle East that they turn to terrorism in the name of religion.
Last week at Davos, Tony Blair once again boldly declared that there was no connection between the invasion of Iraq and increased terrorism in the world, blaming it instead on a “perversion” of the teachings of Islam. Perhaps he views it as a cancer, a malignant mutation that must be burnt or cut out.
In the short term, that is probably the case. But as he leads the shameful charge to kiss the rump of yet another senile Saudi despot, how does he expect that such hypocrisy will in any way help “de-radicalise” Muslim youth?
The dark side of Churchill
I do not denigrate what Winston Churchill did for Britain during the Second World War, but there is a different side to him which is little known – probably because this aspect has been airbrushed out by many authors since his death.
In common with Hitler, he held eugenicist views, which were directed towards the maltreatment of large numbers of disabled people – of course he did not go to the same lengths as Hitler, who was responsible for the deaths of many disabled people.
A letter written by Churchill to Asquith in December 1910 states: “The unnatural and increasingly rapid growth of the Feeble-Minded and Insane classes, coupled as it is with a steady restriction among all the thrifty, energetic and superior stocks, constitutes a national and race danger, which it is impossible to exaggerate.” Churchill also stated: “The improvement of the British breed is my aim in life.” Eugenicists believed in the segregation, institutionalisation and sterilisation of many disabled people, and the numbers involved were in no way small.
In September 1910 Churchill wrote to his Home Office officials asking them to investigate the “Indiana Law”, which was dominated by sterilisation and the prevention of the “feeble-minded” reproducing. He wanted to know “what is the best surgical operation” and what new legislative powers would be required to carry out sterilisation. In the US the “Indiana Law” resulted in the sterilization by force of more than 65,000 people.
Concerned by the high cost of forced segregation, Churchill was much more in favour of sterilisation as a cheaper alternative, although the latter was never adopted in the UK.
While we remember his wartime achievements, also remember that he had a dark side which contributed to the segregation and maltreatment of large numbers of disabled people in Britain.
Bigotry comes in many forms
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (26 January) suggests that she is an opponent of bigotry. But she condemns a whole political party as “racist”, “colonial” and even “supremacist”. She goes on to insult ethnic-minority people who support the Conservatives as being Uncle Tom types or like “old maharajas who craved approval from the haughty imperial rulers”. She advocates racial voting away from the “white” Tory Party. Bigotry comes in many guises.
It’s a shame that Yasmin Alibhai-Brown had to use her antagonism to Page 3 to have a go at The Benny Hill Show and Carry On films, describing them as outdated and embarrassing. To her, maybe, but Carry On films are as popular as ever, being shown frequently, and old clips of The Benny Hill Show stand up today, as funny now as then – only being taken off years ago because of a humourless minority.
Unfortunate choice of word
I have a proposal to make to Howard Jacobson: try not to call Israel’s killing of journalists in Gaza a “mishap” (24 January) and I’ll actively look for something to admire in your next column.
A question of time
I have been given a medical appointment for “12:00pm”. Should I go at midnight or midday? What happened to noon and midnight?