The Danger of Forced Rohingya Repatriation. Six Steps to Make the Most of the U. A member of the Tunisian security forces stands guard at the site of a suicide attack in the Tunisian capital Tunis on 29 October, But these events have had no direct impact on England, Wales and Scotland. Northern Ireland remains a unique part of the United Kingdom fortunately! It is noticeable that Northern Ireland was the only part of the country to have a high turn-out of voters in June The only real protest of significance has come from an unlikely source - the countryside. Briefly there were pickets at oil terminals to prevent the distribution of petrol supplies for motorists.
There were ethnic troubles just after the election in northern towns such as Bradford and Burnley involving clashes between whites and Asian, mainly Muslim youths. Two Leeds United footballers are being prosecuted over the alleged murder of an Asian. In some of these places, the pro-fascist National Front polled unexpectedly strongly.
Muslim communities in our northern towns have often been forceful elements, almost cultural colonisers, who hold themselves to some degree aloof from British society, who demand their own schools and who have generated some white racism in return. Relations with the police are often poor for this reason.
To date, the only British casualties in the war have been on the Taliban side, especially around Kabul. It is possible, therefore, that if the war goes on for a long time, and even more if it is extended to take in other Muslim countries such as Iraq, that the social cohesion and racial harmony of urban Britain could diminish significantly. As yet, there is no great sign of this, and Britain in the past has experienced neither the tension with Muslim communities African not Asian, of course prevalent in parts of France from St.
Denis to Marseilles, nor anything comparable to the kind of anti-immigrant backlash identified with Le Pen and his supporters. Even so, it would be foolish for the historian not to acknowledge that new ethnic and cultural tensions which could extend into other areas such as schools and housing might not be an outcome, and that New Labour might not thereby face new challenges. Labour is a hybrid coalition of political and industrial elements, in which leadership has always been difficult.
Previous Labour prime ministers, Attlee, Wilson and Callaghan have always favoured the collective style. He has been totally in the ascendant since his victory in abolishing Clause Four in , appealing over the heads of the union block vote to individual party members. There has been a huge presidential-style elevation of Tony Blair himself, with no dissent tolerated. There are over advisers working for Tony Blair personally in 10 Downing Street alone.
The Cabinet is largely a formality and no longer a decision-making body: He has operated in presidential mode especially in foreign affairs issues as in the Kossovo crisis or policies against Iraq, in personally negotiating the Good Friday agreement in Northern Ireland in , and at times in handling the various crises in running the National Health Service. His immediate power over the government machine is greater than that of an American president. He is truly our first post-modern prime minister. Blair has seemed in total presidential command. The dispatch of British forces to the war zone was not discussed in Cabinet at all.
In late November, the sending or otherwise of up to 6, British troops to assist in the distribution of aid and providing a stable environment for a post-Taliban regime to emerge, rested on discussions between Blair and George Bush, not on decisions taken by the British government. He has never seemed more popular, more obviously in charge.
They have not always been obviously successful: Back home in Britain, a few critics said he should be spending more time in handling domestic problems. But the general effect has been overwhelmingly positive for him. He has been hailed in the American Senate as one of them.
By contrast, Churchill in was a traditional parliamentarian whose electoral defeat in was to be humiliating indeed , while Mrs. Thatcher always faced internal resistance to her policies throughout her eleven years in Downing Street. So far Blair has swept aside all internal opposition even if his relations with Gordon Brown remain a cause for press speculation and rumour.
Blair, after all, is the first Labour party from Keir Hardie to John Smith, not to be any kind of socialist. The Old Left, a bugbear for labour leaders from Gaitskell to Kinnock, has virtually disappeared. There is no Bevan, no Benn. The presence of aged figures like Benn and Arthur Scargill and veterans of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament like Monsignor Bruce Kent at peace rallies during the Afghan crisis is almost a statement of defeat in itself - that is the best they can produce. Of course, the collapse of the old left is the result of many wider factors, including the social changes that have undermined trade union and socialist militancy, and the end of the cold war since Blairism, after all, depends on Blair.
But what may be the effects if the war drags on, without an evident political solution and amidst growing humanitarian tragedy? What if there a terrorist attack by suicide bombers in Britain itself?
But it will not last for ever. Within the government, even Blair is not all-powerful - witness delay over the Euro or contemplating reform of the voting system. There is a huge danger of hubris leading to nemesis, as with the ancient Greeks.
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The fall of Lloyd George in and Margaret Thatcher in are warnings against the over-mighty leader. A more balanced consensual system will have soon to return if Tony Blair is not to be laid low by his apparent moment of omnipotence during the war in Afghanistan. Beyond these personal matters, the Afghan war might highlight key areas of policy on which New Labour has been so far ambiguous or unclear.
Three of them stand out. New Labour here has never made its mind up, even though at least since the Labour Party has seen the enabling and energizing power of the state, especially central government, as the key to creating a more just and equal society.
From now on the history of the Blair government will have to be significantly re-written. Entretiens de Crisis Group, responsables politiques, Tunis, janvier-juillet There was a series of policy errors which gave a sense of a government with little idea of where it was going or what it believed in. The Labour Party today straddles two constituencies, not just geographically but ideologically. Blair, after all, is the first Labour party from Keir Hardie to John Smith, not to be any kind of socialist. But it needs to re-connect with the party and with the country. They have not always been obviously successful:
Its key theorists from the Webbs to Tony Crosland have been statists. New Labour too has used the state, like its predecessors, in promoting the public services, and protecting the vulnerable. Yet it has also been most reluctant, almost Thatcherite, to use state power in interfering with the mechanisms of the unregulated free market. The debate over the public-private finance initiative after the Afghan war may be fundamental to how Labour perceives its future, notably in how far the Blair government will still be able to provide greater resources for health, education, public transport and the environment.
If they cannot do so, if enterprises such as the London underground lapse again, there will be trouble. Blair rightly claims that he has given more power away than any previous prime minister.
A key test now will be Scotland, now with its first non-Westminster first minister in Jack McConnell, where a series of Old Labour policies have been put through including free university tuition and free health care for the elderly. The entire political culture in Scotland seems markedly more radical.
The Afghan crisis could heighten the internal Labour tension between devolution and dirigisme. It could encourage the development of enhanced centralism - already evident in attempts to curtail civil liberties such as in the Anti-Terrorism bill where its enhanced powers for the police and its partial derogation from the European Convention on Human Rights have led to massive internal arguments. The government suffered some significant defeats in the Lords in the last parliament in the civil rights area, for instance over restricting trial by jury, and they remain vulnerable.
Even with a majority of , with the Tories hopelessly feeble and with the support of the pro-European Liberal Democrats, with Social Democratic governments throughout much of Europe - still there has been hesitancy.