What did Gordon Brown think of the Iraq war? “We stand full-square with the American government and people in fighting terrorism and will continue to do so,” he declared in 2001. But his support for the prime minister’s Iraq policy was scanty. According to Anthony Seldon, Brown had “serious misgivings.” Had he made his disagreement public, Blair would have fallen. But Brown would not necessarily have inherited the throne, which may explain why he kept quiet.
The system of international relations we have known since the second world war has broken down. The reasons given for the Anglo-American attack on Iraq were largely fraudulent. Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction turned out to be weapons of mass distraction. It is straining at a gnat to argue that UN security council resolution 678, passed in 1990, made legal an invasion undertaken in 2003. However, it is also true that the Iraqis will be far better off without Saddam Hussein; and there is a chance that the middle east will be reshaped for the better. The main problem in international relations is to define the scope of lawful and acceptable military interventions in today’s world.
8th January 2003
In 1991, in order to enforce UN security council resolution 678, which called for the expulsion of Iraq from Kuwait, coalition forces invaded Iraq. After an initial bombardment and battle, no effective opposition lay between them and Baghdad. But for reasons that seemed persuasive at the time, the advance was halted and a ceasefire agreed. This armistice was incorporated in UNSCR 687, requiring Iraq to “unconditionally accept” the removal, destruction and rendering harmless of all weapons of mass destruction and any launchers with a range greater than 150 km, and not to seek to develop or acquire such weapons in the future. Other UN resolutions ordered Iraq to return all prisoners of war and Kuwaiti property, to pay damages resulting from the war, and to comply with two no-fly zones negotiated as part of the ceasefire agreement.
Everyone expected Labour to win in 1997, though not by such a large margin. An identically big victory in 2001, pointing to three or even four consecutive terms of office, suggests that a watershed has occurred in British politics, with Labour poised to take command of the 21st century as the Conservatives did of the 20th. But after five years in power, New Labour remains an elusive political force.
We must confront our past, not continue it,” Tony Blair announced in his Romanes lecture on education (Prospect, February). His history of education is one of state neglect with occasional exceptions (Balfour’s 1902 Act, Butler’s 1944 Act) until Jim Callaghan’s Ruskin speech in 1976. There was then a little progress under the Tories, but basically Labour “inherited a situation too little changed from Callaghan’s day.” The moral is clear: neglect must be succeeded by “national leadership.” Central government must take responsibility for investment in education, raising standards and promoting life-long learning. Then follows the catalogue of “starts” since 1997: more money, especially on primary schools; literacy and numeracy strategies; promotion of information and communications technology, modern languages, music and sport; the creation of specialist schools; a further expansion in post-16 education. Test results have already “improved sharply.” Our mission, Blair ends, “is to mobilise the resolve of this generation to transform Britain into a learning society….”
Is military intervention over Kosovo justified?
3rd May 1999
I have been instinctively against Nato’s bombing of Serbia from the day it started on 24th March. I was-I dare say like you and many others-incredulous that Nato seemed to have no military strategy except to bomb Serbia to smithereens. I could not believe that bombing a defenceless country was the right way to wage “holy war.” But above all I was alarmed by the thought that a new doctrine of international relations was being forged which would make the world a much more dangerous place.
Friday 27th March
Edward (my son) and I board the flight to Moscow at Terminal 4, Heathrow. I am to take part in a conference at Perm, organised by the Moscow School of Political Studies. Perm is on the edge of Siberia; a city of more than 1m people with a cultural past (Diaghilev was born there) and a depressed industrial present. “Experts” are being assembled to advise regional officials and politicians on how to make the most of self-government-an important topic in view of the paralysis of the centre. My most prized possession is a bath plug. I remember from past excursions that outside the western circuit bath plugs are unobtainable.
Review of The New Reckoning: Capitalism, States and Citizens by David Marquand
Polity Press, 1997
David Marquand is an engaging and stylish political thinker, who moves adventurously across academic frontiers and straddles the worlds of scholarship and politics. His main interest is in what may be called the “government of Britain” question; the failure, as he sees it, of Britain to develop into a properly democratic state. His method is one of persuasive argument, conveyed most felicitously in essay form, where thought is not unduly trammelled by the demands of rigour or specificity. His style is that of the seminar rather than the pulpit. He does not try to bludgeon the reader into submission and is too sceptical to admit to “final” beliefs himself.
Perhaps it is time to revive Keynesian policy. The fact that monetary policy in the US and Britain does, in practice, take into account unemployment and growth as well as inflation is taken as a sign that some secret Keynesian demand management is at work. From this point of view, the odd men out are what Anatole Kaletsky calls the “sado-monetarist” central bankers and finance ministers of continental Europe who are wedded to price stability and the Maastricht criteria. I believe that Keynesian policy does have a role to play in improving the performance and stability of economies. But this belief does not warrant either historical or theoretical amnesia; nor should it blind us to the practical difficulties, particularly on the fiscal side, of reinstating even a modest version of Keynesian policy.
Thursday 27 June
I am in St Petersburg both as a tourist and as a British observer of the second round of the Russian presidential elections. The excuse for tourism is that the House of Lords Bridge Club has been invited to play a match against the South African consulate. I fly to St Petersburg with my wife, Augusta and our younger son William (19). Our elder son, Edward (22), joins us from Moscow where he is working. Our leader is Richard Gisborough, who has organised the expedition. On arrival at St Petersburg airport we board a coach with a poster stuck on the front window with the words “House of Lords” written on it. A band strikes up God Save the Queen. I smile radiantly and am about to raise my hand to acknowledge the reception, when the band turns round to face the next coach and starts up the Marseillaise.