Author Archives: Edward Crabtree

I hope the Russians love their children too

As I made my way to work I noticed an increased police presence on the Moscow Metro on that frosty April 3rd. A football match? Arriving there, I saw my Russian colleagues scrambling for their phones to call relatives in St Petersburg. A 22 year Kyrgyz-Russian Islamist had unleashed an improvised suicide bomb on a metro carriage near Sennaya Ploshad. The death toll has now come to fifteen, with forty-nine people injured.

When in November two years back terrorists laid siege to a night club in Paris, Muscovites lit up their Ostankino Radio tower in the French tricolour to express shared humanity; when St Petersburg’s atrocity occurred the Eiffel tower did not display the white-blue-red colours of the flag of the Russian Federation. Indeed, when there came a terrible, but less dramatic, attack in Stockholm four days later Russia’s loss seemed to become forgotten by the Western media.

Meanwhile the U.K seems intent on becoming what George Eaton, in the New Statesman, calls `Russia’s greatest foe`. The Tory government has sent out 800 troops and long-range missiles to Estonia. May, meanwhile, has discouraged M.Ps from attending Anglo-Russian parliamentary groups on grounds of the `security risk` (N.S, 11/4/17). Johnson – who Corbyn was right to call a `cold war warrior`- has reneged on a scheduled diplomacy mission to the Kremlin. This is at the same time that May is going cap in hand to the Saudis for trade deals!

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 29 Comments

The amber kickstart

The slough of despond which we find ourselves in comprises not just being severed from 49 parliamentary seats two years ago, but the backdrop to this: one where social democratic and liberal endeavours are losing their credibility throughout Western Europe. A well-timed response to the cultural aspect of this was posted last February calling for a `counter-narrative` of our own `myths and stories`. Here are some of my pointers at not letting the devil have all the best tunes.

To get some visceral appeal some have proposed that we embrace some kind of English patriotism, others that the call for `Freedom` should be our watchword. Richard Dawkins has opined that we rebrand ourselves as the` European party`. All of these ideas – as interesting as they are – strike me as a search for shortcuts. Yet, as Roland Barthes said  `The key to the treasure is the treasure`.

We only need to enhance what we are – a newish party with a left but non-authoritarian ethos  –and to do so with style.

Being non-conformist and rationalist type people, Liberal Democrats tend to spurn style as being pomp and circumstance. Thus along have come the trendy neo-righties – the Bo Jos and the Farages – who have been able to portray themselves as human and anti-pomposity. The liberal love of thinking aloud, of diversity and informality is just not coming across. Somehow we have to prove that being popular need not involve being populist.

Posted in Op-eds | 18 Comments

The unbearable uncoolness of being liberal

`What we should do`, says my drinking partner, `is set up garrisons on the border. Then just shoot the buggers when they come in.`

I make squeaking noises about international law, but he will not be stopped.

`Pfff! I once believed in all that flim-flam. But times change`.

He slams his beer glass down, flushing.

`These days I am pretty much a fascist!`

My best mate forms a part of a new social demographic – the Trendy Neo-Rightie (T.N.R). Back in the day, how we laughed at the `Right ons`. Those he or shes who stuck Save the Whale stickers on his or her methane driven cars and gave non –gender specific dolls to their `young adults`. These have long been superseded by Grumpy Old ideologues who, in their forties and fifties have decided that the main problem facing the world is `liberal shibboleths`.

These people do not represent the forgotten white working-class that we have been hearing so much about. On the contrary, well educated and with reasonable jobs they dwell in the leafier areas of cities and, if my own friends are anything to go by, many are expats.

Posted in Op-eds | 12 Comments

Yabloko: Keeping Russia’s Liberal flame alight

Last September an all too rare event could be seen at the exits of some Moscow metro stations: young people were dishing out leaflets in a campaign for candidates in the municipal elections of that year. They stood before stalls and banners emblazoned with a green circle intersected by a red wedge: the emblem of the Russian United Democratic Party – Yabloko.

Whilst ever more stereotyped as a `centre of illiberalism`, the Russian Federation can boast its own liberal heritage – and one that culminated in the short-lived provisional government of early 1917. Yabloko might be viewed as the contemporary legal and constitutional heir to that facet of Russian history.

Yabloko (`apple`) emerged in 1993 and became an official political party eight years later. They adopted a unique stance of supporting the post-Soviet democratic reforms yet criticising Yeltsin’s authoritarianism and his so called `shock therapy` privatisation drive. Without doubt, they are something of a voice in the wilderness in the climate of sociocultural conservatism in Russian society.

Posted in Europe / International | Tagged and | 3 Comments
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