Author Archives: George Cunningham

China: What should be our long-term response?

This year’s autumn conference will see the launch of the party’s Federal International Relations Subcommittee on China to help the party and its members understand and deal with the multifaceted challenges of a rising authoritarian China.

In March 2019, when the UK was part of the EU, the Joint Communication EU-China: A Strategic Outlook came out. It defined the EU’s approach to China in the following way:

China is, simultaneously, in different policy areas, a cooperation partner with whom the EU has closely aligned objectives, a negotiating partner with whom the EU needs to find a balance of interests, an economic competitor in the pursuit of technological leadership, and a systemic rival promoting alternative models of governance.

The broad-based nature of the relationship allows us to take such a differentiated approach, although it must be said that the possibilities of cooperation are continually narrowing as China takes more strident positions in the world, backed by its Wolf Warrior diplomacy.

Posted in Conference and Events | Tagged and | 18 Comments

Afghanistan enters a new phase in its tragedy

Afghanistan entered a new phase in its tragedy today, with the Taliban on the outskirts of Kabul. Over forty years of war have led us back to “year zero” once more.

Events have moved quickly. Only two months ago, Dr Abdullah Abdullah, members of the Afghan Civic Democrats and the UNAMA talked to Lib Dems Overseas and LIBG members about their hopes to reach an inclusive political settlement acceptable to the Afghan people.

The blame game can be shared out amongst all those on the losing side: The Afghan government for its gross corruption that siphoned off hundreds of millions that would have otherwise – if wisely spent – helped those whose poverty and ignorance have provided fertile recruiting ground for the Taliban; the Biden administration that lamely followed the disastrous US policy of speedy non-conditions-based withdrawal by the Trump administration which included the criminal act of arm-twisting the Afghan government to release 5,000 seasoned Taliban fighters from prison (including the insurgency leader who then led the Taliban assault on Herat city); and the international community for pouring billions into the country’s coffers while not tackling corruption properly and wanting to believe too much what it was being told. And much more of course.

Posted in Europe / International | Tagged | 21 Comments

Webinar: will the tragedy of Afghanistan become Europe’s tragedy?

If peace negotiations collapse and the Taliban take power in Afghanistan, the UK and Europe may well be faced again with another wave of mass migration (are we really going to turn away women and their families at deadly risk from the Taliban?), a strengthened base for the export of terrorism (Taliban have not broken links with Al Qaeda, CIA reckons even US at risk again within three years) and continued supply of opium to European youth from the largest producer in the world.

Dr Abdullah Abdullah, a figure well-known in the UK who is the Afghan Government’s chief negotiator for the intra-Afghan peace talks with the Taliban and former Chief Executive Officer of the Unity Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (2014-2020) will be addressing UK Liberal Democrats on the latest state of play 18.30-20.00hrs this Monday 7th June. You are encouraged to register for this LIBG/Lib Dems Overseas event at the Paddy Ashdown Forum.

Dr Abdullah Abdullah will be joined by members of the Afghan Civic Democrats, a parliamentary grouping in the Wolesi Jirga (lower house), with whom Lib Dems Overseas have a strong association, as well as the Head of Office from the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, direct from Kandahar/Helmand province. The Lib Dems response will be given by Baroness Northover, our Foreign Affairs spokesperson in the Lords.

Posted in Europe / International and Events | Tagged and | 2 Comments

Insights from the 2020 US Elections: Webinar Report

In a highly attended and engaging Paddy Ashdown Forum / Liberal Democrats Overseas webinar, on Monday, January 18th, 150 participants heard presentations and discussed insights and lessons for Lib Dem campaigning from the 2020 US elections.

You can watch the video of the webinar HERE

After opening remarks from Nasreen Davidson, Vice-Chair, Liberal Democrats Overseas, and Robert Woodthorpe Browne MBE, Chair, The Paddy Ashdown Forum, John Surie shared insights from the recent study conducted by the LDO North American Branch.

John’s presentation focused on how the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of digital strategies and tactics by the Biden For President

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 10 Comments

The geopolitics of COVID-19: Can liberalism win the day?

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The pandemic is an unprecedented global challenge affecting all humanity, which is suffering the consequences at very considerable social and economic cost.

The world was already in disorder before COVID-19 made its appearance but the crisis has undoubtedly deepened the great power rivalry between China and the U.S., aggravated by a far-reaching trade war starting sometime before the pandemic hit.

Trust in international systems of cooperation have been impacted. Although coordination is better right now, and concrete initiatives are underway to try and ensure that the eventual vaccine is a global public good for health, the scramble between countries to be first to have their populations vaccinated will sorely test the world’s ability to cooperate together again.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 6 Comments

Everything we do now as a party must have an international dimension

As if Brexit was not enough of an economic self-inflicted wound, the pandemic has struck at our very soul.

It is predicted that the world will have changed after the pandemic with the irony that China, where the virus originated, strengthened economically (although not in perfect shape because of “Belt and Road Initiative” debts owed by others and global supply chains broken), the USA weakened and Britain and the European Union, divided from each other, struggling not to become a plaything of those two superpowers.

However, this is not to say Tom Arms’ recent LDV articles on the crisis should be panda-ring …

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | Tagged , , , and | 3 Comments

Conference Countdown 2015: Let’s scrap the “scrapping Trident” motion

In the run-up to Autumn Conference in Bournemouth, we’ll be looking ahead to examine the highlights in the debating hall, the fringe and training rooms. You can find the papers here. You can find all the posts in the series here.

Yesterday,  the Labour Party made the historic mistake of electing Jeremy Corbyn as its new party leader. Through this decision, it has thrown away years of work (and time in government) convincing the general public that it is electable. To a lesser degree, let us not do the same.

Naturally I respect the views of the “Scrapping Trident” lobby within the party. Theirs is a noble cause. But it should be remembered that the party already threw out the idea of scrapping Trident at party conference just two years ago by coming to a compromise that we would make substantial savings by reducing the number of Successor submarines from four to three.

Posted in Conference, Events and Op-eds | Tagged and | 56 Comments

Opinion: Let’s have real “power to the people” for those of us outside the UK

power to the peopleThere is a lot wrong or out-of-date with our current political system. The Lib Dem policy paper “Power to the People” passed at the spring conference in York, addresses those issues in a typically liberal, radical way. It is worthy of our support, as a step forward, even if some find parts of it imperfect.

“Power to the People” aims to explore the viability of overseas constituencies. This would be quite radical for the UK but would – I believe – benefit it a …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 5 Comments

Opinion: Ukraine is a crisis which we cannot back off from

ukraineThe insertion of Russian troops into the Crimea has profound implications for the security of Europe. It is like Europe has been awoken from a deep, snug slumber.

At I said in the emergency debate on Ukraine at the Spring Conference in York last weekend, events in Crimea have shown Russia breaking every principle in the international law rule book. The fact that it has intervened covertly, supposedly to protect Ukrainians of Russian origin, has profound security implications for the European Union’s Eastern borders – and in particular in the Baltic States …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 54 Comments

Opinion: No dubious deterrent

TridentThe day after the end of Autumn conference in Glasgow, a letter appeared in The Times (£) (Sept 19) accusing the Lib Dems of having adopted a “reckless” defence strategy.

Co-signed by former Labour Secretary of State for Defence and NATO Secretary-General, Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, former Tory Party Defence Secretary Liam Fox and 14 other politicians and former chiefs of defence, the letter lambasts the Lib Dems for “hare-brained schemes for a part-time deterrent which in reality is no deterrent at all” and that is driven “by a Lib Dem desire to scupper Trident at any cost”. News about the letter quickly spread and was reported on BBC TV as well.

I spoke in favour of retaining the full four submarine “Continuous-at-Sea” nuclear deterrent at the Lib Dem Party conference debate on defence and would have welcomed Lord Robertson’s letter with such heavy-weight support appearing just prior to the debate to give further credence to my intervention.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 7 Comments

Opinion: A more realistic approach to Defence policy

defenceThe Liberal Democrat Working Group on Defence came out last month with its policy paper “Defending the Future: UK Defence in the 21st Century”. Brussels and Europe Liberal Democrats made a detailed submission – praised by members of the working group – which also shows some alternative paths for the party’s defence policy. We suggest it is well worth a read before the party’s new defence policy motion comes up for debate at this Autumn’s party conference.

The Brussels and Europe Liberal Democrats’ paper calls for a more thought-through, long-term and realistic strategic approach by the Government, including defining more precisely Britain’s role in the world, a reform of security and defence-related institutions, the constant update of the threat assessment, the creation of out-of-area alliances to share military burden, ways for less expensive procurement, the capacity to regenerate of military forces quickly in time of war – and much more.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 8 Comments
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