Author Archives: John McHugo

Rees-Mogg, Grenfell and Catholic social teaching

The Brexit of the Johnsons and Rees-Moggs of this world will free Britain from “the manacles” of the EU. This will enable Brexit to be used to slash and burn all those pesky regulations designed to protect workers’ rights. Johnson has now left them to be discussed in the non-binding political declaration, no longer preserved by the legally binding withdrawal agreement. Rees-Mogg concurs. 

Jacob Rees-Mogg is visible as a devout Catholic, sometimes ostentatiously so. But the social teaching of his church is set squarely against this Brexit vision, since it is often regulations inspired in part by Catholic social teaching that constitute those “manacles” of the EU. 

Modern Catholic Social Teaching evolved as a Christian response to industrial poverty in the late nineteenth century. Its principles chime impeccably with liberalism. Workers have the right to solidarity with each other (collective bargaining, trade unions), whilst private property is to be respected and entrepreneurship encouraged because it creates wealth. A collaboration between capital and labour that is fair and comprehensive is essential. The State also needs to be involved. As Pope St. John Paul II put it in Centesimus Annus in 1991: “the marketplace needs to be appropriately controlled by the forces of society and by the State so as to guarantee that the basic needs of the whole of society are satisfied.” 

He also taught that the State, “has…the duty to protect the rights of all its people, and particularly of its weaker members, the workers, women and children. It can never be right for the State to shirk its obligation of working actively for the betterment of the condition of .”    

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Kurds, Turks, Syria and hypocrisy

I’ll begin by making two things clear. The first is that Trump’s sudden decision to pull US troops out of eastern Syria is self-evidently irresponsible and very foolish. The other is that Turkey’s invasion will cause yet further civilian suffering and I suspect it will ultimately solve nothing. But now I’ve made these two admissions, I want to share some uncomfortable thoughts about the way this new conflict taking place within the borders of Syria is being perceived.

While Turkey’s invasion has hit the headlines, the regime bombing of Idlib and attacks on the ground receive almost no attention by comparison, …

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | Tagged and | 13 Comments

Brexit is unpatriotic and shameful

The other day I got talking to two Leavers on the train. They were a married couple well past retirement age. They told me that they belonged to a small group that celebrated St George’s Day and Trafalgar Day, and said that they would be doing this “as long as we are allowed to”. What I took away from that slightly paranoid remark was that they felt their identity was under threat from unpatriotic liberals. They were lovely people who had worked hard all their lives, and whom I instinctively respected.  As we parted, I told them my father fought against Hitler and the experience made him a lifelong pro-European.  I hope this gave them food for thought.

After thinking about this encounter, I decided to beat the patriotic drum on LDV.  And yes – why don’t we have a Lib Dem fundraising event on Trafalgar Day (21 October),  or Waterloo Day (18 June)?

For hundreds of years, Britain has taken the lead in standing up to tyrants in pursuit of world domination. Trafalgar may have been a specifically British victory, but Waterloo and Blenheim were not. At Blenheim, Marlborough commanded Austrians and Dutch as well as British, while Wellington’s army included Dutch, Belgians and Germans. But for the arrival at Waterloo of another German army under Bluecher, Napoleon would probably have carried the day. Moreover, even if Trafalgar was a battle we won by ourselves, it was part of a lengthy conflict we could not have won alone.

We could never have been victorious in World War One against the domineering Kaiser without our French allies, who suffered far more than we did. Even when we stood alone in World War Two, many Europeans from the continent fought beside us. Think of the heroic Polish pilots in the Battle of Britain and the ferocious resistance of the Free French at Bir Hakim – but for which Rommel might have ended up reaching Cairo while Germany simultaneously took Malta. And those are just two examples.

So yes, we should be proud of our heritage but acknowledge that Britain can never win alone – and never has done. Where does that leave us today? By turning our backs on our European partners and kicking them in the teeth we are behaving in a very un-British and unpatriotic  way. We are kow-towing to Trump and haven’t even left the EU! It is in continuing the legacy of Marlborough and Wellington that this country’s future should lie. We are more effective standing up to Putin, Iranian mullahs, Bashar al-Assad in Syria and other tyrannical forces all over the world if we can do it jointly with our European partners (Think of the Iran nuclear deal that Trump has sabotaged). 

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The patriotic voice of Remain

One of the major difficulties for those the Remain side of the Brexit debate has been how to appeal to the patriotism of many Leave voters who instinctively feel that it is the Brexiters who stand up for Britain. In order to combat this perception, I have drafted the following pro-forma to send to MPs. In this I try to put an argument against Brexit in which patriotism is at the centre of the stage. 

If you like it, and your MP is not already committed to us remaining in the EU, please feel free

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Why Syria needs a strong Europe

The Syrians arriving in Europe are chiefly fleeing barrel bombs dropped by their own government, although the thuggery of the militias and warlords who now control much of their country provides another strong impetus. The most notorious of these is Da’ish (better known as ISIS), which has managed to instil fear into us in the West. Dai’sh’s destruction of Palmyra has also affected us directly because Palmyra is part of our own heritage, as well as that of Syria and the Arab world. Almost simultaneously, a photo of a drowned boy, who looked like a doll discarded at the seaside at the end of the family holiday, has finally aroused our compassion for the quarter of a million Syrian dead, and the ten million or more who have been displaced.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 14 Comments

Opinion: Nick Clegg’s remarks inch the UK towards recognition of Palestine

It is now over a week since Nick Clegg held his joint press conference with President Abbas of Palestine in which he referred to Israeli settlement construction as “vandalism”. Before his comments fade out of the news altogether, it is worth thinking through the implications of what he said – and thanking him for his courage in making them. Could they have come from the mouth of a Conservative minister?

By calling the settlement building “an act of deliberate vandalism to the basic premise on which negotiations have taken place for years and years and years”, Nick hit two important nails …

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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarJohn B 15th Nov - 8:11am
    Thanks for your comment, Jonathan. You may have been tongue in cheek, but many on LDV seem to have a naïve view about working with...
  • User AvatarJonathan Maltz 15th Nov - 12:48am
    John B: my comment was tongue-in-cheek. All Labour can offer given their well-known intransigence is to guarantee that the Tories will be the largest party...
  • User AvatarDavid Allen 14th Nov - 11:42pm
    Jo Swinson says that the party "must give voters a genuine remain option" in the election. Quite right. The problem is that the party is...
  • User Avatarcrewegwyn 14th Nov - 11:30pm
    Thanks Mark.
  • User AvatarGaryE 14th Nov - 11:04pm
    David makes a valid point for seats with few resources and low membership. If central funds can pay deposits then £500 pays for 15,000 A4...
  • User AvatarDavid Sheppard 14th Nov - 9:20pm
    Thanks Mark for thinking of those not so well packed full of Liberals places like mine. We have had to fund from our own meagre...