Author Archives: Kishwer Falkner

Baroness Kishwer Falkner writes… A Lib Dem red line over an EU referendum: Yes or No? The choice is appealingly straightforward isn’t it?

So posits Andrew Duff in his letter to the Guardian warning that ‘If we Lib Dems accept this referendum as part of a new coalition pact, we will bring ruination on ourselves’. Well that’s clear then, isn’t it?

There are two reasons of principle why we should not be seduced by this simple hypothesis, and a third to do with pragmatism.

First, there is the argument that complex issues cannot be dealt with through referendums, and the proposed in/out referendum is somehow alien to our own thinking or political philosophy. The Lib Dems have never subscribed to this Burkean view of the relationship between the electors and the elected. In this period of Government alone we have departed from it three times by holding a referendum on the Alternative Voting system, legislating in the European Union Act 2011 for a referendum should there be a fresh transfer of powers to the EU, and in granting a referendum for a yes/no vote in Scotland. Given that the last issue had the potential to breakup the Union and was the subject of much deliberation, an anti-referendum stance is not one of principle.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 23 Comments

Baroness Kishwer Falkner writes: We should not repeat previous failures in Iraq in the hope that we might succeed this time

iraqEvery year, as the long summer recess approaches, those of us who cover foreign affairs speculate as to which international crisis will precipitate a recall of Parliament. This year we were spoilt for choice with Russia, Syria and Gaza dominating.  However when the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) overran Mosul, the lack of any obvious course of action prevented a recall. But now as a US strategy has been revealed, there are some clear pointers about what the UK needs to consider in its response. We need to be clear about the implications of our action and its implications.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , , , and | 36 Comments

Baroness Falkner on Syria and intervening abroad

I join Paddy Ashdown in feeling depressed about my country today.

In my near thirty years as a Liberal Democrat I have heard two tropes consistently from campaigners: that policy is irrelevant and that foreign policy is particularly irrelevant.  Yet it is foreign policy above all that shapes our party’s fortunes.

Take the SDP split over Europe – that got me into the party in ’85. Then came our opposition to the UK’s ban in letting in Hong Kong residents before the handover to China  – several of my friends joined too, and it put Paddy Ashdown on the map.  In the 90’s it was Bosnia and subsequently Kosovo that made us carry a uniquely and sometimes lonely flag for freedom and humanitarian intervention – last night the same isolationist Foreign Secretary of that period was arguing against doing anything in Syria – some things don’t change!  We subsequently made the right call on Iraq, and will shortly see the trial of Seif Gaddafy in Libya – who threatened to stamp out Libyan dissenters as cockroaches. Despite current troubles, on balance I am proud that we averted that.

Posted in Op-eds and Parliament | Tagged and | 41 Comments

Kishwer Falkner writes… Libya: our common humanity crosses frontiers to protect those we do not know

As tyrannical regimes go, Libya is right there at the top and ranks alongside North Korea for the unpredictability of its ruler, the self-styled Colonel Muammar Gaddafy, who used to be referred to by Ronald Reagan as the Middle East’s ‘mad dog’.

Having given up nuclear weapons he is admittedly slightly better than Kim Jong-il, but we cannot know for sure that he has also given up chemical and biological weapons. In a country where tribal loyalties prevail and where the four main tribes occupy the main positions, Gaddafi’s own tribe occupies the top posts and much of his internal repression is carried out through a myriad of different state security institutions as well as a plethora of paramilitary units, recruited from abroad.

The country does not have a constitution, but is run by a revolutionary ruling council which has been in situ for 42 years and cannot be dismissed. There have been regular attempts at coups over this period, which have been ruthlessly put down and there are no evident pointers to a peaceful succession.

Gaddafi’s four sons have long been involved in jostling for the top position and foreign governments were betting on Saif al Islam (the second son) to take over the reins, as he was increasingly the acceptable face of the regime.

Saif al Islam al Gaddafi was awarded a PhD from LSE enticingly titled “The Role of Civil Society in the Democratisation of Global Governance Institutions”. He chairs the Human Rights Commission of Libya, and lest anyone doubt that he is therefore a soft touch, he was his father’s voice last weekend displaying a similar determination to stay in power through putting down the uprising till as he put it, the last man, the last woman, and the last bullet had been expended. He appears to be delivering on his pledge.

Several hundreds have died in the last few days, hospitals are overflowing and as a crackdown has started, anyone moving on the street is shot dead. Reports say that ambulances are also shot at to deter them from trying to save the injured. The air force has been mobilised to bomb civilian residential areas, and the reign of terror has started.

So what should be done now, that the country has descended into chaos?

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , , , , , , , and | 13 Comments
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