Lord Roger Roberts writes…The demand is for statesmen rather than politicians…..

“We must all hang together, else we shall all hang separately” the words of Benjamin Franklyn on signing the declaration of Independence are as relevant today as they were back in 1776

When a future generation weighs the historical importance of the early twenty first century they might remember another quote – that the politician looks to the next election whilst the statesman looks to the next generation. We’re very short of statesmen but have an abundance of politicians!

Here in the UK, whatever the cost it’s 2024 and the election planned for that year that counts. Our government chose to continue with the withdrawal from the European Union even though circumstances in 2020 were vastly different from those of the referendum. The tiny majority that voted for us to leave had neither a virus nor probable economic depression to contend with and there were suspicions of a misleading leave campaign. Where did that £350 million a day for the NHS disappear to? And where are the crowds from Turkey hiding?

The messages of the politicians have led us into deep trouble and who knows where the end will finally be? People don’t trust hardly a word spoken by politicians and any promises Mr Johnson makes are treated with disbelief’ Whoever is Lib Dem leader has the massive task of rebuilding trust in the government of the United Kingdom and the new Labour leader is already facing mounting criticism within his own party. If we rebuild trust we might be on the way to shaping new statesmen and women.

But we must “hang together” globally. In the past few months we are seeing a better understanding between people of different backgrounds and respect for every person wherever they might be.

My concern has been very much with Asylum Seekers and Refugees. As many as 60 million men, women and children fall into that catergory. Yet the UK,for instance, resumes the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia knowing full well of the hunger and poverty in the Yemen. Are we “together” with these folk for whom every day is a nightmare?

Only last week the UK reduced its Aid budget by £2.9 billion! Our battle is not only against the virus but against poverty itself. A contest between the statesmen and women and the politicians.

This post probably reads like a sermon and for that I make no apologies. When we add our environmental challenges the task ahead is even more massive than we imagine. It cannot be achieved by countries acting separately!

* Lord Roberts of Llandudno is a Liberal Democrat Member of the House of Lords

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13 Comments

  • Peter Martin 2nd Aug '20 - 10:05am

    ” Where did that £350 million a day for the NHS disappear to? ”

    It was actually for a week if anyone is interested in getting it right!

    The obvious answer is that it has gone on the fight against COVID. Even though we’re still paying whatever we were paying to the EU at the moment. Nothing will change for another six months. The BoE supplied the ££ billions to bail us out. If Lib Dems had had their way and we’d joined the eurozone in the early 00s that wouldn’t have been possible. We’d have then been dependent on whatever the ECB would have allowed us to do.

    The future does look to be uncertain. But it is questionable if membership of the EU would reduce that uncertainty for the UK. They’ve got big problems of their own which aren’t much discussed on LDV.

    This article by Prof Hans- Werner Sinn may be rather over technical for some but he mentions a figure of Euro 999 billion which is owed by Italy, Spain and others to Germany via the ECB. He sounds like he wants to actually see it repaid. There’s no chance of that. Not even partially. The amount will soon top 1 trillion euros, if it hasn’t already.

    He says “Fixing (the fiasco) requires an open or real devaluation. But no one wants to talk about that.” That’s because it means the end of the eurozone and the end of the EU in its current form.

    https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/european-union-recovery-fund-will-not-make-italy-spain-competitive-by-hans-werner-sinn-2020-07

  • Barry Lofty 2nd Aug '20 - 1:18pm

    I do not know whether I am competent enough to make an observation on this subject but my own feeling is, what an awful mess we are in, lies, corruption, incompetence, dodgy money funding donations to political parties, conflict between powerful nations etc etc. I know politics can be a dirty game but the world seems to be at an all-time low at this moment in time, heightened, I am sure, with an extremely contagious pandemic which is maybe fueling my despair. At a time when we really need a statesmen/ women we get, you know who, in No 10.

  • Always reluctant to question Roger Roberts’ sermons, I confess that I am not sure that statesman is a useful concept these days – and not just because we get into contortions trying to find a gender neutral alternative. My problem is that I question the notion of rising above politics, which I see as one of the highest (and, like reproduction, necessary)
    forms of human activity. Some of us are happy to see it in terms of vocation. Actually those who have been called statesmen have tended to be amongst the most effective politicians and the most alert to the dangers that afflict nations or groups of nations when they choose (or have chosen for them) alternatives to politics. Our present rulers seem to have taken the betrayal and degradation of politics even beyond dirty tricks. In fairness, I think this is what Roger is alluding to.

  • Peter Martin 2nd Aug '20 - 3:58pm

    @ Martin,

    Oh dear. You seem to have just one line of attack. To mistakenly equate opposition to the EU with right wing nationalistic ‘little Englander’ type opinion. It’s getting a little worn out. Can’t you come up with something else?

    Just on point of information: the Labour Party and other left groupings ran the campaign to get Britain out of the, then, EEC in 1975 in the face of the opposition of the capitalist establishment who funded the remain campaign an order of magnitude than we were able to fund the leave campaign. So we do know what it is like to have the cards stacked against us.

    In case you’d like to better understand the ‘lexit’ position, here is an article from 2015 that Jeremy Corbyn would have supported at the time.

    “Supporters of the EU sneer “Little Englander” at those with a different opinion, but most of the arguments against membership are left-leaning and liberal.”

    https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2015/06/john-king-left-wing-case-leaving-eu

  • jayne mansfield 2nd Aug '20 - 5:39pm

    @ Peter Martin,
    Who are our friends.? Who can we rely on? The Russians, the Chinese, The Americans? Hell’s Bells Peter, you can stand and fly the red flag as much as you like, but do you really think that Johnson can just bang on a lectern and tell the rest of the world our terms for engagement because we are special? Laughable. We are in deep trouble.

  • Peter Martin 2nd Aug '20 - 6:18pm

    @ Jayne,

    “Who are our friends? Who can we rely on?”

    Good questions. You obviously think the EU countries. I don’t know about that! They aren’t even friendly with each other at times. Have you heard what the Germans say about Greece and Italy ?

    We can trade with anyone we like without having to be “friends”. There might be an imbalance of a few percentage points of GDP but international trade is essentially a swap of one lot of goods and services for a different lot of goods and services. If countries want to export to us that can only happen sustainably if we are allowed to export to them. Putting up a tariff barriers doesn’t come cost free.

    People are friends. Countries have strategic alliances. I wouldn’t advocate leaving NATO. That’s an alliance.

  • jayne Mansfield 2nd Aug '20 - 6:50pm

    @Peter Martin.
    Many think that the extreme left and the extreme right are at extreme linear opposites of the political spectrum, whereas it seems to me that politics is horse shoed. I struggle to understand where you and UKIP differ in your little Britain, exceptionalist mindset.. Or indeed, why you continue to to post regularly on here, unless it is like myself , it is just the boredom of social isolation and curiosity.

  • Peter Martin 2nd Aug '20 - 8:04pm

    @ I can’t speak for UKIP, or the Brexit Party, or the ERG.

    But, for the left sceptics, it is really nothing to do with British exceptionalism. We looked at how the EU operates and we didn’t particularly like what we saw. I would say that view is also shared by many others who probably wouldn’t consider themselves to be on the left. It cuts right across party lines rather than being a straightforward left/right issue.

    If Lib Dems were so keen on the EU yourselves, why didn’t you campaign to join the euro and be a part of Schengen, like France and Germany? To answer my own question, you didn’t do that because you knew it was all a misconceived political project and was never going to work. So, we aren’t really that much different. It was just a question of degree.

    You didn’t want any part of the wider ‘ever closer union’ but took the view that it was better, economically, for us to hang around on the periphery for as long as possible. Whereas many leavers took the view that the EU27 and the UK wanted different things in the longer term and it was therefore better for us to quit now.

  • roger roberts 2nd Aug '20 - 9:13pm

    What I aimed for in my post was simply the need at every level for people to co-operate. It is only when we act together – in Europe, here in the UK tackling world poverty and discrimination that there is any hope for our future -JOHN LEWIS said jusr before his death “Together, You can Redeem the Sou of Our Nation”

  • At this point it looks like there is going to be a depression whether we’re in Europe or not. If the crisis has demonstrated anything it’s that all the EU nations act within national borders when push comes to shove and things like freedom of movement are largely academic. We’ve spent months with few our representatives even willing to defend the freedom to visit our neighbours or relatives. There is arguably a case for extending the transition period, but I suspect budgets will again reflect national interest rather than the idea of a “European family”. The other point is there is always a tendency to frame events to fit an argument being made prior to those events.

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