Opinion: Ed Miliband’s march to Financial Crisis II and Wars of Choice II

Canvassing over the weekend for Simon Hughes in Canada Water, (Labour-facing) and for Ed Davey in Surbiton (Tory facing), I was again struck by how much the remaining staunch Labour voters still see their party as on the left of the political spectrum.

Sure they are planning to  borrow much more than the Liberal Democrats, and make the UK vulnerable to another crisis.  However that seems a direct result of most of their big money contributions coming courtesy of dual-hatted public sector union reps.

On everything else they are looking increasingly authoritarian, and pro-war.  A kind of ‘Blairism without the fake financial prudence’.  Whilst the combination of top-down control-freakery and sponsored superficial PR-type MPs lost them Scotland, no lessons seemed to have been learned. The likely new Labour intake looks frighteningly lightweight and malleable.

At recent hustings (I’m a candidate in West Ham and doing some Newham-wide events) Labour incumbents robotically read through lists of extra spending promises, but dodge much else with bland statements of the blindingly obvious. They peddle the myth of the 2007 ‘global crisis’.

The truth is that the crisis originated in the UK and US and then affected severely only a few countries. There was no ‘global financial crisis’ in Turkey, China, South America, SE Asia, Germany, Scandinavia or Australia (although of course they were later affected by reduced demand in USA and other countries).

Labour spokespeople  still deny the UK’s economic vulnerability from  pre-2007 Labour over-borrowing, which left little room to deal with the crisis, and thus led to emergency cuts.

Maybe this explains Ed Miliband’s policies on preventing another financial crisis in the UK. Apart from a few vague populist promises the page is entirely blank.

Any cursory read of the financial press shows how banks are up to their old tricks, and how close we are to another financial sector crash. But surprisingly given their prior culpability, Labour has nothing to say about this. All the running on further crash-prevention has been made in government by Vince Cable, Lib Dem (former) MEP Sharon Bowles in the EU, and the anti-Cameron, Pro-EU Tory MP Andrew Tyrie in Parliament.

We can only presume the restart of Labour Blairite shoe-lace licking in the City is already well underway.

For a sign that Ed Miliband’s Labour Party is also up for more war, look no further than Ed’s Scottish leader, and ministerial hopeful, Jim Murphy.

I attended an extraordinary speech Jim Murphy made last year at a meeting in parliament organised by the Henry Jackson Society. Sounding more like President Bush than a British politician, Murphy spoke of a global militant Islamic conspiracy against the West, and a dangerous arc of instability seemingly stretching from Northern Nigeria, across the Maghreb, to the Middle East and Central Asia. He warned his audience of the need to prepare for potential UK military action to force stability on the entire region.

With thinly-veiled Islamaphobic undertones Jim Murphy referred to the dangers within the UK of global Islam; a kind of enemy within. He applauded Labour’s main foreign policy actions during the 13 years of Labour up to 2010, being the illegal attack on Iraq and the escalation of the UK’s limited initial actions in Afghanistan, et al. He advocated UK war with Syria.

This sounded odd coming from someone with no previous experience in international or military affairs. It is inconceivable that this major well-trailed speech was made without clearance from the party leadership and spin machine. One can only take it as indicative of   the Labour Party’s policy for government.

Has Ed Miliband’s Labour learned lessons from the financial crash and the Iraq war ? Extraordinary though it may seem, it appears not.

It may become necessary for Liberal Democrats to do a bit of teaching.

* Paul Reynolds works with multilateral organisations as an independent adviser on international relations, economics, and senior governance. He is an elected member of FIRC and an Executive member of Liberal International (British Group).

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21 Comments

  • jedibeeftrix 28th Apr '15 - 2:57pm

    Hmmm, I don’t like the tone of this article, and see little evidence herein that labour are “pro-war”.

    Rather the opposite, I see someone who appears to dislike the activist foreign policy the armed forces are equipped for and the public seem to support.

    We aren’t Germany cope with it.

  • On everything else they are looking increasingly authoritarian, and pro-war………

    Of course, had it been left to LibDem MPs, Hague/Cameron would have got the UK involved in yet another ME conflict…
    ‘Warmongerin’ Labour and Tory rebels spoilt that party…

  • We did involve ourselves in another conflict . Libya, with equally disastrous results for the population of that country. As for the financial crisis, well, I’d argue that no one has really learned any meaningful lessons because we’re still obsessed with wracking up private debt as a means of creating the illusion of growth. I’m not saying this to be anti-lib Dem. I just sometimes despair of the mess all the parties make of other peoples lives and then try to shift elsewhere by casting the mote and all that. If it hadn’t of been for Ed Miliband and some Conservative back benchers reacting to the public’s distaste for more war we would have been involved in Syria and probably extending ISIS’s reach.

  • Andrew Watson 28th Apr '15 - 6:13pm

    Paul seems to have a high opinion of himself. Sorting out West Ham will be a doodle compared to his widespread grasp of global realpolitik.

  • Vince Cable points out that the crash was caused by a financial crises in the financial institutions in the City of London. Labour are to blame for that as they instigated light touch regulation which permitted these institutions to behave irresponsibly. They believed as neo-liberals that markets are self correcting, and it is clear that the Tories would have made the same mistakes as indeed did George Bush in the US. On the other hand we were fortunate not to be members of the Euros tied to European interests rate which would have been too high for us as it was with the PIIGS countries (Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece, Spain) who suffered a lot more as a result despite having a smaller financial services sectors than ours.
    As for foreign conflicts, where we get involved they have all had disastrous consequences. The war in Iraq obviously so, in Afghanistan we have seen the rise of the Taliban and in Libya we have chaos. We are constantly overreaching ourselves and the sooner we become objective on how limited and diminishing our power is in the world the better. I agree that it is surprising that Jim Murphy is the elected leader of the Scottish Labour party. A survey of Labour PPCs shows 75% oppose Trident replacement, so how did the party end up voting for him?

  • A Social Liberal 28th Apr '15 - 8:13pm

    Geoffrey Payne said

    “As for foreign conflicts, where we get involved they have all had disastrous consequences”

    Hmmmmmm
    Sierra Leone had disastrous consequences? Kosovo? Bosnia? The main difference between those wars and the conflicts east of Suez is that we had to adhere to the timetables of another country and admittedly the lack of military know how from a Labour government. I advert you to the difference in loss of life after Rumsfeldt (I apologise for any spelling mistake) and after the Surge, the loss of life after pulling down the dividing walls between Sunni and Shia post Surge. In afghanistan you can clearly see the difference in deaths of both civilians and service people once we surrendered Helmand Province to the US Marine Surge.
    As for a ‘Rise of the Taliban’, they werealways there-just like the Provos were always there in Northern Ireland. In fact, who was it turning Afghanistan into a failed state post Soviet occupation if not the Taliban?

  • It’s disappointing that people jump to the Islamaphobic tag when someone points out a threat strategy that might be very real and needs to be consideded ? ISIS is a threat,… and it does espouse a variant of Islam. So why is it Islamaphobic to even bring up the point that a potential threat exists.
    For what it’s worth Jim Murphy is not alone. Rear Admiral Chris Parry CBE, also has similar fears.
    http://www.breitbart.com/national-security/2015/04/24/admiral-warns-potential-for-islamist-raids-on-european-islands/
    Is Rear Admiral Chris Parry CBE also to be pilloried as a racist, or might these worries have some foundation?

  • Jedi,
    Does Libya reflect Labours lack o military know how?
    The reason these wars fail is lack coherent objectives, plus they kill, injure and destroy the livelihoods of lots of locals who understandably aren’t pleased about it. The logic behind Afghanistan was basically to get Bin Laden and when they got him he was out in the open in Pakistan in a compound close to a military base. His downfall took a couple of helicopters and a handful special operatives. In other words the Afghan conflict identified the wrong target, involved muddled thinking, was pointlessly destructive and counter productive. War should always be seen a last resort, the result of failure and not as a tool for changing regimes we do not like. I’m sorry Jedi, but you occasionally come close to being a military fantasist.
    And Clare Short was a minor MP and trying to peg her as a major reason for the post conflict mess is just ridiculous.

  • Judge them by their actions? Have we covered ourselves in glory with Libya? Is it not a step too far to decide that Labour wanted war in Syria because there is a split in their party (and lest we forget how they actually voted)?

    I actually share many of Mr Reynolds concerns but cannot see how a ‘split the difference’ strategy will fix foreign interventionist policy or sort out structural issues in the banking sector! The past five years suggest neither would be a red line.

    PS. I’d more likely vote for a Labout party that listens to Unions than a ‘Blairite – shoelace licking’ party!

  • Missed that you quoting a Social Liberal and added it to “two other reasons”.

    As for the rest. I’ve read your blog I just think you seem a bit quick to seek military solution and come across a bit on the gung ho side. Also I don’t think any of our recent action show Britain to be a Great Power. In truth I’m not even certain what anyone means when they talk about “great powers”. The world has changed and to me military solutions just look more and more ridiculous and even a little dishonest, Bin Laden blatantly based in Pakistan, ISIS almost certainly bankrolled in the Gulf states but too important to tackle so instead we’ll remove some aging dictators and turn a blind eye to the consequences to the population of those countries when religious extremist run amok. Actually. I think this is the one area where Nigel Farage may have something approaching a point.

  • jedibeeftrix 29th Apr '15 - 6:00pm

    @ Glen – “In truth I’m not even certain what anyone means when they talk about “great powers”.

    I’m not surprised, it is very subjective judgement that even the cleverest of IR academics will argue about through the prism of their favoured IR theory.

    Reading Buzan, the best description of a Britain that i can devise is a Middle Power (in reach & scale) that is also a Regional Power (without an opposing regional pole). Explanation – being a Regional Power without any opposing regional pole allows the freedom to magnify the projected effect of a Middle-Power into that of Great Power…… Example – By solving its strategic problem with Pakistan India would de-facto become a Great Power rather than merely a Regional/Middle Power.

    https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=AHPh_IPH4KkC&pg=PA187&lpg=PA187&dq=buzan+great+power&source=bl&ots=fC_5m8dLgb&sig=0gdbwFvprRuLGFbG1lhGprQuhwk&hl=en&sa=X&ei=cglBVey6MMvfaqfhgbAK&ved=0CD4Q6AEwBA#v=onepage&q=buzan%20great%20power&f=false

    It is a complex subject, and there is no right answer, but if not us, who?

    @ Glen – “The world has changed and to me military solutions just look more and more ridiculous and even a little dishonest,”

    Much of the world thought the same leading up to 2010; conflict would be limited to intra-state conflict resulting from societal breakdown in unstable parts of the world. Then Georgia happened, and Crimea, now the baltic states are getting nervous.

    The world is not getting any simpler as the Defence Concepts and Doctrine Centre make clear:

    https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/33685/FCOCReadactedFinalWeb.pdf

  • A Social Lliberal 30th Apr '15 - 1:48am

    Jedi

    Your two reasons for our poor showing in the two conflicts.

    2) Unfortunately I was far too removed from anything military or DFiD to be able to comment on Ms Shorts interference or otherwise.

    1) Given our numbers I wholeheartedly agree

  • jedibeeftrix 30th Apr '15 - 11:12am

    A few people here questioned the claim about dfid obstruction, so I’m hoping an attempt to respond to them will succeed this time:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8393358.stm

  • Jedi,
    fair points, but I didn’t say the world got simpler. I said it changed. I still maintain that military solution in the way that they are being enacted at the moment are basically counter productive and pointless. The problem with Russia is complicated by the reality that a lot of people in the region feel ethnically different to borders that formed after the Soviet Union collapsed. What’s happening is basically a continuation of the same process. I’d say actually it is similar to what’s happened in the Middle East, borders were agreed and recognised whether sizable minorities of the populations involved agreed with them or not. I can’t see how military input really solves this least of all when the reality is that no one sensible wants a conflict with Russia. The other problem is that cold war era politics dictate who we support. In the middle east is Syria really a bigger threat us than Saudi Arabia, was Gaddafi really worse than the rebels trying to overthrow him etc.?

  • Sierra Leone was an example of where we were asked for help by a member of the commonwealth, It has more in common with the Falklands than any of our recent escapades. It also didn’t involve destroying a country based on geo-politics from an era that no longer exists. I see Sierra Leone as a justified obligation to a friend. I don’t believe wars can be justified beyond agreements to protect or self interest coz I don’t believe that killing people should be dismissed as collateral damage, At the very least if you are going to kill people it should have a moral underpinning. I dunno, that may be just me. My Grandfather was in the RAF during WWII and had very strong ideas of what was justified and what wasn’t.

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