Russia, ISIS, globalisation and the EU – Norman and Tim answer foreign affairs questions

LDV recently put some questions on foreign affairs to the two leadership contenders. Here are their responses.

1. Can you summarise in around 100 words what a liberal foreign policy looks like in your view?

Tim Farron:

Liberals are proud and passionate internationalists because we believe in the rights of all people – no matter what they look like, what they believe or where they are – to live in peace, free from poverty, ignorance and conformity. We understand that only by working with other countries through strong international institutions can we make that a reality and build a fairer, greener, freer world.

It is in neither Britain’s interests nor the world’s to close ourselves off, but also that intervention abroad must be rooted in international law, decided through international institutions and clearly justified on humanitarian grounds.

Norman Lamb:

Our Party is proudly internationalist. Our leaders have often been lone voices, Paddy demanding rights for British citizens from Hong Kong, Charles opposing the Iraq War, Nick in taking on Nigel Farage‎

I share these courageous liberal values‎. Liberal values are universal – they do not respect borders.

For me Britain should play a global role and prompt Europe to do more for peace, in tackling poverty and climate change, and in standing up to oppression.

We must also be able to defend those who need our protection, our allies, and ourselves. Enduring adequate funding for our armed forces means debating Trident’s future when our world is far more threatened by terrorists and cyber attacks than by nuclear war, and pursuing reform to make sure our forces are effective and efficient.

2. Some of the party’s most memorable moments, particular under Paddy Ashdown’s leadership, have been when we have been a lone voice arguing for Britain to play a role on the world stage. After Iraq, the public appetite for liberal intervention diminished significantly. How do we make the case, as Paddy did, that we have a duty to act in circumstances where we can help stop or prevent humanitarian crises?

Norman Lamb:

The Iraq war was predicated on a lie. It’s reverberations are found in every hideous YouTube video of another ISIS beheading in Iraq and Syria.

Paddy makes the case for liberal interventions based on the need of the threatened local population, broad regional support and with confidence that the rebuilding of a coherent, viable state would be an international priority.

Paddy argued such interventions are not only morally right but also would succeed and in doing so liberal value would spread. Far too many of those criteria were missing in Iraq. If we don’t support internationally-agreed principles of intervention, we inadvertently promote chaos and more war – and as Lib Dems we sometimes need to remind even our allies of this. That said, where these principles are met, we must be willing to argue for the right decision even if it is not a popular one.

When we do this people may not always agree with us, but they will see our consistency and respect it. Respect and trust are a prerequisite of people listening.

Not all foreign policy interventions rely on military action. Britain and Europe are powerful economic forces. In my view it is time we argue for the EU to take a far more proactive role in applying pressure on Israel to demand that the illegal settlements on the West Bank are demolished, with, ultimately, the threat of sanctions if no progress is made. We must ramp up the pressure on Qatar to reform exploitative labour laws in the build up to the 2022 World Cup; and challenge our failing drugs laws. The the so-called “war on drugs” destroys communities and the life opportunities of young people while it’s failure puts billions into the hands of criminal gangs in developing economies.

As Liberal Democrats we must have the courage to stand up for free movement of labour in the EU and in using every opportunity to make our world a better and more liberal place.

Tim Farron:

The Liberal Democrats have to be clear that we will support humanitarian intervention where it is necessary and justified, and oppose it where it isn’t. I’ve set out the principles I believe should guide that decision: respect for international law and institutions and acting only where there is a clear humanitarian case for doing so.

Opposing unjustified and illegal interventions – as well as being the right thing to do – is also the best way to secure support for justified, legal action. So I’m incredibly proud that it was Paddy Ashdown who led the calls for intervention in Kosovo, but I’m also incredibly proud of the stand Charles Kennedy took against the Iraq War.

3. Can you explain why you voted like you did in the August 2013 vote on Syrian intervention (or, if absent, explain that absence and explain how you would have voted had you been present, and why)?

Tim Farron:

I abstained in the vote on military action in Syria after listening to the advice of NGOs on the ground there, including CAFOD [The Catholic Agency For Overseas Development], who did not believe a military solution would improve the appalling situation at all.

Norman Lamb:

In Syria there was clear evidence that chemical weapons and cluster bombs – both illegal under international law – were being used indiscriminately against rebel and civilian targets. This caused immense suffering and loss of life.

Amnesty International also reported the widespread torture and extra judicial execution of men and children. And Syrian American Medical Society volunteers presented extensive evidence to the UN just this week that the Syrian regime has used Chlorine gas in their barrel bomb attacks over the last month, killing and disabling hundreds

I felt we could not stand by and watch this happen while there was any possibility of securing multilateral support for intervention against the murderous Syrian regime, and that intervention was the least bad option in trying to address the humanitarian situation and protect the UK’s interests. Since then countless civilians have died at the hands of their government, instability has spread across the whole region, and we have seen radicalisation spread as far as Britain.

4. How do you think the international community should tackle the (linked) problems of Assad’s regime in Syria and ISIS in Syria and Iraq?

Norman Lamb:

Building our energy independence is a crucial step in enabling us consistently to promote peace and human rights in the middle east. Our oil dependency badly restricts our capacity to do so currently.

We recognise that many of the problems in the region erupt in Syria or Iraq but their origins lie elsewhere, such as in Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom is treated as one of the West’s strongest allies in the region, but forces there also quietly bankroll half of the world’s terrorists. While this situation persists Britain should not be selling hi-tech arms to Saudi Arabia.

Assad may end up being defeated militarily soon. If so we will need to do a lot better than we did in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. We will need to be clear in establishing those key liberal principles which hold true regardless of where you are; constitutionality, self-determination and autonomy for Syria’s different regions, ethnicities and historic affiliations, plus strong publicly-supported institutions to enable economic growth and neighbourhood security. So many parties have had a hand in the conflict that the UK and allies need to build broad coalitions to reduce the incentives to cause further trouble there.

If not, and the Iraqis also fail to halt the advance of ISIS and insurgents, we will have to get to the roots of the conflict with our allies. This means pressuring our allies and their friends to cut off supplies and funding, and to sever supply lines within the territories – with the ambition, not just of containment, but of defeat.

As everyone can see from their TVs, ISIS is in effect a conventional army taking over large cities and thousands of square miles of territory, using vast, vast quantities of Western-made weapons and equipment. We should know better how this came about and learn lessons. It will be neglectful in the extreme if we do not. So many of the problems in this region are in part of our own making. But that does not mean we will solve them by turning our backs on the people of Syria and Iraq.

Tim Farron:

I believe that we should support the moderate opposition in Syria, who are fighting both President Bashar al-Assad and ISIL. We should push for an inclusive political transition so that moderates from all sides can unite against extremism.

We must continue our humanitarian support for the more than 15 million Syrians and Iraqis forced from their homes by the violence, and ensure food, water, shelter and medical care gets to where it is needed both within those countries and in the neighbouring countries hosting refugees.

5. Thanks to Russian aggression in Ukraine, war has now broken out on Europe’s border once again. Do you agree with the West’s approach to Russia so far (sanctions, attempted diplomacy)? Do you think it has gone far enough? What else should we do to ensure both the territorial integrity of future prosperity and security of Ukraine?

Tim Farron:

I believe that the solution to the crisis in Ukraine must be a political one, and Britain should be working as part of the European Union to secure it.

The economic sanctions against Russia are biting: foreign investment has collapsed, capital has fled and the Russian economy has slid back into recession. We need to continue to exert political and economic pressure on Putin. Russia must withdraw its military forces and Ukraine must have the freedom to cooperate with the EU more closely if it wants to.

We need to also be extremely careful not to play into Putin’s hands by going in all guns blazing. That is more likely to stoke unrest in Ukraine and Russia and feed the fictitious narrative that Putin has created than it is to deliver peace.

I am disappointed that David Cameron has not played a more active role in talks between Russia and the EU. Britain has one of world’s best diplomatic services, and making use of it is one of the ways we can punch above our weight in today’s world. Yet when Chancellor Merkel and President Hollande sat down with Putin in Minsk earlier this year, David Cameron and Philip Hammond stayed at home. Tory Europhobia is taking us to the margins of European diplomacy and preventing us from playing a key role in resolving this crisis.

Norman Lamb:

Under David Cameron, Britain has been absent from key talks between Russia and Europe. While there are currently sanctions against Russian aggression, we need to be prepared to make these stronger.

Strategically we must secure greater energy independence as a country and continent. Our ability to act is dramatically weakened by Europe’s dependence on Russian gas for its energy supply.

Looking at the specific situation in Ukraine, I support a process under international law to protect the oppressed minorities in Crimea and eventually restore Crimea to Ukraine. I think the UK and our allies are wrong to skirt over this issue. We will almost certainly have to come to an arrangement with Russia over its Black Sea bases, building on the agreements in place before the annexation. But it’s the circumstances of the people of Crimea over time that concerns me most.

But Russian aggression not only impacts on Ukraine itself – one of Europe’s largest economies – but also threatens half a dozen other countries along the Russian border. NATO should look at strengthening it’s position in these outposts sending a strong message while keeping diplomatic channels open.

6. What is your view of globalisation?

Norman Lamb:

Globalisation is inevitable in an age where international travel, trade, and communication are easier and cheaper than ever before.

There are different kinds of globalisation. Some good, some bad. Freedom of travel and mixing of cultures is beneficial for all humanity, notwithstanding the pollution for long haul flights, and many new technologies help us all. But unequal trade conditions, poor employment conditions and appalling pollution standards are disbenefits we must address.

Globalisation has the potential to improve prosperity and quality of life around the world or deliver a race to the bottom. We must champion the former and challenge the latter.

Here we need transform our economy to remain competitive in a changing world. Our education and training system must equip all with the skills to benefit from that change.

And our aid programme must support young people in the world’s most deprived countries so they can look forward to a life with choices beyond working in a sweatshop – or not working at all.

Developing the infrastructure and skills to add value in developing countries from the new global economy and from aid should be our priority. This will improve life for individuals in those countries, and also create a thriving new generation trading partners for businesses here in Britain.

Tim Farron:

Globalisation has been hugely beneficial to Britain and to the world. Over the last 20 years, it’s helped to halve the proportion of people living in extreme poverty. The free movement of people, capital and ideas enriches society and improves people’s lives. Technological progress – from aeroplanes to the internet – has helped bring the world closer together and foster a greater sense of interconnectedness, which is absolutely necessary to tackle poverty, war and the existential threat of climate change.

But for those who’ve lost a job, or can’t afford a decent home, or can’t get their child into a good local school, the downsides of globalisation can seem to loom larger than its benefits. The answer to those people cannot be to turn our backs on the world, pull up the drawbridge and shut ourselves off. The answer must instead be to build the homes, schools and hospitals our country needs, and to create a new low-carbon, high-skill, innovative economy that will generate jobs, opportunity and prosperity in a competitive world.

There is also an imbalance in the international system, where the treaties and institutions promoting trade and investment are almost always stronger and more effective than those protecting the environment – so sometimes trade rules can trump environmental regulations. Once again, the answer is not to turn to protectionism but to argue for a stronger international environmental regime.

7. Economic protectionism seems to be on the rise in the UK, with opposition on the right to Britain’s membership of the European Union’s single market and on the left to the proposed trade and investment agreement between the EU and US (TTIP). What is your view on those issues, and how should liberals make the case for multinational cooperation and free trade and against protectionism?

Tim Farron:

The Liberal Democrats should champion international cooperation and open trade between nations. Britain already benefits greatly from EU trade deals with countries like South Korea, Mexico and South Africa, and the proposed trade deal with the United States could bring big economic benefits too. But sometimes the worst enemies of free trade are the fanatics who pursue it at any cost, without regard to genuine concerns about the impact on the global or local environment (see my answer above), or the social impact on local communities.

TTIP is a good example. I support it in principle: removing unnecessary regulatory barriers to trade between the US and EU. But I don’t support a deal at any cost. We must uphold the high European standards of environmental, health and consumer protection, and I’ve been pleased to hear the European Commission’s negotiators commit to doing just that. They have also rightly confirmed that TTIP will have no impact on the NHS, either in terms of access for private providers or the principle that access to NHS services is based on need, not ability to pay.

Concerns about Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions are also well founded. Of course, it’s an important principle of law that businesses should be able to take legal action against a government if they have been treated inappropriately. But the EU and US have established legal systems with independent judiciaries, and both sides should have enough confidence in each other’s courts not to outsource such cases to private tribunals. There is no case for the inclusion of ISDS provisions within TTIP, and all that those who insist on it are achieving is to rouse fears that they want one law for corporations and one law for everyone else.

Norman Lamb:

Millions of our fellow citizens make daily purchases that reject protectionism. I think it is mistake to view opposition to the EU and to the TTIP in protectionist terms.

Opposition to the EU is often based on insecurity and frustrated powerlessness felt by the many against the unaccountable power and growing privilege of the few. This builds suspicion and hostility

Opposition to TTIP has been provoked by stories that the NHS will somehow be exposed to rampant privatisation, that national governments will lose the power the act to tackle climate change and animal welfare abuses, and – crucially – that decisions about our country are being taken by remote bureaucrats and faceless corporations in Brussels and Washington. These are legitimate concerns.

The TTIP embodies so much of what is good, and also so much of what is bad, about the EU. On the one hand, we should celebrate the fact that countries on both sides of the Atlantic are coming together to agree transparent and fair standards for free international trade. But it is also immensely frustrating that so much of the early stages in deciding Europe’s priorities for the deal were carried out in secret. I simply don’t accept the argument that agreeing these priorities in public would somehow have undermined our negotiating position. It is much more important that our position should have the democratic legitimacy of meaningful public participation and transparency.

As Liberals in an age of free information flows and increasingly liberal social attitudes we solve concerns about the EU and TTIP by understanding these underlying reasons and acting to address them based on our core liberal principles – by making the EU more open, democratic and accountable.

8. What approach will you take as leader to the Prime Minister’s renegotiation of Britain’s membership of the European Union? What reforms would you like to see? How (if at all) should the Liberal Democrats avoid being seen as simply defending the status quo?

Norman Lamb:

I believe passionately in the principles of the European Union – that nations should work together to make our continent a better place, to promote democracy, environmental responsibility, trade and improve living standards, and to resolve disputes through diplomacy rather than war.

But I also believe that fundamental reform of the EU is needed. You might not think it from the current debates about our future in the EU, but for years Lib Dems have made all the running in trying to reform the EU with little help from the other parties. EU Banking reform after the 2008 crisis was led by Sharon Bowles, an excellent Lib Dem former MEP. But when last year we agreed EU reform proposals with our sister Liberal parties across Europe, and when the German CDU set out far-reaching reform proposals, the Tories were strangely silent on both.

But I want us to go further. As Liberals, here in Britain we argue for greater devolution of power closer to the people, for giving communities real control over the decisions that affect them. We must apply this same principle to EU reform asking – can we devolve this power to individual countries, or to local communities?

At the same time many of the core principles of the European Union – free movement of labour, free trade, and supra-national arbitration in human rights cases – must be upheld enthusiastically by us and consistently applied across all member states.

Tim Farron:

Over the next two years, the Liberal Democrats must take the lead in the Yes campaign to make sure we remain members of the European Union.

We will, of course, make the economic case for remaining part of the world’s largest single market. But that alone will not be enough. We must also make the bigger case that only through the European Union can we stand up to abuses of corporate power, bring an end to people-trafficking and, of course, tackle the existential threat of climate change. And we also need to try to build an emotional case for the EU, generating genuine enthusiasm for remaining a member – because the European project has brought peace to a continent wracked by war, because open societies allow the human experience to widen and the human spirit to flourish, because it is better to treat foreigners as sisters and brothers, not as people to be feared or scapegoated when things go wrong.

Our approach to the EU, however, mustn’t be one of unquestioning support for its current structure. We must be as hard-headed about European institutions as we are about British ones, challenging concentrations of power and holding those who wield it properly to account. For all their so-called ‘euro-scepticism’, UKIP and the Tories do neither of those things. We should never let our proud pro-Europeanism be mistaken for a lack of genuine scepticism towards those who hold the reins of power. Britain must remain at the heart of the EU while working with our partners to reform it so it works for everyone.

* Nick Thornsby is a day editor at Lib Dem Voice.

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  • Eddie Sammon 29th Jun '15 - 1:52pm

    I thought both gave good answers, but two points if I may:

    1. Norman’s passion for energy independence seems to be at odds with calls for radicalism. It sounds more like hard-headed pragmatism to me, which he has been distancing himself from.

    2. A lot of the leadership election is going to come down to “who you would rather go for a drink with”, rather than policy matters. Try as I might, I can’t bring myself to criticise Farron much because he (or his team) have been nice to me.

  • Patrick Murray 29th Jun '15 - 2:21pm

    Interesting there is never any mention that Paddy supported Iraq…

    I think neither candidate is prepared to (or capable of) consider the root causes of some of the conflicts covered, and our role in the West in creating them.

    For example both NATO and the EU have serious questions to answer over the Ukraine. That does not excuse the actions of the Russian Government, particularly in Eastern Ukraine, but there were and are many people who do not see this complex situation in such black and white terms. We’ve backed the overthrow of a democratically elected leader who was replaced by a Government whose first actions were to repeal the use of Russian as an official language. For a country whose historic and cultural connections run deep that was a bad move and didn’t help dispel the fears raised that a new Government would not respect the rights of people in the South and East. It’s not some simple calculation that the pro-West guys are always good (for example the nationalist/ fascist groups who back the new Government and are fighting as volunteers). We’ve followed that up with increasing bellicose rhetoric and sanctions which has strengthened Putin beyond measure.

    We’ve blundered in there on the back of NATO’s post Cold War policy of expansion into what they call “post soviet space” and been caught off guard when people didn’t like it. No surprise when the historic and cultural links in half the country are to Russia – nearly all the people fleeing from the conflict in the East have gone to Russia for example. Of course in Western Ukraine the historic links are to Poland, hence this splintered country. We are as guilty as Putin in refusing to acknowledge the existence of people on the ground who take the other view.

    When I joined the Lib Dems in 2001 it was because they were prepared to consider all the facts and views on an issue. Now it seems that we swallow the NATO line without question. It’s as though the EU are involved, so it must be right! But the Ukrainian situation is akin to a hostile, foreign power instituting regime change in Ireland at the height of the troubles. Think how we have would responded to that!

    The less said about the incredibly simplistic and naive comments on the horror in Syria, the better. Neither shows any capacity whatsoever to begin to understand how we might achieve an absence of violence there.

  • There is only one contender who has the grasp of detail makes a hard-headed practical assessment on what are the most crucial issues facing this country and may threaten its very survival.

    Clear win to Norman,

  • Hm, are we really going to keep increasing sanctions on Russia until they give Crimea back to Ukraine? Annexing Crimea was totally illegal in the way it was done but there is little doubt that the vast majority of Crimeans are happy with the result. Joining them back to Ukraine against their will would be completely opposite to what we did in Kosovo… Persecution of the Tatars is an issue, but the facts are hard to discover and it is unlikely to be solved by sanctions

    Donbass is a much more complicated issue but it seems very unlikely that reabsorbing it back into Ukraine on the old basis will ever be possible now. A solution more like the partitioning of Bosnia seems likely to be the only peaceful solution in the end, however unpalatable… Meanwhile the Kiev regime is far from being the “Nazi Junta” portrayed by Moscow but on the other hand there seems to be a conspiracy of silence over the inclusion of neo-fascists in the government and some of the militias, and the long campaign of shelling of civilian areas… Hands up all who would want the Azov battalian in charge of their town?

  • Peter Bancroft 29th Jun '15 - 5:22pm

    I would call that a draw between the candidates. There is also very little policy difference between the two.

    On approach, Norman seemed slightly more hard-headed whereas Tim conceded slightly more of the positioning to the Guardian critique of current global affairs. Norman wins for me for being the more accurate, though Tim’s approach might go down better with much of the UK’s natural constituency.

    I thought Norman came off weak on the European Union which isn’t ideal for the coming referendum (particularly compared to Tim), but that Tim struggled with liberal interventionalism and I would hope that we won’t see any serious calls to be made when he’s leader.

  • John Tilley 29th Jun '15 - 6:44pm

    A couple of comments here use the description “hard-headed”.

    In terms of foreign affairs Mr Putin would no doubt be described as “hard-headed”.
    Most of the top brass in North Korea would be described as “hard-headed”.
    Mr Netanyahu would definitely qualify as “hard-headed”.

    I wonder why in the context of a discussion of a Liberal Democrat approach to issues of foreign policy some people seem think “hard-headed” is a compliment?

  • I’m not hugely inspired. The leaflets I’ve received are very telling:

    – Farron’s has that cosy old school sandals and leather patches feel to it, with appeals to emotion and a n overwhelming sense of earnestness.

    – Lamb’s slick, professional, efficient… cold.

    Lamb strikes me as a generally admirable figure but no leader. I like what he did in government, generally speaking, but there’s no real charisma there. Eccentricity, perhaps, but he’s not the kind of figure who’s going to inspire very many, I feel.

    Farron’s got the potential to be an uplifting, positive leader. He’s also got the potential to be really quite annoying. I don’t think his faith should be a problem; indeed, it’s disappointing that so many are making such a big deal of this.

    I don’t think either will do that badly (the bar’s already set very low) but would I come back to the Lib Dems for either of them? Doubt it. (I’ve rejoined in response to the election result, as it happens.)

    If this seems quite unhelpful I’ll at least end on a positive note: both are putting ‘liberal’ at the heart of their campaigns; none of the centrist, equidistance nonsense that’s dogged the party in recent times.

  • Eddie Sammon 30th Jun '15 - 3:08am

    John, by “hard-headed” I mean “what wins sustainable votes”.


  • John Tilley 30th Jun '15 - 6:51am

    Eddie Sammon 30th Jun ’15 – 3:08am
    John, by “hard-headed” I mean “what wins sustainable votes”.

    Thanks Eddie, so you mean we should have a foreign policy like the SNP?
    They have sustained quite a few votes over the last ten years. 🙂

  • Peter Bancroft 30th Jun '15 - 12:31pm

    I was using “hard-headed” to mean someone who wasn’t just into platitudes about how our foreign policy should be more ethical, but who also showed the potential of making some of the hard decisions which might not be as trendy. Energy security and how to deal with failed states are two examples of these. Ultimately our next party leader is unlikely to become Foreign Secretary so it won’t matter too much, but I am wary of us returning to a policy-lite approach based around soundbites and calls from interest groups rather than something at least resembling a decent assessment of reality.

    Obviously I can’t speak for what anyone else might use the term for.

  • Tomas Howard-Jones 30th Jun '15 - 8:42pm

    On a positive note to the questioner, it was good to raise Foreign affairs as an area worth exploring the approaches of the 2 leadership contenders.
    However, there were 2 lamentably skewed questions on Syria and the Ukraine.

    Nick Thonsby clearly laps up received opinion of what the British, European and North American political establishment say in the media, with fictitious ideas like:
    – The existence of ‘liberal’ or moderate “Free Syrian Army” units of any consequence,
    – That the majority of Ukrainian people overthrew, or supported the overthrow and coup of an inadequate but elected government
    – That anti-Assad forces (almost 100% Sunni) could possibly form a liberal, secular government in Syria that would tolerate its minorities and not enact a genocidal vengeance against 1 or 2, if not more, of the myriad, large, non-sunni minorities.
    -That Assad hurts Syrian minorities (Doh!) and as an Alawite, represses Sunnis (!)
    – That the new NATO & EU-backed government in Kiev is in line with EU and Western values
    – That the Ukranian civil war is purely down to Russian aggression, and nothing to do with NATO manoeuvres
    – That Turkey isn’t covertly trying to unravel its peace negotiations with the Kurds
    – That Assad holds his population, including the many Syrians internally displaced in government areas, into enforced slavery who long to be ‘Liberated’ by the “Free Syrian Army”and that in a free, fair election, no-one would vote for him
    – That the Assad regime is the cause of the growth of ISIS and continuation of the civil war, rather than Turkey, continuous defections from the “FSA”, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Western assistance to the “FSA”
    – That Saudi Arabian (and its bought sunni-coalition) bombing of the Yemen is all perfectly above board, and not a worrying show of the harder line of the new Saudi absolute monarch

    All of what Patrick Murray has written is correct. Sadly, both leadership contenders failed to challenge the question’s presumptions on the wars in Ukraine and Syria, and I would echo his ending that “The less said about the incredibly simplistic and naive comments on the horror in Syria, the better. Neither shows any capacity whatsoever to begin to understand how we might achieve an absence of violence there.”

  • Tomas Howard-Jones 30th Jun '15 - 9:05pm

    For those who are interested, my opinion is that the only possibly least catastrophic way forward from the Syrian Civil war, would be:

    We’d immediately recognise the crucial role that the Kurds (Yes, and so control our NATO member Turkey) hold between Assad and Iran, and possibly some elements of the FSA who must be brought on to accept the continuation of the Assad regime but that agreements on limiting misrule are brockered by the West, Russia and Iran. (As Assad’s regime has done already with some FSA towns and districts away from supplies from Turkey and Gulf states via Jordan), and with the West on Chemical stockpiles)
    The Turks, Saudis, the Israelis (!almost unbelievable, but true!) and bulk of the FSA who are foreign fighters have forfeited their rights to that brockerage as they have little interest in Syria existing as a multi-confessional state, as it had been, by supporting Islamists, Al Qaeda (Al Nusra) and Daesh/ISIS. Those parties are therefore incompatible with the values that the West should support.

    Unfortunately I see no hope of this so long as hypotheses presented as facts (and regurgitated in an echo chamber of propaganda), or what Martha Gellhorn, the late great American observing, fact-finding journalist put it, “Official Bullsh*t”, holds sway.

  • John Stevens 1st Jul '15 - 3:33pm

    I do not have a vote in this contest. However, for what it’s worth, In so far as I can judge, on European commitment and on the capacity to make a constructive contribution to the forthcoming referendum campaign, TF inspires me with more confidence than NL.

  • So upset that Norman only mentioned sanctions in relation to Israel, the only true democracy in the Middle East, where homosexuality is celebrated, where there is total equality of sex and religion. The most bombed nation in the history of the world who face a ‘government’ who want to see the death of every Jewish baby. Yes they have to stop building Settlements, but to single them out for ‘sanctions’ whilst every other country in the Middle East denies every basic civil liberty to its own citizens, is nothing more than pandering to the popular, but totally disproportional issue in the region that so called ‘liberals’ champion as the greatest injustice. Not for me. I wish I had my vote back!

  • Richard Underhill 2nd Jul '15 - 4:38pm

    “It is in neither Britain’s interests nor the world’s to close ourselves off, but also that intervention abroad must be rooted in international law, decided through international institutions and clearly justified on humanitarian grounds.”


    Please apply Boolean logic. Consider “cruel and unusual pubishment”.
    What happens if the punishment is cruel and usual?
    There are countries in the world where judicial execution is applied as a form of repression, also lacking a fair trial.

    Suppose the “international institutions” are deadlocked, as has often happened. Is your “and” inclusive or exclusive?

  • Richard Underhill 2nd Jul '15 - 4:42pm


    Some more detail on Trident would be helpful. Very large sums of money are planned to be spent over very long periods.
    Waht Nick harvey said at conference is useful, as was what Danny Alexander wrote (in the Times?)
    Is it known how much money is planned to be spent on Trident during 2015 – 2020? and what will be achieved during that period?

  • John Tilley 2nd Jul '15 - 5:04pm

    Adam Perry
    Is Mr Netanyahu aware that he is running a country that you describe as a “true democracy” in which “..there is total equality of sex and religion” ? His statements in the last few months rather seem to suggest that he is not.

    As for the “..most bombed nation in the history of the world …” – have you excluded North Vietnam between 1935 and 1975 from this competition?

    Why do you think Desmond Tutu has called for sanctions against Israel? Do you really think he is “pandering to the popular”?

  • John, well if the liberal Archbishop Tutu said it! Over a period of time aimed at innocent citizens, israel has that dubious accolade, in a ‘non-war’ context. This continues today but as no innocents die and israel do not retaliate, it is not news worthy! Maybe you should visit Pride Tel Aviv, one of the biggest in the world..state funded! Arabs serve in parliament and in some of the highest roles in Israeli politics. Those few Jews who have not been expelled from Arab countries are not afforded that human right. Neither by the way are Palistinians in Lebanon or Syria (or lawyers or doctors). I despise Netanyahu and the majority of israelies want an end to settlements. My argument is that whilst some nations have the blood of beheaded Christians, bloodied babies and raped 10 year old girls on their hands (let alone denying EVERY civil right to their own citizens) and israel retaliates against an organization that wants them driven into the sea, there are thousands demonstrating and calling for sanctions as Norman did. Have you see one person outside the Saudi
    embassy or boycotting Qatar (we gave them the World Cup). Liberals are forced to hate Israel because it
    Is excepted doctrine, but this disproportionately could not be less Liberal!

  • Jonathan Brown 4th Jul '15 - 2:42am

    Thanks for asking these questions. It’s just scratching the surface, but very welcome nonetheless.

    I think on balance I find Norman’s answer more impressive – more willing on occasion to support unpopular but necessary action rather than just say something that sounds nice. I’m backing Tim, and will likely continue to do so: I suspect that his views and the ways he expresses them will play better with the public, and I think we’re unlikely as a party to have much influence over foreign policy in the immediate future, but I think it’s worth praising candidates when they impress anyway.

    (I also think that Tim will be able to successfully lead on some less controversial, but also very important issues such as the EU and climate change.)

    I wish as a country we had taken the opportunity in 2013 to confront the Assad regime over its use of chemical weapons. The government failed to make the case, but the then relatively successful and relatively moderate opposition groups might now be in a position if not to take power from Assad then at least be strong enough to negotiate with the regime and its foreign backers, and ISIS might still be nothing more than a minor distraction. Until and unless the military balance of power changes, I think any more peace talks are a total waste of everyone’s time.

    As it is now, the options open to Syria range from awful as the best possible outcome to the utterly ruinous.

  • Kevin White 6th Jul '15 - 9:27am

    The FCC will be meeting on Saturday to choose motions for Conference. A motion on Trident, supported by over 120 Conference Voting Reps, has been tabled. Both leadership candidates have expressed a wish to see the Party debate Trident. I hope the FCC will allow that debate to take place in Bournemouth.

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