Saturday, 31 October 2009

By appointment: a president with previous

I RATHER like David Miliband. I have tended to think that if the Labour Party has any decent future, he might be it.
If only he wasn't so often wrong about things. And his championing of Tony Blair to be president of Europe is so wrong on so many counts it stopped me in my tracks.
For a president – whoever it might be – to be appointed, not elected, would send out a very strange message to the world.
For it to be someone who, in Miliband's phrase, would "stop the traffic", would only compound that folly.
In fact, Blair as president might well literally stop traffic through protests against his war-mongering when he was UK premier.
In terms of world credibility it would put Europe roughly where the United States was in the bad old days of the George W Bush presidency. Virtual pariah status across large areas of the globe.
William Hague is surely right to say Britain's Conservatives would regard it as a "hostile gesture" if Europe were to make Blair its figurehead.
And not only the Conservatives, either. There are plenty on the left for whom Blair would be as unpopular a choice as Brussels could contrive.
It's about 60 years since Britain reluctantly began to accept it was no longer a Great Power. That it could no longer divide up the world into "spheres of influence" with the USA and USSR.
That status was over for Britain long before Miliband was born. Yet he seems to be nostalgic for it. Which may not be the best starting point for a foreign secretary.
Of course he's not so foolish as to think Britain can ever again be in the world's Big Three. But he does see Europe managing global affairs as partner in a triumvirate with the US and China.
And it is in such a role that he imagines Blair halting movement on the streets of Beijing.
I share some of Miliband's hopes of a federal Europe. But the questions of how it is run and how it is led need to be answered properly, not by parachuting in a celebrity president.
Would you want Blair to speak for you at the world's high table? I wouldn't.
His backers, who also include his old side-kick Gordon Brown, would like to see Blair presented as a true European president. They imagine him speaking on equal terms with Barack Obama and China's president Hu Jintao.
If those three sat down together, only one – Obama – would do so with a democratic mandate.
Not that the lack of it would be all Blair and Hu would have in common.
They both have "previous" in the matter of de-stablising other countries by armed interference.


MAXIM GORKY isn't much read these days, at least not in English translation. But for me he's at least up there with Tolstoy, Chekhov and Dostoyevsky as a great Russian writer.
His depictions of grim life under the tsars were at least as influential as Tolstoy's in building the mood for revolution.
The Communists recognised that by changing the name of his birthplace, Nizhny Novgorod – Russia's third city, after Moscow and St Petersburg – to Gorky. Stalin himself helped carry his coffin in 1936 (whether he also helped put him in it remains an open question).
Yet Gorky was never shy of criticising the Bolsheviks and their rule, just as he had that of the tsars before them.
In 1918, at the outbreak of Lenin's Red Terror, he declared: "Physical violence will always be an incontestable proof of moral impotence. Killing proves nothing except that the killer is stupid."
Wise words that rang in my head yet again this week when the Taliban "claimed responsibility" for the slaughter of UN workers in a guesthouse in Kabul. As if it was something to be proud of.


IF the latest British Council poll is to be believed, 54 per cent of British people think creationism should be taught "alongside evolution" in school science lessons.
Good idea.
While we're at it, let's teach all about Cinderella in history lessons, Buffy the vampire-slayer in RE and Bagpuss in biology.
And of course flat-Earthism should be added to the geography syllabus right away.

1 comment:

Liz Brown Dip. Hort. (RHS) Garden Centre Assistant said...

Yes teach Creationism but it should only be taught by someone who can take an entirely objective view of it.