Trump anti-Muslim tweets no help to religious tensions

Last week United States President Donald Trump was looking at videos from Britain First, an anti-immigrant hard line nationalist group in Britain of alleged Muslim offences. One was of a boy being attacked. Another was of a statue being desecrated and a third one was allegedly of a Muslim attacking a Dutch boy on crutches. Then he retweeted them, to the horror of British Prime Minister Theresa May.

By retweeting the videos of a known nationalist hate group, Mr Trump sent a signal to Muslims that he does not view them or their religion in the same light as he does other religions. He has in effect condoned hatred on a religion and its members when most of all the West should be seeking to understand the Islamic world better.

Mr Trump’s rebuttal of Mrs May’s criticism potentially harms the British-American relationship. Mrs May was right to point out that the retweets were highly and unnecessarily inflammatory. And this has given Mrs May and her Government some unlikely allies in places she might not thought them to possibly exist.

I am no fan of Mrs May who I think of as the “Maybot”, because she was perceived to have the empathy of a robot to the victims of the Grenfell apartment block fire. However, Mrs May was quite right to rebuke Mr Trump for retweeting those videos.

Mr Trump made two significant mistakes in his response:

  1. He was too lazy to find her proper Prime Ministerial Twitter handle and sent it to another person called who also just happened to be called Theresa May
  2. His put down of Mrs May would have spoken volumes about how Mr Trump views his relationship with Britain – being able and willing to put down America’s nearest and dearest ally, which is sometimes referred to as the 51st State of the U.S. is a hugely problematic indictment on him

American diplomats will be wondering how to undo the damage. For them such a slap in the face of the senior official of their most loyal ally will be staggering. America and Britain will survive this, but the reverberations will continue for awhile yet.

This should concern every other nation wanting peaceful rapproachment with the Islamic world. The so-called leader of the free world showing contempt for a perfectly valid warning about Britain First shows how little understanding Mr Trump has of diplomatic relations.

Or cares.


N.Z. Labour should be inspired by Corbyn

On 9 June 2017 I woke up to see the polls closing in Britain. Millions of people had just voted to give incumbent Prime Minister Theresa May a massive fright. But more than that they had shown that perhaps the leader of the U.K Labour Party is not the raving nut case he was made out to be.

What Jeremy Corbyn has done is simply brilliant. He has taken the fight straight to the Conservative Party with his daring to believe that there is a better way forward for Britain. Written off as not having a chance, the Murdoch media determined to bury him alive, made to appear as a betrayer of British principles, one might have thought Mr Corbyn never had a chance. But that memo never reached him. Bold and original policies such as removing the nuclear deterrent have captured the imagination of the left-wing of British politics. But also, Mr Corbyn was a voice of reason amongst the aggressive hard line talk about human rights being traded for progress against terrorism.

But can New Zealand Labour be inspired by Mr Corbyn?

That is a very interesting question. A party of reform, which gave New Zealand its nuclear free status, Labour have done many thing that have caught the imagination of New Zealanders in the past, and include (among many more):

  • Substantial improvement of socio-economic conditions for all, with Maori life expectancy improving 15-20 years
  • Statute of Westminister Adoption Act being passed to help enable New Zealand to become a realm instead of a Dominion
  • Introduction of the Domestic Purposes Benefit for single parents
  • The Treaty of Waitangi Act, 1975 was the first serious attempt at addressing Treaty issues
  • Major constitutional changes – the Constitution Act (1986), Bill of Rights Act (1990) were passed and still exist today
  • Homosexuality legalized in 1986
  • Enacted essential local government changes that abolished catchment boards and replace them with district and regional councils

So, the question that New Zealand needs to ask of Labour is whether or not we can be inspired by a resurgent Labour Party that stops being National-lite and goes back to the core unionists, minority groups that made it powerful in the first place?

I think we can be. But is Labour up to the task? That is another question altogether.

I want a Government that does not involve National or A.C.T. I do not want a Government that appeases countries that do not care one jot for New Zealand (Saudi Arabia); that believes corporations are more important than people; gutting the social welfare system, under funding health and education and letting the market dictate housing needs. National and A.C.T. stand for all of this.

Labour can work with New Zealand First. It did so very well in 2005-2008 and I understand the Members of Parliament from both parties get on reasonably well. The Greens will also no doubt want to help even if they just strangled their own prospects by only lining up 29 candidates to challenge for 71 electorates.

But none of this is any use if Labour cannot do something inspirational enough to swing voters back to the party of Clark, Fraser and Kirk. Which is why Andrew Little would be doing well to have noted the success of Mr Corbyn and the U.K. Labour Party.



A good day for Britain (and New Zealand)

I went to bed on Thursday night wondering how the British General Election was getting on. When I got up on Friday, polls had just closed and UK Labour were leading. It was in the very early stages and I knew the Conservative Party would fight back, but the winds of a shocker were in the air.

And that is precisely what happened. To govern with a majority, Prime Minister Theresa May needed 326 seats out of 650 in the U.K. Parliament. The Conservatives could only manage 311 on a night when the British people showed their disgust with the inflammatory populist politics of Nigel Farage and his United Kingdom Independence Party, and the Scottish National Party were reined in (more on both later).

The real winner in many respects was Labour. When Mrs May called the election, Labour was expected to suffer a landslide defeat. The odds looked dreadful for its leader Jeremy Corbyn and his brand of true leftist politics. The media empire of Rupert Murdoch was out to destroy Mr Corbin, wondering how Britain could survive with a Labour leader.

But luck was on Mr Corbyn’s side Mrs May, in a disastrous campaign shot herself in the foot several times. Her most disastrous move was to tell Britain in the days following the Manchester attacks that she would not hesitate to bulldoze human rights law if it would improve her chances of getting at combatting terrorism. The move angered Britons and today they showed their disgust. After all, why would ordinary Britons want to surrender their basic human rights when that would be handing terrorism victory on a gold plate with all the trimmings on the side?

This is good for New Zealand in two respects. Mrs May had announced plans to significantly tighten up visas for New Zealanders going to Britain to work and live. Many also would have been sad to see Mrs May taking the hard stance on human rights that so many Britons and New Zealanders fought side by side for in two world wars.

If Jeremy Corbyn is a happy man, it is highly unlikely United Kingdom Independence Party leader Nigel Farage is. His party, which held a solitary seat in Parliament was defeated. The reasons for his defeat have been linked to his behaviour in spreading what were known to be lies in the days following Brexit. His populist politics and at times inflammatory statements further added fuel to the fire of self immolation.

It was also a bad day at the office for Nicola Sturgeon, the leader of the Scottish National Party. In the 2015 election it had picked up 56 seats and was easily the third largest party in the United Kingdom Parliament. It still is, but with only 32 seats still in their hands.

And the doldrums continue for the Liberal Democrats. Their party had peaked in the 2010 General Election where leader Nick Clegg managed to become Deputy Prime Minister, with 56 other Members of Parliament. It crashed to just 8 in 2015, but picked up another 4 seats in 2017.

As for Brexit? It is still on. But who will be overseeing it now, with Mrs May facing calls to go, is not yet clear.

British election has huge implications

The next 36 hours in Britain shall go down in the country’s history as among the most important in modern times. This is an election with implications not just for the nation whose empire once spanned half of the world, but for Europe, and the world beyond.

When British Prime Minister Theresa May called a snap election, one of the polls suggested that Labour was a lamb being lead to the slaughter house, with huge gains forecast. Slowly, day by day that poll has narrowed to the point that now many believe a hung Parliament is the most likely outcome. There are several reasons for this:

  • The recent terrorist attacks in Britain have inspired Britons to show love and compassion and not the hardline, liberty hating, human rights trampling fearmongering required by Mrs May and her Conservative Party
  • The recent terrorist attacks also show that domestic policy, which the Conservative Party have had 7 years to improve on is failing badly
  • Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has made promises to take Labour back to its core principles that the left-wing of British politics find exhilarating, including cancelling the Trident nuclear submarines
  • Britons are having second thoughts about Brexit after initially voting yes for something they never quite believed would happen

When a nation that has stood for the rule of law perhaps longer than most others in the western world decides it might trample on its own human rights law in blind pursuit of beating terrorism, there is a MASSIVE problem. When the Government cannot stand up to a divisive world leader who is ridiculing the Mayor of your capital city in the days after it has had a terrorist attack and not showing respect for British authorities requests to be more careful about whom they share intelligence with, what kind of leader are you?  When  the Government cannot see any problem with arming war criminals, despite being called out many times by human rights organizations what has happened to your moral compass?

When the votes are cast and and counted, the world will see whether Britain wants to take a turn for the hugely better, walk a tight rope high above a pool of sharks or dive straight in. All I can say Britain is that I hope you know what you are doing.

Theresa May announces her own War on Terrorism

So, British Prime Minister Theresa May has announced her own “War on Terrorism”. Two days after the attack on the Ariana Grande concert, we hear that the British Prime Minister has decided that Britain has its own “War on Terrorism” to wage.
My immediate reaction was, how is this going to help? If it goes the way of the American “War on Terror”, it is going end in disaster.
There is so much western Governments do not understand about terrorism, or they do understand it, but their desire to look tough in the face of danger means they break every rule in the book.
One of the most irksome is terrorists want mass media coverage, notoriety, glory – call what you may – and we hand it to them in gigabytes. We rush to cover their attention grabbing acts, to hear the politicians vow to get tough, to slam through poorly thought out knee jerk laws. In this deeply interconnected world, where an e-mail or text message can travel around the world in a matter of seconds, where I can post things on Facebook and my brothers American in-laws will see it almost immediately, it is impossible to get away from the coverage.
Yes it is dreadful. Yes we should be shocked that totally innocent people were killed and maimed, but it is time to take a stand and ask where are we going wrong – why is this not only happening, but getting more and more frequent? The commonest answers “because they hate us” are grotesquely oversimplified. Without writing a PhD on the causes of terrorism though, it is brazenly obvious that the western approach is failing or has failed. So let us have a look at why.
Those laws, those fearful reactions, that horror is precisely what the terrorists want. They want to create a climate of fear and the Government – not just the U.S. and British Governments – are rushing blindly into the trap.
Another is a complete, abject and possibly quite deliberate failure to report critically on the War on Terrorism. There is a shocking tendency to use vague generic language – I mean how often have you heard “A top/key/senior al-Qaida commander has been killed by a __________ in _________”. The vagaries are to lull the public into a false sense of progress being made; a false sense of this can be won”.
The media are supposed to be the ally of free people. They are supposed to critique the Government, report big stories such as inappropriate use of tax payer money, perjury, dodgy weapons deals such as the one between Donald Trump’s administration and Saudi Arabia and so on.
The third is the public rush to believe uncritically the politicians who espouse toughness against terrorism; who ram laws through like a medieval battering ram. We cannot win when the public cannot have a say on the very laws that are supposed to protect them (“We the people” and all that, America…).
Well, yes it can be won, but it sure ain’t gonna be won by waging aggressive wars in foreign lands your governments and the military establishments under their command know nothing about – and probably care even less.
The real ways to beat terrorism are not sexy, for the most part do not need cluster bombs, cruise missiles, or ground invasions. It certainly does not need regimes that care not a jot about humanity to be propped up by the supposed leaders of the free world, or for the clock to be continually banging past thirteen as George Orwell spins in his grave, realizing 1984 has become a manual of some grotesque sort.
The west can beat terrorism, but we are going 180º in the opposite direction to that which we should be going.