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Newsletter 02/06/24

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Despite the best efforts of both contenders for the office of Prime Minister, Brexit is starting to become an issue in this election.

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Dear Subscribers,

Despite the best efforts of both contenders for the office of Prime Minister, Brexit is starting to become an issue in this election. Starmer is facing calls for closer relations with the EU – up to and including rejoining – to be on the table for the next government. Meanwhile, in his latest attempt to alienate his own supporters, Sunak is reluctant to mention the issue that won the Tories the last election.

A poll of voters in Europe conducted ahead of the European Parliament elections this week showed widespread discontent with the EU amongst its citizens. Of the five most populous countries in the bloc, only Spain recorded a net positive attitude towards EU membership. Right-leaning, eurosceptic parties are expected to make gains across the continent, raising questions about the future direction of the ‘ever-closer union’.

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Lacklustre leadership to blame?

Israel’s Prime Minister has accepted a framework for scaling down and halting operations in Gaza proposed by the US. Despite misgivings and identifying areas which need to change, Netanyahu said that Israel would try to make it work. The ball is now in Hamas’ court.

Donald Trump has vowed to appeal his criminal conviction. Unbiased reporting is almost impossible to find, but the charges were by all accounts novel and most legal experts think that there are good grounds for an appeal. Whatever you think of the case itself, the timing does not seem coincidental. The accusations date back to the 2016 election. Why wait 8 years to press charges if not to interrupt Trump’s third election campaign?

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Not over yet

President Zelensky has accused China of deliberately undermining peace talks aimed at bringing hostilities in Ukraine to an end. He said the Ukrainian intelligence had evidence that Beijing is providing support for Russia’s war effort and was putting pressure on other third parties not to attend a peace summit planned for June.

Media

Michael Crick on Labour’s purge of the Left

Matt Goodwin on Nigel Farage and the election

Blog

Ukraine since the House vote on 19 April by Adrian Hill

Former paratrooper and diplomat Adrian Hill brings us up to date on the balance of arms in the Ukraine war and on the likelihood that Ukraine may be allowed to use new weapons to target military sites inside Russia.

One can but remind our campaigning though rather sheltered politicians that it’s wiser to become Ukraine’s arms factory while rebuilding our own forces than dabbling with conscription. Basil Liddell-Hart won that debate in 1950 although it took a decade to end National Service and switch to all volunteer professionals. Vietnam persuaded the Americans follow and recruit a volunteer force a decade after us. Sort out the accommodation and married quarters, raise the pay, you might be surprised what that does for recruiting. There’s an old adage – one volunteer is worth ten pressed men. Frederick the Great and Napoleon both claimed that ratio is one to twenty.

Key Points

Both major parties have faced a backlash this week from members complaining about candidates being “parachuted in” from their respective central office to take the place of local activists. Diane Abbott narrowly avoided the fate of her colleague in Chingford and Woodford Green, who was purged for historic tweets. Tory constituency parties have been up in arms against “stitch-ups” whereby two useless candidates are shortlisted by CCHQ alongside a third party operator now being gifted a safe seat.

There is nothing new about candidates coming from outside the constituency. Indeed it is unreasonable to expect that the people who will make the best MPs will be distributed evenly across the country, one in each constituency. If electors want high quality law-maker and high-quality ministers, they will have to stomach high-achievers from the economic centres coming out to the shires to stand for election. What is new is the level of resistance from local members.

This tells us two interesting things about the relationship between political elites and politically engaged ‘civilians’. First, the civilians no longer trust the elites to choose good candidates. Special advisors who may have caught the eye of the powers that be have a tough time convincing members out in the country that there is something to be gained from putting them in Parliament. This raises questions for civilians and the elites. Why keep campaigning and voting for parties who insist on putting up unimpressive people for election? And why represent a political party whose members aren’t impressed with your record?

Second, those on the way to the top of politics no longer make a good impression on those they hope to represent. Rather than standing on their own merits, candidates rely on powerful central party offices to arrange an easy ride for them. This raises questions not just for those involved but also for society at large. What does it say about this country that we elevate to high office people lacking in conspicuous virtue? And what becomes of a country once they are there? We are quickly finding out.

 

 

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Briefings For Britain