The Globalist | Political Courage: Merkel Vs. Cameron

The following originally appeared in The Globalist.

In politics, doing the right thing should be done for its own sake, not for tactical reasons.

At the start of the New Year, the world leader who deserves praise in this regard is German Chancellor Angela Merkel. In the face of rising anti-Islamic protests in her country – a Dresden hate rally on December 22, 2014 reached a record 17,500 people – she chose to condemn the protests directly in her New Year’s speech.

“There is no place here for stirring up hatred and telling lies about people who have come to us from other countries,” she said.

Merkel added that the protest leaders had “prejudice, coldness or even hatred in their hearts” and observed that their clever rhetoric masks an ugly message that “You don’t belong, because of the color of your skin, or your religion.”

A spokesperson for the Chancellor followed up this pronouncement with the following statement:

“In Germany, there is no place for stirring up hatred against believers, for propaganda against religions of any sort, no place for right-wing extremism, and no place for xenophobia. The entire German government is united in its condemnation of any such thing.”

 
Lest readers believe this was an easy course of action requiring little thought, consider that a new poll by Forsa for Stern magazine. It found that 13% of Germans would attend an anti-Muslim rally in their own community — and 29% believed the rallies were justified.

Cameron’s response

Contrast Ms. Merkel’s determination in the face of a rising tide of xenophobic hate with Prime Minister David Cameron’s positioning. All that he has mustered is a weak rejection, even uncomfortable accommodation, of Britain’s mounting xenophobia and anti-immigrant views in the political sphere and general population.

Mr. Cameron has cowered before the growing power of UKIP and his own party’s more distasteful right wing, as the anti-outside-world politicians in Britain have surged to victories in the EU elections and parliamentary by-elections.

Conclusion

Chancellor Merkel deserves praise for standing fast against political extremism, anti-immigrant activists and anti-Muslim sentiments. Other elected global leaders would do well to learn from her example in the New Year’s speech and actually lead on this issue in 2015.

Pictured: Prime Minister David Cameron, President Barack Obama, and Chancellor Angela Merkel, May 2012, watching a Chelsea vs. Munich soccer match during the G8 summit. (White House Photo)

Pictured: Prime Minister David Cameron, President Barack Obama, and Chancellor Angela Merkel, May 2012, watching a Chelsea vs. Munich soccer match during the G8 summit. (White House Photo)


Additional note for clarity, for non-Globalist readers: Read more

More anti-EU plans from Cameron after another UKIP win

Following the earlier first-place nationwide triumph this year by the right-wing/anti-European “UK Independence Party” (UKIP) in the 2014 European Union elections, mainstream British politics suffered another serious blow last night, as the first elected UKIP member of the UK parliament was elected in a special election. As with his response to the EU election result, Prime Minister David Cameron yet again handled the situation by immediately ratcheting up rhetoric and policy plans against the European Union (and immigrants), according to the (pro-Conservative) Telegraph:

David Cameron will unveil tough plans to restrict immigration from the European Union within weeks to stop another Ukip MP being elected following Thursday night’s by-election [in Clacton].

Douglas Carswell, a former Conservative, yesterday became the first MP elected to Parliament for Nigel Farage’s UK Independence Party following a huge swing in support.

Conservatives warned that the decision by traditional Tory supporters to vote for Ukip would allow Ed Miliband to become Prime Minister if repeated in the general election in 209 days.

Labour narrowly won a second by-election by just 617 votes [over the UKIP candidate] and Mr Miliband is also now facing a major challenge from UKIP in [Labour’s] traditional northern heartlands.

 
The party elite’s right-wing also trumpeted the defeat as a sign that the Conservatives must double-down on anti-immigrant, anti-EU policies and even break up the coalition government with the far more moderate and internationalist Liberal Democrats. While not going that far, Cameron and the ruling government did continue to recast the party toward the euroskeptic position:

The Prime Minister said: “If you vote Ukip, you’re in danger of getting a Labour government with Ed Miliband as prime minister, Ed Balls as chancellor and you’ll get no action on immigration, no European referendum, and obviously – most importantly – you won’t get a continuation of the plan that is delivering success for our economy and security for our people.”
[…]
Brandon Lewis, a communities minister, said that the Tories will put immigration “at the heart” of the renegotiation with the EU to be held before an in-out referendum scheduled for 2017.

He said: “What people are worried about though is migration from the EU, and the Prime Minister made very clear last week that has got to be one of the key things at the heart of renegotiation that we will have before that referendum which we will deliver in 2017.”

 
And after its own close shave in the other by-election, the Labour Party leader also made rumblings of rethinking Labour’s immigration policy:

Mr Miliband conceded that Labour now needs to address “specific concerns” about immigration and denied that he was “complacent”.

 
Miliband is undoubtedly keeping in the back of his mind the situation in France and elsewhere, where traditional far-left, working class communities have gradually abandoned the leftist parties in favor of ultra-right-wing nationalist parties that vow to halt immigration and restore protectionist industrial policies that once helped those workers. Labour is significantly more economically centrist than it once was.
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Russia’s grip on the Tories (and London) remains strong

Former Labour MP and UK Minister for Europe Denis MacShane has a new article in The Globalist blasting the Conservative Party’s tightening relationship with top Russians, even as the United Kingdom (officially, at least) grows more cold toward Moscow.

In the latest controversy, the Conservative Party is refusing to give back £160k in campaign funds donated by Russian oligarchs and former Putin insiders, just ahead of the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in Ukraine (which killed UK citizens), but well after the annexation of Crimea. Last year, the Conservative Party accepted almost £900k in campaign cash from Russian high-rollers.

Adapted from Colin's photo on Wikimedia

“Russian Gherkin, City of London” by Arsenal for Democracy. Adapted from Colin’s photo on Wikimedia

Meanwhile London and the City (the country’s financial zone) continue to attract sketchy Russian investors and residents.

Even Vladimir Putin mocks London as the place where “the oligarchs have bought Chelsea,” a reference to Roman Abamovich, the owner of the top soccer club. Another oligarch, Evgeny Lebvedev, is the owner of two key newspapers, the Independent, and the respected London Evening Standard, as well as a London TV station.

One in ten of all London homes with a price exceeding $1.5 million was bought by a Russian last year. [Conservative Party donor] Mrs. Chernukin and her husband, Vladimir, a former director of Aeroflot, live in a $12 million dollar apartment.

Another Russian donor to the Conservative Party, Andrei Borodin, has fled to London after accusations of a $370 million fraud in Russia. He lives on a $235 million estate near London and paid $67,000 for a portrait of Margaret Thatcher at a Tory fundraiser last year.

The UK Electoral Commission reports $1.5 million in donations from rich Russians to Conservative funds last year. The UK has given visas to 433 Russians since 2008 who invested more than $1.5 million in Britain.
[…]
London courts are also where Russian oligarchs fight out their legal battles. London lawyers earned an estimated $150 million from just one court fight between Roman Abramovich and Boris Berezovsky. Lawyers say that 60% of all the cases now heard by London senior commercial courts are linked to disputes over spoils from the ex-Soviet Union.

Another attractive legal market is divorce fights. Londoners have gaped at the fierce legal fallout as elderly Russian oligarchs trade in their wives for slimmer, younger beauties.

 
MacShane also noted the hypocritical and increasingly fact-challenged assertions by Prime Minister David Cameron regarding UK arms trade with Russia, a topic I’ve covered at some length previously.

I was going to note how odd it is that these foreign citizens can make political contributions directly to the parties in the United Kingdom, since that’s prohibited in the United States, but I suppose our equivalent is the heavy presence of “consulting” operations in Washington DC, advising — but not officially representing — a multitude of unsavory foreign clients on their relationships with various malleable forces in the U.S. capital.

Cameron making louder “Brexit” noises after UKIP win

Will the Conservatives let Britain exit the EU in response to the rise of the UKIP — and make Jean-Claude Juncker the scapegoat?

Our full-scale guest analysis of the European-wide impact of last weekend’s EU populist-dominated elections will be coming tomorrow (update: read it here), but in the meantime, I wanted to highlight one of the probably very related fallouts of the ruling Conservatives finishing third nationwide in the United Kingdom behind the anti-EU “UK Independence Party” (the first non-major party to a nationwide election in more than a century) and the opposition Labour.

There are rumors — already denied, of course — that UK Prime Minister David Cameron is threatening to escalate Britain’s halfhearted attempts to exit the European Union (a move nicknamed the “Brexit”) if the new center-right coalition in the EU parliament goes ahead with plans to make former Luxembourgish Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker President of the powerful European Commission, which has the sole power to propose new European laws and regulations across the Union:

German magazine Der Spiegel says British PM David Cameron warned that the UK could leave the EU if Luxembourg ex-PM Jean-Claude Juncker became president of the European Commission.

It reported Mr Cameron as saying that the appointment could destabilise his government, which may bring forward referendum plans on EU membership.
[…]
The magazine quotes Mr Cameron as telling the German chancellor that “a face from the 1980s cannot solve the problems of the next five years”. A senior government source told the BBC it did not recognise the language about destabilisation and that it is not something the prime minister would have said.

 

Ok, here’s my immediate takeaway: If he actually said that, even if it’s obnoxious and probably a desperate reaction to the UKIP win that threatens to break apart his party base, it might be the first semi-reasonable point he’s ever made on EU criticisms. The president of the European Commission will be responsible over the next five years for driving further internal lawmaking and regulatory integration within the European Union.

jean-claude-junckerThat seems like something that would call for fresh leadership with a new vision, rather than a career European leader. In fact, Jean-Claude Juncker (pictured), who took office in January 1995, was one of the longest-serving democratically elected leaders in history when he stepped down as Prime Minister of Luxembourg in December 2013. He has been around the block and then some. Isn’t it perhaps time to let somebody else try?

On the other hand, his lengthy and popular service within both Luxembourg and the European Union system mean he’s a proven, effective, experienced leader everyone knows. And maybe that wouldn’t be terrible, in terms of producing results. Of course, if your goal isn’t to produce results because you oppose the EU — which is the position of the UKIP and many Conservative Party voters — then someone flashy who doesn’t do much is ideal. Whereas when one is trying to placate euroskeptics, elevating a man who embodies the European Union at its most European Union-y is not the smart play.

Guest Post: Our hung parliament

Matt is currently a university student in Britain, but he attended high school in the US with the co-editors of Starboard Broadside*, and he has provided us with his reaction to the inconclusive results of yesterday’s general election.

Well, Nick Clegg has said he won’t be giving any more speeches today, and after those of us who weren’t shut out of the poll station at 10 p.m (which wouldn’t have been a problem but for the bloody Labour government having all pubs shut at 11p.m.), there’s a prevailing feeling that our votes were denied a definite result. One generally expects when they go out to vote to know who’s running the country the following day. However, as exciting (read: worrying) as the results are, they were far from unpredictable. The “yellow tide” of Cleggmania may have fell short of a tsunami, but that’s only because of the very electoral system which Clegg has been critiquing from the start.

The system in the UK is confusing even to us, but to put it simply for American readers, the Lib Dems did do well for a third party, achieving 23% of the national vote (only 6% less than Labour), but the only thing that matters is the amount of seats that are won. In this “First Past the Post” system, whoever gets the most votes in each particular constituency goes to Parliament and the rest of the votes are thrown away. This is how the Liberal Democrats have only 2 million less votes than Labour but 200 less seats in the House of Commons, and this is why Clegg has been demanding electoral reform from the start. The reason this election is so exciting is because of the very issue of electoral reform which it has brought to the forefront, and which will play a decisive role in how the new government is formed.

Indeed, the chairwoman of the Electoral Commission has described the current system as “Victorian” and demanded an overhaul. While we claim with great pride that the voter turnout increased massively, the country was unable to handle this, and polling stations shut voters out after 10 p.m., leading to sit-ins at polling stations around the country, and even demands for another vote to be held.

The anxiety over the current state (or non-state, rather) of the UK government has negatively affected the British economy, with sterling falling from $1.4732 to $1.4678 during Cameron’s speech – this could not have been more badly timed given the current economic happenings. The fact of the matter is that while this country is currently in need of a strong government, we are now left with a minority one that will rely on either small-scale policy compromises between two parties who’s manifestos are on polar opposites, or something even scarier and more revolution-worthy such as a Labour coalition (and we grow tired of Mr. Brown) or a defunct parliamentary minority. While we may wonder who it was that the country really voted for, we can guarantee it was not a Conservative-Lib Dem quasi-coalition. This election’s most defining aspect is that it has disproved the reliability of our current system, and Britons are demanding change.

From his speech given this afternoon, Cameron is in no way proposing an official coalition, but rather, to use his own words, a government which will “try to find new ways in which Liberal Democrats can contribute” – i.e. making the coffee. Expect a cartoon to surface on the internet within a few days of (forgive the cheeky British banter) Clegg with a big “57” painted on his chest kneeling down and doing rude things to a wryly grinning Cameron sporting an even larger “305,” with a caption somewhere along the lines of “Cameron spurns coalition, opts for ‘special arrangement’ instead.” No one expects this government to last for more than a year (in the UK elections can be called at any time, there are no fixed terms). Cameron has, however, said that he will sate the appetite for electoral reform with an all-party Electoral Inquiry Committee, but anyone who has been following Conservative agenda knows that his only desire is to have constituency borders proportional to population size, which – while still progressive – does not address the issues posed by this election.

And if that prospect doesn’t seem uninspiring enough, we are all faced with the fact that Gordon Brown is still in office! In the situation where there is no clear majority, it is up to the prime minister to tender his resignation to HM the Queen and it is Her role to then invite a new prime minister to form a government. This might mean that if the politicians can’t sort it out themselves, then Buckingham Palace will have to make its own decision.

All in all, between a resurgent monarchy and a weak coalition, the results (or, as of yet, lack there-of) of this election have confirmed our anger with the electoral system and lead the way to a United Kingdom that is even less able to deal with either the ongoing or the impending financial crises.
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