August 9, 2017

The Falklands War – A War for Lost Glory I THE COLD WAR

Filed under: Americas, Britain, History, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 1 Jul 2015

The Falklands War was based on an old colonial struggle between two former world powers. When the military Junta in Argentina decided to claim the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic they didn’t reckon with Great Britain’s Iron Lady Margaret Thatcher. The British Prime Minister unleashed full scale invasion. The Royal Navy and the British Army landed and ultimately took the capital Port Stanley. The Argentine Army surrendered shortly after that.

October 10, 2016

British “One Nation Conservatism”

Filed under: Britain, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Sean Gabb on the “choices” available to a theoretical British voter who might still pine for a smaller and less intrusive central government:

The truth is that, since the 1960s, Conservative and Labour Governments have alternated. In this time, with the partial exception of the first Thatcher term – and she did consider banning dildoes in 1983 – the burden of state interference has grown, if with occasional changes of direction. In this time, with the exception of John Major’s second term, the tax burden has stayed about the same as a percentage of gross domestic product. I cannot remember if Roy Jenkins or Gordon Brown managed to balance the budget in any particular year. But I do know that George Osborn never managed it, or tried to manage it, before he was thrown into the street. Whether the politicians promised free markets or intervention, what was delivered has been about the same.

A longer answer is to draw attention to the low quality of political debate in this country. It seems to be assumed that there is a continuum of economic policy that stretches between the low tax corporatism of the Adam Smith Institute (“the libertarian right”) and whatever Jeremy Corbyn means by socialism. So far as Mrs May has rejected the first, she must be drifting towards the second. Leave aside the distinction, already made, between what politicians say and what they do. What the Prime Minister was discussing appears to have been One Nation Conservatism, updated for the present age.

Because it has never had a Karl Marx or a Murray Rothbard, this doctrine lacks a canonic expression. However, it can be loosely summarised in three propositions:

First, our nation is a kind of family. Its members are connected by ties of common history and language, and largely by common descent. We have a claim on our young men to risk their lives in legitimate wars of defence. We have other claims on each other that go beyond the contractual.

Second, the happiness and wealth and power of our nation require a firm respect for property rights and civil rights. It is one of the functions of microeconomic analysis to show how a respect of property rights is to the common benefit. The less doctrinaire forms of libertarianism show the benefit to a nation of leaving people alone in their private lives.

Third, the boundaries between these first two are to be defined and fixed by a respect for the mass of tradition that has come down to us from the middle ages. Tradition is not a changeless thing, and, if there is to be a rebuttable presumption in favour of what is settled, every generation must handle its inheritance with some regard to present convenience.

The weakness of the One Nation Conservatives Margaret Thatcher squashed lay in their misunderstanding of economics. After the 1930s, they had trusted too much in state direction of the economy. But, rightly understood, the doctrine does seem to express what most of us want. If that is what the Prime Minister is now promising to deliver, and if that is what she does in part deliver, I have no reasonable doubt that she and her successors will be in office as far ahead as the mind can track.

April 3, 2016

Terry Teachout on the first two volumes of the authorized Thatcher biography

Filed under: Books, Britain, History, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

I read the first volume of Charles Moore’s authorized biography and I was impressed. I’m halfway through the second volume and I’m not enjoying it quite as much as the first. I think that’s a combination of the first volume covering the era I was most interested in (the 1960s and 70s, and the Falklands War) and the second volume covering a lot more of the domestic intricacies of British politics during the 1980s (an “inside baseball” view which I don’t find all that compelling). Terry Teachout didn’t bog down in the middle of volume two, and reports that he’s very impressed with Moore’s work:

Forgive the cliché, but I couldn’t put either book down. I stayed up far too late two nights in a row in order to finish them both — and I’m by no means addicted to political biographies, regardless of subject.

A quarter-century after she left office, Thatcher remains one of the most polarizing figures in postwar history. Because of this, I don’t doubt that many people will have no interest whatsoever in reading a multi-volume biography of her, least of all one whose tone is fundamentally sympathetic. That, however, would be a mistake. Not only does Moore go out of his way to portray Thatcher objectively, but Margaret Thatcher: The Authorized Biography is by any conceivable standard a major achievement, not least for the straightforward, beautifully self-effacing style in which it is written. It is, quite simply, a pleasure to read. Yes, it’s detailed, at times forbiddingly so, but it is, after all, an “official” life, and the level of detail means that you don’t have to know anything about the specific events discussed in the book to be able to understand at all times what Moore is talking about. I confess to having done some skipping, especially in the second volume, but that’s because I expect to return to Margaret Thatcher at least once more in years to come.

One way that Moore leavens the loaf is by being witty, though never obtrusively so. His “jokes” are all bone-dry, and not a few of them consist of merely telling the truth, the best possible way of being funny. […]

He also conveys Thatcher’s exceedingly strong, often headstrong personality with perfect clarity and perfect honesty (or so, at any rate, it seems from a distance). At the same time, he puts that personality in perspective. It is impossible to read far in Margaret Thatcher without realizing that no small part of what made more than a few of Thatcher’s Tory colleagues refer to her as “TBW,” a universally understood acronym for “That Bloody Woman,” was the mere fact that she was a woman — and a middle-class woman to boot. Sexual chauvinism and social snobbery worked against her from the start, not merely from the right but from the left as well (Moore provides ample corroborating evidence of the well-known fact that there is no snob like an intellectual snob). That she prevailed for so long is a tribute to the sheer force of her character. That she was finally booted from office by her fellow Tories says at least as much about them as it does about her.

March 19, 2015

Thirty years on, what was the impact of the Miners’ strike in Britain?

Filed under: Britain, Economics, Government, History, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Frank Furedi points out six ways that Britain’s political scene has changed as a result of the year-long miners’ strike:

To defeat the National Union of Miners, UK prime minister Margaret Thatcher and her Conservative government had to use almost every available resource, including the mass mobilisation of the police. The Miners’ Strike became the defining event of British politics in the 1980s. And in retrospect, it’s clear that it was the last class-focused dispute of its kind.

Over the past three decades, the political climate, culture and institutions that served as the background for the Miners’ Strike have fundamentally altered. Here are six things that changed enormously in the wake of that industrial conflict.

1) The defeat of the Miners’ Strike signalled the end of the era of militant trade unions


2) The demise of the British labour movement was paralleled by the decline of the left

The Labour Party has survived the post-1985 tumult, yes, but only by reinventing itself as the party of the middle-class, public-sector professional. Thanks to the vagaries of the electoral system, Labour can still have MPs in many of its traditional working-class seats. The decline of labourism also coincided with the implosion of the Stalinist communist movement and the collapse of the Soviet Union.


3) Paradoxically, the demise of the left has not benefited the right

Thatcherism, which was very much the dominant force during the Miners’ Strike, has lost its authority. Today’s so-called Conservatives regard Thatcher as an embarrassment and self-consciously distance themselves from her legacy. So defensive is the right today that it continually protests that it is no longer a ‘toxic brand’.

October 7, 2014

QotD: The Blue Tribe’s reaction to two famous deaths

Filed under: Britain, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 00:01

The worst reaction I’ve ever gotten to a blog post was when I wrote about the death of Osama bin Laden. I’ve written all sorts of stuff about race and gender and politics and whatever, but that was the worst.

I didn’t come out and say I was happy he was dead. But some people interpreted it that way, and there followed a bunch of comments and emails and Facebook messages about how could I possibly be happy about the death of another human being, even if he was a bad person? Everyone, even Osama, is a human being, and we should never rejoice in the death of a fellow man. One commenter came out and said:

    I’m surprised at your reaction. As far as people I casually stalk on the internet (ie, LJ and Facebook), you are the first out of the “intelligent, reasoned and thoughtful” group to be uncomplicatedly happy about this development and not to be, say, disgusted at the reactions of the other 90% or so.

This commenter was right. Of the “intelligent, reasoned, and thoughtful” people I knew, the overwhelming emotion was conspicuous disgust that other people could be happy about his death. I hastily backtracked and said I wasn’t happy per se, just surprised and relieved that all of this was finally behind us.

And I genuinely believed that day that I had found some unexpected good in people – that everyone I knew was so humane and compassionate that they were unable to rejoice even in the death of someone who hated them and everything they stood for.

Then a few years later, Margaret Thatcher died. And on my Facebook wall – made of these same “intelligent, reasoned, and thoughtful” people – the most common response was to quote some portion of the song “Ding Dong, The Witch Is Dead”. Another popular response was to link the videos of British people spontaneously throwing parties in the street, with comments like “I wish I was there so I could join in”. From this exact same group of people, not a single expression of disgust or a “c’mon, guys, we’re all human beings here.”

I gently pointed this out at the time, and mostly got a bunch of “yeah, so what?”, combined with links to an article claiming that “the demand for respectful silence in the wake of a public figure’s death is not just misguided but dangerous”.

And that was when something clicked for me.

You can talk all you want about Islamophobia, but my friend’s “intelligent, reasoned, and thoughtful people” – her name for the Blue Tribe – can’t get together enough energy to really hate Osama, let alone Muslims in general. We understand that what he did was bad, but it didn’t anger us personally. When he died, we were able to very rationally apply our better nature and our Far Mode beliefs about how it’s never right to be happy about anyone else’s death.

On the other hand, that same group absolutely loathed Thatcher. Most of us (though not all) can agree, if the question is posed explicitly, that Osama was a worse person than Thatcher. But in terms of actual gut feeling? Osama provokes a snap judgment of “flawed human being”, Thatcher a snap judgment of “scum”.


And my hypothesis, stated plainly, is that if you’re part of the Blue Tribe, then your outgroup isn’t al-Qaeda, or Muslims, or blacks, or gays, or transpeople, or Jews, or atheists – it’s the Red Tribe.

Scott Alexander, “I Can Tolerate Anything Except The Outgroup”, Slate Star Codex, 2014-09-30.

March 14, 2014

Iain Martin on the three phases of Tony Benn’s political career

Filed under: Britain, History, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 08:12

The death of Tony Benn was announced this morning, and the Telegraph‘s Iain Martin says that Benn’s political trajectory had three distinct phases:

The BBC‘s James Landale described it well this morning only minutes after the death of Tony Benn was announced. There were, he told the Today programme, three phases of Tony Benn the public figure. That is right, and in the second phase Benn almost destroyed the Labour Party. His death — or his reinvention as a national treasure from the late 1980s onwards — doesn’t alter that reality.

In the 1950s and 1960s Benn was part of Labour’s supposed wave of the future, serving in Wilson’s governments and embodying the technocratic approach that was going to forge a modern Britain in the “white heat of technology”. It didn’t work out like that.


But it is when Labour found itself out of power in 1979 that Benn the socialist preacher applied his considerable talents — his gift for public speaking and the denunciation of rivals — to trying to turn Labour, one of Britain’s two great parties that dominated the 20th century, from being a broad church into a party that stood only for his, by then, very dangerous brand of Left-wing extremism. In the wars of that period against Labour’s Right-wing and soft centre he did not operate alone, but he was the figurehead of a Bennite movement that created the conditions in which the SDP breakaway became necessary, splitting the Left and giving Margaret Thatcher an enormous advantage to the joy of Tories. When Labour crashed to defeat in 1983, Benn even said that the result was a good start because millions of voters had voted for an authentically socialist manifesto, which would have taken Britain back to the stone age if implemented.

From there, after a bitter interlude and a sulk, Benn began his final and, this time, wonderful transformation, during which he was elevated to the ranks of national treasure — a pipe-smoking man of letters, like a great National Trust property crossed with George Orwell. As with many journalists of my generation, I encountered him one on one only in that third phase, and found him, as many others did, a deeply courteous, amusing and interesting man. It was his defence of the Commons, against the Executive, that I liked, and when he spoke on such themes it was possible to imagine him at Cromwell’s elbow in the English Civil War, or printing off radical pamphlets before falling out with the parliamentary leadership after the King had had his head cut off.

December 19, 2013

Patrick West on “the mourning wars”

Filed under: Britain, History, Media, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 09:07

In sp!ked, Patrick West notes the difference in tone for two recently deceased world leaders:

Remember when Margaret Thatcher died in April? ‘Ding dong, the witch is dead!’ they rejoiced on the streets and on social media, the recalcitrant losers of the old left uniting with today’s self-styled radicals, for whom Thatcher was a semi-mythical creature from the past who had wronged their ancestors. The Iron Lady was a mean old bitch, they cried, her creed of individualism being responsible for today’s troubled times.

A few months later, the hero of the left dies. Where was the comparable vitriol from the right, as was expected, about ‘Nelson Mandela the terrorist’? Sure, there was the odd, fringe UKIP fruitcake (isn’t there always?), but for the most part there was warmth and praise. Some, like former UK prime minister John Major, even said that the Conservatives were wrong on South Africa in the 1980s. Even the right-wing press has been quiet on Mandela’s real legacy and South Africa’s future. Curiously, only the Guardian — in articles by Simon Jenkins and Slavoj Žižek — has really questioned the saintly status accorded to Madiba (though not nearly as well as spiked has done, of course).

Indeed, the only tangible vitriol to emerge has come from old lefties themselves, complaining on social media when David Cameron paid homage. How dare the Tories try to appropriate a foreign leader to make themselves appear virtuous? We bagsied him first!

Politics isn’t meant to be this way. Right-wing people are meant to be horrid and selfish and left-wingers caring and nice. Yet, episodes such as this seem to suggest, once again, the opposite. It’s one of the paradoxes today that the liberal-left is often far nastier, more vitriolic, censorious and egotistical than the ‘selfish’ Tories they profess to loath.

April 10, 2013

In British political circles, the term “Thatcherism” conceals at least as much as it reveals

In sp!ked, Tim Black explains why the term “Thatcherism” is not actually a useful descriptor of Margaret Thatcher’s political ideology, but it helps hide the weaknesses of her political and ideological foes:

… for many of those who today preen themselves as left-wing, the idea of Thatcher is arguably even more important. And that’s because she can be blamed for everything that is wrong today. She may have left office nearly a quarter of a century ago, but so potent was the ideology she apparently promulgated — Thatcherism — that we as a nation continue to be in thrall to it. As one prominent left-wing columnist stated yesterday: ‘Thatcherism lives on. Nothing to celebrate.’ Ex-London mayor ‘Red’ Ken Livingstone agreed: ‘In actual fact, every real problem we face today is the legacy of the fact she was fundamentally wrong.’

Elsewhere, Johnathan Freedland at the liberalish-leftish Guardian joined the Thatcherism Lives chorus: ‘The country we live in remains Thatcher’s Britain. We still live in the land Margaret built.’ At the much-reported-upon, little-attended street parties in Brixton and Glasgow, staged in ironic honour of Thatcher’s passing, the belief that her ideas still walk among us was palpable. In the words of one 28-year-old student: ‘It is important to remember that Thatcherism isn’t dead and it is important that people get out on the street and not allow the government to whitewash what she did.’

[. . .]

And here is where reality stops and myth begins. Because that’s not what the left saw. They saw something more ideological than brutally pragmatic. They saw, in the words of Marxism Today editor Martin Jacques in 1985, ‘a novel and exceptional force’. They saw, in short, Thatcherism.

Given the fact that Thatcher herself never had an actual ideological project to which ‘Thatcherism’ might actually refer, it is unsurprising that a recent book on the subject admitted that ‘talk of “Thatcherism” obscures as much as it reveals’. Instead, the idea of Thatcherism always revealed far more about the left than it did about some perpetually elusive right-wing ideology. That is why the concept, first used by academic Stuart Hall in 1979, gained intellectual traction on the left in 1983, the year Labour, under the leadership of Michael Foot, suffered a devastating defeat at the General Election: it shifted the responsibility for failure from the Labour Party, and its complicity with so-called Thatcherite economics, to the working class, a social constituency supposedly seduced away from the Labour Party by Thatcher’s advocacy of social mobility and aspiration. The idea of ‘Thatcherism’ let Labour off the hook.

So the legacy of Thatcherism may indeed live on, as some sunk on the left insist. But not because of anything Thatcher herself did. It will live on because too many are more comfortable attacking a phantasm from the past than reckoning with political reality today.

April 8, 2013

The “Winter of Discontent” that brought Margaret Thatcher to power

Filed under: Britain, Economics, History — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 14:42

Megan McArdle explains the temper of the late 1970s in Britain:

To understand the legacy of Margaret Thatcher, you need to understand Britain’s “Winter of Discontent,” in which striking public-sector workers nearly paralyzed the nation. Actually, you have to go back a bit further, to the inflations of the 1970s. Americans remember the “stagflation” of the 1970s as bad, but in Britain it was even worse — the inflation rate peaked in 1975 at over 25 percent.

Governments on both sides of the pond decided that the solution to inflation was to simply declare, by fiat, that prices would not rise so much. In America we got Nixon’s wage and price controls. In Britain, they got the government’s 1978 vow to hold public-sector wage increases to 5 percent — at a time when inflation was running to double digits.

The public-sector workers, as you might imagine, did not like that. And in Britain, the public-sector workers had immense power. Trash piled up in the streets. The truck drivers who ferried goods all over Britain went on strike — and the ones who didn’t, like oil tanker drivers, began feeding their destinations to “flying pickets” — mobile groups of strikers who would go from location to location, blockading them so that workers couldn’t get in and goods couldn’t get out. The BBC called them the “shock troops of industrial action” and that’s an accurate picture; effectively mobilized, flying pickets can grind the wheels of industry to a halt. Which is what they did in the winter of 1978-79.

In Liverpool, the gravediggers went out, leaving bodies unburied for weeks. By the end of January, half the hospitals in Britain were taking only emergency cases. Full of righteous fury, the unions flexed every muscle, demonstrating all the tremendous power that they had amassed by law and custom in the years since the Second World War. Unfortunately, they were pummeling the Labour Party, which had given them most of those powers. And the public, which was also suffering through high inflation and anemic GDP growth, had had enough. They elected Margaret Thatcher, a Conservative grocer’s daughter without roots in the working-class power structure of the labor movement, or the elite power structure of Britain’s famously rigid class system. She systematically went about dismantling the two main sources that gave labor the power to essentially shut down the United Kingdom: lenient strike laws and state ownership of key industrial sectors.

[. . .]

Her detractors should remember that as terrible as it was for the miners when the pits were closed, these mining operations were not sustainable — nor was it even desireable that they be sustained so that further generations could invest their lives in failing coal seams. The work was dreadful. The coal was too dirty for the environment, or the delicate pink tissue of the miners’ lungs. And even if Britain had wanted to keep mining the filthy stuff, it was getting too expensive to dig it out. The mines were playing out, not because Margaret Thatcher was mean, but because the cradle of the Industrial Revolution had burned through much of her coal.

In short, Margaret Thatcher destroyed an industrial system which had yes, provided workers with a secure livelihood, but yes, also done so at an unnacceptable cost. These two things are the same legacy. They cannot be parted.

Her achievement was not inevitable. But looking back at the Winter of Discontent, I’d argue that it was necessary. The alternate future for a United Kingdom where the labor unions hung on was another decade or two of failing state firms and economic decline. By the early 1980s, the UK’s per-capita GDP was lower than that of Italy. You can maybe argue that there was some alternative Social Democratic future, Sweden-style, or perhaps the discovery of an alternative path to capitalism. But it’s hard to look at the convulsions of 1970s Britain and argue that this was a happier past that the nation should pine after. And I find it hard to argue that Britain’s economy could have been modernized without taking on the unions; their veto power made even such obvious steps as shutting down failing mines effectively impossible.

As I wrote a few years back:

My family left Britain in 1967, which was a good time to go: the economy was still in post-war recovery, but opportunities abroad were still open to British workers. My first visit back was in [mid-winter] 1979, which was a terrible shock to my system. I’d left, as a child, before the strikes-every-day era began, and my memories of the place were still golden-hued and happy. Going back to grey, dismal, cold, smelly, strike-bound Britain left me with a case of depression that lasted a long time. It didn’t help that the occasion of the visit was to attend my grandfather’s funeral: it was rather like the land itself had died and the only remaining activity was a form of national decomposition.

Margaret Thatcher, RIP

Filed under: Britain, History, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 09:02

The Iron Lady is dead. Her place in 20th century British history as the first female PM and the victor in the 1982 Falklands War is counterbalanced for many people by her battling, confrontational style and her attempts to dismantle large parts of the postwar welfare state. Here is the initial BBC report:

Former Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher has died “peacefully” at the age of 87 after suffering a stroke, her family has announced.

David Cameron called her a “great Briton” and the Queen spoke of her sadness at the death.

Lady Thatcher was Conservative prime minister from 1979 to 1990. She was the first woman to hold the role.

She will not have a state funeral but will be accorded the same status as Princess Diana and the Queen Mother.

The ceremony, with full military honours, will take place at London’s St Paul’s Cathedral.

The union jack above Number 10 Downing Street has been lowered to half-mast.

[. . .]

Former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair called her a “towering figure”, while his successor Gordon Brown praised her “determination and resilience”.

Labour leader Ed Miliband said Lady Thatcher had been a “unique figure” who “reshaped the politics of a whole generation”.

He added: “The Labour Party disagreed with much of what she did and she will always remain a controversial figure. But we can disagree and also greatly respect her political achievements and her personal strength.”

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg described Lady Thatcher as one of the “defining figures in modern British politics”, adding: “She may have divided opinion during her time in politics but everyone will be united today in acknowledging the strength of her personality and the radicalism of her politics.”

London Mayor Boris Johnson tweeted: “Very sad to hear of death of Baroness Thatcher. Her memory will live long after the world has forgotten the grey suits of today’s politics.”

UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage called Lady Thatcher a “great inspiration”, adding: “Whether you loved her or hated her nobody could deny that she was a great patriot, who believed passionately in this country and her people. A towering figure in recent British and political history has passed from the stage. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family.”

Lady Thatcher, who retired from public speaking in 2002, had suffered poor health for several years. Her husband Denis died in 2003.


April 2, 2013

Reporting on “Maggie’s War”

Filed under: Americas, Britain, History, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:02

In History Today, Patrick Bishop recounts his experiences as a war correspondent during the Falklands War, 31 years ago:

For me, a young reporter attached to 3 Commando Brigade aboard the requisitioned cruise ship Canberra, covering ‘Maggie’s war’ was a process of constant revelation. The soldiers, the sea and landscapes, the actuality of combat — everything was surprising and collided with expectations.

I arrived in the war, like Britain itself, bemused at the suddenness of events. One minute I was a home news hack on the Observer, the next I was an official war correspondent, with a red cloth-covered Second World War-issue booklet of regulations and the rank of honorary captain.

We left from Southampton on a drizzly Good Friday evening. Two or three hundred wives, girlfriends and children had gathered on the quayside to say goodbye and good luck to their menfolk, while onboard a band played ‘A Life On The Ocean Wave’ and ‘Land Of Hope And Glory’. The crowd was cheerfully patriotic. Some waved union flags. Two buxom girls, soon the object of close attention by the TV cameras, were wearing T-shirts with the legend ‘Give The Argies Some Bargie’.

Who were these people? To my metropolitan eyes they appeared somewhat alien. Indeed they were. The era of Callaghan’s Labour government, which was replaced by Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative administration in 1979, had forced patriotism underground. Mrs T. was untried and not yet confident enough to encourage its resurrection.

September 13, 2012

Margaret Thatcher: not quite the hawk of popular memory

Filed under: Books, Britain, History, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:22

History Today has an Archie Brown review of Reagan and Thatcher: The Difficult Relationship by Richard Aldous:

… Thatcher had serious reservations about Reagan’s Strategic Defence Initiative project (SDI — soon popularly referred to as ‘Star Wars’). In particular she rejected his idea that this hypothetical anti-missile defence system would make nuclear weapons — and the concept of deterrence — obsolete. When, at the Reykjavik summit in 1986, only Reagan’s determination to continue with SDI prevented his agreeing with Mikhail Gorbachev on a plan for total removal of nuclear weapons from global arsenals, the British prime minister became incandescent with rage.

Her strong attachment to nuclear weapons as a deterrent, in the belief that they would never be used, went alongside a foreign policy that was less bellicose than her popular image might suggest. Thatcher’s willingness to use force to take back the Falkland Islands, following their takeover by Galtieri’s Argentina, should not obscure her extreme reluctance to endorse military intervention where there had been no external attack on Britain or on a British dependency. Aldous cites her clearly-expressed opposition to military interventions for the sake of ‘regime change’:

    We in the Western democracies use our force to defend our way of life … We do not use it to walk into independent sovereign territories … If you’re going to pronounce a new law that wherever communism reigns against the will of the people, even though it’s happened internally, there the USA shall enter, then we are going to have really terrible wars in the world.

That was provoked by the American invasion of Grenada to reverse an internal coup. Thatcher also took a sceptical view of American military strikes in Lebanon and Libya, saying: ‘Once you start to go across borders, then I do not see an end to it and I uphold international law very firmly’.

September 6, 2012

Gentrification of Brixton

Filed under: Britain, History — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 08:30

The Economist looks at the demographic and social changes underway in Brixton:

A good deal has changed in Brixton, a south London district, since Eta Rodney bought her Victorian terraced house in 1980. Then many of her neighbours were, like her, Jamaican. West Indians had settled in Brixton since 1948, when some arrived on the Empire Windrush. Today many of Mrs Rodney’s black neighbours are selling up and moving out of the area, making way for predominantly white newcomers. Britain’s historic black centre is being transformed — but in an odd way.

The Afro-Caribbean population of Lambeth, the borough where Brixton is located, is estimated to have fallen by 8% since 2001 even as the borough’s overall population has risen by 9%. Interracial mixing explains only part of this: the main reason is black flight. Afro-Caribbeans have dispersed from other parts of central London too, such as Hackney and Hammersmith and Fulham. They move to escape crime, buy bigger houses and get their children into better schools — the familiar reasons people of all races head for suburbia. In the South East outside London, Afro-Caribbean numbers have jumped, albeit from a low base.

[. . .]

Mrs Rodney feels both pressures. Her husband would like to retire to Jamaica. She prefers Streatham, further south in London, where she could buy a palace for the money gentrifiers are keen to pay for her house, with its original cornicing and marble fireplaces. The former council house she bought under the Conservative Party’s right-to-buy scheme—“I love Mrs Thatcher, God bless her soul”—would today fetch at least 20 times what she paid.

Of course, for many of us, the name Brixton has a very Clash-y context:

September 2, 2012

Margaret Thatcher and the British intelligence organizations

Filed under: Britain, Government — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 00:01

An interesting post at the official website for Prime Minister David Cameron talks about former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her relationship with the Joint Intelligence Committee during her time in office:

Soon after taking office a new Prime Minister receives special briefings from the Cabinet Secretary. One is on the ‘letters of last resort’, which give instructions to the commander of the British submarine on patrol with the nuclear deterrent, in the event of an attack that destroys the Government. Another briefing outlines the structure and control of the intelligence machinery, including the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) in the Cabinet Office. Sir John Hunt, the Cabinet Secretary in 1979, briefed Margaret Thatcher on the intelligence structure, including counter-subversion activities, the day after her election victory of 3 May.

Thatcher had started a programme of visits to Government departments to see first-hand what some of the 732,000 officials inherited from James Callaghan’s administration actually did. In September, during a routine briefing by Brian Tovey, the Director of GCHQ, Thatcher showed great interest in the way in which intelligence was collated and assessed by the JIC, stressing that assessment should be free from policy (or political) considerations. She also expressed a wish to attend a JIC meeting. It would be the first time a Prime Minister had attended the JIC since its creation in 1936.

It fell to Sir John Hunt, a former Secretary of the JIC, to make the arrangements, but there were complications. First, the JIC Chairman, Sir Antony Duff of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), had also been made Deputy Governor of Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) after the British Government assumed direct rule of the rebellious colony. He was a key participant in the Lancaster House Conference, aiming finally to settle the Rhodesian problem, and could not be sure to attend the JIC until after its conclusion. Second, the JIC normally met on Thursday mornings in 70 Whitehall, which was also when the Cabinet met in 10 Downing Street, so a special JIC meeting would need to be arranged.

April 2, 2012

30 years on, and the tension is rising again

Filed under: Americas, Britain, History, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 08:40

On this day in 1982, Argentina attempted to take the Falkland Islands in a surprise attack. The ruling Junta had hoped to use the invasion to rally popular support. After the islands were retaken, the Junta fell and democracy eventually returned to Argentina. In recent months, a democratically elected Argentinian government has been pushing for Britain to “negotiate” the future of the islands.

A total of 255 British servicemen and about 650 Argentines died after the UK sent a task force following the Argentine invasion on 2 April 1982.

The anniversary comes amid renewed tension, as Argentina has reasserted its claim to the archipelago.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron said the day should be used to remember both the British and Argentine dead.

In a statement, Mr Cameron also said that he remained committed to upholding British sovereignty over the islands.

[. . .]

Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner is expected to visit the southern port of Ushuaia on Monday to remember the Argentine servicemen who died.

President Fernandez is due to lead rallies to commemorate the Argentine dead and to light an eternal flame devoted to their memory.

[. . .]

Argentina has complained about what it calls British “militarisation” in the south Atlantic.

BBC World affairs editor John Simpson said while a new armed conflict remained unlikely, Argentina was now using diplomatic weapons to push its claim over the Falklands.

The defeat of the Argentine forces led directly to the collapse of the military dictatorship led by Gen Leopoldo Galtieri, who was later jailed in Buenos Aires for “incompetence” during the war.

The British prime minister at the time was Margaret Thatcher, but she is not expected to play a part in the commemoration of the 30th anniversary because of ill-health.

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