The curse of Wales

Bloggers are in self-congratulatory mood as Peter Hain is dispatched, but is the “Welsh Cabinet curs

In the week Peter Hain finally fell on his sword, Iain Dale salutes his fellow blogfather, Guido Fawkes, for breaking and persisting with the funding scandal story: “Bloggers do not exist to get political scalps. But when a blogger reveals possible law breaking and drives the media debate, as Guido has done, let’s recognise that as a good thing and give him the credit he is due.”

Dale was joined in his blog back slapping by scores of posters on Guido’s blog.

Reflecting on Guido's self-congratulation, Cicero revisits the blog v mainstream media debate. Somewhat stoically, he points out: "Perhaps it is fair to say that people are also recognising the limits of blogs. They do not change the world, they may not be very influential, they are merely a medium."

With William Hill having taken 7-1 that Hain would be out of the cabinet before the end of January, and 2-1 he would be the first to leave the cabinet, plenty of political punters were pleased to see the back of him, according to Political Betting. Five-to-one to see him return by the end of 2008 anyone?

Expecting a heady sense of panic in Westminster, Benedict Borgan is surprised to find: "The MPs, Cabinet ministers, junior ministers and political advisers I've spoken to all afternoon report the same thing: regret for Mr Hain, a sense of inevitability about his departure, and confidence in Mr Brown’s integrity. The political markets seem to have discounted this event."

Former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray takes a nostalgic look back at the anti-apartheid campaigner who inspired him. While, Paul Flynn MP makes a case for Hain’s defence. This is derided by Nich Starling.

Mirror hack James Lyons expands on what he terms the "Welsh Cabinet curse". Where once Ron Davies fell foul of Clapham Common, read Hain of Scotland Yard. Maguire also reveals: “Now [Hain’s successor as Wales secretary Paul] Murphy is being tipped to head a new department for regions and nations when Gordon Brown carries out a full reshuffle in the summer.”

The cutest line of the day comes from David Lindsay: “We all know that [Hain] stands no chance of being prosecuted. But just to be certain, he should now call for the police to be paid in full.”

Owen Walker is a journalist for a number of titles within Financial Times Business, primarily focussing on pensions. He recently graduated from Cardiff University’s newspaper journalism post-graduate course and is cursed by a passion for Crystal Palace FC.
Getty Images.
Show Hide image

Jeremy Corbyn's speech on terrorism will do him more good than harm

The Labour leader's criticism of police cuts and western foreign policy will resonate with voters.

The election campaign, if there was any doubt, has resumed. In his speech responding to the Manchester attack, Jeremy Corbyn did not limit himself to expressions of sympathy and solidarity. He squarely targeted Theresa May on her home turf: policing and security.

The Conservatives' repeated warning is that Corbyn is a "threat" to his country. But the Labour leader countered that only he could keep it "safe". Austerity, he declared, "has to stop at the A&E ward and at the police station door. We cannot be protected and cared for on the cheap." May, having been warned by the Police Federation while home secretary of the danger of cuts, is undoubtedly vulnerable on this front. Under Labour, Corbyn vowed, "there will be more police on the streets" (despite Diane Abbott's erroneous arithmetic), while the security services would receive whatever resources they need.

Corbyn swiftly progressed to foreign policy, the great passion of his political life. Though it is facile to reduce terrorism to a "blowback" against western interventionism (as if jihadists were Pavlovian dogs, rather than moral agents), it is blinkered to dismiss any connection. As Corbyn noted: "Many experts, including professionals in our intelligence and security services have pointed to the connections between wars our government has supported or fought in other countries, such as Libya, and terrorism here at home" (the Tory-led Foreign Affairs Select Committee is among those who agree).That the former Stop the War chair has long taken this view absolves him of the charge of crude political opportunism.

Corbyn was also more careful than his pre-briefed remarks suggested to caveat his criticisms. He emphasised: "Those causes certainly cannot be reduced to foreign policy decisions alone. Over the past fifteen years or so, a sub-culture of often suicidal violence has developed amongst a tiny minority of, mainly young, men, falsely drawing authority from Islamic beliefs and often nurtured in a prison system in urgent need of resources and reform.

"And no rationale based on the actions of any government can remotely excuse, or even adequately explain, outrages like this week’s massacre."

But he maintained his central charge: western intervention has made the world more dangerous, not less. "We must be brave enough to admit the war on terror is simply not working," he said. "We need a smarter way to reduce the threat from countries that nurture terrorists and generate terrorism."

Though Corbyn's arguments have appalled Conservatives (and some in Labour), they are ones that will likely find favour among the public. Polls have consistently shown that most voters oppose western adventurism and believe it has endangered the UK. Corbyn's words will resonate among both the anti-interventionist left and the isolationist right (this is, after all, a country which has just voted to retreat from even its closest neighbours).

The speech, given at 1 Great George Street (in the room where Ed Miliband gave his resignation address), was marred by Corbyn's refusal to take questions. But it was unarguably well-delivered. "Let’s have our arguments without impugning anyone’s patriotism and without diluting the unity with which we stand against terror," he warned in a pre-emptive strike against the Conservatives.

Corbyn's decision to give an overtly political speech four days after the Manchester attack is being widely described as a "gamble" or even a profound error. But the election will now rightly focus more closely on the issue of security - nothing should be beyond democratic debate.

Many of Corbyn's life-long stances, such as unilateral disarmament, do not find favour with the electorate. But there was little in his speech today that the average voter would contest. The Conservatives will hope to turn the heightened security debate to their advantage, ruthlessly quoting Corbyn against himself. But on this front, as on others, the Labour leader is proving a tougher opponent than they anticipated.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

0800 7318496