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Month: November 2015

Corbyn leadership and Labour’s long history of rebellion and betrayal

Written by Martin Farr.

Maomentum – itself a testament to the alacrity of social media – last week tweeted: “Every Labour leader has betrayed the party the moment he walked into Downing St”, adding: “Thank god under @jeremycorbyn this can never happen again.”

The future’s no period for a historian – and humour always a hazard – but betrayal has long been the handmaiden of parliamentary socialism in Britain. Ramsay MacDonald in 1931, Harold Wilson in 1970, James Callaghan in 1979 and Tony Blair in 2007 all left office being regarded as having failed the party – and the more electorally successful they were, the more their reputations suffered.

SDSR 2015: The Return of Ambition

Written by Wyn Rees.

The Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) 2015, announced on 23 November, marked a change in the defence debate.  Ambition on defence returned to the Conservative government. A series of announcements overturned the former impression of the UK as a shrinking military actor. These announcements included a new maritime patrol aircraft, two Army strike brigades for expeditionary operations, new ‘Protector’ drones and additional funding for Special Forces and cyber capabilities.

Little red joke: Corbyn Labour’s most pressing problem is with media

Written by Andrew Scott Crines.

It was always going to be a car-crash moment for Labour. When, during his reply to to George Osborne’s autumn statement, the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, chose to flourish Chairman Mao’s little red book, he was simply playing into the hands of a hostile media that sits in wait for moments such as this. Far from focusing on the chancellor of the exchequer’s U-turn over tax credits, political journalists obsessed over this gaffe, while the Treasury benches erupted in delighted mirth.

This highlights one of the most pressing problems for Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour leadership. A seeming inability to manage their relationship with the media.

Winners and losers in George Osborne’s spending review

Written by Peter Taylor-Gooby.

George Osborne always plays the role of the smiling conjurer who pulls the rabbit out of the hat and steals the scene with aplomb. In his 2015 spending review and autumn statement, the surprise announcement was that cuts to tax credit will not be as stringent as expected – although housing benefit claimers are the losers. Concealed within the chancellor’s hat are cuts of more than 50% in grants to local government and tense optimism about the growth, employment and pay forecasts on which everything depends.

Anonymous can’t defeat Islamic State, but here’s what it could achieve

Written by Andres Guadamuz. 

The announcement that hacktivist collective Anonymous has declared war on the Islamic State has been received positively by the public. After the Paris attack some may think governments are not doing enough to protect civilians, so at least it seems someone is doing something about the terrorist threat.

So far the group claims its #OpParis has taken down more than 5,500 IS-related Twitter accounts – an impressive claim the press has gleefully and unquestioningly repeated. Anonymous certainly can shut down social media accounts, having done so following the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January, during what it called #OpIsis. In the aftermath, similar claims were made then, yet less than a year later, there still exist thousands of Twitter accounts to be taken down.

Could downing of Russian jet over Turkey lead to a wider war?

Written by David J Galbreath.

The dangerous skies over Syria have now earned their reputation. On November 24 2015, the Turkish foreign ministry confirmed that its forces had shot down a fighter aircraft on the Turkish border with Syria. The Russian foreign ministry confirmed soon afterwards that it has lost an SU-24 over Syria.

The situation remains tense: two pilots were filmed ejecting from the stricken aircraft; one is reported to be in the hands of pro-Turkish Turkmen rebels along the border but the fate of the other is unknown – early reports from Reuters said it had video of the second pilot seemingly dead on the ground.

Greece with the Left in government again

Written by Dimitris Sourvanos and Kyriaki Nanou.

Last week Euclid Tsakalotos gave a talk at the LSE discussing from his own experiences – as (the current) finance minister in Greece and as a lifelong Marxist – the difficulties that left-wing parties are faced with when governing under severe constraints. The Greek finance minister said:

It’s difficult for a left-wing Finance Minister to have any left-wing credentials. {…} The deal of July is only as good as the strategy you have to incorporate it in a left-wing direction. The final test of the deal for the Left is not given a priori.

He also added that although the Greek government disagrees on certain aspects of this deal (e.g. pensions, non-performing loans); it is important that it gives space for alternative experiments in in other sectors (e.g. healthcare system) where there is still an “open space”.

SDSR 2015: A foreign policy driven by trade will not provide security

Written by Jamie Gaskarth.

Downing Street has been a social whirl in the last few weeks. A procession of leaders have traipsed through the large black door of Number 10 and been warmly welcomed, including the Chinese President Xi Jinping, Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan, Abdul Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt and Narendra Modi of India. These visits form a part of the prosperity agenda that is driving Britain’s foreign and security policy. In many cases, they coincide with the announcement of trade and investment deals worth billions. Thus the Chinese Premier’s visit on 20 October was said to involve £30 billion worth of business, Nazarbayev met UK business leaders, and Modi’s trip was said to herald over £9 billion in agreements between UK and Indian firms.

This kind of bilateral diplomacy has been a feature of government policy since William Hague in the last parliament announced a ‘networked foreign policy’. In theory, this involved a more adaptive policy framework in which the UK could engage with individual countries to advance the national interest. In practice, it meant an ad hoc and often confused foreign policy that seemed to lack an overall rationale. In this vacuum, the Treasury emerged as the dominant influence on external policy. The desire to increase trade has dominated Britain’s relations with other states in recent years, and spread its influence into defence and security policy. Prosperity is now a central plank of the country’s security agenda.

Plugging the Gap: The SDSR, Covert Action and Special Forces

Written by Rory Cormac.

The landscape surrounding the 2015 SDSR is one of costs, threats, and Britain’s “global role”. The impending review will have to take each into account – and has the unenviable task of finding a balance.

Together, these factors have created a climate in which deniable intervention, through covert action and Special Forces, has become – and will continue to be – increasingly appealing to Cameron’s government.

Successive British governments have sought to maintain the global role. The 2010 SDSR continued along this theme. And the Prime Minister and his senior colleagues have recently spoken out against any decrease in British global ambition. This has been matched by pressure from Washington not to disengage from global commitments.

Why Islamic State targeted Paris, and why it’s changing tack

Written by Cindy May.

The Islamic State (IS) attacks on Paris represent a major shift in the group’s strategy. The response has already been spectacular; increased military action is underway, as is a manhunt for attackers and accomplices still on the loose.

In the flurry of activity, it’s easy to forget that these attacks did not come out of nowhere. It pays to ask why IS attacked Paris specifically, why it did so now – and why it has suddenly adopted a new approach.

As IS’s statement of responsibility indicated, France was probably chosen as its first Western target because of the government’s active involvement in the anti-IS coalition, its intervention against Islamists in Mali, the state’s strong secularism – which prohibits public displays of religion including the hijab – and the depiction of the Prophet Muhammad, both by the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and the newspaper Liberation, which republished the notorious Danish cartoons of 2007.