The Liberal Democrats have benefited enormously from being the only establishment party to oppose the war in Iraq. Yet last week their leader, Menzies Campbell, spoke up in support of sending more troops to Afghanistan.
He could have tried to justify this with talk of humanitarian intervention. But instead Campbell argued, “I think it is winnable – that’s the judgement of the senior commanders.”
He added that unlike Iraq there was “a clear set of political objectives” in Afghanistan, though he stopped short of spelling those out.
In the debate in parliament on the dispatch of extra troops to Afghanistan, Liberal Democrat defence spokesperson Nick Harvey welcomed the reinforcements.
“It is vital that pressure is kept up on other Nato countries to ensure that they pull their weight. Failure would be disastrous both for Afghanistan and the alliance,” he said.
All of this suggests the Lib Dem’s anti-war stance is based on expediency, supporting “winnable” wars and opposing those that are clearly, in advance, “unwinnable”. As the death toll mounts in Afghanistan, remember Menzies Campbell’s stance.
Clean up the elections
Socialist Worker has long been highlighting the scandal surrounding postal voting in parliamentary and council elections.
Labour introduced laws allowing voters to apply for a postal vote on demand, supposedly to boost turnout at elections. This has given a green light for unscrupulous politicians to manipulate the electorate and even steal their votes.
Now Sir Alistair Graham, chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, has called for the government to drop planned trials of internet and phone voting in May’s local elections.
“All the glib talk about the need to find customer-friendly ways of voting by post, text and the internet has ignored the hard truth that once you allow ballot papers to leave polling stations, the opportunities for fraud multiply,” he said.
Respect MP George Galloway took up this theme in a Commons debate on Monday of this week. He described last May’s local elections in Tower Hamlets, east London, as “the most corrupt election held in Britain since 1872”, when the secret ballot was introduced.
Galloway is right to call for the electoral system to be cleaned up. It is yet another symptom of how the democratic deficit – the gap between what elites do and what the people want – has steadily widened under New Labour.
Drugs law for the poor
When Tory leader David Cameron was found to have smoked cannabis as a teenager at the elite Eton public school, he was given a slap on the wrist. When a 17-year old in Manchester was found to have the drug, he got put in a cell for two days, a fine and a criminal record. All because the police caught him with £5 of cannabis.
His real crime was ruining David Cameron’s photo opportunity last week, by making a gun gesture at his back. He was rewarded with a police raid on his home.
The hypocrisy is clear. If you’re a member of the privileged elite, you can do what you like. If you’re young and poor then you better watch out.