An Election and a Referendum

This post examines two important votes being held in 2016; the Welsh Assembly elections on May 9th and the EU referendum on (possibly) June 23rd.

First, we shall look at the elections to our beloved and respected Assembly, wherein may already be found talent dazzling to the point of being a hazard to pilots (not that many of those intrepid aviators will be heading for the local airport) before moving on to consider the anticipated EU referendum

WELSH ASSEMBLY ELECTIONS

At present, Labour has 30 of the 60 seats, and is almost certain to lose a few, the only questions are, which ones, and to which other party or parties will those seats be lost?

To help you make comparisons I have compiled the table below, which shows each party’s percentage of the vote in 2011 compared with the percentages predicted by the latest available poll. You will note that the figures in the recent poll do not add up to 100, this is almost certainly due to respondents stating their intention to vote for the kind of minor parties that combined to give us the ‘Other’ figure in the 2011 results.

Assembly elections poll

These poll figures look credible for Labour but rather odd for the other parties due to little or no difference between the constituency votes and the regional list votes. Even so, the poll confirms that Labour will be the biggest loser and Ukip the biggest winner.

Though the level of Ukip’s support is rather surprising seeing as the party keeps choosing unknown or unattractive candidates (the one often mutating into the other) and in other ways shooting itself in both feet. It begins to look as if Ukip’s leaders could be filmed sacrificing Romanian migrants on Aberystwyth promenade, bollock naked with their nether regions painted bright green, and still not lose support.

As for the other parties, it’s very much a case of little or no change which will, after almost a year of Tory government at Westminster, be a relief to the Conservatives; an even bigger relief to the Lib Dems following their near-extermination in the last May’s UK elections; but a major disappointment to Plaid Cymru, who should be the main beneficiary of Labour and Lib Dems losing support.

Though looked at from another angle Plaid’s level of support might pleasantly surprise some. Let me explain. The Party of Wales would have us believe that it’s a radical party, offering change, improvement. Yet down in Carmarthenshire, where Plaid became the larger party in a coalition last year (after the ‘Independents’ refused to work with Labour any more), Mark James, the tyrannical and vindictive chief executive, carries on as if nothing has happened!

The other party to be disappointed by the poll findings will be the Green Party of Englandandwales. Despite claimed increases in membership, and Welsh people being spotted in the ranks, it seems that the Greens still have difficulty in attracting support. But then, this is a party so English, so frightfully middle class in its membership and support, that it makes the Tories look like a Welsh proletarian rabble.

As I’ve been predicting for some time now, after the Assembly elections we shall probably see Labour in coalition with Plaid Cymru. Though if by some some electoral miracle Labour can cobble together a coalition with Lib Dems and Greens that leaves Plaid Cymru out in the cold, then Plaid will be condemned to another five years of impotence. A period the party may struggle to survive.

Ukip will do very well. In June last year I predicted the Kippers would gain 7 seats, and in October I upped my estimate to 10. (The latest poll suggests 9.) If, as is now being predicted, the EU referendum is held in June, and that EU campaign overshadows the Assembly elections, then Ukip will be the only beneficiary because all the other parties are pro EU and will be singing the same song.

And here’s a thought to cheer you all up. If the Assembly elections are indeed dominated by the EU referendum debate then it is not inconceivable that Ukip could win seats in ‘volatile’ constituencies that in May will be five- or even six-cornered contests. Gaining a percentage of the vote in the low to middle twenties could do it.

‘Nathan Gill, AM for Ynys Môn’ has a certain ring to it, n’est pas?

Gill of course is currently an MEP, which is a handy link to the next part of this post.

THE EU REFERENDUM

THE BIG PICTURE

When I was young and idealistic, the matinee idol of the nationalist fringe, I considered myself to be quite the ‘European’. With my study of history, my admiration for Charles de Gaulle, being avowedly anti-communist, and after reading The American Challenge, I persuaded myself that a strong Europe was needed as a bulwark against both the USSR and the USA.

I still believe I was right, but the world has moved on. For a start, the Soviet Union is no more, and its demise was the cue for the USA to begin its advance in eastern Europe, first with its war on Serbia and then by gradually encircling Russia with newly signed up members of NATO. Have you ever stopped to think how weird that is?

NATO started life in 1949 as an alliance to deter the Soviet Union from invading western Europe (if indeed the USSR ever had that intention). It was a Cold War organisation, from the era of Dr Strangelove, which should have ceased to exist along with the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, yet NATO has expanded since the Cold War ended. This is bizarre.

Strangelove

Unless of course you understand that the USA (and to a lesser degree, the ‘West’) must have enemies. Now this presents a problem for a country bordered only by friendly and peaceful Canada to the north and to the south by a third world state where the strongest armed forces appear to be those of the drug cartels.

Clearly this lack of a credible threat is an inconvenience to the military-industrial complex, neocons, the National Rifle Association, big corporations, news media, and politicians looking to make a name for themselves. So ‘enemies’ have to found elsewhere, which has resulted in a succession of ‘threats’ being exposed since the Second World War. These are often pantomime villains of dusky hue, with difficult to pronounce names, and living in far-off lands of which most Americans know very little. Plus of course we have the post WWII constant – USSR / Russia.

At this point many of you will be wondering why, in a section headed ‘The EU Referendum’, I’m banging on about NATO and US foreign policy. There are two principle reasons.

First, a single political unit allows the US – as we are now seeing with TTIP – to gain preferential access to the richest market on earth through influencing just a few people. The danger here should be obvious to all. Second, the EU is viewed by many US policy-makers as a sister-body or even an extension of NATO. It’s no coincidence that NATO and the EU have marched east almost hand in hand.

Let me try to explain the NATO-EU link with the table I’ve compiled below. It gives the dates that eastern European countries joined first NATO and then the European Union. And it has always been in that order (sometimes simultaneous), but never is EU membership allowed before joining NATO.

The delay in Albania’s accession to the EU can be explained by the fact that the country is a ramshackle land with large parts, especially the area bordering the Serbian province of Kosovo, controlled by people-smugglers, drug-traffickers, organ-harvesters and a motley assortment of old-fashioned vendetta-pursuing, blood-feuding bandit chiefs. Albania’s chief export is gangsters.

NATO

An exception to the NATO-followed-by-EU rule is of course Turkey, which has been a NATO member since 1952. No surprise then to learn that there have always been voices in the upper reaches of the EU arguing in favour of admitting Turkey. ‘Bridge to the Islamic world’ and other bollocks has been spouted in support of this idiocy. The truth is that the USA wants to reward its faithful ally – and currently chief Bear-baiter – so it periodically applies pressure on the EU to let Turkey join the club.

Turkey, that backward, Islamist state where the security services bomb their own people. Turkey, the country that persecutes its fifteen million Kurds and has a very ambivalent attitude towards ISIL. Turkey, that just a century ago introduced the world to the concept of holocaust with its butchering of the Armenians.

In the ongoing conflict in Syria the USA has encouraged Turkey to provoke Russia, and although the US may belatedly be trying to rein in its proxy, there remains the possibility that this dysfunctional country could start World War Three. If Russia does retaliate to Turkish provocation then we (and here I have to mean the UK), as fellow-members of NATO, are Treaty-bound to line up with Turkey.

How do you feel about going to war with Russia because Turkey has done something stupid and deliberately provocative?

THE VIEW FROM WALES

Leaving aside these wider concerns, what should be our approach to this referendum from a purely Welsh perspective?

‘Wales does well out the EU’ is a mantra trotted out by those urging us to vote to stay in. ‘Does well’ is just a euphemism for hand-outs, we export little. In other words, we get EU grants because we are so bloody poor. Which makes this ‘argument’ just another defence of begging-bowl politics, an acceptance of Wales’ poverty and deprivation.

And what has happened to the billions we’ve received in EU funding? Where are the great infrastructure projects? Where is the multi-skilled workforce we’ve trained? Where are the successful indigenous companies the funding was used to start? Nowhere to be seen, bois bach!

That’s because the greater part of this windfall has been wasted on the shysters and parasites of the Third Sector. Most of whom – unsurprisingly – seem to have Labour Party connections. 

If the UK left the EU then the UK government would have to make up the lost EU funding. If it didn’t, we’d have to go without the Third Sector. (Don’t cry!) And if the UK government didn’t make up the shortfall, then it might cause a few more people here to wake from their slumbers.

Looking further afield, the UK leaving the EU would have far more serious repercussions for England, more specifically south east England, and to be very, very specific, the City of London. Because if the UK left the EU then many of the banks, investment houses and other financial institutions would decamp for Frankfurt, Paris, Zurich, Berlin, etc.

This would result in tens of thousands of very well paid jobs being lost to London, and a few hundred thousand more would be lost in a knock-on effect. So just spare a thought for all those Lamborghini salesmen, tailors, high-class hookers, hairdressers, tattooists, coke suppliers, estate agents, jewellers, etc., etc.

eu_logo

Remove the City of London from the balance sheet and the economy of England heads south very fast. With the City of London creating less wealth the UK economy must suffer, and despite the malaise being centred on London we can be sure that – as ever – the Old Etonians will see to it that peripheral areas suffer most.

This should serve as another wake-up call to the slumberers who unquestioningly believe that London rule is best for Wales.

Another argument used is that we must vote to stay in the EU to prove how different we are to England (assuming the English vote to leave). A position that invariably cites the fact that Scotland will definitely vote to stay in. Let’s look at this argument in a bit more detail.

First, Wales is not Scotland. The obvious stated, let me add that many hundreds of thousands of Scots will vote to stay in the EU for reasons that have little or nothing to do with the EU itself. It’s all about promoting independence, hoping that England – or Englandandwales – votes for Brexit.

Should there be a vote south of the border to leave the EU, and should that decision lead to Scottish independence, then it will reverberate here no matter how Wales voted. Scottish independence will concentrate minds in Wales no matter how it comes about and will make redundant whatever views may have been held in Wales when Scottish independence was just a vague possibility.

So let me spell it out. How Wales votes in the EU referendum is almost unimportant. The vote is being hyped up in Wales by those posturers who like to regard themselves as ‘progressive’, and done in order to show how superior they are to the ‘xenophobes’ who want to leave the wonderful EU. Smug, precious, and self-deluding bollocks!

CONCLUSION

There is no party standing in the Assembly elections for which a nationalist can honestly vote. That being so, there is an argument to be made for voting for any party that might help weaken the regional socialist party that for decades now has done so much damage to the Welsh cause.

Personally, I probably won’t bother voting. There’s a temptation to toddle along to the polling station and scribble ‘None of the above’ on my ballot paper, but that’s always struck me as a bit desperate unless part of an organised campaign.

When it comes to the EU referendum I shall definitely vote to leave the EU. That’s because the EU we know today is a great disappointment for someone of my age who genuinely wanted to see a strong and democratic Europe play a leading role in the world.

Instead, we have a byzantine nightmare that I suspect no one properly understands, a monster created by bureaucrats that seems to have been subverted to serve US economic and strategic interests rather than working for the good of Europeans.

And yet, I could still be converted to a united Europe, a European army, a European diplomatic corps . . . but my Europe would need leaders of stature, not the anonymous, paper-shuffling committeemen we are cursed with today.

If only the General would come back . . .

To Thine Own Self Be True

It’s not often that I write about events outside of Wales, but I feel moved to say something about the current crisis in Syria, Iraq and Kurdistan. While the situation in the region is not entirely the fault of the West, we cannot escape blame, and it goes back a lot further than George Bush and Tony Blair.Ottoman Empire 1914 The Middle East today serves as a stark reminder of what can go wrong when greed and short-sightedness combine with military might.

A century ago this region was all that remained of the Turkish Ottoman empire, stripped of its European territories but still covering a considerable area. (Click on map to enlarge.) When Turkey joined with Austria-Hungary and Germany to fight against France, Britain, Russia and Serbia in World War One, then a German victory became the only hope for saving the Ottoman empire, and perhaps even that wouldn’t have been enough.

Turkey’s involvement in the war was largely restricted to defending Turkey proper, most notably at the battle of Gallipoli, but there was activity further afield, with military engagements involving regular forces of the Allies and also guerrilla actions by Turkey’s Arab subjects. The examples of the latter with which most people are familiar are those covered in  T. E. Lawrence‘s autobiographical Seven Pillars of Wisdom and later, in the movie Lawrence of Arabia.

Long before Turkey was actually defeated the vultures – in the forms of Britain and France – were circling, and debating who was to have which part of the soon to be dismembered corpse. The negotiators were Mark Sykes and Georges Picot who, in 1916, set about dividing up the Arab and Kurdish lands of the Ottoman empire with straight-edge rulers and little or no regard for ethnic, religious or other distinctions. Summed up in a phrase used by Sykes: “I should like to draw a line from the ‘e’ in Acre (on the Mediterranean coast) to the last ‘k’ in Kirkuk (in Kurdistan)”. Of course neither Arabs nor Kurds were consulted in the drawing up of the Sykes-Picot Agreement, the whole exercise was done in the interests of France and England. Which betrayed those Arabs who had fought with Lawrence believing they were to be rewarded with independence, and also cheated the Kurds, who had been led to believe they were to gain independence from the collapse of the empire wherein most of them lived.

As the twentieth century progressed Turkey became a (nominally) secular and (ostensibly) Western state and is now hoping to join the EU; the Arabs gradually gained their independence, which then saw a succession of kings and ‘strongmen’ come and go; Israel was established and grew in strength; while 20 million or more Kurds suffered discrimination and oppression at the hands of Turks, Arabs and – to a lesser extent – Iranians. But perhaps the most important political and economic development was that oil was discovered in vast quantities beneath the deserts of the region, and it was this discovery that influenced more recent developments.

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A rumour that refuses to die is that Saddam Hussein was toppled from power in 2003 by the USA – aided by a coalition of the star-struck and the wilfully stupid – because he was threatening to trade Iraqi oil in Euros, rather than dollars. To explain, briefly; the USA makes countless billions of dollars every year from doing nothing, Mossadeghsimply because crude oil is traded in US dollars. If Saddam had carried out his threat, then other countries would almost certainly have followed suit, Russia (the world’s biggest oil producer in 2013), Iran (No 4), China (No 5), Hugo Chavez’ Venezuela (No 9), with others having to fall into line. This may of course be nothing but a conspiracy theory . . . but it’s a lot more credible than the nonsense we heard about weapons of mass destruction, or the idea that an absolute tyrant who tolerated no challengers was supporting and nurturing Al-Qaeda.

The invasion of Iraq in 2003 was about oil, oil for the USA. (As was the earlier Gulf War to ‘liberate’ Kuwait.) This unquenchable thirst for oil explains the toleration of slavery and other forms of barbarism in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States. In fact, oil explains just about everything the West has done in the region, particularly since World War Two, beginning with the removal of the democratically elected Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh of Iran in 1953, engineered by MI6 and the CIA. His crime? He wanted to use Iranian oil for the benefit of the Iranian people. (Be warned, Alex Salmond!)

As this noble and honest nationalist put it at his trial: “Yes, my sin – my greater sin . . . and even my greatest sin is that I nationalised Iran’s oil industry and discarded the system of political and economic exploitation by the world’s greatest empire . . . This at the cost to myself, my family: and at the risk of losing my life, my honour and my property . . . With God’s blessing and the will of the people, I fought this savage and dreadful system of international espionage and colonialism . . . I am well aware that my fate must serve as an example in the future throughout the Middle East in breaking the chains of slavery and servitude to colonial interests”.

And so it continued, anyone who challenged Western interests was undermined and removed, any butcher with billions in foreign bank accounts who was perceived to be serving Western interests was supported. The collapse of the Soviet Union encouraged the Americans to act even more recklessly; with what passed for US foreign policy being determined by old CIA dictums such as, ‘The enemy of my enemy must be my friend’ and ‘He may be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch’. Which, inevitably, and among other successes, resulted in arming the Taliban in Afghanistan, and supporting Saddam Hussein in his war with Iran. Short-termism in the diplomatic and military spheres to complement that in the economic sphere that resulted in the Crash of 2008.

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Of course, the problem with undermining or removing strongmen is that once they’re gone things start falling apart, and all manner of undesirables emerge. That’s what happened in Afghanistan, and that’s what’s happening now in Syria, Iraq and Libya. Making recent US foreign policy the classic definition of madness – doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Finally realising this may explain why the US refused to help the more moderate opponents of Bashir al-Assad in Syria which, as we now know, has led to the emergence of something infinitely more dangerous – the jihadist butchers of IS. So that even by doing the right thing for once the USA has cocked up, again.

Everyone expresses surprise at the speed of the IS advance, almost a case of, ‘Where did they come from?’, which is strange, for the USA has satellites that can read car number plates; they have known about IS for months, the CIA has known its strength, its movements . . . but seemed unconcerned. Why the change of heart? There are, I suspect, two PKKreasons. First, it may be significant that IS began to make news at a time when the US and its allies needed a distraction from other deeds being perpetrated in Gaza. Second, IS was now threatening the Kurdish oilfields, where there are many US citizens, military and civilian. Yes, there is a real humanitarian tragedy, but this has simply been used to disguise the true reasons for the sudden concern about IS. Just ask yourself, ‘What exactly has the US done to alleviate the suffering of hundreds of thousands of Yazidis and Christians?’ Well, they dropped a few bottles of water, and that seems to have been about it.

Even so, the Kurdish Peshmerga should have been able to defend both Yazidis and Christians by holding off IS . . . if they’d had the weapons. One of the more revealing facts to come out of the region recently was that in one engagement the Peshmerga had to retreat because a) IS had superior weapons and b) the Peshmerga ran out of ammunition! The Kurds are the West’s most reliable ally in the region; Kurdistan is as close as you’ll get locally to a democratic and secular society (that’s why the Christians and Yazidi fled to Kurdistan); so why the hell are they not properly armed? Well, you see, that would upset the Turks, who worry about weapons getting into the hands of their own Kurds or, more specifically, the PKK guerrillas. Which means that the USA, in order to pander to an increasingly Islamist government in Ankara – that oppresses its own Kurds – leaves its only real ally in the region almost undefended. What sort of a foreign policy is this that can’t even work out who the good guys are?

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Properly equipped the Peshmerga can secure Kurdistan and the contested areas (from many of which they were ‘cleansed’ by Saddam Hussein) but they are unlikely to venture far into Sunni Arab areas for any lengthy campaign because that would be interpreted by the Sunni Arab tribes as an act of aggression, and likely to drive them towards IS. That said, the Kurds would probably engage in a short campaign to defeat IS (which the West should support on purely humanitarian grounds), but it is not the long-term answer, nor must the West use and then abandon the Kurds as it has done in the recent past. When the alternatives are considered it becomes clear that this is the best option, for those alternatives would appear to be: giving aid and support to the almost exclusively Shia military of Iraq (i.e. the regime that has already alienated the Sunnis); encourage Bashir al-Assad to go on the offensive; urge the Turks to intervene; turn a blind eye while the Iranians send in the Revolutionary Guards; or put US military boots on the ground again.

kurdistan landscap
Click to enlarge

The reason there isn’t a more inclusive regime in Baghdad is all the fault of a cack-handed implementation of ‘democracy’. Because when outsiders insist that a divided country like Iraq starts using a political process with which its people are entirely unfamiliar then the people will vote along sectarian lines and the largest group will inevitably dominate at the expense of the other two. Trying to balance things out by giving Sunni Arabs and Kurds a share of power greater than their numbers merit will only antagonise the Shia Arab majority. Given that the Baghdad regime and its military have no support outside Shia areas means that unless the Kurds can be persuaded (and equipped) to intervene against IS then this tragedy will have to play out to whatever conclusion awaits the long-suffering inhabitants of the region.

Once IS is defeated there must be an acceptance that Iraq is no longer a viable country; and that cohesive political and social entities are not created by straight lines drawn on maps by people who don’t have to live with the consequences. The same might apply to Syria and Lebanon, and perhaps other countries in the region. The Kurds must be given a secure and defensible homeland guaranteed by international treaty. Partly because it is their inalienable right, partly because the Kurds may be the only hope for a democratic and pluralist society in the region (and a refuge for minorities), and partly because it is in the long-term best interests of the West. And it should go without saying that once IS is defeated there will inevitably have to be trials for the crimes committed, whether the suspects come from Grangetown or Grozny.

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Let no one be in any doubt that I have the best interests of the West at heart; it’s just that I happen to believe that those interests will be better served from now on by being true to what we have always preached – democracy, religious freedom, protection for minorities, equality for women, freedom from arbitrary arrest, altruism, open and honest business transactions, etc., etc., and insisting that we will not deal with countries that cannot support these same values. (In fact, the ‘ethical’ foreign policy promised by one of Blair’s henchmen.) Because if Russia can be punished with sanctions for the heinous crime of seeking to defend fellow Russians, then why should Saudi Arabia and Kuwait escape sanctions for funding IS?

Finally, while I wish the Scots every success on September 18th – and I’ll be there myself – I also look forward to a world that is much less reliant on oil. Not because I have anything in common with environmentalists and the like (God forbid!), but because I am sick and tired of slimy, two-faced bastards claiming to represent me and the wider ‘Western community’ lying through their highly polished teeth as they suck up to despots who may have fleets of private jets but still live in the Middle Ages; moral degenerates who have emerged from of the cesspit of ‘the political centre ground’, with their fixed smiles and their talent for ignoring or explaining away all manner of brutality, corruption and evil just to keep the oil pumping.

Footnote: As I was about to publish this piece I came across this post in the New York Times, which is correct up to a point but obviously cannot be too critical of the USA.