Posts Tagged ‘Europe’

European Cup v Politics. No Winners

June 13, 2016

Christopher Lee - photo

Christopher Lee

Stade Felix Bollaert-Delelis, Lens

14 June 2016

Wales will beat England  2-1 against tomorrow.  Reason? England cannot score goals but with two obvious exceptions, they have better players. Second version: Wales will win 1-0 (Penalty).  Third version: hooligans will get match cancelled.

Whatsoever the result, England will lose because no one likes the English football team – not even the English because they (the team) have a nasty rich image as people. Paid too much.  Never win much when it matters. We are saying that the only nice England players are the former England players.

We are saying also that Prime Minister David Cameron needs by 23 June England FC to be winning this Europe thing and on their way to the 10 July  final because if they do then the national feel good factor will work for him and people will vote Stay.

We are saying also that Boris, Gove Darling et al need England to be winning this Europe thing by 23 June and on their way to the 10 July final because the national feel good factor will mean the union flag is worn with pride and the people will vote Bye Bye.

We are saying that support can turn elections because a national success turns a result by creating a sense of national ecstasy when a trophy is brought home and a below surface glumness when footballers fail.

The British politicians have always made sporting links to whatever game they play at Westminster and now further afield. The post-war Labour Prime Minister Clement Attlee installed a teletext system when he arrived in Downing Street in 1945, not to monitor world events but the latest scores in Victory Test matches between an Australian services eleven and England between May and August 1945.  More modern prime ministers made sure minor decorations were handed out when cricket and rugby teams won international series and bicyclists dot not fall off.

More dramatically, Saddam Hussein’s son Uday had  the Iraqi team tortured when they lost in the Asian Cup in 200o. In 2014 North Korean’s soccer team was arrested and threatened with execution after losing to South Korea. Losing meant the North Korean people – especially the leader – were shamed. If they had won North Korea would have been proved triumphant politically and ideology.

The conclusion is that only sport creates the sense of pride and unity – or destroys it – for a nation state in tender times. From British Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson, to Tory and Liberal leaders David Cameron and Nick Clegg, to French Presidents Mitterrand, Chirac and even Sarkozy all have invoked the names and spirits of their national sporting sides at the height of bi-lateral relations knowing sporting arena results could not be signs of how international politics would fall.

Could be that is why the American always play among themselves for the World Series events, not taking chances of losing against political as well as sporting rivals.

But the other truth is that the sporting effect (other than America’s) does not survive. A Test Match win followed inside three weeks with MBEs all round and flesh-pressing at Downing Street is followed by a whitewashing in Australia and muttering from the Downing Street PR, what was that all about – apart from when John Major was Prime Minister

The true result has to be quickly taken. In 1970 England failed to qualify for the World Cup four days before Labour (who had basked in England’s 1966 success – four months after Moore’s side won the Jules Rimet) was beaten at the general election.

The political victor, Ted Heath, was glad England had lost because he was told it would make the British people fed up with government.  Heath won.  The Labour minister of sport Denis Howell,  declared on the Sunday of defeat “Everything began to go wrong for Labour for the following Thursday.” Wilson blamed the “disgruntled Match of the Day Millions.”

Could it be that if England look bad in the Qualifications, then Cameron will lose the Stay vote?  Or could another day of disgruntlement work for Boris against those “bloody Europeans”?

Feel the pulse in the only thing that really means much to the English nowadays.  The Beautiful Game. It does not really matter if Wales wins or loses.  They will always be gallant fighters.  The English? No one, other than 25,000 fans, cares a toss. Or is that so? The political strategists who believe Howell and Wilson were right?

As a permanent secretary in Whitehall remarked this week. “We have the Referendum, talks on Syria, the NATO summit the week up to the July the Europeans final, talks with Putin’s lot and a shouting match in the EU about an EU Army, which we do not want. If we should win, we go to all these things as champions.’

The thought of Cameron in a white and three lions T-shirt in Vienna Geneva and Warsaw is something to contemplate. All is to play for.  All could easily slip from grasp. After 1-1 with Russia last weekend, anything is possible when own goals decide the political as well as sporting results.

Europe – The War Grave of Politics

April 22, 2016


Christopher Lee

22 April 2016, London

Ted Heath, shortly after he retired as Prime Minister told me that EU membership made war less likely in Europe. We were sitting in the drawing room of his house in the peaceful embrace of Salisbury Cathedral Close with the garden running down to the sweet Avon.

It was a warm summer and the future was safe in the hands of Europe – as long that is, the hands were firmly clasped together.

President Obama’s message this morning is that too many American soldiers died on the beaches and ditches of this continent for the United States not to have a view on the UK referendum on EU membership. Ted Heath M.C. and Obama would have understood each other.

What Heath said and the point Obama made is a reminder that the EU was born out of the tragedy of World War II. The founding fathers, men like Jean Monet, Joseph Bech, Robert Schuman, Paul Henri Spaak et al were of one mind; the Benelux Customs Union, the Coal and Steel and later the Economic Community brought together minds in political and commercial unity.  But the purpose was greater: Europe should never again be split in war.

This was all during the opening moves of the Cold War. The USSR prepared for war – the Channel Ports in four days was the brag of the 16th Shock Army in Magdeburg. A wise European elder, sat with me this morning, sipped from his bowl of coffee, dragged on his now socially unacceptable Gauloises (a successor to Monet perhaps) and observed, Putin has his new Shock Army.

This past week, Putin’s suits sat once more in the NATO-Moscow Council in Brussels (No No Smoking signs needed – you simply don’t) and with splendid diplomatic curtness ran through an agenda to see if the Alliance and Russia could get back to an practical informality that predated the taking of the Crimea and the interference in the Ukraine. It was good that the cocktail of ambassadors met after two years apart. Yet the political and military differences are as great if not greater.

As my vieux sage rasped, Putin works on the break-up of the EU. The Americans are throwing in brigades. Not what we had in mind when we all signed in 1975.

Equally let no one doubt that the US would never pay to join an organisation that dictated 60% of its laws.  Nevertheless the imagery of committed soldiery is stark. Today, with remaining suspicions about Putin’s ambitions and the demonstration of Daesh tactics in Brussels and Paris quite clear, the Obama message should be understood. In effect, Europe remains America’s front line.

That is not a political point as is the June referendum.  It is Intelligence Analysis at its simplest.

Ted Heath too understood this as did many of his Cabinet – five Military Crosses, including his Defence Secretary.  They had got their knees brown. Heath’s view was simple: membership of NATO was not enough even though it brought Canada and the US into some future ORBAT.

The real Order of Battle is the diplomacy and long term thinking of the EU. Could be why Obama has gone out on a diplomatic limb.





Christopher Lee

January 12, 2013


Heseltine Roars – Cameron Would Do Well To Hear The Last Of the Big Beasts

12th January 2013
Michael Heseltine has publicly told Prime Minister David Cameron that he would be wrong to go for what would effectively be an In-Or-Out? referendum on Europe.  

Heseltine has done so for two reasons: firstly he believes it to be a foolish political decision by the leader of the party of which he remains a passionate member and secondly, because he can say it and will be listened to.  The last point is the most important because Heseltine is a Big Tory Beast.  A veritable lion of Toryism.

And here’s the rub.  The Tory Party has few proper beasts.  It has few who command to be heard when they roar.  For the Party is dull, just as the LibDems are dull and so too Labour. This was never the case.  Now the Cages of Political Beast are left unlocked because that rare species has gone. Yet there are huge issues that demand Big Beasts to say things, be heard, to be sent to sort Great Troubles.  This is also what the public thinks.  A few examples:

A major city of the United Kingdom is in flames.  For 40 days and 40 nights, Belfast has burned.  Shots have been fired. The sham of the Blair Settlement is as charred as the building blocks of what should have been his greatest achievement (his biggest was to XXXX-Up the UK).  And yet where is the Big Statement from David Cameron, the man who passes himself off as Prime Minister?  Where is the high profile Cameron visit to Belfast to demand these are terrible events up with he will no longer put? Nowhere, that’s where they are.

And where are the forehead smacking and feet shuddering statements and initiatives from Theresa Villiers.  Who?

There are perhaps a handful outside Westminster who have heard of Villiers.  Yet this woman – a refugee from that other Something-Up of Blairite proportions, the Department of Transport – is Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

Villiers is the person appointed to fix Northern Ireland; she is the person we should be watching, hanging on her every word as kids under ten throw rocks and petrol bombs at UK policemen. We get? Nothing! (We would of course if this were happening in her Tory constituency of Chipping Barnet.)

Crisis? You would hardly know it from Ms Villiers. Hardly a soul knows her name. An, admittedly small, telephone straw poll last night from this writer’s office among reasonably informed adults and voter-age teenagers found no one who had heard of her and certainly no one who knew what she looked like.  A part of the UK burns and the profile and the words of the person in charge are unknown and unheard. There is no beast to roar good sense into the debacle that is Northern Ireland. Where else?

Abroad the really nice William Hague travels willingly to lie for his country.  On big issues he sounds insignificant.  Yet once, even as a teenager, he electrified the Tory Conference with his conscience rattling speech that the nation (and the Party) needed big ideas expounded by big ideas.  

Today Hague has said nothing outside Cabinet that is memorable.  Yet this man is there to manage in every country, in every institution from the UN to NATO to the EU the image of the British Isles.  Remember anything he has said?  Of course not.  We are reduced to remembering that he is bald – that is such a bad moment for us all.

So the Heseltine image of Beasts and Statesmen is all but gone.  But there must be some in the grim and corrupt lair that is Parliament?  Ken Clarke? He was once a great Chancellor  Hardly heard and rarely noticed.  He is now silent and obscure with no visible passion other than cask ale and jazz trombones.  The others?

Thatcher sits unknowingly in her SW1 drawing room. Carrington, wisely has gone to his estate (as Macmillan said he would) to keep his own counsel his and despair of the great upper chamber with its dropped aitches, flat vowels and time servers and none with original thinking. Howe’s voice grows weak with age and his memory becomes uncertain – yet this is the man whose valedictory Commons speech tolled the bell on Thatcher’s premiership.

And on the other side of the House? There is no one whose intervention can have the Press Gallery scratching at their pads and frissons of holding some front page somewhere. No ghosts even. No Callaghan. Certainly no Anthony Crosland. No Roy Jenkins. No Michael Foots.

Ironically, the only beast to prowl the corridors of common sense and devastating intervention must bide his time until electorate disaster strikes (in 2015?).  Boris Johnson is the only beast of Heseltinean mane. Well south of the mythical Watford Junction line – that is the start of southern England – people wait for Boris. If they could, southerners bin Cameron and would cheer Boris into his place.  They long for the rabble rousing roars that would give the southern English the warm feeling that Beasts once more ruled the UK.. North of that line, north of Watford, Boris is detested because he stands for everything that the Midlands and much of the North detest: upper class right to rule and roar at lessers and for fags to grill their toast and anchovy paste.

There of course we have it. The United Kingdom has become a spiteful nation with no care but self-care. It is a nation split as a consequence of the the Blair divisions of 1999 Devolution of powers from Westminster to Cardiff, Belfast and Edinburgh. The UK is no longer a united kingdom. Thus Westminster has become a village in which there is no place for big ideas. Beasts Not Wanted on whatever voyage the British expense craving politicians think they’re taken the nations.  

Social reform, health and education may be billed as new thinking but this is nonsense.  Nothing is stretched. Nothing is grabbed and molded anew. No truly big ideas, no truly big men.  No Barbara Castles. No Harold Macmillans. No Joe Grimmonds. No Enoch Powells. No Thatchers. No Mad Monks to stir the Commons Tea Room cups of political curiosity and set normally sedate men and women trotting to their green benches to hear what was to be said.

Thus Heseltine is an endangered species and Boris’s time has not yet come and may never do so.  Best then Mr Cameron – who displays little sign of what he stands for other than power – should listen to the last of a generation that was not always admired but was, with very good reason, always heard.