Monday, August 6, 2007

A mystery trip to Islington and paranoia

Malcolm has always had difficulties with Child Ballad 105, in which the Bailiff's Daughter of Islington pursues her lost love all the way to London. The whole thing makes much more sense if the Islington in question is in Cambridgeshire, rather than Postal-district N1.

Saturday, Malcolm pursued new loves in Islington, at Borders more-than-adequate bookshop. This meant three new novels for the weekend (the new Jasper Fforde is first up and running) and a leisurely sit in a congenial pub. Ah! bliss.
But when his friends did understand
His fond and foolish mind...
Now, the intention of this entry was to comment on Saturday's Irish Times. Not for the surreality of the cover of the weekend Magazine section: Midlands Chic — Shaking up the Mullingar fashion scene. Malcolm assumes that was just someone having a laugh at the "affluent midlands clientele ... [of] Athlone, Tullamore, Longford and beyond." No, not indeed. Instead he spend a rivetted quarter-pint scrutinising Paul Gillespie's Worldview column on the Opinion&Analysis page (Malcolm is still not convinced about the IT's use of such TheGuardian-like conflations: even the Guardian is passing on).

Now, Paul Gillespie, once a stalwart of Trinity Fabians thereby shares in Malcolm's fictional DNA. He has had a distinguished career at the IT and can boast some laudable publications.

This week's piece. "Gordon Brown's Atlantic dilemma" is a Michelin two-star "worth a visit." It had, as its major premise, the way Brown's US trip was:
a necessary shift, part of the wider recalibration in the choreography of power on which Brown has been engaged for the last month.
She was coy, and she would not believe
That he did love her so ...
Malcolm would agree with that in large part. However, one needs to keep in mind that Brown needed, and apparently achieved something less than a Hugh Grant moment at Camp David:
I love that word "relationship". Covers all manner of sins, doesn't it? I fear that this has become a bad relationship. A relationship based on the President taking exactly what he wants and casually ignoring all those things that really matter to, erm... Britain. We may be a small country but we're a great one, too. The country of Shakespeare, Churchill, the Beatles, Sean Connery, Harry Potter. David Beckham's right foot. David Beckham's left foot, come to that. And a friend who bullies us is no longer a friend. And since bullies only respond to strength, from now onward, I will be prepared to be much stronger. And the President should be prepared for that.
Brown was more circumspect than that, but the dog-whistle has not gone unheard. Bush is well on the way to dead-duckery: we are now into the last eighteen months of the Bush-Cheney imperium. No British PM is going to hitch a wagon onto that falling star. Equally, no one in Whitehall is going to be too eager to satisfy the foreign-policy credentials of any one potential Presidential Candidate. Until November 2008, anyway: then a fully-fledged fawn is in order.
‘Many a tear have I shed for her sake
When she little thought of me.’
And for the minor premise, but the major thrust here:
an article by John Bolton, the former neoconservative US ambassador to the United Nations. Writing in the Financial Times, he said Britain must chose between its special relationship with the US and its deepening involvement with the European Union.
Malcolm missed the original publication, which is on-line. Bolton is being mischievous. He states:
whether the “special relationship” grows stronger or weaker lies entirely in British hands. Americans across the political spectrum are content to keep it as it is and has been essentially since the second world war. That does not mean that the two countries always agree, nor has it ever meant that Britain is a poodle following America’s lead, self-flagellating Brits notwithstanding.
Well, John, it sure don't feel like that. And that's a nice piece of double-think: if we masochists chose to talk EU, we're breaking the concordat; if we don't ... So Bolton forces the question into an either/or:
... saying that the UK’s “single most important bilateral relationship” is with America, but is not comparable with UK membership of the EU, is a clever but ultimately meaningless dodge. Drop the word “bilateral”. What is Britain’s most important “relationship”? Does Mr Brown regard the EU as a “state under construction”, as some EU supporters proclaim, or not?

The answers to these questions are what Washington really needs to know. What London needs to know is that its answer will have consequences.

Is there anybody, apart from dissimulating Bolton, who does not know the answer whether Mr Brown regard[s] the EU as a “state under construction”? If so, there is need for a quick revision course on the "five economic tests", which meant Gordon Brown at the Treasury had an economic lock on political decisions over the Euro.
As she went along the road,
The weather being hot and dry...
And so we come to the explicit threat (as Gillespie phrases it):
Can Washington any longer trust Britain not to share US intelligence with its EU partners when it advocates policies based upon it which they do not have?
Which neatly begs the obverse of that coin: can London, post Iraq, trust DC to share valid intelligence anyway?

And the touchstone of Britain's reliability will be toeing the US (and, specifically, the neoCon) line on Iran. Let Bolton have his say:
Iran’s nuclear weapons programme ... will prove in the long run more important for both countries than the current turmoil in Iraq. Here the US has followed the EU lead in a failed diplomatic effort to dissuade Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons. If Mr Bush decides that the only way to stop Iran is to use military force, where will Mr Brown come down? Supporting the US or allowing Iran to goose-step towards nuclear weapons?
‘She’s dead, sir, long ago.’
Fortunately Gillespie sees through that:
US foreign policy is now polarised ... in a way not seen in many decades. Most Republicans believe US security relies on military force, rather than international co-operation, while most Democrats define themselves as supporting multilateral diplomacy rather than coercion.
it is not in the US interest to have the EU emerge as a competing power in a multipolar world. Such a view would also be held by an incoming Democratic administration.
Gillespie's analysis concludes with a shrewd appreciation of an alliance of sinister forces, between the "right-wing fringes of the Bush administration" and the likes of Conrad Black and Rupert Murdoch. These define any "special relationship" as Britain as a junior partner in
an Anglosphere bringing together the US, Britain, Canada, Australia and an emerging open global marketplace based on neoliberal values and deregulation.
Meanwhile Gordon Brown's emphases on "climate change, international development and world trade reform" are areas "where he cannot rely on Washington to share his values".
All the maids of Islington
Went forth to sport and play...
All of that is thought-provoking stuff: well done, young Paul. What really sticks in the craw is Gillespie's assumption, repeated from Bolton, that the real problem is:
how the Iran question is handled over the coming year.
If that really is the biggest, biggest issue Gordon Brown's Government faces in the next twelve months, then we're in the clear.
I will into some far countrey,
Where no man doth me know.’
Except, of course, for the background mood music about Iran. Expect what goes around to come around, largely by courtesy of the German Press. There it seems to have a cyclical existence ever since Spiegel had a report, uncredited, anticipating a possible US strike on Iranian nuclear facilities. This was recycling for the popular market a report from the Berlin Tagesspiegel (for which Malcolm's German is inadequate). That, in turn, was derived from the DDP agency report, way back in December 2005, by Udo Ulfkotte, who was believed to have close cuddles with the German intelligence service, the BNP. In the "Anglosphere", of course, one could trace the ancestry of this particular horror-story back to Seymour Hersh's articles in the New Yorker.

Malcolm assumes that, on this one, the Brits will choose to sat (literally) out of the firing line, lurking somewhere behind a (reasonably-) disciplined EU line on Iran. And, therein lies the disgruntlement of the neoCons, including Bolton, about British policy.
‘O farewel grief, and welcome joy,
Ten thousand times and more!'
But, for Malcolm, there is another, more immediate problem. The first edition of Jasper Fforde's new novel is corrupt, missing many footnotes. He sees that, if he is prepared to mutilate the title page and send it to the publisher, he will receive a revised edition. That seems a no-brainer: keep the first edition for possible investment value.

Similarly, keep the original Brown policy, unreconstructed by Pentagon bullying.
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