Speech in Parliament on India

India Must Help On Kashmir to Promote Stablity in Pakistan and Afghanistan
Speech in the House of Commons, 5 February 2009
Mr. Denis MacShane (Rotherham) (Lab): It is a great pleasure to follow the right hon. and learned Member for Kensington and Chelsea (Sir Malcolm Rifkind), described in Lord Howe’s memoirs as a brilliant speaker without notes. We saw again today just how right that description was. It is also a pleasure to follow my fellow Mertonian, the hon. Member for Louth and Horncastle (Sir Peter Tapsell). I do not quite know why Merton college produces so many people with an interest in geopolitics, but there it is.
I will start by mentioning a date: on 25 June 2003, the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, for the first time came to the Dispatch Box to pay tribute to a soldier who had fallen in the campaign in Afghanistan. Now, the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition have to go through that ritual every Wednesday. We understand that, but I wonder whether our fellow citizens and we as Members of Parliament will at some point say, “That’s enough.” I hope that the good people of Rotherham will continue to send me here to spend more years in Parliament, and I would like many a Wednesday to go by without such condolences having to be paid.
I make that point as a supporter of the decision of the Euro-Atlantic community and NATO to be present in Afghanistan. I do not get any sense that there is a strategy, however. There are tactical interventions and comments here and there. I heard Secretary Gates refer to the impossibility of making Afghanistan a Valhalla. I hope he was accurate in that because, of course, Valhalla is where dead heroes go to their final eternal rest—I am unsure to what extent some senior American politicians are educated in the classics nowadays.
I propose a non-aggression pact to the Front-Bench teams of all three main parties. Is it possible to have a fabulous discussion of “Hamlet” without mentioning the prince, or of “The Jungle Book” without referring to the elephants or tigers? If India is not mentioned in the context of how to solve this broad regional problem, we will never have a strategy, but merely tactical interventions.
It is easy to send our troops into foreign fields, but it is much more difficult to get them out. I remember hearing a Defence Secretary say, “Oh, the soldiers are only going to Afghanistan. They won’t do any shooting. They’ll only be there for a short time.” Then, not so long ago, I think it was one of the senior generals who said, “They could be there for 30 years.” I want to know this: what is our strategy? Does NATO have a strategy? Does the United States have a strategy? I do not seriously expect a full answer to this question tonight, but it must be posed.
With the arrival of a new President in America, we have an opportunity to set Afghanistan in a wider context. Afghanistan was the base where the planning and organisation was done for the killing of people in America, and it is part of the broader base—linked with Pakistan, I accept—whence the people came who killed the Londoners on 7 July 2005. That planning, recruitment, training and killing continues: even today, five people have been blown up at a hospital in Pakistan. I do not have the details, but I do not think that can be divorced from the fact that we face an ideological onslaught on our values.
There is a clearly expressed ideology of militant Islamist fundamentalism that not only wants to kill, but rejects all the values that uphold democracy—the rule of law, open economies, freedom of expression—as well as the rights of those of other religions and women and gays to live their lives as they wish. It is not just western countries who suffer from this ideological assault. Al-Qaeda’s number two, Mr. al-Zawahiri, has stated that the Pakistani Government are “apostate” and should be overthrown. It is time that we drew a much clearer distinction between Islamism as an ideology and the faith of Islam.
We must also recognise that there are great forces around the world with a strategic interest in seeing NATO, the United States, Great Britain, the west and the Euro-Atlantic community defeated. There is an open-ended supply of arms from Iran and other parts of the region to the people who are seeking to kill our soldiers. We can send as many helicopters there as we like, but as the Russians will tell us, helicopters do not do the trick. We can bomb as much as much as we like, too—in 2007, the US air force had almost 3,000 strike hits—but that has not decreased the violence.
Kyrgyzstan is shutting down its supply base for America, so if the Khyber pass is choked off—as seems to be the case—land supplies can come in only through Russia. I do not wish to make comments about Russia in this debate, but putting NATO and America at the mercy of Mr. Putin does not seem strategically wise, so we need to think in a different way. The player that we have to bring in is India.
So far this century, we have sent more than £1 billion to India in development aid, yet India is rich enough to plant its flag on the moon and, as has been described, to be a nuclear-armed power. It is spending up to a reported $1 billion in its own development programme in Afghanistan. Thus, Pakistan feels encircled. There are 500,000 Indian troops in Kashmir and 70,000 Kashmiris have died since the Indian army moved in nearly 20 years ago—far more than all those killed in the middle east. The bulk of the Pakistani military has to focus on that. A country cannot have 500,000 troops actively engaged in training and manoeuvres on its frontier and not take appropriate precautions—there is no example in history of that happening. So we have to say to India that it should de-escalate a bitterly emotional dispute.
Former President Musharraf said that the line of control should be treated as a de facto frontier, and I invite the two Front-Bench teams not to snipe over the question of who raises Kashmir. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary was right to repeat the then Senator Obama’s absolute hyphenation between Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. To get things going, we have to discuss the Kashmiri issue. When my right hon. Friend came back, he was trashed in The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail—all those papers that just seek to score cheap political points. Let the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) have the guts to say that Kashmir, India and Pakistan need to be discussed, and let us stop sniping about that issue.
While on holiday in India at the new year, I was appalled to read the militaristic language being used against Pakistan, to see maps in Indian papers of Pakistan re-partitioned, to read about serious people discussing a military invasion of Pakistan and to be able to watch a TV show called “Dial Pak for Terror”. We have to get the hyphens back in place; India must bear a responsibility and we must make that clear.

The new rise of antisemitism around the world (in French)

This article was published in the Swiss newspaper Le Temps (Geneva)
20 February 2009

Des graffitis sur le mur de la synagogue

Les crises qui ont périodiquement secoué le monde durant le siècle qui a suivi l’écriture du Capital par Marx ont été marquées par un phénomène commun : la montée de l’antisémitisme politique. Comme le canari est le premier à sentir les émanations de gaz toxiques dans une mine de charbon, les attaques contre les juifs et leur culture sont le signe avant-coureur que quelque chose va vraiment mal.
Le mois dernier, un informaticien de 32 ans, Michael Booksatz, a été passé à tabac dans une rue du nord de Londres par deux hommes masqués qui criaient des slogans palestiniens. Des étudiants juifs de la London School of Economics – qui a compté dans ses rangs de nombreux juifs brillants ayant fui l’Allemagne nazie – sont maintenant terrifiés par les insultes anti-juives des étudiants islamistes. Des graffitis tels que «Tuez les juifs» ou «Djihad contre Israël» apparaissent près des synagogues de Londres.
Ces dernières semaines, la police de Londres a recensé quatre fois plus d’attaques anti-juives que d’agressions contre les islamistes. Le respecté Community Security Trust, qui enregistre scrupuleusement les attaques anti-juives, recense autant d’attaques antisémites de nature verbale ou physique durant les premières semaines de 2009 que durant les six premiers mois de 2008.
Tandis que le monde entre dans une nouvelle période de crise, l’antisémitisme est de retour. Comme toujours, l’histoire se répète. L’effondrement et la fièvre des marchés évoqués dans le roman d’Emile Zola L’Argent ou la colère populiste contre Wall Street à la fin du XIXe siècle ont alimenté la virulence de politiques antisémites illustrées par l’affaire Dreyfus en France ou la montée au pouvoir à Vienne de politiciens ouvertement antisémites. La Grande Dépression a donné naissance aux pires expressions de l’antisémitisme, à savoir les politiques qui ont conduit à l’Holocauste. Même en Grande-Bretagne, le duc de Wellington était à l’époque à la tête d’une organisation anti-juive secrète dont l’en-tête du papier à lettres était orné des initiales «PJ» pour péril juif.
La crise économique des années 1970 a entraîné en Grande-Bretagne une augmentation marquée des votes pour le Front national, et le parti qui lui a succédé, le BNP, ouvertement antisémite, rencontre actuellement beaucoup de succès au niveau local.
La détresse et la peine causées par les terribles images d’enfants tués lors des combats israéliens contre le Hamas à Gaza ont autorisé les sentiments anti-israéliens à s’exprimer avec davantage de véhémence et de violence qu’ils ne l’avaient jamais été auparavant. Critiquer Israël n’est pas faire preuve d’antisémitisme. Mais tous les antisémites haïssent l’existence d’un Etat juif et, se cachant derrière des termes tels que l’anti-sionisme, laissent s’exprimer de manière de plus en plus vicieuse leur haine des juifs.
En Italie, les rues de Milan sont barbouillées de slogans enjoignant aux Italiens de boycotter les produits juifs – écho au slogan nazi «Kauft Nicht Bei Juden». En Allemagne, les forums des émissions de radio résonnent d’accusations selon lesquelles les banquiers responsables de la crise économique actuelle sont juifs. Les démonstrations anti-juives se répandent à Berlin par le biais d’affiches proclamant «C’était une bonne idée d’utiliser du gaz» ou «Je suis antisémite et c’est bien». Ainsi, tous les juifs sont amenés à se sentir exclus des pays dans lesquels ils sont nés ou des sociétés dans lesquelles ils vivent.
Du Cachemire au Gujarat, des musulmans ont été massacrés dans des parties très éloignées du monde au cours de ce siècle. En Irak et en Afghanistan, les soldats de l’OTAN sont accusés de brutalité, mais les hommes qui ont sur les mains le plus de sang musulman sont les idéologues islamistes. Or, il n’y a pas envers ceux qui ont perpétré ces attaques la même colère que celle qui s’exprime à l’égard d’Israël et des juifs.
N’est-il pas raisonnable de supposer que la raison pour laquelle le monde entier est en colère contre Israël et non contre les autres régimes ou religions qui massacrent des musulmans est que les Israéliens sont juifs? Est-ce que la critique et la colère légitimes envers Israël autorisent la haine des juifs à devenir à nouveau acceptable? Ajoutez une crise économique mondiale au sujet de laquelle il est aisé de pointer du doigt les noms des escrocs et bankster qui se trouvent être juifs, et une nouvelle vague d’antisémitisme prend forme.
Une conférence a réuni à Londres des parlementaires venus de toute l’Europe, dont la Suisse, et du monde pour discuter de ce qui peut être entrepris. Le conservateur Michael Gove a rejoint les ministres travaillistes Hazel Blears et Jim Murphy pour dire qu’il est temps pour les parlements du monde démocratique de lutter contre l’antisémitisme, spécialement contre les attaques des islamistes envers les jeunes juifs sur les campus des universités.
Le pape étreint un négationniste, évêque de Winchester et de Cambridge; des slogans tels que «Hamas, Hamas, les juifs au gaz» sont psalmodiés à Amsterdam.
Les juifs sont encore amenés à penser qu’ils ne sont pas des citoyens à part entière dans leur pays natal parce qu’ils refusent d’accorder au Hamas et au Hezbollah le droit d’user de la terreur envers les civils israéliens. Dans la mine, le canari sent encore une fois que sa vie est en danger.

On the need for a new economic model

This article was published in the Yorkshire Post

A new model of economics must rise from the wreckage of this recession
26 February 2009
APOCALYPSE Now and Forever might be the title of the next Oscar winning film based on the state of Britain's economy. Perhaps the script is already being written as a co-production between the Bank of England and BBC News starring Robert Peston as himself and Sean Connery playing the Scottish Treasury Select Committee chairman, former teacher John McFall MP.
It seems at times as if capitalism is a monster that can periodically be guided in beneficial directions and then roars up to devour its faithful. In the 1970s, rampant inflation destroyed the savings and pension income of millions. In the 1980s, Yorkshire's steel and other industrial jobs were sacrificed on the altar of monetarist ideology. In the 1990s, businesses were shut down by the tens of thousands and house repossessions soared. Then there were specific causes and effects which could be remedied. Today, the recession, which is causing grief to individuals losing their jobs or homes, or those well-run businesses suddenly denied credit from their banks, appears to have come from nowhere. Like a tsunami rising from the sea without warning, parts of the economy are suddenly submerged. Of course, we blame the Government in Britain. Yet Gordon Brown is not in charge of the German or Japanese economy where the economy is shrinking at a far faster rate than in Britain. Most recent figures in the annual decline in industrial output show it going down 21 per cent in Japan, 19 per cent in South Korea, 12 per cent in Germany, 10 per cent in the US and nine per cent in the UK. Gordon Brown may be blamed for many things, but he is not responsible for this abrupt end to the long 30-year cycle of deregulated economics that took root after the end of the 30 year cycle of welfare state capitalism put in place after 1945. The British political class is, as always, sinking to the occasion with the yah-boo insults in the Commons unworthy of the crisis the nation faces. Not all the suggestions made by Conservatives or Lib Dems are wrong, but they are put forward in such a naked partisan manner that the Commons is reduced to the brawling uproar of an Oxford Union drinking club. Brown, as Chancellor for a decade, could not escape the generalised world view which set in from 1980 onwards that allowing capitalism to proceed without rules – which is what deregulation means – was the only way forward. Business outfits like the CBI, the British Chambers of Commerce and others campaigned against regulation rather like ship-owners before 1912 arguing that to equip liners with adequate lifeboats was a regulatory burden which should not be imposed on them. Anyone can rant against the bankers, but the Treasury Select Committee which is enjoying its moment of glory might ask where its reports are from two, five or 10 years ago castigating the Government, Bank of England and the City for its light-touch policy of allowing financial institutions to build houses made of cards? Alistair Darling attacks Swiss banking secrecy. Eh? Has he ever looked at the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands tax havens all of which are under British jurisdiction? And as an EU member when will Britain campaign against banking secrecy in Luxembourg, Austria or the tax-haven of Monaco, where rich Brits who do not want to pay fair taxes in our country, go and hide? And when, but when, will the Tories come clean on Lord Ashcroft's tax status? In the end, this is not a made-in-Britain problem but a global crisis of market economics. It will not be solved by the nostrums of the Left, still less by the George Osborne's view that reducing the volume of economic activity by cutting public expenditure is the way forward. Even the arch-monetarist, Professor Tim Congdon, advocates the Government giving £100bn to banks – the biggest one-off use of taxpayers' money ever proposed in economic history. At some stage, full nationalisation of banks may be needed. Yes, we need to get mortgages going again. But we all need to build more houses and that means facing down the "nimby" refusal to allow house building that we see from councils and anyone complaining that their garden views might change to allow fellow citizens the right to live in a house. Savings have to be revalued and a new approach to pensions agreed. The view that privately-funded pension pots will be adequate is nonsense, as Ros Altman demonstrated in the Yorkshire Post this week. In fact, the sooner Labour puts Dr Altman in the Lords and makes her pensions minister, the safer all who worry about retirement will feel. Above all, we need European and international co-operation. It is no accident that Gordon Brown is the first European leader that President Obama has agreed to meet, and still less that Britain's Prime Minister has been asked to address the joint houses of the US Congress. While petty point-scoring continues unabated in the rank cockpit of the Commons and the media, there is recognition in America, China and in Europe that Britain is seeking to find a way out of the crisis which has no national solutions. Out of this disaster, a better way for managing our economy here in Britain, in Europe and globally needs to grow. China, Japan and Germany need to be urged to consume and import more. A culture of fair wages and pay is needed. As Gandhi observed, there is enough in the world for everyone's need but never enough for everyone's greed. Do we need a Hippocratic Oath for the banking community? We entrust our bodies to doctors who live by an ethical code. As we entrust our money to financial institutions, should we not expect them to abide by a code of ethics we can trust? In short, out of this crisis a new model of economics must grow. All can play their part in shaping the debate much as Harold Macmillan paved the way for post-war Keynesian economics with his writing in the 1930s. But, until politics rises to the challenge of economics, the hysteria will continue and wisdom will have to wait for calmer times.

Angry Demonstrations across Europe

Beware the European Street

This article was published in Newsweek dated 9th February 2009

Everyone knows about the "Arab Street," to which most policymakers listen with care. But now may be the time of the European street. More and more disenchanted citizens are deciding that the politics of the street make more sense than their ruling politicians. Europe's elite may have just made its annual pilgrimage to Davos, but no one is listening to the incantations from the Swiss Alps. Instead, the European public has staged angry demonstrations in more and more countries.
The latest and most symbolic nation to be hit is France— for history suggests that when the French take to the streets, the rest of Europe can soon find itself in a new political era. President Nicolas Sarkozy began the new year boasting about his six-month presidency of the EU. He ended January with every French city and most towns being filled with public displays of outrage. Sarkozy once sarcastically remarked that "when the French go on strike, no one notices." But that's no longer true now that workers from large, privately owned firms have joined the unemployed, students, environmentalists and protected public-sector employees in wellcoordinated strikes and marches. For the first time in more than two decades, the Socialists, the main opposition party, have also thrown their organizational weight behind street actions. Opinion polls say 65 percent of French citizens support the protest movement, even if they didn't all turn out in subzero temperatures to take part.
Only yesterday, it seemed, Sarkozy had French politics in his grip as he tempted left and liberal politicians into his government. His speeches were peppered with leftist tropes as he denounced "finance capitalism" and announced a new economic era with all the fervor of a Paris intellectual regurgitating vulgar Marxism. But Sarkozy's efforts to define a leftism-lite have failed to win converts as the global recession has hit France. Unemployment may be rising faster in Spain, but the French economy has skidded to a halt even as Paris has given tax breaks to the rich and imposed welfare and spending cuts.
Farther east, the situation is equally grim in Greece, which is still paralyzed by strikes and protests that began two months ago, when students rose up against the police killing of a student. The rightist Greek government has watched helplessly as Athens drifts out of its control. Greece's main traffic artery has been blocked for days by angry farmers who joined the fray, sealing off the capital with tractors as they demanded government help to offset falling world agricultural prices.
A decade ago, the European hard left seemed to have been marginalized by reformist modernizers like Tony Blair in Britain, Gerhard Schröder in Germany and the post-communist Social Democrats of Italy. Now the radicals are back with a vengeance. Germany's fastest-growing party is Die Linke, a hard-line leftist organization that won 15 percent of the vote in last year's elections. The French Socialists have spent five years squabbling among themselves in a battle of "Moi, moi, moi," to which French voters have paid no attention. But into the vacuum has stepped the NPA—the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste—founded by a young street tribune, a postal worker named Olivier Besancenot, who is uniting many disparate political currents into a force that, like the French Communist Party of old, could win up to a fifth of all French votes in the next election. The NPA and other new left movements are reviving direct action against the state. Yet their demands are inchoate, and there's little Sarkozy could do to satisfy them except completely reverse his policies of the past two years.
This new-old left has also begun making common cause with anti-Western Islamist ideologues whose rhetoric has found purchase among Europe's 20 million Muslims. Evidence of this new alliance was on display during recent anti-Israel demonstrations that brought hundreds of thousands onto the streets bearing ugly slogans in Britain, Italy and Germany.
Perhaps the most surprising victims of this wave of public anger have been the Baltic tigers, once Davos Man's feted heroes. Vilnius and Riga have both been contorted by nasty fights between police and demonstrators in recent weeks as tear-gas attacks and mass arrests have been used to clear the streets. The proximate cause of the anger in Eastern Europe has varied, but the result has been the same: further breakdown in order and confidence in the authority of the state.
Davos haters and the sirens of the end of capitalism see the move of Europe's politics into the streets as the harbinger of regime change. But prophets of doom should hold their breath. Remember that the 1968 protests in France ushered in a further 13 years of conservative rule, not a revolution.
Europe's protesters may have reason to feel let down by the policies of their leaders. But those angry with Sarkozy and his ilk need to offer more than slogans and noise in response. Europe's new activists have yet to answer Lenin's question: "What is to be done?" Which means that what looks like a leftist revival may end up where the last one did. While populist politicians may have lured common folk into the streets, there's no evidence as yet that this support will translate into votes in the polling booth.

Speech in the Council of Europe on private military companies

Private Military Companies and the Erosion of the State’s Monopoly on the Use of Force

29 January 2009

At the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, a report on the above subject was debated. Below Denis MacShane MP’s speech.

Mr MacSHANE (United Kingdom). – I congratulate my colleagues, Mr Wodarg and Mr Sasi, on their excellent report and I am sure that we will agree to it. I am particularly interested in the report’s title, which refers to the erosion of the state monopoly on the use of force. That description goes to the conceptual heart of the matter. The notion that the state should have a monopoly on the use of force is relatively recent. In much of European history, different groups, states, kings and dukes have created or hired armies and brought foreigners in to fight their battles for them. A remnant of that practice exists in the Vatican, of course, where a private military company called the Swiss Guard protects the Pope from all those who would like to do terrible things to him.

We are seeing a return of this practice, not because of some wicked idea of replacing controlled and legal arms with the law and profits of the market, but out of sheer necessity. If any of us were to go to Afghanistan or Colombia – I have to say to my dear Turkish colleagues that sometimes the same applies to Turkey – we would be made to wear an armoured suit and have bodyguards. They would not come from our own country, and they would not be supplied by the Afghani or Colombian state, because one would not trust them. They are provided by private military/security companies.

Using private security people to inspect baggage in an airport is one thing, but I am quite happy to have bodyguards if the alternative is being killed. Unfortunately, too many non-state actors think that they can use force, such as Hamas, Hezbollah, ETA, FARC and ELN. In Colombia, FARC and ELN, two fascistic groups that want to overthrow the authority of the state, produce an equal and opposite reaction from autonomous, privately paid military units, which end up fighting them and so the spiral goes on. We need to denounce all non-state violence, whether it is carried out by the IRA, ETA, Hamas, Chechen rebels or Hizbollah, and denounce state powers who provide them with arms. I recommend a very enlightening article in today’s Neue Zürcher Zeitung on the extent to which states, some of which are represented here, directly and indirectly furnish the arms that allow the erosion of state power.

I also recommend a very good article by my dear friend, Professor Jorge Castañeda, the former Foreign Minister of Mexico, in the current issue of Newsweek, who points out that last year 5 000 people were killed – he uses the word “execution” – by Mexican gangs, which is twice the number for the previous year. Consequently, he says: “the monopoly over the use of force by the state is also dwindling.” What do we do about that? The next scheduled speaker, Mr Lebedev, will know that his namesake in Russia, the owner of Novaya Gazetta, has suggested that his journalists should carry guns, because the Russian state is incapable of protecting Russian journalists or human rights lawyers from being assassinated in the streets of Moscow. That is a pretty crazy idea, but what is the alternative if the state does not ensure the safety of its citizens? An opponent of the Russian regime in London has to hire bodyguards because there are too many examples of those not protected being killed. You cannot say to a man, “I am sorry but you cannot have a private security company to look after you.”

Work is being done on this matter by many of our member governments, particularly in conjunction with the Swiss foreign affairs ministry, to which we should pay tribute, and the International Committee of the Red Cross. Their conference in Montreux in 2005 produced working ideas with which much of our work can now be blended. I agree about the need for rules and conventions on the matter, but I am afraid that as long as we do not make it clear that we will stand up to the FARCs, the ELNs, the Tamil Tigers, the Hamases and the Hezbollahs, and to all those who think they can kill their opponents in the name not of the state but their own ideology, we should not be surprised if this industry continues to grow.

De Gaulle, Mitterrand and French Presidents

De Gaulle and Mitterrand

3 February 2009

I sent in this letter to the Guardian after one attacking Francois Mitterrand sent in by Jonathan Fenby, the distinguished writer and ex-editor who knows France well and lives there part of the time. He was responding to an article by the French journalist, Agnes Poirier, who said that the French socialists need a new Mitterrand. They do in the sense that Mitterrand did pull the French democratic left out of its wilderness and forged a party capable of winning elections. Mitterrand did many dreadful things but so has (and will) every French president as the nature of the monarchical presidency in France confirms Acton’s dictum about the corruption of power. Fenby held up de Gaulle as an alternative but le Géneral also had a a very poor record on many human rights issues, his unilateral nationalism and hostility to the UN and Europe was erratic, and his contempt for social rights or the new mood for democracy in the 1960s led to the 1968 explosions which he never saw coming and fled from in fear. De Gaulle was a great man as was Churchill but his faults were immense. The sad aspect of French democracy is that it does not do politics without an eternal quest for an all-powerful leader, who has to combine the guile of a Mazarin and the ruthless destruction of his enemies of a Napoléon to conquer first political and then state power. Once installed in the Elysée something happens to French presidents and the suite is rarely a pretty sight.
Below the letter as published in the Guardian (3 February 2009):
De Gaulle versus Mitterrand is a fake debate like Churchill versus Attlee (Letters, 2 February). General de Gaulle censored television news, allowed the Algerian war and its horrors to continue four years after he took power, allowed police brutality against striking workers, witheld French contributions to the UN, and had a unilateralist approach to world affairs of which Dick Cheney would approve.
I wrote the first biography of Mitterrand which came out in 1982 and agree with many of Jonathan Fenby's criticisms. But France was a fairer and more just country than the Britain polarised by Thatcherite ideology. For years anti-French smugness has been the diet of the British elite. Mitterrand at least committed France to European construction and in many respects the quality of life and social support is high in France as a result of Mitterrand not embracing Thatcherite ideology.

Europe offers protection to workers

This article was published on the Guardian’s Comment web site
There is a European solution to this made-in-Europe problem
2 February 2009

In his diaries for 1968, Tony Benn records the ugly scenes as workers marched past the Commons demanding that Labour adopt the anti-foreigner and ultra-nationalist rhetoric unleashed by Enoch Powell.
The simmering nationalist tensions stoked up by the Daily Mail's campaign against Polish workers or the vulgar anti-European xenophobia of William Hague and cohorts among Tory and Ukip MPs has now come to life, as construction workers demonstrate against a handful of Italian workers on the cold Humber coastline.
Sadly it has been Labour MPs who have given voice to the nationalist-protectionist rhetoric unleashed by the dispute. There are 2 million Britons living and working in EU countries, and if they faced the kind of abuse the Italian workers have received there would be a national outcry in Britain, and rightly so.
If the new rule is that British employees in Spain, France, Germany or wherever have to be fired to make way for nationals, then it is British families who will suffer most. Half the patients on GP lists are looked after by doctors who did not train in Britain. A few years ago it was "Pakis" taking jobs. More recently, Poles. Now it is Italians.
When the Auf Wiedersehen, Pet generation of British building workers went to work in Germany in the 1980s, German trade unions protested they were undercutting German union agreements.
With the British genius for turning everything into a bit of a laugh, we made a TV comedy series out of a serious problem. Perhaps there is some Italian scriptwriter currently working on an outline about a British labour market of some 30 million people that found itself unleashing headlines about just 300 Italians.
Unite negotiated the wages of the Italian workers, and insisted on a tea break – or perhaps it should be a cappuccino break – in the best tradition of trade union bargaining.
But for those who want to segment workers into competing national, ethnic or racial blocks, the TV scenes of workers holding up placards insisting that British workers should get British jobs is a gift for rightwing nationalists.
Some questions need to be asked. Why did no British company win the contract to expand the Total refinery? One Labour MP wrote in the Guardian that Total was a US oil company. It is French and largely state-owned. This is a made-in-Europe problem and we need a European solution, not a Daily Mail response of hate against non-Brits.
And there is a solution on the horizon. Both the Labour party and the trade unions should now begin to take the European parliament election in June extremely seriously, as our MEPs and MEP candidates have come up with the answer to the oil refinery dispute.
The manifesto of the Party of European Socialists, endorsed by Labour, contains clear pledges to deal with the problems thrown up both by the angry construction workers and other issues arising from the tensions of the right of workers to work anywhere in the EU and the right of unions to expect that national and local agreements will be honoured.
The Labour-PES manifesto says that there should be "a social progress clause in every piece of European legislation". Labour MEP candidates will also fight for:
A European pact on wages, guaranteeing equal pay for equal work and setting out the need for decent minimum wages in all EU member states, agreed either by law or through collective bargaining and applying both to citizens and migrant workers.
The manifesto insists that: "Social rights include the right to a fair level playing field for workers." And Labour MEPs – if elected – also commit themselves:
To prevent the exploitation of workers and strengthen their rights to collective bargaining. Recent European court judgments have created uncertainty about workers' rights and collective agreements. Together with the social partners we will examine the impact of the Viking, Laval and other judgments to ensure that rights are not undermined. A review of the EU Posting of Workers Directive is essential.
This is language that working people and their unions in Britain should support. So instead of following the Daily Mail/Tory/Ukip line that Britain needs less Europe, we should be saying out loud that a vote for Labour in June can help deliver policies that will defend worker's interests.
Now it is over the Unite and other unions; Let them put their weight behind a campaign to deliver core Labour votes for our European parliament candidates in June. If they do not and Labour ministers and MPs continue to regard the EU as something best not mentioned in decent political company then do not be surprised if the nationalist-protectionist rhetoric gets worse while worker rights across Europe, irrespective of the passport each worker holds, get weaker and weaker.
The PES manifesto is available here.