Timothy Garton Ash's latest book on foreign affairs

This book review appeared in The Independent
Facts Are Subversive, By Timothy Garton Ash

24 July 2009

Most pundits on foreign affairs who clog up our comment pages have three things in common. They do not speak or read foreign languages. They dislike Europe or, if on the left, the United States. They tend to be former editors of national newspapers or magazines.
As a result the reader seeking enlightenment on the evolution of geopolitics has to read Timothy Garton Ash. He is fluent in German, Polish and French. That may explain why he is the only British writer on foreign affairs who is translated and taken seriously in Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Poland as well as the US.
Garton Ash likes America and has always been a writer, not a media executive. He is not afraid to declare that "I love Europe. Not in the sense that I love England, although on a rainy day Europe runs it close. But there is a meaningful sense in which I can say I love Europe – in other words, that I am a European patriot."
This will win him few friends in a new Eurosceptic British establishment as David Cameron and Andy Coulson, two devout Europhobes, prepare their bid for power. But pro-European politics needs writers on its side, and Garton Ash is there. He also likes America, which gives him visiting professorships and the chance to study, study, study.
I first met Tim Garton Ash in 1980 in the heady days of Gdansk, Warsaw and Katowice, as Polish workers formed their independent trade union Solidarity. He seemed an incongruous figure: neat, a trim beard, a very Oxford way of speaking, a press card from the Spectator, formally dressed in tie and cuff-links - which appealed to the Poles who, even in the drabbest days of communism, dressed as if setting out for a stroll down the Rue de Rivoli.
But underneath the Spectator dress code was a profoundly committed intellectual whose North Oxford manner could not disguise a burning political engagement: not simply to support those shoving left-over Stalinism into history's dustbin, but as someone who would use his writing power over the next three decades to support all the freedoms that the Poles were fighting for in 1980. The right to speak, to write, to meet without a state, a religion, a party, the police, an economic system saying you cannot or must not is still denied to billions. Those denied liberty, like Poles after 1980, have a champion in Garton Ash. As others proclaim the future is China or denounce parliamentary democracy as washed up, here is one clear voice speaking for fundamental freedoms.
In Facts are Subversive, Garton Ash has brought together some of his essays, which combine reportage and analysis in equal measure. Sometimes the writing is too adorned as it strives for effect. He is not a George Orwell, who was born on the right side but lived his life on the wrong side of the tracks.
Garton Ash enjoys his professorships, his decorations, and his access to power. There is nothing wrong in that. Politics, and especially foreign policy, is made by people in high places. I used to watch Garton Ash and Tony Blair chatting, and it was clear that each was learning from the other.
After the shabby 1990s, when John Major and his ministers appeased Milosevic and allowed 8,000 European Muslims to be massacred at Srebrenica in the Balkans, the change to a more robust politics of protection and intervention was required. Iraq has changed all this, though Garton Ash has the honesty to reprint one piece on the issue of whether or not to use military force in Iraq, in which he confesses: "I remain unconvinced by the case for – and doubtful of the case against." Dubito ergo sum might be his life's motto.
Clear on communism and, of course, contemptuous of the rising ugly xenophobic nationalism of today's hard right in Europe, Garton Ash has yet to come to terms with Islamism. Not with the religion of Islam, still less Muslims, but the unyielding ideology of Islamism, with its contempt for free speech, women and gays, and for the separation of faith from state. After a visit to Egypt, he blithely writes: "The process may take decades, but one day Islamism, too, will join the gods that failed." Oui, Ja, Tak, Yes - but for how many decades do people's lives have to be destroyed or limited in the name of Islamism because the liberal intelligentsia, of which Garton Ash is Britain's chief adornment, do not want to get their hands dirty by telling the truth about the world's most powerful reactionary, democracy-denying ideology?
It was easy to fight communism in the 1980s. It was harder to be Koestler, or Camus, or Michael Foot in the 1940s and 1950s - and very hard to be Orwell in the 1930s. But to tackle Islamism means asking hard questions about the sources of finance for Garton Ash's beloved Oxford University, or about American appeasement of the Saudi theocracy. In his next collection of essays, what will be the themes - and will he take on Islamism?

UK-US extradition treaty

This article was published in the Yorkshire Post
15 July 2009
Quest for justice that goes beyond borders
It is local, maybe a regional story in the North, but the strange case of Sheppard and Whittle has so far not made it on to the national media lists. Simon Sheppard and Stephen Whittle are the first British citizens to be sent to prison for posting racist and anti-semitic material on the net.
Sheppard, of Selby, and Whittle, a York University graduate, can also lay claim to being the first people extradited from the United States for what they wrote. Under the US constitution protecting free speech, it is hard to see how their rantings – unpleasant and evil as they may be – would not be considered as falling under the first amendment.Instead, the US sent them back to face Leeds Crown Court in an important move that strengthens the steady development of international law and the weakening of the doctrine that justice can be avoided by pleading differences between national traditions of law and legal systems.As the BNP takes up its seats in the European Parliament, two of the proponents of the core ideology of the BNP leadership – namely Jew-hate and racism – will be doing porridge rather than beginning to claim expenses, staffing and other allowances.Nick Griffin's only long piece of writing is called "Who are the Mind-Benders?" It is a classic attack on Jews who he alleges secretly control the media. Griffin, like his fellow BNP MEP, Andrew Brons, is obsessed with the Holocaust and wrote that "the very idea of Zyklon-B extermination has been exposed as unscientific nonsense".The two men just sent to prison shared these obsessions even if they went much further. Simon Sheppard published a pamphlet in 2004, Tales of the Holohoax. It was pushed through the letterbox of a synagogue in Blackpool.On Sheppard's website, to which Whittle contributed, there were grotesque images of murdered Jews alongside cartoons and posters ridiculing ethnic groups. The website was getting 4,000 hits a day.When arrested, their defence claimed that they should be acquitted because the articles were posted on a server registered in the US beyond the reach of UK law. Their second line of defence was that they were merely satirising politically- correct attitudes.What broader conclusions are to be drawn from this case? Three stand out. Firstly, anti-semitism is alive and well. Too many Jews in Britain and other European countries live with fears and worries on account of their being Jewish, that should have been expunged from our political discourse but which have not.Secondly, can we stop the nonsense that extradition is a one-way street? There was a huge campaign in the right-wing press to stop the "NatWest Three" going back to face justice in the United States after they swindled people. Their innocence was shouted from every City page and by many Tory MPs. When they got there, they pleaded guilty, as they were guilty. The American tradition of free speech allows the internet servers to disseminate the Jew-hate and racism that Sheppard and Whittle printed and posted.Our rules are different. It was right for the US to respect our democracy and rule of law and it is right for us to reciprocate and drop the argument that just because someone is a Brit, he or she should not face justice in America if a crime has been committed under US law.Thirdly, with the internationalisation of crime and use of the net to promote or commit violent hate crimes, it is time to step up the internationalisation of rule of law. Thanks to the European arrest warrant, Britain got someone from Rome in double quick time after the terrorist attacks of four years ago.Contrast this to the case of Rachid Ramda, who was the Algerian Islamist financier of the 1995 Metro terror attacks in Paris. At the time he lived in London. Britain refused to extradite him to France despite clear evidence linking him to the Metro massacres. Liberty, judges, Tory and Labour Home Secretaries all found reasons to protect him in London. This outrageous protection of a killer continued for a decade until finally Charles Clarke, as Home Secretary, had the courage to tell Liberty and the lawyers and judges that Ramda should face his accusers and sent him back to Paris. He is now doing life.So please can we stop the cant that other country's legal systems are not democratic. If you commit a crime – race-hate, fraud, stealing investors' money, Jew-baiting, terrorism, or you willingly attack the government of a democratic nation – then you must accept the consequences.You will have to go and face justice in the country where the crime was committed. America has done British justice proud by sending these Jew-haters back to be sent to prison. Will we return the compliment by developing supranational crime-fighting to tackle anti-semitism and racism in Europe as well as making clear national borders should not be used to stop justice being done?

Yorkshire Post articles about job losses in the steel industry

This article and the editorial beneath appeared in the Yorkshire Post

MP blasts ministers over steel industry 'sacrifice'
8 July 2009
By Jonathan Reed Political Editor
A FORMER Labour minister yesterday accused the Government of "sacrificing" steel workers' jobs in South Yorkshire while protecting rich and "greed-soaked" city bankers.
Rotherham MP Denis MacShane condemned the decision to offer the struggling Corus steel firm – which is shedding thousands of jobs – a "paltry" £5m to help and said Labour could be kicked out of power if it failed to help the industry.He also questioned whether Prime Minister Gordon Brown was adhering to his promise not to repeat "mistakes" from previous recessions. He said the Government was "on tramlines that have not altered for the last 25 years" in believing "any job reduction is good and anything that a company wants to do has to be accepted, and the Government are powerless".As communities in Rotherham, Sheffield and Scunthorpe are reeling from last month's announcement of another 2,000 job cuts – on top of 2,500 earlier in the year – a host of MPs made the case for extra Government support in a debate in Parliament yesterday.Mr MacShane said ministers should not underestimate the "injustice" felt by workers and communities across South Yorkshire who saw billions spent on propping up the banks and then learnt of the huge pay packet agreed for Stephen Hester, chief executive of Royal Bank of Scotland which is now majority- owned by the Government."The paltry sum of £5m = for thousands of steelworkers contrasts sadly with the new wages of £9m announced for the new boss of the Royal Bank of Scotland, even though this bank is under Government supervision," Mr MacShane told MPs.Addressing Regional Economic Development Minister Rosie Winterton, he said: "Can you understand the outrage of families who now have to face the dole while the Government sign off on a £9m pay package for this greed-soaked banker?"This is not a moral maze; it is immoral, and the sense of injustice at the double standard, whereby the rich in the City are protected while the steelworkers of South Yorkshire are sacrificed, should not be underestimated."Ministers have offered £5m – including £1.5m from regional development agency Yorkshire Forward, which is also operating a manufacturing taskforce to help affected workers – to fund training so other workers can be kept on until trading improves but Labour MPs are dismayed more has not been done.Mr MacShane added: "It's not too late. If Labour loses steel, Labour loses power – it's as simple as that."Sheffield MPs Angela Smith and Richard Caborn, Scunthorpe's Elliot Morley and Brigg and Goole's Ian Cawsey were also in attendance for the debate yesterday.Mr Caborn, another former minister, said: "If we allow this workforce to be broken apart it will be very difficult to come back, and we will pay not just a human price but an economic price."Ms Winterton, MP for Doncaster North, said the Government was "focused" on the issue and said job losses were "absolutely tragic of course for individuals, families and communities".She said the Government had already met some of Corus' requests and said it was now discussing with the company how the £5m could best be used.

Editorial in Yorkshire Post

Ministers lack steel over jobs
8 July 2009

THE sheer scale of the Government's bailout of the banks will, inevitably, draw unfair comparisons with those troubled industries – such as steel – where the Ministerial response has been porous.
However, the Government had to nationalise the banks. A failure to act would have left the country facing ruination from the ensuing chaos. Even Gordon Brown's critics recognise this. Where they differ is over the amounts that have been pocketed, and
continue to be accrued, by the disgraced bank bosses in question, even though this sum is relatively modest when compared to the overall taxpayer liability.Yet, as Denis MacShane told the House of Commons so eloquently yesterday, Ministers do themselves no favours when they appear almost ambivalent towards the plight of the hundreds of steel workers in South Yorkshire, and also Scunthorpe, who are losing their jobs. Compared to the bankers, these are not wealthy individuals. They are working class men desperately trying to eke out a living. Unlike the financial fraternity, and others, they have few, if any savings to fall back on when they face a time of personal crisis.It is little wonder, therefore, that they feel betrayed when a Labour government, which is supposed to be on the side of equality and fairness, seems so reluctant to exert any influence on steel giant Corus and its owners.There is little co-ordination between government departments, according to Dr MacShane, whose previous Ministerial experience means that he is well-versed in such matters. Ministers do have scope to limit Corus's overheads. They also need to insist that the steel furnaces remain operational, and primed for action when there is an economic upturn.Yet it was Dr MacShane's final point that was, perhaps, the most profound. Criticising Ministers for offering "words" rather than "concrete action", he added tellingly: "If Labour loses steel, Labour loses power."He was right. For, if the Labour Party cannot support British manufacturing, what is its purpose?

Adjournment debate on the steel industry initiated by Denis MacShane

This is the full extract as published in Hansard

Defending Steelworkers Jobs. Speech by Denis MacShane MP in the House of Commons (Westminster Hall)
7 July 2009

Mr. Denis MacShane (Rotherham) (Lab): We are here to discuss the steel industry. I am glad that my right hon. Friend the Minister for Regional Economic Development and Co-ordination is to reply, because those of us who know her in her role as the Minister for Yorkshire and the Humber know of her dedication and her hands-on, let’s-go-and-see-what-can-be-done approach. I hope that at the end of this debate she can convey the message to her colleagues in Government that we need a slightly better co-ordinated response than we have had until now.
I asked for this debate because the announcement of hundreds of steel industry redundancies in my constituency and in the neighbouring constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Ms Smith) is causing deep distress and concern, particularly as it appears that many of the redundancies will be compulsory. Much of the previous reduction in steel industry employment in south Yorkshire and elsewhere has been on a voluntary basis, but this situation is serious indeed.
There are many aspects of the crisis, but the basic message is simple: under the Conservatives, Britain lost its coal-mining industry; under Labour, Britain must not lose its steel-making industry. I wish to make a series of concrete proposals that I hope will stave off the worst of the impact of job cuts. I do so not with false hope nor a promise of what is beyond the power of the Government, the company or unions to deliver, but I have been raising concerns about steel across the board for the past two or three years, particularly in the past year as the worldwide recession began to develop.
Let us be clear: this is not a made-in-Britain crisis. Exports are plunging faster in Germany, unemployment is rising faster in Spain and America, and the economy of Japan may shrink by up to 12 or 15 per cent. On comparative terms, difficult as it may be for some to understand, Britain is perhaps better placed than most of our big OECD partners. But have we got sufficient grip in responding to the crisis in the steel industry? Has there been sufficient co-ordination and co-operation between Government Departments—I have to say politely that I do not think that that is the case—or, indeed, between the company and the union?
Corus has to ask itself hard questions. Would its dealings with the Government not have been more fruitful if, instead of its go-alone approach, it had co-operated fully with the main steel union community to work out common positions? The outgoing chief executive officer of Corus, Mr. Philippe Varin, and the new CEO, Kirby Adams, are open and friendly. They meet with MPs, and they put their cards on the table. I am not making a personal criticism, but a structural approach in which the company and the union spoke as one to the Government could have borne better fruit.
Dr. Hywel Francis (Aberavon) (Lab): I congratulate my right hon. Friend on securing this debate, and on his outstanding and sterling work in defending the steel industry, particularly in his constituency of Rotherham. He makes an important point about Government intervention, but does he agree that the Welsh Assembly Government and their ProAct scheme, which resulted from discussions, particularly with the steel union community of which he and I are members, has made a significant difference? Does he agree that it should be rolled out in England as well?
Mr. MacShane: I fully agree with my hon. Friend. The scheme shows the devolved Government in Wales working well. Perhaps I should have put it on the record when I began speaking that I am a member of the trade union community.
The position of the steel industry is as it has always been: steel is the canary in the coal mine of global capitalism. Whenever a crisis is about to break, steel is hit hardest and early. Steel stocks are sold but not renewed, orders do not come in and the steel companies panic. Their answer is always the same: cut down on staff even though labour costs are a small part of total steel production costs.
We are dealing with Corus, which is part of the Indian conglomerate, Tata Steel. I know Tata from my work as an international trade union official. It is a caring company that has always sought to look after its employees, which is why I supported its takeover of Corus, just as I supported the merger of British Steel with the Dutch company. I argued in the 1990s for the newly privatised British Steel to seek European and global partners, but British Steel’s parochial and provincial leadership after privatisation was poor and without any strategic vision.
Tata is a successful, profitable company. Its turnover for the financial year 2009 was $29 billion, up $3 billion from its turnover of $25.8 billion in the financial year 2008. That was on a smaller tonnage of steel delivered: 28.54 million tonnes in the financial year 2009 compared with 31.68 million tonnes in 2008. One can actually make money out of steel while producing less, if the prices are right and there is enough demand.
Tata’s profit before tax this year was $2.13 billion dollars. We are not talking about a bankrupt or cash-strapped company. Corus figures in Europe were also strong: turnover increased in the financial year 2008–09 to $21.4 billion, with higher prices offsetting lower output.
The men whose jobs have been lost in two major Corus cost-cutting exercises in the past 18 months have contributed to the survivability of the company and its continuing strong profits. It is sad that it appears that the only way the good ship Corus can stay afloat is by throwing overboard or sinking its hard-working and loyal employees. My first demand today is for Corus to accept its duty of care to the steelworkers who deliver profits for its shareholders and large salaries for its executives.
I welcome the fact that the furnaces at Rotherham and Stocksbridge have not been shut down. The British Chambers of Commerce report today that the worst of the recession may be over. Insha’Allah—let us hope so. The stocks of steel and cars that have been waiting to be sold are now being sold, thanks to the scrappage scheme.
The most important policy objective that this or any Government could follow is to maintain demand. Corus says that the best help it could have is stimulation of demand. The leaders of the world’s steel community at the OECD steel committee meeting in Paris on 8 and 9 June noted that the best help that steel can have is continued Government stimulus aimed at long-term growth. In that regard, the constant attacks by the Conservative party and the right-wing press on the Government’s demand-side policies are deeply damaging to the future of steel. The right response to an economic recession is not to stop spending but to maintain investment programmes. Minimising debt, as called for by Opposition spokesmen, the BBC and other conservative forces in Britain, would be a one-way road to fewer steel and other jobs.
Bob Spink (Castle Point) (Ind): I agree with what the right hon. Gentleman says about demand. Does he agree that it is in Corus’s best interests, and it is its responsibility, to try to maintain capacity? Eventually, the marketplace will work and world demand will come back strongly, especially for niche products, specialist skills and the high-quality steels that British steel focuses on. We must ensure that when the turnaround comes, Corus has the essential skills and the capacity to take advantage of it.
Mr. MacShane: I completely agree with the hon. Gentleman. Of course, the other thing that we must maintain is a strong position in the European Union. That contrasts with the position of his party, which wants to pull us out of Europe. That, of course, would exclude us from so many key markets for steel.
Mr. Adrian Bailey (West Bromwich, West) (Lab/Co-op): My right hon. Friend is being very generous in giving way. Would he not agree that the scale of the steel industry and the global nature of steel production make it essential that the Government not only act to sustain demand in this country but work with other countries, particularly the EU but other countries as well, to sustain demand internationally? To cut demand by cutting public expenditure in this country will completely undermine their attempts to do so.
Mr. MacShane: My hon. Friend is right. The Conservatives are like the Bourbon kings, of whom it was said they learned nothing and forgot nothing: they want to return to the politics of the 1980s and 1930s, and we know where that will lead us. The Prime Minister’s leadership of the G20 in April showed Britain in the vanguard of creating an international response to the world recession. At the forthcoming G8, he will meet President Sarkozy.
I will not deal with it in my speech, but one of the big issues to be discussed is opposition to any rise in protectionism, which we see in China, Turkey, Russia and potentially in the United States.
Bob Spink: Will the right hon. Gentleman give way again?
Mr. MacShane: No, I really want to finish because other colleagues from steel communities want to speak on this matter.
What must the Government do? I ask my right hon. Friend the Minister to open a channel of communication with Ministers to plug them into the scandal of the overly high prices that our electricity companies charge to industrial users. If hon. Members look at Hansard from 8 June 2006, at column 382, they will see that I asked the then Secretary of State for Department of Trade and Industry, now my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to take action regarding the fact that electricity prices for industry were much lower in Germany in the UK—and they still are and no action has been taken.
On 22 January, as can be seen in Hansard, I asked the then Energy Minister, now the Minister of State, Department of Health, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. O’Brien), what could be done, given the rapid decline in oil prices, to get electricity prices down. I do not want to read out the answer that I received, because it was not adequate. I have repeated that point in the House, in letters to Ministers and in private conversations with them, but there has been no grip on this problem of Britain’s having much higher electricity charges than the rest of Europe, which has cost the jobs of steelworkers. I ask my right hon. Friend the Minister to put effective pressure on her ministerial colleagues who are responsible for the oversight of these wretched utility companies and ensure fair prices for steel.
We also need joined-up government with the Department of Work and Pensions. My right hon. Friend the Member for Wentworth (John Healey) and my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough had a good meeting with Lord Mandelson and his ministerial team last month. We asked for a senior civil servant in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to be placed in executive charge of co-ordinating Government activity across Departments. Can the Minister tell us the name of that person, and if not will she write and let me know?
One bit of co-ordinated activity would be to use all the DWP’s funds, not as stretcher-bearers to help those who have lost jobs, but instead to create in-work training schemes so that some workers can be kept on the company payroll on training or community help schemes, rather than going out the door.
Mr. Ian Cawsey (Brigg and Goole) (Lab): I congratulate my right hon. Friend on securing this debate. I, too, declare an interest as a member of the Community trade union. My right hon. Friend may be aware that I secured an Adjournment debate a few weeks ago, in which I mentioned a joint report from the TUC and the Federation of Small Businesses on supporting the work force in work. The conclusions of that report were that Government money would be much more wisely spent on that so that industry, especially the steel industry, could keep its work force in place, ensuring that we have the capacity in Britain to meet demand as it increases.
Mr. MacShane: I agree with my hon. Friend. I wish that the civil servants in Whitehall would read these debates and that Ministers would act on the points made by Back Benchers who are a lot closer to the steel industry than others. I will come on to that point in a second.
Undoubtedly, we need to think differently. There is a sense that, in terms of industrial support policy, we are on tramlines that have not altered for the last 25 years: any job reduction is good and anything that a company wants to do has to be accepted, and the Government are powerless, as if decisions about electricity prices or tariffs or how to ladle out public funds to support people in difficulties are immutable things that, like the weather, cannot be altered. The Government must understand their responsibilities and act.
We need to see what can be done to use DWP funds to keep some workers—not all—on the company payroll in training or community help schemes, rather than have them go out the door. In particular, the role of the Communitas training outfit, which has specialised knowledge of steel, needs to be highlighted. I understand that there will be a meeting with Communitas later today, and I hope that the Minister can assure me that the Government will act to press Corus to co-operate fully with it, because that is the only training organisation that originates from the steel community. There are plenty of private training organisations and all the quangos that get a lot of Government money, and I am sure that they do God’s work in their own way, but Communitas can do the steel industry’s work better than anyone else. Corus must be told that, if it is to get Government help, it must co-operate with Communitas.
In particular, the £5 million that has been announced to help steel must be used jointly with the union and Communitas and must not be a blank cheque given to Corus to use for its own purposes while men go out the door. That £5 million is welcome, but it needs to be increased. The paltry sum of £5 million for thousands of steelworkers contrasts sadly with the new wages of £9 million announced for the new boss of the Royal Bank of Scotland, even though this bank is under Government supervision. Can my right hon. Friend understand—I do not ask her to comment on it—the outrage of families who now have to face the dole while the Government sign off on a £9 million pay package for this greed-soaked bankster? This not a moral maze; it is immoral, and the sense of injustice at the double standard, whereby the rich in the City are protected while the steelworkers of south Yorkshire are sacrificed, should not be underestimated.
In talks with Ministers—my right hon. and hon. Friends and colleagues—they all insist on their ideological commitment that there is not much to be learned from European Union, where different and more innovative policies to support steel are in place. I have heard all the reasons and excuses from Ministers, both at the Dispatch Box and in meetings, but they increasingly sound hollow. When the upturn comes, and it will, we will find ourselves importing steel from Germany, the Netherlands and France because we will have lost the capacity and the will to make steel across the board in Britain. Why are other Governments leading and the British Government lagging? Can we look, for example, at stock-piling some steel products to be sold, at a profit, when the upturn comes?
If a full-scale Dutch or German-style wage subsidy is ruled out, why not a temporary exoneration of social charges on the wage bill, as in Sweden? The Government’s refusal not to follow a single European model but to incorporate some of the better ideas from Europe makes the UK much more expensive now for steel operations. Why are we not able to help with credit insurance? Without accessible credit insurance the cost of raw materials and electricity is even higher for Corus. These are arguments about the need to help the industry, though the industry could help itself by working jointly with the Community union and presenting a common approach based on showing the jointly decided priorities to Government.
Steel is not like other industrial production. A steel plant cannot be moth-balled. The electric arc furnaces of the south Yorkshire steel industry are a key component in the new green economy, for which my right hon. Friend the Minister is a wonderful ambassador and enthusiastic advocate. But does she understand that Rotherham and Stocksbridge consume about 1.5 million tonnes of scrap metal a year? Where are all the unused, derelict cars going to be stored if they are not swallowed up as scrap by the electric arc furnaces of our region? Are they to be stacked up on street corners?
We marvelled last week at the new roof at Wimbledon, which was made with Rotherham steel. It did not bring Andy Murray quite enough luck, but it will still be there next year, as I hope will he. Half of the steel made in Rotherham goes to the car industry in the UK. If Nissan, Honda and other car manufacturers can no longer source steel in Britain because steel has gone under, they will relocate to the continent to be closer to suppliers of steel as Governments there have been willing to think out of the box and put in place pro-steel job policies.
The 800 jobs threatened in south Yorkshire represent about £3 million in local demand. There is a lot of talk about family policy these days. The best family policy is, and always will be, a secure job with fair pay so that a home can be created and children supported as they grow up. That is now under threat for too many steel communities in Britain.
Labour Members know the devastation that was caused to towns and communities when the Tories shut down the pits. My right hon. Friend the Minister represents those communities in south Yorkshire, and I am confident that she will do all in her power to help, but so far we have had more words than concrete action. It is not too late. If Labour loses steel, Labour loses power. It is as simple as that.

On the US-Russian relationship

This comment was published by the Daily Mirror
Obama in Russia
7 July 2009

Any reduction of the nuclear arms stockpile is good news.
The agreement between American and Russian leaders makes the world a safer place even if thousands of warheads stay armed and powerful enough to destroy the world a dozen times over.
Barack Obama continues his pilgrimage to show a new America engaging with an old world. After the years of bluster and bullying from Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld, America is saying it wants to be friends with all. But underneath the charm lies firmness.
Russia was once described by Winston Churchill as "a riddle, wrapped in an enigma, cloaked in mystery". Today, no one quite knows who is in charge. Is it the old KGB agent, Vladmir Putin, who was described by Obama as having "one foot in the past"? Or is it the boyish lawyer, Dimitri Medvedev, now Russia's president living in the Kremlin like the Tsars or Stalin of old while Prime Minister Putin wonders if his power base is shrinking? Obama has shown firmness in not giving way on Europe's need to defend itself against missile attacks from rogue states under jihadi Islamist control. The nuclear arms deal and access for American troops to Afghanistan show diplomacy can work.
But the slogan in Moscow remains: "Russia Up. America Down. Europe Out".
Russia has a long way to go before it becomes a normal, friendly European state that most can trust and many can like.

The Royal family as a role model?

This article was published in the Yorkshire Post
Divorced, divided, but still surviving... how the Royal Family fits into British life
4 July 2009

Is the Royal Family a family? They themselves refer to the collective of royals as "the firm" and ever since the failure of three of the marriages of the Monarch's offspring, there is less and less effort to present a model of family life for the nation to emulate.
It was not always thus. In the 1950s, under tightly controlled media management, there was a concerted campaign to present the Royal Family as very much a model family. Post Office savings stamps were sold to children with pictures of a young Prince Charles and Princess Anne. In fact, the Queen and Prince Philip are typical of the 1940s post-war married couples who produced the baby boom generation: marriage was for life and the reproduction of the nation was best handled by the institution of the family. Public affection for King George VI and his Queen – who courageously lived in Buckingham Palace as bombs fell on London – was then transferred to the very young Queen Elizabeth II and her dashing young naval officer consort. After their marriage in 1947, the speedy birth of children, and the accession to the throne in 1952, their position as positive role models for the family seemed secure. Already, however, there was a worm in the bud, as it was clear that Prince Philip was of lower status than his wife and had no right to share daily involvement in high state affairs that a British monarch enjoys. Margaret Thatcher complained after she was fired from Downing Street that what she missed most was the pile of cables coming in from the British embassies reporting in detail what was happening around the world. The Queen has had that royal jelly of fascinating information as a morning feast every day of her life. But her husband hasn't. So from the moment she ascended the throne she enjoyed a professional life that was separate to her family. After the arrival of her two youngest sons there was a last effort to present the Royal Family as a model family to the nation. The famous black and white BBC documentary of 1969 was a reverential effort to show the royal parents and their children as just an average British family. It was toe-curlingly awful, as, with false bonhomie, the poor Queen was shown flipping sausages on a Balmoral barbecue while the primitive fly-on-the-wall cameras tried to sell the Royal Family as a glowing example of unified and happy family activity. The year was inauspicious, as 1968-69 marked the rejection by the baby boom generation of all the mores of their parents, especially the notion of marriage and settled family life. One can almost feel pity for Charles and Anne, and later Andrew and Edward, as they were expected to conform to a way of being that all their contemporaries were rejecting. In fact, the Royal Family did become a very typical British family with three of the children divorcing their spouses, enjoying other dalliances and relying on state hand-outs to pay for housing, food and travel. And, in turn, the next generation has reflected the hedonistic individualism which modern capitalism has prioritised over the community of family. Recent pictures of Prince Harry show him with luridly painted finger nails as he staggers out of some night club. And, unlike his grandparents who married at a young age and settled down to make a family, Prince William is showing no sign of doing so. In this, the Royal Family is closer to its subjects than is often realised. The model family of the mid-20th century had a shorter shelf life than its contemporary defenders and promoters care to admit. This does not mean the efforts to help support other families should be discarded. The family remains the best example of socialist solidarity ever created: from each according to means, to each according to need is (or should be) the central tenet of family life. Families allow the transmission of wisdom across the generations. Families are where the cocky are teased, the strong are told to do the washing up, and where tolerance has to co-exist with firmness. Capitalism always hates the family and works to segment and individualise family members. The de-regulated capitalism of Mrs Thatcher's regime was hardly challenged by Labour after 1997, which prioritised pushing people into work at the expense of finding time for them to be with their children. There is still no adequate Leftist ideal of parenting and family life, save perhaps, as usual, in Nordic countries. But the stark reality is that families cannot easily co-exist with social and income inequality. As unemployment grows, so will family break-ups. The debate is now open about what kind of institutional head of state Britain really wants, and that debate will necessarily be bound up with our conception of the family. The Commons recently debated ideas for removing the religious obligation for monarchs and their spouses to be Protestants and, according to newspaper reports, Gordon Brown has discussed this with the Queen at his weekly audience. He also raised the question of why male princes should have primacy over their sisters. (After all, women have been the best monarchs in our history). It is clearly ridiculous that William and Harry cannot marry without their grandmother's permission. As with the politics of family, the politics of monarchy are now seeing old taboos lifted and fresh questions asked, and not before time. But the fact remains that the Royal Family does not know how to invent a new 21st century model of family life. The happy Balmoral pictures from 1969 now look as quaint as Marmite and sandwich spread. The Royal Family is like too many British families: divorced, divided, but surviving.

Parliamentary Question on Iran and President Ahmadinejad

MacShane Says Describe Iran’s Leader Correctly

Exchange at FCO questions in the Commons
1 July 2009
Mr. Denis MacShane (Rotherham) (Lab): As the Foreign Secretary correctly says, it is a matter for the people of Iran to choose their own Government, but it is also a matter for the rest of the world that President Ahmadinejad exports anti-Semitism, exports fundamentalist terrorism, that he may, if he gets nuclear weapons, export some of those, and that he also exports regional instability. We must be much firmer and actually call this gentleman for what he is.
David Miliband: I take my right hon. Friend’s comment in the spirit in which it was intended. There has been disgust not just across this House but across the international community at the anti-Semitic remarks President Ahmadinejad has made in recent weeks and years. However, one thing that has become clear in the last few weeks in respect of other aspects of my right hon. Friend’s question is that all power does not reside in the presidential office in Tehran: the role of the supreme leader is absolutely critical, not least on the nuclear file. It is therefore very important that we not only make clear our own views, but also understand the different layers of governance that exist in the Islamic Republic of Iran.