There is a false political narrative being pushed by the so-called ‘centre’ in British politics that our woes are either caused or exacerbated by extremism. We are supposed to welcome old hands like Cameron and newbies like Starmer, who will bring us back from the brink.
But this week’s events in the Red Sea should put an end to these fantasies. Houthi rebels, who control most of Yemen, announced that in solidarity with Gaza they were going to disrupt commercial shipping heading through the Red Sea towards the Suez Canal. Western powers, who have stood by while Israel pounds Gaza, killing at least 24,000 Palestinians and laying waste to residential areas, schools, hospitals and refugee camps, were finally moved to act by a threat to world trade.
The USA has led the way with the active support of the UK. They have sent a task force, ostensibly to protect shipping, that has launched airstrikes against Houthi bases in Yemen. As Foreign Secretary, Cameron has defended this move, claiming, “The escalation has been caused by the Houthis”. UK action is not an escalation and it has nothing to do with what is going on in Gaza. Sunak has repeated this in Parliament, claiming that Britain had to act in self-defence.
Cameron has form as a warmonger. When he was PM, British airpower was used to support rebels in Libya — but Cameron had no exit plan. The fall of Gaddafi did not liberate the country. It turned Libya into a failed state where rival warlords and Islamist groups battled for control, as they do to this day.
Saudi Arabia has kept quiet but is secretly delighted that the UK and the USA, which both provided the aircraft and missiles and military advisors for Saudi Arabia to carpet bomb Yemen in a war that started in 2014, are now taking military action. Cameron was PM when that decision was taken as well.
After Parliament refused to sanction armed intervention in Syria in 2013, Cameron got round it by allowing RAF pilots to be ’embedded’ in foreign armed forces that were bombing Syria. He sold them the kit and lent them the pilots who knew how to use it.
On Gaza, Cameron once described it as a prison camp. Last week he suggested that Israel might be breaking international law. This week he insists that he never said Israel was committing war crimes. He defends their right to ‘self-defence’ and says accusations of genocide are ‘nonsense’.
On that other disaster for British foreign policy, the scheme to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda, Cameron backed Sunak before he became Foreign Secretary. It was Cameron who gave into the racists when he was PM with pledges to cut immigration. Now it has emerged that we are accepting asylum seekers from Rwanda, he still insists the Rwanda scheme is the only way to stop the boats.
We are expected to believe that it is not the policies that are wrong. It is the far-right ideologues who are too incompetent and corrupt to deliver on their policies. We need moderates like Cameron to save us from the extremists. Sure. Cameron’s whole political career is marked by fighting wars he could not win, making promises he could not keep, using austerity to transfer wealth from the poorest in society to the richest. The only thing he succeeded in was enriching himself, making millions as an advisor and lobbyist for Greensill Capital before they went bust.
This is where Starmer comes in. So let’s believe in Labour Party centrists instead? Like Cameron, Starmer backs Israel, slavishly follows USA and NATO on foreign policy, supports the attacks on Yemen, and promises more fiscal responsibility, aka austerity, from a Labour government. He wraps himself in the Union Jack and only attacks the Rwanda scheme because it won’t work. Labour is the friend of business. Socialist and trade union struggles are opposed. They embrace the right and expel the left.
The problem is not extremism as such. It is capitalist extremism, and in a crisis moderate capitalists always move to the right. Loyalty to capitalism means that these moderates and centrists will abandon their principles, assuming they ever had any, whenever there is a serious challenge from below. It used to be possible to believe that the checks and balances in our system of government would prevent extremism and allow justice to prevail. Not any more if Tweedledum and Tweedledumber are the only choice.
Starmer has announced that he would only recognise a state of Palestine with Israeli approval. Vote Labour and give Netanyahu a veto on UK foreign policy.
Life long socialist. Now retired, I have been an office junior, a bookseller, a docker and a teacher. I write a lot and read a lot more. Committed member of the Society of Authors, English PEN and the National Education Union. Never voting Labour again.