Matthew Parris

On Europe, Iraq and Syria why can’t our politicians just tell the truth?

David Cameron, like Tony Blair, succumbs to the urge to sex things up even when he has a perfectly arguable case

9 January 2016

9:00 AM

9 January 2016

9:00 AM

It has been over a month since Parliament voted to bomb Isis in Syria, yet in that time there have been fewer raids than there are Lib Dem MPs. A flurry of three attacks took place immediately following the vote on 1 December, but since then there has been only one — by an unmanned Reaper drone on Christmas Day. And even that only ‘probably’ killed some Isis guards at a checkpoint. The three earlier manned missions had focused on an oil field that a US military spokesman later described as having previously suffered ‘long-term incapacitation’ at the hands of the US air force. Presumably the facility had already been blasted to smithereens and the RAF (perhaps to justify the Defence Secretary Michael Fallon’s claim that Britain was ‘really upping the tempo’ in Syria) was invited in for a celebratory kick: late to the party, late to the fight, and bombing bomb sites. The British Lion roars again.

To critics like me of Britain’s participation, the ‘I told you so’s’ will come easily, of course. But that isn’t my point here. I want to suggest how David Cameron might have presented his case better, proofing himself against the sneers of such as I. He could just have told the truth. The honest case for Britain’s joining the scrap in Syria was a fairly decent one.

The honest case for Britain’s joining the US-led invasion of Iraq was quite strong, too. And the honest case for holding a referendum on our membership of the European Union, and for recommending a ‘stay’ vote when the referendum comes, is also mildly persuasive. But in all three examples a sitting prime minister has hyped up the justification in a perfectly unnecessary way, strained honesty, strained credulity and risked simply irritating citizens (and commentators) who could see all along what the real justifications were, who were persuadable, and who might have accepted an unassuming argument where they rejected the overblown one.

Let us take those three examples in turn, starting with the Iraq war. There was certainly an argument for our joining the US-led coalition to topple Saddam Hussein. A monster and a mass murderer, he was entirely capable of turning on his neighbours or their allies, and was arming his country to the teeth. It seemed very possible that he was developing weapons of mass destruction and (given his use of poison gas on the Kurds) equally possible that even if he had not yet done so, he would soon, and secretly.

The Americans probably realised that evidence for actual WMD was patchy and speculative; our own government certainly did or they would not have gone to such painful lengths to sex it up. Tony Blair may be truthful when he says he unreservedly believed all this; but if so he was surely conscious that a leap was needed between what he could prove and what he believed.

Just as compelling to him was the need he perceived for Britain to be good allies to our best friend in the world, upon whom we ultimately depended for our own security. So if the WMD evidence was finely balanced, Britain’s loyalty to an ally tipped the balance.

Then why not say that? ‘This man Hussein is a barbarous threat to the security of the region. We think he may be secretly developing weapons of mass destruction. I personally am convinced by the evidence, but I accept it is incomplete. Washington does believe this is happening. In the circumstances, I have decided it is Britain’s duty to our faithful ally to join America in military action which the Pentagon believes is urgent and vital.’ If that had been Mr Blair’s pitch, so much of the hatred and humiliation subsequently heaped upon him could have been avoided. The same is true of David Cameron’s ‘renegotiation’ of our EU membership. It may achieve something useful (I think that is likely) but it was never going to be the root-and-branch exercise that was promised. Everybody knows Mr Cameron’s first aim was to close down the chronic and rancourous dispute within Britain and within his party, about EU membership.

So, again I ask, why didn’t he just say that? ‘For too long this issue has poisoned political life… etc. So I have decided to bring this to a head. Let us see whether the British people — as opposed to their politicians and newspapers — have something to say. I propose to enter negotiations with our partners in which I shall be seeking important adjustments, but don’t expect miracles. Even without these changes, membership is on balance advantageous to us, and leaving would be a huge risk. That is the case I shall be making. I don’t expect convinced anti-Europeans to be persuaded — but let us, and them, listen to what the country says.’

Were that the first paragraph, as it were, of this story, how much huffing and puffing, how much risible overselling of small beer, how much contempt and how much sheer irritation on the part of people like me (no Europhile) could have been pre-empted? It would have had the virtue, you see, of being true. People do notice.

As for Syria, the speech I’d have written for the Prime Minister would have acknowledged that the help we could give would not be critical — at most it would be modestly useful. There would have been no nonsense about the 70,000 freedom fighters waiting to take democracy forward but instead a frank admission that the whole thing was a bloody mess, the outcomes uncertain, and that we could not be sure intervention would bring peace to Syria. But the underwriter of all Europe’s security, the United States, had undertaken to try, our brothers and sisters in France had been persuaded, and solidarity called us to support them.

Do you know, I could almost have voted for that. When shall we find leaders with the intellectual self-confidence to ask us for no more than a modest two cheers for a halfway decent case?

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Show comments
  • chatnoir50

    Yes …

  • Frank

    Cameron doesn’t do “politics” in the sense of pursuing a long term aim, or goal. He will be remembered for being a PR merchant who, surprise surprise, behaved like a PR merchant, seeing the delivery of the message as being more important than the realisation of the policy (which is one reason why he lets his ministers get on with things – he has no interest or experience in realising anything).
    Blair was different, he was a barrister, who behaved like one when PM. He saw the need to create a good argument as being more important than the need to stick to facts – whether he would have risen to the top of the legal profession is arguably open to doubt given this “flexibility”.

    • thomasaikenhead

      Excellent comment!

      Like Brown, Blair and major, Cameron is not ‘in it to win it’ he is merely serving time carrying out the wishes of the forces that will make him a multi-million pound fortune when he leaves office.

    • IainRMuir

      Excellent analysis.

      I’d add that both of them, and others, also try to keep open the possibility of a later career somewhere else. In the EU perhaps.

  • Marvin

    I am extremely interested in politics, but find it impossible to grasp seeing the policies and antics of the Cretans that govern us. From Cameron’s first paperless speech he made to win the Tory leadership, I thought he is my man, he is just what the doctor ordered. BUT ALAS! now after two terms in office, to me he has been as useful as an enema and his decisions is what the result of that enema is taken for. He is to me a liar, a conman as arrogantly believes he was born to govern, just a well schooled fool.

    • Man on the Clapham omnibus

      Our government does not come from Crete. And whilst Cameron may well be disingenuous he does not tell actual lies; and he is nobodies’ fool.

      • Bristol_Boy

        Of course he tells lies, he is a politician, they all tell lies and only a fool would think differently.
        As for nobodies’ fool, well to many he is just that, a rich boy playing at politics, living in and representing the privileged ‘class’ and far removed from the people he is supposedly representing.

        • Man on the Clapham omnibus

          Why does that make him a fool?

      • Harryagain

        Next to Bliar, he is the biggest liar we have ever had as a PM.

        Fifty lies of Camoron.

        1. We will balance the books by 2015
        THE TRUTH: Britain still has a budget deficit of £90billion
        2. We will pay down Britain’s debts
        THE TRUTH: George Osborne has borrowed over £500billion in five years more than Labour did in 13
        3. We will get net immigration down to the tens of thousands
        THE TRUTH: Net immigration is almost 300,000 per year
        4. No more top-down reorganisations of the NHS
        THE TRUTH: £3billion wasted on the biggest reorganisation in NHS history
        5. We will improve your living standards
        THE TRUTH: Families £1,600-a-year worse off than in 2010
        6. We will deport more foreign criminals
        THE TRUTH: The number of foreign crooks on our streets soars 20%
        7. We will keep our nation’s defences strong
        THE TRUTH: Army hacked back by 20,000 troops to its lowest level since the Napoleonic wars
        8. We will not raise VAT
        THE TRUTH: VAT hiked to 20%, costing the average family £450-a-year
        9. We will protect the vulnerable from the cuts
        THE TRUTH: Cruel welfare sanctions force one million people to use food banks
        10.We’re all in it together
        THE TRUTH: Millionaires get a £100,000-a-year tax cut – the poor get the £15-a-week Bedroom Tax
        11.GP access promised 12 hours a day, seven days a week
        THE TRUTH: Patients face a 10-day wait to see their family doctor
        12.We will get tough on illegal immigrants
        THE TRUTH: Home Office loses track of 174,000 illegal immigrants
        13.We will get tough on tax avoidance
        THE TRUTH: The Treasury is still missing out on an estimated £34billion a year
        14.We will stop the closure of A&E and maternity wards
        THE TRUTH: Dozens closed or downgraded since 2010
        15.We will cut the number of MPs by 10%
        THE TRUTH: Not a single MP has been cut
        16.We will get Britain building again
        THE TRUTH: Lowest level of house-building since the war
        17.We will have more small schools with smaller class sizes
        THE TRUTH: Number of infants in oversized classes up 200%
        18.We will protect front-line policing
        THE TRUTH: 17,000 cops get the boot
        19.We will support families through the tax and benefits system
        THE TRUTH: The average family loses £1,100 through tax and benefit changes
        20.We will be the Greenest Government Ever
        THE TRUTH: Cameron tells his Ministers to “cut the green cr*p”
        21.We will work towards ending child poverty by 2020
        THE TRUTH: 300,000 more kids plunged into poverty
        22.We will enhance the status of teachers
        THE TRUTH: Teachers’ pay cut in real terms year after year and their status publicly attacked from
        Michael Gove
        23.We will revolutionise cancer care
        THE TRUTH: The key cancer treatment waiting time target missed for the past four quarters
        24.We will cut the number of highly-paid special advisers in Government
        THE TRUTH: Number of special advisers soars by 50%
        25.We will support and improve Sure Start
        THE TRUTH: 763 Sure Start centres closed and many more scaled down
        26.We will break down barriers between health and social care
        THE TRUTH: Social care funding slashed by £3.5billion as part of attack on town hall budgets
        27.We will restore trust in politics
        THE TRUTH: The Tories trouser £30million in donations from hedge funds – which were given a huge
        tax cut in 2013
        28.We will protect our NHS
        THE TRUTH: 40% of NHS contracts handed to private health firms
        29.We will revolutionise prisoner rehab
        THE TRUTH: Prison escapes, assaults and suicides all soar as inmates are locked in overcrowded
        cells for 23 hours a day
        30.We will increase spending on vital flood defences
        THE TRUTH: Flood defence spending cut by £247million – and thousands of homes are flooded
        31.We will fight for the union
        THE TRUTH: Cameron talks up the SNP to punish Labour and unveils plans to downgrade Scottish
        MPs at Westminster
        32.We will tackle inequality
        THE TRUTH: The richest 1% of Britons now own the same amount of wealth as 54% of the population.
        33.We will treat white collar crime as seriously as other crimes
        THE TRUTH: 90% of cyber-crime is allowed to go undetected
        34.No more winter crises in hospital
        THE TRUTH: A&E departments in meltdown with one in five patients not seen within the four hour
        35.We will invest in our schools
        THE TRUTH: Plans to build more than 700 new schools across Britain brutally axed
        36.We will help the disabled into suitable jobs
        THE TRUTH: Remploy factories shut down and disabled people subjected to cruel Atos tests
        37.We will make our borders more secure
        THE TRUTH: Customs checks for dangerous drugs and weapons scaled back dramatically
        38.We will keep supporting our young people
        THE TRUTH: More than 2,000 youth workers axed and at least 350 youth centres closed
        39.We will create security for British businesses
        THE TRUTH: HSBC is amongst a raft of UK firms unsettled by Cameron’s EU referendum pledge.
        40.We will not means-test child benefit
        THE TRUTH: Child benefit means-tested and then cut for better-off families
        41.We have no plans to get rid of the Education Maintenance Allowance
        THE TRUTH: Six months later it is axed completely
        42.We have no plans to get rid of Labour’s Future Jobs Fund
        THE TRUTH: Six months later it is axed completely
        43.We will improve Britain’s productivity
        THE TRUTH: Productivity is 21% lower than the G7 average
        44.We will deal with long-term unemployment with our ‘Work Programme’
        THE TRUTH: More than 650,000 people are left off work for more than a year.
        45.We will bring in 3,000 more midwives
        THE TRUTH: Cameron misses his target by almost a third
        46.We will create the “right sort of jobs” to spread prosperity “for the many not the few”
        THE TRUTH: 1.7million zero hours contracts handed out in Cameron’s low-pay Britain
        47.No-one will be made homeless by our welfare cuts
        THE TRUTH: Rough sleeping up 55% since 2010
        48.We will not allow cuts to front-line services
        THE TRUTH: Services are cut across the board, from nearly 500 public libraries to over 1,000 lollipop ladies
        49.We will not cut the NHS
        THE TRUTH: The NHS is forced to find £5billion of ‘efficiency savings’ – cuts by any other name
        50.We will have head-to-head TV debates like in 2010
        THE TRUTH: Cameron was too chicken to take part

        • njt55

          Apart from that, what’s he done wrong.

          • red2black

            Got elected. (arf arf)

        • Man on the Clapham omnibus

          Keep taking the tablets.

        • Tamerlane

          THE TRUTH: You will never get back the time it took to write this.

    • William Brown

      Cretans? Ooops.

    • Harryagain

      The living proof that there is no link between intelligence, education and common sense.

      • Marvin

        I have always believed that. There’s a presenter on LBC radio, gifted with a large brain and memory bank. Quotes from history, the bible etc, but is total blank for logic, common sense reality. This Cretan is so left wing he would make Corbyn and Livingstone look like a couple of Nazis.

    • njt55

      Actually, enemas are quite useful, so you might have to use another comparison.

      • jeremy Morfey

        Indeed they are, but the public is left with the byproduct.

        • Marvin

          And treated as such, unless it’s E L E C T I O N time.

      • Marvin

        Should have stated an enema shaped like a porcupine.

  • Man on the Clapham omnibus

    Matthew your wishes have three problems:
    1. The arguments that you prefer are coloured by your own views: they may, may not, be correct but there are many competing nuanced arguments
    2. The man in the street is a fool who neither pays attention nor understands much: the arguments you prefer would have very little impact. And lastly, but by no means least –
    3. They would be ridiculed by the gutter press.

    • Malcolm Knott

      The man in the street is not, generally, a fool. But he is often ill-informed and takes the sensible view that he is unlikely to become better informed by listening to politicians.

  • William Brown

    It’s what happens when you put a PR guy in to No: 10. The vulgarity of hype over substance is something we used to laugh at Americans for. These days, the UK just mimics the crass and the vacuous.

  • Mc

    “On Europe, Iraq and Syria why can’t our politicians just tell the truth?”

    Considering that Parris is an ex-politician, it’s not surprising that he doesn’t know the answer to the question. Of course, one shouldn’t discount the fact that most columnists pose rhetorical questions simply to fill their daily column in order to earn their fee.

  • right1_left1

    re the differnces of opinion on the EU Parris said:
    ‘So, again I ask, why didn’t he (Cameron) just say that? ‘For too long this issue has poisoned political life

    There you have it spelled out loud and clear.
    In a pseudo democratic system opinions contrary to conventional wisdom are poisonous.
    Anti immigration.Anti homosexual marriage.
    Anti EU membersship.Anti Trident etc
    All who hold such views are poisoners.

    The special relationship gets a mention too.
    The US’s special relationship is with Israel.
    If it had one in Europe it would be with France.

    The humour in the current TV advert for a car hire firm revolves around an American sales person pointing to Denmark believing it to be the UK

  • Harryagain

    There never was an “honest case” for interfering with Iraq,Syria or Libya.
    These people need a nasty leader just to keep them in hand.
    They are not fit for democracy and never will be until they get rid of their evil cult.
    This is not going to happen so just leave them get on with it.

  • John Emsley

    One of the best articles I have read in a twelvemonth.

  • Sean Lamb

    The “real” reason? Good Lord!
    The “real” reason for intervening in Iraq was about America asserting its military hegemony again. America and Britain knew Iraq had complied with the UN Resolutions because its security services tricked Iraq into making a false declaration that it had once possessed stocks of Vx gas and then spent the next decade taunting it for its inability to produce any documentation proving they had destroyed it (Obviously UK and US were never interested in the absence of any documentation proving they had produced any Vx gas in the first place).
    The “real” reason for intervening in Syria? Most likely a salami tactic in order to have a foot in the door to make sure the Assad regime doesn’t eventually wriggle out from under the various mercenary and terrorist militias plaguing the country.

    Possibly salami tactic to gain a foot in the door is a mixed metaphor. But the year is still young

  • jeremy Morfey

    I’ve had this debate about revolutions since playing with a pet university marxist during my lunch break. The easy bit is bringing down the regime, same as it is demolishing a perfectly lovely Victorian edifice or medieval city centre such as Worcester that survived the blitz, but outlived its function. What is a lot trickier is replacing it with something better.

  • Ivan Ewan

    Frankly, I don’t know who we’re at war with in Syria now. They kept talking about Islamic State, but they didn’t rule out having a pop at the FSA, or Assad, or the Turkmen, or the Kurds, if they feel like it.

    • mumble

      The West is trying to figure out who are the good guys and who are the bad guys, and seems to be struggling with the concept that Syria doesn’t fit that model.

      They are looking for a good solution, and seem to be struggling with the concept that a least-worst solution is the best possible.

      As CNN’s Faried Zakaria pointed out, the Americans were looking for the moderate Jeffersonian democrats, of which there were four or five, and, after spending $42,000,000 trying to train them, they gave up.

  • boiledcabbage

    States fail because their leaders are forced into making snap judgement calls. Can you see Merkel telling the world that allowing a million ‘refugees’ into Europe was a big mistake, apologising to the women being raped, the Swedish PM doing likewise? The French & Belgian governments apologising for their lack of foresight in allowing huge muslim immigration from N Africa? Its really all a whitewash – we cannot deal with the muslim question because we cannot conceive that the muslim question might be the muslim problem. The ‘wars’ are just a mis-step in a series of larger blunders.

  • thomasaikenhead

    “The honest case for Britain’s joining the scrap in Syria was a fairly decent one.”

    Not it wasn’t, only a few years ago David Cameron wanted the British military to bomb targets linked to the Assad regime, which would have put the British on the same side as IS!

    Now they are fighting alongside Hezbollah!

    Just look at how the last Cameron military intervention turned out, Gadhaffi was toppled allowing jihadis and people smugglers to take over Libya!

  • victor67

    Britain is still acting like it is major world power which since the Second World War our influence and power has gradually been declining.
    Much of this pressure does come from the US as it needs the diplomatic support on the UN security council and exerts influence on us to spend more on defence and support their attempts for military and economic control particularly in the ME but also now against Putin and China

    Until recently their was a tacit cross party agreement that this served our security and strategic influences and their is also a lot of money invested by companies such as BAE systems in maintaining and not questioning this strategy.

    A Labour party now rejecting this consensus and beginning to question UK role and its limitations given the falling living standards of the middle class and the working poor is likely to face an onslaught from the political,military and business establishment who do very from the status quo. That is why threats are exagerated and distorted to create an atmosphere of fear and insecurity.

    • thomasaikenhead

      Great insight and so very true.

      The middle class in the UK now have to decide whether they want guns or butter?

      There is absolutely no need at all for the UK to replace Trident so the country has the chance to lead the world, just as it did in the abolition of slavery, by becoming the first state to reject nuclear weapons.

      After all, Germany, Italy, Poland and Spain all do very well without them.

      • carl jacobs

        They are doing “quite well” because they have effectively outsourced their military defense to the United States. That’s all well and good – right up until the US kicks NATO to the curb and goes home. Since NATO now amounts to “The US and a bunch of European countries free-riding on the US” one begins to doubt its military utility.

        If the American nuclear guarantee goes away, Europe will have to find a credible deterrent of its own. Otherwise, it’s going to discover just what it means to be a non-nuclear entity in a decidedly nuclear world.

        • thomasaikenhead

          Why would the US ever withdraw from NATO?

          Which state actually poses any real threat to the UK?

          Who could possibly attack and invade the UK?

          The problem with Trident replacement is that nobody can actually put a coherent and credible case for doing so.

          It is actually ‘boots on the ground’ that really count in combat but the UK has spent its money on two aircraft carriers that it cannot man let alone ever use and is planning to squander billions replacing Trident.

          As a result the RAF and the Army are deprived of the resources and manpower that they need.

          The Royal Navy have managed to crash or run aground every nuclear submarine that they possess and are an absolute joke!

          • carl jacobs

            Why would the US ever withdraw from NATO?

            Because the Center of Gravity of power in the world is changing. New military powers are emerging and the US needs to deal with that reality. What does the NATO alliance offer the US in terms of increasing US security in this new emerging world? Its primary purpose was to defend Europe from Russia. Now it has become little more than a place for advance basing of American forces. And I think more and more that the future task will not be defending Europe from Russia. It will be defending Russia from China. And Japan from China. And the rest of the South Pacific from China.

            Europe needs to make itself militarily relevant again, so it can help in that effort. It can’t just sit behind the American wall and enjoy its luxurious welfare state. It can’t retreat into European parochialism and say “The Americans can deal with that other stuff.” The world is getting dangerous again. If Europe keeps atrophying, it will become a positive liability and get left behind. It isn’t any good to the Americans if it is nothing but one more place the Americans have to protect.

          • thomasaikenhead

            “Europe needs to make itself militarily relevant again, so it can help in that effort.”

            NO, as the evolution of the EU has made very clear.

            Even the US is now realising that war is not the answer, hence the P5+1 deal with Iran and the peace with Cuba.

          • carl jacobs

            And you wonder why Americans like me are beginning to doubt the viability of NATO. We need allies, and not useless free-riders. If the evolution of the EU has made military power irrelevant because “war is not the answer” then the EU certainly doesn’t need NATO anymore. And it certainly doesn’t need to “shelter under the US nuclear umbrella.”

          • thomasaikenhead

            “And you wonder why Americans like me are beginning to doubt the viability of NATO. ”

            People in NATO are starting to wonder why they want an ally like the US!

            Since WWII the US had blundered around the world getting involved in conflicts and spreading death and destruction.

            With the exception of GRanada, the US has failed to win a conflict, failing in Korea, Vietnam, Somalia, Lebanon and a host of other wars.

            The US is just about to ‘cut and run’ in Afghanistan, has seen as disaster in Iraq/Syria and the only US success has been diplomatic involving the P5+1 deal with Iran and the rapprochement with Cuba.

            The US is no longer an ally, it is a liability!

          • MickC

            Yes, a fair summary of the situation!

          • mumble

            In Grenada, they had an unusual advantage: they were invading the territory of an ally.

          • thomasaikenhead

            Excellent point!

          • RobertRetyred

            The evolution of the EU has made very clear that it has no interest in the well being of the indigenous population of Europe.
            The Euro has exacerbated the financial troubles in the Eurozone, Schengen has exacerbated the border troubles here, and now in Germany and in many other Euro-provinces like Sweden and Denmark with and dramatic rise in rape by ‘visitors’, while we have to comply with Euro-red-tape, even when we export outside the EU.

        • Tamerlane

          It’s not a decidedly nuclear world. Europe can survive fine without nukes of its own, that’s not the issue. What is the issue is that Europe has hidden behind US firepower (Yugoslavia etc) as an excuse to pare back its own armed forces to a minimum and delegate responsibility for conflicts to the White House. This, I admit, is pretty cowardly and fairly humiliating if you happen to be a citizen of a once former great power (though bear in mind after two World Wars the US has always consistently promoted small European armies backed by overwhelming US firepower). But nukes don’t come into it.

          • carl jacobs

            Without the American nuclear guarantee, Europe would immediately confront the nuclear behemoth that is Russia. You can laugh and say that Russia has an economy the size of Holland. But unless Europe has a deterrent, it loses any conflict with Russia in one detonation. Nuclear weapons very much come into it because if you don’t have them in a fight against an opponent willing to use them, you lose.

            Europe is fat, rich, and largely defenseless. It gets away with this because of the Americans. Remove the Americans and predators are going to suddenly pay attention to all that European wealth. Some of those predators will have nukes. They won’t be deterred by increased conventional capability. And they won’t be impressed by stirring speeches about the International Criminal Court.

          • Tamerlane

            You show the usual American ‘reds under every bed’ fear and obsession with the Russians. The only thing the Russians want (have ever wanted), rightly of wrongly, is a protective cushion around them. Hardly surprising for a country invaded more times than, well, the USA has had Presidents. The Russians are no more likely to invade Western Europe now than they were throughout the Cold War – in other words not at all. You second paragraph I agree with wholeheartedly. But Russians have no interest whatsoever in world conquest – never have done, never will do.

        • right1_left1

          If the USA withdraws into isolationism( which is most unlikely due to the inevitable downsizing of the ‘defence’ industry) then the question of who needs to be deterred from whom comes into sharper focus.

          The Russians say they need protection.
          I remind you that European nations attacked Russia twice in 20th century
          Apart from participation in WW1 {a holocaust attributable to ALL nations) the Russians didnt attack Europe.

          We (certainly lots of Speccie posters) say it’s us simply because the Russians wouldn’t give up the protective buffer that resulted from WW2.
          The dishonesty of western response to the Ukraine upset illuminates my point.

          • RobertRetyred

            ” Russians wouldn’t give up the protective buffer that resulted from WW2″

            They did manage to occupy Washington DC, starting from the 1930’s, and the Communist Parties in Europe were not very constructive in their own countries.

      • davidofkent

        They do very well without them because they rely on the US nuclear umbrella, with the addition of the British one. You are entitled to your opinion on nuclear weapons, but you ought to keep a clear head. Nuclear weapons in today’s world simply show any potential aggressor that it will cost him dear. Without the nuclear weapons, we are naked. Your second sentence is apposite. It’s a choice people have already made. They want butter, plasma TVs, flashy cars, new kitchens, foreign holidays and cheap clothes. When the world turns really ugly again, they will cry out for guns and will demand to know why we haven’t got them. History repeats itself with monotonous regularity, presumably because we are humans with small brains and easily diverted from the important things in life to the trivial.

        • thomasaikenhead

          Why can the UK not shelter under the US nuclear umbrella as all the other NATO members do?

          • RobertRetyred

            As carl jacobs posts “They are doing “quite well” because they have effectively outsourced their military defense to the United States. That’s all well and good – right up until the US kicks NATO to the curb and goes home”

            If GB does the same, for the US, it could easily be the straw that broke the camels back.

          • thomasaikenhead

            “If GB does the same, for the US, it could easily be the straw that broke the camels back.”

            Not at all, GB would merely be adopting the same stance as it NATO partners.

            After all, who is the enemy that so threatens Britain that it needs nuclear weapons?

            The UK can be a far more effective ally to the US by not wasting billions of pounds on aircraft carriers it cannot use and nuclear weapons it will never fire.

            Spending billions on more useful and effective weapons and troops will see the UK be of much more use.

          • carl jacobs

            But you won’t spend it on more effective weapons and troops. You will spend it on your welfare state.

          • thomasaikenhead

            Well if Jeremy Corbyn can start a genuine discussion about Trident replacement than the British people can decide how they want their money spent?

          • RobertRetyred

            “… GB would merely be adopting the same stance as it NATO partners.”

            Yes, and “for the US, it could easily be the straw that broke the camel’s back”. It depends who is in the WH.

            Our enemies would perceive it to be a weakening of our resolve, a weakening in our place in the world, and in global organisations. The cost is usually expressed as a total cost, over the lifetime of the weapon, not the annual cost, nor the cost of replacement by equivalent conventional forces.

          • Dagenhamboy

            Would you really trust a third party to defend us?

          • thomasaikenhead

            Well Italy, Poland, Germany, Italy and Spain all do so why not the UK?

          • Dagenhamboy

            Good point, but I repeat, would you? Do people really think the American public would risk nuclear annihilation to protect a bunch of European pacifists who refuse, point blank, to meet their NATO commitments and who take great pleasure in dissing the US?

          • Bertie

            Because we realise that the status quo, where US is willing,and able, to provide us with an umbrella wont last indefinitely.

            Semper paratus. 🙂

          • thomasaikenhead

            But Germany, Italy, Poland and Spain, as well as Japan, are all willing to do so.

            Who you you think really poses a genuine threat to the UK that requires nuclear weapons but not to these states?

          • Bertie

            “But Germany, Italy, Poland and Spain, as well as Japan, are all willing to do so.”

            They all rely on the US for a nuclear umbrella – throw back to WW2.
            Sensible? At some point the USA will be unwilling, or unable given finan cial /political constraints to continue to provide protection.

            Who poses a threat to UK – well, currently, ME rogue states, North Korea, China, Russia and who knows.

            Going forward – that’s the big qurstion.Who knows where the threat will come have them up our sleeve just in case as many crackpots round the world are trying theitr best to get Nuclear weapons.
            As I said:

            Semper paratus.

            As someone once said.

            “To gain peace prepare for war.”

          • thomasaikenhead

            “Who poses a threat to UK – well, currently, ME rogue states, North Korea, China, Russia and who knows.”

            You REALLY think that North Korea poses a credible threat to the UK?

          • Bertie

            “You REALLY think that North Korea poses a credible threat to the UK?”

            I guess you missed this….

            Kim Jong-un says North Korea rocket launch was ‘telling blow’ to enemies


            Launching a satellite requires a rocket capable enough – ie an ICBM. So yes, it poses a credible threat both in the immediate future and 10-20 years down the line.

            “North Korea sets up mobile long-range missile unit”


            Clue is in the “LONG RANGE” bit!

            And who knows where they will be 20 years down the line on the missile tech front!that’s before the advancements they will have undoubtedly made on the nuclear front.

            As I said

            Semper paratus

          • mumble

            Why should the US do all the heavy lifting to defend Western culture? If it can’t be bothered to defend itself, maybe it doesn’t deserve to survive?

          • thomasaikenhead

            The US is not ‘defending Western culture’, it has blundered from one failed military venture to another since the Korean War and is about to ‘cut and run’ in Afghanistan, will witness the folly of the Iraq War as Syria/Iraq disintegrate and cause massive refugee flows into Europe that are undermining the very Western culture they are supposed to be defending.

            The idea that the US military have defended anything since the Korean War is a joke, they have repeatedly and publicly failed in a whole series of ill-conceived and incompetent military campaigns that have bought nothing but disaster upon themselves and the failed states that they have created.

        • Dagenhamboy

          Spot on.

      • right1_left1

        If middle and especially upper middle class living standards do decline expect serious, to me uknown, consequences.

        IMO the middle and upper middle classes are the main beneficiaries of the welfare state.
        Jobs for the boys and girls financed from onerous levels of taxation on the masses plus fiat money plus debt.

        The combination is unsustainable.

      • Bertie

        No need for Britain to replace Trident?? Said like a true indoctrinated socialist.

        Why would we want to give them up when crackpots in North Korea have them,and similar sanity challenged leaders in Iran want to secure them..They’re a deterrent, that has worked wonders to date. No one in their right mind wants to be on the receiving end of a Nuclear strike, particularly a nation that doesn’t have them!

        Yes very sensible of you!

        • thomasaikenhead

          “Said like a true indoctrinated socialist.”

          Not at all, said by someone who sees that states such as Germany, Italy, Spain and Poland do not need not want or need nuclear weapons.

          The money being squandered on Trident replacement could be more more usefully spent on conventional forces.

          • Bertie

            “Not at all, said by someone who sees that states such as Germany, Italy,
            Spain and Poland do not need not want or need nuclear weapons.”

            They don’t need them because they’ve contracted out their defence to another nation!!! How dense are you.

            Re Trident.

            Disagree. We need a nuclear deterrent. At some point conventional forces are not a deterrent.What stopped USSR steam rolling into Western germany? The array of conventional forces opposing it that its numbers outweighed considerably?

            No, it was the threat of a Nuclear retaliation.

            Roll forwar to nut jobs such as Kim Wrong’Un in North korea, or that psychotic Ayatollah in iran getting Nuclear want to have no defence against that? Seriously?

          • thomasaikenhead

            The UK could also shelter under the US umbrella just like the other nations and save itself £100 billion at a time that the UK is bankrupt.

            On the other hand, if the UK does spend that sum on Trident replacement, the conventional forces will be cut to the bone and beyond so the UK could not get involved in ventures like Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.

  • sidor

    The politicians cannot tell the truth for one very simple reason: they have no idea what the truth is. The nature and the meaning of the fundamental historic-scale process unfolding in the Islamic World is beyond comprehension of the Western politicians responsible for formulating the Western ME policy.

    • davidofkent

      The politician has one aim in life – to be elected. Nothing else matters. In order to achieve that, politicians simply try to work out what will make them popular and do it. As a corollary, they try to work out what will make them unpopular and try not to have to do it. If they find that they must do it, they will hide it from us or somehow try to convince us (with obfuscation) that it is for our own good.

      • right1_left1

        How few of the electorate recognise the truth of your post re how politicians deal with ‘truth’

        to paraphrase that Dad’s Army character
        ‘the electorate dont like it up ’em.

  • Malcolm Stevas

    Straightforward truth-telling and policy making are not what Cameron is about. I do not think he is dishonest or wicked, but in some ways he doesn’t seem terribly bright: his enthusiasms are fleeting, shallow, whimsical, sometimes eccentric. He makes things up on the hoof. He is blown hither & thither by the winds of perceived electoral advantage at any given moment. Some things remain constant though: he has always wanted us to stay in the EU, and cannot be trusted on this issue – quite apart from his naive approach to “renegotiation”. As for Syria, he’s just displaying the traditional politician’s desire to make his mark by appearing macho. The RAF is sadly diminished in its ability to fight a war, even against a ragamuffin pack of ranting towelheads in the ME, but Cameron still orders them to drop the token bombs on bits of desert…

  • Itinerant

    Anti-EU- a huge difference and going by its track record and more recent events, it can be claimed it is the EU that is anti-European.

    It is one of the most fatuous conflations, either through laziness or deliberate strategy- much easier to vilify those opposed to the EU as xenophobes, if they’re labeled ‘anti-European’.
    I seem to remember certain ‘progressives’ even tried to make ‘anti-Europeanism’ a hate-crime- thankfully they failed.

    Which is it Matthew?

  • English Fuhrer

    70,000 lol

  • Malcolm Knott

    Matthew: the last politician to adopt the approach you advocate was probably Lord Salisbury, but he saw it as his duty to ensure that so far as possible nothing happened.

  • UnionPacificRX

    It is more important that Middle Eastern refugees do not make Europe their destination. The more volatile the Middle East becomes and the more amiable the European leaders become in letting them in, then the Mid East crisis IS is the European crisis.
    First find a solution for these refugees to be relocated to Muslim nations.
    As for destroying IS one has to also destroy the Caliphate. IS may have created the Caliphate but could the Caliphate continue to exist without them?

    • tolpuddle1

      Only the Saudis can destroy IS.

      But do they want to ?

      • UnionPacificRX

        Good comment. Point is how many Saudi people support the Caliphate (not IS) and if they support the Caliphate they may entertain the idea that IS is needed at this initial stage.
        If the Royal family destroys IS there is no assurance a new more violent form will come back and the Royal family, already weakened by economics, may face a full scale rebellion and a new deadly version of IS.

  • Tom M

    Shame on you Parris. First of all you slip in that we went to Iraq to topple Sadaam. As you well know that was the result but that wasn’t the reason we went. Then proceed to suggest that the British Government should have invaded a foreign country on the basis of what it might do in the future. Are you seriously suggesting that the public would have bought into that?

    • Clive
      Tony Blair has said he would have invaded Iraq even without evidence of weapons of mass destruction and would have found a way to justify the war to parliament and the public.

      The former prime minister made the confession during an interview with Fern Britton, to be broadcast on Sunday on BBC1, in which he said he would still have thought it right to remove Saddam Hussein from power.

      “If you had known then that there were no WMDs, would you still have gone on?” Blair was asked. He replied: “I would still have thought it right to remove him [Saddam Hussein]”…

  • tolpuddle1

    The article fails to address the obvious question – WHY do politicians fail to make the Honest Case on Iraq, Syria, the EU ?

    Answer – Because the Honest Case in all such cases is an incredibly weak one.

    As the article inadvertently makes clear.

  • Dagenhamboy

    Simple really, Matthew.
    Our politicians can’t open their mouths without lying. It comes readily to them, like breathing.
    We are held in contempt, treated with disdain and ignored until they want our votes, then a few crumbs are thrown our way.
    Bread and circuses.

    • Sue Smith

      Bread and circuses indeed. And, you know what, the people are falling for it magnificently. It’s called “Stockholm Syndrome”. Lover your captor.

  • WTF

    This sign says it all !

    • Sue Smith

      And yet just today we have anti-anti immigration protesters in Cologne and elsewhere in Germany. Seems like Germany is a divided society. Now, who’d have thought….??!!!!

      What I want to see is the anti anti anti immigration lobby.

  • What politicians, journalists, authorities etc should be working on now is not more involvement in the Middle East, but less.

    Ground troops, bombing and our involvement with religious factions dating back centuries that we (and I suspect even they) don’t fully comprehend has been a categoric failure in bringing lasting peace to the region. When one country’s violence is quelled, another war starts next door. One minute Gaddaffi is an enemy, the next an ally. If it wasn’t so serious, it would be a farce. We clearly don’t understand what we are involved with.

    Quite apart from lives lost and huge financial cost, we are now opening our eyes to the loss of that most precious – and at an alarming speed – civilised European culture established over centuries. The financial blockheads (economists) – Merkel et al – have proved themselves to be monumentally unsophisticated in foreseeing the real price we will pay.

    The help we have offered to refugees has been treated savagely – as the Cologne incident clearly shows. Our media headlines everyday are dominated by “Arab” issues and we are now adjusting our “free press” in order to appease the immigrants from this region. Why? Because the West made itself vulnerable by being wholly reliant on Middle Eastern oil reserves. If we hadn’t done this the Middle East would have continued to blow each other up and the rest of the West could have left them to it.

    The First World countries should have been investing serious amounts of money (instead of plunging it into the pockets of bankers) in developing sustainable energy resources. Instead we have made ourselves beholden to a community stuck in the Middle Ages. The writing was on the wall and the West chose to ignore it.

  • Isage000

    If Cameron were honest he would have said – ‘The Conservatives were haemorrhaging so much support to UKIP that I had to reluctantly offer a referendum on the EU if I win in 2015. I don’t think I will get an overall majority, so I can rely on the LibDems to squash it, but if in the unlikely event I do, I have already outlined a plan with my eurochumocracy where I conduct a long protracted faux ‘renegotiation’ which will seem at first to meet universal resistance, but at the last moment can be hailed as a huge triumph, sufficient to sway enough gullible numpties to vote to stay’.

  • Ade

    Once a PR man…

  • Spivy

    Are you serious! They wouldn’t know the truth if it hit them in the face. For them, the truth has to fit with the myths they spin; truth as reality is censored and replaced by lies and deceptions they feed the public. For example, as I write this blog, with riots on the streets of Germany, the BBC news covers nothing of this serious development in Europe. The news, particularly the BBC, has become little more than a propaganda machine the likes of which Goebles himself would have been proud of. The truth is the first victim of totalitarian states!

  • Tom Sykes

    You don’t want the truth, because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall. We use words like “honor”, “code”, “loyalty”. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it!.


  • Zhang Wei

    4 airstrikes…….pathetic.

    • Clive

      Ah yes, China is building aircraft carriers like mad now isn’t it ?

      I think they kind of missed the point with that one in the South China Sea made of dirt which no-one can fly over.

      Those carriers are supposed to move.

      • mumble

        The Russians seem to get a lot of mileage out of the unsinkability of the Kaliningrad Oblast.

        Maybe the Chinese have designs on Dogger Bank, which is presumably as for sale as any other part of British infrastructure.

    • mumble

      In Desert Storm, there were over 1,000 sorties per day (almost all American, of course), but the RAF managed over 6,000 over the whole operation.

      This produced a result and offers a thought for a possible strategic course of action.

  • Kasperlos

    The case for not meddling in the affairs of the throat cutting South and Central Asia, Middle East and North Africa should, by now, be evident from scenes playing out on the high street, in London, Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Rotherham, Glasgow, Cardiff, Belfast, Cologne, Paris, Molenbeek, Belgium, et al. The barbarians freely roam the continent to commit horrific acts of wanton violence with impunity. It is here, now, in Europe where the case must urgently be made to militarily defend the whole of Europe from the existential threat which David Cameron himself spoke of at the last Tory party conference. One waits whilst the continent sinks into the sinister abyss of enslavement of the Mohammedans and third world. Our leaders have proven to be of no use in the matter.

    • cromwell

      Meanwhile there were plenty of police yesterday in Cologne to water cannon and pepper spray those demonstrating against the molestation of women by Muslims.

      • Kasperlos

        Yes, first came the cover-up by the mayor and the police, now women are brutally attacked by the police themselves! Protesting against violence! You could not make up the entire decades long bizarre world of up is down, right is wrong. It is showing tendencies towards civil war. Each passing week unravels the package of secrets that the elites and their political henchmen have in store for the masses. It’s now for all to take heed; the elites are taking off the gloves and are becoming more bold and brazen as they rush to fulfill their agenda. For years they have incrementally pushed bit by bit to see how much they can get away with. They have come far and realise that they may now need to become harsh as some start to awaken.

        • cromwell

          All part of the plan as detailed by the club of Rome for a United states of Europe leading to one world government. Flood Europe with Muslims to cause riots as an excuse to impose military rule and a dictatorship. If this is a crazy conspiracy theory I will be most relieved but what other logical explanation can there be for the actions of our masters?

  • cromwell

    “Why cant our politicians just tell the truth” The answer to that is simple politicians are habitual liars they lie even when they don’t need to.

    • SunnyD

      politicians are professional liars

  • cromwell


    • cromwell

      Just testing

  • cromwell

    The authorities through the MSM are trying to portray ordinary concerned people as extreme right wing.Rather than right wing lets think right thinking.The authorities are getting increasingly worried and employing more extreme tactics like water cannon and tear gas because they are losing the “discourse” as more and more ordinary Europeans wake up to the what is happening to Europe.

  • Clive

    Matthew Parris asks the question – why does the press not just tell the truth ? I know that’s not what the piece says but he’s the press, innit ?

    The ‘Revenge Reshuffle’ that never was, for instance. Where did that story originate ? At least one and probably many more journalists know the answer to that. Why do they not say it ? It was Diane Abbott; The Telegraph; Ken Livingstone; The Spectator; Seumas Milne – all likely candidates. Somehow, it’s all a mystery.

    Why ? Well, they have to protect sources. They would never get any more stories. Who cares ? Stories with half-truths at the back of them are worse than no stories at all.

    On Iraq, Tony Blair said in his speech just before the war
    …When the inspectors left in 1998, they left unaccounted for: 10,000 litres of anthrax; a far reaching VX nerve agent programme; up to 6,500 chemical munitions; at least 80 tonnes of mustard gas, possibly more than ten times that amount; unquantifiable amounts of sarin, botulinum toxin and a host of other biological poisons; an entire Scud missile programme…

    …and those chemical weapons have been found since the war but only the New York Times has reported it:

    …why is that ? Could it be because reporting that WMD were found in Iraq when all of these organs had been saying there were none would make them look stupid ? Even the NYT coverage is grudging. They were among the ‘no WMD’ herd.

    Tony Blair was advised by David Kelly who was convinced there were biological weapons in Iraq which required force to remove right up to his death

    The hero of the left, Robin Cook – who had been Foreign Secretary so he would know – said in his resignation speech:
    …Iraq probably has no weapons of mass destruction in the commonly understood sense of the term – namely a credible device capable of being delivered against a strategic city target.

    It probably still has biological toxins and battlefield chemical munitions, but it has had them since the 1980s when US companies sold Saddam anthrax agents and the then British Government approved chemical and munitions factories….

    He was wrong about the chemical munitions factories, they were supplied by the Germans.
    …The company Karl Kolb GmbH & Co. KG, from the town of Dreieich in Hesse, for example. On Dec. 12, 1984, a representative of the US State Department told the German Embassy in Washington that the company had delivered “chemical research and production equipment for the manufacture of large quantities of nerve gas” to Iraq. At the time, Saddam Hussein was building the “most modern chemical weapons factory of its time,” as an international team of experts pronounced in 2004, though it was disguised as a pesticide factory. Pilot Plant GmbH, a company that was closely tied with Kolb, delivered a total of four facilities at a total cost of 7.5 million deutsche marks. In the files, only the company name Kolb is mentioned….

    He is also wrong in saying that being manufactured in the 1980s makes them any less deadly, as the New York Times stories attest. Certainly some of the chemical weapons in Iraq were past their sell-by and biological weapons become unusable even quicker – that being the case, why did Saddam not declare them to UNMOVIC ?


    Then there is the EU. A major problem with the UK economy is our balance of trade with other countries

    That is actually a problem with the EU

    …The UK has traditionally had strong trade links with the EU. Despite changes in the composition of the global economy, the EU in 2014 accounted for 44.6% of UK exports of goods and services, and 53.2% of UK imports of goods and services. However, strong economic growth in many developing economies outside the EU has resulted in non-EU economies growing in importance to UK trade, with the proportion accounted for by the EU falling consistently since 1999, despite the value of EU trade increasing.

    Exports from the UK to EU and non-EU countries have grown on average by 3.6% and 6.5% respectively in each year between 1999 and 2014. However, the stronger export growth to non-EU countries has resulted in the proportion of UK exports destined for the EU falling from 54.8% in 1999 to 44.6% in 2014. Growth in the value of UK imports of goods and services from EU and non-EU countries is more comparable, growing on average by 4.7% and 5.5% respectively in each year since 1999.

    Faster growth in the value of UK imports compared to exports with the EU has resulted in the UK’s overall trade balance with the EU deteriorating (value of imports exceeding exports), with the trade deficit widening notably, reaching £61.6 billion in 2014 compared with £11.2 billion in 1999.

    UK trade with the EU is dominated by goods rather than services; in 2014, trade in goods represented close to two-thirds of all UK exports to the EU, and over three-quarters of total UK imports from the EU. Between 1999 and 2014, goods imported by the UK from the EU have risen by 4.9% per year on average, compared to exports which have risen by 2.5% per year, causing the UK’s trade in goods deficit with the EU to rise to £77.0 billion.

    Although the UK has historically recorded a trade in goods deficit with the EU, its trade in services balance with the EU is much more favourable, running a surplus in each year since 2005, which reached £15.4 billion in 2014.

    UK exports of goods and services to non-EU countries have grown at a faster rate than imports, driven largely by services exports. This has resulted in the UK running an overall trade surplus with non-EU countries (value of exports exceeds imports) over the past three years, which reached £27.8 billion in 2014…

    We have a trade deficit with the EU, a trade surplus with the non-EU and our trade with non-EU is growing rapidly. Where have you seen that argument deployed ? It has been but in the backqround.

    It means the economic risk to us is in staying in the EU, not in leaving. Why did you not say that ?


    On Syria, Cameron said this:
    …The 70,000 figure is an estimate from our independent Joint Intelligence Committee, based on detailed analysis, updated daily and drawing on a wide range of open sources and intelligence. The majority of the 70,000 are from the Free Syrian Army. Alongside the 70,000, there are some 20,000 Kurdish fighters with whom we can also work. I am not arguing—this is a crucial point—that all of the 70,000 are somehow ideal partners. However, some left the Syrian army because of Assad’s brutality, and clearly they can play a role in the future of Syria. That view is also taken by the Russians, who are prepared to talk with these people….

    Yet Mr Parris says in his piece: …There would have been no nonsense about the 70,000 freedom fighters waiting to take democracy forward… where did Cameron say that ?


    When has any journalist ever said “I am taking the editorial line handed down by our proprietors” ?

    Matthew 7:3-5
    3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

    4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?

    5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.

  • mumble

    I read somewhere that the RAF does not have the capacity to destroy oil wells without ground support. Why ever not?

  • 22pp22

    You are a Liblabcon politician. You seek the destruction of our country and our race. That is all I need to know. I didn’t read the article.

  • ExpatZ

    Really, so why aren’t we attacking Saudi Arabia or Qatar, the two countrie that brought us Wahhabism and Sunni Terrorists. The two that in all ways are more oppressive and dangerous than Saddam or Ghadafi ever where?

    Seriously, this article is a load of bollocks and it;’s arguments specious at best.