Tag Archives: UK

Boris Johnson is about to inherit a crisis his EU-bashing helped spawn

It was not just the persistently overcast skies – a weather pattern once dubbed the “Brabant gloom” by Roy Jenkins, a former European commission president – that made working in Brussels for the Daily Telegraph in the early 1990s a joyless experience. It was my role as deputy to Boris Johnson, then “bureau chief” in name but solo performer in practice, that ensured my first job as a foreign correspondent was a trial of endurance.

There were just the two of us in the Telegraph office, and we were working long hard hours reporting on the political and economic convulsions of the Maastricht treaty negotiations. The story itself, of negotiations that played out in meeting rooms of Brussels, was full of political intrigue and drama. And whatever happened was likely to shape Europe for years to come.

How Johnson wrote about it, though, not only alarmed me at the time but helped set in stone a pervasive anti-European narrative that never really encountered serious challenge in the UK. For shamelessly painting the European commission as an insanely grandiose and imperialist body, he was rewarded by flurries of “herograms” from our editor, Max Hastings, including one that read “we all think you’re doing a wonderful job if only you’d learn to be a little more pompous”. Johnson’s trajectory to the gates of Downing Street had begun.

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Posted by on August 8, 2019 in Europe



Lies and buffoonery: How Boris Johnson’s fantasy world casts dark shadows in the Middle East

I’ve worked out that in the past week, I’ve been told to wait “only five minutes” at least four times. In the Arab world, any interview that is delayed will always be accompanied by the assurance that I will only have to wait for five minutes. Or I will be called back on the phone in just five minutes. Only very occasionally is it 10 minutes. Almost never one minute. It’s five – used more in Egypt, less so in Lebanon and Syria. In Arabic, “only five minutes” is – my transliteration – khams daqiya faqat. In 43 years, I calculate I must have heard the phrase almost 9,000 times, probably more.

It’s a 99 per cent lie, of course, a lie every bit as big as the average percentage vote for an Arab dictator at election time. But I always – still – believe it. Even today, I will wait in a secretary’s office in the Middle East or glance at my phone and say to myself, ah well, it’s only three more minutes now and he/she will see me or ring back. He or she doesn’t. I know he/she won’t. But in the willing suspension of disbelief, five minutes must have credibility.

The lie has been uttered so many times that it has become more real than the truth. And I have not yet, dear reader, mentioned Brexit.

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Posted by on August 7, 2019 in Europe, Uncategorized


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Poor tenants pay for landlords to live like kings. It doesn’t have to be this way

I have a friend who works almost every waking hour, mainly to pay the rent. Her landlord lives on a beach, 4,000 miles away. He seldom responds to her requests, and grudgingly pays for the minimum of maintenance. But every so often he writes to inform her that he is raising the rent. He does not have to work because she and other tenants work on his behalf. He is able to live the life of his choice because they give their time to him. As there is a shortage of accessible housing, they have no choice but to pay his exorbitant fees.

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Posted by on August 7, 2019 in South America



Jeremy Corbyn’s Finest Hour?

Boris Johnson is the first British prime minister in a long time who is free of dilemmas regarding his approach to the European Union. For better or worse, Johnson’s strategy for attaining power has left him with only one viable option: Forget about negotiating with the EU before the October 31 Brexit deadline, call a general election for that day, seek a popular mandate for a no-ifs-no-buts no-deal divorce from Europe, and then sit back and watch his domestic and foreign adversaries sweat it out.

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Posted by on August 7, 2019 in Europe, Uncategorized



Trump is powering the UK’s preparations for war – it is he who needs to be deterred, not Iran

It’s about time we wised up to what is going on in this utterly farcical “crisis” in the Gulf, this charade of lies and pomposity which Trump and his doggies in London are presenting to us.

An American president who is a racist, misogynist, dishonest and psychologically disturbed man – assisted by two vicious and equally dishonourable and delusional advisers – is threatening to go to war with Iran while a kipper-waving and equally serial-lying buffoon, who is probably the future British prime minister, prefers to concentrate on the self-destruction of his country rather than the hijacking of his ships.


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With an unstable ally in Trump, Britain is making itself a target in the Gulf

Britain is sending a second warship to the Gulf to protect its oil tankers from Iranian gunboats. HMS Duncan, a destroyer currently in the Mediterranean, will join HMS Montrose, a frigate, next week.

Britain is on the edge of becoming involved in a conflict in which it can only deploy limited forces, but it could become the target of Iranian retaliation for any US escalation of the conflict.

In a sense, this may have already happened, if the US was indeed behind the royal marine commandos taking over an Iranian oil tanker allegedly bound for Syria off Gibraltar. It is difficult to take seriously the British claim that they carried out such a provocative act solely because of a request from the Gibraltarian authorities and in order to enforce EU sanctions on Syria.

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Posted by on August 7, 2019 in Europe



Trump’s hissy-fit over Darroch will blow a chill wind across Britain’s embassies in the Middle East

Just for a moment, let’s forget poor old Kim Darroch. Let’s jump a couple of days in front of this news story. Let me tell you how his utter humiliation and sacrifice at the hands of Trump – and with the connivance of the man who will probably be the next British prime minister – will affect the Middle East.

Let’s go first to Riyadh where, just off Al Khawabi street, stands the British embassy, wherein labours Simon Collis, our man in Saudi Arabia. He’s previously served in Bahrain, Tunis, Amman, Dubai, Qatar, Damascus and Baghdad. In other words, he’s an old Arab hand. He’s also a Muslim convert and the first British ambassador to make the pilgrimage to Mecca.

But right now, Collis is going to be thinking very carefully when he reports back to the Foreign Office about the Kingdom upon which he must report fully, fairly and truthfully for his government. For all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten his reputation if The Leaker gets his hands on the diplomatic bag from Riyadh.

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Posted by on August 7, 2019 in Europe, Middle East


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Syriza’s defeat shows the left needs a plan to hold on to power, not just win it

The day after Jeremy Corbyn scraped together the parliamentarians’ names he needed to get on the Labour leadership ballot in 2015, he headed off in search of voters. “We didn’t have a campaign. We didn’t have an organisation. We didn’t have any money,” he told me. “All we had was my credit card and that lasted for about a week.”

He stood so that at least one candidate would make the argument that Labour should oppose austerity and shift to the left. No one ever expected him to win that argument, least of all him. But as the rallies grew, unions came on board and his polling numbers soared, the implausible started to look inevitable.

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Posted by on August 7, 2019 in Uncategorized


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Deferring to Trump over the memo leak highlights Britain’s weakness

The resignation of Sir Kim Darroch as British ambassador to Washington, because of his leaked messages to London criticising President Trump, is highly revealing about the real state of British knowledge of what is going on in the US.

Supporters of the former ambassador portray him as a skilled and experienced foreign office official who was “only doing his job” until brought low by the machinations of the Brexiteers and the treachery of Boris Johnson. His detractors view him, on the contrary, as an old-style representative of a europhile British foreign policy establishment which is out of place in the age of Trump.

Most striking in the copious excerpts from Darroch’s cables to the home government between 2017 and the present day – published by the Mail on Sunday – is that they do not contain a single original fact or opinion. They are a relentless repetition of  the shallowest Washington conventional wisdom about the intentions of the Trump administration.

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Posted by on August 6, 2019 in Europe, North America


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The people of the Middle East should be reassured by one thing – their autocrats are no longer a global anomaly

President Hassan Rouhani of Iran got it right on Tuesday. He said that the White House is “afflicted by mental retardation and doesn’t know what to do”.

Donald Trump’s new sanctions may not be as “outrageous and idiotic” as Rouhani claims, but we’ve now reached a stage where the American president’s mental incapacity is plain for all to see. It is a sign of the times – our times, I’m afraid – that all the rantings and ravings of Iran’s leaders over the past 40 years at last sound clear cut, true, absolutely on the cue. Trump is crackers, barmy, off the wall, categorically lunatic.

Rouhani is a sane man, but in the past we could listen to folk like President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was crackers, and take a chuckle at Iran’s expense. Talk of the “Great Satan” could even get a bit boring after a while. But Trump, while possessing some of the characteristics of Colonel Gaddafi, now sounds like Ahmadinejad. The only thing he has left to say – as Ahmadinejad claimed – is that a holy cloud hung over his head when he addressed the United Nations.

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Posted by on July 18, 2019 in Middle East


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