Why Now Was The Wrong Time For Cameron To Reshuffle

Larry the Downing Street Cat
Larry the Downing Street Cat
Larry the Cat stalks the Cabinet table

There are already hundreds of news articles, op-eds, and blogs discussing the rights and wrongs – and, indeed, the rights and lefts – of David Cameron’s reshuffle. They’ll tell you what the reshuffle signifies for the coalition, the country, and the cod fisheries if you look hard enough.

I have my own views on promoting an MP who lied to Parliament and giving a job to another who effectively stole money from the public purse, but that’s not what I want to write about today.
Instead, I want to tell you why I think Cameron completely mistimed the reshuffle.
That might seem irrelevant but his lack of political skill in handling his biggest job reflects on his leadership skills, his party management, and his tactical nous. We already know that the PM is no strategist. But he is, usually at least, intuitive. He has a knack of saying the right things and doing the right things at the right time. And when he does that well, he looks like he’s very competent.
Tony Blair was, and is, brilliantly intuitive but also extremely intelligent, both intellectually and emotionally. Brown less intuitive but with a brain the size of a small moon. So when their intuition failed they had intellect to back up their prime ministering.
Cameron’s problem – one of them anyway – is a lack of that same intellect. He is, in fact, pretty stupid. So when his intuition fails, he looks like a bit of a tit, to be frank. He tends to look a bit of a tit far more often than he looks on top of a situation. The timing of this reshuffle is just one example of his tittishness.
If he’d carried out his reshuffle at the end of the last parliamentary session, his new ministers would have had the

Jeremy Hunt
This is what a smug sod looks like

summer to find their feet in their new briefs, returning to Parliament this week with some grasp of their departments and ready to make the most of their time. As well as them, those people who’d lost their jobs would have had time away from the Westminster pressure-cooker, out of the way of the media, to lick their wounds, spin their backward moves as decisions to focus on constituencies or families or election campaigns, and they would have returned this week ready to focus on the parliamentary battles that lie ahead.

Instead the people who’ve been promoted have spent their summers managing expectations by telling anyone who’d listen that they didn’t want to be in the cabinet and those who had jobs already were telling everyone how much they loved being Culture Secretary or whatever their job happened to be. And now they’re all here in Westminster, either changing their stories to include their life-long interest in whatever their new brief is or, even worse, spending their sudden free time hanging around tea rooms plotting, trouble-making, and leaking to the press. The devil makes work for idle hands, and there are a few idle hands now.
Another problem for a reshuffle at the beginning of September is that the Tories’ annual conference is a few weeks away and lots of organisations will have arranged for ministers to come and address meetings on their portfolio areas. Those organisations are unlikely to want the former minister for sewage systems addressing their fringe meeting. They’ll want the current one.  It doesn’t sound like a big problem, but it’ll make for further battering of egos and, if the new ministers agree to carry out their predecessor’s engagements, they’re not going to be masters of their topics by then and are going to look less impressive than they could be on a panel. Not a good position to be put in.
All of this could have been avoided if Dave had simply thought a bit more about the timing of his long-awaited reshuffle. A little thought would have made for a stronger-looking change, better long-term party management, and less opportunity for enemies within the party (and he’s just gotten a few more) to congregate. At the very least, he could’ve done it on Friday and given himself and his backbenchers the weekend.
If he can’t get this right, you have to wonder how he’ll get running the country right…
Oh, and just in case you missed it elsewhere, there’s a list of the Cabinet members after Dave shuffled his pack here.
Let me know what you think in the comments section.

Clegg, Cameron, And Europe: The Big Kerfuffle

What a kerfuffle, eh? The press do love a bit of a fight.

Most journalism is about disagreement, difference and dissent. It creates drama and drives a story. In general, in British politics, this means  the arguments between Labour and the Tories. Over the last decade or so, fleet street have enjoyed milking the Blair/Brown divide within the Labour party, which was always good for a headline or two.

However, nowadays at least, Labour has a problem making a case on issues like the NHS, the

Schengen Agreement

economy, and defence, no matter how right we might be. That’s because the media doesn’t want to write about Ed Balls’ disagreements with George Osborne, or Andy Burnham’s differences with Andrew Lansley.

That’s not where the money is. The money is in the slightest sign of a split within the coalition.

So it’s been a bit of a boon for the media in the last few days.

As I write, Cameron is making to the House of Commons on the European summit and what it means to Britain. Nick Clegg is nowhere to be seen and any number of jokes about ‘alarm clock Britain’ will be being penned up in the press gallery above the Speaker’s chair.

The reason that will be given for his absence will probably be some prior engagement that couldn’t be cancelled. But the truth is far more likely to be that if he turned up, he’d be jeered by the Tories behind him on the government benches.

This is all because of his strangely evolving reaction to Cameron’s announcement of the use of Britain’s veto at the EU summit.

As an aside, Cameron and the Tory party using the word veto is a bit of a misnomer. I’m not sure it means what the Prime Minister seems to think it does.

The dictionary defines veto as:

the power or right vested in one branch of a government to cancel or postpone the decisions, enactments, etc., of another branch, especially the right of a president, governor,or other chief executive to reject bills passed by the legislature.

I really do struggle to see what exactly has been cancelled or postponed other than Britain’s chance to influence the future of the European Union for the next few years.

And I’m pretty sure that Nick Clegg agreed with me. At least he did at some point over the weekend. On Friday morning, he was telling the press (sniffing for splits as usual) that Cameron’s manoeuvre was probably in the best interest of the nation. By Friday evening, he was frustrated with Cameron’s manoeuvre. On Saturday, he was telling Toby Helm that he was ‘furious’ with Cameron’s manoeuvre. On Sunday, he was unleashing this tirade on the morning politics shows about Cameron’s manoeuvre. By Monday afternoon, he’s gone into hiding otherwise engaged.

It’s all a bit unwise from Clegg, really. Creating splits in the coalition, which in theory could lead to a general election, when you’re in single digits in the national polls is not a clever thing to do! His invisibility today combined with Danny Alexander and David Laws both backtracking on national television to try to paper over any splits that may have appeared, like the tenants of a slowly subsiding terraced house.

The LibDem leadership obviously feel they’ve made an error in creating the sign of disagreement. But I think their mistake is not to have disagreed in the first place. Clegg has committed that most grievous of politicians’ sins. He’s flip-flopped. First supporting, then disagreeing and now rowing back faster than an Oxford coxed eight. Clegg is left losing his rag over a decision that has broad popular support with the public, rightly or wrongly.

The Tory European actions are all very short-termist in their thinking, or at least I think they are. Losing influence across an entire continent to keep influence with 305 parliamentary colleagues, strikes me as pissing off the teachers so the kids in class will like you.

You have to wonder just when David Cameron decided to use his ‘veto’ given that he’d already planned in advance to be dining with Euro-sceptic backbenchers that same evening, despite talks still going on in France.

You could also say the same about Clegg’s anger as well, of course. Did he betray his true feelings on Friday morning and then try to keep the UK’s hand in the game with the EU by letting them know some in Government are pro-Europe? Was Nick attempting diplomatic relations there? Or was he just being stupidly naïve?

Update: Clegg’s office have apparently not gone with the prior engagement argument. They’re just saying he’s not attending the PM’s statement because “he doesn’t want to be a distraction”. If we can’t see him in the chamber, we’ll apparently forget all about any disagreement, difference and dissent.

Cameron’s Euro-Headache

Sometimes in life, it’s nice to know that some things just don’t change. I know, for instance, that

DAVOS/SWITZERLAND, 29JAN10 - David Cameron, Le...

there’s always a bed for me at my mum’s house. I know that if I pick up the phone to a few old friends, they’ll drop what they’re doing and lend a hand just as I would for them. I know that I’ll always be moved walking into St James’ Park to see my football team play. And I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that the Tories will fall apart over Europe.

It’s been a while. Cameron has done well with his husky-hugging and hoody-riding. His tilting at windmills on his Notting Hill rooftop. His cycling to work while the chauffeur brought his suit and briefcase in the car. Not a hint of Europe in any of that. But that was opposition. Opposition’s easy.

Now, Cameron has been in government for over a year. His dragging of the Tory party to the political centre-ground is beginning to annoy the right-wing of his party. And now that one of their standard-bearers in the cabinet has fallen on a Werritty-shaped sword, the natives of the backbenches are getting restless.

So now, despite the massive issues and problems that Parliament should be looking at – the stagnant economy, the rising unemployment, the cost-of-living shooting up – what it’s actually going to be debating is a ridiculous bill on Britain’s membership of the European Union. John Major must feel for David Cameron. A bit. I imagine there are nights when brave sir John wakes up in a cold sweat the word ‘Maastricht’ ringing in his ears.

Cameron is learning just what it is to deal with a eurosceptic backbench muttering ‘rebellion’ in the corridors of Westminster. Number 10’s threat that it would sack any junior members of government who failed to follow the Party’s 3-line whip seems to have had little effect with around one hundred Tories now ready to rebel and some PPS’s and junior ministers threatening to resign. They seem to have had enough of toeing Cameron’s line and are giving him a shot across the bows (I had to get a naval metaphor in on Trafalgar Day!).

One worrying thing for Team Cameron – at least it should be worrying them – is just how early into a five-year Parliament this is happening and just how many of the rebels are from the 2010 intake. Historically rebellions tend to be led by the old guard while the new members maintain fierce loyalty to their leaders as they seek to climb the ladder.

Of course, part of the problem is of Cameron’s own making. This all started with a motion tabled in the Backbench Business Committee, which is there to give backbenchers a bigger voice. The sensible thing to do would be to have allowed the motion to be debated on a Thursday afternoon or even a Friday and then pack it with amendments and kick the resulting decisions into the long grass.

Number 10, in all it’s wisdom, decided to bring the vote forward to Monday. The idea I think being that this would give less time for the Eurosceptics to organise their vote and lobby more members. The problem with that is that those same sceptics were lobbying colleagues before the motion was even tabled. Quiet backroom discussions have gone on a while fortifying the oncoming rebellion.

And now the Tory whips are out twisting arms like limp-wristed four-year-olds for all the good it’s doing. Even the Prime Minister is to be found spending time in his Commons office, a place he rarely darkens with his presence in a normal week.

Constituency for the European Parliament elect...

The fact this motion is being put before Parliament at all shows just how little regard most Tory MPs have for the people of Britain. This is all about internal Party politics and ideology and almost nothing to do with the good of the nation.

Britain’s withdrawal from Europe would be highly likely to cause huge problems in – and a potential collapse of – the Eurozone. While that might sound good to the right-wingers driving this through Parliament, failure in Europe would mean failure of the member states with which we do a huge amount of trade. And that would soon send economic waves across the English Channel and North Sea and find them lapping on the shores of the UK economy.

Economic waves on the shores of the UK economy are the last thing the country needs as we stagnate under Osborne’s management. People who have a reasonable wage coming in are worried about being able to afford their weekly shop, worried about putting their heating on, worried about paying their mortgages. A government which dives headlong into an argument about Europe at a time like this, is a government that will alienate the electorate who want to see growth, housing, and healthcare as the focus of Cameron and his colleagues.

Not that the motion will pass, but the very raising of it will become a problem for Cameron. The party, already suffering from scandals of Fox, Letwin, Coulson, will now have a split over Europe lurking just under the surface of everything they do.

The Lib Dems will not join a rebellion and it looks likely that Labour will also vote with Cameron to defeat this motion. The Lib Dem vote will give the Tory right motive to increase the ferocity of their attacks on Clegg’s party.  The Labour vote will kill any referendum off but it will drive the anti-European Tory voters further into the arms of UKIP, aiding Labour and making Cameron’s life that bit more difficult.

Whether the motion passes or fails, Cameron will have headaches from this. And those are the sort of complications he could live without.

Behind Closed Doors

Let me tell you a little story. It won’t take up too much of your time. In my home neighbourhood, there were a family who lived nearby whose children were the same ages as me and my brother. We – the children – played together, went to the same school, and grew up together.

The husband of this family was an engineer. The wife was a nurse. They’d met at school and married young.  Whenever they went out together he would pour compliments on her. They always held hands. They were very tactile. They were inseparable. She managed to juggle a career, motherhood, and taking care of the house. Ideal stuff. He was always telling people how great she was.

As a child, I was dimly aware of this. Snippets of conversation between neighbours and my parents. The difference between the public affection of the engineer and the nurse and the way my parents just got on with things and took for granted an implied affection without ever vocalizing it in public.

Years later, on a break from being a lazy undergraduate, I heard the nurse had left the engineer. She’d left him because, behind closed doors, the affection vanished and the punishment began. Abuse. Insults. Physical, mental and emotional maltreatment.

To the outside world, he was a loving, caring, husband complimenting and promoting his wife as the very model of modern womanhood. But out of the public eye, she struggled to cope as he thought it his right to unleash pain and suffering upon her.

And it was this distant memory that flashed into my brain this morning as I read about David Cameron’s latest scheme to promote Britain as Great. In a speech to investors in New York ahead of the UN council, Cameron launched the GREAT Britain campaign to promote tourism and investment. He said he was sending out a message ‘loud and proud’ inviting the world to the ‘greatest show on earth’ here in 2012, as the London Olympics coincide with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

I understand the need for tourism and investment promotion, of course I do. Though I’ve very little doubt that 2012 will be a record year for British tourism without spending £100 million on it. 

Also, Britain was great to start with. And I’m not all that sure the little ‘Britain is the best place to…’ straplines will make foreign citizens do anything other than go ‘who says?’

Either way,  I just can’t shake the image of the engineer sending out a message ‘loud and proud’ about his wife, the nurse, whilst all the while causing her to suffer by his actions.

The £100 million spent on this campaign could surely be spent better elsewhere in the UK, keeping youth projects open, repairing the schools who lost their Building Schools for Future money, and even shelters for women who’ve suffered abuse…


A judgement call: Holiday Reblog

Well, Dear Reader, my holiday is nearing it’s end. I hope when I come back I’ll have something exciting to write about from my travels. As it’s Friday I decided to indulge with a post I wrote in the dying days of the last general election which I stand by. The electorate ballsed up big time, and I want to remind everyone of that. Happy weekend and see you all very soon.

A judgement call   A judgement call is coming. The voters of the UK choose who they want governing them some time in the next few months. For some that will mean tribal loyalty, for some which person they want representing their constituency and not which party they want in power, for still others a close consideration of the policies of the different parties.  But every election is slightly more presidential than the previous one, and for lots the choice wi … Read More

via Rob Carr – A Novocastrian Abroad

The Week The Press Went Boom

I’m sure you’ve all been made aware of the Murdochs hitting the big red button marked destruct on the News of the World. There’s been a lot written about it. And a lot said about it. And even more tweeted about it. So here I bring you the whole thing summed up in a quick video created by Joel Veitch. But be warned. I may well add to the many column inches of writing on the subject in the next few days. Enjoy.


The Three Priorities

Image via Wikipedia

Do you remember a few years ago when David Cameron, trying to claim to be the heir to Blair, decided to ape TB’s famous ‘priorities’ line? Tony had said that his three priorities would be

education, education, education.

He said it to rapturous applause and went on to create the biggest school-building programme ever as well as recruiting more teachers, classroom assistants, and support staff to make those buildings work. It was a pretty good move, all in all.

Cameron’s follow up in 2006, which he obviously thought very clever, was to claim that his three priorities would be

N… H… S…

He said it to rapturous applause and went on to create a bloody mess. Cutting nurses, support staff, and building programmes. Indeed, closing entire hospitals in some parts of the country. It was a pretty terrible move, all in all.

Well now, after pausing to listen, Cameron is back trying to sell his reforms to the National Health Service. Today, he went to visit a hospital along with his man-servant human shield deputy, Nick Clegg. After getting onto a ward in the hospital to show how caring and thoughtful they both were, a doctor found them and the following press pack and went off it. Luckily for us, there’s video evidence. Watch Cameron’s face and decide just how much of an heir to Blair he is (hint: not a lot).


Tuitio Fidei et Obsequium Pauperum

Dr Rowan Williams PC, DPhil, DD, FBA the 104th...
Image via Wikipedia

As an Anglican Christian and political activist, I felt compelled to comment on the attacks on Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury after his critique of the government.

I don’t think people should be shocked that Archbishop Rowan chose to speak out against a government he and many others believe is causing great harm to our nation. Certainly, Christians shouldn’t be surprised. Anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of the Bible (and that should include all Christians!) should be aware that throughout both the old and new testaments, God sends his prophets to speak not just to believers, but to governments.

Isaiah goes to speak to the nations. And he speaks to those nations not just about faith, but about poverty, economy, and immigration (sound like familiar issues?) Daniel is a senior government minister, Nehemiah is a civil servant, Mordecai is a lobbyist (literally), Esther is at the heart of government, Jesus Christ disputed the right of the Roman Emperor to rule over him, and his disciples travelled the known world of the day, telling city councils about the gospel. In short, the Bible is full of politics and Christians should be comfortable being politically active. There is a long history of Christians speaking out. Christians and non-Christians talk with great respect and reverence about Wilberforce, Luther King, and Tutu. So nobody should be surprised to hear from Archbishop Rowan.

If the Chairman of the Confederation of Business and Industry, with a membership of around 240,000, – or the General Secretary of Unite with 1.5 million members – spoke out to criticise the government of the day nobody would be shocked. But when a man who is the head of a body with 80 million members does the same thing, he is decried by the right-wing media and Downing Street.

Proverbs 31:8 says that Christians should

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly;
defend the rights of the poor and needy.

And that is exactly what Archbishop Rowan was doing. It’s also important to note that he wasn’t doing this as an individual. He didn’t just decide this on his own over a bowl of corn flakes. He spoke as the head of the Anglican Communion after listening to his Bishops, deacons and parish priests from up and down the country telling him what was happening in their communities. UK churches of all denominations have unrivalled community links with schools, daycare, immigrant groups, and the heavily indebted.

 This is why rebuttal of the Archbishop’s critique of the coalition strikes me as somewhat hypocritical.  On the one hand, David Cameron rushes to promote the idea of the ‘Big Society’, where voluntary groups are expected to sustain services being cut by the coalition government – voluntary groups of which church organisations form a significant number.  On the other hand, he dismisses the opinions of the leader of one of the biggest church organisations. If Christian groups are to be expected to help fill the gap left by state withdrawal, then Archbishop Rowan clearly has a right and a responsibility to question Government initiatives. If the Prime Minister set up a voluntary community health centre, would he expect a doctor to volunteer her time freely but not allow  her to voice an opinion on how that health centre were being run?

 The Prime Minister and his party cannot promote the idea of a cohesive, communal ‘Big Society’,  and simultaneously dismiss the views of the leader of a group which helps maintain that society as ‘plain wrong’, ‘unacceptable’ and, according to Roger Gale, ‘offensive’.  The Prime Minister cannot have his cake and eat it too.

Oh Dear, What Can The Matter Be?

DAVOS/SWITZERLAND, 29JAN10 - David Cameron, Le...
Image via Wikipedia

David Cameron tries so hard. He tries hard to be a modern, liberal politician. But now and then, his mask slips. He’s a decent confident performer at the despatch box. A lot of training from his Eton days no doubt helps. But when he gets wound up, that soft cuddly mask slips and reveals the true face of David. And today was one of those days where he got wound up.

It was the first PMQs since the Easter recess. These occasions are usually boisterous and generally more so after a break. These things are to be expected. Labour MPs know that when Nick Clegg gets stressed he changes colour even to the roots of his hair (it goes a ginger shade when he’s under pressure), and they know that Cameron turns puce with rage when he is feeling the strain. So they try to corner him with awkward questions and facts.

That wasn’t what did it today though. Ed Miliband went with fairly predictable questions about the poor economic performance as disclosed in the GDP numbers this morning. In quarter four, you may remember, the economy shrank by 0.5%. Due, according to George Osborne at least, to heavy snowfall (this despite the growth 12 months before during even heavier snow). In the first quarter of this year, it’s been announced that the economy grew by 0.5%.

The Tories have called this ‘growth’ while Miliband pointed out that this just left us in exactly the same place as we were 6 months ago, except now our incomes are worth less in real terms than they were. So the economy is flat.

Cameron’s reply to this was that Miliband should apologise for previously declaring there would be a double-dip recession, which is something Ed M never said. Ed was happy to point out that after a year in office, the PM couldn’t blame Greece, Ireland, the Bank of England, the last Government, or even snow. The blame for current economic performance lies squarely with Cameron and Osborne.

That irritated the PM, but it wasn’t where it went majorly wrong for him. It began to go wrong for him when Miliband turned the NHS reform with his next set of questions. Cameron was forced to offer up a defence for the frankly pathetic performance of Andrew Lansley as Health Secretary. And this was where he began to turn an ever brighter shade of red.

After saying former Labour MP Howard Stoate had been beaten at the last election by the Tories, Shadow Treasury team member, Angela Eagle attempted to correct him by telling him that Stoate had stood down and not fought the election.

The Prime Minister’s response? Well, Cameron decided to go with what I’m sure will become a classic he’ll regret. He said

Calm down, dear!

Not the best of retorts really. He might have gotten away with “calm down” on its own. But putting the dear on the end just ensured he came across as patronising and sexist. It’s very likely that he wasn’t being intentionally sexist at all, but politics isn’t always about what you say but what you’re perceived to have said. And he has been perceived as a sexist bully, not far removed from the Bullingdon Club of his youth.

Not only did it rekindle images of Flashman, but it left him looking like someone who couldn’t make a half-decent argument to defend his position. As you can see below, it also left Nick Clegg looking decidedly uncomfortable and unhappy.

Don’t be surprised to see Labour asking questions on the NHS in coming weeks and months.

No-Fly Doesn’t Fly

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Image by claude.attard.bezzina via Flickr

There’s a very strong moral argument for sending the military into Libya. In fact, it’s fairly common knowledge that the Special Air Service and Special Boat Service are already operating within the country. Ostensibly, they’re there to rescue any remaining UK citizens, but they’re probably also engaged in reconnaissance work for any future military activity in Libya and  setting up stores of weaponry and equipment.

Libya is now a few weeks into what is essentially a civil war. Libyan men, women and children are suffering and the Gaddafi regime is killing those who oppose it. Former Labour special adviser Paul Richards makes a convincing case here for David Cameron to act now by mounting a no-fly zone over key parts of Libya.

A no-fly zone is a very simple and visible gesture of support from the west to the people of Libya. It would mean Cameron would be seen  doing something positive after the weeks of indecision and errors as the middle-eastern crises unfolded. But how effective would it be, and is it really the right thing to do?

Making the moral case is very simple. People are being hurt and killed and we should try to stop that. But the strategic argument for operations to deny flight are less clear. The ruling regime’s airpower has not been decisive in the battles taking place. The  Libyan airforce has flown very few sorties. That could be because the rebels have deployed a lot of anti-aircraft gunnery and it’s keeping the airforce grounded or it could be a sign that there is a shortage of aviation fuel in the country.

Whatever the reason for the lack of flights, that sparsity has meant that a majority of the raids have been confined to bombing their own ammunitions dumps to prevent them falling into rebel hands, and to tactical bombing in support of the offensive along the main road from Tripoli to Benghazi.

A no-fly zone will undoubtedly cause some degradation of Gaddafi’s airpower and therefore curtail a certain amount of civilian suffering on the ground as well as  indirectly aiding the rebels. On the other hand, the west needs to remember the maxim that it’s easy to go in to a conflict, difficult to get out. In 1993, NATO instigated a no-fly zone over Bosnian airspace and then very quickly found themselves getting mired in a war they didn’t want.

It’s true that NATO (not, you should note, the UK on it’s own) could find enough fast jets to enforce a no-fly zone as they did in Bosnia. But Bosnia is the size of Wales and Libya is 35 times larger than that.  The mediterranean bases which would be the nearest NATO could use are much further away from Libya than they were from the Balkans.

That would necessitate a much higher demand for ‘enabling’ aircraft. That would include intelligence-gathering planes, search and rescue, and air-to-air refuelling craft. All the aircraft that you will remember Cameron’s government cutting not too long ago. However, it’s quite clear that even multiple countries like a NATO alliance would find it very difficult indeed to provide adequate enabling craft without taking them from other theatres of operation such as Afghanistan.

From a diplomatic point of view, if the UN pass a no-fly zone resolution and NATO enforce it, Gaddafi is likely to contest any such no-fly zone by using the narrative that the west is attacking Libya and that strengthens him politically. The only way to really make this intervention work is to gain active participation from the airforces of Islamic and Arabic nations and William Hague must work to this end.

A difficulty there is that, inevitably, the debate over use of our military is framed, to some extent, by the ‘liberal intervention’ into Iraq by Tony Blair and may well make people more reluctant than they might have been in the past, particularly in the arab and muslim world of which Libya is a major player. At the same time, is fighting the last war the best way to deal with the Libyan crisis? History shows we intervened too late in Bosnia and could have made a huge difference if we had intervened in Rwanda at all.

Another consideration for any intervening nations is to just what degree should international action be impartial? Gaddafi’s regime should clearly be removed but the UN would want to remain as impartial as possible. If such a war were to continue for any length of time in Libya, then the fluidity of the situation would inevitably bring humanitarian crises in Gaddafi controlled areas as well as other parts of the country. There’s also an increasing likelihood of war crimes on either side of the conflict as time passes.

In an organisation like NATO or even the UN, impartiality would not be easy to maintain in a civil war. Individual member states, such as the United States, have a habit of arming and training one side or another as they did in the three-way civil war in former-Yugoslavia,  where the UN was apparently impartial.

All of these considerations should be weighed up before engaging in more liberal intervention despite the deaths and suffering of the Libyan people. Personally, having thought these things over, I’m convinced we need to help the Libyans but I’m not convinced yet another no-fly zone is the best way to do it.