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Westminster Hour

July 28, 2014

Mark appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour last night with Meg Hillier MP. You can listen on iPlayer but below is a summary of his thoughts. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04bmvxn 

  1. Gaza

I am not sure there has been any clear break in the UK political consensus on this subject. New Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, is right to uphold Israel’s right to self-defence in light of Hamas’ rocket launches and underground tunnels which are directed at Israel’s civilian population.

What is different now, however, is that Western public opinion has become accustomed to seeing Middle Eastern conflict in recent years (notably in Syria and Iraq) as having no ‘good guys’.

Israel is now very exposed in the region. The Mubarak and Assad regimes were never out-and-out supporters but their need to keep the US and the West on board protected Israeli interests. This is no longer the case and the US itself is more isolationist.

Frankly, few regard the reaction of the Israeli army – with a 1000 Palestinian civilian death toll in Gaza – as proportionate in the circumstances; the idea of using human shields is to guarantee non-combat but Israel has continued its raids regardless.

  1. Ukraine

Once again there is the impression that the West have been outmanoeuvred by Putin by failing to show a united front.

Ten days after the shooting down of MH17, bodies lie unrecovered and the crime scene is being contaminated.

The US is resolute in pushing for sanctions, but have far less to lose than France, Germany and the UK.

I have always recognised that the City of London provides huge credit to Russian companies, but the reliance of Germany (and many other European nations) on Russian oil and gas, and the French with its high profile, lucrative defence contracts have more to lose.

  1. Economy/polls

Why is this a voteless recovery? What has been remarkable over the past eighteen months or so is the sheer stability of opinion polls. What this also suggests is that there is little prospect of a significant ‘swing back’, because there has been little swing from Conservative to Labour since 2010.

There are two distinct movements. A quarter of the Liberal Democrat vote immediately switched to Labour when the coalition was formed and UKIP has eaten disproportionately into the Conservative vote but is also increasingly becoming a headache for Labour.

Implicit in our ‘long term economic plan’ slogan is the message that the benefits of infrastructure investment and exports boosts to China and India will not come this side of 2015.