December 17, 2001

Where's the Opposition?
Iain Duncan Smith's critical support is running a bit thin

"Israel has a right to defend herself," was the amazing insight coming from the leader of the opposition party at a speech to the Conservative Friends of Israel. What an utter genius this man is, a sovereign state should be allowed to defend herself. What next, the earth should be allowed to spin on its axis? For an intelligent man, capable of thinking the unthinkable and with a proven record in defence, this is all very much under par. We would expect Blair to talk nonsense, the man does not understand how to open a carton of milk; but Duncan Smith? The very inanity of politics in war is a pain to watch.

Where is the vigorous debate that it is the duty of the opposition to provide? This is important for domestic reasons as well, as no one knows what type of leader of the opposition Iain Duncan Smith will tend to be. Will he oppose vigorously on all fronts or selectively pick his fights? Although selectively picking his fights may sound more intelligent, there is no guarantee that he will pick the right fights, and more to the point democratic scrutiny is bound to suffer under that sort of regime.

What makes this story worse is that the Conservatives seem to have been upstaged by the Liberal Democrats. When the first defection of a Labour MP for almost twenty years happened, where did he go? Certainly not to the main opposition party. In fact the defector, Paul Marsden, ended up with the Liberal Democrats, a party with almost no chance of getting the man reelected for more than a term. The main reason for his defection was his disagreement with the government's conduct of the war.

So what did the Liberal Democrats say that was so radically different from the Conservatives? Not much, really. They have supported the war, but have claimed that there is no "blank cheque" for the government. They have also opposed highly symbolic elements of the war, such as the use of cluster bombs. Not exactly radical opposition, but different enough. This contrasts with the Conservative approach, which on the war at least seems to be dictated by American think tanks rather than British needs or even party feeling.

With the fall of Afghanistan, there is an opportunity to change tack. The widening of the war is clearly not in Britain's interests, and the leader of the party of the national interest should articulate that. It is also easy to change horse, as the war on Afghanistan is going to be seen as very different in the public's eyes when compared to a war on Somalia or Iraq. It will not be a second stage, but a second war, and the public will become increasingly wary.

The alternative is to be more royalist than the king, with a dash of independent thought being fed by Washington think tanks. I am not hopeful.

I am cutting down on my column writing to concentrate on other projects, particularly on this infernal Euro referendum. Over the next couple of months, I will be doing my columns on a fortnightly basis, and after that they will be done only occasionally.

If you wish to keep up with my writing as it appears you can subscribe to my e-mail list, or to my eclectic daily e-mails on British foreign affairs. There are other projects, my web log will still be updated with events and thoughts as they happen and the discussion forum will not -- indeed cannot -- stop offering fierce debate on British foreign policy.

And of course there's, which I am sure will go from strength to strength. This is not my last column so you will not have my last good-bye and profuse thanks, you'll have to wait for that. In the meantime I would like to say that the support of the webmaster Eric Garris and the unique Justin Raimondo has been invaluable. There is more than one side to foreign affairs, although you often wouldn't know it if it wasn't for

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Emmanuel Goldstein is the pseudonym of a political drifter on the fringes of English classical liberal and Euro-sceptic activity. He is a former member of the Labour Party, who knows Blair and some of his closest buddies better than they realise, yet. He has a challenging job in the real world, working for a profit-making private company and not sponging off the taxpayer in politics, journalism or the civil service. "Airstrip One," appears Mondays at

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