A Few Words On The London Bridge And Borough Market Terror Attack

London Bridge terror attack - fake suicide vest

Finally, a step change in our response to Islamist terrorism. But this new authoritarianism is not the answer

This one struck a little close to home. For several years it was my habit to walk across London Bridge from the tube station to the north side, and then on to my office on Fenchurch Street.

Sometimes I would drink after work at the Barrowboy and Banker pub at the foot of the bridge, or go to choral evensong at neighbouring Southwark Cathedral – still regretfully closed some four days after the terrorist attack on London Bridge and Borough Market. My wife now works in the shadow of the Shard tower, and only today was her firm finally allowed to re-enter their office building.

It is quite surreal to see places which are so familiar splashed onto television screens in such a grisly context. One of the smartphone-recorded videos played most often on cable news – showing police ordering stunned bar patrons to the ground – was particularly jarring, as we had celebrated a friend’s birthday at that vaulted beer hall just a few months ago. It is no longer just the bus or the tube – places where we have been conditioned to be wary since the days of the IRA. Now we are to expect violent death anywhere, a car swerving onto the pavement with too little time to react, or being confronted by a knifeman while eating at a downtown restaurant.

But enough of that – it is tempting to make these terror attacks all about us, when really we should focus on those people whose lives were deliberately, callously snuffed out by the onrushing vehicle or the blade wielded by the Islamist fanatic. We rightly praise the heroism of our first responders, the rookie policeman who took on the terrorists alone armed with nothing but his truncheon, and the paramedics and civilians who rushed to help as soon as they were alerted to the carnage.

And yet after the proper acknowledgements and the less-welcome platitudes, the same questions beg to be answered.

Firstly, why did the Metropolitan Police and numerous politicians make such a big show of advertising that it took eight minutes from the first 999 call being received to armed police arriving at the scene to terminate the terrorists? No doubt this was supposed to reassure. But does it not also advertise to every other terror cell currently lurking undetected (or shockingly unmonitored) that in one of the most central and well-protected parts of the country they will have at least an eight-minute window to inflict as much bloodshed as they are able?

Eight minutes sounds remotely laudable because the terrorists were armed only with a vehicle, blades and some preposterously, evidently fake suicide vests. But what if the next terror cell has access to firearms? We rightly applaud the quick-thinking revellers who repelled the attack by throwing chairs and pint glasses, but these projectiles are much less effective against even a single low-calibre gun. What if the next marauding terror attack takes place not in well-protected London, but in a leafy Midlands market town or a provincial city without armed police on 24/7 patrol?

This attack could have been much, much worse. It could have been a Bataclan-level massacre, had the terrorists stormed a pub or restaurant with few exits or escape routes, armed with a semi-automatic weapon. Worse even, because so few British police are armed. Having elite units on constant standby is all well and good, but it is unreasonable to expect a standard unarmed police constable to be the frontline of our response to a mass casualty terror attack.

And no, the medium and long-term solution is not to deploy more armed forces on the streets – though this may be necessary, given the shocking decline in the number of armed police officers. Though the net drop since 2010 (approximately 700) is not that great as a raw number, the idea that the numbers were falling at all given events in mainland Europe is simply staggering. Operation Temperer (or tempura, as I first heard it – like we were going to deep fry the terrorists) may be a necessary stop gap, but we need to look again at whether it is practical to maintain a largely unarmed police force.

We should look too at whether it is reasonable to deny the people the opportunity to defend themselves with legally purchased firearms when the state proves itself time and again to be so unwilling and unable to protect them from lethal harm, either by facing up to the toxic Islamist ideology that fuels the present terror threat or by ensuring that the security services make best use of the vast amounts of data they already collect about all of us. Of course, this discussion will never happen. But it should.

If nothing else, we seem finally to have pivoted from “terror attacks have nothing to do with Islam!” to “something must be done”. And about time, too. Only days before the London Bridge attack, I wrote a piece (piggybacking on Brendan O’Neill) decrying the fact that all of the left-wing party leaders practically wet themselves in shock and outrage when UKIP’s Paul Nuttall dared to talk about the Islamist (not Islamic, Islamist) threat. If nothing else, perhaps we have finally pierced that particular veil of idiocy. The idiots remain, but the general public is no longer in thrall to their denialism.

And yet the undiscovered country of Taking Firm Action may be almost as bad as the state of denial and complacency which is finally being dispelled.

The danger was always that when the government finally roused itself to righteous anger in the face of Islamist terror, the response would be one of jackboot authoritarianism rather than incisive, strategic action. As Home Secretary under David Cameron, Theresa May was quick to take advantage of the various terror attacks in Paris to push for sweeping new powers for the security services, and now elevated (above her competence, it seems) to prime minister she is gunning for civil liberties and pesky human rights laws all over again. But this time, Theresa May is swinging an even bigger emotional cudgel thanks to the immediacy and proximity of the attacks in Manchester and London.

The security services are able to gather vast amounts of metadata on all of our communications with barely a whisper of public dissent, and can begin spying on an individual with no judicial approval required, just a ministerial signature – essentially, the executive overseeing itself. They could not have a more favourable political and operating environment. And yet despite having some of the most draconian surveillance laws in Western Europe, somehow three individuals were able to mount an attack – one known to security services but not considered an active threat, and another flagged as an extremist by the Italians but apparently ignored by British security services.

This is what happens when you expand the haystack too much, when you collect so much data and intelligence on everything that moves that it becomes impossible to sort through the information, make sense of it and hone in on the most serious threats. Yes, there is also an issue of resourcing – as with the armed police, the government has been complacent and refused to spend money where it should be spent – but much of the problem surely comes from trying to cast too wide a net at the expense of watching those already caught in it.

And yet Theresa May now wants to force internet companies to undermine the encryption of their own services so that the security services can gather even more data and make the intelligence haystack even more unwieldy and difficult to search for needles. And the prime minister as a thousand and one other draconian ideas up her sleeve, like the extension of detention without trial from 14 to 28 days – not because such a revised law would have prevented the Manchester and London attacks, but just because she doesn’t want to let this crisis go to waste without extending the power of the state even further.

The only grace is that the prime minister’s desire to control the internet will likely come a cropper as soon as she tries and fails to secure international cooperation. To a bizarre and frightening extent, our civil liberties may now partly depend on the stubbornness of Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron and (yes) Donald Trump in resisting Theresa May’s maniacal efforts to regulate the online world.

Concerning too is the fact that we are suddenly talking about the internment of suspected terrorists for whom there is too little evidence to seek prosecution. Even as the news of the London Bridge attacks was coming in, strident calls were made on Twitter for the police to “bring in” everybody currently on the terror watchlist and presumably detain them without trial in perpetuity. Perhaps at a new British Guantanamo Bay on the Isle of Man. Then the omnipresent Katie Hopkins went on Fox News to repeat the call for internment, while Nigel Farage followed, warning that “people” would soon start to call for this step if the government failed to get a grip. Well, they certainly will now that the idea has been so helpfully injected into the political discourse. Thanks, Nigel.

Astonishingly, there seems to be support for such a move from some sober conservative voices in America, which rather makes me question how strong their much-vaunted love for the Constitution can possibly be, when they encourage Britons to enact draconian laws which would rightly never pass muster in the United States.

I had a thoughtful exchange with the National Review’s Jim Geraghty on the related subject of whether merely expressing support for Islamist ideals should be criminalised – Geraghty initially expressed support but walked his stance back somewhat following my interjection, and we more or less came to a meeting of minds.

Sadly, the conversation elsewhere has not been nearly as civil, on either side. Of course anger is entirely appropriate when our fellow citizens are killed in cold blood by a religiously-inspired terrorist – young girls enjoy a pop concert in Manchester or Londoners of all backgrounds enjoying a Saturday night in town. But this anger has to be meaningfully directed, otherwise it will either achieve nothing or give known authoritarians like Theresa May the pretext they need to expand the state’s power.

But is this really who we are, as a people? Is this really who we want to be? A nation comprised of either self-abnegating terror apologists whose first reaction on hearing of an Islamist attack is to jump on social media to declare “nothing to do with Islam!” and patrol for “Islamophobic” comments, or jumpy authoritarians who want to do away with even the most basic civil rights in pursuit of the chimera of perfect safety?

We have certainly been called to action and shocked out of our complacency by the hideous events in Manchester and London, at long last. But at present there is precious little to suggest that we will start to move in the right direction now that we are finally awake.

 

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Fr. Jacques Hamel, Martyred By Islamist Thugs Acting In The Name Of ISIS

ISIS hostage - catholic church

The cold blooded murder of a Catholic priest, executed at the altar of his own church by young Islamist thugs, demands a greater response from us than the usual standard, sorrowful Twitter hashtag

Another day, another abhorrent, despicable and unacceptable Islamo-fascist terror attack in France, this time targeting a Catholic church in which an 86 year old priest had his throat slit – while celebrating Mass – by Islamist thugs acting in the name of ISIS.

What happens when the sheer number of small and medium size Islamo-fascist terror attacks (or the aura of politically correct unease at confronting them) becomes so great that the media simply stop reporting them fully?

Melanie McDonagh wonders in The Spectator:

In Michel Houellebecq’s novel, Submission, about a Muslim Brotherhood takeover of the French government (liberals and conservatives agreed this would be preferable to a National Front government), the interestingly prescient element was the non-reporting by television and papers of outbreaks of violence prior to the change of government (Twitter didn’t really feature in this novel). And that rings true. We’ve already got self-censorship when it comes to reporting attacks by Muslim refugees (the gun attack by a German-Iranian patently fell into a different category) in Germany and Scandinavia, and an almost comical reluctance anywhere in Europe to identify Islamist attacks as such – until IS takes credit for them, even the work of freelances. Plainly we have to guard against language that would demonise an entire community, but within that reasonable limit, we must require both politicians and public service broadcasters to talk plainly. And when Muslim extremists slit the throat of a priest in his own church, we’re looking at religiously motivated murder, entirely of a piece with the same religiously motivated murder of Christians and others being carried out in the Middle East. Shall we say so?

This is my concern too. While reading Houllebecq’s Soumission last year I was struck by the plausibility of the author’s scenario – a craven political/media class desperate to avoid facing up to the nature of the threat ultimately ceasing to report on the fundamentalist religious violence even as it grew. One scene features a wealthy society event attended by the academic elite of Paris, interrupted by the sounds of distant gunfire in Paris – an Islamist attack or far-right counter-attack which was barely acknowledged by the partygoers let alone mentioned on the later television news bulletins.

Already we have seen the first signs of “terror fatigue” in the mainstream media. When a suicide bomber detonated his explosives at the gates of a music festival in Ansbach, Germany late on Sunday night, Britain’s rolling TV news channels briefly mentioned that an incident was underway, but otherwise continued with their normal programming. By the early hours of Monday morning they had bothered to get a couple of eyewitnesses on air via telephone, but it was not until the breakfast news that they gave it the full terror attack treatment which we have come to expect from the news. Evidently these incidents are now coming so thick and fast that the BBC did not consider it worthwhile waking up their A-team presenters or reporters in the middle of the night for “just another” suicide attack on the streets of Europe.

This is the new normal. And as this blog argued yesterday, Europe’s political class and virtue-signalling members of the public must shoulder their share of the responsibility for our increased vulnerability to attack. Whether it is by cheering on the opening of Europe’s gates to millions of improperly-vetted migrants, a small number of whom have deadly intent, or furiously refusing to confront the fundamentalist religious nature behind that evil intent, we have denied ourselves the ideological, spiritual, procedural and technological means to properly defend ourselves and our civilisation.

Father Jacques Hamel died doing what he had done for 58 years of faithful service – proclaiming the Word of the Lord and celebrating the Eucharist. Though his death was unimaginably barbaric and violent, at least the name of Fr. Jacques will live on as somebody who proclaimed his truth and defended his values to his last day. Can the same be said for many of us, especially those of us who seek to reach some kind of appalling and unachievable truce with the Islamo-fascists? How will those of us be remembered in history who seek to excuse Islamist terror, laughably excusing it or explaining it away on the grounds of foreign policy or housing policy or welfare cuts?

On this one grim occasion we can at least be grateful for France’s historically strong secular traditions. The cold-blooded murder of a priest celebrating Mass in a more devout country could well have lit the touchpaper for religious war and serious civil strife. France, being more secular, will likely not see as great an anti-Islamic backlash as if this had happened in more Catholic country like Poland.

But there the good news ends. If they were not already high on the list of potential targets, churches, synagogues and the priests and rabbis who lead worship in them will now be in the crosshairs of every budding wannabe jihadist already in Europe, as well as those who have yet to arrive. Every parishioner going to Mass will now have pause to stop and consider their safety as they fill the pews this Sunday, and every subsequent Sunday. It is physically impossible to protect every church in the country, particularly against assailants armed only with knives and fake explosives.

On the plus side, President Francois Hollande has finally been shamed by events (the weekly accumulation of terrorist atrocities and the growing death toll) into declaring that France is at war with the Islamic State and therefore, by extension, with the extremist fundamentalist ideology behind it. But it is too little, too late.

As Harry de Quetteville puts it in the Telegraph:

So we should remember this: the truly great leaders now, those who can genuinely bring security and are worth voting for, will not be those such as Marine Le Pen who seek to exploit division for power. But neither, crucially, will they come from the ranks of those who fail to address what voters see as blindingly obvious: that terror and immigration are connected. If Angela Merkel persists in doing so, even she will be brought low by it. If the Democrats continue not to talk about terror, it could cost Hillary Clinton the White House.

In Britain we have grown used to talking throughout the Brexit campaign about a disconnect between politicians and the public. “They just don’t get it,” said the ranks of the disaffected, as they deserted Labour for Ukip and voted Leave. Even now, our main parties are struggling to offer even an initial response to the economic impacts of globalisation.

But the consequences of a similar disconnection between public and politicians over terror would be unthinkable – menacing to the liberty and liberal values that define our societies.

The politicians to prize, then, are those who can pull their heads out of the sand without stirring up the mob.

Such prize politicians seem few and far between in France, Germany and Britain. In fact it is hard to remember a time when the quality of leadership was held in such low esteem by a political class who now prize the ability to pander to chosen voting constituencies above all else. With the partial exception of Jeremy Corbyn on the Left, Britain’s major political parties have zero interest in telling hard truths to the British people or proposing anything other than glib, painless (and ultimately unworkable) fixes.

One faction of the country in particular – the Guardianista metro left – is not even yet willing to describe these attacks as religiously motivated, ascribing them simply to “troubled individuals”. When half the country is unable (or stubbornly, desperately refuses) to identify the ideology which murdered an octogenarian priest at the altar of his own church, how do we ever confront it?

May God grant eternal rest to His faithful servant Fr. Jacques Hamel.

May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

And may we finally come up with a response to this sustained Islamist assault on democracy and freedom of speech and religion which amounts to more than a Twitter hashtag and a few bunches of flowers.

 

Fr Jacques Hamel - Catholic Priest

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Weekly Terror Attacks Are Europe’s New Normal – For This, You Can Blame Angela Merkel And The Virtue Signallers

Angela Merkel - Migrant Crisis

Terror is the new normal, and Europe’s progressive virtue-signallers must shoulder their share of the blame

Douglas Murray has no time for a craven German government which prioritised the burnishing of its humanitarian credentials over the safety of its own citizens:

The Thursday before last it was Nice.  But already the slaughter of 84 people in France is just so, like, a fortnight ago.  Last Monday an ‘Afghan’ ‘teenager’ called Mohammed Riyad screamed ‘Allahu Akbar’ (‘Allah is greatest’) on a Bavarian train and started chopping people up with an axe.  I put ‘Afghan’ and ‘teenager’ in quotation marks because Mohammed was probably from Pakistan and is no more likely to be a ‘teenager’ than the thousands of other Peter Pans who Chancellor Merkel welcomed into her country last year.  Still, she gets to feel good about herself.  Shame the same can’t be said for the family from Hong Kong who had the misfortune to be sharing a train carriage with Frau Merkel’s latest conscience-cleaning import. Their relatives are still trying to arrange for the less badly injured family members to return home.

On Tuesday last week it was a 37-year old man called Mohamed Boufarkouch who started shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ near Montpelier and stabbed a French woman and her three daughters (aged 8,12 and 14).  Then yesterday a ‘Syrian asylum seeker’ used a machete to kill a pregnant woman and injure two others in Reutlingen, near Stuttgart. Perhaps it was terrorism. Perhaps it was traditional domestic violence with larger weaponry than has lately been traditional in Germany.

Then yesterday evening another ‘Syrian asylum seeker’ killed himself and injured 12 others in a bomb attack in the German town of Ansbach. At the time of writing there hasn’t been an attack in France or Germany for several hours so I am sure life will be returning to normal.

This constant, low-level Age of Anxiety does indeed seem to be the new normal in Europe. And it is about time that some of the virtue-signalling, Holier And More Compassionate Than Thou brigade began taking their (overwhelmingly large) share of responsibility for facilitating the wave of violence and murder which is now befalling France, Germany and Belgium.

While quick and dirty, fast online radicalisations are becoming an increasingly common remote method for Islamists to strike in Western countries (see Orlando, where many people are furiously talking down the ideological motive even now), there is still nothing as effective as letting vast swathes of unvetted people into Europe to generate an immediate uptick in acts of violence, be it the New Year’s Eve sexual assaults (also in Germany, also denied until they could be denied no longer) or lone wolf terror attacks, or worse.

And that small percentage of refugees and migrants (for many are the latter, not the former) who do intend to do us harm have been greatly aided in their efforts by the German Chancellor and all those who stood with her, using the #RefugeesWelcome hashtag to signal their own virtue while accusing anybody who voiced the slightest reservation of harbouring selfish, xenophobic motivations.

But after what appears to be a suicide bomb attack in Ansbach, following on from a massacre by truck in Nice on Bastille Day, following on from attacks in Brussels and Paris and elsewhere, it is high time for the virtue signallers to accept some responsibility for the entirely self-inflicted lapses in national security for which they so lustily campaigned.

Of course genuine refugees should always be welcome in Europe. But those who encouraged and cheered for the open door now have more than a speck of blood on their hands, just as those who passionately inveighed against turning back migrant boats heading for Europe are somewhat responsible for the lost lives of the hundreds who have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea after being encouraged to make the treacherous crossing.

But more to blame than almost anyone else (save the despots, theocrats, thugs and murderers currently making life impossible in Syria) is Angela Merkel, and what Douglas Murray termed her “conscience-cleaning” attempt to atone for Germany’s past sins, supposedly wiping them out with one single bold statement of humanitarian generosity. For in so doing, Merkel made a decision on behalf of Germans which was not hers alone to make.

There was no way of foreseeing the present dire circumstances when Germans went to the polls at the last federal election in 2013 – transforming Germany into a haven for over a million recent arrivals was not in any party manifesto at that time. And though many Germans have shown incredible generosity of spirit in opening their homes and communities to these migrants and refugees, Merkel deserves to face a fierce political backlash for not having put such a major decision to the people before acting.

All too often, the response of our politicians (and their cheerleaders, particularly on the Left) has been to do the thing which feels good in the moment, or which addresses the immediate crisis, even if it goes on to create far greater problems further down the line. The impulse to let in all of the world’s tired, huddled masses – even those not in immediate physical danger – satisfies the urge to be seen to be doing something. But worse, it encourages a tendency in the political class to make ostentatious displays of generosity when it is largely other people writing the cheques. Angela Merkel, with her protection detail, is thankfully never going to be sexually assaulted on the streets of Cologne. Nor is a suicide bomber likely to penetrate her security bubble, or a machete-wielding attacker corner her on a train. Ordinary Germans cannot say the same.

Likewise, those who painted their child-like “refugees welcome” signs and vaunted themselves as saints on social media got to look kind and virtuous in front of their peers while often remaining insulated from the negative consequences. But those consequences are real. They are manifested in the expectation that European lives will now be lost to terrorist attacks on a weekly basis – probably not in a grandiose 9/11 style attack, but through the constant attrition of mini massacres in second-tier provincial cities.

This is now the new normal – a reality where before much longer on our present trajectory, every day will bring the anniversary of a deadly Islamist terror attack somewhere in Europe, where the news reports blend into one another and the cycle of atrocity followed by vigil followed by hashtag followed by complacency followed by atrocity becomes unremarkable.

Europe’s progressive virtue-signallers took the credit for being enlightened, wonderful humanitarians. Now let them shoulder their fair share of the blame for each life lost to the terrorism which their open door inevitably beckoned.

 

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RNC 2016: Republican National Convention – Night 1 Summary

RNC - Republican National Convention - Cleveland - Quicken Loans Arena Floor

As the Republican National Convention gets underway in Cleveland, it is hard to recall a time when American conservatism has been in so parlous a condition

Andrew Sullivan (in a most welcome return to political live-blogging) captured the ugly essence of Night 1 of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio:

Just mulling over the events tonight, there’s one obvious stand-out. I didn’t hear any specific policy proposals to tackle clearly stated public problems. It is almost as if governing, for the Republican right, is fundamentally about an attitude, rather than about experience or practicality or reasoning. The degeneracy of conservatism – its descent into literally mindless appeals to tribalism and fear and hatred – was on full display. You might also say the same about the religious right, the members of whom have eagerly embraced a racist, a nativist, a believer in war crimes, and a lover of the tyrants that conservatism once defined itself against. Their movement long lost any claim to a serious Christian conscience. But that they would so readily embrace such an unreconstructed pagan is indeed a revelation.

If you think of the conservative movement as beginning in 1964 and climaxing in the 1990s, then the era we are now in is suffering from a cancer of the mind and the soul. That the GOP has finally found a creature that can personify these urges to purge, a man for whom the word “shameless” could have been invented, a bully and a creep, a liar and cheat, a con man and wannabe tyrant, a dedicated loather of individual liberty, and an opponent of the pricelessly important conventions of liberal democracy is perhaps a fitting end.

Well, quite.

What struck me most from the first night of the Republican convention, as speaker after speaker stood and railed against President Obama, called for Hillary Clinton to be thrown in jail and led the delegates in endless chants of “USA! USA!”, was the fact that these people were all scared. Scared of the future, scared of their economic prospects, scared of Islamist terrorism, scared of national decline.

Rudy Giuliani, appearing a very shrunken figure since his glory days in the late 1990s and during 9/11, sounded like a fearful pensioner shouting at the television when he gave his barnstorming prime-time speech. Where had his America gone, he shouted, and who would keep them all safe in these dangerous times? The answer, of course, was always Donald Trump.

We know that some American conservatives have skipped the convention entirely in disgust – and who can blame them? But of those in the convention hall – or the Quicken Loans arena, to give its full title – the vast majority seem to be drinking the Kool-Aid, or have at least reluctantly reconciled themselves to the fact that Donald Trump is their presidential nominee.

Something has changed in the soul of the Republican Party. One can argue endlessly about the reasons why – this blog believes that the continued failure of Republican government to benefit the struggling middle classes, the failure of the Tea Party to make a positive difference despite its loud rhetoric together with the ill-fated adventurism of the neoconservatives, has done much to alienate working class Americans from a conservative political class who have little to offer them but shallow patriotism.

Of course, Donald Trump offers shallow patriotism too. But he is also a strongman. Where President Obama wrings his hands and attempts to explain the complexity of the world and the problems facing America – often to excess – Donald Trump offers clarity and bold, oversimplified solutions. ISIS can be defeated without putting American boots on the ground, just by America deciding to “lead” again. Semi-skilled manufacturing jobs can be repatriated to America simply by “standing up” to nefarious foreign countries like China and Mexico. And apparently, after having been ground down by two stalled wars and a financial crisis, American conservatism was sufficiently dejected and debased to pick up that message and run with it.

I came of age (and became aware of American politics) in the late 1990s, in the tail end of the Clinton presidency and into the George W. Bush era. And in that time, in books and speeches by prominent conservatives, American conservatism was clearly dedicated – in rhetoric, if not always in practice – to advancing freedom. Freedom for the individual in America, and (sometimes disastrously) freedom for people in other parts of the world.

But the Republican Party of 2016 barely talks about freedom at all. On the first night of the RNC in Cleveland, speakers and delegates gathered under a massive sign proclaiming “Make America Safe Again”. Freedom has apparently gone out the window completely – why else would Republicans nominate an authoritarian like Donald Trump, a man who expresses contempt for freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion and human rights? And in freedom’s place comes the soothing, reassuring, beguiling promise of safety.

The America I now see through the prism of the current Republican Party – thankfully quite a distorted prism – is one where the American Dream has died for millions of people, or is at best on life support. The Republican primary voters who overwhelmingly voted to make Donald Trump their presidential nominee, and who are now gathered in Cleveland for the quadrennial party convention, were motivated by not by a sense of opportunity but by fear. Fear for their physical safety from terrorism. Fear of economic instability. Fear of relative decline.

Tim Stanley agrees:

Note: preserve. Not build more, not expand, not create – but preserve. You might argue that Trump is conservatism in its purest sense, the sense of being about conserving the best of the past. You might also argue that this represents a break from Reaganism, which is optimistic and about growing the economy to the advantage of the individual.

I’ve been a US conservative convention goer for eight years and I can tell that a change has come over them. You used to hear a lot about defending the Constitution and shrinking the government. Not so much anymore.

The people who are interested in those things are here. On Monday afternoon, God bless them, they tried to kick Trump off the ticket with a rules challenge on the convention floor. They failed and stormed off. They never had the numbers necessary to do it and the Republican establishment has reconciled itself to Trump anyway – so no dice.

And that’s the most depressing thing of all – there is no longer a major political party in the United States remotely dedicated to expanding freedom for the individual and defending against the encroachment of the state.

Lord knows that the Democrats will not be championing liberty now that they are led by Hillary Clinton and nearly entirely captured by the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics. For small-c conservatives, libertarian and conservatarians, this election is very much a case of pick your poison.

Andrew Sullivan is quite right to highlight the lack of any serious policy discussion on Day 1 of the convention (and if you don’t get any on the traditionally less TV-worthy opening days then you won’t get any at all). Trumpian conservatism clearly is not interested in solutions. Like their strongman hero, the Republican Party of 2016 has decided that the difficult, intractable problems of Islamist terror, deindustrialisation, global competitiveness and social mobility can be solved simply by willing them away, by “standing up to America’s enemies” and being swept along by Trump’s strong leadership.

Maybe it will take defeat in the 2016 presidential election for the Republican Party to be shocked out of its current stupor and invigorated to find a way to appeal to Trump’s broad coalition of voters with a more optimistic, pro-liberty message.

The nightmare scenario, though, is a Trump victory, which would gild this fear-based, revanchist form of conservatism with the prestige that comes with winning (never mind posing a serious threat to the American republic) and has the potential to transform Donald Trump from an unfortunate blip on the political landscape to an early 21st century Ronald Reagan.

In short, it is hard to see any grounds for hope at all going into this Republican Party convention. But this blog will continue to watch and hope for the green shoots of a future conservative revival, something better to come once this Trumpian nightmare is over.

 

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Why MPs Must Vote To Renew Trident

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This is no time for woolly idealism or virtue-signalling. Britain’s independent nuclear deterrent must be renewed if Britain is to maintain its status as one of the world’s pre-eminent nations

Tulip Siddiq, the MP for the London – Hampstead & Kilburn constituency and my local MP, sent an email last week encouraging appealing for her constituents to send their views on the renewal of Trident, which Parliament is debating today.

And fair credit to Tulip Siddiq for doing so, rather than simply voting based on any prior ideological views she may have held on the subject. This was the email she sent:

As you will be aware, on Monday 18th July next week MPs will be voting on the renewal of Britain’s Trident nuclear missiles system.

I am deeply disappointed that the Government has rushed through this measure without the chance for proper debate. We are set to have just a day’s debate in Parliament over a spending commitment that will cost billions of pounds throughout its lifetime, and I would have hoped for the chance for much better scrutiny. We still do not have the wording of the motion which we are expected to vote upon.

Nevertheless, I am duty-bound to vote on this issue, and in just a matter of days I will have a momentous decision to make as your local representative. As with the vote on Syria last year I am keen to hear the views of all local residents – on both sides of the debate – ahead of this important vote.

As residents who have written to me about this in the past will know, I have consistently queried the cost-effectiveness of the Government’s plans and raised testing questions with Ministers about the options for renewal.

Given the pressure on our public services and the bleak economic outlook ahead, I think it is vital that Labour redoubles its efforts to scrutinise every penny of public spending and balance our security needs with our country’s other priorities.

I think that you – local taxpayers in this constituency – are best-placed to advise me on how you feel this money should be spent. Just as I did with Syria late last year, I will take the time to look through every comment I receive on this issue ahead of the vote, and you can expect me to respond comprehensively setting out my position in due course.

And here is my response to Siddiq:

Dear Tulip,

Parliament must vote to authorise the renewal of our nuclear deterrent as a matter of the utmost importance. Contrary to the claims of those who favour unilateral disarmament that Trident is an expensive white elephant which we never use, in fact we use our nuclear deterrent every single day, at great benefit to our nation.

Trident benefits Britain in the following ways:

1. Planting the sure knowledge in the mind of rulers of hostile regimes that a nuclear or otherwise catastrophic attack on Britain will be met with a full nuclear response – a deterrent which served us through the Cold War and which nobody should vote to scrap at a time when we can barely guess what threats we will face in 5-10 years time, let alone the medium to long terms

2. Our nuclear deterrent gives Britain a seat at the geopolitical “top tables” and underpins our seat on the P5 of the UN Security Council. The priority of every government (and every MP) must surely be to ensure that Britain’s voice and influence is projected as powerfully and clearly as possible in the world. Scrapping or downgrading our nuclear deterrent would put our permanent seat on the Security Council at risk, immediately making Britain less relevant in world affairs. This will directly harm our interests because, frankly, being a consequential player in the UN helps Britain in a myriad of tangible and intangible ways touching diplomacy, trade and military alliances.

3. Unilateral disarmament by Britain will do absolutely nothing to prompt a sudden outburst of peace or a change in the attitude of Russia and China, the non-allied nuclear powers. Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping would take unilateral disarmament by the UK, put it in the bank and give nothing in return. CND activists and Green campaigners would effectively be virtue signalling their moral purity while Britain’s security and national interest were jeopardised.

4. Britain’s insatiable public services will swallow any money diverted from Trident and then still ask for more, with little money actually reaching the front lines and no great increase in performance metrics over the long term. One could throw billions of pounds more that the NHS and other public services, and newspaper headlines will still talk about how they are perpetually “in crisis”. In fact, throwing more money at public services only serves to paper over the cracks, delaying the eventual reckoning which we need to have regarding the NHS, pensions and other services. Is it really worth killing our nuclear deterrent, deliberately maiming our stature on the world stage just to feed the public services bureaucracy with the extra 0.2% of government spending which the Trident renewal will cost over its lifetime?

I hope that you will consider these points as you consider your approaching vote, and I look forward to your response.

Interestingly, the Conservative candidate defeated by Tulip Siddiq in the 2015 general election was a wishy-washy, vague Coke Zero Conservative who disagreed with the “bedroom tax” and who wanted to scrap Britain’s nuclear deterrent altogether. Shamelessly adopting these left-wing positions did not help him much.

As a “rising star” of the Labour Party and with one eye doubtless fixed on her future political ambitions it will be interesting to see which way Siddiq decides to vote this evening.

 

Trident Nuclear Submarine - Faslane Naval Base

Top Image: Guardian

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