Leadership Debate

Two of the Today guest editors bucked a familiar BBC trend. Two in a row. Yesterday Tracey Emin courageously admitted that she Voted Tory, (gasp) and our Thursday, Jewish guest editor chose to explore leadership with special reference to the Middle East, whereupon Sarah Montague, the BBC’s premier advocate of the “talk to Hamas strategy’ was dispatched to interview Tony Blair. Tony Blair may not be everyone’s favourite person, but having settled into his post as Middle East Peace Envoy it started to look, to some people, as if he was gradually discovering what was going on.

One wonders whether he felt, like Tracey Emin, that it was difficult to bare his soul openly to the Today audience without obsequiously justifying himself, because some of his answers seemed designed to pre-emptively appease a cynical reception. For example:

“There will always be incidents that go, …it might be acts of terrorism…. it might be raids that go wrong. There will always be reasons why people retreat to their comfort zone and say “I’m not dealing with these people”

Which sounded as though he too was contemplating the inevitability of the Talk to Hamas strategy. Then again, on Israel’s security problem. Because, thanks in no small measure to the BBC, the separation wall has acquired notoriety as a disingenuous excuse for land grab, rather than what it really is, a lifesaving protective barrier against terrorism.

“Look. The Israelis worry hugely about their security.
And their security worry is a genuine worry.
They haven’t just made it up.
They have their genuine security problem.”

Please believe me, he almost pleaded. I do protest! Then he continued with a bizarre and startling example of moral equivalence.

“As a result of that they go into the Palestinian areas. As a result of that many Palestinians feel the weight of the occupation upon them. That makes them more angry; they therefore want to retaliate.
The Palestinians have a genuine worry. particularly with things like settler violence starts [sic] on the increase, they think ‘will these guys ever get out and let us run our state.”

Who is ‘retaliating’ and who is ‘instigating’ here? Let’s leave that aside though, and ask, is Tony Blair really equating ‘settler violence’ with suicide bombings, murderous assaults and rocket attacks on civilians? By jove, it seems he really is.
Sarah moved the discussion on.

“Let’s move on the western leadership because that’s the other big player. I wonder to what extent western leadership has made things more difficult. We encouraged the Palestinian elections. The EU funded them. But when there was an outcome that we didn’t like, which was Hamas being elected, we withdrew aid, and we ignored the result. And I wonder when you look back at what has happened in the past year across the Middle East, and you wonder whether that was a mistake?”

Having avoided looking at the Israeli or the Palestinian leaderships, what was on Sarah’s mind was the Arab Spring. But Tony Blair wasn’t quite finished. He was referring in some way to the IRA, and apparently warming to the idea of talking to Hamas.

“I think historically the difficulty of the west has always been, and you know, we faced the same difficulties with the IRA, the circumstances where people are not foreswearing the use of terrorism to advance their political objectives, can you interact with them or not? I actually think there is an opportunity now, with what is happening across the region, because after all, frankly we will be dealing with the Muslim Brotherhood, and Hamas are associated with them all over the region. Now, I think if Hamas were prepared to at least say ‘look, so far as we’re concerned we’ll pursue our political objectives, but by non violent means, I think that would give you a far greater opportunity of creating circumstances in which you get all of the Palestinian parties in some sort of dialogue.”

Good luck with that. Good luck with Hamas pursuing its political objectives by non violent means. Perhaps a polite notice of eviction will do the trick. Dear Israel, kindly vacate the premises, Yours sincerely, Ismail Hanyieh. Or perhaps not.

Sarah persists.

“We’ve slightly been forced into this because as you say the Muslim Brotherhood now is actually looking like the more moderate of those
Islamist groups rising in Egypt, But back in parliamentary elections as far back as 2005 they did well, and yet we were still supporting and promoting Hosni Mubarak. I wonder whether we have been guilty of thinking that our self interest lies in supporting stability, and making sure that we’ve got intelligence on terrorism and we’ve prioritised that over promoting democracy, over our own values.”

Here the BBC’s real attitude is laid bare. We are, apparently, guilty of supporting despots and tyrants and ignoring peoples’ human right to democracy, and all for a selfish little bit of peace, stability and a tip off or two about potential acts of terrorism. It ignores the nature of Islam, and has done all along. It projects our concept of democracy onto people who haven’t been pressed to be explicit or specific about their aims and aspirations. Sarah criticises our desire for stability as though it was misguided. But isn’t that what the very people who are voting for the Muslim Brotherhood want for themselves, over and above many other things? Could that be part of the reason why they like the Muslim Brotherhood and why they voted for Hamas? Do they prefer order and certainty over chaos and uncertainty. They opt for the certainty of the Islamic conservatism with which they are familiar, over what they see as the decadent and directionless west. But nobody asks these questions.

Tony Blair is unable to say what he might really wish to. What I hope he really wishes to. He is constrained by political correctness and reluctance to risk alienating the audience, or perhaps because he really doesn’t know what he’s been dealing with all along, throughout his Peace Envoyship. He waffles, insinuates and emotes, but he doesn’t and can’t come out with an outright condemnation of Islamism or an explanation as to why our own concept of democracy might differ from that of the Egyptians, the Tunisians, the Libyans, the Syrians and the Palestinians.
And as for Sarah and the BBC, they still refuse to see what is in front of their noses.

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11 Responses to Leadership Debate

  1. john in cheshire says:

    Sue, as far as I’m concerned, leopards don’t change their spots. Blair is a dissembler. That the bbc choose to interview someone like him, says volumes about them as much as it does about him. Are they intent on a rehabilitation exercise for the treacherous war criminal? If so, why? If not, why interview him and allow him to expiate as he appears to have been allowed to do.
    As I’ve said earlier today, on another blog, until our children are taught about socialism and what damage it has done, for over 100 years, then no matter how many of them die, there will be more who  are being born to replace them. As CSNY said, many years ago, teach your children well. The likes of blair need to be brought to trial for what they did; him and his band of brigands that is the labour party; together with the mouthpieces that are the bbc and the guardian.


    • stevefb says:

      Still can’t listen to Blair’s voice without wanting to smash up my radio. Still can’t see his face without wanting to put my size nines through the TV screen. The damage he and his cronies inflicted upon our nation was as terrible as it is unforgivable. I fear we may never fully recover.


  2. Gerald says:

    The “luvvie” reaction to Tracey Emin voting Tory will surprise no one on the site.

    This morning Today had an item on current political theatre. I think I can sum up one of the interviewees view as being it was crap with the expected left wing take on everything, and wouldn’t it be nice to hgave some plays with a right wing viewpoint. Neither Red Jim nor the token women presenter persued that idea.

    Lovely to hear Leslie Curwen on again, she is head and shoulders a better presenter / interviewr than the present token woman.

    Excellent letter in the Daily Telegraph today by ITVs Michael Nicholson saying just back from the Falklands preparing a 30 years after programme, and how well the Falklands were developing now. Its well worth a read if someone can link, but can you imagine any BBC hack writing such a letter or producing anything positive?


    • Cassandra King says:

      “political theatre” =-O ?

      Just another way for the left to present its rancid ugly values, usually to itself but increasingly to the young who they hope to indoctrinate.

      This is how the left works, everything is political and everything has its use as a political indoctrination vehicle. Its how cults and religions work, they present lies and propaganda as entertainment, the people of the USSR were treated to this kind of abuse for decades from theatres applauding the Marxist wonderland and demonizing the West and the left loved it and lapped it up.

      The BBC has been using “political theatre” for years dressing it up as entertainment for the masses, the political indoctrination of the masses.


    • Jeremy Clarke says:

      Agree with you about Lesley Curwen (who is on the WS as I type). She is very, very good.


  3. David Preiser (USA) says:

    Well said, sue. Although, I disagree that votes for the Muslim Brotherhood are votes for stability. A vote for them is mostly a vote for war with Israel and Islamo-fascism. That’s not the kind of stability Montague’s talking about.

    I assume Montague prefers the “democracy” of Iran over the stability of “dictators” we prop up? Blair gets a couple points for telling Montague that her definition of democracy is a bit misguided.


    • sue says:

      I don’t disagree, but I still think a good deal of the MB’s attractiveness for  Egyptian voters is their apparent preparedness. Organisational structure, you know. Better than people squabbling with each other and flailing out helplessly in all directions.

      Did anyone read Denis MacEoin’s letter to Archbishop Vincent Nichols?
      It’s very eloquent, heartfelt, thorough, and very necessary. One tiny niggle. I wish he hadn’t weakened it by perpetuating the incorrect information about the manner of baby Hadas Fogel’s slaughter. 


      • cjhartnett says:

        Thanks for the link to Mr McEoin.
        His letter to Tamara Fogel earlier this year was the best of its kind that I have seen.
        The likes of Nichols are very comfortable in the BBC firmament of trusties…those who`ll always ply the Beeb trade, but using their own words every so often.
        If we see Kirsty Young talking to Brian Cox about his days with Duran Duran as the level of journalism and enquiry we can expect from the BBC, then we`ll not be too disappointed as they continue to splash in the shallows wanting to be popular, lazy and liked.
        Wonber if the BBC will be running us a poll to tell us what we think about Israel…or(to show independence) one of the Guardian,Labour Party/IPPR…I happen to think Israel is Gods gift to the rest of the West, but can`t imagine they`ll ask the likes of me…


  4. George R says:

    No doubt INBBC’s Ms MONTAGUE’s political views concur with this:

    Hamas top dog Haniyeh: Goal is destruction of Israel in stages


  5. Lloyd says:

    She’s a strange woman that Tracey Emin. One wonders how you go from auctioning artwork in a RedKen fundraiser, to voting tory?


    • cjhartnett says:

      In the old days I`d have agreed Lloyd.
      It seems to me now that all the politics is hollowed out and interchangeable…that Ken will never be able to square his support for the gay lobby with that for his Islamist pals is merely semantics and tumbleweed to him and those who are supposed to hold him to account…why hate the EDL and Geert Wilders when Castro and the Chinese thugs of Wukan are allowed to be so “radical and proactive” in “dealing with those in the way” of the inevitable rise of socialism?
      Emin and Livingston are pick and mix buffet munchers with no coherent philosophy apart from “does it look good today?” and “does it pay?”.
      Those fine writers at Spiked say all this so much better, but with the likes of Ken, Boris, Tracey, Sting and Bono….we only need one name-and only the personal matters…it can`t be political…just personal and brand positioning as far as I can see.
      Let the BBC pretend it IS political…we know it never is these days…