Archive for the 'Russia – Putin' Category

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MEMO to Mr Corbyn: Most GE2017 LAB voters think the Russian Government is a force for evil in the world

Monday, April 16th, 2018

Like Brexit another area where Team Corbyn appears out of line with GE17 LAB voters?

We have seen since the general election that there is an increasing divide between the views of team Corbyn and those who voted for the party at the last general election on Brexit. Overwhelmingly LAB GE2017 voters believe that the decision to leave the EU was wrong which appears out of line with the policies being pursued by the opposition front bench under Mr Corbyn.

With the Salisbury attacks and now the growing crisis in Syria over chemical weapons the public’s view of the Russian government is being looked at by pollsters. The latest findings from ComRes are in the chart above and show that the overwhelming majority of Labour voters at the last election are hostile to Mr Putin’s government.

Based on his actions I would suggest that this sets the Labour leader someone at odds with those who voted for the party on June 8th last year – a situation combined with Brexit that surely cannot continue.

Watching today’s statement in The Commons by Mrs May and the response from Mr Corbyn and labour MPs it is clear that the divide within the party is there in Westminster as well.

Mike Smithson




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If its Corbyn versus May again next time my money would be on the Tories

Wednesday, March 21st, 2018

Tories now back as odds-on favourites

We could be more than four years away from the next general election and it is possible that neither Corbyn or Theresa May will be leading the parties by then. But if the two were to be the main party leaders next time, whenever that is, my money would be on the Conservatives.

    Firstly it is always the case that we look at elections through the prism of what happened last time rather than what is actually happening at that moment. The assumption would be that message Mrs May would campaign as poorly as in 2017 and that Corbyn would campaign as well.

One thing’s for sure that if May is still heading blue team, which she wants to do, then she is going to perform a lot lot better than she did a few last year. What happens with failure is that it causes a lot of soul searching and you are able to look at the future more critically to work out the lessons to be learnt.

Labour, of course, lost the last general election even though their performance was substantially better than most of the polls were suggesting. But in terms of the red team seat haul compared with the Tories Corbyn’s Labour did worse than Gordon Brown 7 years earlier. Yet Corbyn was almost declared the de facto victor and this appears to be impacting on LAB thinking.

Last time the Tories had great plans to undermine Corby by highlighting some of his controversial past positions on things like Ireland and the wars Britain had been involved in. That didn’t have the desired potency because for many voters it was all about things a long long time ago.

Next time Corbyn’s approach to Russia and the Salisbury attack will be fresher in people’s minds and will be used more effectively.

One little bit of data should be worrying LAB. For the first time since the general election Opinium this week found Corbyn trailing Theresa May in its leader approval ratings.

The Tories have now moved to odds-on favourite to win most seats at the next election.

Mike Smithson




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It’s Cold War, Jim: but not as we know it

Saturday, March 17th, 2018

Russia is hostile and aggressive but it’s not a return to pre-1991

Nutcases and tyrants have historically had an easy ride in their own day; their crimes frequently being attributed to the unauthorised actions of ‘evil advisors’ rather than being commissioned from the top. Occasionally, this is true (the Peasant’s Revolt against Richard II might be one example – though Richard was only 14 at the time, and still a duplicitous and cruel character), but generally it isn’t. Time and again, foreign analysts advise their own governments that these dictators are under pressure from hard-liners, only for it later to turn out, after the regime has fallen and the papers are released, that they were themselves the most extreme hard-liner.

In some ways, that’s not too surprising. A leader inclined to push the boundaries can do so more readily than an underling worried about over-stepping the mark, who might then make themselves into a ready scapegoat.

Which means that when it comes to the Salisbury incident, it’s almost certain that even if the specific plan wasn’t authored or even signed off in the Kremlin, the method and the class of target will have been. That, of course, assumes that the Russian state was behind the attack but given the change in tone that occurred literally overnight from the French and US governments, the most reasonable explanation was that they’ve been shown, and convinced by, the reports. If so, Russia has made a clear strategic call that will have massive implications for the future of Europe for years to come.

Of course, the attempted murder of one foreign national in a foreign country is small beer beside the effective invasion, occupation and annexation of a whole region of Ukraine, or the civil war engendered in the east of that country, or invasion and occupation of parts of Georgia, or the disregard for human life shown by the Russian military in Syria.

The common threads, however, between the Salisbury attack and the much more aggressive actions Russia has taken internationally over the last ten years or so are firstly, the lack of concern about any response from the West, but secondly, the lack of any desire to form good or even working relations with the West. Putin has chosen his course for Russia and he is not bothered that it will set relations back thirty years.

Or not. There’s been a lot of talk about Cold War 2.0 this last week. That’s perhaps a little too Anglo-centric a view. It’s certainly true that the attack, rather than being in Salisbury, could have been in Strasbourg or Stuttgart or Stockholm or San Francisco – but it wasn’t. There has been support and sympathy from Britain’s allies but not as yet any deep buy-in to a new cold war. Not that we should really expect that yet: there isn’t that much of a consensus in Britain either, whether within parliament or the country at large.

But a cold war is upon us anyway, whether we like it or not, and it’s been declared by Russia. What’s perhaps confusing is that it doesn’t look like the last one. We’re used to the concept of a cold war being defined by the global blocs of the 1945-91 stand-off, where the Soviet Union and United States competed not just geopolitically but ideologically. There is no such ideological conflict today and nor is the world so neatly divided. Russia feels compelled to put on the facade of elections, such is the triumph of the ideal of democracy, and the contest feels more like those of the multipolar nineteenth-century. Indeed, the defining geostrategic contest of the twenty-first century will very likely be between the USA and China, into which Russia doesn’t fit on either side – which may be another reason it feels freer to act.

What is almost certain is that last week’s events won’t be the last time Putin acts aggressively overseas, as long as he can exploit weakness in his rivals. Britain’s disengaging from the EU is one such weakness, as is a US president whose policies are unpredictable and erratic. He isn’t interested in co-operation because he believes – rightly going by experience – he can get more by action.

That has profound implications for the Baltic states, for the EU, for NATO, for the US, for defence spending and for much else besides. Is it in Britain’s interest to defend the Estonian border, only a few dozen miles from St Petersburg? But if not, what value is NATO, and where do Britain’s essential interests start? How do they tie in with the interests with other NATO countries? After all, in the last cold war, those economic and ideological ties gave an additional cohesion, beyond the perceived Soviet threat. Without those binding factors, inevitably, the differing economic and foreign policy imperatives make any meaningful unified response to any challenge much harder – as does Europe’s (including Britain’s) disintegrating political mainstream: finding consensus within countries is almost as hard as finding it between them.

But the challenge is there and sooner or later can’t be ducked. Chances are, going by today’s cynicism and anti-establishment wave, it’ll be later.

David Herdson



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The big development following TMay’s Russia statement is an apparent divide within LAB over Corbyn’s response

Wednesday, March 14th, 2018


The most noticeable feature of the MP responses to the PM Russia statement was the way many LAB MPs seem to be backing the government rather than their leader, Mr. Corbyn. The Tweets above sets the scene. One after another LAB MPs stood up pointedly backing TMay and not mentioning what their leader had said.

Quite where this will go is hard to say but based on the LAB MPs contributions to the discussion after the statement ignoring what their man had said it is clear that the party has a problem.

In the past year most of Corbyn’s opponents from the 2016 confidence move against him have held their tongues and there has been a show of unity. Maybe the events in Salisbury will change that.

Mike Smithson




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So crunch day on Russia for the PM

Wednesday, March 14th, 2018

It is now Wednesday and the Russians have not done what was demanded of them by the PM over the Salisbury attack and so it is up to her and the government to announce what they are doing.

We all know that you don’t make a threat unless you are ready to follow it through otherwise you just look a push-over.

My sense is that she had thought that through before her statement to the Commons on Monday and that there will be a series of measures coming which could have an impact on the UK because of the likely Russian response.

Clearly given what is being said in Moscow about Russia Today, the TV station based in London, we get a sense of the likely reaction from Moscow and Mr Putin.

The World Cup which starts in less than 3 months could be an area for action and this in a way adds to the overall difficulty for the British government. Assuming there is no pull out there must be huge concerns about sending the English team and all the associated media and hangers on as well as potential supporters. But ordering a pull out would have it own huge disadvantages.

The biggest political loser so far in this crisis, I would suggest, is Mr Corbyn whose equivocal response on Monday appears to have been a mistake and raises a lot of questions about him and some of the aids who advise him

PMQs today should be interesting

Mike Smithson