Jim Murphy and the British neo-cons

February 13, 2013 3:44 pm

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What would be the response if it were discovered that a senior Shadow Minister was to make a keynote speech at a thinktank whose Associate Director had previously said, “Conditions for Jews in Europe must be made harder across the board“? Quite rightfully, all hell would break loose, the event cancelled, apologies issued and people would say it set the party back.

Yet swap ‘Jews’ for ‘Muslims’ in the above and that’s who will be hosting a keynote speech by Shadow Defence Secretary Jim Murphy this Thursday.

Thinktanks obviously debate a range of ideas and host or publish all kinds of thinkers, but this is not the case here. The Henry Jackson Society, who have been chosen to host Jim Murphy’s speech on “A New Model for Intervention” must regard their Associate Directory Douglas Murray as their most high profile staff member and a key driver of their politics.

Nor is his shocking quote an aberration from an otherwise mainstream organisation. Murray (author of ‘Neoconservatism: Why We Need It’) is very much at home in an organisation whose former European Neighbourhood Section Director has said “No longer is it a centrist, bipartisan think-tank…Instead, it has become an abrasively right-wing forum with an anti-Muslim tinge…[that] panders to a narrow readership of extreme Europhobic British Tories, hardline US Republicans and Israeli Likudniks.”

On the eve of the tenth anniversary of the vast anti-war march, it is a cruel irony that a Labour shadow minister will be hosted by an organisation who still enthusiastically support the neo-con agenda now widely understood to have been a disaster for the Party (and the world).

It was the decisive rejection of this approach which has allowed Labour under Ed Miliband to reconnect with many who became estranged from the Party in the aftermath of Iraq. Whilst not knowing what Jim will outline, it is hardly a positive sign that Labour’s policy on protecting human rights the world over will be outlined in a speech to an outfit that champions unilateral approaches and seems to have learned little from the disaster of Iraq.

With the tenth anniversary of the Iraq war looming and the undoubtedly uncomfortable publication of the Chilcot Inquiry expected next year, all of Labour’s frontbench must be clear that there can be no rehabilitation of the politics which led us to some very dark places. Labour needs an outward-looking, engaged foreign policy which appreciates Britain’s place in an increasingly multi-polar world. The neo-cons of the Henry Jackson Society should have no role in it.

  • John Reid

    having been on the next generation labour website and , the only criticism I could see they had was they don’t like criticism of the Venesualan government, I can’t see why the author here has a problem with him Murphy talking to the Henry Jackson society and as for the alleged comment about Muslims not being acceptable if it were about Jews, I find this strange the anti semeticism some of the left that Jeremy Corbin surrounds himself, is a lot worse. The relevance of the anniversary of Iraq is irrelevantly too,

  • volcanopete

    The Labour party is at its best when adopting a zero tolerance stance against islamophobia and racism of all kinds.Jim Murphy would be well advised to reconsider.

  • JoeDM

    Have I strayed onto the SWP website by mistake?

    • http://twitter.com/waterwards dave stone

      Before you get over excited about ‘liberal intervention’ perhaps you’d like to consider the views of U.S. patriot Chalmers Johnson:

      http://www.democracynow.org/2007/2/27/chalmers_johnson_nemesis_the_last_days

    • http://twitter.com/waterwards dave stone

      Before you get over excited about ‘liberal intervention’ perhaps you’d like to consider the views of U.S. patriot Chalmers Johnson:

      http://www.democracynow.org/2007/2/27/chalmers_johnson_nemesis_the_last_days

      • JoeDM

        Why do you think I would be excited about “liberal intervention”? It was, after all, a central plank of the last Labour Government’s foreign policy.

    • David Lindsay

      No, onto one allied to a previously almost forgotten organisation called the Labour Party. Is Jim Murphy in it? Not if he appears at the HJS, no.

  • http://twitter.com/rob_marchant Rob Marchant

    They may be neocons, if that is what they want to be called. They do not seem to be racists, as you infer. And everyone who supports intervention is not a “neocon”, whatever that means.

    • Guest

      Rob, do you think it likely that someone who writes a whole book called ‘Neoconservatism: Why We Need It’ might indeed be a neoconservative? I don’t think I’m unfairly labeling him here.

      Have you glanced at the first link above. It’s far from just the one line – e.g. “No European country’s Muslim population is currently higher than 10% – which ordinarily would be alright – not ideal, but alright.” Not ideal? Too many Muslims – not Islamists, not fundamentalists, not terrorists, but Muslims. Might this suggest he has a problem with, oh, let’s see, Muslims?

      Would you think that sentence acceptable if the size of a country’s Jewish community were being discussed, or would you then recognise it for what it clearly is?

    • BenSoffa

      Rob, do you think it fair to assume that the person who wrote the book ‘Neoconservatism: Why We Need It’ might indeed be a supporter of neoconservatism and has a definite view on what it is?

      Does this quote (from the same speech as linked above) strike you as Islamophobic:
      “So it is worth reminding ourselves of the basics of the problem. No European country’s Muslim population is currently higher than 10% – which ordinarily would be alright – not ideal, but alright.”

      ‘Not ideal’ – remember he’s talking about ‘Muslims’ – not fundamentalists, Islamists, terrorists etc. but Muslims. As I Jew, I know I’d consider that to be racist if said against my community. I think it’s no less hateful when said about anyone else – maybe you disagree?

  • Brumanuensis

    A shame they couldn’t have gone the way of the Project for the New American Century.

  • robertcp

    I would never vote for anyone that supported the Iraq war. I will never forget the sickening feeling when I realised that Blair and Straw were lying when they said that war was not inevitable. Fortunately, the Labour MP in my constituency opposed the war.

  • Daniel Speight

    From what’s already been released it seems Murphy’s speech will be along the lines of ‘do as I say, not what I did.’

    Will it be a mea culpa or just the archetypal apparatchik trimming his sales to the party’s latest positions?

  • franwhi

    When the speech he should be making is scrap Trident and Trident defence spending – we can ill-afford this macho posturing. Shame

  • Chilbaldi

    There will always be this element in the Labour Party, I fear. The ‘we must never ever intervene even if people are being slaughtered and we should disband the army tomorrow’ branch.

    • http://twitter.com/waterwards dave stone

      Come, come now – a ridiculous exaggeration does your position no good at all.

      What I find interesting is that the old traditional right and the young new left have now found common cause in opposition to military adventures that, as Johnson and Wolin argue, will eventually destroy what most believe they are intended to protect.

      A new form of patriotism has been born.

  • Monkey_Bach

    Isn’t Murphy the guy who wanted to subject all benefit claimants to lie detector tests? Eeek.

  • http://twitter.com/rob_marchant Rob Marchant

    First of all, you have mistakenly asserted that I was questioning whether or not he is a “neocon”. If he calls himself one, then I think we can all assume he is one – whatever that means. But you have argued against a point which I did not make.

    Second, I think there are lot of people in today’s Britain who are racist. There is the BNP. There are some members of far-left organisations. There are clearly members of all three major parties. But I struggle to see Douglas Murray, who comes across as a thoughtful person – albeit one whose views I usually disagree with – as a racist.

    It is very easy to call someone a racist, but I feel you require a little more evidence than you have provided for what is a very strong charge (I should add that Murray could, by the way, very likely sue you and win, if he so chose).

    That is not a partisan statement in any way, by the way – I am, after all, on the left and he is clearly on the right – but I believe we all deserve for people to phrase their criticisms a little less sweepingly, and at least not libellously, if they are to be credible.

    • BenSoffa

      So from your defence of him, is it safe to assume you think the two quotes from his own speech, as formerly published on his own website, are within the realms of acceptable debate? Is it OK – not necessarily correct, but OK – to claim the size of the Muslim population is “not ideal, but alright”?

      Again, if the comments had been about my own Jewish community, I think people would see this as a pretty straightforward question.

      I’ve met and shared a platform with the man (to oppose each others positions) – he was perfectly charming. At no point have I claimed that he is a racist person. I have merely noted two quotes which he put on his website, one of which, if it had been aimed at the Jewish community, I have said I would regard as racist. If he wishes to draw far wider attention to these comments and limit debate in this area, I have no doubt he is aware of some very good lawyers.

  • http://twitter.com/rob_marchant Rob Marchant

    First of all, you have mistakenly asserted that I was questioning whether or not he is a “neocon”. If he calls himself one, then I think we can all assume he is one – whatever that means. But you have argued against a point which I did not make.

    Second, I think there are lot of people in today’s Britain who are racist. There is the BNP. There are some members of far-left organisations. There are clearly members of all three major parties. But I struggle to see Douglas Murray, who comes across as a thoughtful person – albeit one whose views I usually disagree with – as a racist.

    It is very easy to call someone a racist, but I feel you require a little more evidence than you have provided for what is a very strong charge (I should add that Murray could, by the way, very likely sue you and win, if he so chose).

    That is not a partisan statement in any way, by the way – I am, after all, on the left and he is clearly on the right – but I believe we all deserve for people to phrase their criticisms a little less sweepingly, and at least not libellously, if they are to be credible.

  • http://twitter.com/youngian67 Ian Young

    Another prominent Henry Jackson Society supporter is Gisela Stuart who Douglas Alexander reminded an audience, following his EU speech last month, was the only Labour MP to back Bush’s re-election.

    Rather like the old Tory Monday Club in the 70s hanging onto dreams of post imperial
    federation, these are the last of the Labour Atlanticists who hanker after a junior role in Washington to try and temper the worst excesses of American power and towards a more morally driven Blairite/Gladstonian liberal interventionism.

    The concept has little traction under Obama’s administration and even the Tories are
    becoming resigned to an Anglo-French led European defence and diplomatic strategy.

    • http://twitter.com/waterwards dave stone

      “these are the last of the Labour Atlanticists ”

      But the game has only just begun. Yesterday, Murphy turned crowd-pleaser and assured his audience of Labour’s willingness to partake in further military adventures – promising to fund “strong supportive expeditionary capability and enablers alongside force protection. C4-ISTAR, naval resources, unmanned technology, helicopters, airlift, close air support and refuelling capabilities”.*

      Remember when Blair and Bush were hailed in Murdoch’s tabloids, in the run-up to the Iraq catastrophe, as the Churchill and Roosevelt of the 21st Century? Well, it looks as if Murphy is attempting to achieve similar ‘credibility’.

      * http://www.labour.org.uk/how-the-uk-responds-to-extremism-in-north-west-africa-and-beyond,2013-02-14

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