Blimey a lot has happened since my last blog entry hasn’t it? We have triggered Article 50 and now are definitely leaving the EU, and just to make sure we are having a General Election (YAYYYYYY!). While I’ve been slaving away at my dissertation, exams and assignments, planning for the future and going out and getting merry, a lot has happened in the world, and many of these events have resulted in very intelligent men going on the television and advocating lots of young British men running around in a different country getting shot at. When it’s put like that it doesn’t seem like such a nice way of resolving our differences does it. Today I want to make a case for good old fashioned diplomacy, and why it is scary that the Leader of the Opposition, a man who I have my own disagreements with on an ideological basis, is being attacked by the government due to his support for negotiation and diplomacy.
Diplomacy, from the Greek “Diploma” meaning : “official document conferring a privilege,” is the art of negotiations to resolve international disputes. The British, the fathers of Western politics that we are, have always been rather good at the ‘Carrot and Stick method’ of diplomacy, which means we offer an incentive to agree with us, and back it up with a large navy. This worked on many different levels until the Russians and Americans got better at it than us circa 1945. However, us cunning British folk recast ourselves as elder statesmen, and helped set up the United Nations, and have used our position as a permanent member of the Security Council to continue our proud tradition of telling other countries what to do. To this end, we have retained significant influence in parts of the world we have no business still having a voice, such as our relationship with China, where we still hold considerable sway over the affairs of Hong Kong. Our relationship with the United States is even more extraordinary, as the US pubic holds significant affection for our tiny island, not least because of our greatest export – talented actors.
Both our countries leaders have had personal relationships – from the tutorage of JFK by Harold Macmillan, to the frankly almost ideologically romantic relationship held by Thatcher and Reagan, from Tony Blair’s devout following of George W. Bush to the exceedingly disturbing meeting between Theresa May and Donald Trump. Britain has managed to force America’s hand on issues where we, as a small nation on the other side of the Atlantic, had no right, with Blair forcing Clinton into backing intervention in Kosovo and the House of Commons rejecting intervention in Syria, which resulted in Barack Obama backing down from his intervention plan. The UK, with its technological expertise and financial power (being the largest single foreign direct investor in the US), uses its soft power of economics, academia, intelligence and its shared language and culture to foster deep relations. If the UK can have this effect on the most powerful nation on the planet, then why not use this for good in the world?
As you may be aware, China is not known for their stellar Human Rights record or their ability to stick with international norms, choosing to continue to maintain sovereignty over occupied territory like Tibet, hold dissidents in captivity without trial, and banning access to most of the Internet. David Cameron, our former beloved leader, saw this, and decided, in his wisdom, that China could be used to benefit the UK. Cameron, using the clever method of soft power generated by a love of British culture in China (they seriously love Downton and Sherlock over there), sought to increase Chinese investment in the UK beyond a few restaurants and technology companies. In doing this, the Chinese President Xi Jinping was ferried around the country, drinking beer, being taken to the University of Manchester to see where Graphene was discovered, met the Queen and signed a trade deal worth around £400 Billion. In return David Cameron had a small word about Human Rights, and went on his jolly way. By using our cultural influence, we managed to convince the Second most powerful country in the world to give us £400 billion, in exchange for what is essentially a box set of Sherlock and tea with an old lady.
However when Jeremy Corbyn, a man who doesn’t want us to immediately invade every country which says that Top Gear is rubbish and thinks that James Bond is overrated, and instead wants to use our assets as a nation, our strong cultural exports, our stable economy (see what I did there? NB this joke will be irrelevant about 10 mins after the General Election but it’s worth it) and our ability to invent and build things just because; yet he gets castigated in the media, because war sells? This country has been lied too for probably the last 30 years about what it wants, thanks to Mr Murdoch and others like him, and when someone comes along who calls a spade a spade, the media tells the entire country they’ve never heard of a spade and it sounds dangerous. This started out as a well-meaning informative piece on British diplomacy, inspired by Channel 4 news asking Jeremy Corbyn if he would commit troops to defend a NATO ally in the event of attack, and their vilification of Corbyn when he replied he would exhaust all other options, like a rational human being would.
I’m going to be posting a lot more of these long winded, rambly diatribes now that I have finished University for the summer. With any luck, I’ll get the grades and start my MA in September and stop annoying you all for at least another 6 months. I might talk about something a bit less controversial next time, like Premier League football or Religion…
***Photo in header By Rwendland (Jeremy Corbyn, 2016 Labour Party Conference 1.jpg) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons