Friday, February 29, 2008

Shaken awake...

I was awaken from a longish nap at Hawarden a couple of days ago by a gentle shake of the bedposts. It seems that England was shaken by an earth tremor and that the good people of Gainsborough even suffered the loss of chimney pots.

So what are we to make of the news that a Royal Prince has been dispatched to Afghanistan to serve with the armed forces? It must be said that the more I learn of the Windsor family, the more impressed I am by their dedication to their few remaining duties.

It would have been unconscionable to dispatch a Royal prince to Crimea as a junior officer had any been available - and certainly not to have attached one to any expeditions into Afghanistan. The risk of their failing to return sound in mind and limb was much too high. The incident signifies the extent to which the advanced democracies no longer see their troops as dispensable during conflicts; whilst this is to be entirely applauded, it creates somewhat new hazards in that strategists may select targets on the basis that they are risk free and susceptible to overwhelming force. I say "somewhat new" as this is quite clearly analogous to the deplorable "gunboat" diplomacy practised by that most illiberal of Liberal Prime Ministers, Palmerston, and indeed was the basis of Disraeli's expansion of empire.

Further plaudits must be awarded to the shadow foreign secretary of the modern Liberal Party, the "Liberal Democrats", for standing firm on a principle to which he subscribes. Mr Davey wants a referendum on the latest European treaty. I find this concept utterly shocking. It is the public negotiations of treaties that secures peace in Europe and it is their repudiation, whether by princes or populace, that leads to ward. In setting aside this disagreement, I say Mr Davey is quite right to insist the matter be debated by Parliament. Parliament is more than a debating chamber; it is where the law of the land and government policy should be made and its members should never be deterred from vigorous debate about mighty issues. I understand Mr Davey was ejected from the chamber and his fellow party members followed him.

I can well envisage her majesty uttering girlish giggles at such a story and, in similar circumstances, I often felt it necessary to deliver a mild rebuke to the effect that the conduct of public business is far too significant for merriment.

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