What happens next

It wouldn’t be a total exaggeration to say that Britain has, for the last three days, been embroiled in its biggest crisis of the 21st century. On Friday we saw Britain exit the world’s largest politico-economic bloc, swiftly followed by a collapse in the value of the pound and trillions being wiped off the value of stock markets worldwide. Hours later the Prime Minister announced his resignation, while the Chancellor of the Exchequer simply vanished. By the weekend over three million people had signed a petition calling for a second referendum, and MPs were openly calling for Parliament to simply ignore the referendum.

I voted to remain in the EU. I believed, and continue to believe, in the European project and the creation of the world’s first superstate based on values of humanism and liberalism. Like the vast majority of experts, I think that a British departure from Europe will be have serious economic consequences, ones which will damage the prosperity of the nation for years to come. Perhaps more fundamentally than any of this, though, I feel that this referendum was more than a question of membership of the EU; it turned into a plebiscite on modernity, one in which we seem to have voted against the liberal values that many had presumed we held dear.

Nonetheless, I oppose a second referendum, and I urge you to do so as well. Why? Not because I’m a defeatist, or have simply given up. On the contrary, I think this result should be an impetus for liberal-minded individuals across the political spectrum to make sure their voices are heard louder than ever. This is not a retreat.

However, I don’t feel that a second referendum is at all a productive way of moving the debate forward; indeed, it might easily be seen as a retrograde step. Firstly, a second referendum would be a repeat of the greatest constitutional error in the last few hundred years – a dereliction of duty by Parliament. In Britain, Parliament is sovereign and supreme as a governing body; not the people. Our constitution has historically evolved in the direction of a representative rather than direct democracy, for the very good reason that it provides a vital check upon untrammelled populism. Our representatives are elected on the basis of being the most able to consider what is best for the nation, by virtue of their experience and wisdom. Referendums have no constitutional precedent, and are a dangerous exercise in rabble-rousing. This last one ended with an MP being killed for holding the ‘wrong’ political beliefs.

But aside from the fact that referendums are simply exercises in fear-mongering and pandering to the lowest common denominator (on both sides; Osborne’s ‘punishment budget was hardly better than Farage’s warnings of dusky foreigners attacking English women), there’s a further problem. There’s no guarantee that a second referendum would deliver the result desired, namely a vote to remain. It might – but we don’t know that. 52% of the country voted to leave Europe; some of them might have changed their minds, but surely not enough to change the result? If a second referendum were to reaffirm a Leave vote, we would not only be humiliated but we would be left with no moral high-ground. Put frankly, at this moment we can plausibly argue that the result is not representative of the people, even if we accept it. We would not be able to do this if a second referendum said the same thing.

A second referendum, furthermore, would be exhausting and time-wasting. Campaigning for the first one took months, dominated British public life, and was pretty much universally agreed to be a miserable experience. It was an expensive, tiring mess which poisoned the political culture of Britain, and left most of the publically badly misinformed about both sides of the debate. It was also free publicity for the radicals on the right, particularly Nigel Farage. We do not need this.

Victory for the Remain camp in this second referendum would be equally catastrophic. This country contains millions of people (concentrated in certain areas, admittedly, but to be found everywhere) who despise Europe and the values it stands for. We could run this referendum a hundred times, and each time they would vote to leave. These people tend to be working-class, from marginalised areas of the country, and in many cases feel hard done by neo-liberalism. At present, they are jubilant that ‘they have their country back’, as they so tritely put it. If they were to see their victory snatched from them by a second referendum (or, even worse, by an act of Parliament) then these people would break. The killing of Jo Cox is just the tip of the iceberg; if this subgroup felt cheated, there would be blood on the streets in a way which Britain has never seen. I can foresee right-wing terror on a level which doesn’t bear thinking about, but which would be hugely destructive. Even worse, the strongly Eurosceptic Armed Forces could no longer be fully trusted to maintain order. Britain has never had a coup (though we did come close in the 60s) and I would very much like to keep it that way.

As such, I propose not to annul the referendum but to mitigate it. We must be cognizant of the fact that Parliament is supreme, and utilise this in order to try and minimise the impact of the referendum on day to day life. The anti-Europe fundamentalists will be sated through an official withdrawal from the Union, and a few symbolic gestures; but we should work to make sure that life changes as little as possible for ordinary people.

What would this mitigation entail? Firstly, it would involve the government privately making the proverbial pilgrimage to Canosa. They should inform Brussels that they are utterly penitent, and did not want this to happen, but are bound by the realities of the referendum result. No amount of grovelling is enough – the intent is to soften the hearts of the European leaders, and convince them to offer a good deal. Any deal would ideally preserve access to the free market, border controls at Calais, free movement of people and EU funds. Essentially the EU flag would be taken down, but the reality of EU membership would remain. To placate the Eurosceptic crowd, certain concessions could be made – stronger border controls, deregulation of certain areas, and exemption from EU law in some fields. We will not be able to continue paying as little as £350m for access to the single market, but hopefully the negotiating team will keep the figure as low as possible. These negotiations would take a long time to conclude, but a preliminary document could be agreed upon quickly. Armed with this preliminary document, the government would begin to stabilise the markets and move forward.

I say ‘government’ – a new government is urgently needed. This should be a unifying government, one which encompasses the more level heads from both sides of the political spectrum. The main issue here is to keep Boris and/or Gove from No. 10. Not only are both men despicable traitors for their actions towards the PM, but neither of them are at all figures that the party can unite around. Worse, despite their pretensions to moderation they would enact a strongly Thatcherite and radical agenda as leaders. Much as the referendum can (and should) be mitigated, the resignation of David Cameron should be similarly mitigated by replacing his government with one ideologically similar, and which keeps out his enemies. As Prime Minister I would suggest Theresa May; she has coped admirably with the Home Ministry brief for over five years, and has proven to be a respected and popular figure. Not only is she a moderate pro-Europe figure, she is an efficient and capable administrator with the skills required to hold together an effective government. As such, she is the most viable individual to stand up to Boris and deliver a moderate and viable Brexit.

In voting to leave the EU, Britain has fucked up. It’s not the first time, and it won’t be the last. Let’s not get carried away, as the Leave crowd did, and view this as being anything more than what it is – a question of membership in the EU. It’s not a question of liberalism, or immigration, or anything else. Rather than throwing our toys out of the pram like petulant children, we need to focus on making the best of a bad situation. We need to rebuild our relationship with Europe, mitigating what we’ve done; we need to create a functioning government which won’t be hijacked by right-wing ideologues. Petitioning for a second referendum won’t do that; we need to move forward, and do so at pace.

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The Aftermath

41 years ago Britain went to the polls to vote on Europe. The result then was a resounding victory for the pro-Europe camp – 67% of British voters chose to remain part of the European Community. How different to today’s results, which show a majority – a small one, admittedly, but a majority nonetheless – of the electorate choosing to leave the European Union. The PM has already announced his resignation, and it seems likely that Article 50 will be triggered within weeks, committing Britain to permanently leave Europe. It’s worth noting now that there will be no coming back, no second chance. Readmission is contingent upon the unanimous consent of all 27 remaining members, and it is virtually impossible that such consent will be obtained. For better or worse, we are out.

This is certainly the most momentous constitutional change of my lifetime, and very likely yours too – as such, I do not propose to consider the full ramifications of it. Without doubt the papers will be doing that ad nauseum over the next few weeks. Therefore, I intend only to offer a few brief thoughts on a variety of aspects of the referendum and its result.

Firstly, this should be the last referendum in a generation. The last few months have decidedly proven that referendums are an absolutely dreadful way of doing government. Both sides, though particularly the Leave campaign, misrepresented the truth in ways which might easily be called lying. In this they were abetted by the tabloid media, which whipped the public into a xenophobic and hysterical frenzy with a constant flow of falsehoods, misrepresentations and exaggerations about Europe. The average voter who cast his/her vote on the 23rd was seriously uninformed about what exactly he was voting for. Britain has no history of direct democracy – referendums are not part of our constitution. They are a new-fangled innovation, and signal weak leadership, as it abdicates the responsibility that we have delegated the government right back to the people. Edmund Burke had it right (as usual) when he wrote that ‘Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.’

People voted Leave because of nostalgia. In the last few days of the referendum the media conducted numerous vox pops with members of the public, and one theme seemed to keep re-emerging; ‘we want the old Britain back.’ This refrain was particularly prevalent amongst the 60+ group, but it could be detected throughout the electorate. To many in Britain, the last fifty years has not been kind. They have seen the Britain they once knew utterly transformed, and they simply don’t understand it. They don’t feel part of it. Hence a Leave vote became far more to them than merely a decision on membership of the EU. It turned into a vote to ‘take Britain back’ – not just from the EU, but from modernity and ‘the elites.’ The EU became a punching bag for liberalism, with people taking out all their anger and bitterness on it. It’s no coincidence that the largest pro-EU demographic group was the over-60s, those who could still remember a Britain independent of international affiliations like the EU. Sadly, they appear to have voted in vain; regardless of our membership of the EU, we simply can’t restore that world. It’s gone.

UKIP are not necessarily stronger as a result of this vote. For the last twenty years or so, UKIP have successfully used Europe as a scapegoat for pretty much everything. This tactic has been pretty handy for them, as it absolves them of the responsibility of actually providing coherent policies beyond leaving Europe. The risk, however, of such a strategy is obvious; once Britain has actually left the EU, UKIP seems to have no raison d’etre left. UKIP flourished in 2015 by uniting elderly, disaffected Tory voters with working-class Labour supporters who received a raw deal because of neo-liberalism; now that the common cause has been accomplished, the two halves have no reason to stay together. In fact, it was a bizarre union to start with; a wealthy ex-banker from Dulwich like Farage has almost nothing in common with a laid-off steelworker from Port Talbot. Now that UKIP has fallen victim to its own success, its supporters will go their separate ways.

Michael Gove and Boris Johnson are two of the most disgraceful men to have graced British politics. David Cameron had no obligation to suspend collective cabinet responsibility for this referendum. He’s leading the government, and he had every right to tell his cabinet to unite or leave. Instead he chose to let individual ministers campaign on either side. The result of this was that Michael Gove – one of Cameron’s closest friends – took charge of the Leave campaign, and turned it into a thinly-veiled bid for political power. Aside from his numerous lies and exaggerations, Gove repeatedly attacked Cameron and Osborne in a most ungentlemanly way. Yet this is nothing compared to what Boris ‘Brutus’ Johnson did throughout the campaign. Johnson makes little secret of his desire to get to No. 10, and his decision to support the Leave campaign was almost entirely a political calculation (he allegedly had prepared a pro-Europe statement before polls suggested he’d be better off backing Leave.) In spite of Cameron’s historical support for him as Mayor, he engaged in the worst kind of demagoguery, repeatedly stabbing Cameron in the back. I don’t see a situation in which he won’t have a position in a new Tory government, and it isn’t unlikely that he will be PM by 2020. As a Tory I will find it exceptionally hard to vote for a traitor like Johnson at the General Election.

David Cameron’s reputation has been (unfairly) ruined. Within hours of the result the Prime Minister had stood down. Realistically speaking there was little else he could do; a vote of no confidence would otherwise have been inevitable, and after watching Iain Duncan Smith’s humiliating fall from power in 2003 Cameron would hardly have had the appetite to endure such an ordeal. Henceforth he will be remembered by Eurosceptics as a coward who was on ‘the wrong side of history’ by campaigning to remain, and by Europhiles as a weak leader who should never have allowed a referendum and who then failed to mobilise his party to vote to Remain. He staked his reputation on Europe and lost. This is a tragedy, as Cameron is surely one of the greatest Conservative leaders since Churchill. Not only did he make a clean break from the uninspiring, reactionary party of Hague and IDS, he successfully rebuilt the economy from the ruins it had been left in by the Labour government. All this, and he also presided over one of the greatest electoral victories in modern history in 2015, one which literally nobody had expected. David Cameron is a good man and did not deserve to leave in these circumstances.

Labour have a long period of introspection ahead of them. This referendum wasn’t lost because of conservative Euroscepticism. It was lost because the working classes plumped for Brexit. Areas like South Wales, Tyneside or the Black Country are solidly Labour, yet they voted heavily in favour of leaving the EU. Why? Because Labour failed to do their part in this referendum. In no small part due to the fact that their new leader is an ideological Eurosceptic himself, there was almost no serious campaigning by the Labour Party until the last week. What little left-wing pro-EU campaigning took place was mainly low-level, at the initiative of individuals. Corbyn himself barely made any serious speeches in favour of the European Union. The Labour Party simply (and rather arrogantly) assumed that their loyalists would turn out dutifully to remain in the EU; as it turned out, many of them simply weren’t convinced enough. The responsibility for this catastrophe lies, to be perfectly honest, with Corbyn’s lack of enthusiasm for the EU. With a leadership contest apparently imminent, Labour is going to have to consider what direction it wants to take, and how to recover those core working-class votes.

The next Conservative leader (and PM) should be a unifier. At present, the front-runners for the leadership election are Gove and Johnson, and it seems likely that the two men will work out a deal which will enable a joint premiership (Johnson as PM and Gove as Chancellor, for instance.) For the reasons outlined above, I would be deeply disappointed if either were to win, as I regard their conduct as ungentlemanly and disgraceful; the 30-40% of Tories who voted to Remain will likely agree with me. On the other hand, the triumphalist Eurosceptic wing of the party are unlikely to compromise on ‘their’ candidates. But at this critical juncture, the party does not need any more division. The Eurosceptics must not be permitted to take revenge on the moderates if they want the party to unite.

…and Cameron may well be instrumental in deciding his successor. Tory leaders have a habit of not going quietly. Thatcher’s final revenge against the ‘wets’ who engineered her downfall was to carefully scotch their chances of taking the government. She used her near-deified status amongst the Tory right in order to convince them to not vote for Heseltine; instead, she selected her protégé John Major as an heir presumptive, hoping that he would carry on her legacy in a way that Heseltine patently wouldn’t (he didn’t, but nobody expected that in 1990.) Also worth noting is Michael Howard’s manoeuvring after he resigned the leadership in 2005. Howard had long taken an interest in the careers of David Cameron and George Osborne; after he lost the 2005 election, his last act as leader was to promote the two to his cabinet, giving them a position from which to pursue higher office. It would be surprising if Cameron doesn’t try and stymie Gove/Johnson somehow.

We’ll survive. Britain has a wonderful propensity to survive. It takes a lot to shake us, and more still to break us. Let’s not delude ourselves – Brexit is going to be seriously detrimental to our economy, both in the long term and in the short. We’ve already seen the pound collapse as speculators try and offload as much of the currency as they can; the stock markets look similarly grim. The eventual impact upon our economy is yet to be even considered. But Britain has weathered worse. We will be able to muddle through, to cobble together a new settlement defining our relations with the world. It will, frankly, not be as good as what we had – that much is clear from the statement of prominent EU politicians. But hopeless nostalgia is what got us into this mess in the first place. The past is past; we must move forward confidently into the future, and try and figure out what the heck we’re going to do now.

Notes on the London mayoral election

The votes have been cast, the ballots have been counted, and the verdict is in. After an eight-year absence, a Labour mayor is back in City Hall. Sadiq Khan will be the first Muslim (and indeed the first ethnic minority) to occupy the seat formerly held by Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone, and his mandate is highly respectable, garnering 56% of the vote. Sadiq has promised to govern as his own man, and to distance himself from the rapidly-disintegrating Parliamentary Labour Party; there is no reason yet to doubt him.

So why did Zac lose? Some cynics might argue that he’s simply fallen victim to demographic realities – the middle-class voter base that the Tories have relied on are now moving out of London, to be replaced by working-class and/or ethnic Labour supporters. That’s true, to an extent; whereas ten years ago middle-class families were moving within London to areas like Richmond, Hampstead or Northwood, a mixture of declining living conditions and rising prices have meant that many are no longer London voters, having fled to the green and pleasant lands of Hertfordshire, Surrey or Kent. This is definitely going to have an impact upon the Conservative vote.

But it isn’t quite so easy as that. These demographic changes didn’t happen overnight; they were well underway when Boris Johnson won in both 2008 and 2012. Zac’s loss might have been exacerbated by these factors, but it’s certainly not reducible to it. Nor can the loss be explained merely by playing the ethnic card. Whilst London is indeed a majority-minority city – White British voters make up only 40% of the population – that conceals a huge amount of variation. Muslims only make up 12% of London’s population, and even if every single one were to vote for Sadiq – which is patently untrue, with many famous Muslim Tories hailing from London – it wouldn’t be nearly enough for him to gain victory.

The answer, then, is that Zac lost because he was a weak candidate. That’s not to malign him as a person – I’m assured that he’s a very decent fellow and a damn good constituency MP. But his campaign was decidedly poor, especially in comparison to Sadiq’s well-thought-through one. For much of the race, Zac simply didn’t seem to have much passion or energy. Instead, what the public saw was a rather anaemic and listless man, with none of the verve that had characterised his Conservative predecessor Boris Johnson.

Zac’s campaign lacked a ‘big idea’, a grand overarching theme that could have tied together all the other elements of his platform. Instead, he opted for the trouble-shooter approach, offering common-sense solutions to individual problems, one step at a time. In many ways that’s the sensible thing to do, and in terms of solid policy proposals Zac was far ahead of Sadiq. He offered well-costed, logical ideas which would have gone some way towards solving the problems being faced by Londoners; the housing crisis, rising transport fees, and community cohesion concerns.

But that wasn’t enough. Sadiq had very effectively branded himself as a ‘mayor for all Londoners.’ He leveraged his background to appeal to the traditional Labour base, but was never obnoxious or overtly racial. Equally important in his pitch to his ethnic background was the fact that he was ‘the son of a bus driver’ – a working-class boy done good. He went into overdrive reassuring groups of his desire to unify the city; for instance, he spoke convincingly of his support for the financial services sector, an area traditionally leery of Labour.

He also made this race about him, not his party. He put clear water between him and Jeremy Corbyn, emphasising that he would not merely be an extension of the dysfunctional national Labour Party. Zac’s campaign attempted to play the Corbyn card, suggesting that Sadiq would turn London into a testing-ground for Corbynite policies, but this narrative never really took off – mainly because there was never any good evidence for it.

In the latter stages of the campaign, I think Zac’s advisors realised that they were suffering as a result of their lack of an overarching theme. This could have been their chance to find a strong narrative for the party to rally round, and might have swung the race in Zac’s favour. Unfortunately, they then made one of the largest mistakes of the campaign, turning it into a viciously personal attack on Sadiq.

There’s no proof for this, but Lynton Crosby’s fingerprints are all over this. Crosby is the master of using spectacular tactics to shock (and often scare) voters into plumping for the Conservatives. In 2015 his stroke of genius was to convince the electorate that a vote for anybody but the Tories would be a vote for Nicola Sturgeon. It doesn’t seem beyond belief that he attempted to use this trick again; convince the electorate that Sadiq was a friend of terrorists and extremists, hence making Zac the only choice.

This isn’t in character for Zac, which is why I suspect it was a strategy foisted upon him by figures higher up in the Party. It was also a strategy which bombed catastrophically. This was for two reasons – and racism isn’t one of them. In fact, I’m somewhat disappointed in many Labour activists who labelled the Tories racist during the campaign; it’s an ideologically dishonest way of shutting down debate.

However, the accusations were for the most part untrue or exaggerated. The most damning evidence seemed to be that Sadiq had argued for radical Islamist Yusuf Qaradawi to be allowed to enter the country. Here I feel that we’ve scored an own goal. As a Tory I celebrate free speech in all its manifestations. I support the right of Nick Griffin or David Irving to speak whenever and wherever they’re invited, because I believe it’ll discredit their ideology; in the same vein, I feel that a man like Qaradawi shouldn’t be prevented from speaking in Britain. Yes, much of what he says is medieval and offensive; but unless it can be proven that what he says will directly precipitate violence, he should be allowed to say it. Hopefully, an open platform will expose how asinine and barbaric his views are. Sadiq shouldn’t be criticised for enabling free speech, something which we Conservatives have fought long and hard to preserve.

The other issue which Zac pressed Sadiq on was the fact that he’d shared a platform with various dubious characters. Yes, that’s true; but what of it? There was never a suggestion that he himself had espoused those views, and that’s because (to the best of my knowledge) he hasn’t. Indeed, he may well have exerted a moderating influence upon more radical individuals.  In hindsight they weren’t the brightest things to do, but Sadiq proved he can move beyond them.

That’s the other problem; Labour foresaw this angle, and by the time the inevitable assault came Sadiq had already established his bona fides through a series of well-choreographed speeches and meetings which put clear water between him and the radicals. He denounced Ken Livingstone as the repulsive anti-Semite he is; he assiduously courted the Jewish vote without coming across as artificial; he put counterterrorism at the heart of his campaign. As such, Zac’s broadsides against him ended up seeming weak and ill-considered.

So what next? What’s clear is that we need to wage a stronger and more coherent campaign next time. This election was a bit of a mess, to be honest; lacking in an ideological direction, and far too negative and pessimistic. There’s a lot Zac could have said about the vision he had for the city; instead he chose to run a campaign based on what he didn’t want. For 2020 we need a campaign which clearly expresses a Conservative vision for the city, and which is clearly ideologically different to our opponents. At times Zac seemed to be playing catch-up with Sadiq; not a good position to be in.

Furthermore, we need a more electable candidate. Zac is a splendid fellow, but he simply didn’t have the charisma necessary to convince people of his passion. This isn’t a question of class; Boris has been an exceptionally popular mayor, despite being eminently upper-class. But where Boris embraced his ‘poshness’ and made it a loveable quality, Zac tried to mask it behind an at-times risible Everyman persona that convinced nobody. We need a candidate who is confident, affable and who appeals to all Londoners; a candidate with a narrative. That doesn’t necessarily mean picking an ethnic minority or a female candidate, as some have rather cynically suggested. But there needs to be an awareness of how any candidate will play with those groups.

The final factor is out of anybody’s hands, to an extent. 2020 will be the first time that a mayoral election coincides with a general election. As such, success or failure in City Hall will be determined by No. 10. If the Tories go into the election as saviours of the economy, united and confident, they’ll make the job a lot easier for whoever’s contesting London for them. On the other hand, if the results of the referendum force a collapse in the party, and if Labour have found a more electable leader than the present idiot-in-chief, life will be tough for a Conservative mayoral candidate.

IDS resignation: why, and what now

Superficially the Conservative Party is in the strongest position it has been in since 1992. It has a majority in the Commons, a mandate from the nation, and is perceived as having succeeded in restoring the country’s finances and led it out of the deepest recession in years. Its’ opponents are in disarray – made politically irrelevant in the case of UKIP, in the case of Labour driven into an ideological civil war.

Yet the resignation of Iain Duncan Smith from the Cabinet yesterday indicates that the Prime Minister’s greatest threat lies from within his own party. Duncan Smith ostensibly left over a disagreement with the Treasury over cuts to disability benefits, but his sudden departure shows that the Tories are in a perilous position, one which may well lead to their implosion if Cameron cannot unite his party.

The fundamental issue is that Tory MPs dislike the Prime Minister and his allies. Whether it was Nadine Dorries’ caustic dismissal of Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne as ‘arrogant posh boys’, or Charles Walker’s statement that he had been ‘played for a fool’ by Michael Gove and William Hague (both Cameron loyalists and personal friends of the PM), Cameron’s premiership has been littered with intimations of discontent from the backbenches. This came to a head with the defection of Mark Reckless and Douglas Carswell to UKIP in summer 2014, something which struck at the heart of Cameron’s claims that the Conservative Party was a ‘big tent’ which had room for Eurosceptics. Both Reckless and Carswell were evidently unhappy with the leadership style of Cameron and Osborne.

Duncan Smith was, like those two, a prominent Eurosceptic, and that was certainly a causal factor in his departure. Earlier this month he had criticised the Remain campaign (and implicitly the PM) for ‘the acrimonious manner’ in which he had handled the referendum campaign, and suggested it approached bullying. He, and others such as his protégé Priti Patel, were never precisely sure how secure their position in the Cabinet was. As is often the case on issues where politicians ‘agree to disagree’, neither faction was quite sure how free they were to speak their mind. It is not inconceivable that his departure was to enable him to take the leading role in the Out campaign that he clearly wanted.

But Europe is symptomatic of a wider problem; Cameron is losing control of his party. He has been persistently aloof and uninterested in compromise with his own backbenches, and has increasingly turned the Tories into his own fiefdom. One notable way by which this has been effected was the ‘A-List’ policy of placing centrally approved candidates in safe seats; such candidates would not only be ideologically vetted for commitment to Cameron-ism, but would also be personally loyal to Tory high leadership. Despite the obvious anger of local associations, Cameron pressed ahead with this policy – building in a majority of loyalists, but at the cost of angering established Tories.

In addition he has ridden roughshod over his backbenchers and even members of the Cabinet who did not conform to his ideological standards. One example is the shabby treatment meted out to the exceptionally talented MP Graham Brady, who Cameron allowed to resign after Brady dared speak out against Cameron’s rejection of opening new grammar schools. Notable too were the numerous times that Cameron seemed far more amenable to Lib Dem politicians than to his own MPs; his decision to go into coalition rather than maintain a minority government was not appreciated by those MPs shunted out of prospective ministerial jobs to make way for Lib Dems. He then attempted to force through a reform of the Upper House, only to be stopped by a backbench revolt that he dealt with by (allegedly) physically threatening rebellious MP Jesse Norman.

Iain Duncan Smith has long been a victim of his, something which his resignation has only now fully revealed. For years he was made a hate figure by the left, caricatured as a humourless sociopath hell-bent on snatching benefits from the hands of the unemployed. Duncan Smith was the fall guy in the government’s reforms of welfare, the man who was sent to justify the government in front of the TV cameras. But even away from the press, it is clear that he was cruelly used indeed, forced to repeatedly make swingeing rounds of cuts to enable the governments’ spending limits to be kept.

The nadir in this has been the most recent budget, a document which reads from start to finish as an enormous political calculation. The Chancellor is clearly aware of the fact that certain groups are more likely to support the Tories than others. 18-30 year olds are hugely unsympathetic to the Conservatives, whereas pensioners are more likely to migrate between parties based on financial considerations. As such, this budget is a culmination of many years of economic bribery directed towards the elderly; the infamous ‘triple lock’ on pensions and the 2014 liberalisation of the same industry are two notable examples.

Pensioners are not the only recipient of Cameron and Osborne’s munificence: the two have continued to press on with their plans for a ‘Northern Powerhouse’, principally through road improvements and ‘HS3.’ In 2015 the Tories succeeded in shaking up Labour control of the North, for instance through unseating Ed Balls in Morley and Outwood. In this light, it is difficult to see HS3 as being anything other than a political ploy to gain votes in this key area.

The victim of all of this has been the welfare system. This is not to suggest, of course, that the system is not in need of reform – there are many areas in which increased efficiency is needed, and the fundamental goal of a leaner and better benefits system is laudable. But for No. 10 to spend extravagantly for political reasons in this budget, and then to leave the tab at the feet of the Work and Pensions department, is fundamentally unjust. Duncan Smith is not resigning merely because he disagrees with the piece of paper he was made to sign; he is resigning because he is tired of being used as a tool by Osborne and Cameron.

What does this entail for the Conservatives going ahead? In the short term Cameron’s position is consolidated, with a potential thorn in his side leaving the cabinet to be replaced with an avowed Cameron loyalist in the form of the genial Stephen Crabb. If we presume that Priti Patel will follow her boss out (a move which seems inevitable) then the Cabinet is increasingly emptying of Eurosceptics – if Cameron wins the referendum, more will go. In addition, Duncan Smith’s departure offers an opportunity for the government to make a respectable u-turn on disability benefit reforms, casting it as an internal rethink rather than something forced by Labour.

In the long term, however, this is a serious issue for the Tories. Whilst Duncan Smith has gone from cabinet, the downside is that he is now free to speak his mind from the back benches – and there are many Tories who will listen, on both wings of the party. Duncan Smith’s Euroscepticism means that many MPs thus inclined will see him as a martyr; similarly, the more liberal wing of the party will sympathise with the circumstances over which he resigned.

Moreover, this is a public vote of no confidence in David Cameron and George Osborne, an overt sign that things are amiss within the Conservative Party. It will force the government into either pressing ahead with the reforms – which the press will spin as a return of the ‘nasty party’ – or a retreat which will inevitably appear weak. Tory backbenchers will view this as a license to become even more assertive, seeing Duncan Smith’s resignation as portending the collapse of the Cameron ministry after the referendum.

Everything presently hangs upon the outcome of this referendum. It goes without saying that Cameron will resign if he fails to win, and Osborne too – he has staked far too much on it. But merely winning is not enough. Even a close victory would fail to convince his party – and voters – that he holds the confidence of the nation. In the event that he fails to win the referendum confidently, the resignation of IDS will have been the first nail in the coffin of Cameronism. A flurry of further resignations will either result in Cameron’s resignation or a humiliating vote of no confidence. If, on the other hand, Cameron clearly wins the referendum, a major spring-cleaning of the cabinet will be in order. Either way, this is far more than a resignation.

In Defence of Europe

The debate over Britain’s membership of the EU seems to have lost its way somewhat. Reams of paper have been published detailing economic arguments and forecasts; various business notables have spoken both for and against continued membership; both the Prime Minister and his detractors have given considerable attention to the intricacies of the renegotiated deal brought home from Brussels.

All this is, of course, of great relevance to the question of our membership of the EU. But in many ways the importance attached to economic arguments is obstructing a debate over a larger and more fundamental issue; what is Britain’s position in the modern world?

The first thing to point out is that the age of a Britain in splendid isolation is over. Both the ‘leave’ and ‘remain’ camps agree with this. Britain is no longer a major economic power, and our foreign influence is greatly diminished. In 1945 Britain still ruled much of the globe and had one of the greatest armed forces in the world; this is not true anymore. As such, it is inevitable that we will need to align ourselves with other nations in order to retain political and economic influence.

The question, then, is who we should align ourselves with. The ‘leave’ camp posits that we could build closer links with the Commonwealth; this is a naïve idea which I suspect most eurosceptics do not genuinely believe. The phrase ‘the Commonwealth’ might refer to two groupings of countries; the ‘old’ Commonwealth (essentially Canada, Australia and New Zealand), and the ‘new’ Commonwealth (the African, Asian and Caribbean countries formerly part of the Empire.) We could not plausibly create a strategic force with either of these groupings. In the case of the former, the countries in question are too economically irrelevant and too geographically diffuse to constitute an entity which could wield genuine influence; in the case of the latter, the enormous disparity in economic development would ruin Britain if any form of economic union was attempted.

Who else, then? The world has historically been a bipolar one, with history driven by the tension between East and West. At present, the West is unquestionably led by America; the demise of the USSR means that the East is represented by both Russia and China. Most countries around the world are aligned with one or the other of these camps. Consider the Middle East – Saudi Arabia, Israel, Turkey and Jordan are firmly pro-American; Syria, Iran, Egypt (since al-Sisi’s revolution) and increasingly Iraq are pro-Russian. The only countries in the region which have the luxury of a non-aligned policy are those few small states who are both wealthy and unconcerned with regional influence; Oman springs to mind.

But the choice between Sino-Russian and American hegemony is an unappetising one, perhaps fundamentally because we are culturally dissimilar from both. The ‘ideology’ of the East has always been one in which the individual is subordinated to the state. This was true in Tsarist Russia, with its’ celebration of ‘nationalism, orthodoxy and autocracy’; it was true in Maoist China, with its millions sacrificed upon the altar of national revolution; even today, Russia and China are fundamentally opposed to liberalism and individual liberty. This can be seen in the poor treatment of homosexuals, minorities and even women in both countries.

A casual observer might presume that Britain has a cultural affinity with the USA. I will concede that we share certain features with them; our language, for instance. However, we should not make the mistake of assuming that we are at all alike. America is a nation built upon the cult of the individual; the exaltation of individual liberty and hatred of the state. It is this ideology which is still driving politics on every side of the political spectrum; from Bernie Sanders’ regular criticism of Wall St. to Donald Trump’s odious diatribes against government institutions. It is this which engenders the celebration of gun ownership, or even the Ammon Bundy movement. Moreover, there are other serious cultural differences. America is a country driven by vapid consumerism and a fetishisation of material goods. It is a country beholden to evangelical Protestantism. For a British politician to talk about Jesus incessantly would be unthinkable; in America it is essentially a prerequisite for election. What I am driving at, is that Britain is not culturally American.

Moreover, it would not be desirable to become so. It rends my heart to see British culture taken over by American artificiality, which is infiltrating in every medium. Britain is home to one of the great cultures of the world, and the act of cultural vandalism that Americanisation constitutes is a crime against our heritage. Whilst we accept that we have a long historical relationship with America, that should not entail that we become part of their cultural sphere.

Where, then, does this leave Britain? It has been established that union with the Commonwealth is unviable, and alliances with either America or Russia are undesirable. Yet it is self-evident that in its’ present state the UK is not ready to go alone (though I do not rule out that at some point in the future we might.)

The only middle path is Europe. We share a great cultural affinity with Europe, engendered principally by the basic geographical reality that we are part of the European continent. Our great artists and writers have all been directly influenced by Europe; Milton was fluent in three European languages and travelled extensively through the continent, as did Chaucer, Marlowe and Wordsworth. European cultural influences are evident throughout our heritage. Moreover, we have been intimately economically linked with Europe throughout history. The continent has always been our major trading partner, and today we are closer linked than ever.

The EU consists of a ‘third position’ between America and Russia. Together, it constitutes an economy of $18tn, with sufficient economic diversity to ensure it remains a sustainable economic project. Different parts of the EU contain different elements of a successful, self-contained economy; Eastern Europe offers labour, Germany and the Netherlands heavy industry, France and Britain a highly developed services industry, Southern Europe raw materials and elements of all the above.

Together, Europe could act as a great power to challenge the hegemony of America and Russia. We would be able to do this not only through our economic might, but through military prowess too. Britain and France are two of the strongest militaries in the world, and our German and Scandinavian partners are not far behind. Together, we would be able to mount a credible non-aligned foreign policy, no longer beholden to American or Russian interests. A common EU security pact would make NATO – a tool for American domination of Europe – redundant. Pan-European forces would be able to act as mediators and peacekeepers in conflicts around the world, gaining the support of foreign states as Europe is once more seen as a thoroughly independent power.

I believe in Europe. I believe in Britain’s destiny as a European nation, not merely subject to the EU but taking a central leading role within it. Whilst I reject the idea of domination from Brussels, such matters are irrelevant to the fundamental debate; that of Britain’s position in the world. In my opinion the historical, cultural and geographic realities all point to a convincing case for Britain to remain part of the political framework of Europe.

Why Rhodes Must Not Fall

Firstly, a very happy New Year to all of you, and my sincere apologies for the lack of content over the last few months. Sadly the demands of higher education have meant that I’ve had to neglect this blog, but rest assured that it remains alive and kicking.

Today I want to address a topical issue which has been in the news recently – the controversy over Cecil Rhodes and his legacy at Oxford. For the last few months, a hard-left organisation calling itself (imaginatively enough) ‘Rhodes Must Fall’ has been calling for the removal of a statue of Cecil Rhodes from the grounds of Oriel College. This movement argues that the presence of the statue is apparently an affront to ethnic minority students, due to some of Mr Rhodes’ views and actions during his lifetime.

Cecil Rhodes is almost certainly the greatest of all British imperialists, and is perhaps single-handedly responsible for the extension of British rule over much of southern Africa. From an unremarkable middle-class background, Rhodes grew to become one of the wealthiest businessmen in England, as well as the eventual Prime Minister of the Cape Colony. Today, he is best known for having set up and endowed the Rhodes Scholarship, a means for talented international students to study at the University of Oxford.

I will be clear, brief and unambiguous here; I thoroughly oppose the ‘Rhodes Must Fall’ movement, and moreover consider it symptomatic of something deeply wrong with the student left in Britain. My opposition comes from two discrete reasons, both of which I think should be outlined. In addition to these reasons, I also find the tactics and approach of the ‘Rhodes Must Fall’ movement abhorrent and tasteless – however, I don’t think it is worthwhile to discuss this here.

My first reason for opposing the movement (and the most important, I believe) is the relativistic nature of history. What does this mean? Much as science can be divided into paradigms, I believe history can as well. I take ‘paradigm’ to mean a set of theories, methods and standards (here I use the definition given by Thomas Kuhn in ‘The Structure of Scientific Revolutions; much of this article owes a considerable debt to Kuhn.) A historical paradigm is obviously different from a scientific one; here, the theories and methods are fundamentally political. For instance, the paradigm that Genghis Khan lived in was one in which laying waste to Asia for the furthering of the Mongol people was considered normal. Alternatively, the paradigm that the Crusaders lived in was one in which the Saracen occupation of Jerusalem was considered unthinkably terrible. The ‘standards’ of a paradigm consist of the ways by which the success of its theories are measured. Remaining with the above example, Genghis Khan would have been evaluated as a successful leader by most of his contemporaries, on the basis that he expanded his empire and subjugated his enemies.

It is here vital to realise that paradigms are incommensurable. One cannot measure the success of one paradigm using the standards of another. To do so would not only be unintelligible (how can we evaluate which set of standards are the best?) but would also leave us hoist upon our own petard. Consider a relatively uncontroversial example; that of sexism. In 21st century Western Europe, it is generally held that sexism is an egregious and counterproductive belief; however, in the Middle Ages that which we call sexism was universal. We can label the Middle Ages as terrible; however, using the standards of their historical paradigm, medieval Englishmen would similarly label our society as equally terrible. It is impossible to evaluate who is right.

Let me here apply this conceptual framework to Cecil Rhodes. Within the paradigm of the 19th century, Cecil Rhodes was not just a great man but one of the greatest Britons to have lived. The standard for greatness here is the furtherance of the British nation, and the extension of British rule over as much of the globe as possible. This standard was understood by all nations – including the conquered. Therefore, within his paradigm Cecil Rhodes was undoubtedly a great man. I contend that we cannot provide a moral judgement of Cecil Rhodes, except a descriptive judgement of how he was viewed within his paradigm. If we attempt to judge him, we must inevitably do so according to our contemporary morality. But this is unfair, as that suggests that our present morality is an absolute one. As I have discussed above, no historical paradigm is superior to another, and as such the moral standards of one cannot be considered better than another. At most, we can state (correctly) that were a man like Cecil Rhodes to be alive in our time, he would be considered a bad person.

The upshot of this is that the ‘Rhodes Must Fall’ movement are guilty of intellectual dishonesty. They are judging a man from the past by the standards of the present. Not only is this incorrect and unintelligible, it opens the door to a whole world of absolutist iconoclasm. If the University succumbs to their demands, then they legitimise the position that a particular moral paradigm can be used for any time period. What might be the next to fall? Surely the statue of Edward VII that stands next to that of Rhodes shouldn’t stay; for surely Edward VII was complicit in the ‘atrocities’ of the Empire? What about St. John’s College; in the Book of Revelation St. John states that non-Christians will be burnt in the fires of hell, so surely we’re going to have to rename St. John’s? My point is that this application of the moral standards of the present to the past is grossly unfair and incoherent.

I now move on to my second point, namely whether the reputation of Cecil Rhodes is warranted. In this, I will seek to prove two things. Firstly, that by the standards of his time Rhodes was a great and indeed moral man. Secondly, that in the twenty-first century, we should continue to commemorate him. The first entails the second.

Cecil Rhodes devoted his entire life to the British Empire. He never married, he had few personal interests, and almost all his money was invested into imperial projects. By the standards of any era, this signifies a remarkable single-mindedness and patriotism. However, the 19th century valued these values far more than our current period; as such, it seems evident that he was a great man of that period. An objection might be raised; surely this patriotism manifested itself in imperial conquest, and as such is not morally impressive. However this is a serious historical misunderstanding. Within the 19th century paradigm, all societies implicitly understood that their state was to be considered superior to all others, and as such should grow at the expense of others wherever possible. This was, moreover, not a solely European phenomenon. A common misconception has it that non-European societies lived in a blissful utopia without violence or imperialism. This is plainly untrue. The states the British Empire conquered lived by the sword, growing at the expense of those weaker than them, and as such they also understood that the victory of the Empire was simply part of the same ‘game’ that they had all been playing. Had the Zulus played this ‘game’ better, then there may well be a statue of Shaka Zulu on the walls of Oriel College; as it turns out, the British won that particular round. The point remains that all parties involved knew the nature of imperialism, and the British should not be judged for having emerged triumphant.

I could, at this point, attempt to discuss some of the misrepresentations of the Empire in modern discussion. However, this essay is already overlong; as such, I will limit myself to saying that the British Empire should always be seen as a product of an imperial age, and never as a simple narrative of exploitation. I don’t wish to put forth a revisionist interpretation of empire, nor am I particularly nostalgic for it. Nonetheless, I urge readers to acquire a holistic understanding of this key phase of British history.

It is, however, a logical jump from (as I have done above) asserting Rhodes’ greatness within his paradigm, to arguing that we should continue to fete the man. Nonetheless, I believe this latter proposition is also true. Firstly, there is the not inconsequential matter of the Rhodes Scholarships. These continue to act as a pathway for the finest academic minds in the world to study at one of the best universities in the world. They have enabled hundreds of people to receive an education which they otherwise would never have been able to afford; one of these people is Mr Ntokozo Qwabe, a law student at Oxford who is behind the ‘Rhodes Must Fall’ campaign. If just for this, Rhodes deserves to be commemorated. But I believe that this is not the only reason. The history of the British Empire is an integral part of the history of Britain. It is impossible to ignore, and counterproductive to simply denigrate. Whilst we can certainly deplore certain elements, the Empire defined Britain. Why should we be ashamed of it? To be ashamed of our history is to be ashamed of our present, and to do this would be an unacceptable lapse of national spirit. Rhodes was a central figure in British imperial history, and the presence of his statue is a commemoration of this period of our nation.

In conclusion, then, I stand in total opposition to the methods and goals of the ‘Rhodes Must Fall’ movement. Whilst I am no apologist for the British Empire – and will freely admit that the history of the Empire contains many instances of brutality and injustice – I refuse to allow a small minority of people to dictate the history of my country. Britain was an imperial nation, and should never be ashamed of its history. Moreover, it is fundamentally incorrect – and sets a dangerous precedent – for historical figures and events to be evaluated according to present standards. If we carry on down this route, I foresee historical revisionism of a terrifying nature to become mainstream. Our history should be free of moral judgements, and instead be a descriptive record of events; its’ increasing politicisation does not bode well for intellectual freedom in the 21st century.

All adrift? The Mediterranean refugee crisis, and doing the wrong thing for the right reasons

After a certain point, the pictures all begin to look the same. Endless columns of hollow-eyed refugees, trudging down dusty roads in an apparently never-ending stream, rising in the Levant and ending around the fringes of Western Europe. In July alone, roughly 107 000 migrants reached Europe – I say ‘roughly’ because we really have no clue how many more weren’t registered. The statistics for August will probably show a sharp rise. The trend will only continue.

The fundamental problem facing the leaders of Europe is this; how can the humanitarian tradition of which Europe is rightly proud be reconciled with the very valid fears of the public about the entry of millions of non-Europeans with different religions, values and cultural norms? How can we avoid antagonising the citizens of Europe whilst still putting an end to the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding around the Mediterranean?

Perhaps prompted by several tragedies (perhaps most notably the grotesque death in Austria last month of over 70 refugees in an abandoned van) the anti-immigrant stance of many politicians is fading. Earlier this week, Angela Merkel announced recently that any Syrian who arrived in Germany would be given automatic asylum. Thousands have already taken her up on her offer. In Britain many notable writers from all across the political spectrum are suggesting admitting thousands of refugees into the country.

Certainly this is an admirable response, one which suggests that Britain still remains a bastion of humanitarian sentiment. But is it the right one? If handled correctly, this crisis could be resolved to the benefit of both Europe and those who seek to enter it; however, at present it seems that it is sentiment rather than rationality which is directing European lawmakers.

Firstly, it is a myth that it is a humanitarian imperative that Syrian refugees be let in. In almost all cases (with a notable exception that shall be addressed) these refugees are coming from the countries surrounding Syria – Jordan, Lebanon and most importantly Turkey. These countries are not at war; they are entirely safe for              Syrians to live in. They certainly don’t have the living standards of Western Europe – but since when was the imperative to unilaterally improve the living standards of every single person on earth? If that was the case, then why not airlift in the starving millions of Africa and Asia, who are certainly more deserving. Those Syrians who venture forth towards Europe are not ‘fleeing ISIS’, as some commentators put it – they are looking for a better life. A laudable ambition, certainly, but not one which should be unconditionally supported by the EU.

A more sustainable solution to this issue would not entail offering asylum to every Syrian who enters (as Germany does) but instead to increase funding towards improving conditions in source countries such as Turkey. Consider the actions that the Jordanians have taken with regards Syrian refugees – refugee camps there resemble well-planned cities, with considerable investment into the future of these camps. In such circumstances, refugees would be far less likely to make the dangerous passage to Europe, and would instead be induced to remain in the Middle East. Such investment could be particularly useful in the chronically overcrowded Lebanon, where the presence of Syrian refugees is a sore spot amongst the Christian and Shi’a majority.

There is one major subgroup of refugees who do not originate in the surrounding countries of Syria. This group consists of middle-class Syrian youths who are about to become eligible for the draft to join the Syrian Arab Army. The parents of these young men stump up the extortionate prices necessary to enable them to evade the draft and get to the safety of Europe. But my sympathy here is limited. Traditionally young men have always fought for the cause they believe in – why should we enable them to flee the battlefield, particularly when poorer Syrians have no such option and are automatically drafted? Such refugees, if they are genuinely unwilling to fight, will be able to earn a decent living in any of the neighbouring countries, and there is no compulsion for Europe to admit them.

Secondly, the presumption that Syrians could immediately integrate into Western European culture is false. The overwhelming majority of fleeing Syrians are observant Sunni Muslims, and relations between Islam and European culture have often been fraught, to say the least. This is not to say that they are incompatible – there are innumerable stories of the successful integration of Muslims into European culture in France, Germany and the United Kingdom. But it would be remiss to simply gloss over the major problems encountered by diaspora Muslim countries in Europe. In certain municipalities of Holland, almost 50% of all Moroccan teens have had run-ins with the law within a five-year period – this is indicative of a serious problem. Many Muslims, put frankly, despise Western culture and withdraw into ghettos which become hives of crime and extremism.

Moreover, would the local Europeans be happy with having an alien populace imposed upon them? Even if cultural integration were not a problem, there remains the issue of the economic capacity of Europe to support an indefinite number of refugees. The infrastructure of Europe was not designed to cope with such an influx of individuals – schools and hospitals, for example, are simply not prepared. Even if they were happy with asylum being extended to Syrian refugees, would most Europeans be happy about sending their children to school alongside new Syrian arrivals? Or queuing at hospital behind refugees?

Finally, the flow of Syrian refugees to Europe complicates the reconstruction of Syria. Though sometimes construed as an ‘endless war’, at no point has peace been closer than now. Steffan de Mistura, the UN envoy, has heroically drafted an agreement which has the tacit approval of not only the Syrian government but also many of the armed groups operating within Syria. If implemented, it will see the transformation of the war into an internationally-supported counterinsurgency program against such groups as IS, Jabhat al-Nusra or Ahrar al-Sham (the latter of whom have recently attempted to rebrand themselves as authentically Syrian revolutionaries, despite offering condolences to the Taliban upon the death of Mullah Omar.)

But the reconstruction of Syria would be critically hampered (potentially fatally) if an exodus of Syrians to Europe was permitted. Many of those presently attempting to get to Europe are the best and brightest of Syria; doctors, engineers, magistrates and the like. Rebuilding Syria without a middle class would be exceptionally difficult. No other reconstruction project has encountered this – for example, the rebuilding of Grozny was so rapid because the locals remained essentially in situ. But if Syria were to be deprived of an entire generation, then it would remain in dire economic and political straits for years to come. We cannot be guilty of betraying the Syrian nation.

Nonetheless, it would be immoral and counterproductive to simply stop all migrants from entering Europe. Syrian migrants might prove to be the fuel the European economy needs, providing labour and skills to accelerate growth. Furthermore, there are many cases in which it is simply a humanitarian imperative to give certain refugees asylum in Western Europe. Hence I propose a nuanced and effective program to ensure that help is given to those who deserve it, whilst fighting the fundamental causes of the crisis.

The most important element of this is to end the practise of giving automatic asylum to Syrians. This has led to hundreds (potentially thousands) of refugees drowning in the Mediterranean as a result of their desperate attempts to make the crossing and take advantage of Germany’s offer. It must be made clear that illegal crossings are futile; if asylum is to be sought, it must be sought through legal means. The EU should invest in building ‘immigration centres’ in source countries, through which all requests for asylum must be routed. Every year 40 000 permits should be offered; these will be given primarily to humanitarian cases and family reunification.

Any migrants found entering the EU illegally will be considered to have committed a criminal act. They will be transported to detention centres situated around the EU, where they will be kept in secure and humanitarian conditions until the cessation of hostilities in Syria, and invited to participate in voluntary labour programs. Though not retrospective, those migrants presently in Europe who are found guilty of serious crimes or terrorist offences will also be transferred to these centres.

In order to stem the flow, major investment must be put into Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.  The EU must collectively help fund the improvement of refugee facilities, especially in Lebanon. This could take the form of building permanent homes for migrants, or simply constructing sanitation and medical infrastructure. Investment should also be directed towards improving border security, such as training the Turkish coast guard or building fences on the porous Turkey-Greece border in northern Thrace.

And, of course, efforts must continue towards ending the war in Syria. That, above all, is the cause of the migrant crisis – the fact that much of Syria remains a battlefield, and reconstruction is failing to take place in those parts retaken from the terrorists. Diplomatic weight must be put behind the de Mistura plan, and the warring parties brought to the negotiating table in order to end the war, and in doing so end the flow of refugees out of the region.