This morning there was a new YouGov/Times poll asking about whether Britain should take part in military intervention in Syria.

A solid majority of the public believe that there probably was a chemical weapons attack by the Syrian government or their allies – 61% agree, compared to 5% who believe that the attack was a fabrication, and 5% who believe neither claim. 29% do not know.

This does not, however, translate into support for military action. By 51% to 17% people oppose sending Britain and allied troops into Syria to remove Assad. The more likely option of a cruise missile attack on Syrian military targets also faces fairly solid opposition – just 22% would support it, 43% are opposed.

60% of people say they would support enforcing a no-fly zone over Syria, though given the opposition to other military options one suspects this could be because a “no fly zone” is a rather peaceful sounding euphemism for something that would in practice also involve attacking anti-air defences or the Syrian air force. The full tabs for the polling are here.

While the YouGov figures suggest that there is little public support for Britain getting involved in military action against Syria, there was also some Sky Data polling yesterday which was less clear. Asked if people would support or oppose “UK military action in response to the alleged chemical attack in Syria” 36% said support, 37% said oppose. However, asked about UK military action that might result in conflict with Russia, only 28% said they would support, 48% said they were opposed. Tabs are here.

The reason for that higher level support in that first Sky Data poll is unclear. It could be because the chemical attack was mentioned in the question, or perhaps because it asked about a vague “miliary action” rather than the more specific actions in the YouGov questions. Either way, it is clear that the public are, at best, ambivalent towards military action in Syria, with opposition to most specific proposals and to intervention that risks conflict with Russia.


305 Responses to “YouGov/Times poll on military intervention in Syria”

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  1. NearlyFrench

    Which evil do you mean? there are plenty to choose from in Syria……

  2. CMJ

    Perhaps there should talk talk and more talk now. Bombing never seems to be the last resort these days and it rarely succeeds.
    The cherry picking of those regimes that are considered evil is also hypocritical.

  3. @Catman

    “Ultimately there needs to be a political solution, and one that all the players can live with.
    That means stopping the killing first.
    After that humanitarian relief/first responders.
    After that talk, talk and talk some more.”

    ———-

    And polling, don’t forget the polling!!…

  4. @Mike Pearce,

    In Alienated Labour’s book, ours is one of the evil regimes. Maybe we should bomb ourselves..

  5. NEIL A

    Not in my back yard please

  6. I thought Lord Dannett was spot on when interviewed on the radio this morning when he said that “gesture bombing” is never a very good idea and serves no purpose beyond being seen to do something/anything in the absence of a coherent military and diplomatic strategy.

    The West hasn’t had the semblance of a strategy in regard to Syria and I haven’t much confidence they’ve cooked one up in the last 5 days since the most recent use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime. Not sure Trump does strategy really, nor the UN so I’m fearing that what we’re about to shortly see will be a brief spasm of gesture bombing in Syria.

    I rather agree with Simon Jenkins and his realpolitik approach to the crisis. The quickest and least dangerous route to eventual peace and the cessation of slaughter in Syria is to let Assad get on and win his civil war. I can’t quite see the Western dog in this fight at all.

  7. By that reasoning, the Saudis should be encouraged to gas the Houthis, the Russians the Ukrainians and the Israelis the Gazans.

    Let us get to a situation where brutal actors have no opponents, tout suite so we can all get on with having a quiet life.

  8. @Colin @Oldnat

    Here’s a link to the leaked EU report:

    https://www.dropbox.com/s/u2xtfj6n1ezq1mp/Gazprom-Statement-of-Objections-1.pdf?dl=0

    AEPs DT article:

    Vladimir Putin’s abusive stranglehold over European gas supplies has been laid bare by explosive EU documents, exposing deliberate violations of EU law and a pattern of political bullying over almost a decade.

    The longest investigation in EU history found that the Kremlin-controlled energy giant Gazprom has used its enormous power to pressure vulnerable states in Eastern Europe, and to fragment the EU’s unified energy market with coercive pricing policies.

    The report suggests that Germany has been enjoying a sweetheart deal with Gazprom, gaining a competitive advantage in gas costs at the expense of fellow EU economies and leaving front line states at the mercy of Moscow’s strong-arm tactics.

    Hundreds of pages leaked from the European Commission paint an extraordinary picture of predatory behaviour, with Gazprom acting as an enforcement arm of Russian foreign policy. Bulgaria was treated almost like a colony, while Poland was forced to pay exorbitant prices for imported flows of pipeline gas from Siberia.

    The stash of files slipped to Euro-MPs – in a very rare breach of secrecy rules – amount a political bombshell. It is highly embarrassing for the EU’s exalted competition directorate. The papers imply that Brussels learned the full truth but is nevertheless turning a blind eye as it prepares to reach a cosy understanding with Moscow, disregarding fundamental principles of EU law.

    “This is a very big deal. What the documents show is that there was systematic abuse of dominant position, and that it was clearly done for political purposes,” said professor Alan Riley, an expert on EU energy law at the Atlantic Council.

    “Gazprom was splitting the European energy market at every point. And now the Commission is minded to do a deal that treats the East Europeans as if they were not member states at all,” he said.

    The political context is inflammatory. The competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, has pursued an aggressive and controversial campaign against US technology companies such as Google and Apple, openly vilifying the Silicon Valley leaders as a threat to European democracy.

    Critics say the double standards over Gazprom suggest that Commission has succumbed to “regulatory capture” or other forms of pressure, and has become ideologically unhinged.

    The key report – called a ‘Statement of Objectives’ – is a confidential indictment or charge sheet by the competition directorate. It was drawn-up in 2015 after four years of investigation, following the most spectacular “dawn raids” ever carried by the Commission’s elite swat team.

    It states that Gazprom infringed multiple EU laws and had engaged in “abusive behaviour”, charging “unfair prices” and leveraging its “dominant position”. The Commission called for fines of 30pc of relevant sales, or up to 10pc of total turnover. “The Commission considers that the infringement has been committed intentionally. Gazprom is fully aware of the illegal nature of at least some of the various contractual and non-contractual measures,” it said.

    Investigators found that Gazprom was charging Poland $350 per 1000 cubic meters of gas, compared with $200 further down the Yamal pipeline in Germany, where the cost should logically have been higher. The apparent reason was to punish Poland for refusing to cede control over that section of the infrastructure to the Russians. Germany’s privileged pricing may help explain why it has been the chief champion of Gazprom’s interests in Brussels despite the Kremlin’s assault on Western democracies.

    The episode exposes the emptiness of EU rhetoric and moral posturing, and risks mushrooming into a major Brussels scandal. Polish politicians say Germany has used its enormous influence over the EU institutions to suppress the full findings of the enquiry and to push for a friendly settlement with Gazprom that preserves much of the status quo.

    “What we’re told is that the Commission wants an amicable settlement and has already decided to do this deal. It is disloyal and Poland is one of the victims, but not the only one,” said Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, a leading Polish MEP and the country’s former Europe minister.

    “The documents show beyond any doubt that Gazprom has trespassed on EU law for years, and the Commission is about to issue a de facto acquittal anyway. They are they are doing this in the context of a silent war by Russia. This is all about vested interests,” he said.

    At the time of the enquiry Russia had a near monopoly across the old Warsaw Pact region, accounting for over two-thirds of natural gas supply to a string of countries. Its three sets of pipelines provided 64pc of total EU gas imports. The advent of liquefied natural gas and the construction of LNG terminals in Poland and Lithuania has reduced this dependency slightly but the overall problem remains.

    Although the 271-page document is heavily redacted, the thrust is clear: “Gazprom has been pursuing a strategy of market segmentation in CEE countries via contractual territorial restrictions and equivalent measures;

    (ii) Gazprom has been preventing intra-brand competition by prohibiting its contractual partners from re-selling Gazprom’s gas outside their domestic countries;

    (iii) Gazprom’s market segmentation policy has the purpose of maintaining price differentials between Member States and allowing Gazprom to charge higher prices.”

    It controls the metering and the storage points, and imposes clauses to stop “reverse flows” of gas from West to East, leaving the more vulnerable states at the mercy of a Kremlin squeeze. “The contracts in principle prohibit the re-sale of Gazprom’s gas to other countries,” it said.

    Gazprom actively stopped Poland obtaining emergency supplies of gas from Western wholesalers in the acute gas crisis of 2009.

    Bulgaria is particularly isolated with no links to neighbouring gas networks. The document said the country was the victim of “exploitative abuse”. The state energy group BEH “had no choice but to accept its participation in imposed unfair trading conditions”. Most of the details were blacked out but there have been allegations of outright intimidation and blackmail in the East European press.

    The EU admits that Gazprom’s promises change little, but it is willing to do a deal anyway and sacrifice the East Europeans
    In the Baltics, gas prices differed capriciously from country to country, seeming to reflect rewards or punishments for policy shifts towards Russia by respective governments. The alleged abuses are a patent violation of both the spirit and the law of Europe’s integrated market.

    Gazprom has since modified some policies but much remains unchanged. “Despite various requests by Gazprom’s customers to remove the restrictions, also in view of their illegality under EU competition rules, Gazprom did not agree to or ignored such requests,” it said.

    One of the leaked documents reveals the Commission’s view on Gazprom’s offer of a settlement. It said the proposal would allow the company to “continue its pricing policy” and that it would not prevent other abuses from reoccurring.

    The Commission admits that acceptance of the offer by the EU would “be seen as failure to exercise the EU law enforcement powers,” yet this appears to be exactly what was being planned until this week. The Commission may now be forced to take a tougher line.

    The scandal is in one sense the political equivalent to the diesel affair in the car industry, and raises awkward questions about the integrity of the German political system. The saga has infuriated the Polish government, which is currently facing EU action over its court policy and accuses Berlin and Brussels of cherry-picking moral issues.

    The Social Democrats (SPD) in the German coalition are close to Moscow and back the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project owned and controlled by Gazprom. Former Chancellor Gerhard Schroder is on the project’s board and therefore on the Kremlin payroll. The Nord Stream 2 leadership is peppered with ex-KGB and ex-Stasi officers.

    The new pipeline further concentrates Gazprom’s power and leverage by switching gas flows from the Brotherhood pipeline through Ukraine, serving a key goal of Kremlin geostrategy. The leaked Commission report suggests that it is scarcely in the interests of all EU members or consistent the EU’s energy goals.

    The project is increasingly at risk in any case. Gazprom’s chairman, Alexei Miller, is targeted in the latest draconian sanctions imposed by Washington. It is hard to see how Shell, Engie, and other firms in the Nord Stream 2 consortium can risk going ahead with a venture subject to such enormous political and legal risk

  9. @Crossbat11 “I rather agree with Simon Jenkins and his realpolitik approach to the crisis. The quickest and least dangerous route to eventual peace and the cessation of slaughter in Syria is to let Assad get on and win his civil war. I can’t quite see the Western dog in this fight at all.”

    In realpolitik terms, there’s a case for the West actively prolonging the war in Syria as it ties up Russia, Iran & Hezbollah and acts as a magnet for other radical Islamic groups.

  10. Neil A

    Israel does use chemical weapons on people in Gaza. During the recent March of Return massacre there is footage of Israeli drones flying overhead showering the protestors below with chemicals – CS gas ( derived from chlorine, the same substance Assad’s government has been accused of using in Eastern Ghouta) accounting for to 3 of the 32 deaths that happened during the protests, and making up the bulk of the 1000+ injuries that were sustained, many of which have led to blindness and long-term respiratory problems. I don’t recall the British government objecting to this at the time, let alone threatening war with Israel for it.

    Turkey also used chemical weapons in its attack on the Kurdish enclave on more than one occasion, and they are members of NATO, and Jaish al-Islam, the Islamist rebels currently in control of Eastern Ghouta have also got a record of using chemical weapons on the battlefield, but since they are a Western backed Islamist militia that’s the sort of chemical weapons use that the British government can tactility approve of.

    Finally Britain has already intervened quite extensively in the Syrian civil war, by providing funding and logistical support to rebels, intelligence via Turkish intermediaries and a small number of boots on the ground (photographic evidence of which was published by the BBC in August 2016) the troops in question were guarding an airbase in Homs that was being used to attack the Syrian armed forces. Thousands of innocent people have died already after being bombed in both Iraq and Syria, most famously around 50 children taking refuge in a school in Raqqa in early 2017.

    If the Syrian air force was dropping bombs on schools in Britain would it be considered an act of war? Does flying over another nations sovereign airspace to drop bombs on their civilian population count as an act of war? How would you feel if another country did that to a school in your area, and would you say after the bodies of the dead children have been dug out from the rubble that it didn’t constitute some form of military intervention?

    Anyway I am against war, like most sane people, and I think the Tory government would be putting it’s poll ratings in grave danger if they took us into yet another misguided war of choice in the middle-east.

  11. Btw I’ve been seriously injured by chemical weapons (CS gas) on more than one occasion by British regime forces – once during an anti-EDL rally in Bolton in 2009, once again during the student demonstrations in London in 2011, and again during an anti-EDL demonstration in Leicester in 2012. The worst was in Bolton, I couldn’t breathe properly for hours afterwards and the effects were still with me weeks after the event itself, although I got off better than many others – I saw an 83 year old WW2 veteran who had come out to protest with us leave in an ambulance after a particularly gung-ho member of the constabulary sprayed him straight in the face with some gas. He died about 6-7 weeks later. Some footage exists on YouTube if you can be bothered to look it up.

    Will there be bombing runs on Scotland Yard for them doing this I wonder?

  12. @AL

    Your speeches are worthy of 80’s Militant Tendency. “British Regime Forces” – democracy not your thing then? A dictatorship of the Proletariat and all that. “Freedom for Tooting!”

    Trying to conflate tear gas or pepper spray and Sarin/VX/Mustard etc smacks of poor homework and hyperbole.

  13. So CS Gas is the good kind of chemical weapons then, rather than the bad type? Gotcha. It’s considered to be a chemical weapon by every legal definition that exists.

    Don’t forget that that people die cos of CS gas, and that the chemical weapons used in Ghouta from the same broad family of chlorine derived chemical weapons CS gas.

    Finally I use the word regime for the same reasons the British state uses regime when describing the Syrian government – to strip it of their legitimacy. I oppose the current regime every bit as vehemently as the people fighting in Syria oppose Assad.

  14. @AL

    Guess what a conventional bomb and a nuclear bomb are still bombs. The difference is in orders of magnitude and effects.

    You are trying to conflate pepper and tear gas with weapons that are designed to kill 100s if not 1000s of people. To suggest tear gas is a weapon of mass destruction is ridiculous.

    You consistently undermine your arguments here with such blatant hyperbole.

  15. It never ceases to amaze me, the support which evil dictators around the world receive from the left in the UK. ‘For the many not the few’ but don’t mention the Marsh arabs, the people of Benghazi, the Yazidi’s, or the people being gassed by Assad, or any number of other minorities being oppressed round the world.

    Seachange

    Your report on the Gazprom expose does not surprise me. My main reason for voting leave was the corrupt, wasteful and undemocratic nature of the eu political organisation. It has always been clear to me that it was ever thus. That the Germans in particular are up to dirty tricks (again) is hardly a surprise. You mention Schroeder, was Willy Brant found to have been a spy as well after he left office? Merkel is from East Germany too…….

    Alienated Labour

    Your posts really are the most entertaining ones on this board. And I think that you actually believe what you write.

  16. Very large numbers of Palestinians were seriously injured and some killed by these forms of chemicals. The only reason you’re not up in arms about those killed by them in Gaza are because they’re the wrong type of Arabs in conflict with a British ally instead.

    The current death toll in Eastern Ghouta stands at seventy, and not all of those are the product of chemical weapons. Far more people are killed in Syria by conventional ordinance than by chemical weapons. If 70 people had died from being poisoned by CS gas would that make it acceptable to you? In truth the only real difference is the concentration of the amount of liquid and it’s potency, chemical weapons like this can be used as both lethal and none lethal, as weapons that can kill dozens or thousands, depending on the military needs of the person using them.

    Chemical weapons are routinely used by all sides of the civil war in Syria, and outside of that two. White Phosphorus was used by the US marine corps liberally and with horrendous results in the attack on Fallujah, Iraq, in 2004 for example. Agent Orange and Napalm (which isn’t technically a chemical weapon although it’s effects are very similar) were used is vast quantities against the people of Vietnam. If the problem is the use of chemical agents in war I’m simply pointing out that more than just Syria have used them.

  17. SEA CHANGE

    Thanks for the further info.

    Energy supply is a geopolitical tool for Putin as well as an economic imperative for Russia.

    The pain currently being felt by Deripaska following Trump’s sanctions gives a clear indication of how the regime can be hurt.

    So buying more & more of Putin’s energy is not a good plan for Europe. In any case, as your post shows the EU is shot through with competing national interests , double standards & duplicity, under the veneer of all that European Citizen rhetoric.

    On Syria,in the absence of a functioning UN I reluctantly have to concede that those here who advocate just letting Assad get on with it , merely highlight real politik now..
    Of course-as has been pointed out,- that means the green light for any secular dictator or religious maniac with a bunch of modern weapons. But then those two horrors seem to be the only choices for so many of the poor people of the Middle East whose children are condemned to die in agony for years to come.

  18. @Robert Newark

    I hope that missive wasn’t directed at me. I have nothing but contempt for Assad and the Ba’ath Party and their long-term persecution of socialists and communists makes them no friends of ours.

    I could just as easily accuse people on here who support intervention of being supporters of ISIS and Al-Qaida by such logic.

    And yes, although I do enjoy rattling a few Tory cages with my rhetoric, I assure you I am totally sincere in what I believe.

  19. Posted this on the last thread before I realised it had ended, so recopied here fww.

    “COLIN
    WB
    @”Churchill’s military exceptionalism is, I think, overated.”
    From the safe distance of a 2018 armchair ?. No problem.
    From the perspective of the citizens of UK in 1940, and particularly of their armed forces on the beaches of Dunkirk. ? I don’t think so.
    April 12th, 2018 at 9:25″

    Just trying to catch up, you can see from this post how far I am behind but I just had to comment.

    2 or 3 years ago my wife and I were sat in the vets waiting room near our home in France.Opposite were sitting an elderly French couple with their dog. We had done the usual ‘Monsieurdame’ greeting as they had entered as the French always do when they enter a roomful of strangers.

    After a few minutes he realised from the conversation my wife and I were having, that we were English. Slowly, the old man got up and came over to us, took my hand and shook it and in broken English told me how grateful he was to the British for coming to The aid of France in 1939 and in particular that his hero since has always been Winston Churchill, not Charles deGaul. If it had not been for Churchill, we would all be speaking German now, he said. France owes a great debt to Mr Churchill and always will.

    The area was on the border between occupied France and Vichy France and the Germans carried out many atrocities there, probably the worst being the Oradour massacre, where an entire village of men, women and children were massacred, a bit like what Assad is up to now. The only difference now is that the current Labour wants to let him get on with it and the Labour leader in 1939 wanted to stand up to against it. Mice and Lions.

    Anecdotal but quite a moving episode.

  20. @Crossbat

    “I rather agree with Simon Jenkins and his realpolitik approach to the crisis. The quickest and least dangerous route to eventual peace and the cessation of slaughter in Syria is to let Assad get on and win his civil war. I can’t quite see the Western dog in this fight at all.”

    I think defining what’s beyond acceptable is the role of the Western Alliance.

    Yes, Tony Blair abused and broke political consensus on our international role, but allowing Assad carte blanche is equally wrong.

  21. AL
    No my general comment was not aimed at you in particular. Just those on here who seem to support Assad and Russia. Obviously my specific point headed with your name was.

  22. Just to get this clear…

    If I (like the vast majority of voters, it seems) don’t support (or are against) military intervention in Syria that means I am on the side of Assad and Russia?

  23. “I could just as easily accuse people on here who support intervention of being supporters of ISIS and Al-Qaida by such logic.”

    More easily I’d say. To stay out of a war isn’t really to support either side in any meanigful sense. To join in inherently is.

  24. Nick P: no, of course not. But even though principled non-intervention is not the same as tacit support, that is exactly how Assad/Putin will interpret it. They will continue doing what they are doing until they are stopped.

  25. ROBERT NEWARK

    Thanks.

    The recent film “Darkest Hour” seemed to prompt a rise in revisionist thinking of Churchill.

    My Facebook page was full of it-mainly via grandchildren’s pages !

    I found it amusing that those so anxious to attack the “deification” of Churchill were themselves involved in the creation of a political Messiah.

    Churchill was an Edwardian aristocrat. He had little to contribute to the rebuilding of a shattered post war economy & society-but the pragmatic voters of Britain new that.

    But they also knew that there wouldn’t have been a Free Britain to rebuild ,without him.

    I have heard other stories similar to the encounter in France you describe.

    Europe owes him much. The older generation don’t forget that.

  26. @Alienated Labour,

    CS is associated with small levels of permanent harm in some people exposed to it. Incidents of alleged fatalities are very rare, and almost always relate either to the use in very enclosed spaces (such as the suppression of prison riots) or from the kinetic effects of being hit with the projectile itself (which doesn’t really count, in the context – although of course being killed by the authorities is being killed by the authorities, whatever the cause).

    What has to be remembered is that “non lethal” control methods like CS and pepper spray – and indeed tasers – should be deployed in situations where “doing nothing” is not a viable option, and where the real alternative to “non lethal” control methods is “potentially lethal” control methods.

    The police are taught that although the use of spray and taser may involve a small risk, this is tiny compared to the potential risk of physically engaging with a suspect, using a gun (obviously), baton or even just with bare hands. In the escalating scale of the use of force, spray and taser are relatively early options (earlier than for example drawing a baton).

    Far, far more suspects are killed after being shot, beaten or grappled by “regimes” than are killed with “chemical weapons”. I am far more concerned about Israeli snipers opening up on crowds (including journalists) than about them lobbing tear gas. In simple terms, if we banned the use of spray and tasers, more people would be killed by the police in the UK

  27. @Neil A

    “By that reasoning, the Saudis should be encouraged to gas the Houthis, the Russians the Ukrainians and the Israelis the Gazans.

    Let us get to a situation where brutal actors have no opponents, tout suite so we can all get on with having a quiet life.”

    Yes, of course, that’s exactly what I meant. I thought you were better than this tabloid piffle. It appears that when you don’t like an opinion that is different to yours you parody it instead. A pretty desperate debating style, I think, although not at all uncommon on UKPR these days. I express doubts about intervening militarily in Syria at this particular juncture and I’m categorised as someone condoning, ipso facto, Israelis gassing Palestinians in Gaza? Dear oh dear, what complete silliness. It almost doesn’t merit the dignity of a reply, but I will nonetheless.

    My view is that Assad is clearly winning this civil war and his victory is a matter of when and not if. The time to tip the fighting in favour of his highly dubious and disparate opposition forces was a long time ago and certainly before he received support from Russia, Iran and Hezbullah. The emphasis now should be on how we handle and contain the aftermath of his victory and that seems an entirely diplomatic operation to me. As far as I can see, Assad has no territorial ambitions in the region and merely wants to stay in power. Iran certainly has and I can see why Israel has concerns but, pre-Trump, the West made real advances diplomatically with this more modern and moderate Iran and I see no reason, post Trump (2 years time?) why that path can’t be trod again. Ditto Russia. There’s no realistic and viable future that involves fighting Russia, and they’d probably agree, so we have to get them on side too. I suspect Russia and Iran aren’t in it for the long haul and won’t invest much in post-victory Assad’s Syria beyond short term basking in their geo-political p*ssing contest success. Syria will be a broken country and I think the West could achieve a gigantic soft-power success by bringing Assad in from the cold with some Marshall Aid like support. Can’t see Russia and Iran able to do that and Assad will likely go where the money is.

    I know this may appear horribly cynical but geo-politics tends to be like that. It’s probably the best way of persuading Assad to give up his chlorine and sarin bombs too. Gesture bombing won’t do that but clever diplomacy might. Let Assad win quickly and then unpick the mess afterwards.

    Heavy ordnance won’t do any of this, apart from killing lost more people, but world statesmen might. Where are such people, though?

  28. SEA CHANGE

    The Gazprom revelations have not gone down well in Central & Eastern Europe.

    As though Brussels doesn’t have enough problems with Visegrád.

    http://www.intellinews.com/leaked-document-shows-eu-s-initially-hardline-approach-to-gazprom-139858/?source=baltic-states

  29. CB11

    @”I suspect Russia and Iran aren’t in it for the long haul ”

    I disagree.

    THe recent summit between Putin, Erdogan & Rouhani , imo, indicates the power brokers in that region.

    We are on the outside looking in.

  30. Ronert Newark

    Loved your anecdotal post on the last thread, as you say a very moving story and a reflection on what the continent owes us. That old Frenchman got it right, they do owe us.

    SEACHANGE

    Many thanks for the 2.35 am post.

    “The episode exposes the emptiness of EU rhetoric and moral posturing, and risks mushrooming into a major Brussels scandal. “

    Indeed, it does, no surprise to me though as I was saying only yesterday that the EU was corrupt. I note that Robert Newark feels exactly the same. It also supports another theme of mine that the Germans screw the rest of the EU when they can. The sooner we get out the better.

    MIKE PEARCE

    “Good posts from both Ronald Losen and CMJ. Thoughtful and well observed.”

    Yes I agree with you and it does seem that the US is giving the problem more thinking time which is welcome.

    On how the World should respond to Putin re the Salisbury poisoning, my wife came up with a good idea which we have since seen in the DM as well. If all the major footballing nations boycotted the World Cup Putin would really be damaged. Any support for that idea? It certainly does not involve the military but would, I believe, be very effective.

  31. @Crossbat11

    I (rather sadly) agree with most of what you say.
    And it is clear that any intervention is fatally flawed when we (i.e.the West) have no strategy and no idea what we are trying to achieve by it other than the appearance of doing something.

    I disagree though, pretty fundamentally, about ‘getting Russia onside’. Putin’s Russia will not play nice in the sandbox whatever we give them, and the more we give the more they will want.

    Our efforts should be focused on containment of Russia, and reducing our vulnerabilities to their actions, either overt (Gazprom, etc.) or covert (state-sponsored assassinations, interference in elections and local politics, bribery and corruption, and covert military operations).

    Eventually Putin will be replaced, and there may be an opportunity to do positive business with the new leadership, but I fear we need to play a very long game on this one.

  32. @TOH
    You and I are both old enough to remember how effective the Olympic boycott was at getting the USSR out of Afghanistan. I don’t expect a gesture over the football would be any different this time.

  33. An interesting analysis here of the complexities & potential tinder box that is Syria.

    https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/04/09/syria-putin-russia-war-middle-east-217838

    The players mentioned here-Assad, Putin, Iran & Israel; exclude yet another piece of this infernal jigsaw-Turkey. Turkey which wants shot of the Kurds on its Syrian doorstep ; Kurds who are allies of the Coalition against ISIS. Turkey is a member of NATO.

    Simple it is not.

  34. CB11 @ 8.47 am

    Thanks for this sensible contribution.

  35. @Colin

    I’m sure you’re too honest to deliberately misrepresent others’ views here. But the effect of your latest post is to suggest that people who point out that Churchill didn’t have great success as an armchair general – Galipoli and the Norway campaign being two examples of his ineptitude in this respect – are engaged in an attack on the man’s stature as national hero and saviour.

    Free discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of politicians is a characteristic of democracy. To regard the discussion of any flaws or shortcomings as unacceptable or evidence of “a rise in revisionist thinking of Churchill” is to veer towards ‘Great Leader’ territory.

    There is nothing new in historians accepting that Churchill’s huge strengths did not include military genius. Strategic vision on a geopolitical scale? Yes. Inspired leadership and motivation of the nation? Of course. Saving Europe from itself? Indeed.

    So why should we expect him also to a genius in military planning, any more than in science, mathematics, or indeed cooking or football? Or regard discussion of his flaws in that respect as unacceptable (perhaps I’m being over-sensitive in detecting an implication of unpatriotism).

    Thankfully, he wasn’t given the captaincy of the England football team, or made head chef at the Ritz. Likewise, he was kept well away from the detailed planning of D-Day. For which we should all (including RN’s French friend) be very grateful.

    By all means, Colin, defend WSC’s role in the Gallipoli and Norway fiascos in military terms – which neither you nor RN have attempted to do – but, please, don’t go for the easy option of suggesting that any criticism in this limited area of competence represents an unworthy attack on the man’s greatness as a war leader.

  36. Neil A

    “By that reasoning, the Saudis should be encouraged to gas the Houthis, the Russians the Ukrainians and the Israelis the Gazans.”

    Let me just get this straight then. Are you advocating bombing Saudi Arabia, Russia and Israel?

  37. @ToH @Sea Change

    Many thanks for your courteous and thoughtful replies to my question.

    Essentially you both agree that there will be an economic hit from Brexit, although I don’t think either of you expects it to be Armaggedon or long-term. For both of you Brexit is a political project and the political gains outweigh the short-term economic losses.

    Three points.

    First, it is absolutely fair to say that politics trumps economics. That said, it is obvious that there are going to be some serious economic losers from Brexit, and Brexiters need to take this seriously and bend their minds to minimising the pain. The ‘Cake and Eat it’ theme is, in my view, delusory and dishonest and there are far too many signs of Brexiters believing their own rhetoric and thus failing to pay serious attention to the problems that are going to arise. (Admittedly it is difficult for them, as these problems are so varied).

    Second, I think that for ordinary voters the rationale for Brexit was quite heavily economic, albeit not in a straightforward way. The state of the NHS, the run-down economies of areas which had once been the foundations of Britain’s greatness, and the disproportionate prosperity and power of London or Elites or Brussels or some other distant and powerful entity were all, I suspect, seen as a core concerns. Essentially these concerns are economic but Brexit was seen as a way of saying that these things were not good enough, and that foreigners were taking our money and our jobs and colluding with our elites to undermine our way of life. In my view Brexit will make these things worse, but irrespective of that we will not resolve them if we don’t deal with their economic causes.

    Thirdly, I think that it is important for Brexiters to get more specific about the aspects of sovereignty that are important. Essentially it seems to me that we don’t mind the economic consequences of the EU – any free trade deal that we strike is going to entertain some pooling of sovereignty. We do not, however, want to be part of a super-state. So I would like us to unpack which bits of the EU apply to the aspiration to be a super-state and which bits relate to the bargains we have to strike if we are to trade at all. Ideally we then unilaterally reject all the super-state conditions and happily accept all the rest.

  38. SOMERJOHN

    @” But the effect of your latest post is to suggest that people who point out that Churchill didn’t have great success as an armchair general – Galipoli and the Norway campaign being two examples of his ineptitude in this respect – are engaged in an attack on the man’s stature as national hero and saviour.”

    You are seeing something which isn’t there.

    The “revisionist” discussion groups on Churchill I referred to were to discuss his record as a “war monger” !. They seemed to pop up on my facebook after the recent film about 1940.

    So I would put it another way-for the people who organised that sort of discussion, Churchill’s WW2 leadership was a bit of an irritant-and the film prompted them to refute its picture of Churchill as -to use your words- “national hero and saviour”

    WB , in my interesting exchanges with him used the word ” deification”. He was anxious that Churchill should not be deified. In my post this morning, I reflected that some of the ( mainly young) people attracted by those Churchill as War Monger meetings were themselves involved in the “deification” of a political leader.( something Jess Phillips touched on recently :-) )

    But anyway-to come back to your criticism of me. In discussion with WB , we agreed that any review of Churchill’s political career must of necessity acknowledge his failures . It wasn’t as though he didn’t do so himself-as Anthony McCarten’s book makes clear.

    But he was-to the people of this country and many in other countries -a Hero of WW2 survival.

    It may be difficult for you-or indeed me !-to separate out the bits of Churchill we want to highlight & remember. But the pragmatic British voters had no such problem. They loved him for saving them from Hi*ler-and then they threw him out of office.

    And quite right too-his influences, as I said this morning, were from the Edwardian upper class. He had no role in rebuilding the country.

    But he did save it for others to rebuild.

  39. @Colin
    And quite right too-his influences, as I said this morning, were from the Edwardian upper class. He had no role in rebuilding the country.
    But he did save it for others to rebuild.

    Beautifully put!

  40. @Colin

    I can agree with most of that, but you do keep tending to steer the discussion away from the narrow grounds upon which it started – Churchill’s competence as a promoter and planner of military operations – to his general and largely undisputed status as a national hero.

    By defending what isn’t under attack (and bolstered by RN’s grateful old Frenchman anecdote) you tend to create the impression that there was indeed a general attack on WSC’s reputation here on UKPR. Which, as far as I can see, there wasn’t.

    TBH, I wasn’t aware of any tendency amongst young people to question his conduct, but again there’s nothing new or necessarily unhealthy in that: if you can’t be iconoclastic when you’re young, when can you be?

  41. @ TOH

    “a very moving story and a reflection on what the continent owes us. That old Frenchman got it right, they do owe us”

    Not that it isn’t a nice story or something British citizens shouldn’t have some pride in, but the idea that France or Europe “owes” us anything is a bit extreme. It was a World War against a dangerous dictator and we had little choice. If we hadn’t confronted him when we did, then at some stage we would have had to for our own protection and things would have been even harder. Wasn’t like he was going to leave Britain alone forever (even if he might have done at the time we declared war).

    Britain and the allies still made lots of self interest decisions- handing over most of Eastern Europe to Russia, especially ironic as Poland was the trigger for WW2. To be fair we had probably had as much war as we could take.

  42. @Robert Newark

    “If it had not been for Churchill, we would all be speaking German now, he said. France owes a great debt to Mr Churchill and always will.”

    I’m not sure that’s right, is it, and I think the Allied Forces might quibble just a little with who should take all the credit for the liberation of France from the Germans. Churchill and Britain played a key part in that alliance, but these sorts of statements border on simplistic jingoism to me. The Russians might have something to say too about the gross simplifications implied in your elderly French acquaintance’s views too. I’m sure you wouldn’t want to be associated with these sorts of people, but I heard a group of English football fans chant exactly the same thing to a group of bewildered Dutch people in Amsterdam a few years ago. “You’d be Germans if it wasn’t for us”. It made me cringe, as did the inflatable Spitfire planes they mockingly brandished.

    As for some of your other comments, aren’t you in danger of making this unnecessarily party political? Surely the Syrian crisis is beyond that, isn’t it? I get worried sometimes that people don’t look at these hellishly complex global problems dispassionately and allow domestic party political goggles to colour their judgements. Conservative Governments are by necessity good and therefore must always do good things. Labour Governments and/or Labour leaders are by necessity bad and must, per se, always be doing bad things.

  43. Charles

    I will try and respond to the three points you make.

    “First, it is absolutely fair to say that politics trumps economics. “

    Good to hear you say that, I am not sure how many Remainers would totally agree with that.

    “That said, it is obvious that there are going to be some serious economic losers from Brexit, and Brexiters need to take this seriously and bend their minds to minimising the pain.”

    In saying the above, I assume you mean Brexiters in Government, not ordinary voters like me, and I assume SEA CHANGE. Ordinary voters unless actively involved in government can actually do very little except vote in elections and express an opinion when polled. Anyway, back to your point, I believe there will be economic losers, and also economic opportunities. I agree Government should take sensible measures to minimise any pain as we leave, but also make sure we seize the many opportunities presented.

    “Second, I think that for ordinary voters the rationale for Brexit was quite heavily economic, albeit not in a straightforward way. The state of the NHS, the run-down economies of areas which had once been the foundations of Britain’s greatness, and the disproportionate prosperity and power of London or Elites or Brussels or some other distant and powerful entity were all, I suspect, seen as a core concerns.

    There we disagree significantly (apart from your reference to Brussels), I think it was mainly about sovereignty. If you look at YouGov polling in April and May 2016 people were pessimistic about the economic effects but still voted to leave in June. If you look at May 23/24th and the question do you think Britain would be better or worse off the figures are :
    Better off 23%
    Worse off 34%
    No Diff 25%
    D. Know 18%

    And On Jobs good or bad effect of leaving the EU:
    Good effect 20%
    Bad effect 32%
    No Diff 27%
    D. Know 21%

    Admittedly they did think there would be a benefit for the NHS, so the Leave battle bus resonated with a significant number.

    “Thirdly, I think that it is important for Brexiters to get more specific about the aspects of sovereignty that are important.”

    I really would have thought you knew my views already on that but here goes again
    1. Full control of our own borders.
    2. Full control of our law making, so no input from ECJ.
    3. Total freedom to make trade deals.
    I have probably left out many other things but that will do for now, I am sure you are clear what it means to me. I would actually go much further. I want us out of the ECHR as well but accept that this is not part of Brexit.

    I have many other reasons why I am passionate about Brexit but I have tried to answer your questions. I hope that helps you.

  44. @cb11

    “I rather agree with Simon Jenkins and his realpolitik approach to the crisis. The quickest and least dangerous route to eventual peace and the cessation of slaughter in Syria is to let Assad get on and win his civil war.”

    Quite. The reality is this mess only got as bad as it did because we were providing behind the scenes support to ‘moderate’ (hah!) rebels.

    The effectively secular iron fisted autocractic dictatorship that syria was is far better than what is likely to replace it should the rather islamist rebels win.

    @RN
    “It never ceases to amaze me, the support which evil dictators around the world receive from the left in the UK. ‘For the many not the few’ but don’t mention the Marsh arabs, the people of Benghazi, the Yazidi’s, or the people being gassed by Assad, or any number of other minorities being oppressed round the world.”

    Half of those things are only happening because of western interference in the first place. Take the Yazidis, the people killing them wasn’t Assad, it was daesh and why did daesh get any kind of power? Because we destabilised iraq and then aided the destabilisation of syria.

    Yes Assad and Saddam were horrible people who oversaw brutal regimes where any rebellion was dealt with harshly. It’s not about supporting them it’s a question of whether we can offer anything better. The past and the present rather suggests no, we’ve gone from states where questioning the ruling dictator will get you killed/oppressed to states where believing a slightly different interpretation of the same fairy story will get you killed/oppressed.

    I’m not sure this is particularly a right/left issue either but it never ceases to amaze me how the more hawkish can’t seem to see more than 1 move ahead. It’s rather like the south park gnomes.

    1. Bomb bad guy (except where allied to us, obviously) who’s undertaken evil act.
    2. ????
    3. Win!

  45. @ Colin

    If the reference to Churchill in those sources you refer was as a warmonger I could not disagree more. Churchill was one of the only senior Conservatives in the 1930’s to call out Hitler and the Nazi’s for what they were; he found himself in some strange (for him) company e.g. Aneurin Bevan in that regard. Churchill’s dogged determination in this regard, portrayed in such dramas as “The Wilderness Years” demonstrates some of the most important qualities which came to the fore in the war (1) he was a man of principles who would not be cowed or tack with the wind to seek personal popularity (2) he was profoundly honest in a “telling it as it is” approach to politics and not sweetening the pill which meant that the British People had no illusions that war would be easy (3) he was an historian of significance and understood modern events in their context and, finally (4) he had both the intellect and fortitude demand huge efforts of himself despite suffering from what we now understood to be severe depression.
    Churchill’s personal weakness (my view but also held by a number of historians) was his constant attempts to compare himself with his ancestors and attempt to exceed their accomplishments: in the case of politics it was Randolph Churchill his father, and Churchill certainly exceeded his achievements which was no mean feat in itself, however he was also in thrall to the reputation of the first Duke of Marlborough and this drove his attempts to become involved in military campaigns beyond a political level strategy and down to battle strategy, it is at that latter level where I think his talents were limited.

  46. My biggest concern in the slightly longer term is that Trump is trying to make himself look like a capable leader and using the military might of the USA to further that cause.

    If he succeeds it could leave us with him as President for a lot longer than we have been expecting and hoping, with all the associated problems and dangers that that entails.

  47. I’m finding all this discussion of war rather depressing (though I do appreciate some very thoughtful posts). So as a distraction, any thoughts on last night’s locals? In particular the LibDem gain and the strong LibDem performance elsewhere. Both very much in ‘safe’ Tory areas:

    Rogate (Chichester) result:

    LDEM: 55.8% (+55.8)
    CON: 40.1% (-27.3)
    LAB: 2.6% (+2.6)
    GRN: 1.5% (-18.2)
    No UKIP (-12.9) as prev.

    Middleton Cheney (South Northamptonshire) result:

    CON: 42.1% (-21.6)
    LDEM: 34.1% (+34.1)
    LAB: 19.7% (+19.7)
    GRN: 4.1% (+4.1)
    No Ind (-36.2) as prev.

    Is this something we’re likely to see reproduced elsewhere in a few weeks time? Or is it more to do with LibDems performing well in individual cases, whereas come a bigger set of local elections, their poor national VI will be more relevant?

  48. Some of differences with the Sky poll may be due to its sample which is a “Nationally representative sample of 508 Sky customers interviewed by SMS 11 April 2018. Data weighted to the profile of the population”. In other words only Sky subscribers took part and they won’t be representative of the population as a whole (I would imagine they are more interested in sport for example). It’s been weighted to match nation demographics and Sky Data are clearly trying to get as close as they can (I notice they’ve joined BPC), but in the end you can only work with what you’ve got.

    But I would imagine that the main reason for any discrepency is, as Anthony suggests, the vagueness of the Sky question Would you support or oppose UK military action in response to the alleged chemical attack in Syria? a) support, b) oppose, c) neither, d) don’t know. Presumably those who feel “Something must be done” without actually looking at what or considering the consequences will be happier to agree with this than anything more specific.

    Forced to look at details by YouGov’s questions, not only does the enthusiasm reduce, but it splinters. So even the two 22% supports for some form of intervention are made up differently with those for missile attacks being older, male and Tory and those for on-the-ground civilian protection being more likely to be younger, female and Lab/Lib. So support for giving the government a blank cheque to do what it likes (which is what seems to be being suggested) should be even lower.

    The accompanying article of the YouGov website:

    https://yougov.co.uk/news/2018/04/12/two-one-public-oppose-missile-strikes-syria/

    shows an interesting graph on how support for the previous batch of Syrian air strikes fell once people began considering the details (amusingly they seem to credit Corbyn’s opposition for this). However support for missile strikes now starts at 22% not 60%. This may not end well.

  49. @ Trigguy

    Was just last night watching Vernon Bogdanor’s lecture on the Liberals and Liberal Democrats on the Parliament Channel. What was interesting to note was his thesis that whilst the strategy, since Grimond really, was to appeal to Labour voters, the actual success of the Liberals was in Conservative areas and was when Labour was doing well.
    Whether that holds true in these strange political times I don’t know but inroads in safe Conservative areas could be the canary in the coalmine for observant and thoughtful Conservatives: whether that will lead to a change in strategy, who knows!

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