Aggregated UK political opinion content, stakeholder research and policy consultations.
Jerry Hayes

Me Thatcher and the bombing of Tripoli.

February 27th, 2011 by Jerry Hayes

What a strange, precarious, unpredictable, white knuckle ride, politics can be. On Thursday David Cameron and William Hague were impaled on the skewer of incompetence; tomorrow they will be lauded as courageous, decisive statesmen, leading the world in making the Gaddaffi family as welcome as a former husband of Katie Price.

Wobbly Wednesday was not a good day for Team Cameron. Aircraft to rescue stranded Brits took an eternity to leave the tarmac. Clegg was on a family half term break at a time of crisis when Cameron was abroad selling arms to the Arabs. Obviously, the middle Eastern sales drive had been arranged months ago. But rather than cancel it as some of the more poe faced columnists squealed, it was turned to British advantage. At a time when the Arab world is in chrysalis form and the West wonders whether it will transform into butterfly or killer moth, Cameron and Britain’s leading businessmen beat the Germans the French, the Italians, the Chinese and even the Americans to make first contact with those who will be bringing in some form of democracy. Of course, it was luck rather than a grand plan. But it doesn’t matter. British interests and jobs are more secure now in this troubled region than they were a week ago. As Dorothy Parker might have said, “you can bring an Arab to slaughter but you can’t make him think.”  That will be the challenge.

What is so remarkable is the rabbits in the headlights paralysis of the Obama administration. It is as if, because of a collective guilt over the invasion of Iraq, they were unable to present any coherent strategy. Sending a former envoy to Egypt to tell Mubarak that it was time to go and discovering that he did no such thing, has weakened both Obama and the State Department. And at a time of spiking oil prices, and Mad Dog Gaddaffi committing acts of unspeakable butchery on his people, the President thought it a good idea to promote his policy of gay marriage. Now, I’m all in favour of gay marriage, it is long overdue; but there is a time and a place to make such policy announcements and that wasn’t one of them.

It probably won’t resonate much, if at all, with the public that it was Britain who pushed through  the resolution through the UN to bring Gaddaffi and his family to trial, to freeze there assets, to ban their foreign travel. But what will strike a chord and put a spring in jaded steps, will be the daring and successful operations of the SAS rescuing stranded Brits.

And then there is the problem of Ed Miliband. A few days ago he had the beginnings of an argument over ministerial incompetence. Now, that is just piss in the snow. Not even the ghastly sophistry of wee Dougie Alexander, who in the manner of a clever lawyer, which he is, can spin arguments on their heads, can slither out of the ghost that haunts them all: Tony Blair. To hear him wriggling, obfuscating, and being economical with the truth on Newsnight about Blair’s role on arms sales, oil deals and the release of Mehgrahi was bordering on the obscene. The sensation of listening to wee Dougie is like wiping your arse with silk.  William Hague summed up the affair rather well this morning on Marr. You have to have communication with those you profoundly disagree, just don’t be their family friend. All this when he was sitting next to Peter Mandelson, who has more than a passing acquaintance with family Gaddaffi, trying desperately to flog the next toxic chapter of his poisonous book.

I remember the bombing of Tripoli in 1986 rather well. I had been summoned to Number 10 to have drinks with Thatcher. There were three of us. Myself, David Amess and Johnathan Aitkin. She was late so we sat down drinking buckets of gin until her arrival. I thought, to make amends for past sins I’d start off  by being a bit of toadying creep and congratulate her on Foreign Policy which was being spun. Eventually she joined us.  So with my tongue hanging out I Uriah Heeped the following. “Prime Minister, you are so right not to allow this great island of our to be an aircraft carrier of the Americans. I am so glad that you have instructed Geoffrey Howe to solve the Libyan problem through diplomacy.” Now,I thought, that was bloody good and that for once I’d get in the old girls good books. Sadly not. The reason she was late was to give the orders for American bombers to take off from Britain and bomb the hell out of Gaddaffi. That was the watershed of my relationship with Thatcher. After that it was downhill all the way.

So, rather depressed, I wondered back to the Smoking Room to meet a very depressed bunch of Tory backbenchers. They’d heard the news and thought that it was a terrible mistake. We gloomily sipped our gins. Suddenly, the door swung open and a young sprog, pale and shaking, asked for silence. “I have terrible news”, he wailed. “The Americans have accidentally bombed the French Embassy”. Well, the reaction he got was not what he expected. There was an almighty cheer, much jollity and everyone got very drunk.

Categories [ Uncategorized ]

Comments [ 8 ]

  1. René Kinzett René Kinzett says:

    Whilst I want to see some form of “liberal intervention” to help solve the current situation in Libya, you are quite right, Jerry, to warn against the dangers of an “easy” air strike. We must take our time, plan carefully and look for diplomatic and financial pressures to bring to an end the suffering of the Libyan people. I want regime change, but to win hearts and minds along the way, bombing the hell out of their cities isn’t going to help in the longer term.

  2. evad nikral evad nikral says:

    Well Jerry, we know what happened to you and Aitken but what happened to Amess – did he fail and stay in the House?

  3. Colleen Colleen says:

    Liked your account of your binge at number 10. Regarding Red Ed, Guido has some fascinating stuff him about EM and the LSE lecturer, David Held.

    “The links between the Gaddafi family, Blair, Mandelson and Brown’s government are well documented. Does Ed Milband’s “new generation” also have links to the Libyan dictatorship? Has Ed Miliband himself got personal links to the “mad dog of the Middle East…Professor David Held is ghost-writing a big-ideas book for his Dartmouth Park neighbour Ed Miliband, he is also co-director of the London School of Economics’ Centre for the Study of Global Governance. The Centre took £300,000 off Saif Gaddafi?”

    Professor David Jonathon Andrew Held and the Milibands go back quite a long way.

    David Held is doing rather nicely for himself as co-own/director of a company called Polity Press Ltd, established in 1992. Red Ed’s father, Ralph Miliband, also an LSE lecturer, wrote for Polity Press up to his death in 1994. The last RM book Polity published was “Socialism for a Sceptical Age”, published by Cambridge: Polity Press, in 1994, the year of Ralph’s death”. Ralph M wrote books about Marxism, condemning the evils of private property while establishing a multi-million property portfolio for himself with money he got from his capitalist father, Samuel.

    Did Miliband help David Held establish Polity Press, or am I confusing the Socialist Register with Polity? Dunno. I think Held may have been one of the champagne socialist, Primrose Hill mob who visited Ralph’s swanky progressive salon in exclusive Edis Street. Ralph’s boys were treated like adults and participated in all the academic gatherings at Edis street. So Red Ed has probably known Held for most of his life. And Ralph’s widow will, I imagine, will still be receiving royalties from the sales of the books Polity Press published.

  4. Christopher H Christopher H says:

    Hi Jerry

    People liberation in Libya? My fat black ass,this is organised by the CIA.

    Christopher H

    • Jerry Hayes Jerry Hayes says:

      What!!!! If it had been organised by the CIA it might have been a bit more successful! But on the other hand………….

Leave a reply