Commentary Magazine


Topic: Ed Miliband

On Defense, Cameron is No Thatcher

I wish I could be happier about the outcome of the British elections. There is a naturally tendency, after all, for American conservatives to cheer for British Conservatives. Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher are, if anything, more popular in the U.S. than in the United Kingdom. But David Cameron is no Churchill or Thatcher.

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I wish I could be happier about the outcome of the British elections. There is a naturally tendency, after all, for American conservatives to cheer for British Conservatives. Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher are, if anything, more popular in the U.S. than in the United Kingdom. But David Cameron is no Churchill or Thatcher.

To his credit, he has implemented an impressive austerity program, cutting the budget deficit and the public workforce in ways that Republicans can usefully emulate. Certainly he was preferable to Ed Miliband, the most left-wing leader of Labor since Michael Foote in the early 1980s; if Miliband had won, he would by all accounts have implemented socialist policy at home and isolationist policy abroad. (Ed’s brother, David, who lost the leadership election, is much more mainstream in the Blair mold.)

Cameron is vastly better on domestic policy than Miliband but he is not that different on foreign policy. Far from pursuing a Churchillian or Thacherite foreign policy, he is a Randian—as in Rand Paul, not the Rand Corp. or Ayn Rand. Or, as he would have been known in the 19th century, he is a “Little Englander”—Britain’s version of isolationists.

Cameron has shown scant interest in taking an active, interventionist stance as Tony Blair did. He tried and failed to win support in the House of Commons in 2013 for bombing Syria in response to its violations of President Obama’s “red line” on Syria. His defeat not only caused Obama himself to lose his nerve but also led Cameron to scurry off with his tail between his legs. Ever since he has been content to take a backseat in international affairs, letting Germany and France take the lead in negotiations with Russia over Ukraine, for example. When it comes to battling ISIS, Britain’s contribution is tiny and mainly symbolic.

Cameron’s most disastrous policy decisions have been to cut defense spending in ways that make it impossible for Britain to project substantial military force abroad.  My boss James Lindsay, director of studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, has the depressing rundown:

 

  • In 1996, the British Navy had thirty-six warships—destroyers and frigates. Today, it has eighteen. Britain is building two new aircraft carriers. The first is scheduled to be completed in 2017, three years before Her Majesty’s Navy acquires the planes that will fly off its decks.

Not all of these cuts have occurred under Cameron but he has accelerated these trends since taking office in 2010. On his watch British defense capabilities have fallen so far, so fast that the “special relationship” with the U.S. has become but a memory; even if Britain wanted to play an active role in helping the U.S. to police the world, it would be unable to do so.

Let’s hope, as Dan Twining suggests, that Cameron will use his second-term, now that he no longer has to share power with the Liberal Democrats, to pursue a more muscular national security policy. Certainly his isolationism is not demanded by the public; in a recent survey 63 percent of Britons said they wanted their country to continue to be a great power.

Given all the threats that the West faces—from Ukraine to Iran—the United States cannot afford to go it alone and there is on other ally we can count on as much as we have counted on Britain during the past 60-plus years. But unless Cameron radically reverses his first-term trends, the UK will continue to slide into international irrelevance.

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Britain Has Spoken. What Did It Say?

David Cameron has done a Bibi! Polls had his Conservatives and Ed Miliband’s Labor neck and neck in the final weeks of the United Kingdom campaign, with neither likely to command a majority in the House of Commons. But the exit polls last night shocked everyone. Just as was the case with Netanyahu’s surprise surge in the Israeli elections, it appeared that Cameron’s Tories had conclusively defeated Labor, albeit still just short of a majority. And like Netanyahu, by morning it emerged that Cameron had won what is, under the circumstances, an astonishing victory: a slight majority. After five years of coalition government in the UK, such a feat can no longer be taken for granted. A few points of reflection about this election are therefore in order, with eyes to the past, the present, and the future.

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David Cameron has done a Bibi! Polls had his Conservatives and Ed Miliband’s Labor neck and neck in the final weeks of the United Kingdom campaign, with neither likely to command a majority in the House of Commons. But the exit polls last night shocked everyone. Just as was the case with Netanyahu’s surprise surge in the Israeli elections, it appeared that Cameron’s Tories had conclusively defeated Labor, albeit still just short of a majority. And like Netanyahu, by morning it emerged that Cameron had won what is, under the circumstances, an astonishing victory: a slight majority. After five years of coalition government in the UK, such a feat can no longer be taken for granted. A few points of reflection about this election are therefore in order, with eyes to the past, the present, and the future.

First, the past. No election should go by without voters appreciating the significance of casting ballots, a point underscored by the VE Day commemorations taking place in the UK today. In probably the most unpredictable election since the War, in which so few seats could legitimately be considered “safe”, Britons could really feel their voices were going to be heard and should be grateful for that opportunity. This should also, however, remind us all about the threats our political freedoms face from the current worldwide Islamist insurgency. The spate of successful and thwarted attacks in Europe and Texas in recent months reminds us all of the vulnerability of free societies and the ongoing need for vigilance.

For Jews, the right to vote means even more. As a historically beleaguered minority and one made by some to feel unwelcome still, the freedom to participate in the governance of their country is one their ancestors could not imagine, and it is a responsibility which Jews today must not shirk. For British Jews, who opinion polls suggested were leaning heavily toward David Cameron thanks in part to his steadfast support for Israel in its battle with Hamas last summer (in stark contrast to Miliband, who is Jewish), this election will come as a relief. Almost all of the MPs representing more Jewish constituencies have been returned, and the notoriously anti-Israel Bradford MPs, George Galloway and David Ward, have both been ejected from office.

And so, to the present. The tally for the 650-member Commons is as follows: Conservatives 331 (+24), Labor 232 (-26), Scottish National Party 56 (+50), Liberal Democrats 8 (-49), Other 23. The big winners are the Tories and the Scottish Nationalists. No incumbent party has grown its faction in the Commons since 1983, and back then Margaret Thatcher was bolstered by victory in the Falklands War. The Conservative gains are therefore electorally very impressive indeed. The SNP too had a brilliant night – although their remarkable successes were more anticipated. The Nationalists rose from a meagre 6 seats at Westminster to become its third largest party, crushing opponents across Scotland. They took out the shadow Foreign Secretary (who, to give a sense of how unpopular Labor has become in Scotland, he was defeated by a 20-year old college student, who will become the youngest MP in centuries). They took out the leader of Labor in Scotland. And they also won all seven seats in the Labor-stronghold of Glasgow – an earthquake that would be equivalent to the Democrats losing San Francisco. What the rise of the SNP, which just lost a Scottish independence referendum last year, means for the Union is yet to be seen.

The big losers, of course, are Labor and the Liberal Democrats, but also the UK Independence Party (UKIP). Labor not only lost its Shadow Foreign Secretary but even it’s Shadow Chancellor, the architect of its economic policies. The numbers too are shocking: there are fewer Labor MPs now those when former prime minister Gordon Brown managed to salvage in the previous election in 2010 when he and his party were being blamed for the economic recession. The Liberal Democrats, the junior members of the coalition, were trounced, losing cabinet ministers and former party leaders across the country. And UKIP, which was hoping to take a handful of seats, emerged with only one – although it did place second in many constituencies and won a significant proportion of the national vote. And so, in the space of one hour, three party leaders (Labor’s Ed Miliband, the Liberal Democrat Nick Clegg, and the UKIP leader Nigel Farage) resigned – unheard of in British politics.

(For American observers, the result is another win for former Obama strategist Jim Messina, who worked on the Tory campaign, and a loss to David Axelrod, who consulted for Labor.)

Finally, the future. A Conservative win is good news for UK-US relations. Cameron has shown he can work with President Obama, and if any British leader is able to collaborate with a possible Republican president, it is more likely to be him than Ed Miliband. Defense spending is likely to be a sticking point, given present Conservative plans to make cuts. However, the slim Tory majority means Cameron will be very reliant on his backbenchers, who tend to be more conservative and may resist excessive military reductions. The tension between Cameron and some members of his party points to the biggest issue of all: Europe. Cameron has promised a renegotiation of the UK’s place in the EU and a referendum on membership by the end of 2017. Expect to hear much more about that.

And so, like Netanyahu, Cameron had a good election. But unlike Netanyahu, he won’t have to negotiate for a month to form a wafer thin majority. He already has that now.

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Will Britain’s Cameron Survive the Election?

Britain is currently in the grips of one of the most closely fought elections in decades. Of course, the same could have been said five years ago at the last election. In a rare occurrence for Britain the 2010 election saw no outright winner, a hung parliament. That time the Conservatives managed to pull together a coalition with the country’s third party, the Liberal Democrats. But as Britain’s formerly solid two party system has further disintegrated it is not only once again looking unlikely that any party will have an outright majority but worse, current polls foretell of a parliament in which it is difficult to see either the Conservatives or the Labor opposition being able to form a workable coalition.

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Britain is currently in the grips of one of the most closely fought elections in decades. Of course, the same could have been said five years ago at the last election. In a rare occurrence for Britain the 2010 election saw no outright winner, a hung parliament. That time the Conservatives managed to pull together a coalition with the country’s third party, the Liberal Democrats. But as Britain’s formerly solid two party system has further disintegrated it is not only once again looking unlikely that any party will have an outright majority but worse, current polls foretell of a parliament in which it is difficult to see either the Conservatives or the Labor opposition being able to form a workable coalition.

The fact that sitting Prime Minister David Cameron looks unable to secure a majority is itself cause for comment. Yes, it is usual for incumbents to see their mandate reduced if re-elected. But it is also far from impossible for the opposite to happen. In 1983 Margaret Thatcher significantly increased the Conservative vote from what she polled in 1979. To be sure, Cameron is no Thatcher. But what his government has done in turning around the British economy from the mess bequeathed by the last Labor government ought to have been enough to have won the votes for a majority.

Britain had after all been hit particularly hard by the global recession. Unemployment spiraled and the Labor government engaged in a bout of Greek style borrowing. It was unsurprising then that the Conservatives came out of the 2010 election as the largest party, but what should concern Britain’s center-right is the fact that even then Cameron failed to actually win the election outright. In fact, even with Labor having presided over one of the longest and deepest declines in GDP since the Second World War, it was still the left that essentially won that election. Combined, Labour and the Liberal Democrats took the most votes and the most parliamentary seats.

The leader of the Liberals subsequently infuriated much of his party, as well his voter base, when he went on to form a coalition with Cameron rather than Labor. And while some have predicted that the price will be electoral catastrophe for the Liberals, the British economy has been the beneficiary of that move.

In the past five years Cameron’s government has made cuts to government spending, reduced the size of government, taken the poorest out of tax, reformed welfare to incentivize work, and made a start at reducing the deficit. The results have been promising. Last year the British economy grew faster than any other major economy in the world, making it now the second largest in Europe. Wages have risen against prices, as inflation has remained low. Along with a boom in business start-ups, some 2.3 million jobs were created in the private sector over the past five years. Indeed, between 2010 and 2013 more jobs were created in Yorkshire than in the whole of France (there are 5 million people living in Yorkshire, as opposed to 66 million in statist France).

Contrary to the predictions of the left, Cameron’s government has even overseen modest improvements in public services and has reduced crime measurably. And yet despite all this it is the Labor party—led by the unpopular Ed Miliband—that has received a five or six point swing in the opinion polls. And Labor’s prospects may be further boosted by the rise of the Scottish Nationalist Party, which has offered to back legislation from a Labor government in the next parliament. But the SNP is also a party that combines anti-English micro-nationalism with a strain of socialist economics too radical for even Labor’s tastes.

So how to explain the mood of the British electorate, which is now quite possibly poised to depose a prime minister that has turned their country’s economy around? One explanation could be the role of the ethnic minority vote. That is to say, Labor could be brought back into office with the help of many of the people who came to Britain as part of the policies of mass immigration and multiculturalism promoted by Tony Blair’s government from the late 1990s onwards. By some estimates Labor now gets about half of all its votes in England from ethnic minorities, with some communities such as the Muslim one voting almost exclusively for the left. As Ben Judah recently argued in Politico, Labor risks becoming an ethnic minority party.

But there is another factor, and that is the role of the British media and popular culture. While the UK print media may be split between the left and right, the broadcasters, dominated as they are by the BBC, have a noticeable left-liberal lean. And while the BBC may not be party political, the values it pushes are noticeably those of the liberal-left. The same could be said of the values taught in elementary schools. British children are now reared on a junk diet of “progressive” thinking.

In the popular imagination the Conservatives have been framed as the party of heartless elitism. This election you can find plenty of homes proudly displaying Labor placards. You will be hard pressed to find many Tory ones. Well, who wants to out themselves to their neighbors as “selfish”? And so Britain may now be becoming a country in which no matter what economic miracles Cameron works, no Conservative government can win a solid majority.

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Why Ed Miliband’s Labor Is Losing the Jewish Vote

Britain’s upcoming general election is fast turning into one of the strangest the country has ever witnessed. Quite apart from the fact that the outcome appears utterly unpredictable, there have also been all kinds of strange anomalies. Both the major parties–Conservative and Labor–are being seriously undercut by a formerly fringe single issue anti-European Union party, while a tiny far-left environmentalist party momentarily pushed itself to center stage in the election debate, and looming over the entire campaign has been the unpalatable prospect of Scottish separatists playing kingmaker in the next parliament. Yet perhaps more surreal than all of this has been the bizarre reality of a Labor party that now has its first Jewish leader, just at the very moment that it is losing the Jewish vote.

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Britain’s upcoming general election is fast turning into one of the strangest the country has ever witnessed. Quite apart from the fact that the outcome appears utterly unpredictable, there have also been all kinds of strange anomalies. Both the major parties–Conservative and Labor–are being seriously undercut by a formerly fringe single issue anti-European Union party, while a tiny far-left environmentalist party momentarily pushed itself to center stage in the election debate, and looming over the entire campaign has been the unpalatable prospect of Scottish separatists playing kingmaker in the next parliament. Yet perhaps more surreal than all of this has been the bizarre reality of a Labor party that now has its first Jewish leader, just at the very moment that it is losing the Jewish vote.

According to a poll carried out by Survation at the beginning of April, just 22 percent of British Jews intend to vote for Ed Miliband’s Labor, whereas an unprecedented 69 percent say they will back the Conservatives. This is quite some turnaround. Historically Britain’s Jews were aligned with the left. The old Liberal party—a sad remnant of which lives on within today’s Liberal Democrats—once boasted many Jewish members of parliament. At the same time working-class Jews from Eastern Europe, concentrated in London’s East End during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, overwhelmingly voted Labor.

In the post-war era it was the familiar story of the Jewish community escaping the slums and joining the middle classes, but old political loyalties often seemed to have remained impervious to changing economic circumstances. Mrs. Thatcher did manage to coax some of the Jewish vote away from the left, with her own north London parliamentary seat containing a large Jewish population. However, Tony Blair’s New Labor soon won many of these voters back, receiving resounding support from across the Jewish community. And so what Miliband’s Labor has achieved in having so alienated Britain’s Jewish voters is really quite something.

While Jews make up less than one percent of the UK population, they could prove more significant in electoral terms, concentrated as they are in a whole series of suburban London and Manchester swing seats that the Conservatives must win if they are to have any hope of staying in office. In the past Labor has benefited from the support of some important Jewish donors. Yet more recently it has become known that several key figures can’t bring themselves to give to Labor this time around.

Under Miliband, Labor has taken a two-pronged approach to scaring off Jewish support. The first has involved the party’s sudden veer to the left with a clear commitment to wealth redistribution, a so-called mansion tax, and now rent controls. Miliband has truly earned his tabloid title, “Red Ed.” And as wedded to “progressive” notions about social justice as many middle-class Jews still are, even they have their limits when it comes to voting against the financial welfare of their own families.

The second, and no less significant factor, has been Labor’s turn against Israel. Despite having once been Britain’s most pro-Zionist party and despite the pro-Israel sentiments of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, today Labor’s grassroots are virulently hostile to the Jewish state, and this is an attitude that most believe Miliband shares. After all, the highly political household he grew up in was far more affiliated with the Marxist left than it was with the mainstream Jewish community.

In the past year alone Miliband has whipped a parliamentary vote on Palestinian statehood, spoken at the gala dinner of the pro-BDS Labor Friends of Palestine, and condemned Israel’s acts of self-defense during last summer’s war in Gaza. Things got so bad that the former head of Labor Friends of Israel, Kate Bearman, resigned her party membership. Meanwhile, Jewish actress and life-long Labor supporter Maureen Lipman wrote bitterly from the pages of Standpoint Magazine about why she could no longer bring herself to vote Labor.

When it comes to Israel and the liberal establishment with which they have maintained a longstanding alliance, Anglo-Jewry is undergoing a painful mugging by reality. And it almost certainly isn’t over yet. The Survation poll found 73 percent of British Jews saying that Israel was important to them when deciding how to vote. These people are going to have quite a circle to square if they wish to vote Labor at the upcoming election.

Labor, however, appears not to care. Increasingly, Miliband seems to be pursuing the ethnic minority and Muslim vote, perhaps even at the cost of losing some of Labor’s traditional white working-class base. The Conservatives have gone out of their way to pledge support for fighting the rising tide of anti-Semitism. But Labor has been far quieter on the subject and last week Miliband gave an interview to a Muslim newspaper in which he pledged to outlaw Islamophobia and to “overhaul” the government’s counter-terror strategy, which he implied alienates the Muslim community.

There are, after all, far more Muslims than Jews in Britain, and at the last election 89 percent of these voters endorsed Labor and the Liberal Democrats. With support for the Liberals now having collapsed, that’s a lot of votes up for grabs. If going cold on Israel is what it takes to woo these voters then so be it. One suspects that hurt Jewish feelings are something Miliband is prepared to live with.

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Don’t Like Anti-Semitism? Then Don’t Encourage It.

In Britain, prominent Jewish figures are expressing concern about the rising tide of anti-Semitism in that country. Most recently the director of the BBC Danny Cohen has stated that he has never felt so uncomfortable being Jewish in Britain. He even went so far as to cast doubt on the long-term future of Anglo-Jewry. Similarly, Labor Party leader Ed Miliband—also Jewish—has called for a “zero tolerance” approach to anti-Semitism. The great irony here, however, is that both men are Jews heading organizations which, through their portrayal and policy on Israel, are laying the groundwork for yet more Jew-hatred.

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In Britain, prominent Jewish figures are expressing concern about the rising tide of anti-Semitism in that country. Most recently the director of the BBC Danny Cohen has stated that he has never felt so uncomfortable being Jewish in Britain. He even went so far as to cast doubt on the long-term future of Anglo-Jewry. Similarly, Labor Party leader Ed Miliband—also Jewish—has called for a “zero tolerance” approach to anti-Semitism. The great irony here, however, is that both men are Jews heading organizations which, through their portrayal and policy on Israel, are laying the groundwork for yet more Jew-hatred.

The correlation between the demonization of Israel and attacks on Jews worldwide is hardly in doubt. The dramatic spike in anti-Semitic attacks throughout the diaspora that coincided with this summer’s Gaza war speaks for itself. That is not to suggest that Israeli policy is the underlying cause of anti-Semitism, but rather just as Church doctrine or Social Darwinism were ideologies used as a conduit for anti-Semitism, today anti-Zionism, with its depiction of events in Israel, takes the position as the primary outlet for anti-Semitism. And while both Danny Cohen and Ed Miliband are quite right to be concerned by the rising tide of Jew-hatred in Britain today, there is no escaping the fact that both the BBC and the Labor Party have played a role in stoking the kind of contempt for the Jewish state that leads directly to the increasingly common verbal and physical attacks on British Jews.

Danny Cohen only took over as head of BBC television in May 2013, and so can hardly be held responsible for the BBC’s long legacy of slanted reporting on Israel. And in fairness, Cohen has pledged to give prominence to programming about the Holocaust to mark the upcoming memorial day. Still, during the recent Gaza conflict there were several troubling moments at the BBC. One particularly memorable incident was news anchor Emily Maitlis’s grilling of Israeli spokesman Mark Regev. Maitlis—who is herself Jewish—hounded Regev on the point of a UN shelter that had been hit, possibly by Israel, possibly by Hamas. The implicit suggestion in Maitlis’s questioning was that Israel had the exact coordinates of the shelter, that Israel knew that it was full of women and children, that Israel had refused to permit an evacuation of those in the shelter, and that Israel had intentionally gone ahead and hit it anyway. Her accusatory questions became fiercest when she asserted: “But you said you were going to hit it, you hit it, you killed them! You knew there were children in that building!”

Meanwhile, under Ed Miliband Labor has veered toward being far more overtly hostile to the Jewish state. While it is true that this process has been taking place on the left of that party for some time, under the stewardship of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown Labor policy remained resolutely supportive of the Jewish state. Yet under Miliband, the son of Holocaust refugees, this has begun to change. Not only did Miliband condemn Israel’s war against Hamas this summer, but he publicly attacked Prime Minister Cameron’s refusal to join in with the chorus of condemnation, calling Cameron’s stance “unacceptable and unjustifiable.” Miliband further outraged Israel supporters when he recently attended the gala dinner for Labor Friends of Palestine—a group which reportedly backs anti-Israel boycotts.

More than anything else, what stood out was Miliband’s decision to whip the vote on Palestinian statehood, obliging all Labor parliamentarians to support unilateral recognition of Palestinian statehood regardless of the security implications for Israel. During the debate for that vote, some of the most aggressively anti-Israel speeches came from the Labor benches. The Jewish Labor MP Gerald Kaufman, who has previously compared Israeli actions in Gaza to those of the Nazis in the Warsaw Ghetto, denounced Israel for provoking the anti-Semitism that he claimed he wished to see an end of. Indeed, Kaufman quite preposterously claimed that Israel is damaging the image of Judaism. It seems not to occur to Mr. Kaufman that it might be his own very public misrepresentation of the Jewish state that could be contributing to anti-Semitism.

So many of the accusations thrown at Israel today echo far older incarnations of Jew-hatred. Once it was accusations of Jews murdering and kidnapping Christian children, and now the accusation is of Israelis imprisoning minors and bombing Palestinian children. Once it was said that the Jews poisoned wells and caused the crops to fail, now that waste water from settlements pollutes Palestinian fields and drinking water. Similarly, the prominent depiction of blood and Palestinian children in contemporary political cartoons about Israel mirrors so precisely the imagery found in medieval anti-Semitism. What was particularly remarkable about medieval anti-Semitism was that whether it was the show trials of the Talmud, the Spanish Inquisition, or the numerous blood libel cases, time and again the names of Jewish converts who had risen high in the Church establishment are found littering the history books on account of the unique role they played in putting anti-Jewish ideas into non-Jewish heads. Perhaps there really is nothing new under the sun.

To be clear: when Miliband and Cohen decry the rise of anti-Semitism it is not in doubt that they are being sincere. But they are also being woefully naive if they fail to see the role the organizations they head have in stoking that same anti-Semitism.

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Axelrod, Having Helped Ruin America, Now Wants to Do the Same to the UK

Reuters reports that Britain’s Labour Party has hired David Axelrod, President Obama’s key political strategist, to help with its campaign for the 2015 election.

Mr. Axelrod told the Guardian that he made the decision “because I have had some long conversations with Ed Miliband [the Labour Party leader] over the course of the past year and it was less about politics, and more about this issue of how in the 21st century you create healthy economies in which opportunity is broadly available, and people can stay ahead of the cost of living.”

“In his work for President Obama, David helped shape a campaign that reflected his vision, focused on building an economy that works for all hardworking people and not just a privileged few,” Miliband said. “He will be a huge asset to our campaign.”

Perhaps. But it’s worth pointing out that income inequality in America has gotten worse, not better, during the Obama years; that the president Axelrod helped elect has a miserable record at creating a healthy economy in which opportunity is broadly available and that works for all hardworking people; and that the 2012 Obama campaign was almost bereft of any vision.

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Reuters reports that Britain’s Labour Party has hired David Axelrod, President Obama’s key political strategist, to help with its campaign for the 2015 election.

Mr. Axelrod told the Guardian that he made the decision “because I have had some long conversations with Ed Miliband [the Labour Party leader] over the course of the past year and it was less about politics, and more about this issue of how in the 21st century you create healthy economies in which opportunity is broadly available, and people can stay ahead of the cost of living.”

“In his work for President Obama, David helped shape a campaign that reflected his vision, focused on building an economy that works for all hardworking people and not just a privileged few,” Miliband said. “He will be a huge asset to our campaign.”

Perhaps. But it’s worth pointing out that income inequality in America has gotten worse, not better, during the Obama years; that the president Axelrod helped elect has a miserable record at creating a healthy economy in which opportunity is broadly available and that works for all hardworking people; and that the 2012 Obama campaign was almost bereft of any vision.

That doesn’t mean Axelrod is ineffective. Mr. Obama, for example, ran one way in 2008, as the avatar of hope and change, and he won; and quite a different way in 2012, using tactics that were ruthless and dishonest, and he won. The Obama campaigns (unlike the Obama administration) were well-run, modern, and highly competent. So yes, Axelrod knows how to win elections. What he and his former boss, the president, don’t know diddly-squat about is governing effectively. But that doesn’t seem to matter.

Helping to ruin one country apparently wasn’t enough; David Axelrod now wants to do his part to ruin another. At least he’ll be well paid for it. 

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Why Ed Miliband Won’t Drop the Z-Bomb

The Jewish leader of Britain’s Labor party is currently in Israel expressing his support for the country, just as Prime Minister David Cameron did back in March. Yet for all his platitudes about his support for what he refers to as the “Jewish homeland” and his repeated references to his own family background, you won’t catch Ed Miliband referring to himself as a Zionist. (He almost did it once, but has certainly learned his lesson since.) The simple truth is that for a politician on Britain’s left, referring to oneself as a Zionist would be nothing short of political suicide. And Miliband is undoubtedly of the left; conservative pundits in the UK delight in referring to the Labor party leader as “Red Ed,” but more to the point Miliband has openly declared himself a socialist. How telling that Zionism—the national liberation movement of the Jewish people—is considered so much further beyond the pale than an ideology like socialism, which has a rather troubled record to say the least.

During a Q&A session with a group of Israeli students at the Hebrew University Miliband was questioned on whether or not he considers himself to be a Zionist. Knowing already the consequences of answering in the affirmative, he instead sidestepped the question by saying that he sees the matter in terms of his family, his grandmother having come to Israel following the Holocaust. Miliband’s coyness on the matter is warranted, for this is a subject on account of which he’s been burned before. Asked on a previous occasion if he considered himself a Zionist, he was reported to have responded, “Yes, I consider myself a supporter of Israel.” However, Miliband’s Zionism lasted less than 24 hours, with his office—no doubt seized with panic—releasing a prompt “clarification,” or rather a retraction.

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The Jewish leader of Britain’s Labor party is currently in Israel expressing his support for the country, just as Prime Minister David Cameron did back in March. Yet for all his platitudes about his support for what he refers to as the “Jewish homeland” and his repeated references to his own family background, you won’t catch Ed Miliband referring to himself as a Zionist. (He almost did it once, but has certainly learned his lesson since.) The simple truth is that for a politician on Britain’s left, referring to oneself as a Zionist would be nothing short of political suicide. And Miliband is undoubtedly of the left; conservative pundits in the UK delight in referring to the Labor party leader as “Red Ed,” but more to the point Miliband has openly declared himself a socialist. How telling that Zionism—the national liberation movement of the Jewish people—is considered so much further beyond the pale than an ideology like socialism, which has a rather troubled record to say the least.

During a Q&A session with a group of Israeli students at the Hebrew University Miliband was questioned on whether or not he considers himself to be a Zionist. Knowing already the consequences of answering in the affirmative, he instead sidestepped the question by saying that he sees the matter in terms of his family, his grandmother having come to Israel following the Holocaust. Miliband’s coyness on the matter is warranted, for this is a subject on account of which he’s been burned before. Asked on a previous occasion if he considered himself a Zionist, he was reported to have responded, “Yes, I consider myself a supporter of Israel.” However, Miliband’s Zionism lasted less than 24 hours, with his office—no doubt seized with panic—releasing a prompt “clarification,” or rather a retraction.

Yet, it is noteworthy that while it was unthinkable for the Jewish leader of the Labor party to confess Zionism, non-Jewish members of the Conservative party have been more unabashed in identifying themselves as Zionists. When he was himself leader of the opposition David Cameron described himself as a Zionist (although one wonders if he would still do so openly now that he is prime minister), and similarly the education secretary, Michael Gove, has defended being a Zionist as well as having long been a vocal supporter of the Jewish state.

As a politician on the left, however, Miliband finds himself in a far more complicated position. Hostility to Israel extends far beyond the radical left in Britain, with several members of the parliamentary Labor party and significant sections of the Trade Union movement actively campaigning against the Jewish state. And after all, Miliband won the race for the party’s leadership in part because he had the backing of the Trade Unions. For many of these people, Jews are tolerated provided they first establish their credentials as being anti-Israel. By expressing support for Israel in the way that he has done on occasion, Miliband is already entering dangerous territory, to come out as a Zionist Jew too might well be more than certain key constituencies could stand.

As already mentioned, Miliband has had no such qualms about calling himself a socialist and has even claimed that he is all about bringing back socialism, something that will sound pretty unsettling to many voters. Of course there have been many strands of socialism and no one would wish to suggest that Miliband has ever expressed support for the regimes that have practiced its more authoritarian and genocidal incarnations–unlike, say, Labor’s deputy leader Harriet Harman, who has expressed praise for Fidel Castro, or another prominent voice in the party, Dianne Abbott, who claimed that Chairman Mao had done “more good than bad.” Indeed, Miliband’s father Ralph was a prominent Marxist theorist and it is quite conceivable that if Ed were to refer to himself as a Marxist then he’d cause less controversy within his party than if he announced himself as a Zionist during his visit to Israel.

It might well be asked if there’s any meaningful difference between calling oneself a strong supporter of Israel as opposed to an out and out Zionist. And the answer is yes; thanks to a determined campaign, that word is now sullied with so many undesirable connotations. The truth is that, for many on the British left, the United Nations’ “Zionism is racism” ruling was never really overturned. But at anti-Israel events and rallies, Zionism is not only declared a form of racism but rather is knowingly equated with Nazism. Images of swastikas stamped over the Star of David are common at anti-Israel demonstrations, while protestors have given the Nazi salute and had even begun goose-stepping while targeting one Israeli-owned business. It is then no exaggeration to say that there are those for whom declaring oneself a Zionist would be akin to endorsing National Socialism. No wonder that Ed Miliband is going out of his way not to drop the Z-bomb.  

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About That Special Relationship

Some are fretting about whether the special relationship that has bound the United States and the United Kingdom since World War II has been damaged by the House of Common’s vote against British participation in Syria and Prime Minister’s David Cameron’s decision to accept the Commons’ verdict. The New York Times’ Roger Cohen, who has been writing from the UK for some time now, says in his column today that “Britain’s decision not to stand with the United States, its closest ally, in possible military action to punish the Syrian regime for a deadly chemical weapons attack marks a watershed moment that leaves the ‘special relationship’ in search of meaning and Britain in search of its role in the world.” Cohen’s column, rarely praised by COMMENTARY, is spot on.

Britain’s capitulation to war-weary public opinion is foremost a personal defeat for Cameron—the first prime minister to lose a vote on going to war since 1782—ironically, when Great Britain was at war with the United States. There are mitigating circumstances, of course. Cameron rushed the vote unnecessarily. He lost by only 13 votes, which could not have happened had it not been for an internal Tory Party revolt. Additionally, the public debate was short. Another week and the UN inspectors’ report might have changed things. At this point, no one quite knows the mission and goals of intervention. So Cameron’s decision to heed the call of Parliament and sit this one out may easily be interpreted as a transient problem, suggesting he needs to work on his communication skills, party unity, and overall popularity.

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Some are fretting about whether the special relationship that has bound the United States and the United Kingdom since World War II has been damaged by the House of Common’s vote against British participation in Syria and Prime Minister’s David Cameron’s decision to accept the Commons’ verdict. The New York Times’ Roger Cohen, who has been writing from the UK for some time now, says in his column today that “Britain’s decision not to stand with the United States, its closest ally, in possible military action to punish the Syrian regime for a deadly chemical weapons attack marks a watershed moment that leaves the ‘special relationship’ in search of meaning and Britain in search of its role in the world.” Cohen’s column, rarely praised by COMMENTARY, is spot on.

Britain’s capitulation to war-weary public opinion is foremost a personal defeat for Cameron—the first prime minister to lose a vote on going to war since 1782—ironically, when Great Britain was at war with the United States. There are mitigating circumstances, of course. Cameron rushed the vote unnecessarily. He lost by only 13 votes, which could not have happened had it not been for an internal Tory Party revolt. Additionally, the public debate was short. Another week and the UN inspectors’ report might have changed things. At this point, no one quite knows the mission and goals of intervention. So Cameron’s decision to heed the call of Parliament and sit this one out may easily be interpreted as a transient problem, suggesting he needs to work on his communication skills, party unity, and overall popularity.

But there is a deeper problem that goes beyond Cameron or the vote. Consider that Ed Miliband, the current British Labour Party leader, has repeatedly indicated that he wants any action against Syria to be squarely placed under international law—meaning some sort of UN umbrella. Miliband not only seems unconcerned that yesterday’s humiliation of the prime minister handed a spectacular propaganda victory to Syrian dictator, Bashar al-Assad; he knows full well that making a Syrian intervention dependent on a non-existent UN path means giving a green light to Assad to continue his butchery.

Miliband, in other words, wants Britain to commit itself to a pointless act of endless diplomacy designed to stall rather than facilitate military action. That is not what allies do. It is all reminiscent of French President Jacques Chirac and his Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin’s effort to undermine President Bush when he was seeking a second UN resolution to go to war against Saddam Hussein. Should Cameron soon exit the political scene—something he might consider after losing such a fateful policy vote—his successor will move Britain further away from the days when it could be counted on as the bedrock of transatlantic relations. 

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