May 12, 2010
After much negotiating since last Thursday’s general election the UK finally has a government.
First, the Liberal Democrats spoke to the Conservatives, they then broke off talks to speak to Labour and when those talks collapsed they came back to the Conservatives and a Con-Lib coalition was concluded quickly (some might refer to it as “Con-Dem”).
We await full details, although we know that certain deals have been done on tax, but one thing is for sure; it is now Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.
Clegg probably can’t believe his luck.
He lost five MPs (from 62 to 57 out of the 650 available) but still has managed to get close to the reins of power.
And of the 6,827,938 votes that the Lib Dems received we cannot be sure how many of those were just tactical votes to keep out either a Labour or Conservative candidate.
One distasteful part of this coalition government is that during the second televised debate Nick Clegg accused David Cameron of aligning himself in Europe with “nutters, anti-Semites, people who deny climate change exists and homophobes”.
He was forced to apologise by mental health campaigners for using the word “nutters”.
Things might be said in the debates for political advantage that can be then glossed over afterwards. For example, at their first press conference together on Wednesday, and to much laughter all round, Clegg found out for the first time that Cameron had previously referred to him as a “joke”. But to suggest someone is aligned with anti-Semites and homophobes is a very serious allegation.
Clegg does himself no credit in making such serious and unfounded accusations and then almost immediately going on to sit for the next five years with the man he so accuses.
And one wonders what the outcry would have been had Clegg accused Cameron of sitting with Islamophobes and then taking his seat next to him.
Cameron, who recently called east-Jerusalem “occupied”, is now PM. William Hague (Cons.), who called Israel’s actions in Lebanon in 2006 “disproportionate”, is foreign secretary. And Nick Clegg, who called for a ban on the sale of arms to Israel during operation Cast Lead, is now Deputy Prime Minister.
These three are now in control of UK foreign policy so it could be an uncomfortable five years for British Jews and for Israel.
We will see how it all pans out but the signs will immediately be there when Israel enters its next war with Hezbollah or Hamas. Will there be an immediate outcry by Britain when Israel is forced to take defensive measures to protect its citizens?
There are a few, but not enough, very pro-Israel voices next to David Cameron to keep him on the straight and narrow when it comes to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.
Michael Gove (Cons.), who wrote Celsius 7/7 as a response to Michael Moore’s Farenheit 9/11, has been appointed Education Secretary. And, to be fair, Chris Huhne, of the Lib Dems, is someone very balanced on the precarious situation in the Middle East. Huhne has been appointed Secretary for Energy and Climate Change.
It is a great shame that Clegg beat Huhne for the leadership of their party.
Then there is Liam Fox (Cons.) who has been appointed Defence Secretary and who fully recognises the serious Iranian threat. In January he told The Times: “There are three reasons why we must take the threat from Iran seriously: the nature of the regime itself, its willingness to export instability and terror and its attempts to develop nuclear weapon technology. Iranian involvement in Syria and Lebanon — funding and training terrorists — continues to stoke regional tension and is an obstacle to an Israeli-Palestinian solution. That is why international pressure on Iran must increase and European action must match that taken by the United States.”
That said, over the next five years the fate of British/Israel relations could depend on how much Gove, Fox and Huhne get the chance to allow their influence to be felt while being ensconced in their own important ministry portfolios.
A good start will be to see how long this coalition takes to ban Hiz but Tahrir (as promised by the Conservatives) and how serious the politicians are in tackling Islamism in the UK in general.
Or will Lib Dem aspirations to keep the Muslim vote on side hinder Conservative attempts to tackle radicalism in our universities.
The other very pro-Israel voices on the back-benches; Lee Scott, Robert Halfon, Matthew Offord and Richard Harrington (all Conservative) and Louise Ellman, Denis Macshane, John Mann and Luciana Berger (all Labour), will do their bit to raise awareness of Israel’s concerns in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and of anti-Semitism in general, but it may not be enough.