Saturday 16 November 2019

Nicholas Leonard: Cameron won't have much fun in the sun

Nicholas Leonard

British Prime Minister David Cameron and his family are taking a break in Ibiza this week but, in the 24/7 world of politics, there is no such thing as a real holiday and Cameron will be keeping in close touch with his key colleagues back in Whitehall.

It is only 1,200km from the nightclubs of Ibiza to the underground command bunkers of Colonel Gaddafi in Tripoli. The defence minister, Liam Fox, predicted yesterday that the downfall of Gaddafi is now 'inevitable', though he carefully added that it would take place "sooner or later".

Fox and Cameron are relieved that Russia has come round to their view that Gaddafi has got to go but they are not pinning much hope on the peace mission to Libya today by the South African president, Jacob Zuma.

They believe that only further massive military action, using the high-risk deployment of vulnerable helicopters for the first time, is going to persuade those around Gaddafi that his time is up.

There is a massive gulf between the effortlessly smooth democratic rhetoric of President Barack Obama in London last week and the messy reality of trying to achieve those aspirations in Libya, Afghanistan or the Arab Spring uprisings across the Middle East.

Ironically, despite or perhaps because of his international background, Obama is far less personally committed to active intervention around the globe than either George Bush or Bill Clinton. The capture and killing of Osama bin Laden has endorsed his 'one of us' credentials with doubting right-wingers in the US and he is preoccupied now with trying to avoid going into the next presidential election with a bankrupt, faltering economy around his neck.

The UK, of course, is also seriously short of cash although you would not think it when you see the headlines about the money that is to be devoted to propping up freedom in countries like Tunisia.

The government borrowing requirement in April was the highest monthly total ever -- well over €11bn -- and it is under intense pressure from critics to slow down the pace of spending cuts in order to try to keep economic activity going.

There is intense concern about the traumas in the eurozone -- not just because of the pledges of support to Ireland and other member countries, but also because British banks, like those of Germany, are hugely exposed to any writedowns of global debt.

The business minister, Vince Cable, who enjoys hearing himself say things that other ministers keep to themselves, is now urging Greece to "restructure" its debts as an alternative to what he calls "the hard option" of a default.

Cable, who was a senior economist at Shell before he went into politics, says his advice to the Greek government is based on what he saw when South American countries ran into a debt crisis in the 1980s and dealt with it by restructuring.

He added: "You lose quite a lot in terms of your ability to borrow in markets, so it's not an easy option -- but given that all the other options are terrible, I'm sure that's what will happen".

The chancellor, George Osborne, is furious at the way Cable is careering round the interview circuit like a loose cannon. He believes that restructuring of any kind would trigger unpredictable instability throughout the world's financial markets on a scale that would dwarf the crises of three years ago. The UK Independence Party, which wants the country to get out of the EU, is now beset with internal crises of its own.

One of its top European Parliament members, David Campbell Bannerman, has returned to the Conservatives, saying he is 'impressed' by Cameron, a sharp contrast with a year ago when he said that trusting the prime minister on Europe would be "as misguided as trusting Blair on Iraq".

If Nigel Farage is forced out as UKIP's leader, the name in the frame to succeed him is Viscount Christopher Monckton, a right-wing maverick whose aunt, Lady Valerie Goulding, was the founder of the Central Remedial Clinic in Dublin.

It was his grandfather, Walter Monckton, who was the key adviser to King Edward VIII during the abdication crisis of 1936, which came close to destroying the monarchy.

The queen is now getting worried about the prospect of the UK starting to destroy itself if the Scottish Nationalists manage, against the odds, to get approval for independence in a referendum.

She has apparently been talking to David Cameron and her advisers about the constitutional problems that would arise, not to mention such little matters as where the nation's nuclear submarines would be kept if Scotland refused to allow them to stay.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Don't Miss