Why Republican Senators Should Convict Trump

By Doctor Michael Herron
Friday 29th January 2021

“A House Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand”
Abraham Lincoln

In a little over a week’s time the US Senate will assemble for a second time under the auspices of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to try Donald Trump for impeachment.  The Democrats need 17 Republican Senators to join with them in order to reach the 2/3 majority needed to convict Donald Trump.  As it stands it appears an insufficient number of Republican Senators are prepared to convict Donald Trump.  This article will attempt to persuade them why it is their solemn duty under the Constitution as the Founding Fathers intended that they should join Democrats to convict Trump for “inciting insurrection against the United States government.”

Before addressing the charge levelled against Donald Trump and how it corresponds to the US Constitution, it is perhaps necessary to examine the concerns of the Founding Fathers when they were drafting the Constitution.  It is important to acknowledge that the Founding Fathers, especially James Madison and Alexander Hamilton were schooled in a classical education.  The example they drew upon to establish the new republic was Ancient Rome.  They remembered from their studies how the Roman Republic fell to be replaced by first a dictatorship and then an empire and they did not want the same fate to befall the American republic.

Madison and Hamilton learned the lesson of Ancient Rome that the Roman Republic fell because of the rise of a demagogue, Julius Caesar, who whipped up the mob to win election as consul.  Latterly, he led the army in Gaul (France) that had been assigned to him as consul across the Rubicon, the stream that marked the border of the Roman Republic, to march on Rome.  Once in Rome Caesar made himself dictator with the Senate theoretically as rubber stamp to his whims.

It was with the example of Caesar in mind that the Founding Fathers attempted to establish safeguards to prevent a similar demagogue using the office of the presidency to stir up the people to overthrow the legislative institutions of the republic: the House of Representatives and the Senate.  Fear of populism is one reason why they also established the electoral college because they were concerned that the populations in the cities were more prone to populism than the farmers and landed gentry of the countryside.  That is one reason why even today the electoral college has a rural bias over cities.

The events of 6th January when Donald Trump allegedly incited a mob to attack Congress to overthrow the result of what the courts have ruled to be a free and fair election is exactly the kind of incident that Madison and Hamilton envisaged as grounds for impeachment under the Constitution.

The House of Representatives has charged Donald Trump with committing high crimes and misdemeanours which constitutes grounds for impeachment under Article II Section 4 of the Constitution.  However, Article II Section 4 states that committing treason against the United States government is also grounds for impeachment.  Although the charge against Trump does not specifically accuse Trump of treason, stirring up a mob to attack one of the branches of government is, arguably, a prima facie treasonous act.

There are some apologists for Trump, including some lawyers, who claim that Trump’s words on 6th January to the crowd assembled on the Mall were sufficiently vague that they could not be interpreted as inciting an insurrection, and in any case, Trump was merely asserting his First Amendment right to free speech.  Let us examine what Trump said in his speech to “Stop the Steal” demonstrators on the Mall before they marched on the US Capitol with deadly consequences.

Firstly, he tells the crowd “and to use a favourite term that all of you people really came up with we will stop the steal.”  In this instance, according to Aaron Blake of the Washington Post, Trump goes beyond “raising doubts about the legitimacy” of the election to say that “it has been deliberately stolen.”  He then tells the crowd, “the stolen election will be stopped.”

Trump tells the crowd, “Republicans are constantly fighting like a boxer with his hands tied behind his back.  It’s like a boxer.  And we want to be so nice we want to be respectful of everybody including bad people.  And we’re going to have to fight much harder.”  Here Trump manipulates the crowd by casting Republicans as good people and Democrats as evil “bad people.” According to Blake, he had previously said that Democrats would “fight like hell” if the situation was reversed and that the Republicans need to “fight harder.”  Admittedly, he does not tell the crowd to use violence but in Blake’s words “he tells them that more extreme measures need to be used and they are not being undertaken.”

Trump then refers to a conversation he had with Vice President, Mike Pence.  “I said Mike that doesn’t take courage…..what takes courage is to do nothing.  That takes courage and here we are stuck with a president who lost the election by a lot and we have to live with that for four more years.  We’re just not going to let that happen.”

This statement by Trump is essentially false saying that Pence could do something to prevent the results from the different states being certified when legal scholars agree that he could not do anything.  Trump then goads the crowd to do something it could not legally do to stop the votes from being certified.

Trump then calls on the crowd to descend on Capitol Hill.  “After this we’re going to walk down and I’ll be there with you.  We’re going to walk down… we’re going to walk down to Capitol Hill and we’re going to cheer on our brave Senators and Congressmen and women and we’re probably not going to be cheering for some of them.  Because you’ll never take back our country with weakness.  You have to show strength and you have to be strong.”

Here is a clear call for the crowd to intimidate lawmakers on Capitol Hill. He tells them to cheer on Republican lawmakers but leaves it ambiguous what the crowd should do to Democrat lawmakers.  However, he goes on to say, “you have to show strength and you have to be strong.” By Trump’s previous words and by the comments made by his legal counsel Rudy Giuliani who says “we have to have trial by combat” they have whipped the crowd into hysteria.  To a crowd so aroused what should they take from the line “you have to show strength and you have to be strong” other than an incitement to violence.

Once the genie has been let out of the bottle, Donald Trump attempts to distance himself from his words by saying to the crowd, “I know that everyone here will soon be marching to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.”

Apologists for Trump including Rudy Giuliani argue that this statement proves Trump was not inciting violence.  However, his previous comments to the crowd had whipped the crowd into a frenzy like the owner of a pit-bull waving red meat in front of the face of his dog and then half-heartedly pulling on its lead as it attempts to bite passers-by.  This speech should also be seen in the context of Trump’s constant campaign to overturn the results of the election including trying to pressure the Governor of Georgia to find 11,000 votes to overturn the results of the presidential election in his state.

Apologists for Trump have also claimed that he was merely asserting his First Amendment right of free expression; however, does his speech meet the requirements of the First Amendment as ruled by the Supreme Court in Brandenburg v Ohio?

In this case the Supreme Court ruled that free speech is protected under the First Amendment unless the speech is “directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.” Even though Trump did not make an overt call to the crowd to commit acts of violence against Congress his manipulation of the crowd throughout his speech implicitly singling out enemies such as Democrats and Mike Pence to be dealt with and his call to the crowd to march on Capitol Hill to intimidate lawmakers created an atmosphere for “producing imminent lawless action” and given the mood of the crowd after Trump had whipped them into a frenzy his words to them were “likely to incite or produce such action,” i.e. violence.

Trump has also broken his oath of office which is stipulated by Article II Section I of the Constitution to “faithfully execute the Office of the President of the United States …..to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”  By inciting a mob to attack Congress he has clearly and deliberately not protected and defended the Constitution of the United States.

If the Senate fails to convict Donald Trump it will mean the words of America’s sacred document, its Constitution, will not be worth the paper they are written on.  Just as the Constitution has safeguarded American democracy, Congress needs to protect the Constitution to save democracy in the United States.  In 1989, as a Congressional staffer, I swore an oath “to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”  Republican Senators also swore the same oath.  I am sure many of those Senators would want to honour the promise they made to the American people.  This is their opportunity to redeem that pledge.

History is a harsh but fair judge.  It will judge fairly in the clear light of day those statesmen and women who in the republic’s hour of need, grasped the nettle of justice to protect the Constitution.  It will also judge harshly those who did not.  If Trump’s words and deeds on 6th January are not grounds for impeachment, as the Founding Fathers intended, then nothing would justify impeachment and the American republic is now essentially dead.

Elected office is a heavy burden but it is also an opportunity written in the stars to rise above petty self-interest and secure for oneself a place in the pantheon of noble statesmen and women who put principle before profit and the greater good above all else.

It is only be doing so that we can preserve a liveable union.

There is one more reason why Republican Senators should vote to convict.  It is because this conviction is the only way to deter future despots of whatever party from attempting something similar again.  It is only if justice is done and seen to be done, that we can preserve the republic for future generations.  It is only by voting to convict that Senators from both sides of the aisle will ensure that never again will the floor of the American peoples’ house be stained with blood.  That never again will the home of American democracy be the victim of a tyrant’s whim.



Alistair Cooke             
Alistair Cooke’s America

America’s Founding Documents:
The Constitution of the United States- A Transcript
National Archives

Aaron Blake                
“What Trump said before his supporters stormed the Capitol.”
The Washington Post. January 6, 2021

“The Trump Show-Downfall”

Trevor Timm               
“It’s time to stop using the fire in a crowded theatre quote.”
The Atlantic November 2, 2012


By Doctor Michael Herron

Events over the past few weeks have brought the issue of race to the fore globally.  There is a tendency to view race through the prism of white privilege.  However, it is a certain kind of privilege.  Just as progressives have arrived at the concept of “intersectionality” to find common ground in their different politics of identity one could also identify the structures of society as also having a certain connectedness or their own “intersectionality”.  These structures are connected through race, class, imperialism and capitalism.

Racial structures in America and elsewhere are largely the legacy of one empire, the British Empire and taken up by a successor empire, that of the United States.  Intrinsic to these two empires was and is capitalism where black Africans were originally regarded as commodities to be bought and sold as slaves, vital inputs of free labour, as means of production, in the colonies of the British Empire and then the southern states of the United States of America.

These Africans were integral to the so called first British Empire on the sugar plantations of the West Indies.  They were then brought in to replace white indentured servants on first the tobacco plantations and then cotton plantations of Virginia, Georgia, North and South Carolina.  These colonies were until 1783 still part of the British Empire.  However, even after they had achieved independence the southern states were vital to the trading system of the British Empire as their cotton shipped to the ports of Bristol, Liverpool and Glasgow provided the raw materials for the British textile industry.

Capitalism also became pivotal in the racial structure of South Africa.  After the Boer War, fought at the turn of the twentieth century, the British imposed a system of racial division that laid the foundations for the stricter system of racial separation known as “apartheid” imposed by a white Afrikaner (Dutch colonist) government.  The British imposed their system of racial division largely to appease the Boers (Afrikaners) who they had just defeated.   The British did this because they needed to consolidate their hold on South Africa which they had occupied in its entirety to exploit its huge mineral wealth.  This might seem to contradict David Cannadine who argues that the British treated members of the empire as individuals rather than collectives. (Ornamentalism p123) Arguably, one could say, the British applied both approaches.  When they needed to exploit populations, they treated them as collectives while simultaneously cultivating elites individually.

Martin Luther King himself began to recognise the link between capitalism and American racial oppression largely because of the disproportionate numbers of African Americans fighting and dying in Vietnam in what Doctor King viewed as a war to sustain the American capitalist system.  Martin Luther King’s speeches decrying America’s war in Vietnam and criticism of its capitalist system resulted in him losing some of his white supporters who had backed his campaign for civil rights.

Incidentally, it was President Eisenhower, former commander of Allied Forces in Western Europe during the Second World War who warned against the creation of a military industrial complex.  As the Cold War intensified and became hot during the Vietnam War this “military industrial complex” grew in power and economic might taking over more and more of the American economy.

After the end of the Cold War this “military industrial complex” began to merge with domestic American law enforcement which became more militarised as it adopted some of the tactics of the US army as well as its surplus weaponry.  At the same time the incarceration of African Americans became a business opportunity for private American prisons through contracts with federal and state government.  Therefore, just as there had been an economic incentive to enslave Africans in their hundreds of thousands, there was a profit motive behind the desire to imprison African Americans on an industrial scale.  This situation increased in intensity under both Republican and Democrat presidents.

A toxic situation had thus developed where American police departments were using increasingly aggressive tactics against an African American population who these forces had great economic incentives to arrest and imprison in large numbers.

The issue of class is also integral to these racial structures both during the British Empire and today.  David Cannadine described the British Empire as “imperialism as ornamentalism….. For ornamentalism was hierarchy made visible, immanent and actual.” (Ornamentalism p122).  In this system according to Cannadine “the British thought of the inhabitants of the empire in individual terms rather then in collective categories they were more likely to be concerned with rank than with race and with the appreciation of status similarities based on perceptions of affinity. (Ornamentalismp123).

Arguably, a similar situation exists in Britain and the US today.  Minorities educated at the same English public schools and Oxbridge as white elites since they share the sameeducational background are accepted into the English elite while minorities educated at the top universities in the United States are similarly accepted into the American elite as long as they endorse and do not challenge the premises of the British and American capitalist system as they have been developed over the last thirty years.

This situation separates these individual minorities accepted into the elite from their brethren outside the elite.  The removal of statues and revision of curricula are all very well.  However, given that racial structures are embedded in class and the unreformed capitalist system it follows that the capitalist system needs to be reformed, not replaced but comprehensively reformed, to meet the needs of both racial minorities and the deprived of all races.


David Cannadine Ornamentalism: How the British Saw Their Empire (Penguin Books: London, 2001)


To Build a Better Future

Michael Herron

The world seems to be at war today with crises in three main areas: how the economy works or doesn’t work for people, youth crime and relationships between the sexes.  I do not claim to have all the answers to these questions, and I have not even mentioned the biggest problem of all, global warming.  However, by dealing with the three areas I mentioned above we may then be able to turn our minds to meeting that huge challenge of climate change.

The answers to these questions incorporate three main themes: community, mental health and harmony.  Taking the first of these themes, I believe the answer to the question of how to make the economy work for people lies in reviving communities.   Of course, I am not the first to say this and since 2016 there has been much commentary on how to revive communities throughout the West that feel forgotten.

However, the answers that I have heard so far seem to be that central government knows best and like a lord dishing out crumbs from his high table to beggars below central government will hand out money to struggling communities as and when it sees fit.

I beg to differ.  I believe communities understand their own specific needs better than central government.  The leaders of these communities in local government, small and medium sized business and community groups know better than central government what their communities lack and require.  Central government should take its cue from these local leaders, empower them not dictate to them that it knows best.  Local communities should be empowered by being enabled to raise and keep more of their income within their communities themselves rather than continually having to hand this income over to central government.  In other words, central government and each community should act in partnership with each other.  There are certain things that only central government can do such as organise and fund a Green New Deal but again this should be in partnership with local communities.

The answer to the second question that of youth crime I believe lies in resolving mental health issues of our youth.  I draw upon my experience as a student teacher at Savanna High School in California in 1996 as I outline in my book Revelation: Conspiracy is only the beginning published by Matador to explain how these issues may be resolved.

Firstly, I would like to say that Savanna was a very well organised school.  It had three vice-principals (deputy heads), one took students with surnames A-F, another G-Q and so on.  The school had a multi-racial student body (Whites, Blacks, Latinos, Orientals) and because the school was so well structured whenever a teacher had an issue with a student, they could refer them to the appropriate vice principal.  Consequently, the school had few issues with discipline.

There is an additional point I would like to make about how Savanna was organised that has relevance to dealing with the question of youth crime.  Savanna had a team of counsellors on campus and once a student was referred to them this team of counsellors could talk to the student and find out if there were issues outside of school that were affecting their mental health and consequently, their school work.  This team of counsellors would then devise a plan tailored to the student’s individual needs and might liaise with outside agencies to help the student solve their problems from outside school.  In this way, the school was the first port of call for the student not the police.

I believe that if every school in Britain and the United States followed Savanna’s example and employed a team of counsellors that could coordinate with outside agencies it could stop many students from falling through the cracks and nip in the bud any attraction the student might have to joining a gang.  This could go some way to solving the gang issue in Britain and the US while also helping our youth cope with their mental health issues.

The third question is one where angels fear to tread and that is how to create harmony between the sexes in the wake of #MeToo, but I will take the plunge in any case.  I believe the answer lies with us men.  The problem seems to be that we are not very good at listening to what women really want.  We should realize that if a woman feels safe and gets some satisfaction emotionally and sexually, we can get more satisfaction than if we are only worried about our own needs.  Isn’t the whole point of making love so that the woman is satisfied, otherwise what’s the point?

This stems from the idea that men and women are equal.  In that case we should really listen to what a woman wants and needs.  If we don’t know what she wants, ask. We might be surprised.  When making love it is not the case that if she wins, we lose.  We should look at it like this; if she wins, we both win.  This does not mean that we should give in to women in every detail of our lives.  I don’t believe women would want that in any case since they would still want to respect us.

It does mean that be listening to what she wants before making love and giving it to her as she wants the mutual trust this may inspire may spread into other areas of our lives enriching our relationships in which give and take is the order of the day.  I should also stress being protective does not need to mean being controlling, and we should always be vigilant that it does not become so. Being protective means that she and her children are kept safe for their benefit not ours.

All the answers to these questions may not create heaven on earth.  I’m not even sure that it is desirable to try to create heaven on earth since the road to hell has often been paved by those seeking nirvana.  We may not achieve perfection, but we may be able to create a world that is more liveable than the present one.  And that is something worth striving for.  By coming together as one harmonious and diverse community we can put the past behind us and build a better future.


The Case for Scottish Independence

Doctor Michael Herron

This article draws on a previous article by former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, “Westminster Cannot Block Scottish Independence” on his website https://www.craigmurray.org.uk

and his citation of British official documents.

These official documents relate to arguments made by the British Government to the International Court of Justice in 2009 to support Kosovo’s case for independence from Yugoslavia and its successor state, Serbia. This British written statement to the ICJ dated 17th April 2009 was entitled “Request for An Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice on the Question “Is the Unilateral Declaration of Independence by the Provisional Institutions of Self Government of Kosovo in Accordance with International Law”.

The British argument comprised two main points.  Firstly, that most states including the United States have become independent in controversial circumstances. The second is that Kosovo’s situation was sui generis i.e. unique since it was potentially a successor state to the failed state of Yugoslavia, and it was also a victim of Serbia’s ethnic cleansing in the Balkan wars that followed the break-up of Yugoslavia.

The author makes the argument that Scotland’s situation is also unique though obviously it has not been a victim of ethnic cleansing.  Scotland as a nation during the EU referendum voted as a majority by 62% to remain in the European Union.  Similarly, Northern Ireland voted as a majority to remain part of the EU.  In the deal struck before Christmas between British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson and Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar Northern Ireland was allowed to remain within the single market and customs union.

This deal essentially honours the wish of the people of Northern Ireland to remain within the key structures of the EU.  Conversely, the British Government’s determination to pull the rest of the United Kingdom including Scotland out of the EU flagrantly ignores the will of the Scottish people to remain within the EU.

Since the people of Wales voted as a majority with England to leave the EU, Scotland is the only part of the United Kingdom whose wish to remain within the EU has been ignored.  Scotland is therefore a unique case since it is the only nation within the EU that is being forced to leave the EU against its will. Scotland’s situation differs from that of Catalonia since Spain, as a whole, is not determined to leave the EU.

By its own argument in support of Kosovan independence the British Government has condemned itself regarding the Scottish case. If the Kosovan case for independence was unique and legitimate then the similarly unique Scottish claim for independence is also equally legitimate.


Doctor Michael Herron
Brexiteers have made much of Britain’s mythical role in the Second World War of standing alone against a Nazi dominated Europe. The fact that Britain was ultimately successful in that conflict has been used by Brexiteer to support the view that Britain could equally succeed independent of the European Union.
The historical truth of Britain’s Second World War tells a very different story. The fact is Britain never stood alone against a Nazi dominated Europe. The Britain that fought the Second World War was, in reality, the British Empire that included the dominions of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and colonial India as well as various Asian and African colonies.
Despite claims to the contrary none of the three major allies; Britain, the USA and the Soviet Union won the war by themselves. Each ally played a vital role at different times to defeat the Axis Powers of Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Imperial Japan.
It is true that the Soviet Union with 20 million dead paid the ultimate price in blood for victory over Nazi Germany in which the casualty figures of the other two allies pale in comparison. Although the Soviet Red Army engaged the vast majority of the German army divisions during the war in comparison to the numbers assembled against the Western allies, the Soviets received large numbers of supplies from its allies. Of particular importance were the Arctic convoys of British merchant vessels escorted by Royal Navy ships to Murmansk in the Arctic Circle that supplied the Red Army after much of the Soviet Union was occupied by the Germans since their initial invasion during Operation Barbarossa. The Soviets would later be supplied with vast numbers of American jeeps and trucks to speed their advance into Germany.
However, Russians would argue rightly that during the most intense period of fighting their factories relocated beyond the Ural Mountains supplied most of the munitions to take the fight to the Germans. This does not negate the fact that at significant moments during the war Britain and the US aided the Soviets in their struggle for survival and ultimate victory.

The Battle of Britain
One of the most important moments in the war was the result of a catastrophic disaster. Winston Churchill, who was First Lord of the Admiralty orchestrated the campaign in Norway of British forces primarily around the port of Narvik and was the architect of a blunder to rank with his at Gallipoli during the First World War.
However, the opposition Labour Party believed that he was the most likely war leader amongst the leading Conservative politicians and after a vote of no confidence in Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, Labour supported Churchill in his bid to become Prime Minister. The Labour Party thus helped to install the key British figure of the war at its most critical juncture.
After the evacuation of Dunkirk, which was really a strategic defeat since the British Army left behind most of its material and munitions then Britain faced the possibility of invasion. The Battle of Britain in which the RAF engaged the German Luftwaffe was pivotal. A number of commentators have questioned whether Hitler really intended to invade Britain. From reading the secondary literature on the subject this author has concluded that Hitler and his commanders may have envisaged an invasion of Britain but only if the Luftwaffe had command of the skies over the Channel. This is because the Royal Navy was still one of the most powerful navies in the world and in the absence of German air superiority would have sunk any invasion fleet. Conversely, German air supremacy over the Channel would have nullified Britain’s dominance at the sea since Royal Navy ships would have been vulnerable to attack from the air. The sinking of the Prince of Wales by Japanese fighter bombers in the Indian Ocean later in the war shows this was no idle threat. The fact that Britain maintained command of the air over the Channel by winning the Battle of Britain shows why this victory was so important.
By ending any prospects of invasion Britain then became a stronghold on the edge of Europe before the Soviet Union and United States entered the war. Britain stood as a beacon of freedom and hope for the rest of Occupied Europe and a launchpad first for aid to the Soviet Union when it was attacked and then for the invasion of Northern Europe during D-Day.

The Role of British Sea Power
Britain’s position as a maritime power was significant for the course of the war. The Royal Navy and its imperial subordinate the Canadian Navy were largely responsible for clearing the North Atlantic of U-Boats while the United States concentrated the bulk of its naval forces in the Pacific against the Imperial Japanese Navy. This was doubly important since it enabled the United States to overwhelm a dangerous foe in the Pacific and also to safely ship its army to England in the build-up to D-Day.

The Role of the RAF
There has been a great deal of debate about the effectiveness of the RAF’s bombing campaign over Germany during the Second World War. This bombing campaign did not undermine German morale to the extent that its architect Arthur “Bomber” Harris intended. However, it forced German strategists to maintain a substantial force of fighter planes in Germany to protect German cities that could have been used on the Eastern Front. This helped the Soviets to gain dominance of the air over the Eastern Front much to the Red Army’s advantage.

Churchill’s Mediterranean Strategy and D-Day
The fact that Britain had substantial imperial assets east of the Suez Canal determined Britain’s strategy during the war. After evacuating the British Expeditionary Force from Dunkirk Britain stationed the bulk of this army in North Africa protecting the approaches to the Suez Canal.
During the first half of the war Britain fought Italian and German forces in North Africa. However, British commanders overestimated the strength of the German Afrika Corps. The size of this force was substantially inferior to the German forces ranged against the Red Army on the Eastern Front. Nevertheless “The Desert Fox” Erwin Rommel continually overcame the British Army in North Africa until his Afrika Corps was massively outnumbered at El Alamein by Bernard Montgomery and soundly defeated.
Although the Americans were frustrated at Churchill’s eagerness to pursue a Mediterranean strategy of invading Sicily then Italy lessons learned from these invasions as well as the defeats at Narvik in 1940 and Dieppe in 1942 paved the way for eventual success on D-Day in 1944.
After D-Day the vast majority of the Allied soldiers fighting in France were Americans, however on D-Day itself the bulk of the invasion forces were from the British Empire. The ships that escorted the invasion force largely came from the Royal Navy while three of the five invasion beaches: Gold, Sword and Juno were assaulted by British Empire forces.
As long as it lasted the fighting in Normandy was as ferocious as anything on the Eastern Front. The British forces around Caen, according to Antony Beevor, fought the strongest German divisions in Normandy. Although the British became bogged down against the dug-in German forces, arguably, by pinning these divisions down they facilitated the breakout by American forces under George Patton through the Falaise Gap into the rest of France.

Britain could not have defeated the Axis of Germany, Japan and Italy by itself. The German army from 1940 onwards was just too strong on many levels for the forces of the British Empire to defeat alone. It required the might of two superpowers, the Soviet Union and the United States to defeat Germany. As other commentators have argued we have to highlight the reality that the Soviet Union as another totalitarian society was prepared to pay the price in blood that its two allies as liberal democracies could not afford. However, Britain did play a pivotal supporting role to the two superpowers and, arguably, they could not have defeated Germany without Britain’s help.

Antony Beevor Ardennes 1944 Hitler’s Last Gamble (Penguin Random House
London, 2015)
Antony Beevor Stalingrad (Penguin Books: London, 1999)
Antony Beevor D-Day: The Battle for Normandy (Penguin Random House: London,
Max Hastings Armageddon: The Battle for Germany 1944-45 (Macmillan,
Basingstoke, 2004)
John Keegan The Second World War (Pimlico: London, 1989)
Ian Kershaw To Hell and Back Europe 1914-1949 (Allen Lane: London, 2015)
Russell F Weigley The American Way of War: A History of the United States Military
Strategy and Policy (Indiana University Press: Bloomington and
Indianapolis, 1973)

English Nationalism and Labour’s Defeat

A number of reasons have been given for Labour’s catastrophic election result. Labour’s position on Brexit, its’ unrealistic manifesto twinned with increasingly ostentatious offers to voters, the unpopularity of Jeremy Corbyn, have all been mentioned.

It is the last of these factors that this article will focus on.  In the lead up to the general election many canvassers reported a perception that Corbyn was unpatriotic.  This goes beyond loyalty.

Conservatives have long recognised the importance of emotion in politics.  It is not enough to offer attractive policies, a party needs to win over voters’ hearts as well as their minds, even stir their soul.

Ronald Reagan in the 1980s not only promised to cut Americans’ taxes he evoked a 1950s Norman Rockwell vision of small-town America of neighbours chatting over white picket fences, beyond them freshly cut lawns.   It was “Morning Again in America” and Reagan won two landslides.

Arguably, Labour and Corbyn, especially, were on the receiving end of emotions stirred by Brexit.  Brexit has aroused a particular kind of English nationalism that is more defined by what it is against, i.e. the EU, than what it is for.  In theories of nationalism, for Brexiteers, the EU is the external “other” against which English national identity has formed itself.

For my PhD in genocide studies I had to study theories of nationalism.  The concept of the “other” is pivotal to the formation of national identity.  The “other” might be perceived as a threat to the imagined community of the nation and can take the shape of an external “other” and internal “other.”

In the case of the Armenian genocide the Armenians became victims of a change from one form of identity that of the multi-ethnic, multi-faith Ottoman identity to the nationalism of Turkish, Muslim then secular identity.  As a Christian, non-Turkish, ethnicity at the heart of the territory that Turks wanted to claim for themselves, Anatolia, the Armenians could not be incorporated into this new Turkish identity and thus became the internal “other.”  Since they also became allied in Turkish minds with the Turks’ traditional enemy, the Russians, the Young Turk government believed the Armenians had to be eliminated.

In Britain we also seem to be moving from a multi-national inclusive British identity to one where the different national identities within Britain are more clearly defined.

As Scotland and Northern Ireland have enjoyed devolved powers and have expressed their identities as distinct from a British identity, the English town-dwellers may feel they have drawn the short straw.  This has also been compounded by the fact that Scottish and Northern Irish identities, at least among Nationalists, have merged with a pan-European identity rather than a British one. London, itself, has become a special case of a true global multi-cultural city not only pan-European but with a global reach.

Although the economic factor is important, Brexit can be seen not only as a revolt by English towns at being left behind economically by London but also an assertion of English national identity against these trends.
By aligning itself so clearly with Brexit the Boris Johnson led Conservative party tapped into this new assertive English nationalism.

Corbyn’s political world view is, by definition, internationalist not nationalist and found it difficult to relate to this new English nationalism.

It may be difficult for any version of the Labour Party that tends towards socialism rather than a more centrist social democracy to win back its lost voters in English towns.

Many Labour supporters may be in despair at the prospect of years of Tory rule after 10 years of austerity.  There may be light at the end of the tunnel, however.  This is because this new English rather than British national identity is still at its formative stage.  It is not clear what this identity is for beyond support for the monarchy and armed forces twinned with hostility to the EU.

One of the key battlegrounds over the formation of this national identity will be the deployment of myth and history in its creation.  The Brexiteers have so far used the myth of Britain standing alone against Nazi dominated Europe to powerful effect to be on the verge of Brexit.

However, English progressives also have a good story to tell that can help form a progressive English national identity: the Peasant’s Revolt, the Levellers and Diggers, Peterloo, the Tolpuddle Martyrs, the Chartists, the Suffragettes, the Jarrow March, all of these culminating in the transformative 1945 election can help form a new English identity.

Labour needs to reinforce the idea that this progressive history is essentially an English one, just as patriotic in its way as support for the monarchy.

Labour, as it seeks to remake itself in a new English context, separate from Scotland, should hark back to its roots when it was inspired by the sermons of the English Methodist preacher, John Wesley.  Methodism rather than Marxism may be the way forward for Labour to reclaim its former English heartlands.


Doctor Michael Herron is a genocide scholar and author of The Unburied Past: Denial of the Armenian Genocide in American and French Politics

What Europe can learn from American History

By Doctor Michael Herron
The fundamental problem facing Europe at the moment and since at least the time of the French Revolution, if not earlier, is the issue of competing nationalisms. This has been most starkly seen since 1870 in competition between France and Germany for hegemony on the European continent.
French and West German diplomats thought they had resolved this problem with the formation of the French and German Coal and Steel Union after the Second World War. When the European community consisted of France, West Germany, Italy and the Benelux countries, the issue of nationalism could be quietly contained especially since many were all too aware of the potential dangers of allowing nationalism to get out of control. After all Nazism was not just an extreme racist ideology it was also an extreme manifestation of German nationalism.
As the European Union has grown to encompass practically the whole of Europe, European institutions have sought to deal with the issue of nationalism by reserving sovereignty to member states that existed as nation states when the European Union was formed, despite what Brexiteers have argued. The problem arises when there are competing nationalisms within European member states. In this instance the European Union has no mechanism or authority to resolve these disputes as in the case of Catalonia.
Partly the reason for this is that the European Union is a Confederation of States and not a Federal Union with all the problems of a union of states and hardly any of the advantages apart from facilitating trade between member states.
As the European Union has grown the issues of nationalism and populism have become more difficult to manage as in the case of Brexit. On the surface the rise of populism is due to the perception of loss of sovereignty of member states to the EU. However, isn’t the real issue a lack of accountability of the EU institutions to the populace of the EU? Leaders of the member states have not been honest with their electorates since, in reality, these leaders in the conclave of the Council of Ministers make the decisions governing EU policy through majority voting, which the European Commission then enacts while these leaders then, effectively, hide behind the Commission.
These rolling Congresses of Vienna where latter day Metternichs and Talleyrands tinker with the torn fabric of Europe need to be replaced with a more permanent structure. Not least because it would leave less leeway for the current successor to Lord Castlereagh and George Canning to turn the Concert of Europe into a chimps’ tea party with broken crockery strewn across the room.
One fundamental problem with the structure of the EU is that there are virtually no checks and balances between the different European institutions. The real power of decision making lies with the Council of Ministers and the Commission. The European Parliament has been reduced to a virtual talking shop with no real scrutiny over the Commission or the Council of Ministers. This is because sovereignty has been retained by the member states and the job of scrutinising the decisions made by the Council of Ministers is supposed to lie with the parliaments of the various member states. In reality, the parliaments of the various member states do not do a very good job of scrutinising the decisions of the Council of Ministers, so the electorate is left with the perception that there is no accountability whatsoever.
The US Supreme Court has historically performed the task of preserving the checks and balances within the US Constitution by ensuring that laws concerning human rights and the economy are consistent with the Constitution. In Europe there are two separate courts supervising these areas. The European Court of Justice oversees trade and economic affairs and the European Court of Human Rights oversees the protection of human rights of citizens of European member states. There is a problem with this division of responsibility. The European Court of Justice makes rulings on economic and trade issues that are legally binding on member states as long as they wish to be members of the single market. The European Court of Human Rights is not actually an institution of the European Union. Its rulings are merely advisory and are not legally binding on member states. This is also partly because sovereignty is preserved by member states and the rulings of the supreme courts of the member states are the ones that are legally binding upon member states. However, this division of responsibility could be advantageous at some point. If the European Court of Human Rights’ decisions did become legally binding in the future, it would avoid the record of the US Supreme Court that applied laws that were meant to protect the human rights of freed slaves after the American Civil War to, instead, protect the economic rights of corporations.
Concerning this record and on other issues, arguably, Europe could learn lessons from the American experience to address the problems it is facing now. This may appear laughable to some given the turmoil in Trump’s America at the present. However, one could argue quite convincingly that America’s current problems stem from the legacy of slavery and the Civil War, but also the power of money in American politics, which this author will explain in greater detail later.
How Europe can learn lessons from the American experience derives from the establishment of the United States in the first place. After the War of Independence, the American former colonies attempted to maintain their newly won sovereignty as individual states. However, their policies became contradictory as they imposed tariffs against each other hampering trade, refused to accept responsibility for the debt caused by the war and virtually pursued their own relations with foreign states, thus preventing a common foreign policy.
The former colonies drafted the Articles of Confederation to attempt some form of unified approach, however, many of the problems still remained largely because each state wished to preserve its own sovereignty. Eventually, these states found the Articles of Confederation unworkable and decided to produce a more efficient system of government. A number of delegates were sent to a Congress in Philadelphia in the Spring of 1787, ostensibly to reform the Articles but they decided to create a completely new system of government, but a republic rather than a pure democracy. The dilemma facing these delegates was how to persuade the colonies to give up some power and still approve the new Constitution. They arrived at a partial solution by outlining what powers the new federal government would have while reserving other powers not specifically to apply to the federal government to belong to the individual states instead.
One significant failure of the founding fathers of this new constitution was that they fudged the fundamental problem of slavery and this problem grew gradually worse until it split the country resulting in civil war. Once the Civil War resolved the issue of where ultimate sovereignty lay, with the federal government, rather than the individual states, clear lines of responsibility could be marked out. The individual states still retained a great deal of autonomy despite lacking ultimate sovereignty. This was problematic in some instances where after federal troops withdrew from the Southern states when the South “won” the presidential election of 1876, these Southern states imposed “Jim Crow” laws that disenfranchised African Americans. These laws would only be overturned with the advent of Civil Rights legislation in the 1960s.
The American federal system is underpinned by checks and balances both at the federal level and also between the individual states and the federal government where states maintain a high degree of autonomy. One strong argument against this system of checks and balances is that it leads to gridlock where nothing substantial is achieved. Clearly this has been the case in recent years where partisan Republicans and Democrats have been at daggers drawn rather than seeking practical solutions to American problems. This situation underlines the fact that the American system of government requires a degree of bipartisanship to work where compromise is the order of the day rather than crusaders on either side unwilling to bend their principles.
One reason for this situation is the power of money in American politics. As the cost of campaigns has increased exponentially mainly due to the need to have TV advertising, American politicians have had to raise more and more money from lobbying groups’ political action committees and from private donors. As the restrictions on campaign funding have decreased the power and influence of donors on policy-making has increased. This has had two effects. It has hardened the unwillingness of the two parties in Congress to compromise especially since the rise of the Tea Party and the influence of its backers on the Republican party. It has also encouraged both Republicans and Democrats to listen to their donors and support their interests over those of ordinary voters. Arguably, disenchantment with this state of affairs was a major factor in the election of Donald Trump.
There are a number of measures European politics could take to avoid this situation. There could be strict controls over campaign finance, perhaps through public funding of campaign advertising, strict limits on such funding and greater control on funding by private individuals to political parties.
One advantage the European Union has over the American colonies when they established the United States of America is that it does not have the issue of slavery within its borders to undermine the establishment of a new federal system or the legacy of the Civil War to take into account. However, it does have the legacy of two world wars, the Holocaust, the Spanish Civil War and the Irish Troubles that all afflicted the continent in the last century to manage. Many of these issues have not really been addressed by various member states who have attempted to paper over the cracks. It is not enough to argue to just move on, especially if events force these cracks to re-emerge and to deepen as in Catalonia.
The forces that caused many of these traumatic events still exist albeit in somewhat different form. It is complacent to think they are all behind us since an event such as another economic crash greater than in 2008 could strengthen such forces. A move towards federalism could arguably diffuse many of these old historic antagonisms by refocusing power and attention away from traditional sources of power to a new system based on the rule of law rather than raw power.
Such a system would mean member states having to give up some power to pool sovereignty at the federal level. If the EU followed the American example although sovereignty would be pooled at the federal level, each member state would retain a great deal of autonomy. The powers not specifically defined to the federal government would be reserved by the member states. A bicameral legislature should be created to augment the existing European Parliament in which a Senate comprising two Senators from each member state would balance the representation in the lower house of the European Parliament. The European Parliament would be given real power of scrutinising a reformed executive branch just as the US Congress oversees the Executive branch of the US government.
The two member states that, arguably, would have most to lose from the introduction of such a system would be the two states that have been the engine of the European Union, France and Germany. However, French and German officials need to be aware that events can change the political dynamic drastically. While the primary goal of creating the European Community for French officials was to prevent war with Germany ever again, a secondary goal particularly of French presidents de Gaulle and Mitterand was to use the European Community as a vehicle to project French power and influence. French officials now especially need to be careful not to prioritise the secondary goal at the expense of the first. As French influence has been overtaken by German economic power, the entry of the German Far Right AfD into the Reichstag should concentrate French minds. Another economic crash could open the door to a very different occupant of the German chancellery than Angela Merkel with all that entails.
The key issue is that since member states retain sovereignty there is still no guarantee that disputes between these states will always be resolved politically rather than by other means. A federal system would provide greater guarantees of peaceful resolutions to any disputes. Since the Civil War, the American federal system has provided a forum for disputes between the states to be debated politically rather than to be settled by violent means.
There could be one compensatory factor to France and Germany losing some of their leading positions in the European project. Just as the governors of New York, California and Texas can stand for election for the US presidency there should be a position of president of the European Union that the president of France or the Chancellor of Germany amongst others can stand for election, who would be elected by the voters of all the member states of the European Union.
A federal system could also offer a solution to the border issue in Ireland. Northern Ireland could remain a separate region within the EU with representatives at the federal level while still maintaining a degree of autonomy. This might go some way to allaying the Unionists’ fears of becoming a minority in a Catholic majority united Ireland while all nationalist representatives could take their seats at the federal level.
The main argument that nationalists in all member states make against the creation of such a federal system is that people in Europe’s traditional identification is with the nation state not to an entity called Europe. However, Americans have no such dilemmas by identifying as both, say, Californians as well as Americans. Historical tensions and questions over borders threaten to plague this union of nation states and possibly presage the return of violence to resolve these contradictions. If we try to preserve the status quo without radical change we run the risk of the whole system blowing up in our faces. Don’t forget that the perceived impotence of the League of Nations in the face of aggression in the 1930s was a strong contributing factor to the slide into the Second World War. It is this author’s belief that it is only by moving to a fully federal system with an EU that is truly accountable to its citizens that Europe can ward off internal and external threats to its integrity and way of life. E pluribus unum, “Out of many one” is the slogan on the seal of the United States of America. Let it be Europe’s too.

Natalie Nougayrede “The EU has tied its own hands. That’s why it cannot intervene in Catalonia” The Guardian 4th October 2017
Miguel Poiares Maduro We. The court. The European Court of Justice & the European Economic Constitution (Oxford: Hart Publishing, 1998)
Richard Owen Essential European Community Law (London: Cavendish Publishing Ltd, 1998)
Joel Balkan The Corporation (London: Constable & Robinson Ltd, 2004)
Alistair Cooke America (BBC, 1973)
JFV Keiger France and the World since 1870 (London: Hodder Headline Group, 2001)
Ismail Soysal “Les Relations Politiques Turco-Francaises (1921-1985)” in Hamit Batu and Jean Louis Bacque-Grammont (eds.) L’Empire Ottoman in Republique de Turquie et la Fance (Istanbul-Paris, 1980)

Why Aung San Suu Kyi’s genocide denial is so important

By Doctor Michael Herron

In response to photographs posted on Twitter by Turkey’s deputy prime minister that were alleged to be of dead Rohingya in Myanmar (Burma) but were actually taken elsewhere, Aung San Suu Kyi referred to these as fake news photographs. She continued “That kind of fake information…..was simply the tip of a huge iceberg of misinformation,” that was aimed to promote the interests of a group called the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army that killed twelve members of the Burmese security forces in August.

Given the statements by the UN’s most senior human rights official, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein describing what is occurring to the Rohingya as ethnic cleansing and Bangladesh’s foreign minister AH Mahmood Ali defining it as genocide, Aung San Suu Kyi’s statements amount to genocide denial.

This denial makes Aung San Suu Kyi complicit in the atrocities committed by Burmese troops that have included mass killings and burning of villages forcing hundreds of thousands of Rohingya to flee their homes to Bangladesh. To understand why this is the case it is important to comprehend how integral denial is to the crime of genocide.

Gregory Stanton in particular has argued that genocide denial is the final stage of genocide. However, Stanton has stated that it exists throughout all the stages of genocide. Perpetrators deny they are about to commit genocide, they deny it when the genocide is underway and they deny it when it has been completed.

According to Lawrence Douglas also, “it is an act fully consonant with the methods of the perpetrators.” As Douglas observed even when the perpetrators commit genocide they often attempt to disguise the intent behind euphemisms, for example in the case of the Holocaust, the Nazis described it as “The Final Solution” or “Resettlement in the East.” (In the Armenian case it was characterised as “Relocation” to another part of the Ottoman Empire, namely the Syrian desert)

As George Monbiot amongst others has argued by failing to speak out against those who are perpetrating this ethnic cleansing/ genocide and by describing accounts of such atrocities as ‘misinformation’ Aung San Suu Kyi has in effect facilitated those who are performing such acts in the name of her government. It is in this context that demands for her to have her Nobel Peace Prize revoked are understandable.

It is ironic that it has been the exchange with the Turkish deputy minister that has resulted in Aung San Suu Kyi resorting to genocide denial since Turkey has been one of the greatest proponents of genocide denial with regards to the Armenian genocide.

It is also interesting that the Burmese are using some of the same arguments as those used by Turkish nationalist historians to explain Ottoman actions against the Armenians. The Burmese argue that they are simply trying to suppress an insurgency and that they are targeting militants not civilians. Turkish nationalist historians have argued that the Ottoman government had to deport the Armenians from Eastern Anatolia because the Armenians were collaborating with the invading Russian army and they had rebelled against the Ottoman authorities principally in the city of Van. Armenian historians, conversely, have argued that the genocide was already underway and the Armenians were only trying to protect themselves.

This appears to have parallels with the Burmese case since the Rohingya have been recognised as the ‘world’s most persecuted minority’ for a number of years and the insurgency appears to have been a relatively recent development. In any case the Burmese government has used this insurgency as an excuse to target not only insurgents but the civilian Rohingya population and to expel them from Myanmar (Burma).

Aside from Aung San Suu Kyi and the Burmese generals, questions need to be asked about the role of the British military in all this. As highlighted in a Guardian editorial the British army have trained the Burmese military. What has been the extent of this training? What exactly has the British army trained the Burmese army to do? What has been the methodology of the British army trainers?

In conclusion, there has been an academic debate about the role of the German army advisers to the Ottoman army during the First World War and their possible participation in the Armenian genocide. Scholars have ultimately resolved that any German role was limited and the German officers were largely involved in military operations against the Entente of Britain, Russia and France as it attacked the Ottoman Empire. There is no similar external threat to Myanmar (Burma) so what is the British army doing in Burma? As with the British government’s complicity in Turkey’s denial of the Armenian genocide as outlined by Geoffrey Robertson, QC, is Britain’s role in Myanmar going to aid Burmese denial of the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya? We await the answer to that question.


Michael Safi, Emma Graham-Harrison “Fake news: Suu Kyi decries reports on Rohingya violence” The Guardian 07.09.17

Michael Safi “Rohingya are facing ethnic cleansing says UN” The Guardian 12.09.17

Gregory Stanton “The Eight Stages of Genocide” Yale Genocide Studies, February 1998

Lawrence Douglas “From Trying the Perpetrator to Trying the Denier and Back Again Some Reflections” in Ludovic Hennebel and Thomas Hochmann (eds.) Genocide Denials and the Law (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011)

George Monbiot “Take away her Nobel Peace Prize she no longer deserves it” The Guardian 6 September 2017

Doctor Michael Herron The Unburied Past: Denial of the Armenian Genocide in American and French Politics, Blurb Books.com, 2105

Editorial: “Mynamar. The Lady has failed the Rohingya. The military does much worse.” The Guardian 8 September 2017

Geoffrey Robertson, QC, An Inconvenient Genocide: Who Now Remembers the Armenians? Biteback Publishing 2014

Why A Tory Landslide is not a Foregone Conclusion

By Doctor Michael Herron
Most political pundits have already declared the general election in favour of a massive majority for Theresa May. One reason for this assumption is because most people who supported Brexit have allegedly switched from UKIP and even Labour to support the Conservatives according to recent polls.
Another reason is that the Tories have done very well in the local elections and these results are regarded as a good indicator of likely voting intentions especially this close to a general election. Another and more pertinent reason why pundits and pollsters are predicting a massive Tory majority is that older voters in vast numbers prefer the Tories to any of the progressive parties. They generally favour Brexit and they tend to vote in elections while young people tend not to. So any grievances held by young people and support for a progressive political party especially one led by Jeremy Corbyn is quickly discounted by the political and media class since they won’t make any difference to the result.
One could argue not so fast. There are some examples from both British and American politics why this election may not be the foregone conclusion it is presented to be.
The first thing one needs to know is how pollsters and political campaign strategists make their predictions about future elections. Having worked as a Democrat campaign strategist in American elections and as a Labour party press officer in local and parliamentary elections I may be able to offer some insight.
Campaign strategists use the electoral roll of voters registered to vote in an election as the basis for any campaign plan. They have a fair idea of how these voters are likely to vote based on how they voted in previous elections. Although the vote is a secret ballot supporters of various parties are quite willing to tell their own party officials how they are likely to vote in a subsequent election. These voters are defined as the electoral base of the respective parties and political parties tend not to spend too much time during campaigning on them only to remind them to vote close to or on election day, which is known as Get Out the Vote. Elections are generally fought over the undecided voters, registered voters who have made no clear conviction to support any party, and cannot be accounted for by the respective parties as constituting part of their base.
The main point to take from all this is that election results can generally be predicted on the basis of how previously registered voters have voted or if these registered voters have then informed pollsters they have switched their support to another party.
The one major unknown factor for political strategists is how newly registered voters will vote and whether they will vote in sufficient numbers to affect the outcome of the election relative to older previously registered voters.
The reality of newly registered young voters was a major factor in the unexpected victory of Barack Obama in 2008. Obama’s campaign went on a massive voter registration drive and energised young voters in sufficient numbers to overwhelmingly win the White House.
The Clinton campaign in 2008 seriously underestimated the impact of this voter registration drive. Is it possible that pundits, pollsters and strategists could make a similar mistake in this general election?
According to the Independent online, students have registered to vote in large numbers; 93% of those eligible to vote have said they have registered. This is despite changes to voting registration. In surveys conducted by UNiDAY’s and the Education Policy Institute, 78% of students said they planned to vote, which is higher than the turnout for the 2015 election, which was 69%.
Most of these students said they would be voting in their hometowns as the election will occur after they have finished their exams. Conventional wisdom holds that since these votes will be dispersed then their impact will be lessened. However, by co-ordinating through social media with other students as well as other young people who are not students to vote tactically for non-Tory candidates these students can maximise the impact of their votes to the detriment of Tory candidates.
Their impact is further amplified if Tory leaning voters do not turn out to vote, given they believe the election is a foregone conclusion. It is important to note that the Brexit referendum witnessed an unusually high turnout, including voters who tend not to turn out to vote in normal elections. In this way, expectations for a similar turnout in this general election may be optimistic.
According to the Independent, there is strong support for Labour among students with two polls recording support at 55% and 35% respectively. This contrasts with student support for Labour in 2005 at 23%. However, students in these polls have said they plan to vote tactically, which means each student vote will have a more meaningful effect on the result. This may mean the Labour vote may fall in some instances but it will also affect the Conservatives’ chances of gaining a massive majority over all other parties.
Another reason why the election is not a foregone conclusion is that despite the media’s efforts to present this as a presidential election, it is not, it is a parliamentary election which differs greatly from an American presidential election. For example, the President of the United States is elected through the electoral college separate from legislators in his or her party in an election. The Prime Minister assumes that office when he or she can command a majority of MPs in the House of Commons.
Each parliamentary seat then contributes to that majority. During a general election there are virtually hundreds of individually unique elections in each parliamentary constituency. Some of these elections are more closely fought than others. There are safe seats where the incumbent has a massive majority and the opposition party does not think it worth the effort to contest too hard for the seat. Then there are marginal seats where the incumbent has a small majority. These are the seats where the election is generally won or lost and these are known as battleground seats. The party that wins the majority of these seats tends to form the next government.
This is where the tide of newly registered voters can make the difference, along with the ploy of tactical voting. In order for May to win an overwhelming majority she needs to win these marginal seats as well as hang on to her own party’s marginal seats. As noted earlier if newly registered voters vote tactically in each marginal seat to support the candidate with the best chance to prevent the Tories winning that seat then this could tip the balance against the Tories seat by seat and thereby erode May’s majority.
There has been a progressive majority in Britain but it has been split between Labour, the Liberal Democrats, Greens, Scottish Nationalists and Plaid Cymru. In the 1980s the divisions between the progressive parties: Labour, the Liberals and Social Democrats allowed the Tories to divide and rule thereby causing huge damage to the social fabric of the country. By voting tactically young voters who are not so tied to party allegiances can make the difference by making each vote count more efficiently. The progressive parties need to step up their efforts to promote voter registration and young voters need to remember the deadline to register to vote is Monday 22nd May 2017. If enough young voters are registered in time and organise themselves to vote tactically since the party leaders of the progressive parties have ruled out an electoral pact, the predicted Tory landslide is not a done deal, indeed they may be able to engineer a new deal for the country.
Rob Merrick “Election 2017: Student voter registration rockets with most vowing to back Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour” Independent online 5-5-2017

Why History Matters – How the past can inform present events

By Doctor Michael Herron

History matters on its own terms.  It also matters because policy-makers can use the lessons of the past to help make decisions in the present.  In addition, they can use these lessons to avoid making serious mistakes as long as they compare the present with the past critically and honestly.

This sums up the historian’s task.  When an historian studies a period or an event in history they look for both the different factors influencing the actions of historical actors as well as commonalities.

For example, looking at the Anti-Comintern pact of the 1930s uniting Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Imperial Japan, each of these states were different from each other.  Nazi Germany was more influenced by racial ideology than the other two, particularly centred around anti-Semitism, which hardly featured at all in the ideology of Italy and Japan.  Italy and Japan had monarchs as heads of state whereas Hitler was the head of state of Nazi Germany. Japan was essentially a military dictatorship whereas Hitler had the military firmly under his control.

Conversely, it was the commonalities which brought them together. There was the common fear of the Soviet Union, whose Comintern was tasked with co-ordinating the policies of foreign Communist parties with that of the Soviet Union, hence the formation of the Anti-Comintern pact.  There was the mutual desire to overturn the status quo in the world.  By doing so, they would build their own empires: Fascist Italy would establish its own empire in North Africa, Nazi Germany in Eastern Europe and Imperial Japan in Asia.  All these states prioritised the use of force in international relations where diplomacy was a negotiating gambit, which would be quickly replaced by the use or threat of armed force to get their way.

It is true these commonalities did not lead to joint action in the Second World War.  Although Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany combined to fight in North Africa, Imperial Japan did not co-ordinate its actions with the other two Anti-Comintern states.  However, it still stands that one needs to understand the similarities as well as the differences to comprehend this historical period.

Some might say it is different from saying that two historical periods are similar.  It is also true that no two historical periods are exactly the same.  The different characteristics of a particular period in history will mean that it develops in a slightly different way to another.  However, one can draw parallels between two apparently drastically different periods of history, arguably, on the basis that many states operate on broadly similar principles over time because they have the same permanent interests over that same time period. For example, British foreign policy has for many hundreds of years been governed by the principle that it is in Britain’s interest to prevent any one state from gaining dominance in Europe.  It is for this reason that although Britain has had a lukewarm relationship with Europe it has fought many wars on continental Europe to prevent this occurrence.  

It is also why Winston Churchill when researching his biography of his ancestor the Duke of Marlborough, was able to draw parallels between the aggressive foreign policy of Louis XIV to gain hegemony in 18th Century Europe and the bullying tactics of Hitler’s diplomacy in the 1930s.  Just as Louis’s aggression had meant that Britain had had to go to war in the 1700s, Churchill believed that the prevailing British policy of appeasement of Hitler would ultimately lead to failure and war when Britain would be unprepared.

While this continuity of foreign policy aims is true of a Constitutional monarchy, like the United Kingdom, it has also been true of a state that has had vastly varied political cultures like Russia whose foreign policy priorities, arguably, have been largely consistent whether the regime has been Tsarist or Communist.  This is mainly due to geography.  The predominantly flat Northern European plain that extends into Russia with few natural defences has meant that Russia has had to involve herself in Central European politics whether it has been to build alliances or to create a buffer zone against attack.  Similarly, the fact that the Baltic Sea has had a tendency to freeze has meant that since the reign of Catherine the Great, Russia’s paramount goal is to seek a warm water port with access to the open seas.  This aim is the primary reason why it has often tried to gain control of the Bosphorus Straits to facilitate access from its Black Sea ports to the seas beyond.  This motive to control the straits at Istanbul has plunged her into the politics of the Balkans in the past and that of the Middle East today in order to maintain access to ports in Syria one of which acts as a military base for Russian forces.

There was a brief period after the Russian Revolution when the Bolsheviks, predominantly Leon Trotsky, advocated global revolution but when Stalin overthrew Trotsky this fervour reverted to the more conservative policy of “socialism in one country”, i.e. the Soviet Union.  The main point to take from this is to establish whether a present policy of a regime is consistent with those of its predecessors that enables foreign governments to predict its likely course of action.  One major mistake Western policymakers made in the 1930s was to perceive the Soviet state as the main threat to global stability at least in Europe whereas it was the Nazi regime that posed the greater threat. Stalin’s government did involve itself in the affairs of other countries during this period, most notably in the Spanish Civil War; however, this was mainly to control foreign Communist parties primarily to purge them of Trotskyite sympathisers.  Nevertheless, it was the Nazi state that was, arguably, the more unpredictable one.

The question then arises is Putin predictable and are his actions consistent with traditional Russian foreign policy?  In some ways, such as the desire to preserve a warm water port and his involvement in Central European politics, they may appear to be. However, Putin is pursuing his goals much more aggressively than even Stalin.  Whereas in the 1930s Western policymakers believed the Comintern, was trying to undermine Western democracy, Putin is actually doing so now by funding Far Right parties and intervening in elections in the West.  Putin did not invent these Far Right movements but he is manipulating them for his own ends.

Ostensibly, Putin is motivated by what he perceives to have been humiliation inflicted on Russia through the break-up of the Soviet Union and the chaos caused by this collapse.  Arguably, he wishes to restore Russia’s great power status and believes NATO and the EU are obstacles to that end so he has endeavoured to challenge and undermine them respectively and to restore Russian hegemony in Eastern Europe.

It is therefore important to distinguish what is a continuity of policy and what is a break with the past that constitutes a real threat even if it means to return to an earlier balance of power situation.  This is because one can learn the wrong lessons from history, which can lead to disaster.  The grouping of Iraq, Iran and North Korea as “the axis of evil” and the comparison of Saddam Hussein with Hitler preceded the invasion of Iraq, which has ultimately led to the breakdown in the Middle East we see today.  That is why it is important to both compare and contrast a historical period with the present, arguably, emphasizing the latter.  Any military has to be wary of fighting the last war, since invariably the next one is nearly always significantly different.

That said, it is important to identify patterns or trends that some might describe as forces influencing states to act in a certain way.  It is important to correctly identify these trends.  In 2003, Iraq did not pose a threat to its neighbours never mind the West. Today there is a constellation of states including Russia, Turkey and China as well as North Korea that are not satisfied with the status quo.  When a group of states especially military powerful ones are willing to challenge the status quo it usually leads to trouble.  One must stress it is not inevitable; however, history has shown that when the western democracies are weak and divided then this is when trouble can quickly escalate.

For that reason, since the two historically most militarily important members of NATO, the United States and Britain, are presently going through their own trials and tribulations, it is incumbent upon France and Germany to take up the slack for Western security.  Although France’s economy is struggling, the converse is true of Germany.  The former can compensate for its economic weakness through its relative military expertise.  By appearing stronger and more united this can act as a deterrent to revisionist powers. Nevertheless, it is understandable that Germany has reservations about strengthening militarily given her history.  

What is different now compared with the past is that France and Germany are bound together in the EU, not at each other’s throats. It is this fact more than any other that makes the EU important, since it was the mutual desire of French and West German diplomats after the Second World War to learn the lessons of history to never wage war against each other again that has led to the formation of the EU.  It is vital then this relationship integral to the EU and the EU itself need to be preserved.  It is this willingness to learn the right lessons from history that demonstrates why history matters.