A Good Book

I’ve been enjoying a new book by Jonathan Kampfner called Freedom for Sale. Its about the various democratic or sovereign autocracies and how they seem to be exerting a magnetic attraction on various non-aligned states. They range from China to little Singapore.

He has a fluent style and conveys his points easily. One theme I missed, however, was the remarkable degree to which British (and to an extent other European) foreign policies have been captured, or pander to, unelected NGOs and human rights lawyers. I am not sure when this transformation occurred. Sure human rights were big in the 1970s with the Helsinki Accords, and one knew about Soviet dissidents. But somehow, in the interim, foreign policy seems to have become a matter of playing to this gallery, the nadir being the current Foreign Secretaryship of David Miliband.

As Simon Jenkins pointed out in a brilliant column in the Guardian a few weeks ago, not a week passes without Miliband calling for, demanding, insisting on this or that, usually to no effect whatsoever. Many countries are repelled by this hectoring, moralising tone, especially coming from a country which is mired in a political corruption scandal, whose secret agents may have colluded in torture, and which swapped the Lockerbie bomber for arms and oil deals.

An autumn note

“For many, the end of this uneasy year cannot come quickly enough”

An ordinary killing

Ian Cobain’s book uses the killing of Millar McAllister to paint a meticulous portrait of the Troubles

Greater—not wiser

John Mullan elucidates the genius of Charles Dickens