Peter on the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme

Interviewed by Justin Webb, 

LK:                  Well here is the question I suppose, do you think anything needs to change, you claim you don’t think he should be deposed but do you think he, his team need to do things differently, is that at least true?

 

PH:                 You and I Justin, you in the media and I as a politicians occupy the Westminster bubble, it is a world completely remote from what is happening out there in places like Neath where I’m speaking to you from, we just heard a tragic, terrible story on your programme we have got a world in which zero hour contracts, a rough world of work, people getting mortgages to pay off their kid’s student debts, London flats being bought up by the block and kept empty by oligarchs, that is the world out there, stuttering growth, austerity, a hard time in which the British economy is sinking and is failing to compete abroad and then there is this Westminster bubble nonsense about plots from unnamed people and those that are named flatly deny it. The media led by the Daily Mail, what a surprise ‘A bonfire plot against Ed’ screaming on the headlines of the Daily Mail, the Daily Mail has always been virulently anti-Labour

 

JW:                 DO you think it is made up?

 

PH:                 I don’t know whether it is made up or not all I know is reputable journalists including on the BBC don’t mention names because there are no names and if there are people feeding this stuff they should stop because what the country is desperate for is change. They want to get rid of this incompetent government that may not even be able to keep the lights on over Christmas, they know that Ed Miliband, despite all the attacks on him in the media has a plan for the country. He was the one who showed the courage to take on Rupert Murdoch, who identified the way the electricity industry was ripping consumers off and remember when he called for an electricity price freeze the industry screamed, the Tories said it was a Marxist plot and then one after the other the industries said they would start to do it. He has been consistently leading this country in pointing out that we need to change the direction of the country, bringing out policies for new housing, for tackling the problem of zero hour contracts and so on

 

JW:                 Isn’t that the point though, you make the case there that the country is in trouble, the individuals are in trouble, that there is anger, that there is disillusion, isn’t the point that those inside the party who might be muttering about him, isn’t the point that they would make, that he should be in a position where he captures that disillusion and uses it politically, offers solutions that people genuinely think might work for them and that doesn’t seem to be happening?

 

PH:                 I think that is happening but we are living in a very different political climate. I’m just looking at the facts in the latest opinion poll which show the Conservatives on 27%, just 3 points ahead of Ukip on 24% and Labour with a clear-ish lead, now we need to do better in the polls, of course,  but we are in a new political climate in which there is no trust at all in the political class of which I’m a member and all the party leaders inhabit, no party leader has got good ratings at present time and what we need to do as a Labour Party is unite and pull ourselves together and get behind Ed as I believe the party in the country is and campaign and I think he will be the Prime Minister next year and I’m not saying this out of bravado, or tribal loyalty I think we will be the biggest party and I think Ed Miliband is on course to win but he needs the support of every Labour MP and I don’t think the mutterers if they exist and no doubt journalists are not inventing this though they can’t name the people, I find that very significant. If the mutterers continue to mutter then all they will do is stop places like Neath from being liberated from this destructive, uncaring, unfair government that is destroying people’s lives.

 

JW:                 You sound pretty angry this morning?

 

PH:                 I am angry because in the real world out here it is a world in which – I had last week an individual come to me, a constituent come to me with liver cancer, he is going to die unless he gets a liver transplant, he has been stripped of all his benefits he told me, he has not got any support from the welfare net that is supposed to support people in his dire situation. I can repeat other examples of what is actually happening on the ground and I don’t think those people or Labour Party members will forgive some self-indulgent Member of Parliament muttering to a journalist and producing a headline in the Daily Mail when actually those newspapers have always been Labour’s enemies and we have a plan, Ed Miliband actually has been the first to identify that this country needs to be changed and changed radically if it is to serve the interests of everyone and not just the tiny elite at the top which is what Cameron and his old Etonian cronies are doing.

 

 

-ends-

PM Accused over Northern Ireland

David Cameron is not engaging “closely or energetically enough” with the political parties in Ulster, a former Northern Ireland secretary claimed today.

Labour’s Peter Hain, who held the post from 2005 to 2007, said the situation needed “constant care and attention” from Downing Street.

He asked current Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers during questions in the Commons: ” Do you agree the current political paralysis in Northern Ireland is undermining already shaky local faith in their elected politicians?

“I do not believe that the Prime Minister has been engaging closely or energetically enough with the parties to ensure that the 2007 settlement remains in good faith.

“I make no party point on this. From experience, I know that Northern Ireland needs constant care and attention from No 10 and I hope it will now get that.”

Ms Villiers said she could assure him that Northern Ireland did get constant care and attention from Mr Cameron.

She said: “Not just with his decision to bring the G8 to Northern Ireland, but every day in focusing on the security situation and on repairing the Northern Ireland economy and, of course, closely following these talks.

“I agree it is vital we don’t let disputes about parades, painful though they are, get in the way of the need to reach resolution on important issues like the budget, like flags and like a reform of parading decisions in the future.”

Published in the Belfast Telegraph on October 29th 2014,

You can read it here 

Faced with the horror of ISIS we must act

Guardian

Why British military action against Isis’s barbarity, but not Assad’s butchery? And shouldn’t the ill-fated legacy of Iraq instruct us to stay well clear?

In the cabinet in 2003, I backed Tony Blair over the invasion of Iraq because I honestly believed Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. I was wrong: he didn’t – we went to war on a lie. And the aftermath was disastrous.

All of which has made me deeply allergic to anything similar in the region – certainly anything remotely hinting at western cowboy intervention.

But that doesn’t mean doing nothing. When I was Africa minister we were right to intervene in 2000 to save Sierra Leone from widespread acts of savagery, and also to prevent the genocide of Muslims in Kosovo in 1999.

The Syrian horror from which Isis has sprung is very different. Of course Assad’s forces have unleashed waves of terror, but his jihadist opponents have also committed terrible atrocities. Instead of trying – and humiliatingly failing – to bounce parliament into backing a military strike in Syria in late August 2013, David Cameron should have promoted a negotiated solution from the very beginning.

For Syria never was a simplistic battle between evil and good, between a barbaric dictator and a repressed people. It is a civil war: a quagmire into which Britain should step with deep trepidation, for at its heart is an incendiary internal Islamic conflict; Sunni versus Shia, and their chief protagonists – Saudi Arabia versus Iran. There’s also a cold-war hangover: the US, with all its considerable assets in the region, versus Russia, with its only Mediterranean port in Syria.

Even more crucially, Assad is backed by 40% of the population, his ruling Shia-aligned Alawites fearful of being oppressed by the Sunni majority along with Kurds, Christians and other minorities. Few like his repressive Ba’athist rule, but they fear even more the alternative – becoming victims of genocide, jihadism or sharia extremism.

Assad never was going to be defeated. And if western military intervention had somehow toppled him without a settlement in place, violent chaos would still have ensued.

As the UN set out, a political solution was always the imperative. And that means negotiating with Assad’s regime, and with the Russians and Iranians standing behind him. Our failure to undertake this is a major reason why the civil war has been so prolonged and why Isis has been allowed to flourish.

Medieval both in its barbarism and its fanatical religious zeal, which views its own narrow Wahhabi sect dating from the 18th century as possessors of the sole truth, Isis labels non-Wahhabi Muslims (even fellow Sunnis) as apostates – the justification for exterminating any religious group blocking its way to establishing a caliphate.

The icy cast-iron certainty of Isis’s fundamentalism has to be stopped, and like the US, Britain has military, surveillance and intelligence capabilities which those fighting on the frontline do not. In northern Iraq, only US air power – at the request of the Iraqi government, the Kurds and the minorities facing genocide, and crucially with the military participation of half-a-dozen nearby Arab countries – has knocked back Isis’s well-equipped army.

That Iran gave its de facto, if covert, blessing is of huge importance, opening an opportunity for future collaboration which could be transformative for the whole region, Israel-Palestine included.

Britain should also help local Iraqi and Kurdish forces with air strikes, drones, military equipment and other support. But not with troops on the ground. Countries in the region have to take ownership of this battle because Isis threatens each of them.

However Isis will never be defeated if it is constantly allowed to regroup from its Syrian bases, and UN authority for air strikes in Syria won’t be granted without Assad and Putin’s agreement – maybe Iran’s president Rouhani’s too. Yet engaging doesn’t mean befriending. Rather, akin to Churchill in 1941: “If Hitler invaded hell I would at least make a favourable reference to the devil in the House of Commons.”

Iranians as Shiites sponsor Hezbollah and other militias. Saudis and Qataris as Sunnis sponsor al-Qaida and other jihadists – and in Isis they have helped unleash a monster which threatens to devour them all. By acting carefully not bombastically, and by making common cause with both Saudi Arabia and Iran to confront a common Isis enemy, Britain could possibly help realign Middle East politics to overcome the violently corrosive Sunni/Shia faultline in the region. A big ask, but a worthwhile one.

Stoping ISIL Is Our Duty

Guardian

Why British military action against ISIL’s barbarity, but not Assad’s butchery? And shouldn’t the haunting, ill-fated legacy of invading Iraq instruct us to stay well clear?

In the Cabinet in 2003 I backed Tony Blair over Iraq because I honestly believed Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. I was wrong: he didn’t – we went to war on a lie. And the aftermath was disastrous.

Which has made me deeply allergic to anything similar in the region – certainly anything remotely hinting of western cowboy intervention.

But that doesn’t mean doing nothing. When I was Africa Minister we were right to intervene and save Sierra Leone from savagery in 2000 and also to prevent genocide of Muslims in Kosovo in 1999.

The Syrian horror from which ISIL has sprung is very different. Of course Assad’s forces have unleashed waves of terror, but his Jihadist opponents have also committed terrible atrocities.

Instead of trying – and humiliatingly failing – to bounce Parliament into backing a military strike in Syria in late August 2013, David Cameron should have promoted a negotiated solution from the very beginning. That was always going to be the only way to get Assad – and more important his backers – to shift towards compromise.

For Syria never was some simplistic battle between evil and good, between a barbaric dictator and a repressed people.
It is a civil war: a quagmire into which Britain should tread at dire peril, at its heart the incendiary internal Islamic conflict – Sunni versus Shia, and their chief protagonists Saudi Arabia versus Iran. And also a cold-war hangover: the US with all its considerable assets in the region versus Russia with its only Mediterranean port in Syria.

Even more crucially, Assad is backed by 40 per cent of the population, his ruling Shia-aligned Alawites fearful of being oppressed by the Sunni majority along with Kurds, Christians and other minorities. Although few like his repressive Baathist rule, they fear even more the alternative – becoming victims of genocide, Jihadism or Sharia extremism.

Assad never was going to be defeated. And if western military intervention had somehow toppled him without a settlement in place, violent chaos in the Syrian quicksand would still have ensued.

As the UN set out, a political solution was always the imperative. And that means negotiating with Assad’s regime, and with the Russians and Iranians standing behind him. Our failure to undertake this is a major reason why the civil war has been so prolonged and why ISIL has been allowed to flourish.

Medieval both in its barbarism and in its fanatical religious zeal which views its own narrow Wahhabi sect dating from the 18th century as possessing the sole truth, ISIL labels non-Wahhabi Muslims (even fellow Sunnis) as apostates – the justification for exterminating both them and any other religious group blocking their way to establishing a caliphate.

The icy cast-iron certainty of ISIL’s fundamentalism has to be stopped, and like the US, Britain has military, surveillance and intelligence capabilities which those on the front line fighting it do not. In northern Iraq, only US air power – at the request of the Iraqi government, the Kurds and the minorities facing genocide by ISIL’s remorseless advance, and crucially with the military participation of half a dozen nearby Arab countries – has knocked back ISIL’s well-equipped army.

That Iran gave its de facto if covert blessing is of seismic importance, opening an opportunity for future engagement and collaboration which could be transformative for the whole region, Israel-Palestine included.

Britain should also help local Iraqi and Kurdish forces fighting ISIL with air strikes, drones, military equipment and other support. But not with troops on the ground. Countries in the region have to take ownership of this battle because ISIL threatens each of them.

However ISIL will never be defeated if it is constantly allowed to regroup from its Syrian bases, and UN authority for air strikes in Syria won’t be granted without Assad and Putin’s agreement – maybe Rouhani’s too.

Yet engaging doesn’t mean befriending. Rather, akin to Churchill in 1941: ‘If Hitler invaded hell,’ he told his private secretary as Germany readied to invade Stalin’s Russia, ‘I would at least make a favourable reference to the devil in the House of Commons.’
Iranians as Shiites sponsor Hezbollah and other militias. Saudis and Qataris as Sunnis sponsor Al Qaeda and other Jihadists – and in ISIL they have helped unleashed a monster which threatens to devour them all.

By acting carefully not bombastically, and by making common cause with both Saudi Arabia and Iran to confront a common ISIL enemy, Britain could possibly even help realign Middle East politics to overcome the bitter and violently corrosive Sunni/Shia fault line in the region. A big ask, but a worthwhile one.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/25/isis-barbarity-we-cant-stand-by-impotently

Peter Hain MP Calls for Government Action to Save Bees

Neath MP Peter Hain joined Friends of the Earth’s Bee Cause campaigners on 23rd September to support calls for the Government to improve its plan to protect bees.

Toxic pesticides and the loss of habitat are major factors causing the drop in bee populations.

97% of the UK’s wildflower meadows have disappeared in the past 60 years, compounding the loss of important bee habitat continues to development.

Mr Hain said: “I am deeply concerned about the loss of our bees and know folks around my Neath constituency share that concern. I’m backing Friends of the Earth’s Bee Cause Campaign for a tough national Bee Action Plan that fully tackles all the threats bees face.”

“The Government must provide better support for farmers to create new habitat for bees and reduce their reliance on pesticides, and ensure that new developments built to tackle the housing shortage include bee-friendly green spaces too.”

Friends of the Earth Chief Executive, Andy Atkins, said:

“It’s crunch time for our bees – people, businesses and politicians from all parties have persuaded the Government to draw up an action plan to reverse bee decline. “

“That’s why it’s so important that MPs like Peter put their support behind the campaign to make sure that Britain’s hard-working bees get the proper rescue plan they need.”

ENDS

Peter Hain with Friends of the Earth