22.2 miles (Total 1795.7 miles) 44,400 steps (Total: 3,895, 001 steps)
The weather is certainly changing now—much colder, around 11 degrees and today I had to wear my gloves for the first time. The days are shorter too—it doesn’t get light until 8AM and closes in around 5PM. It is damp/drizzle weather—the type you would expect in the Lake District at this time of year and I suppose that was appropriate as I was in the northern Italian lakes walking along the side of Lake Maggiore, not that I could see a great deal of it because of the low cloud and fog. One of the advantages of the low cloud was that it obscured the Alps—I knew that Mount Blanc was just to the west of me and the Jungfrau was straight ahead—I knew this because they dominated the skyline on a clear day seventy miles away east of Milan. They must be towering over me now so I am grateful my visibility is limited.
During my day catching up on blog entries and correspondence I spend some time catching up on the political news from the past week—I miss politics and the opportunity to debate current affairs with colleagues at Westminster, so I thought I would compensate for another routine day with some thoughts on the current political scene—those who are fortunate enough to ‘have a life’ may want to navigate away to Flikr images at this point:
Liam Fox: I was sorry to see the departure of Liam Fox as Secretary of State for Defence. We are the same age and had begun our political careers at the same time. We were both conviction Conservatives rather than cultural Conservatives, in other words we had come from non-traditional Conservative backgrounds. Whilst my political career peaked somewhere mid-table in Division III, Liam’s deservedly went on to the top of the Premiership, almost winning the title one year. Liam has a great brain, a wonderful sense of humour, is incredibly articulate and very loyal. In many ways it may have been this last quality which was in part his undoing, but I saw a different side: When I was touting around the idea of observing the Olympic truce I normally received standard replies from Cabinet ministers after six weeks referring me to the Olympics minister who in turn said he was too busy to see me, but Liam responded personally within a few days and invited me to come in to the Ministry of Defence to discuss the truce with him and officials. We had a robust meeting the culmination of which was that Liam agreed to explore whether a truce might be offered in Afghanistan to allow in humanitarian aid on two conditions: First that the initiative was led by the Afghan government and second, that British forces were not put in danger. Even though we were unable to secure buy-in from the Afghans at that stage, this remains the only initiative on the truce offered by any Cabinet minister. Clearly Liam thinks that he has fallen short of his own high standards and therefore needed to resign, but we all make mistakes and I am sure Liam will learn from this. I hope that he will use his time on the backbenches constructively and return to high office soon.
EU debate: Everyone seems to be getting wound up over Europe again. Understandable I suppose given the turmoil. Viewed from this side of the English Channel the debate does seem a tad indulgent – a bit like the senior crew on the Titanic, seeing an iceberg suddenly complaining that they had not had a recent vote whether they should be on the Titanic or not. Whether we like it or not we are all in this together at the moment and if the Euro sinks, then we need to be manning the lifeboats to rescue the survivors, for it is in our enlightened self interest so to do. I have never quite understood why some of my colleagues are so stanchly in favour of the United Kingdom declaring themselves as Unionists and yet so implacably opposed to the European Union, which we asked to join on more than one occasion. I am not a European enthusiast, the bureaucracy and waste should offend all Conservatives, but remember this—the point of the EU was to bring peace in Europe by having a political and economic community to try and halt the perpetual state of war which had existed hitherto. I would much rather be arguing about silly EU directives on the labelling of marmalade from the Women’s Institute or whether Scouts have to wear protective eyewear to play Conkers, than to be arguing about the labelling of the Rhineland and asking our young men and women to wear gas masks as they head off to war.
Libya: Watching the footage of rebel gunfire off the back of trucks and the savage lynching of Gadaffi and reading reports that the intervention in Libya has already cost over 30,000 lives—please, please don’t tell me that somehow this was a victory and a sound basis for a civilised democracy to emerge from. There may well have been no alternative, but this is not Tunisia where a peaceful protest by the people led to the overthrow of the government and the excitement of multi-party free elections. What happened next door in Libya was utter carnage. It is important to remember that the effectiveness of many of the protests as part of the ‘Arab Spring’ was that they were non-violent and as such had moral authority; the uprising in Libya was violent almost from the start with well-armed militias doing battle and allowing Gadaffi to seek to justify his brutal response as being a civil war rather than a peaceful, popular uprising. It was another north African, St. Augustine, who called even just wars, “ Miseries” and “evils” and wrote that if anyone could think of them “without mental pain” that person “has lost human feeling.”
The blood thirsty images of Gadaffi’s last minutes were justified by hand wringing journalists as necessary to show to the Arab world and his supporters that he was actually dead—what nonsense; it was a judgement based on ratings. Millions of Americans still believe Elvis is alive, but he ain’t playing Vegas anymore. When Bin-Laden was killed President Obama took the statesmanlike and courageous decision not to release images and within hours even al-Qaeda were confirming that this was the case. As a county we do not believe in lynching’s or even have capital punishment, so to suggest that the summary execution of Gadaffi was somehow a ‘closure’ is ridiculous – even the Nazi’s had their day in Court at Nuremburg. The problem is that once you start justifying killing as an instrument of political change then unwittingly you give licence to the opponents of that political change to use violence in order to change it back.
What we stand for are the freedom and rights of the individual, not by virtue of the fact that they are Libyan or British, but because they are human. Amongst these rights, is the right to elect their own rulers and agree their own rules, the right to a fair trial, the responsibility to care for the weak and poor and to play a peaceful and constructive role in the international society of nation states by respecting the sovereignty of other nations and by adhering to internationally agreed conventions, treaties and resolutions. This was what Gadaffi, as dictator failed to do, but should be the example of those who seek to change.
Civil Marriage: I have received a number of very aggressive emails from people purporting to be Evangelical, Bible believing Christians about David Cameron’s conference speech in which he re-affirmed his commitment to gay marriage. Of course I understand where they are coming from, but the greatest moral challenge facing humanity is not that two men say they love each other and want to get married to each other, it is that two men say they hate each other and want to kill each other.