Manchester – why there is no scope for ‘negotiations’ with these sorts of terrorists (my take from 9/11)

The column below was written immediately after 9/11 and published by the US magazine PA Times. You can find the archived online version here.

I think it is still relevant today after the awful attack in Manchester (where I live).


Tough on Terrorism, Tough on the Causes of Terrorism

by Colin Talbot

I spent the week of the awful events in New York and Washington in South Africa, with many colleagues from their public policy and administration community. It made me reflect on how two organisations that had both been called “terrorist” – the African National Congress (ANC) and the apartheid state – eventually reached a peaceful settlement. And it made me realise why no such compromise is possible with those who attacked the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon.

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair first used the tough slogan above in relation to crime some years ago. A balanced response from democratic peoples to the utterly appalling events in New York and Washington has to look closely at how we both make sure justice is obtained, by whatever means are necessary, and that we remove the fertile soil in which terrorism grows.

We must reflect on what exactly is the terrorist menace we are confronting. We need to distinguish here between two distinct types of terrorist activities and terrorist organisations. The (Irish Republican Army) IRA, the Basque Euskadi ta Askatasuna (ETA), the Irgun, Hezzbolah, Al Fatah, and even the ANC of South Africa, are or have been, terrorist organisations fighting for causes they believe to be just. Continue reading “Manchester – why there is no scope for ‘negotiations’ with these sorts of terrorists (my take from 9/11)”

The Blunders of our Governments and the #DementiaTax – a lack of deliberation?

This is a review I wrote in 2013. It might just offer some illumination of how Theresa May’s Team have made such horlicks of the #DementiaTax.

The penultimate paragraph is probably the most important.


The Blunders of our Governments, Anthony King and Ivor Crewe.  Oneworld Publications, September 2013.

This is a must read book for anyone interested in British public affairs. It is seminal, not so much for the insight it offers – much of what it says has been said before – but in the way it brings together in one place the list of catastrophic blunders of government and their causes. There is something for everyone with an interest in government and governing here.

Politicians of the right will undoubtedly highlight the failures of government reported in this book and try to position it in the “private good, public bad” narrative of neoliberalism. Continue reading “The Blunders of our Governments and the #DementiaTax – a lack of deliberation?”

The Corbyn Project; why winning is secondary

Over the past couple of weeks I have had several conversations with people (journalists and academics) who cannot understand why Labour under Jeremy Corbyn may not be focused on, or even that bothered about, winning or losing the General Election. It seems so counter-intuitive.

What it is necessary to understand about the motely crew of Bennite socialists, Trotskyists, Communists and ‘fellow-travellers’ now running Labour is their attitude to Parliamentary Democracy is very different from most.

What they share are three assumptions about how genuine socialist change can happen: Continue reading “The Corbyn Project; why winning is secondary”

Not So Much a Manifesto, More Monarch May’s First Proclamation?

The Conservatives – or rather the Theresa May’s Team Party – published her Manifesto today.

Manifesto’s may seem a bit anachronistic in the age of rolling media but they do still matter, not least because they can be used to beat the House of Lords over the head- “it’s in the Manifesto” – if they get uppity (the ‘Salisbury Convention‘). As I pointed out in a previous post, this might be the only serious impediment to May’s Government after June 8th.

I know hardly anyone actually reads the things, but they do still matter also as they are the prospectus on which we, at least nominally, elect our Governments. Their central messages do percolate through the population.

Continue reading “Not So Much a Manifesto, More Monarch May’s First Proclamation?”

Is Corbyn’s Labour Socialist? You judge….

As the Labour Party Manifesto for the 2017 appears how are we to judge it?

Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters clearly want this to be seen a red-blooded socialism – “there will be a reckoning” in his recent apocalyptic rhetoric.

Oddly, his opponents agree – both his Tory opponents and those within his own party who wish to drag it back to its social democratic tradition. Corbyn’s prospectus will be ‘socialist’.

But will it? Continue reading “Is Corbyn’s Labour Socialist? You judge….”

Have the Lib Dem’s blown it? Trying to monopolise the Remain vote may have backfired on them and ‘Remain’?

Over the past 18 months the Lib Dems have increasingly positioned themselves as “the Party of the 48%”, of Remain and as “the real Opposition” to the Tories hard Brexit.

On the face of it this seems a sensible strategy – trying to do what the SNP did in Scotland after IndyRef – coral the defeated side behind one Party whilst the ‘victors’ remained divided.

Amongst the 48% were large numbers of previous LD voters, some moderate Tories and about two-thirds of Labour voters.

It seemed to be working – in Richmond they overturned a 23,000 Tory majority and defeated Zac Goldsmith using this approach.

But did they get carried away with this initial success and inadvertently limit their own chances, and, probably more significantly, undermined the campaign of resistance to Brexit? Continue reading “Have the Lib Dem’s blown it? Trying to monopolise the Remain vote may have backfired on them and ‘Remain’?”

The General Election About Brexit without Brexit

Theresa May’s extraordinarily Downing Street statement, it which she threw out wild accusations against various ‘Europeans’ in many ways summed up this General Election.

It is the election about Brexit in which real, actual, material Brexit does not feature.

The simple truth is we have not left the EU and we will not do so until 2019. We are in a “phony war” period in which Brexit has been declared but has not happened. And the main political debate is avoiding what real, actual, Brexit will mean. Continue reading “The General Election About Brexit without Brexit”