JDB Media Coverage of John Kerry’s Visit to UK

I’m happy to report that it’s been a busy day with the new U.S. Secretary of State in town. John Kerry flew into London late Sunday night ahead of breakfast meeting with Prime Minister, David Cameron, in Downing Street this morning before meeting with Foreign Office officials including the Foreign Secretary, William Hague, at lunchtime.

I have been involved in media coverage of the event throughout the day, providing comment to FM4 Radio in Austria this over breakfast, Monocle24 Radio mid-morning, BBC Radio Five Live at lunchtime and finally discussing the visit on The Brenner Brief this evening.

The new SecStat was at pains to stress the importance of the Special Relationship and declared that it was ‘no accident’ that his first overseas visit was to London, hopefully dispelling too many concerns over the notion of a Pacific Pivot by the Obama Administration. His sentiments on this issue mirror those expressed by former U.S. Defence Secretary Leon Panetta in a speech made at King’s College London in January.

Whilst the following image will not win me any extra followers, I thought it was fun, taken at the New Broadcasting House headquarters of the BBC in central London.

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JDB on London’s LBC 97.3 fm Tonight at 21:20 GMT

I will be returning to the airwaves for the second time today to be in discussion with Kevin Maguire, sitting in for Iain Dale on LBC 97.3 fm.

Not surprisingly perhaps I will be addressing the international reaction to the events that have transpired in Libya, and the expected American reaction in particular. With allegations of having ‘led from behind’ how will the White House react now that the ‘Mad Dog’ has been overthrown?

Given the historic role that the United States has played with regard to Libya what will the direction of policy be under the new regime? Will President Obama seek to exploit this event in the presidential election of 2012, coupled with his administration’s success in killing Osama bin Laden?

What will the reaction be of the European powers who were at the forefront of efforts to remove Gaddafi from power? Where will this leave the relationships between Cameron and Hague, between Downing Street and the FCO? And spare a thought for Liam Fox, forced to resign before a potential hour of glory.

These issues and more will be addressed in what will no doubt be a fascinating interview. Tune in online at: http://www.lbc.co.uk/listen-live-3578

JDB and Sky News

As some of you may have seen, I was on Sky News this morning, discussing President Obama’s trip to Europe. The conversation concentrated on his initial stop-over in Eire, where he will apparently revel in his Irish ancestry. I must admit that one doesn’t really look at Obama and immediately think of the Emerald Isle, but I guess that he is just the latest in a long line of president’s claiming Irish ancestry to bolster their domestic standing with the Irish community in the United States.

I seem to remember when Obama used to be from Kenya and Hawaii? Apparently that was soooo yesterday! I know he campaigned on a platform of ‘Change’ but I didn’t think that changing his ancestry was what he had in mind.

In London from Tuesday, Obama will hold meetings at Downing Street with the PM David Cameron to discuss Afghanistan and UK/US foreign policy. Doubtless to say questions of the Special Relationship will come up, along with issues pertaining to the demise of Osama bin Laden.

Obama will be staying as a guest of Her Majesty the Queen and will also address both houses of Parliament. A press briefing is expected at the FCO. The president will be accompanied by Secretary of State Clinton who is expected to hold meetings with her opposite number, William Hague.

Suffice to say, getting around central London may be a little tricky with the heightened security this week!

I will be returning to the airwaves through the week as the president spends his State Visit here in London, so watch this space for more news.

JDB and LBC Radio

I will be returning to the airwaves once more this evening, to discuss the future defence position of the United Kingdom in light of Defence Secretary Dr. Liam Fox’s speech today. Where will David Cameron’s government take the nation and position the country in 20 years?

Tune in to hear me in conversation with Iain Dale at 20.35 on LBC Radio97.3FM or listen online at http://ukrp.musicradio.com/lbc973/live

JDB, Chatham House and 60 Years of UK-Israeli Foreign Relations

Yesterday I had the great honour, and high privilege to attend a Chatham House conference marking 60 years of UK-Israeli foreign relations, at the invitation of the Israeli embassy here in London.

The conference was organised to celebrate 6 decades of international relations between the two countries and to ponder the current and future state of affairs. We in the audience were most fortunate in that the keynote address was delivered in person by the President of Israel, Shimon Peres. Click here for a link to his address.

Convened by the always smooth Dr. Robin Niblett, the day featured panels examining bilateral relations, economic and scientific issues as well as security matters. The make-up of the panellists reflected the high quality of the day and included Dr. Claire Spencer from Chatham House, Sir Malcolm Rifkind MP, Israel’s Ambassador to London, HE Ron Proser, the ever effervescent Baroness Susan Greenfield, James Blitz from the Financial times, Dr. Uzi Arad, former Chairman of the Israeli National Security Council, and Sir Richard Dearlove, former head of MI-6.

It was a remarkable day full of remarkable people, addressing a remarkable relationship that continues to redefine itself on a regular basis. The day was brought to a fitting conclusion with a talk from the UK Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the Right Honourable William Hague, MP. Click here for a video  of his remarks.

I was able to ask the Foreign Secretary about the constraints upon the British government and the quest for peace in the Middle East of having to conform to the straightjacket of the American political timetables.

The talk very much highlighted the traditional level of excellence at Chatham House and reminded us of the need for continued dialogue in this troubled world.

JDB on Al Jazeera

I will be interviewed on Al Jazeera this afternoon on the upcoming debate on the proposed ‘on-fly zone’ at the United Nations and on splits between the US and European nations. Listen to me describe the efforts to debate the bolting of the horse long after it has returned to its stable on the news channel of the moment, Al Jazeera English.

Twisting in the Wind: The Shameful Treatment of the LSE

Over the past week or so it cannot have escaped the attention of a proportion of the population that the London School of Economics has been rather mired in a scandal, seemingly of its own making. The allegations surround the university’s ties with the Libyan authorities in general and their education of Colonel Gaddafi’s son Saif, specifically.

Needless to say, this has all made for easy headlines, noisy protests and the furrowing of brows among much of the left-leaning intelligentsia in the UK. The affair has now led to the honourable resignation of the university’s director, Sir Howard Davies. Yet this furore is overshadowing the great work done by the university in general and the sterling work of the LSE IDEAS department in particular, which has hosted Professor Niall Ferguson this year, to great acclaim.

As a practicing academic in the current economic and educational climate it is hard to know where to start with the accusations that have been levelled at the LSE and its management.

For years of course, the Libyan regime was a pariah on the international scene, blamed for the downing of Pan-Am flight 103 over Lockerbie and for over atrocities during the 1980s and early 1990s. It is no coincidence that the bad guys in Back to the Future were Libyan terrorists; in an age of Gorbachev’s reforms, ‘Mad Dog’ Gaddafi made a perfect foil for President Reagan.

Yet in the twenty-first century, quiet diplomatic efforts, led in part by the British government, appeared to make great strides, leading to the meeting between Gaddafi and Tony Blair and the Libyan leader’s rejection of a WMD programme. In line with these developments, and at the behest of the British government, the LSE advised the Libyan government with regard to its finances. At the same time, a number of British companies, including BP, sought to maximise the new potential that exited in dealing with this former adversary. For that was the situation as it stood until the past few weeks; of Libya as a reformed state, with whom the west could suddenly do business.

Little wonder therefore that organisations and universities were happy to trade and advise Libya since they were actively encouraged to so do by their own government! Advise Libya on financial matters? Why not! Educate potential Libyan leaders of tomorrow? No problem. And why should it be? After all, this was a country that was embraced on the UN Human Rights Council and was not seen as being worthy of inclusion in the now notorious Axis of Evil.

That the British government has allowed the LSE to twist in the wind like this is shameful, as is the all too obvious silence by former members of the Labour government. With former Foreign Secretary David Milliband due to address the LSE in the coming weeks, it will be interesting to see what he has to say on the subject, unless, of course, he cancels in favour of his efforts to seek a career in television.

During the Second World War the United States’ government encouraged its citizens to join organisations that celebrated US ties with the USSR and its esteemed leader ‘Uncle Joe’ Stalin. Within a few short years this same government would accuse such citizens of being Communists as the McCarthy era purges began. The LSE is in such a position today.

The other allegations centre on the LSE’s decision to educate Gaddafi’s son, Saif. Educating an individual whose wealth and power may have questionable origins had better not be outlawed, else there will suddenly be both a mass exodus of students and with them a great deal of money from many British universities, right at the moment that they cannot afford to lose either. With less and less public money being allocated to the university sector, more and more institutions will be required to look elsewhere for their funding. If businesses and philanthropists come forward to provide assistance, great, but if not, then the bank accounts of the not so great and the not so good will look increasingly attractive and necessary if these academic institutions are to survive in the increasingly competitive marketplace of global education.

The LSE will no doubt be hoping that Sir Howard’s departure will draw a line under the issue and that the focus will now shift elsewhere. But no one working in academia or seeking a career in the university system should be under any illusions that this situation is in any way unique or that it will not happen again. Indeed, it is the proverbial tip of the iceberg and more likely to be the way of things in the future than any mere embarrassing solitary incident.

JDB and London’s LBC Radio

I will be interviewed by the always engaging James Whale on his Evening Show on London’s LBC Radio this evening at 5pm. I will be discussing the international response to the events in Libya and the role played by Obama and Cameron.

Tune in to see how it goes!

Time to Walk, Like an Egyptian Hosni

To quote the great Scottish International Relations philosopher, Rod Stewart, it would appear that ‘tonight’s the night’ in Cairo. All reports coming out of the Egyptian capital seem to point to an imminent departure from power by President Hosni Mubarak after some 30 years in charge. 

For more than a generation he has been the strong man in the region, ensuring that Egypt holds a pro-western stance in relation to Israel and as a result has ensured that Egypt has continued to receive billions of dollars in aid and in arms from the United States following the Camp David Accords. Regardless of political affiliation, the White House has been a constant ally to Mubarak and as such, U.S. foreign policy in the region is at a potential turning point.  Speaking in Michigan this evening, President Obama was careful to reference the movement for democratic change, whilst moving on quickly to other domestic policies. Behind he scenes, however, the president continues to be kept up to date by his experts at the CIA and the National Security Council.

As the world prepares for a post-Mubarak Egypt, the White House is playing a very careful game; not wishing to be seen to be interfering, but doubtless working furiously behind the scenes with the Egyptian military and intelligence services to ensure a peaceful transfer of power. The question is, to what? Is a military coup underway as some suggest? The irony in such a thought is that Egyptian leaders have traditionally come from the military, so a military coup appears to be  something of a contradiction!

What appears clear is that at 20:00 GMT, Hosni Mubarak will face the world and make an announcement of profound importance. If he announces his departure, a new era can begin. If he delays the inevitable, the possibilities appear to be endless. What is certain is that the risk of violence and potential deadly uprisings will increase the longer Mubarak clings to power and the longer the people continue to clamour for reform. Tonight we will find out if he departs in the manner of Ceauşescu or Gorbachev. The Mubarak regime is over. The only question that remains is over the timing of its demise.

A Mother has two sons….

You may have heard the old joke in American politics, “A mother has two sons, one joins the navy, the other becomes Vice President… And neither are ever heard of again.” Ok, so not particularly funny, but it used to have them rolling in the aisles in the 1950s when Tricky Dicky was Ike’s Veep.

Now the tale needs updating to accommodate the Miliband brood. One son becomes a Foreign Secretary with aspirations of leadership, heeds his kid brother’s advice not to challenge the leader and to bide his time, and is then defeated by said brother in the leadership election. I wonder how Christmas will be in the Miliband household this year?

However….I wonder if poor old David hasn’t escaped lightly and may yet have the last laugh. As of this morning he has yet to announce his plans. But for what it’s worth, let’s speculate: Ed has secured the leadership without the support of the Parliamentary Labour Party or the membership and is reliant on the Unions for support. If the Tories are smart this will be brought up on every occasion that the increasingly militant  unions bring London to a grinding halt or ground British Airways flights at Christmas.

How does David Miliband deal with this? By putting 3,000 miles of clear blue water between himself and the plight of his kid bother. Go west, young man and make a killing. Go to Harvard and teach. Cosy up to the Democrats in DC, let Hillary swoon over you in Fogy Bottom and become a man of international renown. Meanwhile let brother Ed take the fall for another Labour defeat in 4 1/2 years and become the next ‘greatest Labour prime minister the country never had.’

Then he can decide if he wants to return to the fray and lead a resurgent Labour Party in 2015… It’s just a thought.