Dead Men Left

Monday, June 20, 2005

Michael the Softy

Michael Portillo, Tory Party conference speech, 10 October 1995:

He also told delegates that 'around the world three letters send a chill down the spine of the enemy - SAS'. Those letters spelled out one clear message - don't mess with Britain.

He added: 'To the European Court of Human Rights, who criticised the SAS action in Gibraltar, we send another clear message - don't give comfort to terrorists.'

Turning to Conservative election chances, he said Tories should adopt the SAS's famous motto - Who Dares, Wins. 'We dare. We will win,' he declared.

(From the Daily Mail report. They liked it. The Tories didn't win.) Michael Portillo, Sunday Times column, 19 June 2005:

Whitehall thinks that possessing nuclear weapons helps to secure Britain’s position as one of the five permanent members of the United Nations security council. But if the ability to blow up the planet is the qualification for presiding over the world’s peacemaking body, then we should already have rewarded India, Pakistan and Israel with membership and we should be preparing to welcome Iran and North Korea.

It is a dangerous line of argument. We encourage developing countries to believe that we will take them more seriously and invite them to the top table if they acquire nuclear weapons. Indeed, since Pakistan joined the nuclear club and recklessly spread weapons technology to the world’s most terrifying states, General Musharraf, its leader, has been feted by President Bush...

In general the West’s approach to proliferation is desperately muddled. The US gives the impression that it might go to war to stop Iran getting the bomb. That cannot be because it is a Muslim country nor because it gives its secrets to rogue states, since those points apply to Pakistan. Is it because Iran is not a democracy? In the past week it has voted for its president. Musharraf is unelected.

Granted, Micahel Portillo has not turned into Michael Foot, whom Portillo, repeating a popular myth, alleges lost the 1983 general election for supporting unilateral nuclear disarmament. He does, however, conclude by comparing Britain's supposed "new-found generosity to Africa" with the colossal sums proposed for updating its nuclear weaponry; an appeal that places him somewhat to the left of the Make Poverty History leadership, for whom comparisons between arms and aid expenditure are politically abhorrent.