The one defining skill of this Conservative Party leadership is its unmatched gift for political timing.
Political timing or base opportunism?
In politics timing is everything and right on queue enter our ever opportunist Prime Minister. If the Paris tragedies were the final pieces in the war making puzzle the first were dropped out of the box and placed on the table at the onset of summer.
But summer seems like a long time ago. So shocking was the carnage in Paris in November that it is hard to cast our minds back to the political landscape that preceded them. But should we take a moment we can see that the summer soundtrack was a monotonous Tory megamix with the aim to make us all dance to a particularly bloodthirsty tune.
The march to war started back in July
At the end of July Mr Cameron made, what was billed as, his first major UK speech on tackling extremist ideology. In that speech he set out the Government’s “five-year strategy” to deal with extremist ideology. With this speech and the anticipated media coverage he was of course building the narrative that may well lead to an increase in hostilities in Syria. Extremist ideology so the speech goes has to be dealt with at home and abroad.
The content was the focus for most but as this speech was just a rehash of one he made ten years ago I focus on the timing. The horrific massacre of tourists on a Tunisian beach at the end of June allowed Mr Cameron an opportunity he couldn’t miss to support his grand narrative: that to root out and end terror we must heap more terror on far away lands.
The echo of that last gun shot in North Africa was the sound of an increased march to war in the UK. David Cameron placed a direct link connecting those beaches – where the Foreign Office has withdrawn tourists – to the battlefields in Syria where the Ministry of Defence is already – on a small scale – engaging our military hardware.
Another piece of “good timing” over the summer came when it was “leaked” that UK armed service personal were already involved in attacks on the sovereign state of Syria. This revelation was a very useful test of likely public and parliamentary opposition to a new campaign. This “leak” approach to policy follows on from years of Labour Party spin. Every successive Government has built on the experience and knowledge of the last to become peerless in the management of the dissemination of information. The media is the first theatre of any war. Victory on that battlefield is of profound strategic importance.
Simply judging by David Cameron’s actions over the summer there was never any doubt that the aftermath of Paris would lead to more opportunist warmongering in the UK. We knew this would happen because the Government had recent form. Using the humanitarian crisis over the European summer months to propagate war Cameron and Osborne, et al, have shown beyond all doubt that they will never balk at any opportunity that comes their way.
Over the coming days, weeks and months – depending on the resilience of Labour MPs moral fibre – they will continue to skillfully and munipilatively push towards war: somehow shielding from the media spotlight that their cure is in fact the cause.
The humanitarian crisis in Syria spilling over into Europe could not have come at a more opportune time for a Government hell bent on war
As the end of summer approached The Establishment’s vile mouth piece The Sun was already depicting those against increased military action – including Labour’s new leader Jeremy Corbin – in Syria as “Cowards”. Not to be outdone by the Government in the Shakespearean duplicity The Sun told its readers that going to war in Syria is the best way to show anger and frustration at the death of Aylan Kurdi.
No coincidence that Parliament was in recess at the start of this propaganda war
As MPs headed for a break from Parliament over the summer the Tory Party had a couple of months to lobby MPs to back a fresh military campaign in Syria.
Strengthening your position while your opposition was weak was too good an invitation to miss for the opportunist PM. Labour as the main parliamentary opposition – if only numerically speaking – welcomed their new leader in September. With the entire party focused on internal matters over the summer the timing, once again, from the Tory party perspective was priceless. With Labour electing a leader who was exceptionally unlikely to vote for military action in Syria the Tories took full advantage to split the opposition.
Mr Cameron has a well respected and recognised gift for rolling the political dice at just the right time. There is an accepted narrative that we admire his astuteness and adroitness. It is more correct of course to rile at our Prime Minister for being a callus opportunist who used the death of 130 civilians in France and 30 civilians in Tunisia to catapult his argument that we need to be at war into every home. But that is what Warmongers do; there is no level that they will not sink to bolster the blood thirst.
The power of imagery is not to be underestimated
On the political battlefield imagery is almost as important as timing. The militarisation of the return of those murder victims from Tunisia, emerging as they did from an RAF aircraft, to be carried slowly and solemnly by military personal, seemed rather incongruous for the repatriation of murdered plumbers, post office and factory workers who had tragically but simply set out on holiday. They were and remain civilians caught up in horrific tragedy.
President François Hollande’s choice of Les Invalides – the home of the military museum of France – to commemorate the victims of November’s attacks in Paris come straight from the Warmongers Handbook. Theses subtle decisions are important, deliberate and meaningful steps in the abhorrent process of militarising the civilian population.
We know and we are continuously told that ISIS are hell bent on bringing civilians – across the Middle East as much as Western Europe – onto the battlefield. We are disgusted at their approach and their aims. Yet our politicians – by honouring the dead in such overt militarised style – do little to draw what should be a clear and profound distinction. Civilians even when they are targets are not military personnel. It is past the time for the west to draw this line and stick to it. To remove all military connotations from civilian tragedy.
It is time to say no to increased military action by the UK in Syria.