Why the political parties don’t want to tell the truth.
Foreign and domestic policy are often related. Countries seek mutual benefit through trade and take measures to protect their own trading routes. They make long term arrangements for mutual exchange of products and services. In the contemporary world, the manufacture of a particular product often involves complex movements of components between different countries. Raw materials need to be sourced through trade with other countries. The countries of Western Europe are not self-sufficient. They need, in particular, to trade with Russia to access energy, food, fertiliser and various minerals. Europe’s prosperity and security, and ours, depend on our ability to reliably access these resources. There is no good reason, from the point of view of national self-interest, why we should not come to an arrangement with Russia to mutually assure our security concerns and to develop long term trading and cultural relationships.
Unfortunately, our relationship with Russia is not determined through our interests but through the perceived interest of the United States in eliminating Russia as a significant world power. Western Europe and the UK have subordinated their interests to American foreign and trade policy. This has been done under a moralistic cloak of rhetoric about Russia’s ‘revanchism’ and aggressive tendencies, all the while ignoring Russia’s often expressed security concerns about hostile forces on its borders. The result has been the ongoing military struggle in Ukraine and the economic warfare of the US and Western Europe against Russia in the form of sanctions on the purchase and movement of Russian exports. There is little evidence that this policy has done Russia serious harm. There is plenty of evidence that it is doing the NATO countries plenty of harm and that it will continue to do so. Western Europe needs Russian and gas and oil to run its economies. There are no ready alternatives and there won’t be for a long time, even if a huge effort is made to diversify sources. Even if such efforts were successful, the era of cheap energy for the West would be over.
Practically every economic activity depends on energy inputs. If the cost of energy increases, there is a tendency for the prices of products and services which use that energy to go up as well. This is reflected in a rate of inflation in the UK currently approaching an annual rate of 10%. Energy costs have increased catastrophically and have been passed on to consumers, already causing considerable hardship. As the weather deteriorates in the autumn, the problems of accessing affordable energy for heating, transport and industrial activity will become acute. It is sometimes admitted that the problems are partly due to the ‘war in Ukraine’, without going into detail. Although the UK does not depend on Russian oil and gas nearly as much as many other European countries, it does need to import most of its requirements and the sanctions have caused a spike in price for these commodities which have caused inflation in the UK.
No political party: Labour, Liberal, Conservative, Nationalist, will admit that the policies of the UK government are deliberately throttling the supply of energy and are the primary cause of a rate of inflation that we have not seen for nearly forty years since the ‘oil shock’ of 1973. The standard of living of most people is under assault in a way that most have never experienced before and that assault is likely to become more severe as autumn draws near. A couple of economic commentators such as Larry Elliott in the Guardian have made the point, tucked away in the financial pages. As Elliott pointed out, you can have economic stability or you can have severe economic sanctions against Russia, but you can’t have both. The distinguished Financial Times journalist Wolfgang Muenchau could not get a similar analysis published in the paper he worked for over many years. Even the ruling class, it seems, are not to be allowed to think too much about the economic consequences of our foreign policy. The British government has chosen economic instability and an existential threat to our economic and physical well-being in order to pose as the moral and military leader of Europe against an imaginary Russian threat.
A torrent of propaganda from newspapers, the BBC and other TV channels has talked up this threat. Russian, Chinese and Iranian media, which give an alternative perspective, are banned from broadcasting in this country. Critical thinking about foreign and defence policy requires that citizens have access to a range of sources of reliable information and differing and dissenting views. These have been largely eliminated because neither the government, nor Britain’s political parties want the public to question what is being done to them. A democracy in which no-one is able to express a dissenting view without being demonised as a traitor is not really a democracy. This suits Keir Starmer who wants nothing more than to continue with the same foreign and defence policy as the current conservative government. The UK is slipping towards a crisis of standards of living that it has not experienced for decades and our media and political class do not wish to talk about it.
But that does not mean that it will go away. We are effectively at war with Russia and the Russian government has come to the conclusion that it is no longer possible to deal with NATO governments. A thirty year quest for collective security arrangements with the NATO countries has met with contemptuous rebuff. Russia has had to rely on China and friendly countries in the middle east to bolster its security. It has had little difficulty in finding new markets for its oil, gas and other raw materials and will feel little inclination to do deals with such untrustworthy and unreliable partners as Germany or Britain again. This means that we have probably lost access to cheap energy for the foreseeable future and will have to rely on highly priced American gas for heating and industry. We will be as dependent on them as we were on Russia, only the Americans do not tolerate dissent and will turn off the taps if Europeans do not submit to the dictates of US foreign policy. Our economic future looks bleak.
Johnson is the first Western leader to fall as a result of NATO fighting a war with Russia. His reckless warmongering has contributed to the prolonging of Russia’s Special Military Operation. The consequence of the blowback of sanctions against Russia is that energy prices have gone through the roof. Voters may not particularly care for Johnson’s antics or associated goings-on in the Carlton Club but they would not be too bothered if inflation were low and they were confident that they could heat their homes and drive their cars this winter. Since inflation is increasing they are not confident, the government’s poll ratings are terrible and this exercises Tory MPs mightily. They will not admit what the real cause of their unpopularity is and will go on to elect another warmonger with the same policies and the same polling results. All the furore about parties, alcohol and groping is just displacement activity to allow them to avoid talking or even thinking about what matters to the electorate. We now learn that Germany is rationing energy and it is only July. Will Olaf Scholz be the next western leader to fall?
This journal does not know whether or not Russia could be persuaded to become an economic partner of the NATO countries once again. We would like to think so, but it seems increasingly unlikely. We will enter a world of expensive energy, endemic inflation and slow or no economic growth. Large sections of the population will experience economic hardship and will find it difficult to heat their homes. The Labour Party, supposedly the party that defends the interests of working people is, through support of the government, an accomplice in the destruction of the standards of living that working people have managed to enjoy since the end of the oil crisis of the 1970s. This is as true of the left as it is of Starmer’s supporters. Is it even possible to talk of a democratic government when the key facts are concealed from the public by the whole political class and media? Now is the time to speak out, but we doubt that anyone who is not on the margins of British politics will do so.
We are probably at a turning point in our history where the post imperial benefits of free trade and access to cheap raw materials is at an end. The future of British politics will reflect that change, but it is unlikely that a left that let down its people will benefit.
Note: The BBC money guru Martin Lewis is alarmed about the effect of the coming price rises on well-being and even forecasts civil unrest as a result. See his Instagram Post of 20th July.