Saturday, July 14, 2007

Does Brown really believe in Parliamentary sovereignty?

Am I alone in being confused about where Gordon Brown thinks sovereignty lies? According to Brown and his constitutional tinkering plans, he wants to give the Royal Prerogative on war to Parliament. Now clearly there is a practical timing problem with that, after all, at what point would Parliament vote?

If you did it really early then you would be signaling to your enemy what was happening. If you did it late then Parliament would be voting when all the troops were in place on the ground ready to go. Is it likely they'd vote to stand down? Still, what is fundamental here is that Brown sees Parliament as sovereign on these matters... right? Maybe not.

On Thursday, the International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander gave a speech in America. Whilst also containing coded messages towards the Bush Administration (which I will come back to in a minute), it effectively said that British military action was beholden to the United Nations giving us permission first.

So how does this fit in with a Parliamentary vote? How can you, on the one hand, that Parliament decides something, and then on the other say that you won't do anything until you've managed to convince other nations of your opinion? The implication is that if you cannot convince you'll concede to their view. So where does sovereignty actually lie for Brown? Is it Parliament, or is it in the self-interests of nations like Russia, China, Cuba, Iran etc etc?

Of course, Brown was very quick it seems to play down this speech, so maybe it was a mistake?Initially the speech has been seen as flipping the V-sign to Bush and saying "I'm not going to be seen as your poodle". Downing Street however were very quick to say the speech had not been cleared, so distancing itself from it.

Then they told the Lobby that the interpretation put on the speech was "extraordinary". The PMS then said that he "would not" have put that interpretation on it when "he read it" but "it was for journalists to put whatever interpretation they wanted on the speech".

So lets get this straight, first they say they hadn't seen it until it was delivered, then they say its been misinterpreted, effectively saying that they still agree with its content, and then they passively encourage the "misinterpretation", suggesting that the misinterpretation is anything but.

Roll on to today and this seems confirmed in an interview with Brown's new foreign policy minister, and former UN official, Lord Malloch Brown. He told the Telegraph that Brown and Bush will not be "joined at the hip" and makes it quite clear we;re going to start engaging deeper with Europe. The article also notes that when Brown goes traveling in the next few weeks he's going to be seeing Sarkozy and Merkel before he sees Bush.

Clearly all this posturing will play well for Brown with the populist anti-Americanism that runs through the country and particularly in his party. What's perplexing is exactly what the position of sovereignty is in Brown's head on this matter? In the one breath he says Parliament, in the next he says the UN, and now, if his direction of travel is anything to go by, it looks like he is driving Britain towards the European Empire* even more.

Putting it simply, Brown's foreign policy appears to be a complete mess of contradiction with his domestic pronouncements about Parliament's sovereignty.

* This is a reference to the Emperor of Europe President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso who said the other day that "We are not the United States of Europe - we are unique in the history of mankind! Sometimes I like to compare the EU as a creation to the organisation of empires."


Theo Spark said...

Less like Stalin, more like Cromwell!

Anonymous said...

Wee Dougie doesn't say anything without clearance from his Lord Protector, so if it backfired it was a Brown miscalculation.

Anonymous said...

Everything this lot say has a reason ,I think us scum have worked that one out ages ago,I am pro American but I don't agree being in Iraq,we have had nothing but wars with Europe ,so now we have Europe doing their old tricks making a new empire ,England should be looking towards the USA if it wants to keep up with the rest of the world ,Scotland and Wales they should go there own way.

Anonymous said...

If we work on the premise that Gordon believes that it will be a very short time before the UK is part of the European Empire, then he is using the Alexander speech as an opening shot, a warning if you like, that a united europe will have the economic strength to begin to change the tide, and begin to dictate some policies to America rather than just accept theirs.

We already know that Gordon is more powerful when he pulls the strings in the background, and is positioning himself to begin pulling the Euro strings in both the Financial area coupled with Foreign policy.

Whilst the neocons still hold sway in Washington however, it is diplomatic to distance himself from the message, but the message will have been received loud and clear by those in waiting in the US.

Bush only has a limited time left in order to complete his own programme, which includes the integration of the North American empire (US, Canada, Mexico) (, and part of the message was that the UK in particular, and Europe in general will be unwilling to go along with any further US overseas adventures.

Beyond that, whether Democrat or Republican, the new American leadership needs to understand that the European Empire can outbid America in most areas of the globe.

In the world of energy, the establishment of the PetroEuro as the prime oil currency is nearly complete, with many of the worlds suppliers now insisting on conducting their international business in Euros rather than Dollars. This will continue to add pressure to the dollar and will mute some of the influence that the US can impose economically.

So the lines are being drawn, not with military might, but with economic power, (Gordon's next move will be for the UK to adopt the Euro), which the Americans will fail to listen to at not only their own peril, but that of the wider world. American power over the next 10-20 years will be on the wane, whilst that of Europe will only rise.

However, only time will tell whether that swinging of the pendulum of influence will be done by truly democratic nations, which will be a peaceful swing by and large, or whether both the US and Europe will slide into totalitarianism, which may see the world as it changes in for a much rougher ride for everyone.

Anonymous said...

Where did Alexander say that the UK wouldn't go to war without UN permission. I seem to remember a passage in the speech said that the UK would "reserve the right to take action alone" or something like that - the exact opposite of what you are saying.

dizzy said...

"multi-lateralist, not unilateralist"

Anonymous said...

Brown's does like to confuse and complicate, maybe it's strategic; he's a muddled moving target.

Old BE said...

Scary stuff IanP.

It seems very unlikely that Europe will be "united" by democratic means. Nearly every time voters have been asked whether they like integration they have said "no".

I am with anon@11.50 - I don't think Iraq was the right thing to do and the aftermath has been handled appallingly but I would still much rather the Americans were in charge than the French and Germans.

Anonymous said...

The British Government uses The Privy Council as usual to issue an Order In Council to deploy the military.......Parliament votes funds or has a "debate" which is subject to a 3-Line Whip.

The Government has a majority and carries its vote.

Thatcher had a debate on The Falklands and Blair had one on Iraq.... Chamberlain had one on Narvik in each case the Government won

Anonymous said...

Brown's making vague anti-American noises, but assuring Bush in private: don't worry, it's for the stupid punters back home, and it'll help me win the next election.