Iain Dale is Presenter of LBC Drive, Managing Director of Biteback Publishing, a columnist and broadcaster and a former Conservative Parliamentary candidate.
A friend said to me this week that she thinks we are closer to a nuclear war than at any time in her lifetime. She’s the same age as me. I remember during the 1980s, when cruise missiles were being deployed, being told the same thing by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.
They believed Ronald Reagan to be a trigger-happy cowboy who was determined to start a war with the Soviet Union. We now know that he was the very opposite: someone who actually suggested to Mikhail Gorbachev that both countries should abandon all their nuclear weapons.
Donald Trump, however, is not cut from the same cloth as Reagan. If you’ve got a big stick and your opponent has a big stick, you don’t need to shout about it. It’s obvious. Trump, however, takes the opposite approach.
North Korea is like a fly on the back of a very powerful horse: an irritant that needs swotting away from time to time. But to react in the ranty way that Trump did – threatening fire and fury – was a big mistake. Only threaten something like that if you’re prepared to act on it. He can only have meant, by using those words, that he would order a nuclear strike against Kim Jong Un. There is no other interpretation. The trouble is that Trump’s bluff was called, when, within hours, Kim Jong-Un threatened to strike against the US military base on Guam.
The consequences of any such strike are unthinkable. During the Cold War both sides knew that if either side launched a nuclear attack, they themselves would be obliterated. It was called ‘Mutally Assured Destruction’. It was a concept that worked as long as both sides had political leaders who were predictable and logical.
The trouble is that in this case we have two leaders who are neither. In fact, they are the very opposite. I never thought I could compare an American president with a certifiable dictator like Kim Jong Un, but there you go. I’m not suggestin that Trump is certifiable, but his narcissism, his propensity to be offended and his unpredictability mean that nothing can be ruled out when he’s reacting to the North Korean situation.
All this is why China is important. Trump has consistently, and rightly, called on China to intervene and call Kim Jong Un to account. Without China’s support and supplies, North Korea would collapse. It’s a powerful position for the Chinese to be in. The Chinese, however, fear that a collapse of the regime in North Korea would mean a mass migration of people across the border.
Interestingly, China voted with the US at the United Nations to impose more sanctions on North Korea, as did Russia. This is notable because I’m pretty sure it has never happened before. In itself, it’s not enoug, though. Trump is right to call out China on its lack of intervention in North Korea. If it wanted to bring Kim Jong Un to heel, it probably could.
One of the callers on my radio show this week predicted that it would be China, not the US, who took military action against North Korea. Quite what the South Koreans would make of that is anyone’s guess, and I suspect at the moment it lies in the realms of a phone-in caller’s fantasy.
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James Chapman was political editor of the Daily Mail before he switched to join George Osborne’s team of advisers as chief of staff. Following the referendum and Osborne’s sacking, he rather surprisingly took on the same position for David Davis. I say “surprisingly” because James was a self-avowed Remainer.
He left the position just before the general election. Since then he’s created a completely new persona for himself on Twitter. For someone as urbane and calm as James, his tweets might lead you to believe that he’s taken some sort of personality-changing drug.
He’s become a complete attack dog, taking on all and sundry for their ‘Brextremist’ views. From his holiday sunlounger in Sardinia, he created a stir this week when he suggested a new political party should be formed to fight the Remain cause and to stop Brexit.
Well, good luck with that. I’m sure this week’s New European newspaper will have a collective orgasm over the prospect, and James will become their new pinup boy. He firmly believes that Brexit isn’t going to happen and that Britain won’t leave the customs union or the single market.
There is a political party that believes all of those things and it’s called the Liberal Democrats. And they did sooooo well at the last election, didn’t they?
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Frankly, I don’t care much who wins the UKIP leadership contest. The party has become an irrelevance, and the quality of the candidates on offer is lamentable.
One of them, David Kurten, a GLA member, has distinguished himself this week by alleging that gay people are only gay because they were sexually abused in their childhoods. I mean, where do you start…
He also wants to reverse equal marriage and civil partnership legislation. And he’s the second favourite, for God’s sake. It tells you all you need to know if this man is a serious contender. He almost makes Jonathan Rees Evans look sensible. Almost.