A survey in this morning’s Guardian suggests a win for Chris Huhne in the LibDem leadership race… although many party members are undecided and may yet swing it for Sir Ming. A much smaller Independent straw poll (of the same meeting of LibDem activists) gives the contest to Menzies Campbell.
Mr Huhne has (almost) won over The Independent’s leader-writers:
"Chris Huhne, relatively unknown outside Parliament and his constituency before, has undoubtedly been the greatest beneficiary of the contest. He has thrived under the spotlight, making up for a shortage of charisma with an air of calm competence… Rallying the party, propagating its ideas, and steering it through the parliamentary rough and tumble are jobs for a younger man with fresh ideas. Because of his showing through the campaign, we now lean towards Chris Huhne."
I listened to Chris Huhne on last night’s Any Questions? programme. At one point I wanted to shout at the radio. He was on his high horse about the Iraq war. The war had been illegal, he insisted, because the UN hadn’t approved it.
The United Nations is the ultimate institution-of-convenience for poseur multilateralists. It is perfectly reasonable for people to disagree with the Iraq war but the Iraq war didn’t become unacceptable because China, Russia and France wouldn’t declare it a just war.
The oil-for-food scandal and the Volcker report exposed the compromised nature of the French government and its dealings with Iraq. Russia didn’t emerge much better from Volcker and the increasingly rapid retreat from democracy by the blanket-bombers of Grozny doesn’t really make Moscow a great moral authority. The third UN Security Council member with a veto is, of course, China. What moral authority does that country have from what it did in Tiananmen Square? In Tibet? With internet censorship?
The UN didn’t act in Rwanda. It didn’t act in Kosovo. It isn’t acting in Darfur – partly because of Russian and Chinese economic interests in Khartoum. It would not have acted in Iraq because of France’s promise to veto any action.
Some of the world’s least savoury regimes sit on the UN’s discredited human rights group. In the UN’s topsy-turvy world democratic America was expelled from the human rights commission chaired by… wait for it… Libya.
Many of the UN’s African “peacekeepers” are being investigated for child molestation and rape – the ‘children-for-sex’ scandal.
For many nations an ineffective UN acts as a blood-stained institution-of-convenience, which they can hide behind. ‘Yes, of course, we must act but we must act with UN approval,’ democratic leaders can tell their people. They tell their people in the full knowledge that the UN will probably never act. A common EU foreign policy would give EU member states the same excuse for inaction. Giving the UN responsibility for world peace is a bit like surrendering our compassionate responsibilities to the poor to the feed-and-forget welfare state. In both cases, our consciences are partially salved but do we really think that world peace or the end of poverty are any nearer?
We do need an international body like the UN to bring nations together but without fundamental reform the UN itself does not deserve the admiration that it receives from the likes of Mr Huhne and the clapping Any Questions? audience.
Postscript: Mr Huhne’s support for the UN is, of course, all part of his deep-seated multilateralism. This former MEP is the most Europhile of the three leadership contenders.