Lindsey German

Brown In, Troops Out?

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Will Gordon Brown pull the troops out of Iraq? He'd be a fool if he didn't try.

After all, the most recent election results demonstrate a high degree of hostility †“ still - to his predecessor's most disastrous policy. It is widely assumed that the victory of the Scottish National Party in Scotland was in a large part down to an anti-war vote.

The war remains unpopular everywhere, opposition to it is embedded deep into popular consciousness and its escalating costs are counterposed to government parsimony in nearly every other area of government spending.

Bad politics and worse history

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The war in Afghanistan ended more than five years ago. The BBC's John Simpson told us so as he helped "liberate" Kabul perched on a British tank.

Four years ago the BBC, along with the world's press, reported the toppling of Saddam Hussein's statue in Baghdad, and proclaimed an era of peace and liberation for the Iraqi people.

What a difference half a decade makes. The Karzai government controls less and less Afghan territory, and that control relies on the US and British led Nato army. The Taliban, largely unlamented in 2001 when it was overthrown, is gaining support from a population sick of being targets of US bombs and tanks. It now controls half of Afghanistan.

A Day to Remember

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The scale and methods of the Nazi genocide of Jewish people make it a politically unique event that deserves a special day of memorial.

My favourite book of the last year was Suite Française by Irene Nemirovsky. The two sections in the book were originally planned as the first of six interconnected stories based around the fall of France in 1940 during the Second World War and its consequences.

Nemirovsky never finished them - a French Jew, she was arrested, deported and died in Auschwitz. The books were only recently discovered and published to great and justified critical acclaim.

Minding their Language

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The attack on "political correctness" likes to masquerade as a defence of free speech. In reality it is an attempt to maintain elite privileges.

A few months ago I took part in a Question Time debate organised by the BBC at a school in Beckton, east London. That this school was in the top ten of a contest organised by the BBC was itself a remarkable achievement, since it was the only state school in the ten. Beckton is a poor area, whose population has benefited little from the regeneration of the Docklands area, and which stands to benefit little from the nearby Olympics.

Recipes for Disaster

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To blame unhealthy children on women is ignoring what the market has done to childcare and people‘s lives in the last two decades.

Talk about not having it all. Women are expected to work longer, but then get the blame when anything goes wrong with their kids.

According to the Economist, "The increase in female employment in the rich world has been the main driving force of growth in the past couple of decades. Those women have contributed more to global GDP growth than have either new technology or the new giants, China and India."

Blaming the Victims

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What does a politician do when a war they started goes badly wrong? Pick a fight with those who have opposed it, of course.

George Bush tells us he's disappointed with progress in Iraq. How does he think the rest of us feel? The occupiers have now admitted they cannot control Baghdad or Basra. No wonder generals, former warmongers and even the politicians are now discussing withdrawal from Iraq. This is about much more than the US midterm elections, where Bush looks like he'll get a pasting. It is about a complete failure of strategy in the region, and the sudden realisation that things can only get worse.

New Friends, Old Enemies

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We should welcome new supporters of the Stop the War Coalition who have learnt that they were wrong through bitter experience.

There are times when what was bearable suddenly becomes unbearable. The war on Lebanon was one of those.

Suddenly Labour MPs, councillors and party members, who accepted and even applauded Tony Blair's dogged devotion to George Bush's foreign policy and the war on terror, could stand no more. The blockade and bombing of Lebanon, the destruction of homes, schools, roads and petrol stations, and most of all the deaths of more than 1,000 Lebanese civilians, led to calls for an immediate ceasefire.

Danger to World Peace

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Why is it a surprise to anyone that the public fear real wars more than the hypothetical possibility of attack?

George Bush is apparently furious at Europe - again. This time it's the result of a poll which found that Europeans consider the US more of a danger to world peace than North Korea or Iran.

That's the North Korea which, according to the director general of the International Atomic Energy Authority, is estimated to possess enough reprocessed plutonium for up to six bombs - hardly in Bush's league. And that's the Iran which by general agreement has no nuclear weapons at present, although it is developing nuclear power, as it is legally entitled to do under international treaty.

Plays for Today

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Playwright Henrik Ibsen was more than a pioneer of modern theatre: he carried a torch for all those who fight for women's liberation.

I was once told by one of my school teachers that he loved Shakespeare's King Lear because "everything is in there". By which he meant murder, adultery, pride, jealousy... you get the idea. I feel much the same about Henrik Ibsen. The Norwegian playwright, who died 100 years ago, wrote a body of plays which can rightly claim to have heralded modern theatre. They continue to have a profound social impact.

Sulphuric Publicity

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Margaret Hodge's claim that eight out of ten voters in Barking have considered voting BNP has given a massive boost to the far right.

I never had much time for Margaret Hodge when she was the leader of Islington council back in the 1980s, and I never knew what wrong the people of Barking, one of London's poorest areas, had done to deserve this millionaire as their MP.

But her behaviour in recent weeks has really put her beyond the pale. I simply don't believe her claim that eight out of ten white families she canvassed in her constituency were "tempted to vote BNP". Even the BNP don't believe that, or they would have put up a full slate of candidates across all the wards in the constituency.

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