Apologies again for the lack of activity on this site. Here are a few things I've noted.
A little over a year ago I commented: "I suspect [Gordon Brown] will be a historically insignificant premier, comparable to the Canadian Liberal Paul Martin, another long-serving finance minister who waited years to assume the leadership he coveted."
Obviously this was too generous. Now he's PM, Brown has shown he lacks competence as well as character. His overriding principle for the past 13 years has been merely the knowledge and frustration that the better man became Labour leader and prime minister before him. New Labour under Tony Blair was always, outside the top posts, short on talent. Under Brown, the government is collapsing into a black hole of mediocrity and scandal at exactly the time that a Franco-German axis of liberal internationalism is providing Europe with better leadership and the US with reliable counsel.
Daniel Finkelstein states concisely exactly what I think about the Oxford Union's invitation to the BNP leader Nick Griffin and my reader David Irving. The initial invitation was an absurd and unprincipled piece of theatre. Bigots have a right to free speech (and contrary to the views of the present government, a right to be bigots), but that doesn't mean they have a right to speak at any particular institution. The Tory defence spokesman Julian Lewis - whom I know and respect, and sometimes deputise for in debates on nuclear deterrence - was right to resign his membership of the Union in protest, and to criticise the Oxford Union President in personal terms. Yet the arguments of some other protestors were pernicious. It is not the case that, as an officer of the Oxford University Jewish Society put it, free speech is "overshadowed in this instance". Once the invitation had been issued, it would have been wrong to withdraw it, and protestors who aimed to prevent the meeting ought - on the press accounts I have read - to have been met with a firmer police response. Griffin is a demagogue and Irving is a racist faker; but the offence you and I are caused by their views is entirely irrelevant to civic affairs.
Melanie Phillips believes "Annapolis is America’s Munich — and Israel is the new Czechoslovakia". If Israel is the new Czechoslovakia, it's distinctly odd that for years substantial majorities of the Israeli electorate have favoured the dismantling of most of the settlements in the West Bank as part of a peace agreement with the Palestinians (see, e.g., the chart at the bottom of page 28 in this report from the US Institute of Peace). I am not soft on Israel's security. I believe successive Palestinian leaderships bear a substantial responsibility for the failure to achieve a sovereign state alongside Israel, and I fear the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not amenable to any rapid resolution. (Conflicts tend not to have resolutions; rather, they have outcomes.) But it is a prerequisite of constructive Western diplomacy to accept that the conflict is about competing legitimate nationalisms that must both be accommodated in any lasting, pacific settlement. The most senior figures in Israeli politics and diplomacy take this as axiomatic. I know they do, because I've spoken to them, and I know Melanie knows they do, because I've spoken to her.
Finally, there are some new links in the side-bar. I encourage you to visit them; and I shall be adding some more. Ben Goldacre, who writes the "Bad Science" column in The Guardian, is a debunker of all manner of cranks and quacks, especially in the field of medicine. Paul Anderson is a former Tribune editor, the attraction of whose blog I do not mean to belittle by saying it is particularly acute in discussions of the murky affairs of the long-defunct Workers' Revolutionary Party and its late leader Gerry Healy, a corrupt and stupid serial rapist. Marko Attila Hoare is a Balkan historian who, among other things, has gone into some depth on the vexed matter of certain factoids promulgated by the pro-Milosevic blogger and enterprisingly hopeful sometime legal plaintiff Neil Clark. As I indicated in this post, Mr Clark tried unsuccessfully to cover up his inaccurate citation of the output of a "Srebrenica denial" organisation by, among other expedients, lying directly to a Guardian journalist, Dominic Timms - but it's a long and unelevating story, and Marko's account of an exotic cast of characters is quite enough. (I should add that, in his account, Marko in my view is not quite fair to Noam Chomsky. As Professor Chomsky has elsewhere noted my own "tacit acquiescence to horrendous crimes", it would be wrong of me not to record my dissent at one mild injustice, especially towards him.)
UPDATE: Nick Robinson gives a masterly summary of the Labour donations scandal:
Whatever the final calculations the facts are clear. Labour allowed a "controversial" figure to secretly donate well over half-a-million pounds even after the harrowing experience of the first-ever police investigation to interview a serving prime minister. Gob smacking.
The last sentence expresses my own view in - uncannily - my own idiom.