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July 27, 2006

The Israeli war against Hezbollah has helped revive the Michael Moore conservatives - argues Watlington

Posted by Watlington

The so-called Michael Moore conservatives - those conservatives that are weak on the war on terror, oppose an Atlanticist foreign policy, and are antagonistic towards Israel - are exploiting the Israeli war against Hezbollah to push for their own preferred policy positions, argues Watlington. The views expressed in this article are those of the author, not those of the Social Affairs Unit, its Trustees, Advisors or Director.

In Foreign Office Questions last week, knight of the conservative shires Sir Peter Tapsell asked the Foreign Secretary to condemn Israeli actions in Lebanon, comparing Israeli actions to the Nazi bombing of Warsaw in the Second World War. Sir Peter's view, whilst more extreme in its rhetoric, reflects a small - but significant - body of opinion in the Conservative Parliamentary Party.

These Michael Moore conservatives have a view of the world that is Arabist in outlook, is against the war in Iraq and the apparent influence of Washington DC on UK Foreign Policy. Not only do they have no sympathy for the global war against terror, many believe that Israel is at the root of all the current problems. Some have even argued that Israel should not exist as it amounts to the imposition of European settlers on "Muslim lands".

The current Israeli war against the Hezbollah terrorist movement in Lebanon, with the inevitable tragic loss of innocent life on both sides, has provided the catalyst in which the Michael Moore conservatives are trying to switch Tory policy away from its pro-Israel, pro-Atlanticist roots, to one which is more isolationist, more Arabist and one which allegedly "puts British interests first".

If the Michael Moore conservatives were limited to a few rancorous bed blocking backbenchers, none of this would matter. But there is increasing evidence that their influence is seeping through into mainstream conservative policy.

Through the activities of the Conservative Middle East Council and MPs like Crispin Blunt and Alan Duncan, the Michael Moore conservatives have been working overtime to dilute the effects of leading neoconservatives like Liam Fox and Michael Gove.

These Michael Moore conservatives have also persuaded some columnists like Matthew Parris to bemoan neo-con influence on the Cameron leadership. Crispin Blunt in particular has a history of anti-Israel activity, going so far as to attack Iain Duncan Smith when he was leader, for his support for the Israeli state. Unexpectedly, Michael Ancram - about to establish a new foreign policy think tank - has also joined the Michael Moore conservatives, calling publicly for British troops to leave Iraq now and heavily criticising Israeli actions in Lebanon.

Unexpectedly, these Michael Moore conservatives are beginning to find an open door in the office of the Shadow Foreign Secretary. Hague's senior advisers - spurred on by Shadow Foreign Minister, Keith Simpson - Arminka Helik and Chloe Dalton view the neoconservatives in the party with suspicion. Dalton's father was a leading Arabist diplomat in the Foreign Office. Their influence is rubbing off on William Hague who has made increasingly anti-American statements of late and has been noticeably critical of Israel. Mr Hague's actions have not gone down unnoticed in Washington, with David Frum, Mr Bush's former speech writer mounting a fierce attack on Mr Hague's actions. The view from the White House is that all the efforts to bridge build after the Michael Howard debacle are close to ruin if Mr Hague continues down this path.

Nevertheless, whilst the Michael Moore conservatives were walking around the Commons last week, looking fairly smug, there is a strong rearguard action from many in the party who believe that Blair has been right on the Middle East and that Conservatives must without question retain its strong links with America and support Israel in its hour of need. Many of the new MPs from the 2005 intake are known to be extremely upset at the way policy is developing and are planning to ensure that their views are heard loud and clear. It is understood that a number of senior backbenchers have also contacted Mr Hague expressing their concerns. Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith is also thought to be furious.

It is understood that the leadership are raising eyebrows at current developments and a number of close advisers to Cameron staffers are unhappy at the implied criticism of the United States and Israel. Shadow Defence Secretary Liam Fox, a strong supporter of an Atlanticist Foreign Policy is unlikely to let the Michael Moore conservatives hold sway once Parliament resumes in the autumn.

The Michael Moore conservatives may have won a small victory in the battle over Tory foreign policy this week. But this victory will not be one they win in the long term. That majority of conservatives who believe that the party's future lies in being pro-American and a major player in the war against terror will not allow it.

To read more by Watlington, see Watlington.


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It is reasonable to have a debate on the military tactics of Israel in the current crisis. But those who argue that Israel’s actions are ‘disproportionate’ have a duty then to say what a ‘proportionate’ response might be to having war waged on you by Iran via Hizbollah. But if we are indeed seeing a weakening of the Conservative Party’s commitment to the cause of freedom and democracy, and a failure to understand the vital role of America and Israel in that context, then that is truly shocking. Watlington may be wrong, and we have to hope he is. His piece underscores the importance of clarity of thought and communication from Cameron. Here is one area where focus groups, opinion polling and clever ‘messaging’ just aren’t enough for someone who aspires to lead this nation in dangerous times. We must know unambiguously where he stands.

Posted by: Stephan Shakespeare at July 28, 2006 09:16 AM
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Aren't they really more Pat Buchanan conservatives rather than Micheal Moore conservatives? It doesn't really matter what kind of conservative they are, because the reality is, if Israel were to give up all of its land and march all of its non-Muslim inhabitants into the sea, we would still have a bloodthirtsy band of trolls, who do not play by the rules of Western engagement, bent on the destruction of the entire West. Enforced Sharia law with age of consent being 9 years old is the eventual aim. The sooner everyone realises this the better it will be for the West and Israel. The sadly ironic point that is missing in all of the politicos talk, is that Israel does play by the Western rules of engagement. This is one time I wish, for their sake, they didn't.

Posted by: Mrs. Peperium at July 30, 2006 06:40 PM
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