HJS Summer Reception

By

with The Rt. Hon. Michael Gove MP Secretary of State for Education and Member of Parliament for Surrey Heath, Gisela Stuart MP for Birmingham Edgsbaston and The Rt. Hon. Jim Murphy MP Shadow Secretary of State for Defence and Member of Parliament for East Renfrewshire Member of Parliament for Birmingham, Edgbaston

7-9 pm, Monday 9th July

Nash Room, The Institute of Directors, 116 Pall Mall, London SW1Y 5ED

To attend, please RSVP to: nicola.byford@henryjacksonsociety.org 

The Henry Jackson Society is delighted to invite you to the HJS Summer Reception in honour of our new Academic, Political and Policy Council members, to be addressed by The Rt. Hon. Michael Gove MP and Gisela Stuart MP.

Leading members of the political, media, academic, business and think tank communities will be present, and we hope that you will able to join us in celebrating this important milestone.

We very much hope you can join us and look forward to seeing you there –
Tickets may be purchased for £35 (includes entry, drinks and a selection of canapés) via our website The Henry Jackson Society Shop or by sending a cheque to:
The Henry Jackson Society, 8th Floor, Parker Tower, 43-49 Parker Street, London, WC2B 5PS (N.B. Additional guests welcome – please include the names of all guests and your contact details with cheques if sending by post) nicola.byford@henryjacksonsociety.org

or call 0207 340 4520.

Transcript

Alan Mendoza:

Welcome one and all, I am Alan Mendoza, the director of the Henry Jackson Society, and may I say firstly how pleasing it is to see such a large crowd gathered here tonight to celebrate our newly formed academic policy and political council. We are really delighted that so many eminent individuals have decided to support our work in a very public fashion – we have about 45 MP’s and peers at this moment in time who have signed up to support our work and about 25 top academics around the world, ready to cast their eye over our product, and a good number of policy advisors ready to give their input on policy prescriptions for foreign security policy in the UK and internationally going forward. Now one of the things that I have always enjoyed about the Henry Jackson Society, aside from the fact that I partly founded it, is that it has always stood for independence of thought, incisive minds and indeed a robust sort of political independence. I think that all three of our speakers tonight actually characterize those things in spades. We are, by the way, a little delayed with Michael Gove tonight, many people blame the Prime Minister for things, but tonight it’s certainly his fault that Michael is delayed, he called him in for a meeting at 7:15 and he will be with us around 8:25. Fortunately, we have two excellent speakers to kick us off. Firstly I have the great pleasure of introducing our very good friend Gisela Stuart, Gisela is of course the member for Birmingham Edgbaston, and she I think typifies those values of bipartisanship, independent thinking, not giving a damn what others really think in parliament and beyond – but always on the right side of the debate, I find, in these contexts. I suppose I wasn’t too disappointed when the good people of Birmingham refused to go for a mayor, because Gisela was in the front-running for that position, and so she is going to be helping us out further within parliament. So, without further ado, allow me to please pass you over to Gisela Stuart.

Gisela Stuart:

Thank you very much indeed for that generous introduction. Whilst I was here this evening I have come up with a new fundraising idea – I am going to ask anybody that comes up to me saying “I am not a Labour voter but I vote for you” to donate £10 to my campaign fund, and I think that would help things properly. My defence is that for a Bavarian I am actually incredibly left wing. Just to show that the world can change, and can change for the better if you want it to change, I always use this little anecdote that if anybody had told Neville Chamberlain, who of course in 1938 was the member for Birmingham Edgbaston, that when he came back from Munich waving his piece of paper, that his constituency in 1997 would be represented by a woman that is socialist, and one born in Munich – but he need not panic, because it would all come about by democratic means – it does show that if you set your mind to it what you think is immovable and cannot be changed, with good will, can change.

The Henry Jackson Society, I think for all of us here it may be worth just remembering and reminding ourselves what it is we stand for. I do remember receiving a letter in 2005 about signing up to a set of principles which, as I was reading through them, sounded imminently sensible to me. They said ‘modern liberal democracies set an example’ (and if they don’t then they jolly well should), ‘the dramatic economic and political means to assist the countries that wish to become democracies’, ‘support the maintenance of a strong military, both within the frameworks of our work with the United States, and with NATO and the EU’, and that to me was the really important thing – to never lose the fundamentals of why we are doing any of these things. It must be, in my mind, in the pursuit of defending individual rights – human rights must be the driving force.

So I thought “they are asking me to sign this”, and when you are asked to sign something from people who you have never heard of it actually gets quite dangerous, but I thought “well, let’s risk this”.

So then I looked back and I thought “who on earth is Henry Jackson?” and the more I learnt about the man the more I warmed to him. Whilst he was an environmentalist, a trade unionist, a very strong supporter of human and civil rights, he nevertheless was quite hawkish about the period of the cold war, and someone whose mother was Czech and lived quite not far from the Czech border during the Cold War, and who remembers 1968 when the tanks started rolling in to Prague, and it was by far from clear whether they would stop at the border, the only advice my mother ever gave me when I went to an anti-Vietnam demonstration as a student in Munich, when I came back she said “I’m really pleased that you have the privilege and the luxury to do that, and that you will never have to sit in a cellar praying that the American’s get to you before the Russians do”, we have forgotten about these things.

To me what is important was the fundamentals of human rights, and if we could do it under the umbrella of someone who managed to bridge things and bring them together and not polarize, because remember in 2005 foreign policy was terribly polarized, and people put themselves into camps without having to think what they really stand for. So my congratulations to Alan and all those that started the Henry Jackson Society, it is very  important the political and academic council that you have started again brings together a lot of academics and politicians of all political persuasions, and as a sign of how tonight it really isn’t a party-political issue, it is a question of what we think those enduring values are, and I can start off by introducing Jim Murphy who is a good Scotsman by constituency, and he can tell you where he was really born. Over to you Jim.

Jim Murphy:

Thank you Gisela. I am the First Scotsman you’ve heard speak in the past couple of days who’s not going to cry. My team came second as well in the last elections so I guess we’re getting closer as well. Apologies for being a little bit late but the next guest is even later so…but he’s got a good excuse – he’s helping to run the country. My only excuse is that I was watching the debate on the House of Lords Reform – which is one of those bits, in the public domain, that doesn’t often catch a light but when it comes to the House of Commons Debating Chamber, my gosh, it’s remarkable. We are voting tomorrow on this and I am going to take the peculiar bent when it comes to House of Lords Reform and I’ll explain, just very briefly, why. Gisela didn’t mention that my biggest achievement in politics is being the captain of the House of Commons football team. It’s not because I’m any good; it’s just that the rest are so bad. In my time as captain of the Parliamentary football team we played 16 matches, and we are by far the most consistent football team in the country. We just are, it’s remarkable. In the 16 games that we’ve played with me as captain, we’ve managed to draw none, win none, and lose all of the rest. The reason why I mention that is because one of those defeats was against the House of Lords. You know, that’s another way of explaining why I’m captain. So when it comes to the vote tomorrow, loads of people will be voting for all sorts of reasons – mostly constitutional, theories, and a certain sense of power – for me it’s just vengeance and freeing up one embarrassing fixture from our football calendar. We’ve all got our reasons.

It is really lovely to be here this evening with so many folk celebrating the Henry Jackson Society and celebrating the launch of the political and academic council. I don’t often get invited to open things or launch things. As a minister, the minister for employment, this is a good few years ago now, I got invited to a job centre in the East End of Glasgow, and I thought great. I’d written, I thought, a very thoughtful speech really well typed, and I thought this is my debut, my first ever speech as a minister. I combed my hair and polished my shoes, you know, all those things you have to do. And the place was nothing like this, as you’d expect in a job centre in the East end of Glasgow, but it was worse than I expected. It got to Gisela’s equivalent of ‘the next speaker is’ and a person got up and said ‘it was great to have the Minister of Employment and Welfare here to formally close the job centre.’ My view was that civil servants close things and ministers open things.

Never mind all that, I’m speaking until Michael turns up. I am here because I want to be associated with exactly what Gisela said – this is about all parties and no parties. It’s about our country, our values, and the things we believe in. Whether we’re left or right wing or somewhere in the middle, or nowhere at all, or just a sense of belief and confidence in what we stand for. And the Henry Jackson Society is helping the Labour Party in an entirely non-partisan way in helping to think aloud about some of their policy direction. There is almost nothing good about being in opposition. There are probably only two things. One, you get to spend more time with your family, which I like but I haven’t asked them. The second thing is you get to think afresh. You are not confined by the machine, the structures, or the pace and pressure of all the mechanisms of government. The Henry Jackson Society is helping us do that thinking.

I think it’s very important, as we start to think about the post-Afghanistan sense of politics, our sense of intervention, and our sense of responsibility, post-Iraq and post-Afghanistan – what is that going to look like? It is a sense of learning the lessons and dealing with the consequences. There are many lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan. I think we knew both of the lessons before we started but we don’t pay enough attention to them. The first is that the best type of defence policy isn’t always a new piece of military equipment and the most cutting edge piece of military hardware. It can often be a world class development policy or a cutting edge soft power diplomacy policy. But we all know that when world class diplomacy or ambitious development fails, sometimes defence has to deal with the consequences. So let’s start with a policy that says the best defence policy is not always a piece of military equipment. The second lesson I think we’ve learned again, as many have learned before, we’ve learned again that post conflict rebuilding plan surely must be part of the pre-conflict battle plan.  And we don’t do that enough. Whether that’s a structure of government or the nature of human behaviour, God alone knows, but it’s an important lesson for us to re-learn especially after Iraq certainly and even today in Afghanistan – where myself and Ed Milliband were there last month we saw that for ourselves.

We have to deal with the consequences; I’m sure all of us, in our own ways. One of the consequences that worry me most and why we are so keen to be involved with this launch is the sense, and I’ve spoken about this in Parliament some time ago, is the idea that one and a half unpopular wars are creating a permanently unpopular concept. What I mean by that is Iraq absolutely, for its own reasons, is highly unpopular we all know and as someone who voted for the war in Iraq I knew how unpopular it was, and even with the passing of time remains. And Afghanistan partially with a sense of unpopularity and sense of what are we trying to achieve there, what are we doing there. That’s one and a half unpopular wars creating an unpopular concept that we have a responsibility beyond our borders and that we will, on occasion, when all else fails, act on that responsibility.

That’s the debate we had in parliament a couple of days ago when someone from the government came and announced his plans for the future of the army. It’s an issue that all parties, regardless of who was in power, would have to deal with. And my sense with all this is taking a quote from Henry Jackson himself when he said that, ‘when it comes to national security, the best type of politics is no politics.’ I think that’s an important thing to remember that when it comes to national security, the best type of politics is no politics. And we should be seeking to do what’s best for our nation, realizing as I said that regardless of who is in power we’re having to grapple with some of the pressures the current government is grappling with, which takes me to my final points on this.

The sense of insecurity that exists across the world, from West Africa to South East Asia, and we can all list the countries – unstable and weak states outnumber the stable ones by two to one. Two to one. And when there is an arc of instability that spreads from West Africa to South East Asia, and we can all come up with a list of which state in particular is of greatest concern to us, there is one that I’d like to add to the list that doesn’t feature, and that’s a state of ambivalence. The state of ambivalence. When one looks at events in Libya, and Michael’s here and Gisela’s here, I am sure I get more letters – and its important – about circus elephants than I did about human slaughter in Libya.  And today with what’s happening in Syria, I think in many ways we’ve slipped into that state of ambivalence in some circles.  When we look at support for military action in Libya, the support was broad but shallow, and we weren’t fully tested for all sorts of reasons you all know only too well. That state of ambivalence is something that we need to guard against.

Finally on this, is a sense that we need to have the military force and political will that enables us to act primarily in a coalition of the capable with others, and I think it’s incumbent on all parties – and I say this again that Michael’s here because all parties will wrestle with this – but you have to have the military capability to be able to back that up. Not in a gung-ho or cavalier way, because my sense is this: to choose not to become involved, to choose not to get involved in a long-term counterinsurgency operations is one thing, of course it’s entirely legitimate, currently popular sentiment and it’s entirely understandable. So to choose to do that is understandable. But to look ahead to the next decade, when there is no guarantee that the next decade will be any safer than the previous decade, and not be able to do it, is an entirely different matter. That relies upon two things – political will and military capability. That is why I think the Henry Jackson Society is so important. That is why I am delighted to be here this evening because being strong on defence and security doesn’t make you Labour, being strong on defence and security doesn’t make you Conservative, it makes you want to shape a world and influence a world consistent, as Gisela has said, in tune with our values, our human spirit, and the sense that we wish others to have what we take for granted all too often – the right to vote and human democracy. Thank you very much.

Michael Gove:

Thank you ladies and gentlemen for coming along this evening and thank you for your support of the Henry Jackson Society. Why Henry Jackson some of you might think. Certainly, that was the question that was asked in 2005 when we launched this enterprise. Why, if you are talking about British foreign policy, would you have an American as the person in whose name you are going to argue for certain principals? One of the reasons was that Henry Jackson was a progressive figure. He was a son of the union movement in the United States. He was someone who grew up in the heart of the Democratic Party, but he was someone who showed during the course of his career that when it came to national security, there was as Jim Murphy just mentioned, no right or left but just right or wrong.

When it came to standing up for democracy, whatever divided the political parties wasn’t nearly as important as the fact that they could argue passionately but safely, because democracy and democratic principles underpinned everything they stood for. Scoop Jackson’s bravery, in standing up for Soviet jury and against Communist totalitarianism, was an inspiration to a generation of thinkers and politicians in the 1970s and 1980s in the United States of America. Some of them Democrats, some of them Republicans, many of them none-aligned, but all of them convinced that at that moment, this challenge they faced was facing down tyranny. I am uniquely fortunate that one of my great friends worked for Scoop Jackson in those years, Mr Manny Weiss who is here today and has been a generous supporter to Henry Jackson Society. I am also pleased that right from the beginning, the Henry Jackson Society was created by politicians like Gisela Stuart and Lord Trimble, who transcend their politics, people who are principled but never partisan and people whose attachment to democracy is deep and passionate.

One of the reasons why it’s been a privilege to be associated with the Henry Jackson Society, is that there have been arguments and struggles since then and in those arguments and struggles, it has been a pleasure to be on the same side as Gisela, David, Jim and various others who are not here, including my great friend Damien Collins, I don’t know if Damien is here, but a range of MPs from all parties recognize the importance of this battle, and as Jim once said, it is a continuous battle that need to be fought. I’m proud of the fact that I am a member of a cabinet that voted to intervene in Libya and to ensure over the course of this weekend, a democratic government was elected in a country which just two years ago was being run by a tyrant who would use torture as an instrument of government. I am proud of the fact that a previous Labour government under Tony Blair’s leadership was responsible of the liberation of Iraq, a country which under Saddam Hussein was well described by Chris Hitchens as a torture chamber above ground, and a mass grave below it. I am proud of the fact now that the Henry Jackson Society is acting to ensure that all of us have our consciences affected by what’s happening, the unfolding tragedy of what’s happening, in Syria, where another Baathist tyrant is responsible for unspeakable crimes, and actions sooner or later need to be taken in order to ensure that he faces justice for his crimes and that the people of Syria enjoy the sort of freedom that is their birth right.

I remember when the Henry Jackson Society was founded; there was an argument that it was a group of people who were UK neo-conservatives or cats-paws of some shadowy influence. The truth of course was that all that animated those of us who helped found the Henry Jackson Society believe that democracy and liberty weren’t simply part of the western tradition, weren’t possession of one nation and one period of history, but universal human rights.  When people talk, for example, about the Asian values and the impossibility of having democracy in Asia, we look to Aung San Suu Kyi and to the martyrs in Tiananmen Square and to those who stood out in Hong Kong for the very last moment for democracy. We said how can you say that these people want democracy any less or deserve it any less? And we argued at the time of the liberation of Iraq, how can you say that these people are incapable of exercising the vote? Is there something inherent in Arab society and culture which means you can’t have democracy there? Because if you believe in that then you are succumbing to the same racist argument that people used in the 1980s, when they said we can’t have ‘one man, one vote’ in South Africa, because that would not, for variety of reasons, be capable of being transplanted from our shores to theirs. Well the people who opposed the dismantling of apartheid were wrong, the people who opposed the Arab Spring were wrong, the people who say somehow that democracy isn’t right for all people at all times are wrong. The Henry Jackson Society stands on indivisible precious liberties, and wherever democrats stand against tyranny, we stand with them.

And that’s why the generosity of everyone here who showed support to the Henry Jackson Society is so important, that’s why the leadership shown by Alan Mendoza, Douglas Murray and their team has been so fantastic. It’s why the work that they do, scrupulously well researched but passionately argued and rooted in principle is so important. And that’s why I hope for the years to come that the Henry Jackson Society and all those who support it go from strength to strength. Thank you all very much.

HJS



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