Two areas of current debate are irritating me. One is what to do about Syria, the other what to do about representing the centre ground in British politics.

The issues are totally different, but they have this in common; futile, even dishonest, hand ringing by politicians.


It gives me no pleasure to write that sub heading. Syria is ill served by the butcher Bashar-al-Assad. He is the main survivor from this century’s turmoil in the Middle East that saw the removal of many of the region’s dictators. In the brutal world of Middle East politics, it was a mistake to depose these dictators who, at least, ensured stability in their countries.

The West was heavily involved in Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan in the early years of this century motivated by securing oil supplies, fighting terrorism or introducing western style democracy depending on your point of view. The result was bloody chaos and the rise of the so called Islamic State.

This led to a complete volte face by the West as people in America and Britain understandably questioned why blood and treasure was being wasted on hopeless causes.

When opponents of Assad in Syria rose up and called on the West to help, we did little. As the slaughter became more widespread, President Barack Obama warned Assad not to cross the “red line” by using chemical weapons. They were used, and the USA did nothing. The UK Parliament voted in 2013 against air strikes in Syria.

So, intervention doesn’t work, and the current cautious policy of the West has been an invitation to Russia and Iran to fill the vacuum in Syria.

The sporadic threats and interventions of President Trump are too late, incoherent, will prolong the conflict and could lead to a global confrontation with Russia and Iran. With John Bolton as the new American National Security advisor anything is possible.

Of course, there should be peace talks but, Assad is going to win, so the earlier the violence ends the better. Meanwhile the West needs to decide what its real red lines are in relation to Russia, China and Iran.

And by the way the collapse of the EU, as forecast by an academic this week, would not help with stability.


Tony Blair is never off the airwaves these days. I find his interviews frustrating. They start with an excellent analysis of the polarised state of British politics with the vast centre ground unrepresented.

Then he is asked to take the logical step of helping to form a new party and he goes all coy concluding that he is staying with Labour.

He is not alone. Many centrist politicians are happy to brief the media about £50m being available for a new party and how important it is that voters have a choice other than Brexit Tory or Statist Corbyn. But you never see names attached to these stories.

So, my message to Tony and his friends is either stop this self-indulgent chatter, get on with forming a new party or work with the Lib Dems with whom you have few real differences.

Follow me @JimHancockUK





Donald Trump will be the Republican’s Presidential nominee. Bernie Sanders is giving Hilary Clinton a real fright in the race for the Democrat’s nomination. Jeremy Corbyn astonished the commentators with his victory last year in the Labour leadership contest. The Austrians have just chosen a radical green candidate for President over a far right alternative. The middle of the road Austrian parties were nowhere to be seen.

All this tells us that there is deep disillusionment with conventional politicians. People don’t believe they have the answers. Why is this? I think the underlying economic reason is that Europe and North America are mature economies now. The post war boom when we dominated the world is long gone. Children will no longer be richer than their parents because the easy economic gains are no longer available. The global economy means that developing countries are, rightly, taking a bigger share of the cake. They are building the ships, finishing textiles, producing the raw materials. We have to focus on sophisticated added value goods at the high end of technology and intellectual property.

Economies are subject to global forces. No individual politician can promise to resist. Their power is diminished but they keep on promising and disillusionment has set in. At the moment the party system in Britain remains intact but it is not fit for purpose. We need a four party system in England, not two. Conservative right, Conservative left, hard left and a centre left could end the frustration people feel at the moment.

More immediately the American political system is under strain. Donald Trump should really be running as an independent, the Republican Party may not survive his candidature. Sanders styles himself as a socialist. Perhaps America needs a Corbyn type party to offer a radical alternative to what many young American Democrats regard as the uninspiring position of Hilary Clinton.

Finally we must acknowledge that a contributor to the disillusionment is the internet and social media. It is right and welcome that there is a much wider discussion and scrutiny of politicians. It is also true that the commentary can be ill informed and destructive based on a belief that anyone in public office is on the make or self interested.

The current EU debate with its increasingly aggressive tone and overblown claims won’t be helping our increasingly fragile politicians.


Do you remember the huge debate over whether we should bomb Syria? The Prime Minister got his way. Reporters were dispatched to Cyprus to see the first planes fly out, then silence. Are we still bombing? How frequently and to what effect? The media caravan does move swiftly on.


The coverage of the Premier League really is disproportionate in our media. Division 1 and 2 is particularly badly covered. BBC Radio Five Live have been running a promo this weekend saying the domestic season is done and dusted. Well not for the Green Army it ain’t.

I support Plymouth Argyle who are off to Wembley on Monday for the Fourth (let’s call it what it is) Division Play Off Final. 40,000 members of the Green Army may be there with a sizeable contingent from AFC Wimbledon. How much coverage will we get in the national papers and on Radio Five Live?

Not much if the coverage of our semi final duel with Portsmouth is anything to go by. Over thirty thousand people watched the two legs between these old dockyard rivals, yet barely a mention on national radio and TV.

The nation will want The Wombles to continue their fairytale rise to play Milton Keynes (let’s call them what they are) in Div 3 (let’s call it what it is) next year, but I’m hoping for victory for the Green Army.