Berlusconi is not just another rightwinger; he is a threat to democracy
The Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, may have been forced to apologise, albeit belatedly, for his extraordinary attack on Martin Schulz, the German MEP, but it seems likely that the bitter taste will remain to sour the next six months of the Italian presidency. More importantly, this incident could serve as a long overdue wake-up call to Europe’s politicians and opinion-formers about just what kind of political threat Berlusconi represents.
Some have described his suggestion that Schulz should play the part of commandant in a film about Nazi concentration camps as a gaffe by a gaffe-prone politician. This is entirely to miss the point. Just because Berlusconi says things that no other European prime minister would does not mean they are gaffes. They accurately describe the nature of the man and his politics.
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Weak nations will succumb to American ambition unless we insist on respecting sovereignty
It has become fashionable to denigrate national sovereignty. The arguments are well versed: sovereignty is no absolute; it should not be used to excuse the abuse of human rights; the needs of justice should override the principle of sovereignty. It is suggested that this represents some profound shift in thinking, a reversal of centuries of history. This would be true if we were talking about the charmed circle of the developed world – Britain, France, the United States and the rest. But of course we are not. The sovereignty at issue is that of countries in the developing world which, until the second half of the 20th century, for the most part did not enjoy national sovereignty anyway. For them, the taste of self-rule, the possibility of not being governed by a race and culture from far away, is, historically speaking, an extremely recent experience. And now it is again under serious assault.
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Martin Jacques was comfortably settled, had a successful career as an editor and political writer, when his whole life was overturned. On holiday in Malaysia, he fell in love, magically, irreversibly, with Hari. Each risked all to be together. How could anything touch their happiness?
It was Saturday, August 21 1993. I was staying on Tioman, a small tropical island off the east coast of Malaysia. The time was 7.30am and I was just returning from a run when I noticed a young dark brown woman walking between the wooden chalets to my left. She smiled. I said hello. Nothing seemed more natural: everyone smiled and said hello on Tioman. But there was something about her that stuck in my mind: to this day, I can’t tell you exactly what it was. That morning, my partner and I had signed up for a jungle trek. People began to gather for the 9am departure, when suddenly I heard this voice: “Didn’t I see you earlier? Weren’t you running through the village?” With barely a pause, she added, “Only a white man would do something as stupid as that.” I was reeling. She was wearing a huge grin and her big brown eyes were full of impish humour. Before I had collected my thoughts, she fired another salvo.
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Not since the 1930s has the threat of racism and fascism been so great in the west
Since 1989 we have been living in a fool’s paradise. The triumphalism about the future that greeted the collapse of communism has proved to be profoundly misplaced. The reason why we should fear the rise of Le Pen is not simply that fascism and an ugly racism are alive, well and in the ascendant in one of the heartlands of Europe, but rather that the world that we now live in is in a corrosive state. Not since the 1930s has the threat of the irrational, of a turn towards barbarism, been so great in the west. It has become an arrogant truism of western life that the evils of the modern world – authoritarianism, ethnic conflict, illiberalism – are coterminous with the developing world. It was telling how some western leaders, including one of our own ministers, in the aftermath of September 11, spoke of the civilised world, and by implication of the uncivilised world, the dark-skinned savages of backward cultures. It is not clear how Le Pen or Berlusconi or Haider fit this world view.
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A coroner yesterday cast doubt on the standard of care given to a solicitor who died in a Hong Kong hospital after suffering an epileptic fit.
Recording an open verdict at St Pancras coroner’s court in central London at the inquest into the death of Harinder Veriah, 33, Stephen Chan said the evidence had questioned the level of care she received in the final 20 minutes before she died, as well as the management of her stay in hospital.
Ms Veriah, who was married to the former Marxism Today editor Martin Jacques, died on January 2 2000 after being admitted to hospital in the early hours of the previous day.
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Harinder Veriah LLM, of the law firm Lovell’s died suddenly and tragically on Jan 2 2000, two days after her 33rd birthday. In life and death this Indian woman from a Sikh family in Kuala Lumpur working (as a rare South Asian) in a British law office in Hongkong, and married to an Englishman, linked the worlds of Asia and the West. Eastern and western politics framed her life. Her father Karam Singh (1936-1994), a campaigning barrister, in 1959 became the youngest MP in the first parliament of independent Malaysia, sitting on the extreme left for the Socialist Party. Shortly after Harinder’s birth he was held in detention for four years under the Security Act for organizing a militant march of rubber plantation workers. (Her mother, Harbans Kaur, left to bring up three children, died when she was six). Since 1994 her life in Britain, Malaysia and latterly Hongkong, had been linked in deep mutual love with a man of equally patent leftwing background, Marxism Today’s Martin Jacques, whom she married in 1996. She was the daughter of the generation that won freedom. But she remained non-political, straddling and combining her worlds: proudly Malaysian, and multilingual, except in the ancestral Punjabi: the family spoke English.
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