Cameron gets his place in history

cameron.jpgNot a triumphal end to Cameron’s tenure sadly, but there are many things we can be proud of- not least the fastest growing Western Economy and his social vision which saw Gay marriage pushed through despite the whinging of many backbench MPs in the party who saw fit to misquote scripture (see my previous blog on this!). Against the odds, Cameron won the last election and secured Scotland in the UK. Triumphal! It now falls to someone else, maybe, and I hope, Boris, to patch up the problems left behind. A great man who has achieved great things leaves behind a problem that is perhaps even bigger than any of his successes.

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I am inclined to think that, despite the serious wobble with the pound as Brexit hit the headlines, we can still work with Brexit. And, moreover, I think there is a future outside the EU. The debate certainly puts issues firmly on the table, and now I hope Europe will also take these same issues seriously, because if the EU fails to reform under this pressure, then we have made an even bigger miscalculation and we have given even more backbone to the monster growing on our doorstep or at least across the channel! Let’s be frank, the EU has had and has ignored warnings in the past- Greece should have been a wake-up call, but the response from Merkel and her cronies was arrogant and wrong. Brexit is altogether a bigger thing and cannot or should not be so lightly tossed off. Barking orders at Britain, as she barked at Greece, will simply not do. (And we thank God we do not have Varoufakis to make a case to Merkel, the man who might have a charismatic presence but who thought Game theory should ever be taken seriously).

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The negative legacy that Cameron leaves behind is the one, however, that will probably enter the history books, particularly if Nicola Sturgeon follows through- Cameron will be the man who fractured the EU and who broke up the United Kingdom. The double whammy in union-break-ups! Going back a bit to the infamous “purring” story, there is a hint of hubris in this story that must be evident to a man like Boris steeped in the classics. I hope that was partly in his mind when he was paying tribute to the PM yesterday. Nobility will emerge! And I wonder whether there is room to consider a salvage operation that leaves Scotland and Northern Ireland in the EU? As nothing is clear, nothing can be ruled out!

The EU debate had been going on even before Cameron entered politics as an advisor, but he witnessed the damage it did at first-hand to the tail-end of the Thatcher Government and throughout the Major administration. Blair had a better ride but some close calls from Europe too, especially in 2006 when other EU countries acted fast enough to spare Blair his own Referendum chaos; Blair was lucky in power in a way that the last two Conservative Prime Ministers have not been but I hope, and I presume, nevertheless, that Cameron, like Sir John Major, and in contrast to Blair, will mature into a Statesman of stature once he leaves office. To this end, Cameron sent a letter round today with the following, which I think makes it clear he already has his eye on the bigger picture:

The British people have made a choice. That not only needs to be respected, but those on the losing side of the argument, myself included, should help to make it work.

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Her majesty’s leak

Every other day there seems to be a story emerging from the Palace – private views on Europe, on China and now on Nigeria. Surely there should be a review of the Palace plumbing because this is becoming absurd. It is almost as if there is a secret organisation determined to undermine the dignity of our monarch!

buhari.jpgStill, what Cameron said seems fairly legitimate: Nigeria is demonstrably corrupt. However, what has happened is a home goal because President Buhari’s brilliant, evasive and commendably concise response has had the effect of turning attention from his country’s dodgy dealings to questions about the lingering impact of Empire and the slow progress of restoring money after it is confiscated by the British legal system. More than that, Buhari readily admits his country is certainly corrupt- or rather, as a representative of the new Nigerian Administration, he says this is something he has discovered himself. “He was telling the truth. He was talking about what he knew.” The previous government had stolen an estimated £10 billion through arms trafficking. Buhari is determined to tackle corruption which he calls a “hydra-headed monster”.

I think this requires some comment:

The most obvious assets still held in the UK belonged to Diepreye Alamieyeseifha, who, rather like a recent ISIS fighter, fled in a yashmack, to avoid trial, though his accounts were frozen and assets held. The ISIS man was captured near Cairo, looking rather silly in a skirt. There was also Abdul Aziz Ghazi who rather hypocritically ordered his followers to fight to the death and then crept out of Masjid en travesti. Of course, the desire to cross-dress as part of the escape plan, while it seems to belong to “Carry on” films, “Dad’s army” and “Allo Allo” or, more seriously in films like “Triple Echo”, actually has a very long pedigree. I gather that Ehud Barak dressed up as a woman in a covert operation against the PLO in 1973- that must have been a sight to see, but Amin el-Husseini escaped the British in Palestine in 1937, sliding down a rope from temple mount, and romping off to Lebanon where he started a pro-Nazi cell. Neuri al Said tried the same thing in Iraq in 1958 but was given away by his shoes, and shot. Ignominious end. There was also Mullah Mahmood in Afghanistan and Yassin Omar from the UK, the latter also carrying a brown handbag, so going for accessories as well. Bonnie Prince Charlie did it after the battle of Culloden and of course Achilles did it to prevent his being conscripted into the Trojan war.

Oddly, while alot of attention has been given to France’s decision to ban the veil in public, the Ottomans dealt with this issue in the late 19th century, banning the Burqa (the extreme form of veiling) after a man disguised in a burqa attempted a robbery in 1892.

War-time cross-dressing is better served by women dressing as men, of course, and “the trouser-part”or breeches role, like Cherubino, seems altogether more gallant. From Epipole, to Joan of Arc, Phoebe Hassel and Zoya Smirnow. Though probably the best example today would be Eowyn the white lady of Rohan.

As for literature and theatre- the place is littered with cross-dressers. Indeed, until Rudolph Nureyev butched up male dance in the early 1960’s, ballet had a reputation for fey men- and with good reason – the male role in Coppelia, for example, was actually created by a woman, Eugenie Fiocre, and of course it was only recently that Peter Pan (my own production in Oxford was among the first examples, incidentally) was played by a man. Pantomime continues the music halls’ obsession with cross dressing.

But back to Diepreye Solomon Peter Alamieyeseifha who was the governor of the oil-rich Bayelsa State, and who was accused in London of money laundering in 2005. He was found with nearly £2.5 million and property in excess of £10 million. He jumped bail disguised as a woman and was then sentenced in Nigeria to be later pardoned by Goodluck Jonathan. He died in 2015.

He had to dress like a woman

All these men in frocks! It was Nietzsche who popularised “the Bacchae” and what a play that is! The main character even does a Pantomime turn on stage as he is persuaded by the (disguised) god to try on women’s clothing – “Go on, it suits you. Sir!” and then his head is ripped off by his crazy mother, Queen Argave. the reason for all this? Dionysos demands respect: “Can you, a mortal human, dare to fight a god?” (πρὸς θεὸν γὰρ ὢν ἀνὴρ ἐς μάχην ἐλθεῖν ἐτόλμησε.) This is one side of the equation and the other is the fight many LGBT campaigners have waged so that they can be taken seriously. This is to say nothing about the prohibition in Islam, but then, as we know, terrorists read the sacred texts very selectively when they want to:

عن ابن عباس رضي الله عنهما قال: لعن رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم المتشبهين من الرجال بالنساء، والمتشبهات من النساء بالرجال. صحيح البخاري.

This is what President Buhari said, “He (Alamieyeseigha) had to dress like a woman to leave Britain and leave behind his bank account and fixed assets which Britain was prepared to hand over to us. This is what we are asking for. What would I do with an apology? I need something tangible…Our experience has been that repatriation of corrupt proceeds is very tedious, time consuming, costly.” He also thanked Britain for helping in the impeachment process of Alamieyeseifha. But Alamieyeseifha was really just the tip of the iceberg, with Sani Abacha apparently looting more than $5 billion while in power, and huge amounts of oil stolen more recently according to a 2013 report.

The foreign secretary has added,

“The Prime Minister was merely stating a fact. These are both countries (Afghanistan and Nigeria) with serious corruption problems and the leaders of both those countries know they have those problems and are determined to deal with them.”