London, election day

I’m here at Heathrow preparing to return to the U.S. while the voting proceeds in this country’s pretty dramatric election. I picked up a bunch of newspapers. The (Murdoch-owned) Sun has on its front page a massive graphic of Tory leader David Cameron, executed in the fashion of that iconic screen print of Barack Obama, over the words ‘Our Only HOPE’. The Daily Mirror is leaning more pro-Labout than ever, and has given over its first 20 pages or so to lots of exhortations to people to get out and vote Labour. On the front page is a picture of David Cameron, aged about 20, in a group photo taken at Oxford’s very upper-class ‘Bullingdon Club’, dressed along with his confreres there in a snappy bowtie and tailcoat.
The Independent, which seems lean a little cautiously pro-Lib Dem, is a lot more seriousin its coverage. It has a helpful two-page spread outlining what the three major parties have promised to do in various areas of policy.
Meanwhile, Greece has been burning, facing the EU’s monetary policy (and perhaps beyond that the whole world financial system) with a huge new challenge. Interesting days.
By the time I get back to Charlottesville– near midnight EST– we may have a good picture of how this British election will turn out. If there is no clear winner and if Cameron is unable to speedily form a majority coalition, then I gather that Gordon Brown stays on as PM until some party is able to form a government. However, several of his ministers may lose their seats today.

Britain engaging with Hizbullah: Excellent!

Gordon Brown’s government in London is the first significant western government to– finally– break the taboo on political engagement with Hizbullah.
Yesterday, a spokesperson for the Foreign Office said,

    “We are exploring certain contacts at an official level with Hezbollah’s political wing, including MPs.”
    … The spokesperson said the UK was doing “all it can” to support Lebanon’s unity government, of which Hezbollah’s political wing is a part.
    “Our objective with Hezbollah remains to encourage them to move away from violence and play a constructive, democratic and peaceful role in Lebanese politics, in line with a range of UN Security Council Resolutions.”
    The spokesperson said Britain would continue to have no contact with Hezbollah’s military wing.

This is excellent news; and long overdue.
I have been arguing for many years now that all the world’s governments need to engage politically with Hizbullah, a significant Lebanese political movement that has participated (successfully) in Lebanese parliamentary elections since 1992 and has even had representatives in a number of Lebanese governments over the years, including now.
You can read two of my longer pieces on Hizbullah here (spring 2005) and here (Nov/Dec 2006).
So long as George Bush and his neocon allies were in power in Washington– and yes, also, before him, under Bill Clinton– no significant western power dared to break the prohibition that Washington and the Israelis kept in place on their allies and friends having any contact with Hizbullah, Hamas, Iran, or (to a certain extent) Syria. Indeed, George Bush’s Washington gave its full support to the brutal military campaigns Israel waged to crush and/or topple Hizbullah in 2006, and Hamas at the end of last year.
Now– with or without a nod of consent from Washington (though I suspect, with)– London has broken the taboo on dealing with Hizbullah.
Hillary Clinton is meanwhile urging that Iran be included in a peace-sponsoring conference she’s proposing for Afghanistan… And Washington is well on its way to restoring the level of political relations with Syria to what it was before George Bush and Elliott Abrams came along with their thinly veiled campaign for regime change in Damascus.
Hizbullah for its part sounds almost deliriously happy about London’s change heart, showcasing the Union Jack on ts website (behind Hizbullah’s own signature yellow flag), and writing that “the British-Hezbollah relations entered a new era!”
Things are definitely changing… and in a good, de-escalatory direction. Long may the trend continue.