SUCH is the continuous news cycle in today’s world of instant communications that what is high on the agenda today can all too easily be ignored tomorrow when it is overtaken by new events.
An important exception was Afghanistan. After recent wall-to-wall coverage, last week’s Senate hearings – in which the Biden administration was almost completely condemned for its poorly planned and poorly executed evacuation – were broadcast widely on television. Likewise, the media also fully reported the revelations about the recent drone attack that killed 10 civilians in Kabul. After insisting earlier that they were legitimate terrorist targets, the US military has now admitted it was a tragic mistake – and they still wonder why so many of their actions induce such hatred. in the world.
However, the media has now turned their attention to a famous new cause of enormous global significance that emerged last week – a major defense pact that precipitated a huge feud among Western allies.
At a virtual press conference on September 15 attended by Joe Biden and British and Australian Prime Ministers Boris Johnson and Scott Morrison, the US president announced a groundbreaking agreement between the three countries called AUKUS. Under its terms, the three nations will cooperate in the development of the first nuclear-powered fleet for the Australian Navy.
This is motivated by security concerns associated with increasingly aggressive measures and Chinese military expansionism in the South China Sea and the consequent need to defend the interests of the West in the Indo region. peaceful.
The historic trilateral defense and security pact will focus on military capability and is distinct from the “Five Eyes” intelligence-sharing alliance, which also includes Canada and New Zealand. This will involve information sharing as well as cooperation on a range of issues and, in particular, the provision of the technology and capabilities to enable Australia to develop and deploy nuclear powered, but unarmed submarines. nuclear. Australia will become only the seventh country in the world to have nuclear-powered submarines with a powerful deterrent capability; and Mr. Morrison has stated explicitly and firmly that the nation “is not seeking to acquire nuclear weapons or to establish civilian nuclear capability.”
The downside or downside to all of this is Australia’s cancellation of its 2015 multi-million dollar deal with France for the supply of 12 diesel submarines. The French reacted violently to the failure of this deal, and in the ensuing diplomatic storm they recalled their ambassadors in Washington and Canberra.
Their government sharply criticized the new pact and the way it was treated with the utmost secrecy and without consultation, and condemned Australia for breaching its trade obligations, describing it as a “stab in the back “- as well as other more colorful languages. which reflects the seriousness of the concern in France.
Australia was a strong trading partner for China, but relations have grown strained after supporting a global investigation into the origins of COVID-19. Apparently, he had felt isolated in the face of China’s growing military and economic aggression and influence in the region and concluded that the submarines he had agreed to buy from France were insufficient for ward off the threat posed by this. Instead, Australia needed nuclear engines that were faster, more stealthy, and didn’t require regular refueling – and overall, she was looking for heavier and deeper support than the United States and the United States. United Kingdom could provide to help preserve a stable and secure Indo-Pacific region.
For Britain, the AUKUS Pact is in line with the goals set out in the government’s foreign policy review last March titled “Global Britain in the Age of Competition”. The review recognized that while the United States will remain the United Kingdom’s most important ally and strategic partner – and that NATO remains the bedrock of defense and security in the Euro-Atlantic sphere – it was necessary to partially shift Britain’s attention to the Indo-Pacific region which was increasingly the geopolitical center of the world – countries like India, China, Japan and Australia, between others, which are home to a quarter of the world’s population and represent 40% of global GDP.
As for the United States, the timing of the UKUS is significant because it comes so soon after the country’s exit from Afghanistan which had raised doubts about the American engagement in the region. This is not the place to examine the broader foreign policy of the United States or its relationship with an ally like France, but AUKUS demonstrates a combined stance against China as a threat to the Indo-Pacific region which has enjoyed 70 years of prosperity, including that of China. It is also another indicator of America’s support for countries in the region like Japan, South Korea and Thailand.
As expected, China reacted strongly, saying that AUKUS risked “seriously undermining regional peace … and intensifying the arms race” while Taiwan hailed it as a response to the news. aggression from China. The pact is also important as it shows that the US and UK are ready to export nuclear technology in this way to a trusted ally.
China’s expansionism is currently the greatest global threat to Western security and it reassures that the United States is still ready to seriously engage in the Indo-Pacific region. Regardless of last month’s difficulties over the lack of consultation with US allies on the withdrawal from Afghanistan, the rest of the free world needs such US engagement – and AUKUS is a step in the right direction .
What happens to the loser in an election?
After the general election last week, it occurred to me that it might be interesting to look at the procedure – under the Westminster system of government – for the losers.
Based on research on the matter, it appears that there are no clear rules for the position of outgoing prime ministers after they resign. As a near-obvious statement, Britain’s leading think-tank, the Institute of Government, states that if an incumbent Prime Minister wins an election then he (or she) simply continues in office, and, if an election produces a clear majority for another party, then its leader becomes the new prime minister.
The outgoing prime minister officially resigns the morning after the election, although nothing is said about the resignation of the losing prime ministers from their party leadership, which should be the business of the party itself.
Britain does not have a written constitution in the sense commonly used around the world, which means that there is no single document defining the structure of government and its relationship with its citizens. The nation is therefore based on constitutional conventions. MPs are appointed on the basis of their ability to gain the confidence of the House of Commons, and this power to appoint them is one of the remaining prerogatives of the Queen who is normally informed of who can have that confidence. But there is nothing to suggest that a prime minister could be forced to resign as party leader after losing an election. There is also, of course, the issue of outgoing PMs who continue to exercise the functions of deputy if they retain their parliamentary seat.
As a point of historical interest, there are many instances of PM resigning due to a particular issue. For example, Anthony Eden was expelled in 1957 after the Suez debacle and, much more recently, Margaret Thatcher had to resign her post as Prime Minister in 1990 on the advice of her own cabinet because it was considered that she did not benefit. more support from the Conservative Party. . In 2016, David Cameron chose to resign after campaigning for Britain to stay in the European Union, but “voting leave” won the 2016 Brexit referendum. Then, in 2017, Theresa May resigned as prime minister after losing the Tories’ confidence in his handling of Brexit, but continued to sit as an MP.
It is also interesting to note how some opposition leaders reacted to the loss of an election. Ed Miliband, whose Labor Party was defeated in the 2015 election, said: “I take absolute and total responsibility for the outcome and our defeat in this election” and he resigned as party leader. In the 2019 election, when Labor suffered heavy losses again, Jeremy Corbyn said immediately after the election that he would remain in his post as party leader while everyone involved mulled over the outcome but did not lead the party to another general election. This sparked a leadership election which was won by current leader Keir Starmer. But Corbyn remained an MP after retaining his own parliamentary seat.
Earth savers at our doorstep
In London last Friday, Prince William unveiled a list of the top 15 finalists for his ambitious $ 75 million Earthshot Global Prize to help fix the planet over the next 10 years – and what a pleasure to report the wonderful news that a Bahamian group is one of those finalists.
The prince has reportedly been working on this project for three years. He was persuaded to launch it because of what he saw as the constant negative headlines and pessimism about climate change, and his aim was to inspire specific action beyond what governments were doing.
The Earthshot Prize initiative is designed to encourage innovative solutions to the world’s greatest environmental challenges. It is divided into five different categories and Coral Vita based in Grand Bahama was chosen as a finalist in one listed as “Revive our Oceans”. The 15 finalists were chosen from 750 nominations through a rigorous selection process. Of these, five winners will be selected and receive some $ 1.4 million in prizes, while all will receive personalized support from a network of private companies around the world. The winners will be announced next month.
A glance at its website shows that Coral Vita teams are working to restore the dying and damaged reefs. Based in Freeport, it was founded in 2015 by environmental entrepreneurs passionate about preserving coral reefs.
Coincidentally, I recently spotted a new study, conducted by the University of British Columbia, on the importance of coral reef systems. This study found that the coverage of coral reefs around the world has more than halved since the 1950s due to climate change as well as overfishing, pollution and other human impacts. He went on to warn that continued degradation of global reef systems would threaten the well-being and development of coastal reef-dependent communities.
So there is no doubt about the importance of Coral Vita’s work – and others will surely join me in congratulating them on being chosen among the finalists for the prestigious Earthshot Award.