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Democracy at the end of 2024, Lord Simon McDonald, Vintry and Dowgate Wards’ Club

I was privileged to be invited by the Master of the Management Consultants to attend a meeting of her Ward Club.  The speaker was Lord Macdonald, a lifetime diplomat and expert on global issues, who shared with us his personal perspectives.  He chose to focus on Israel/Palestine, Ukraine, USA and the UK.  In each country he drew our attention to local politics and the rise of extreme politics and policies.  Because it was such a fascinating talk I have tried to capture what he said.  I cannot guarantee that I have it all correct!

In Israel he drew our attention to the history and the essential support of the USA. He described the power wielded by the right in Israel and the impact of not accepting a two nation approach.  He could not envisage peace for 30 years as a result.

His analysis of Ukraine started with the dissolution of the Soviet Union.  In 2007 diplomats heard Putin state that he had had enough of being pushed around in the Cold War.  This was demonstrated in the 2008 invasion of Georgia and the 2014 invasion of the Crimea carried out without any western intervention.  The 2022 invasion of Ukraine was for Putin to resist the country’s intended membership of the EU and NATO.  He was expecting a quick capitulation.  However, the UK and EU had been training Ukraine forces, which were well equipped and organised.  There was national determined resistance.  Putin expected Kiev (now Kyiv) to give in but it did not.

I think he said that 40,000 Ukrainians had been killed, double that injured.  This compared with 3‑400,000 dead Russians. Putin plans to outwait Ukraine, expecting the country to surrender eventually.

Currently the US is contributing 50% of the defence funding ($51 billion) used by Ukraine.

He then analysed the American situation with its weird democracy and flawed candidates.  Donald Trump was not prepared to be elected and spent his first four years in office learning, but achieving little.  He then lost, by 7 million votes, but does not accept it.  Trump now wants to implement major changes, including cutting the government administration by 60% with the resulting chaos.  Lord McDonald reflected on the “Bloodbath ” predicated by Donald Trump if he was not elected.  He is likely to turn off the tap to Ukraine and undermine Nato.  He observed that it was a contest between the demented and the deranged.

He then turned to the UK.  The UK is no longer playing its traditional world diplomatic role.

He focused on the current Rwanda debate.  The government is pushing through its Safety of Rwanda Bill, asserting Rwanda is a safe place for asylum seekers, as the UK and Rwanda have signed a treaty.  This allows the government to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda without opposition.  The Courts must accept the judgement of the government without review, no challenges.  He reminded us that one million were killed in civil war and the country only has a 30 year old constitution.  The President is suspected of a role in the civil war.

He asserted that the Bill will not work.  Of the 50,000 asylum seekers, only 300 are set to be deported.  It is a very expensive solution, costing £1.9 million per person.

He said that the last time this type of law had been implemented was the 1531 act for poisoning.  Henry VIII was worried about being poisoned so the law stated that poisoning was treason, with the penalty being boiled alive.  When the Bishop of Rochester and others became seriously ill after a meal, the cook was decided by the King to have committed treason and was boiled alive without a trial.

Lord McDonald finished on a more positive note that we should celebrate our freedom of expression.  It was a fantastic presentation without slides or aids, just the power of a good orator.  The discussions continued for long afterwards.

My thanks to the Chair of the Vintry and Dowgate Wards Club for a great evening.

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