Harry C. Blaney III

One of the reasons why there has not been as much debate and discussion about Ukraine among the citizens of Europe, especially in the UK where I am now, is the appalling lack of “above the fold” serious reporting on the crisis in the last two days.  Even more appalling is the determined predilection of TV and press to focus their reporting and headlines on gossip, sports, celebrities, and local or national trivia or oddities with little impact on real lives. Clearly the readers and the media have a limited attention span.

The headlines here as Crimea was being crushed by Putin were the death of a girl friend of Mick Jagger, the football results, the proposal of a high speed train north from London (which will be so expensive only the rich will be able to afford), mindless speculation of what happen to the tragic Flight MH370, coverage of the Royals, and not least the, judgement on a fugitive Mafia boss.

What also has been missing from the media in Europe is coverage of the on going conflict and massacres in Syria, despite the fact that hundreds of people are being killed almost every week with no meaningful efforts to stop the killing. Nor is there any coverage of the plight of the refugees and displaced persons and the starvation that is taking place. The new Ukraine crisis got initial coverage but the media quickly turned back to the daily rot of trivia.

In one major Rupert Murdoch paper (he dominates much of the British press) one could not hardly find an article or a mention of Ukraine for over 25 pages, and then only a political cartoon!

Britain is further approaching a national election in 2015 and afterwards a possible referendum on membership in the EU. Both of these will decide what kind of Britain they want in the coming decades.


The new Tory budget has just come out with tax cuts that will largely help the richest families with only a little for the poor but more cuts in government support and programs. The Tory Chancellor George Osborne said his budget was for “makers, doers, savers” which sounds remarkably like Gov. Romney and his stated nation of 47% takers.

The budget will add some money for those already making money at lower levels but not help much or at all those who are unemployed or poor pensioners or those without any pension.  But the Tories will build a “green Town” in a Tory area. And large deficit will remain.  No help to the poor North of England. There will also be some tax breaks for business and investments. Little for a single poor woman. 

Labour has said that people will be worse off under this budget and noted under the Tories the living standards of the average citizens have been going down and will continue to do so. The consensus is that Tory austerity program will continue at a Tory projected level of 2.5-2.7% and a bit faster than on more depressed continent. But much of this growth is concentrated in the rich South and especially in the financial sector but in the North unemployment is at a disastrous 10%.

The rich are still getting rich and the poor are getting poorer due to the increase of prices for much of their needs. The debate even on those issues remains rather tepid among the elite in the South, but there are cries of despair from the North and the middle class in the South and London. But the Tory press is ignoring the situation in the North and pressing for even larger breaks for the rich and this view often most often presented in the mass media.


Finally, developments in Ukraine continue to deteriorate with armed Russian supporters taking over Ukrainian military facilities and arresting oficers and specifically the local Ukrainian naval commander. The debate on what to do continues in some of the press on the opinion pages. Not least is Martin Wolf in the London Financial Times of March 19th, who said that Russia’s revanchism has to be stopped even for Russia’s own sake.  He called for a series of measures against Russia including that the US should consider gas exports to the EU, and said that Europe could dispense with energy imports from Russia but Europe would have to change some of its policies and he supported an Association agreement between the Ukraine and the EU. He summed up with “The West must not pretend that the Ukraine is a far off country of which it knows little.” The Financial Times editorial the same day said Russian military intervention in eastern Ukraine would trigger wide-ranging economic sanctions.

More soon on the debate in Britain about its relationship with Europe after an interesting meeting at the London School of Economics on this topic and on the debate on the question of intervention and the responsibility to protect, a subject at the Chatham House here.

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