A new approach to the Middle East

The west has intervened in the Middle East in recent years on the grounds that parts of that area harbour terrorists who might or have taken action in western cities. The intervention builds on a long standing western wish to intervene which has in the past depended more on access to the oilfields and oil supplies of that prolific oil producing territory.

The first priority of a new UK strategy should be to create energy self sufficiency at home, to reduce our concern for and need of Middle Eastern supplies. A suitable combination of new gas and oil production, new technology use of coal, higher degrees of fuel efficiency and thermal insulation and sensible renewables which work when you need them rather than when the wind blows could combine to produce an independent UK within a decade.

The second priority should be to tackle terrorist tendencies at home through better border controls, intelligence led activities against potential criminals, and programmes to engage with those most likely otherwise to seek adventure through violence. Some of this is happening anyway as part of the government’s policy, but the tougher and more intelligent control of borders is an important part of winning.

The third priority is to offer help to those states and groups who wish to promote or support democracy. Much of this entails diplomatic and educational work, offering training and support.

Military intervention should be the last resort and unusual. Rescuing Kuwait from an unwelcome invasion was a sensible use of western force, which liberated the country relatively easily and acted as a warning to other wannabe Middle Eastern invaders. Seeking to become embroiled in Sunni/Shia disputes or in civil wars over what constitutes the true borders of a given Middle Eastern country is neither easy nor productive in most cases.

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43 Comments

  1. john malpas
    Posted December 29, 2014 at 6:00 am | Permalink

    Maybe it might be better to put the UK house in order first of all. Not talk of gradiose foreign adventures.
    How has any military activity of late benefited the man in the street of London.
    Anyway your military is being used as a social experiment.

    • Hope
      Posted December 29, 2014 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

      Absolutely. Moreover with open borders and no security checks on those entering the UK including convicted criminals from the EU who are not prevented entering here by the EAW. Another Cameron con.

      Whatever action is taken in the Middle East it will not protect us. Now the US has anoter source of energy the Middle East interest decreases.

      May has presided over the worse mess regarding deportation and immigration and nothing whatsoever has been done. The Home Office is not fit for purpose 8 years after Reid mad the remark. May should resign. Our security is at risk because of her inept performance. Open borders and free movement causes insecurity.

      • Timaction
        Posted December 30, 2014 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

        The first duty of Government should be to protect its citizens. However the Tory led Coalition considers us a Country called Europa Governed by the unelected dictators in the EU.
        Therefore we have to unconditionally admit all and sundry from anywhere in Europa and 485 million potential others, criminals or not.
        Major signed us up for free movement of people and capital under Maastrict, then moan that large Company’s avoid corporation tax!
        The extreme legacy parties are the problem NOT the solution. Taxed to give away £25 billion in EU and foreign aid, I’m told that’s more than the total annual costs of the British Navy!

    • Li
      Posted December 29, 2014 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

      How has it benefited anyone? It has been a rather predictable disaster.

  2. Mark B
    Posted December 29, 2014 at 7:02 am | Permalink

    Good morning.

    Buy their gas and oil. Sell them arms and food. Stay out of their ‘tribal’ and religious disputes.

    No one helped us to our so called democracy, it had to be battled for by the people against those that had the power. So if these people want democracy, let them fight for it like our forefathers did.

    The greatest threat to the UK is from within. The greatest threat to our so called democracy, is from our own political class and the EU.

    The Middle East can be ignored. The problems closer to home cannot.

    • bigneil
      Posted December 29, 2014 at 10:26 am | Permalink

      Absolutely spot on. What words will be spoke when the trouble ( that we all know is coming) starts big time? – “Lessons have been learned”? it always seems the public can see the outcome earlier than the “elite” that runs this country. Maybe if some were more concerned about doing their job, rather than filling in expenses forms we would have a better country. We have a totally “disconnected from reality” govt, waving in hundreds of thousands whose only aim is to either destroy us or sit here and bleed us dry by the use of the benefits system and the NHS. As the “elite” have enough money to never need either, they don’t give a damn except for electoral promises, which can soon be reneged on, as we have seen.

      • ian wragg
        Posted December 29, 2014 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

        Well spoken.
        How long before the immigrant population start to vote us out of power and introduce their own …… systems.
        I see Greece is at last revolting against (a German led EU ed).

    • bluedog
      Posted December 29, 2014 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

      The Middle East cannot be ignored. With a very large Muslim population of largely Sunni origin the UK is implicitly involved in the politics of the ME, including the civil war in Islam between Sunni and Shia. So when commenters say, let’s stay out of the ME are sort out the problems at home, they must realise that for many ‘Britons’ the ME (matters ed) and we have successfully imported those problems with our immigration policies. If you want proof, the large numbers of brave young ‘Britons’ fighting against the Crusader armies in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere may be what you are looking for.

      • Mark B
        Posted December 30, 2014 at 7:36 am | Permalink

        Nonsense !

        We have no land border with the ME. We have no cultural or political ties with the ME. All we have is trade. They have something to sell, and we want to buy it – simple !

        What goes on in their countries is of no concern to me. Most of these terrorist organisations are both funded and supported by many countries we consider friends.

        I do not know where you get your ideas about Crusades from ? But I was not thinking any such thing.

        Oh ! And the country with the largest population of Muslims is Indonesia. There are surprisingly very few Muslims in MENA compared to that of SE Asia and the Indian Sub-Continent.

        • Bazman
          Posted December 30, 2014 at 11:27 am | Permalink

          In a modern internet and jet linked world influenced by money from sales of arms to these countries and the oil that flows from them these deluded insular looking view are for the birds. Do you think we are in the days of ships and the British Empire.

    • Max Dunbar
      Posted December 29, 2014 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

      Well put Mark B.
      Little to add to your comment ‘The greatest threat to the UK is from within’ other than the fact that everyone who reads this blog knows exactly what you mean.

      • Mark B
        Posted December 30, 2014 at 7:43 am | Permalink

        Max, thank you.

        But whilst there are many threats from within the UK, especially form the RoP, the greatest of these is from the BBC and those of a similar mindset. ie “If you don’t talk about it, it isn’t happening” mentality.

        Facing up to things is what we must do. No matter how unpalatable.

        Realising that they EU is a Supranational Government and Nebulous Federal State, is one.

        Realising that Multiculturalism and that, Enoch Powell may have had a point, and was not a racist.

        That not all people, cultures, religions etc are equal and that some of them are positively harmful to our liberal western style of democracy.

        And so on.

        I may not agree with what people say, but I support their right to say it, so long as they do not slander, or threaten, or encourage others to threaten people and property.

      • Bazman
        Posted December 30, 2014 at 11:31 am | Permalink

        That within being trade unions and the population looking for some sort of decent living standards not an elite ripping the rest of us of every step of the way for their own gain. No I thought not. The trickle down effect is your religion and mostly debunked in the last 30 years as we have seen as inequality grows ever larger. Sparrows and horses theory.

  3. Lifelogic
    Posted December 29, 2014 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    Exactly.

  4. Margaret Brandreth-J
    Posted December 29, 2014 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    Yes these things need to be focused upon. ” wannabe” is completely out of context with the more formal style of writing .In writing terms, this clumsy or different type of word is supposedly the emotive word in any text and perhaps all invasions can be seen to be wannabe.

  5. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted December 29, 2014 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    JR: “The third priority is to offer help to those states and groups who wish to promote or support democracy.”
    Isn’t that precisely what we have been told was being done and has had such disasterous results?

    • R.T.G.
      Posted December 29, 2014 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

      It is starting to become clearer from the series of strife torn north African and Middle Eastern countries that one of the original visions of the influential PNAC (since morphed into the Foreign Policy Initiative?) was not of toppling dictators and installing democratic regimes (as stated, “political and economic freedom abroad”), but an unstated one of causing chaos in those regions to dismantle the status quo. For example, Bremmer did not make a military decision to stand down the existing professional Iraqi army soon after the invasion, he was given those instructions direct from Washington in the face of contrary senior military opinion on the ground in Iraq.

    • agricola
      Posted December 29, 2014 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

      Well if that is so, look no further than the other side of the channel and the democratic deficit that thrives throughout the EU. The population of Europe who are the losers need the seeds of this deficit sewn among them as effectively as possible. Go for it via the internet and make sure every citizen of the EU understand the extent to which they are being used.

  6. agricola
    Posted December 29, 2014 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    You are quite right in that the underlying reason for Western intervention in the Middle East is to secure oil supplies. However there was a moral component in kicking Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait and reducing his future military capability. The second Iraqi war, Libya, and a desire to get involved in Syria were mistakes. If you decide to change the way countries are run you must accept the need for all out conquest followed by absolute control. We neither have the capability nor the interest so we need to learn to stay well out, and only advise.

    Energy self sufficiency is a must. The fracking of shale for gas and oil should be conducted with a war footing imperative. The onshore drilling at Wyche Farm into the largest on shore/off shore oil deposit has left very little environmental impact. The anti fracking movement is largely based on nimbyism and the hair shirt yurt dwellers who are against everything. I only accept green energy if it is financially viable without subsidy or a levy on user bills. Extensive nuclear power is the way forward for the next thirty years if you can remove the political dithering.

    You are absolutely correct in wanting border and immigration controls. Only departure from the political EU will achieve this along with the power to remove the traitorous minority from our midst.

    Your third priority is also correct, but I would like to see democracy re-established in the UK before encouraging it elsewhere. We suffer a prime Minister who would deny the majority of UK citizens their right to a vote on continued membership of the EU, and please do not try to sell me the myth of his referendum. If you wish to encourage democracy why not start with the EU. We gave them a flying start in 1945, since which they have managed to corrupt the concept.

    As we have been instrumental in part in opening the Middle East to Sunni/Shia disputes and civil war, do we not have a responsibility to help resolve matters while eliminating the congenitally insane extremists.

  7. John E
    Posted December 29, 2014 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    Let’s sort out our own defences first. For example maritime air patrol capability. We are so busy telling everyone else what to do we are failing to secure our own borders and territory.

  8. JimS
    Posted December 29, 2014 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    (words left out ed)
    Increasing our population by 20% in the last decade by immigration needlessly increased our energy consumption and for what? Our GDP per person has essentially flat-lined for the last decade after a century of nearly continuous growth,

    Our politicians seem to be unable to hold more than one idea in their collective minds at any time, as a result most of our problems are now political creations.

  9. English Pensioner
    Posted December 29, 2014 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    I fully agree with the views that you outline above.
    Our main objective should be in finding alternative sources of energy so that we are no longer reliant on oil and gas imported from unstable parts of the world. The only practical way to achieve this in the foreseeable future is fracking for gas and nuclear generation for electricity. Much as I support the quest for renewables, there are no signs that they will provide even a fraction of our energy needs.
    We would then be able to effectively withdraw from these troubled areas of the world, leaving them to sort themselves out whilst being prepared to offer help to ensure that any conflicts don’t overspill into other adjoining countries. There is no need for us to get involved in what are effectively religious wars and another priority must be to ensure we don’t have any problems in this country, either as conflict between two varieties of Islam or between Islam and those whom they regard as “Infidels”, that is the majority of the UK population.

    • alan jutson
      Posted December 29, 2014 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

      EP

      Agree with much of what you say.

      Would also add secure borders at home, and control immigration properly through a valid points system for everyone, EU residents as well.

      Time to look after our own Country first.

  10. Bert Young
    Posted December 29, 2014 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    Staying out of Middle East affairs is the best route to follow . Their society requires an iron fist for it to remain controlled – democracy , where it has been tried , has not brought about peace in that region .

    Protecting our borders from all threats and unwanted influences , is a priority and we must toughen up wherever and whenever necessary .

    Kuwait enjoyed a relationship with us via a special treaty and the one-time presence of BP ; we were right to intervene when requested . Today you are right to point out our need to be self-sufficient in energy . For too long the world’s economy has been over influenced by the price of oil , neutralising this influence is the right way to go .

  11. Ex-expat Colin
    Posted December 29, 2014 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    Yes…but the dumb EU experiment is likely to keep our heads off the main ball(s). Dead heads and too many balls. A design feature?

    Greece!!

  12. DaveM
    Posted December 29, 2014 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    Mr Redwood,

    There wouldn’t have been a huge number of other “wannabe” middle eastern invaders because it was THEIR over-production and consequent lowering of oil prices which caused Saddam to invade Kuwait in the first place (in order that he could get a decent price for oil thus enabling him to make good on his promises to his own people and rebuild Iraq after the disastrous and inconclusive Iran-Iraq war). Add to that the fact that Kuwait had never been a province of any of the other neighbouring states. I doubt Jordan or KSA would have bothered invading Kuwait because they had no need to either a) take/destroy the oil supplies, b) prove to their neighbours that they still had teeth. Neither did they wish to become the leader of the “Arab Nation”. In other words, maybe we should have let the Arabs sort that one out for themselves.

    Having been involved with these things in recent years, the spurious argument that war in Afghan prevents problems at home just never quite held water. As with everything the UK govt has done recently, whether it be devolution to prevent English nationalism, powers to the EU to prevent UK isolation, or sacrificing the lives of British servicemen and women in faraway deserts, intervention abroad has had the opposite effect of making the UK safer. Pursuing US-led interventions harks back to yesterday’s blog, so I won’t go on about that. from my experience the biggest threat to this country from Afghan and Iran is the opium trade – again, impossible to stop at source but easier to contain with good border controls.

    However, I agree completely with all your other points. The problem is that the UK is unable to do what it wants to do because of bits of paper and promises. It’s time we closed our borders, accepted that “we are where we are” and started again as best we can, recognising that demographics have changed and that the UK is heading towards a federal set-up. From the very top to the very bottom. Stop trying to make deals and getting other people in to make life easier, and become an independent nation state again. In other words, knuckle down and do some hard work (a bit like – I hate to say it – the Germans). Stop living in the past- we are no longer Victorian Britain, but the mettle, character, and ability of the people is the same, and we can make this country great again within half a generation if we are allowed to (albeit on a smaller scale) – surely we owe that to our children. I have no objection to membership of NATO and the UN provided we stand in those organisations independently, rather than talking over the shoulder of the USA. But the EU is hamstringing us and preventing us doing what we need to do. And before we can do what we need to do, our politicians need to grow some b**ls and have confidence in their own abilities.

    Again, stop living in the past, and be optimistic about the future; our political class is full of people who want to change things for the sake of it, but they are changing the wrong things. There is a social, political and geographical structure in this country because that is how we live and how the country has evolved through practicality and necessity. The same way as Arabs are uncomfortable with secular democracy, we are uncomfortable with large unwieldy states and even more uncomfortable with outsiders dictating to us. We want to be left alone to do it our way – it’s our mess and we’ll sort it out. People should be left alone to run their own affairs and learn from their own mistakes.

    As TE Lawrence said: “under the very odd conditions of Arabia, your practical work will not be as good as, perhaps, you think it is.” Obviously, our modern-day PPE politicians with their iPhones and laptops and their lack of any knowledge of the real world know better…………those silly Arabs, it’s a surprise they’ve survived so long without all those clever westerners to tell them how to live their lives.

    I hope you had a good Christmas.

  13. forthurst
    Posted December 29, 2014 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    “The west has intervened in the Middle East in recent years on the grounds that parts of that area harbour terrorists who might or have taken action in western cities.”

    The neocons put all sorts of ‘grounds’ in politicians’ mouths to justify their wars of aggression. In the ME, for the most part, they have been scheming to remove potentional threats to Israel; for that reason, they prefer there to be Western boots on the ground at all times absorbing the bullets; extraordinarily, ISIS which purports to behead anyone who is not a card carrying Sunni, does not appear to pose a threat to Israel.

    To the neocons, the US military and those of its allies exist to serve a purpose which is to create a world hegenomy for the USA and the dollar and to destroy all those who stand in their way; hence the persistent effluvium directed against Putin and Russia.

    Wars of aggression require casus belli, however spurious, however false, so it best not to take any version of events used to justify military or economic interventions at face value; there are many sources of information, and there are still patriots in the USA who deplore the highjacking of their foreign policy by a tiny coterie esconced in Washington, machinating in the Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI), hatched after an extremely brief pupal phase from the Project for a New American Century(PNAC).

  14. The PrangWizard
    Posted December 29, 2014 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    But where are we with fracking in England? Will Scotland be the only place where it will take place, in order to assist Scotland and consequently Scottish political ambitions against England?

    And in the Middle East an imperialist barbarian and medieval style war has been declared on everything Christian and Western. Listen to what they say, and see what they do. We must fight a medieval style war to defend ourselves, they will not stop until they are comprehensively eliminated. I, for one, am glad the US is doing something which may be making a difference.

    Do we conveniently forget the murder of thousands in the Twin Towers? New York may be at the other side of the Atlantic. That war against us continues, it changes it’s form tactics and locations. It could have been London. It could still be London. How would our Establishment feel then in their soft clubby complacency and debating chambers if the bricks were falling all around? Maybe they will take notice only when the shoes pinches their feet.

    Do our Tornadoes still fly out of Cyprus? I haven’t heard anything lately, big posturing debate in parliament and then the announcement of, was it six aging planes to fly? Is that because with Cameron’s emasculation of our armed forces it’s all we have.

  15. Alan Wheatley
    Posted December 29, 2014 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    As to energy self sufficiency, we should pursue thorium reactors; it would give us energy independence using a relatively benign fuel which is readily available from places in the World upon which we can replay (unlike uranium), and it would help rebuild our once World-leading position in nuclear technology.

    It would also be handy as a technology to offer to Iran, to satisfy their claims to be allowed to generate nuclear power, being as thorium can not be used as an element in the production of nuclear weapons.

  16. Ralph Musgrave
    Posted December 29, 2014 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    JR starts with this sentence: “The west has intervened in the Middle East in recent years on the grounds that parts of that area harbour terrorists who might or have taken action in western cities.” Yes quite. And whose bright idea was it to let millions of Muslims into the UK, accompanied by the inevitable cohort of wannabe Jihadists? Ah yes: those respectable centre-ground Lib-Lab-Tory politicians.

    If those wicked “far right” parties had had their way, we’d scarcely have any Muslim (extremists ed) here. Result: we could just leave suicide bombers in the Middle East to get on with it. There’d be no need to expend British lives and billions of pounds of taxpayers money trying to sort the place out.

    • Anonymous
      Posted December 29, 2014 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

      Ralph – not so much ‘whose’ idea (all of them actually*) but why ?

      Only one reason that I can see and that happens to be the same reason they closed the grammars. That was to keep the working class in their place.

      Well.

      That ‘cheap’ labour hasn’t worked out so cheap, has it ? And the cost hasn’t just been financial either.

      *the upper middle classes of all political hues. The upper class were alright in my book.

      • Anonymous
        Posted December 29, 2014 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

        The importation of ‘cheap’ labour to cover future pensions was started during a baby boom, of all things.

    • Max Dunbar
      Posted December 29, 2014 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

      You’ve got straight to the point Ralph.
      Those ‘wicked “far right” parties were beyond the pale. What an abomination and an embarrassment to the nation. How dare these despicable people join such parties and behave in such an outrageously far sighted, patriotic, courageous and independently minded fashion.

  17. BobE
    Posted December 29, 2014 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    Our democracy only came about after the elite watched France’s revolution and were scared it could happened here. The elites only give up power if they are compelled to.

  18. ian wragg
    Posted December 29, 2014 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    ……we should secure our own energy supplies. Why then do you continue to build and support useless windmills.
    Latest figures Load 40.22GW
    Wind 1.83GW
    Wind installed (metered) capacity 12GW
    Wind contribution 4.55%
    Wind is currently generating at 15% installed capacity.

    Politicians need reminding of theses figures on a daily basis. This highlights the stupidity and futility of the so called LibLabCon energy policy.

    • ian wragg
      Posted December 29, 2014 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

      Can you imagine if we were subject to a terrorist attack on the windmills. They are totally unprotected and could be wiped out in no time. If we went to war they would be impossible to protect.

      • forthurst
        Posted December 29, 2014 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

        “[The windmills] are totally unprotected and could be wiped out [by terrorists] in no time.”

        How awful.

      • Max Dunbar
        Posted December 29, 2014 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

        Not sure how many suicide bombers it would take to knock down a windmill but I reckon that the profit and loss sheets for these contraptions could begin to look distinctly promising after all.

  19. CHRISTOPHER HOUSTON
    Posted December 29, 2014 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    If the situations of the Middle East and Britain were reversed I should think it improbable English people would care for Saudi-Arabian or Egyptian armed forces dropping in and out of our country however well-intentioned and despite whichever English politician with a few thousand Xs at the side of his name gave them an invitation on behalf of the 53.9 million of us. Perhaps Scottish people would be more hospitable to benevolent intervention in their internal affairs.

    Energy is a problem. Unclear why nuclear installations really need to be land-based at all or why a tiny offshore island would not fit the bill.

    Thermal insulation of our homes? The best estimates when we had cold winters was 50 years to cover material and installation costs from saved energy. Naturally like an increase in salary a person within months lives up to the new situation/temperature and wants more. An iced lollipop in an official Local Authority building would melt before the second lick. Hermetically sealed homes have their own health problems which our taxes imperfectly remedy via increased costs to the NHS who are still puzzled why the increase in allergies, bless ’em.

  20. Jon
    Posted December 29, 2014 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

    Would agree with that though there is one thing I don’t understand with the situations like Kuwait. I accept that there is a mutual economic interest so not saying we should get paid like mercenaries but I would expect a cheque book to come out. The US and UK are suppressing acknowledging “Gulf War Syndrome” because of the cost.

    I can’t imagine a situation where if we had a similar war with one of our neighbours, we would ask the Middle East to sort it and not pay in some way for that service. Obviously where it is a poor country that can’t be expected but it seems overly generous. Could I imagine a Kuwait or Saudi tax payer stumping the bill for sorting an issue over here?

  21. Mike Wilson
    Posted December 29, 2014 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

    Sorry, my post was completely off topic. Please delete.

  22. Max Dunbar
    Posted December 29, 2014 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

    ‘Terrorist tendencies’ would appear to be a masterstroke of understatement.
    The terrorists have committed few atrocities or attacks and the chance of an ordinary citizen being killed or injured by such attacks is miniscule. But the aim of terrorists is primarily to create a climate of fear and uncertainty and this they have achieved admirably without great cost to themselves.
    Is the aim of the authorities, therefore, to do the terrorists’ job for them by firstly reacting to and then amplifying the perceived threat? And do they hope that by so doing, they will achieve a satisfactory non-violent outcome and make it unnecessary for further attacks to be launched? By clamping down on ‘far right’ groups and underwriting ‘approved’ community projects are they hoping to usurp the role of the terrorist?

  23. Richard
    Posted December 30, 2014 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    Agreed, we definitely need a new approach to ME affairs and that is to stay out of it completely.

    We should not even attempt to help to introduce western style democracy as this is clearly impossible in their intolerant tribal communities.

    But our rulers will continue to get involved because if we did not :

    – The arms industry would suffer with smaller profits.

    – UK citizens would be wealthier and the UK debt smaller.

    – Our armed forces could be used to defend our coastline and ports instead of fighting foreign wars.

    – We would be safer from Islamic terrorism.

    – The UK would be less unpopular in the world thus helping our exports.

    – Our rulers would not be able to create the chaos and instability in the ME to produce the push factors for continued mass immigration into the UK so that we become the multicultural society (?) they wish us to be with (lots of alleged bad things ed)

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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