Meeting Susan Kramer MP           

Liberal Democrat Richmond Park & Overseas Development


Susan Kramer apologised profusely for the confusion over the  planned meeting with Kingston Peace Council/CND of March 8th. She explained it had been necessary to cancel our meeting because of parliamentary work schedules and personal commitments connected with serious family illness. Unfortunately rules of staffing for constituency offices don’t allow for full-time experienced staff and the message hadn’t been passed on. Conscious of the disappointment and adverse impression created she generously agreed to see a small group on Saturday 25th March. Noel & Michael Southgate attended. We used the 6 points I had previously suggested as the basis for our discussion.


Iraq. Susan said it had been Party policy to oppose the invasion from the outset and numerous spokesmen, including the party leader, had joined demonstrations and spoken at rallies. She fears that a ‘Vietnam Moment’ is approaching when the invaders will be so distrusted and disliked that they become part of the problem, not the solution. The gung-ho invasion mentality that anticipated floral welcome was stupidly naïve and there was demonstrably a total lack of planning beyond bombing and invasion. Evidence of any significant improvement in the state of the country – water, electricity, hospitals, etc – is woefully lacking despite Bush promises; yet $billions, including Iraqi oil-for-food money, has disappeared. Susan says there is urgent need for a properly planned withdrawal before troops become enmeshed in a quagmire which benefits no one. She is concerned that a hasty exit could herald utter chaos. She plans a fact-finding visit.


Palestine. Susan worries about an impending crisis. Starving the Hamas Palestinian authority of funds to run the administration could lead to collapse and anarchy; benefiting no one. It can’t be legal for Israel to withhold customs money. Other Middle Eastern states might feel obliged to step into the breach, with political consequences. Provoking Palestinian outrage is a serious possibility. Hamas was elected for its integrity and constructive work in Palestinian communities. It is everyone’s misfortune that Hamas is only represented to us as a terrorist organization. She is baffled that Israel can not see that harassing and ill-treating Palestinians can never lead to peace and security. She accepts Israel is widely mistrusted and disliked by many in the Middle East yet bullying behavior does nothing constructive for its image. The “Wall” doesn’t mark a boundary between Israel and Palestine. It annexes large areas of Palestine including massive illegal Israeli settlements. It is clearly part of the problem, not the solution, and current boundaries do not hold out good prospects for a viable Palestinian state. The US is not acting as an honest broker, and Susan is wary of the influence of Christian fundamentalism which represents a large body of US votes. Susan plans an early visit but is wary of using partisan organizations. She is considering approaching Christian Aid.


Trident. We briefly reviewed points I had previously made about Trident – there being no useful purpose; it not being independent; the possibility of it being used on US orders; the cost and the burden of cow-towing to the US for the sake of the Mutual Defence Agreement. I had previously sent her CND ‘Lobby’, Parliamentary Newsletter dealing with Trident argument, and I now submitted copies of current Newstatesman articles referring to Dan Plesh’s report, “The Future of Britain’s WMD”. Susan sympathises with many points but insists that Lib/Dem party policy is for full in-depth analysis and debate. Lib/Dems are committed to multi-lateral negotiation towards disarmament. Susan questions the apparent haste to revue the possibility of Trident replacement urgently now since it could be 20 or 30 years away. I very strongly recommended that the Lib/Dems invite Kate Hudson to talk to them if they are seriously interested in debate. It is easy to find experts with vested interests in nuclear weapons but an alternative view from an authoritative speaker would assist their debate. The point was accepted.


Guantanamo, extraordinary rendition, the “War on Terror”, Terrorism Acts, the fashion for suspension of long-standing human rights. Susan says civil liberties are a core passion of hers. Blair it seems doesn’t have a civil liberties bone in his body. What is happening here and in the US is completely contrary to what most people regard as core values of our western societies. She is dead opposed to what she sees as serious erosion of established liberties to win which blood has been spilled in past generations. Security is important but; suspension of habeus corpus, imprisonment without trial, secret evidence, ‘evidence’ obtained under torture, deportions?  Blair’s assertion that “the rules have changed” is baloney – his rules have changed; not for the better. I thanked her for earlier correspondence on torture and rendition and advised that further revelations of government knowledge and collusion are emerging. Susan reported a success in respect of volunteer prison visitors who were unexpectedly ‘required’ to sign the Official Secrets Act. Turned out it wasn’t ‘required’ after all and thanks to her intervention it stopped.

Islamaphobia. I explained that after ‘Tabloid’ response to the July 7th bombings we were concerned that all Muslims were being branded. My enquiries had shown that fundamentalism was a Muslim problem dating back centuries which, without western interference, could be happily contained. Events in Afghanistan over decades, Palestine and Iraq were provoking fundamentalists whilst ‘Tabloid’ criticism here was hurting the mainstream Muslims who had been ‘holding the ring’ for generations. Susan maintains regular contact with Rashid Laha and Kingston Mosque where she has found worshippers to be fairly laid-back about the fuss, which has passed them by. She accepts there are various streams of thought in Islam and has had civilized dialogue with several. She is however very concerned about racism motivating misuse of power by police and immigration, particularly at ports and airports. Following the Stephen Lawrence report she sees optimistic signs generally though.



Iran and another possible war. Susan agrees that there is genuine concern at Bush rhetoric which appears to be being ramped up much like in the prelude to Iraq invasion. It is difficult to assess the situation but it is clear that the recent Bush visits to India and Pakistan effectively bestowed a seal of approval on them and their nuclear weapons, in stark contrast to Iran where he claims everything from press freedom to democracy is wrong. All noticed that serious offenders like Saudi Arabia weren’t mentioned because they are allies. Susan recounts her own experience of middle America where outside news is hard to come by and national TV channels spew out government propaganda with little objectivity or analysis. Many Americans are easy meat for Bush’s rants against places like Iran of which the know zilch. She wonders if it isn’t the same for ordinary Iranians. She wouldn’t favour a further Middle East war and believes that hawks wouldn’t either.




Susan talked about climate change and insisted that Lib/Dems favour a much more pro-active approach to tackle the issues through targeted taxation, international negotiation and targeted grants and support – unlike the derisory gestures of New Labour. She thinks the public is ahead of government and would respond to encouragement and sensible coercive measures. She is opposed to any move towards wholesale nuclear power as a means of reducing carbon dioxide – it is not carbon neutral as so much energy is expended in construction, maintenance, uranium extraction and refinement, and in safe disposal afterwards – a problem yet to be solved!

As part of her overseas development brief she expects to be traveling on fact-finding missions. She is interested in globalization, poverty and third-world debt. She plans a visit to Darfur this year to help understand a conflict which the world now largely ignores.


Susan spent 2 hours discussing and explaining her policies and views. I extended grateful thanks to her for sparing the time.


Noel Hamel