Belgrade's UK Lobby Decimated
by Tom Carter
The April general election and its aftermath have proved disastrous for Belgrade's circle of friends at Westminster. Among Conservatives, former MPs Jonathan Aitken, Henry Bellingham, Harold Elletson, Lady Olga Maitland and Malcolm Rifkind were all defeated, as was candidate Jovan Gvozdenovic (aka John Kennedy); only David Faber survived (Douglas Hurd, of course, having departed earlier).
On the Labour side, it is true that the seven MPs who joined with Sir Alfred Shaman to set up the Committee for Peace in the Balkans (see BR 11, June - August 1995) - Diane Abott, Tony Benn, Tom Dalyell, Neill Gerrad, Alice Mahon, Bill Michie, and Bob Wareing - were all re-elected, as were David Clark and John Reid (who even got ministerial posts). But soon after the election Bob Wareing was censured by the House of Commons for not declaring financial links with a nationalist Serb businessman, while David Clark and John Reid got into trouble over a trip they made in the company of 'John Kennedy' in 1993 to discuss with Radovan Karadzic: they apologized for having allowed their hotel bills to be paid, but the press might more profitably have explored what advantages Karadzic hoped to gain from hosting these prominent Labour politicians (Clark was then Shadow Defence Secretary, and Reid is now minister for the armed forces).
Perhaps investigative journalists might have found a clue in what Clark had to say about Bosnia in the New Statesman shortly after his trip: 'I basically think it's impossible to sort out .... there was premature recognition of Bosnia .... without thinking it through you set the boundaries in concrete .... we must be even-handed .... all three parties will be found guilty of terrible genocide .... I've come tÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌTo the same view as David Owen and Gerhard Stoltenberg. They're the Experts. The only way is to have three statelets. These people will not be able to live together. But I'm not as pessimistic as some: over the next 20 or 30 years, the states may be drawn back into a federation ... Well, yes, the Serbs started the aggression - whether they were provoked is another matter.'