Green politics, philosophy, history, paganism and a lot of self righteous grandstanding.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

SYRIZA: A guide for Brits who hope.

Greece solidarity demonstration, London, 11 Feb 2015
Imagine a small political party, polling only a few percent in elections and made up of assortment of colourful characters from the progressive fringe of politics, seemingly unable to agree on lunch let alone policy. Imagine then that this party suddenly becomes the only anti-austerity party in town and starts to build up an irresistible level of support from those disillusioned by mainstream politics. It stands in a General Election and becomes the government.

Over here the Green Party in England and Wales must be dreaming of such a result, but this really is the story of SYRIZA in Greece, the only country in the world where the citizens voluntarily attend pro-government rallies. But what does it mean for those of us in Blighty hoping that the recent surge in support for the Greens mean Natalie Bennett will be our Alex Tsipras?

It's all Greek to me

Syntagma Square, Athens, 11 Feb 2015
The first thing to say about politics in the Hellenic Republic is, it's complicated. I've been trying to follow it for twenty five years ago and I'm as confused as ever. The second thing to say is when we speak of a war between Left and Right in the UK we are speaking metaphorically. In Greece it's literal.

The story could begin in 1924 with the formation of the Greek Communist Party (KKE), or in 1936 when the fascist Metaxas, a charming man who liked strapping opponents to blocks of ice, suspended parliament, but instead we'll start with the end of the Second World War

Athens 1944, Photograph: Dmitri Kessel/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images
In Britain 1945 saw a victory at the ballot box for the centre-left Labour Party, but Greece it was the far left guerrillas of the ELAS who appeared to have the upper hand. However before they could form a government Churchill rearmed the Nazi Security Battalions with British guns and turned them on their fellow countrymen.

The Greek Civil War that followed was a confused and bloody business. Often as not it saw neighbouring villages settling scores with only a pretence to political motives, but for the Greek Left it was a catharsis. Defeated and then brutally suppressed in the 'democratic' post-war Hellenic Republic, the Left spent the fifties either in hiding or exiled to island gulags. Even the hint of a return to power in the late sixties was enough to provoke a military coup and worse repression.

Athens Polytechnic 1973, tanks getting ready to attack students.
When the youth of Greece eventually rebelled in the seventies it wasn't, like over here, against the imagined inequity of their parents, but the very real oppression of the Colonels. Their 1973 uprising was a bloody failure, but democracy did return a year later in the form of the centre-right New Democracy Party.

The KKE became legal again, but this didn't actually help them very much as, in the time honoured tradition of the Left, it was time for a split. Events in Paris and Prague in the spring of 1968 had shaken communist parties across the continent. The British Communist Party had almost ceased to exist by this point, but elsewhere the Eurocommunists were ousting the old guard. Embracing democracy they thrust themselves to the forefront of the liberation struggles of the decade.

It was this split that would ultimately lead to the Eurocommunists joining SYRIZA, but for now it was the pro-Moscow grouping that was the larger faction. Partly because of the historical wartime struggle against the Nazis, partly because of the contemporary struggle against military rule and no doubt partly because Greeks are just permanently contrary. The main effect of the in-fighting though was to leave the popularist Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) effectively unchallenged on the left of Greek politics.

When the seventies turned into the eighties Britain and Greece went in very different directions. Here the selfish hedonism of the sixties turned into the selfish monetarism of the eighties, but in Greece the youth who'd rebelled by listening to Greek bands playing Western rock music under the dictatorship helped to elect the country's first post-war left wing government. Andreas Papandreo's PASOK swept into office with the rallying cry "Change". A National Health Service was created, former Communist guerrillas were given pensions, the exiles returned and the generation excluded from society by The Colonels was rewarded with easy jobs in the public sector.

Athens Polytechnic 1995, riot police get ready to attack students
The 1990s in Greece saw a new wave of student radicalism and anarchists, who I've not really had time to mention yet, made most of the running. Murray Bookchin used to read Aristotle and Greek anarchists read Bookchin, so in a sense Social Ecology was coming home.

In Britain we occupied trees to stop roads, in Greece they occupied schools and universities. The Greek police were once again their usual liberal selves and there was a non-negligable body count in these actions. It was also not uncommon to see lorry loads of machine gun wielding coppers parked up in anarchist parts of Athens. It all came to a head in 1995 when 3000 people occupied the Polytechnic. (Just to confuse Brits who remember polytechnics as cut price higher education, the Athens Polytechnic is one of their top universities). The police moved in, the media, who often ended up being attacked by anarchists at demos and so weren't minded to give them good press, had a field day and when it was all over the movement was effectively dead.

Anti-war graffiti on NATO vehicles, Greece 1999
In 1999 the brief war between NATO and Serbia gave the Left another cause. Meanwhile the Battle of Seattle had opened a new front against Capitalism, and as the Eurocommunists and other far left groups prepared for the 2001 G8 summit in Genoa they decided to decided to form something they initially called Space for Dialogue for the Unity and Common Action of the Left, but which became SYRIZA three years later.

The PASOK government  meanwhile, having employed Goldman Sachs to cook the books, had been allowed to join the Eurozone. The ruse appeared to be paying off and the country was on the up for most of the noughties. Then the Credit Crunch hit, and the Eurozone economies crashed. The centre-right New Democracy Party was in power by this time. They were unsurprisingly booted out in 2009 when George (son of Andreas) Papandreo's PASOK ran against under the slogan "there is money". Unfortunately nobody had told him there wasn't.

In Britain the centre-left had been in power when the Credit Crunch hit but left the austerity to the opposition, in Greece it was the other way round. In Britain the damage was serious. In Greece it was fatal. In the 2015 elections PASOK came seventh, behind both the far-right fascists of the Golden Dawn and the ultra-left communists of the KKE.

Unlike in Britain, the far left was still alive and well. The Hellenic Republic had its equivalent of Occupy in the Squares Movement, but the Left had shown its power three years early, in December 2008. When the Greek police shot dead Andreas Grigoropoulos, a fifteen year old boy out celebrating his name day, the resulting riots were the worst since the fall of the Colonels. Just like in 1974 students were central to the revolt, but this time the reasons were more obscure.

Protest in front of Greek parliament, May 2011
Greece had problems of corruption, youth unemployment and inequality, but at that time no worse than many other European countries. The anger of its young people seemed to be directed at the Neoliberal world generally rather than the Hellenic Republic in particular. It was if, as before, Greece was a decade behind the times and it was fighting the Battle of Seattle all over again.

The KKE though had nothing to do with this. For them nothing short of a Revolution would do and they denounced the Squares Movement as nothing less than a "mechanism of the ruling class". When you see Occupy as too reactionary you are seriously left! This retreat from reality opened the door for SYRIZA who started their march to power with the anti-austerity campaigners in Syntagma Square.

Christodoulos Xeros
If you think with the KKE we're reached the edge of Greek progressive politics, you'd be wrong. If you want further proof that the Hellenic Republic really is stuck in a seventies time warp there are the terrorists. Yes, some on the Greek Left really are still trying to bomb their way to a Revolution forty years after our own Angry Brigade stopped blowing up fashion boutiques and went off to do more useful things. Indeed, recently rearrested terrorist Christodoulos Xeros even looks like he should be fronting his own Prog. Rock band. To understand Greek politics you have to realise that for some these people do almost have pop star status. When the New Democracy HQ was bombed during the recent election campaign, SYRIZA supporters celebrated online.

SYRIZA then has sprung from a very different political landscape to our Green Party. Here, the
Second World War united the country not split it apart and in the sixties our Left was moderated by being in power not radicalised by oppression, and I guess that's nothing to complain about.

SYRIZA may be a new party, but the continuity of the Greek Left is contained within it. When Tsipras lays a wreath at a memorial to Greeks killed by the Nazis it links the present crisis to a historical struggle whilst Caroline Lucas visiting a wind farm doesn't.

Manolis Glezos, still fighting at 91
This continuity is illustrated by the remarkable Manolis Glezos. As a teenager he snuck onto the Acropolis via a cave sacred to the ancient god Pan and tore down the Swastika flying over the Parthenon. As part of the Greek resistance he once nearly blew up Winston Churchill.  The post-war government sentenced him to death but he was reprieved. He was elected to parliament whilst in prison and released after going on hunger strike. He was imprisoned again under the Colonels then on release he became a PASOK MEP. He now sits in the Greek parliament for SYRIZA when he's not protesting on the streets. So much for becoming more right wing as you get older.

SYRIZA obviously owes its election to government to the scale of the disaster that overtook Greece after the Credit Crunch. Britain may not have lost 25% of its GDP since 2008, nor do we have to bring your own drugs when we go to hospital, but the same factors that have pushed mainstream voters into the arms for the far left are playing out here; the descent of the underclass into utter poverty, the collapse of the Middle Class into working poor, the destruction of the public sector and the flight of the lucky 1% who can afford it into their gilded cages out of the big cities, and into private schools and hospitals. It's all our happening here too, just a little slower.

But whilst SYRIZA may well be the response to this in Greece, but we mustn't jump the gun in assuming it's the solution. Tsipras sometimes sounds like he's the next of the Papandreo dynasty. "Change" or "there is money" could have been his mottos this time around, and the reason PASOK has been wiped out is because the riposte to both was "there wasn't". SYRIZA's Green credentials are also rather thin. A belated change of policy to Eldorado mine project and some warm words on Climate Change and ecosocialism, but that's it.


Despite that they are clearly better than the alternatives though. However if we think a British SYRIZA is inevitable we may be disappointed. The Greek Left isn't back so much as it never went away. In the UK it was buried years ago.

Britain, Europe and indeed the world need an alternative to rapacious capitalism, unsustainable consumerism and unjust austerity, but ultimately liberation is something each country must build for itself, not a franchise we can buy into.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Fracking and Climate Change

This is important.

When your twelve year old son tells you he's thinking of not having children because he's worried about Climate Change, then you know this is serious.

Now I want grandchildren, but more than that I want them to enjoy the same summers, winters, snow and sunshine that I enjoyed when I was young. I don't want to see Newsround explaining to them why Bangladesh is drowning, Ethiopia is starving and the Amazon is burning.

So days like the rally coming up on 7 March are very important, but we need to stay focussed. We
can't just be climate warriors for one day. We must welcome everyone who is sincere, but we must not let the day become one in which climate criminals can cover themselves in Greenwash by pretending to support us.

We must be able to say that if you don't support fossil fuel divestment, or a ban on tar sands or if you are not opposed to fracking or Arctic oil then stay at home, because passive support is not enough, we need action.

At Frack Free Greater Manchester we took one small part of the problem of fossil fuels, shale gas, and then we took one small part of the problem of shale gas, the test drill at Barton Moss, and we opposed it with everything we had.

Now shale gas is a problem for Climate Change, but sometimes it gets put forward as a solution. It's true, when you burn it in a power station fracked gas produces half the CO2 of coal. But by the time fracking is fully up and running, which even the optimists in the industry say won't be before the end of the next decade, there may not be any coal being used in power stations for the gas to replace.

Also, a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is not nearly good enough. Solar and wind produce only 6% and 2% of the CO2 of coal over their life cycles, and that is the scale of reduction we need to be talking about.(IPCC 2014)

But it is also far from clear that fracked gas actually provides any improvement at all on coal.

Methane is a far more potent Greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Even if you take into account its shorter lifespan in the atmosphere it is still considered thirty times more potent than CO2. So if just 3% of the fracked gas leaks out before being burnt then it is no better than coal. We don't know what the leakage rates are, except that independent assessments put the figure a lot higher than industry funded reports, and most are a lot more than 3%.



There are lots more problems with fracking, but two which relate specifically to Climate Change. The first is carbon budgets. According to the daddy of all climate scientists, James Hansen, the world can safely use 500 gigatons of use carbon, and we've already burnt our way through 370 GtC.  We can only afford to burn another 130 GtC without wrecking the climate. That is also the amount of carbon believed to be available in Coal Bed Methane alone, there’s more in shale gas, yet more in shale oil and so on.
Secondly there is the question of timing. As I’ve said, even the optimists don’t think we’ll have full scale production before 2030. A gas fired power station lasts for twenty years. So if we build a new generation of fossil fuel power stations it will be 2050 before we are replacing them with renewable. By that time the world may already have seen two degrees of warming. The ice caps will be gone and we could be in a situation where even if we don’t release another gram of carbon ourselves, natural feedbacks will ensure greenhouse gas emissions continue without us.

And so we took on IGas at Barton Moss. People camped out through the worst weather imaginable. People stood in front of the lorries every day for four months. The media ignored us. The police lied about us. Then people of Manchester decided to vote with their feet and come out for the biggest anti-fracking gathering yet seen in the UK. IGas left town and haven't come back.

We've not won yet, but we're doing well. And this is what we all need to do. We need to take this huge problem and break it down into bite sized chunks and tackle them one at a time. Pick your fight and go for it with all your heart and soul. In that way we will win.

And we need to win, because I really want grandchildren.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

One Million Climate Jobs

I am an anti-fracking campaigner.

Now fracking is a nightmare that we will be well rid of, but the problem with nightmares is that they are very limited in their power to get people to change. Much more powerful are dreams. This report of part of my dream for a better world.

It's subject is political economy, which the Victorian Radical John Ruskin defined as "the production, preservation and distribution, at the fittest time and place, of useful and pleasurable things". If an economy does not do that it's not working, and our economy is not working. The poor are going to the wall, the Middle Class is disappearing, richest 1% have more wealth than they can possibly need and the richest 0.1% make the 1% look like paupers. What's more if we continue to overshoot the carrying capacity of Planet Earth it will get worse. The current situation is environmentally and socially unsustainable.

This pamphlet starts with the assumption that living within our ecological limits should be the first consideration of an economy not the last, but also that along with environmental prudence must come social justice. Because although we are all on the same sinking ship, some people are nearer the hole than others.

As I've said, I am opposed to shale gas. But let me say something that may surprise you. There are two things about fracking I really like.

Firstly, it makes people think about where their energy comes from. We all know about the wars we fight and the people we torture to get our oil, we know about the dangers of Arctic oil and the devastation that is tar sands, we know about Fukushima and the Gulf of Mexico. But these are things that happen far away. Even if you are an aware person they can seem unreal. But when a fracking rig arrives in your backyard, the choice about how we make our energy becomes very real indeed.

Secondly fracking, or rather the opposition to fracking, has brought a wide range of people together; anarchists, socialists, Trade Unionists, environmentalists, anarchist socialist Trade Unionist environmentalists - but that could be just me. And when we get together we find we have more in common than not.



When Old Skool left wingers talk about nationalising the power supply, and when Greens call for community energy we are talking about the same thing. Whether your community is Barton Moss or Hamburg or England, it’s the same thing. Now if people own their own power it’s up to them how they generate it, but I don’t see many communities clubbing together to buy a fracking rig, or a tar sands operation or an open cast coal mine.

Thinking about how we generate our energy is just one of the areas this report looks at. It also looks at how were we live and work, how we travel and how we farm and dispose of our waste. It's about embracing new technologies, but also old values. It's about solar panels and tidal power, but also about bikes, trains and warm houses.

Lets look at the figures; 400,000 Climate Jobs in Energy, 180,000 in building, 310,000 in transport and with more in training, education, farming and recycling it makes One Million Climate jobs. Those are the numbers. The details are in the report, but you probably already know them. We know what needs to be done, we just need to it. What this report shows is why we will want to do it.
 
Nysted Offshore Wind Farm (Danish Energy Authority)
And those One Million Climate jobs will create at least another 500,000 jobs supplying the nuts and bolts and gaffer tape and everything else needed by those one million climate workers. Then there will also be at least another 250,000 non-climate jobs as the workers in the new jobs spend their money on beer and football and fish and chips, or Chianti and tennis and sun-dried tomatoes, depending on which social class I choose to stereotype. But either way they will have money to spend as these will be real jobs. Not social engineering via zero hours contracts, not financial engineering via the City of London, but real engineering, just like how we used to do it.

How do we pay for all this? Well, we have already paid for the alternative. Each of us has paid £6000 towards bailing out the banks, which is probably more than most of us will give to Greenpeace, or the Green Party or paid in union subs. When the money was needed, governments found it. They need to find it again because finance serves industry, not the other way round, and because the Earth is too big to fail too.

We can stop the richest tax payers paying a tax rate that is half what it was when Winston Churchill was last Prime Minister. We can stop the richest people paying no tax at all. We can have a Robin Hood tax on the silly money that flies around the ether and we can have a mansion tax on the silly celebrities who think £2 million will only buy you a garage in London.

How do you get people to change to a low carbon way of living? There are four levers that will push people in the right direction and I expect we'll use a combination of them all.

Firstly there's Peak Oil. Not much sign of that right now I'll admit, but just wait. It will return. Oil will not be this cheap forever.

Secondly governments can subsidise the good. Make Public Transport so cheap only Jeremy Clarkson would drive.

Thirdly we can tax the bad. Every high-carbon industry in the world has modelled the effect of a minimum carbon price on its business. They are expecting it. We just need to do it.

Finally, because we believe in fairness above all else, we can use carbon rationing. The Fleming Policy Centre, a handful of people existing on almost no money, have developed a system of Tradable Energy Quotas and even managed to get Parliament to produce a report on it. Rather more amazingly the New Economic Foundation managed to get the head of the World Trade Organisation to admit that if the EU introduced a system of carbon rationing it would be perfectly entitled to put up tariff barriers to make it work. It won't be easy, but it's possible.

So here it is, a report that shows how the solution to our ecological crisis is also the solution to our social crisis. But on its own this pamphlet is just so many words and numbers. On its own it does nothing. Only if all of us use it as a tool to campaign for change we need will it have the power to make a difference. We need to campaign for the National Climate Agency and if we can't get that we must campaign for local action. We must show people how for every ten fracking jobs we prevent we potentially create a 100 climate jobs.

And we must do this together.

The Climate Change deniers, funded by those who benefit most from our current system of austerity for the poor and socialism for the rich, tell people that Climate Change is a conspiracy between the Greens and the socialists to take their wealth and turn our economic system upside down.

Let's make their worst nightmares come true.

One Million Climate Jobs report

Saturday, 24 January 2015

How Greece Can Get Its Marbles Back

A reproduction of the Parthenon East Pediment

Be Realistic, Demand the Impossible!

“Can I have both?”
“Can I have both?”
“Can I have both?”
“Can I have both?”

So the Hellenic Republic has a new government , Alexis Tsipras has managed to keep his coalition of Communists, Anarchists, Greens and other assorted lefties together long enough to become Prime Minister, a task that must herding cats seem easy.

I celebrated with a glass or two of finest malt whisky - because Greece decided to hold the election on Burns Night.


Paul Mason interviews Alexis Tsipras (Channel 4)
Tsipras says what he wants now is debt relief and the return of the Elgin Marbles. Given that the
Germans make most of the rules and the French own most of the debt, this doesn't seem terribly likely. But what about his second wish?

At first glance this seems about as likely as Tsipras becoming Der Spiegel's Man of the Year. However I believe a change of tactics might just succeed, what's more if you look carefully at what the new PM says, I think he realises this.


A Set of Lies Agreed Upon



Lord Elgin
First a bit of history, or rather two versions of it.

In Scenario One evil British aristo Lord Elgin, Her Majesty's ambassador to the Turks sends his nefarious agents to Greece. Seeing an opportunity, a bit of money changes. Regretting that they can't get the whole Parthenon in their ship, they instead start chiselling away at some of the prettier bits. The loot returns to England where the dastardly Lord spends the rest of his life trying to flog it to the highest bidder.

In Scenario Two kindly Lord Elgin, friend to the Greek people and lover of Greek culture, sends a mission to Athens to study the treasures of the ancients. However once there his team are shocked by the indifference of the half of Athens who are Greek Orthodox and for whom the Marbles were just so many embarrassing pagan relics and the Acropolis just a free quarry. The Turkish authorities seem no more interested and due to the dilapidated state of the monument the man on the spot makes a decision to save what he can.


Lord Byron
Returning to Britain the Marbles spark a renewed interest in Ancient Greece. Lord Byron objects to their removal, but then he also called them "misshapen monuments". He is drowned out by other Romantics such as Goethe and Keats who enthuse about these marvels from the Levant. Elgin's love of ancient Greece eventually empties his noble coffers, but rather than see the treasures be split up he sells them to the British Museum.

The public adores them and the ensuing spirit of Philhellenism comes in very useful twenty years later when the Greeks finally revolt against Turkish rule. The British Museum keeps the Marbles safe through two sieges of the Acropolis whilst England sends to the aid of the Greeks a vast sum of money, a selection of our best Sea Captains and eventually a battle fleet which obliterates the Turks and wins the war.


Amal Clooney
The Hellenic Republic, for obvious reasons, as always preferred the first version of the story. What patriot wouldn't like a story involving corrupt Turkish officials, foreign yobs hacking away at one of the wonders of the Ancient World and a villain straight out of a Mel Gibson movie?

Battle was renewed last year when Amal Clooney took time off from making women jealous over her choice of husband and gave the Greek government the benefit of her legal advice. She's not the first beautiful woman to try to get the Marbles back. Melina Mercouri and Nana Mouskouri both tried and failed, as did Demis Roussos - although he didn't look half as good in a dress.


Those Who Cannot Change Their Minds Cannot Change Anything


The word rhetoric today is now used to mean empty words, but when Aristotle was writing about ῥητορικός (ri̱torikós) it meant "the faculty of observing in any given case the available means of persuasion".


Athens 1821
It seems to me the Hellenic republic needs to be a bit cleverer about the ῥητορικός it is using on the British museum. Three tiny flaws in the current strategy seem immediately obvious.

Firstly, tough though it is for Greeks to admit, the Turks really were in charge in 1805 and the
Marbles really were theirs to sell. Once the Emperor of Byzantium had refused to buy a certain dodgy Hungarian's canons and the Ottoman Empire had used them to knock down the walls of Constantinople the Turks were in charge. End of.


The Parthenon Marbles in the British Museum
Secondly it's quite hard to prove a legal transaction was unlawful when you haven't got the original paperwork. Maybe they did mess up the paperwork, but the Turks were legitimate sellers and Elgin was a legitimate buyer, and after two hundred years I think the museum can be forgiven for not having the original receipt.

But mostly a venerable institution like the British Museum, one of, if not the, greatest museum in the world, doesn't like being written into the story as the baddie.

That's a very important point when you want to change someone's mind. You can offer them a carrot - a pretty juicy carrot in this case, just think what Greece could swap for the Marbles - you can threaten them with a stick - although in this case it's a very short and blunt stick. But if agreeing with you means admitting to being great big hypocrites they are quite likely to reject the carrot and face the stick.

Even the sort of psychopaths who think the way to get people to change their minds is to pour buckets of water over their head realise that.


“These stones don’t feel at ease with less sky”


I expect most Greek readers will have written me off as another Αγγλίκα μαλάκα by now given up, but just in case there are any left let me say this; I think the Marbles should return to your country.
The Parthenon

Why? Two reasons stand out for me.

Firstly they are an integral part of the Parthenon, and for aesthetic reasons alone I like my ancient treasures whole. Indeed Poseidon is actually split in two, half in London and half in Athens.

By the way, I'm equally annoyed that the lid of the Frank's Casket is in France whilst the rest of it is in Britain and that the Sutton Hoo treasure is split between London and Suffolk. It's as if Nelson had been removed from his column and taken abroad, which incidentally was what Hitler planned to do if he's invaded us instead of Greece in 1941. 
Nike in the Acropolis Museum

Secondly, whilst it's perfectly possible to a Brit to go through life without ever seeing the Elgin Marbles, or even the British Museum, to be Greek and not see the Parthenon would be rather difficult. Half the population of the country can pretty much sees the Acropolis every day of the week. The Marbles are simply far more important to the Greeks than they are to us.

And the finally there's the Acropolis Museum. This world class building, within sight of the Parthenon but not part of it, is where the remaining Parthenon Marbles now reside. How did they get there? The Greek authorities chiselled them off the Acropolis and carried them there for safe keeping, doing exactly what Lord Elgin's agents did two hundred years ago.

And the thing is these reasons stand regardless of how the Marbles got to London or who legally owns them.


Property is Theft



So who does actually own them?

According to the new Prime Minister "everyone" and I can't really argue with that. My namesake Martin Luther King once said "property is intended to serve life" and so he would probably agree.

My plan is to get the Marbles back to Greece, and if when they arrive they have a little plaque underneath them saying "on loan from the British Museum" who cares?


The Plan


So how should the Hellenic Republic go about persuading the trustees of the British Museum to change their minds about the Marbles? :


Replica of the Parthenon, Nashville, USA
Step one: acknowledge that everything that's been said and done so far was wrong. Tsipras's government has more-or-less been elected on this motto, so this shouldn't be too hard.

Step two: forget about ownership. Most of the current government of Greece claim to be inspired by a man who said his political theory could be summed up by the slogan "abolish all private property" so that should be easy enough.

Step three: forgive Elgin. Perhaps putting a statue of him up next to Byron would be going a bit far, but at least acknowledge that this was a man who loved Greece and, whatever his motives were, accept that his actions kept the Marbles safe from sieges, smog and Nazi occupation. Some people may take a bit of convincing, but Greece is about to really annoy most of Germany and a significant part of France, so she could do with some new friends, even dead ones.


Vigil for the return of the Parthenon Marbles January 2015
So there you have it. Greece, go and get them back. I for one will support you. So, according to the polling company Yougov, will most of my fellow Brits.

The Hellenic Republic in recent years has seen poverty that would have disgraced Lord Elgin's England. The best and brightest of her young people have been, like the Marbles, ripped from the land of their birth and scattered across Europe.

Returning the Marbles won't help with the debt relief, won't ward off a Grexit and won't make Greece any more popular with the Troika, but it will help mend the wounded pride of a great European nation and it will be the right thing to do.