GW: Is He The One?

GW.jpg

This week has seen the Outrage Bus started up and driven off at speed so frequently that the engine is overheating and the clutch is knackered. No doubt the Sunday papers tomorrow morning will have more pain and upset to surprise us with and there will be more than a few Members of Parliament who have spent today dreading the call from a reporter asking, 'Can you confirm that in September of 2015 you.........?' 

One of the items of outrage that seemed to put Tory MP's and the press instantly into a state of spontaneous combustion was the reshuffle following Sir Michael Fallon's resignation that catapulted Tory Chief Whip Gavin Williamson into the front line as Defence Secretary. "Too young,' 'too inexperienced,' 'not ex military,' 'caused the reshuffle himself,' were some of the typical reactions. One lady Tory MP was reported as describing him to a journalist as a 'self serving cxnt.' A lady MP who, by the way, ought to be dragged into a corner and read the riot act and told that if she ever speaks to a journalist about a colleague in such unprofessional and unbecoming terms again she'll be fired. Still, it is Parliament we're talking about, not a 'normal workplace.' 

Looking at it from the cheap seats, I would point out to these Tory MP's, and the press, that Gavin Williamson, (who I hadn't heard of before this week), is three years older than was David Cameron when he became leader of their party, (only four years after becoming an MP), and is only one year younger than was David Cameron when he became our youngest Prime Minister since 1812. So, they can stick that in their pipe and smoke it.

Moreover, being given responsibility at a relatively young age is bread and butter to the Armed Forces. More important is the question of whether he is capable of running such a big and complex department. We won't know the answer to that for a wee while but one thing is for sure, Defence has not been given the attention and commitment that it needs by successive governments for years so Mr Williamson can hardly do a worse job than have his predecessors. 

If then, Williamson can quickly grasp his complex brief and throw his talents and obvious political acumen behind his department it could be a career defining time for him and, given his sponsor is the PM, a positive for Defence. If though, he simply becomes a conduit for the Treasury and shrinks his department further then it will take years to restore the damage given many areas are already finely balanced on the line of viability. There is a new saying gaining currency amongst the lads, 'We don't do a show of force anymore, we do a show of face.' That has to change, immediately, before some bad people chance their arm and have a go. 

For the time being, I'll mostly be ignoring the Westminster Bubble crowd in giving Mr Williamson time to succeed. I very much hope he does.  

Libya; Ho Hum......

A 49 page parliamentary report from the Foreign Affairs Committee published today draws some pretty damming conclusions on David Cameron's ill advised and poorly planned and executed foray into Libya in 2011. 

Drawing all the critical strands together in the report we can neatly summarise them with the technical phrase which is often used on these occasions, it was a clusterfxck.

The failure of the half hearted enterprise was hard coded in it's very inception. We had no business being there and the policy of doing so at minimum political and military risk with no thought to nation building at the conclusion of the operation was either naive or simply stupid. Perhaps it was both. 

Now, Crumble is no Kissinger and I hate to say I told you so....... but I told you so. In what I thought at the time were some pretty good posts, I repeatedly articulated what was plain to any passing bystander but not to the genius's in Whitehall who failed to soak in any lessons from other recent interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan and seemed oblivious to events in the rest of the Middle East. Sometimes I think you could hammer six inch nails into their foreheads and it wouldn't make any difference to their ability to reason.

Just for the record, here are the posts from February to August 2011,

Unrest in Libya and Haslemere                      February 22nd, 2011

Libya; The Wrong Issue For Britain                March 4th 2011 

Libya; No-Fly Zone Issues                               March 11th 2011

Libya; Who's The Nutty One?                         March 31st 2011

Libya; Straight Talking At Last                       April 4th 2011

Another Fine Mess.........                                 April 14th 2011 

Libya; Coalition Fragments                            July 15th 2011

Bless                                                                August 23rd 2011

What is to be done then to assist the Prime Minister of the day in making a balanced foreign policy decision thereby avoiding reckless interventions such as Libya. We can't go on leaving entire countries in a bigger mess than they were before we turned up uninvited. In my view, the Prime Minister needs a sanity check mechanism in his decision making process. One that is unencumbered with domestic political or career mindsets and definitely no policy wonks straight from the PPE course at Oxford. What I have in mind is a panel of six or eight clever folk who have an expertise in looking at problems in four dimensions, obliquely and from the inside out. They could be specialists in given fields but it isn't a hard requirement. Their task on being given a briefing paper would simply be to figure out the unintended consequences if the paper became policy. Their job would be to ask the 'what if's?' that others are either too timid, too inexperienced or too stupid to ask. Their input might just assist the Prime Minister and his or her Cabinet in coming to better judged decisions, or at least be more conversant with risk. The team could work from a basement in Whitehall or from their home locations. All they need is the highest security clearance, be politically agnostic and without any career ambition in government. You could say that I've just described MI6 but that hasn't worked out so well over the past twenty years has it?  

Back to the blog in 2011 and this post,  Libya, The Black Watch & Spike was my favourite, mostly because of this concluding line from Spike Milligan, 'How long was I in the Army?...... Five foot eleven!'

What Mr Cameron Should Say

We're all pretty uninspired with being constantly berated with warnings of gloom and despondency should we have the temerity to vote to leave the EU. It goes against the national character to just give up and meekly toe the line. David Cameron and the Remain camp have so far failed to articulate a positive path forward which will not only be good for the UK but also kick start the process of drawing the rest of the EU together which is anyway, decaying from within, something that few are keen to draw any attention to. 

How then, should David Cameron tackle this deficit in vision and positive thinking?

It is a basic truism in politics that what you see on the surface does not in any way reflect what lies beneath. When all the rhetoric is over and the votes counted, many in the remain camp will be keen to restore business as usual. That would be the world where we tolerate the meddlesome excesses of Brussels and where the government of the day can park troublesome ministers or ex ministers who have been turfed out by the electorate into enhanced pension positions in Brussels. David Cameron should rip up the status quo and make it clear that this referendum is a game changer. If we vote to stay, we'll be fielding our A team from here on in, not the wheezy boys with coughs and notes from their Mum on the bench.

 A civil service office in Madras, India during the British Raj

In another age 1,000 British civil servants ran the Indian Civil Service. That was on average of one civil servant for every 300,000 Indians, (although the total number had fallen to 688 by the time of partition). It is broadly acknowledged that they did a pretty good job. All of them however, were the very best candidates for the job on offer, having studied either at Oxbridge, the School of Oriental studies or Trinity College, Dublin. Similarly, British officers in the Indian Army had to pass out in the top half of their course at Sandhurst to have a chance of being selected for the Indian Army and when serving in India promotion was subject to passing examinations in Urdu.

1975 was a more positive campaign by 10 miles of good road

David Cameron should take inspiration from this experience and  make it clear that mediocrity will no longer be accepted, that we are going to engage with Europe by deploying our brightest and best minds at the political and administrative level and no individual can expect advancement to the highest reaches of their government career paths without serious time spent in Europe. He should emphasise that his administrations new mission to 'inform and influence,' policy and decision making in Brussels has the highest priority and the British government will henceforth take a long term view of its involvement at every level. The education system, honours system, diplomatic corp and government HR policies will be directed to reflect this new positive stance. "If we are going to do it, we are going to do it better than before and better than anyone else." Europeans will immediately adopt the look of stunned mullets, such will be the hanging air of disbelief but it would sway many voters currently sitting on the fence.

The Prime Minister won't do any of this of course. He is following the advice of his advisors to, 'scare the bejeesus out of them.' Personally, I think that tactic is past it's point of what usefulness it may have had and is now producing negative drag on the Remain campaign. I happen to hold that very positive mental attitude on the prospect of leaving but can see it can swing both ways for here is the thing, optimism and enthusiasm are infectious.

Calm Down At The Front

Each passing week sees the European referendum debate stepping up a gear and with it the rhetoric edging closer and closer still to the edge of the cliff signposted, 'barmy.' Last weeks offerings stretched credulity by offering both Hitler and Churchill in equal measure along with the not inconsiderable feat, from the Prime Minister, of including the dead of two world wars. Gordon Brown stepped forward to calm things down and instructed us in earnest Presbyterian tones that it would be un-British to leave the EU. Thank you Gordon. As it happens, one of the few quietly sensible reasons for Remain that I have yet heard is that the EU prevents some of the worst excesses of national governments, 'just think what Brown could have done to us had he been unleashed from the restrictions imposed by being part of the EU,' said my chum over a glass. 

Despite all the made up bilge that has poured out the polls remain remarkably consistent. They suggest that Remain have a lead of up to 10 points but are vulnerable to turnout numbers on the day and the 'fuck it,' factor. I don't use the phrase lightly. The backlash against the Establishment elites, which really started with the Arab Spring, has manifested itself across Europe and most prominently in the US with support for Donald Trump. National politicians and the media who get animated about Trump and sneer at his supporters are rather missing the point. Many if not most of his supporters are not Trump acolytes. They are simply fed up. Fed up working longer and harder for less. Fed up seeing their aspirations, ambitions and dreams being trampled on and fed up watching the relentless growth in the wealth gap between the super rich and the rest with no conceivable way of joining then party. The non stop lecturing from the inner circles of international finance, the Bank of England, (who mostly should at this point shut up), and supportive media like the Economist may just provoke a Trump like backlash from British voters that they least want. Such a backlash, and I do believe it is fermenting, would slice through that 10 point lead.

In fact, the Economist is becoming ever more shrill in it's warnings. Good thing the Economist rarely gets the big calls right then otherwise we'd all have Euro's in our pockets. No matter, it is to the Economist we look to find a letter from a reader in the United States who articulates rather well how the US election cycle has got to where it is. This is what Mr Mark Kraschel of Portland Oregon has to say,

You used so much ink trying to convince us that Donald Trump is not fit for office (“Time to fire him”, February 27th). Do you think the type of person who reads your erudite publication would ever consider voting for him? Not likely. The people who will vote for The Donald are the disaffected bitter-clingers whom the last candidate you passionately begged us to vote for—Barack Obama—disparaged in his campaign. Those same disaffected people haven’t been doing well over the past eight years, and in case you haven’t noticed, they are mad as hell.

Government isn’t working for us. There are few good jobs, we’ve been stuck with a joke of a health-care system, the few rights we still enjoy are under siege and the future looks dim for our children. We are powerless to foment a revolution while working two part-time jobs to make ends meet, so all we can do is register a protest against the Dickensian nightmare that the elites have created for us by voting. Apparently, nobody listened (Republican or Democrat) to what we were trying to say in 2012. Come November, you’ll be hearing from us again, louder and clearer.
— MARK KRASCHEL Portland, Oregon

From where I am standing, the Remain campaign would do well to take a big dose of humility and immediately stop hectoring from the pulpit. We don't like being threatened and no one likes a bully. Similarly, the Leave campaign must start explaining the positives of leaving and how the mechanics of extraction will work in practice and do so with calm authority and dignity. I'm obviously not holding out much hope for any of this to transpire and confidently expect proceedings to deteriorate into an unseemly squabble punctuated with more hysterical warnings of plague and pestilence from a political rabble who are increasingly detached from Planet Reality. Voters will take action accordingly.

 

Angry? Bloody Right I'm Angry.

There are scores of memorial videos to lost lives on YouTube; enough.

I've just spent the last 50 mins reading the latest May-Aug CRY (Cardiac Risk in the Young), update. It is 107 pages of uplifting inspiration merged with 107 pages of desolate grief. The grief far out weighs the inspiration. I've written about CRY before; so have many others. Although great strides are being made to reduce the number of early deaths from sudden heart death among young people in this country they are, in the scheme of things, baby steps. One death is too many.

We lose, very roughly, twelve young people a week in the UK from undiagnosed heart disorders, mostly but not always, when playing or participating in sport. Most of these individual tragedies are avoidable by simple screening. We don't though, mandate heart screening as a matter of course for our children in the UK and the death toll rises as an inevitable consequence. So, let me put this in plain and simple language that even the most stupid politician can understand.

If a rabid extremist walked out tomorrow morning and wasted 12 youngsters HM Government would immediately make it clear that 'no stone would be left unturned, no expense spared, no hiding place...... yada, yada.' Yet we'll lose more than that number before Christmas Day with kids clocking out because their ticker gives up the ghost with no warning. Because though, it happens in isolated incidents, up and down the land, there is no collective outrage, no front page news, no anger and frustration on Question Time and the rest of the media to force action. Every child in Italy is screened, why not here? To be screened in the UK a child has to meet one of the following criteria, they must be

a. At a school with an alert medical centre, sports department or enlightened headmaster who offers screening

b. Have parents who are aware of SADS and who are in a position to do something about screening

c. Lose a friend, colleague or neighbour in a tragic episode and take action

d. Be dead and the screening comes in the form of an autopsy.

Am I alone in hearing the nonsense alarm going clang-a-lang-a-lang? British sport is crammed full of self righteous self interest. From SKY Sports to the BBC, the Sports Minister, the FA, the RFU, Lords, Lord Coe; the whole shagging lot who are responsible for collective sporting failure on a quite epic scale. We have held two monumental sporting events in the UK in recent years and these people talk and bluster about 'legacy.' How about taking responsibility and doing something good in ensuring that no child who steps foot on a sports ground is at risk from sudden death. That would be a simple, achievable and laudable legacy. It's not mouth guards and shin pads parents need to be worrying about on the sports field, its being dressed in black and working out orders of service because the sporting establishment and those in the government charged with health, sport and education cannot, or will not, get their collective act together. Shame on them. Angry? Bloody right I am.

Of course, some individual sportsmen and members of the sporting establishment are great supporters of the campaign for screening. Among them Nick Easter, Sir Steve Redgrave, Gregor Townsend, Rio Ferdinand and John Inverdale, who experienced at first hand a tragedy when playing. It's not enough though, it just is not enough. I think its time to get angry and to communicate the frustration in the utter madness of doing nothing. It's not much, but I'll be writing to two Members of Parliament a week from here on in and conjuring up whatever other means might be at my disposal to cajole, embarrass and pressure those in positions of authority and responsibility to do the right thing.

We had a saying in the Army, 'JFDI.' 'Just Fucking Do It,' Mr Cameron, just do it.

Corbyn is right; but for all the wrong reasons

Have we really thought this through Mr Cameron or is it about gleefully watching Labour rip itself apart?

MP’s are expected to approve airstrikes against the Islamic State today. In an unexpected turn of events I find myself in agreement with Jeremy Corbyn. He is right, but for all the wrong reasons.

The domestic narrative has been driven by the media and Conservative party into a direct assault on Corbyn’s integrity and worth as a party leader. Unfortunately, the Middle East cannot be distilled down into soundbites and 3 minute Janet & John segments on the ten o’clock news. That approach pretty much created the conditions for ISIS to germinate and thrive in the first place. The general public have become more cynical and suspect about political intentions and smell a rat. At this point, airstrikes can in no way be described as having the support of a convincing majority of voters.

It’s obvious, except to the most clueless and sycophantic Members of Parliament, that additional strikes by the UK with the 5 or 6 strike aircraft that we can muster, (although in addition, 40% of UK airstrikes in Iraq are conducted by unmanned Reaper aircraft), will have little impact on an enemy that occupies territory larger than the United Kingdom.

There is no appetite in the Westminster ‘something must be done’ Brigade to committing ground forces and no long term framework, budget or plan exists for a nation rebuild should ISIS miraculously cease to exist. It seems ground fighting will be left to a shaky coalition of the Syrian Army, the Iraqi Army, the Iranian Army and the Kurds (who as it happens, are far from united themselves).  It’s not even clear if we have the assets to extract any downed airmen from occupied territory, except from Cyprus 500km away, or is that something we leave to the Russians, Americans or French? Instead, we have been drawn into a less than compelling debate that rests on, ‘everyone else is bombing and we should join in.’ No we shouldn’t. The French have committed themselves yet hold a patchy record in their support of previous UK operations. The Russians have thrown their hat in the ring but for motives which are not wholly aligned with our own. In fact, they are not aligned at all as intrusions into Turkish airspace and Syrian radars locking onto Turkish fighter jets prove in a continuing policy of attempting to destabalise NATO. In fact, the Russians are ramping up their involvement with a new airbase opening in central Syria. The Americans will not commit in the force required to eradicate ISIS at this point in the presidential cycle. David Cameron surely knows all this so why the stampede to dust up the odd $1,000 rusty Toyota pick-up truck with £100,000 Hellfire missiles? Frankly, I can’t figure it out.

The absurdity of the airstrike concept becomes apparent when we look back at previous air campaigns. In fact, I can’t think of any that defeated an enemy without significant ground assets except perhaps the final defeat of Japan and no one is going to drop two nuclear warheads, although there would be many who would support such a move. Whilst we have accurate weapons they are only as good as the intelligence from which targets are selected. Looking at the ratio of missiles fired to missions flown in Northern Iraq against ISIS, that intelligence is probably not as complete as commanders would wish. Moreover, the Russians have deployed the S-400 air defence missile system in Syria so we mostly won’t be flying anywhere unless they agree. That’s right, a major international incident could be right down to a half trained Russian peasant pressing the button marked ,’Ogon’!’

Interestingly, while we have conducted 450+ missions in Northern Iraq, Turkey, which has 100 F 16’s, appears not to be striking ISIS at all. The Arab states meanwhile (Saudi, Qatar, Jordon and the UAE), who were initially active in Syria seemed to have stopped their missions some months ago. Am I alone in thinking the UK could get sucked in here and be left holding the can with Russia, (who is using the pretext of attacking ISIS to further its strategic regional goals), on the other side of the table?

The largest fault in the debate however, is an incomplete appreciation of the enemy which is not a good basis on which to make decisions. ISIS is not a rag tag bunch of psychopaths  racing around the desert high on religious fervour. They have funds, they hold territory which is divided into provinces, they have received an unprecedented inflow of Jihadists from around the world and have a bureaucracy that is divided into civil and military arms. Many are well educated and among their number they have experienced military commanders. They think on a long term basis and strictly adhere to the precepts embedded in Islam by the Prophet Muhammad and pursue a return to 7th Century law and justice. It is wrong to describe ISIS as ‘un Islamic.’ It is very Islamic and therein lies the problem. We attempt to rationalise something that we don’t understand by calling them monstrous murderers or by using other descriptions that fit our terms of reference. In their eyes, medieval treatment of their enemy is the norm. The West has continually underestimated the ISIS threat on an intellectual level which is serious because their doctrine marks all of us, including 200m Shia Muslims and any other Muslim who drinks or sells alcohol,  wears Western clothes, votes in an election and so on, who are not one of them, for death. The caliphate has provided the structure for a rebirth of Sharia but in its most fundamental interpretation.  Caliphate propaganda also alludes to the belief that there will be only 12 legitimate caliphs with Baghdad being the eighth and that the armies of Rome will mass to meet the armies of Islam in northern Syria; and that Islam’s final showdown with an anti-Messiah will occur in Jerusalem after a period of renewed Islamic conquest. They believe they have an obligation to terrorise to draw us into such an apocolyptic  showdown. In that context, slowly degrading ISIS from the air may be the least worst option but that’s not something we have heard from the Prime Minister. Notwithstanding that, you can’t bomb ideas and you can’t bomb beliefs.

Just in case anyone has forgotten; we still have lads in Afghanistan - 2 Scots celebrate St Andrew's Day near Camp Qargha in Kabul.

My view in summary then, stop reflex responses to single incidents and work to create a political framework to commit sufficient international force by ground and air to eradicate ISIS and have sufficient long term funding to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure to sustain it independently. In short, get right everything we got wrong in Iraq.

In this letter to a constituent, Labour MP Andy Slaughter nails it. It is encouraging to read an MP openly articulating his reasoning prior to the vote but somewhat depressing listening to others who are too stupid, docile or misguided to think for themselves.

Dear Ms xxxxx,

Thank you for your email regarding airstrikes by UK forces in Syria.

After much reflection and research, and after listening to the views of many people, including constituents, fellow MPs and the Government, I have decided that I cannot support British military action in Syria at present, and tomorrow I will vote against the motion in the House of Commons that sanctions it.

It is my view that the eradication of Daesh from Syria, Iraq and around the world is a necessary process and one in which the UK should be engaged, including through effective military action.

While I am not currently persuaded that it would be lawful for the Royal Air Force to bomb Syria, I agree that this is arguable and it is not the principal reason for my opposing the proposed military action.

There are three tests that I do not believe the Government have passed, and that the Prime Minister failed to satisfy in his statement to the Commons last week.

First, there is no tactical plan for taking control of the area of Syria currently occupied by Daesh should bombing be successful in dislodging them, (which itself is questionable, given that bombing of that area by 11 other countries has continued for over 15 months). There are not competent, relevant or motivated ground troops who are sufficient to the task at present.

Secondly, there is no functioning international alliance that can turn short-term military gains into a programme for the peaceful governance of Syria. The Vienna talks are a start to such a process, but at present the aims of Turkey, Russia, Iran and the NATO countries are so disparate as to be chaotic.

Thirdly, the permanent defeat of Daesh in Syria requires the end of conflict, which is what allows it to thrive. Any short-term retrenchment will likely benefit the Assad regime, which is itself responsible for seven times as many civilian deaths as Daesh this year. That may mean a shift in the balance of forces, but it will bring us no nearer to resolution.

I want Britain to engage in: a concerted diplomatic effort to wean Russia and Iran away from their support for Assad, and Turkey and Saudi Arabia from giving comfort, if not actual support, to Islamist extremist groups; a peace process that allows non-extremist opposition to talk to the acceptable parts of the Syrian Arab Army and Kurdish forces; and a concerted attempt to cut off the funds and arms sustaining Daesh.

That is a very difficult, perhaps impossible, agenda, but to engage in bombing missions on the basis of ‘something must be done”, or even on the basis of solidarity, without clear objectives does not show sound judgment.

There are other arguments for and against intervention: that our contribution would be small, especially given the lack of military targets without the risk of civilian casualties; that we should support allies, whether they be the Iraqi or French Governments; and that we remain at risk from Daesh attacks on the UK, whether we take further military action against them or not.

However, the three points set out above are my red lines. I will, of course, review my decision in the light of changing events, but given the UK’s poor record of intervention in the Middle East over the past decade, I think that further military incursion should be approved only if a high burden of proof can be established.

Thank you again for taking the time to share your thoughts with me on this most important of issues. I set out my views on Syria and on the current situation in Palestine and the Gulf in a debate on the Middle East in Parliament yesterday, which you can read here.


Yours sincerely,

Andy Slaughter

Labour MP for Hammersmith

Comrade!

Jeremy Corbyn’s first shadow cabinet meeting

It was clear immediately after the General Election that the Labour Party meltdown would result in them being out of power for ten years. Obliteration in Scotland, forthcoming electoral boundary changes, splits within the party and no coherent vision whatsoever would make sure of that. Not content with being a party without a cause, fractured and humiliated they then set about self-combustion with an political miscalculation of epic proportions in a spectacular weapons grade cock up when some party ‘thinkers,’ decided the so called ‘debate on the future,’ (which never happened), needed some left wing input. They certainly got that. Step forward the sandal wearing bloke who knits his own clothes, eats tofu and cuts his own hair. Friend to every terrorist group and crack pot dictator on the planet, their very own rebel with 500 causes, Jeremy Corbyn; the new Leader of the Opposition. To describe him as a man taking Labour back to its old roots is a dishonest slur on previous mainstream Labour leaders, many of whom like Dennis Healy, (Landing Officer at Anzio), James Callahan, (Royal Navy in the Far East),  Roy Jenkins, (Royal Artillery & Bletchley Park), Merlyn Rees, (Squadron Leader RAF), had an honourable war record. Even Harold Wilson and Michael Foot volunteered but were rejected.

Portrayed as a soft and cuddly, tweed wearing standard bearer for the weak and oppressed he has resolutely failed to support his own party in Parliament on 500 occasions. Let me tell you, he is not soft and cuddly. He is a short tempered individual who takes any criticism poorly and is a leading candidate for the men in flapping white coats to come and carry him away in a white van with a blue flashing light on top. Years ago I lived in Islington and despised and despaired that the local MP was an individual who supported PIRA when they were busy blowing the arms and legs off children in our towns and cities. He supports Hamas, Hezbollah, criticised the SEALs who took out Bin Laden, is sympathetic to ISIS, AQ, the Taliban and Boko Haram and would cede the Falklands to Argentina, leave NATO and abandon Trident. How anyone will find a way of explain this calamitous hotch potch of insane ramblings to Washington goodness only knows. 

Andy Burnham’s campaign team tweeting magnanimity in defeat (subsequently deleted)

While his election reflects a general tide of discontent with mainstream politics, (UKIP and the SNP in the UK, Saunders and Trump in the US, Catalonian separatists, Syriaz in Greece, Le Pen in France), there is a zero possibility of him being elected. He is himself incidentally, yet another individual who hasn’t done a day’s work in his life outside the Labour movement and politics. My Labradors are more plausible candidates. It will though, ensure that the Labour Party in its current form is finished and the insiders, (who already are plotting his downfall), know that. His one shot at widening his appeal is in the Euro referendum. If he decides to back Brexit he may pull back voters previously lost to UKIP but they are the very voters who will recoil at his stance on the Falklands and support of terrorists given most of our dead and wounded come from white working class communities where patriotism is not the dirty word that is might be among the champagne socialist of Islington and Highgate or with the luvies at the BBC or Guardian, (and aren't they having a heart wrenching weekend!).

There aren’t many winners here, except perhaps political satirists and cartoonists. Parliamentary democracy and our international reputation certainly won’t gain anything with a weak and wild eyed opposition led by a barmy Looney Tunes Marxist. Monty Python couldn’t have come up with a more bizarre script. The fact that Corbyn never really wanted or expected to be Leader hurtles the whole nonsense into the realms of chaotic comedy, especially and contrary to what the media portray, not that many people actually care about Labour sailing off the political cliff. The Tories meanwhile will lie in wait for Corbyn and his fellow delusional barking mad chums to embed themselves properly before ripping them apart in a merciless feeding frenzy. That way, the whole of Labour will be tainted and not just a few extremists.

There is viable concern that weak opposition leads to bad government and that is the challenge before Cameron now; to pursue the traditional Conservative ideal of one nation politics. The astonishing advancement of state Academy schools in London, much of it supported by City funding, is a good example of the way forward. It’s now his game to lose. The rest of us can sit back and enjoy the show. Personally, I’m hoping that Diane Abbot gets the education brief. It will be good to hear her justification for educating her own son privately whilst criticising the rest of us for so doing.

No, We Don't Have to Do Anything Actually

I would have a few questions for these lads..

So the UK is to accept thousands of Syrian refugees.

The media frenzy has leveraged up the emotional blackmail leaving the Prime Minister with no where to turn. He should have turned to the citizens who will again bear the brunt of the influx. If the Government chooses to act on whatever happens to be the latest issue trending on Twitter then good luck to them but it’s hardly statesman like. The dead child on a Turkish beach seems to have been the tipping point. That was the dead child on a Turkish beach proving Stalin’s dictum that ‘one death is a tragedy, a million deaths a statistic.’ The boy drowned after getting on board a Turkish boat run by Turkish smugglers in Turkish waters under the eyes of the Turkish coastguard. How does that become the problem for citizens in our towns and cities who already are swamped with previous waves of immigration creating overcrowded schools, GP’s and housing lists. Moreover, why get in the boat in the first place? If the family were fleeing war they had succeeded in doing that by being in Turkey. Ifd the father had actred so recklessly in the UK he’d now be in jail awaiting trial.

I have read a number of pieces on the web from locals suggesting that many of these refugees are not Syrian, Afghani or Iraqi but include Palestinians and others. Have you noticed incidentally, just how many apparent refugees are young men aged between 10 and 30 carrying the latest smartphones and wearing spic and span Nike trainers? One could say that anyone living in the Middle East could have refugee status, I wouldn’t want to live there but the line, a line, must be drawn.

Frankly, I do find it somewhat repugnant that we didn’t lift a finger to save the Yazidis when ISIS where hunting them down like animals but as soon as people turn up in Greece on News at Ten ‘something must be done.’

The causes of the crisis are wide and varied. We do know however that ill-advised action in Libya and ill-advised inaction in Syria are big contributors to the problem. Thank you Twitter. I wrote about them here at the time. I’ve also written over the years about the tidal wave of humanity on its way from north and sub Saharan Africa as a result of war, economic failure and climate change. The current problem is characterised by the media, especially the BBC who have lost all objectivity, as an urgent temporary crisis. It isn’t. We haven’t seen the beginning of this yet and just wait till the Indian sub continent hear there’s a new game in town. The UK is going to have to get a whole lot more selfish unless it chooses to completely change its way of life upside down. The Australians have gone down that road, we should urgently consider it.

One thing that Mr Cameron does have right is in focusing on the dispossessed in the camps rather than those besieging Hungary and Austria. That gives some basis of control and screening. Germany may retrospectively be moved to consider this when they collectively  realise that they may have opened the doors to the biggest Trojan Horse in history.

Let’s be clear about one thing. The UK has had open doors for many years but with no planned increase in infrastructure to support the soaring population. In the eighty years between 1851 and 1931 the population grew by about 1m souls and between 1951 and 1991 by 2m. Following the relaxation of controls by the Labour government some 3.6m immigrants arrived between 1997 and 2010. That’s more than the net total in all of our previous history. Thanks Tony.  The Office of National Statistics now estimate that as of last year, 8.3m people living in the UK were born abroad which is around 13% of the population. Don’t let any ranting old pop singer let you believe otherwise.



The lie down and cry Islington Liberals will of course be banging their very big moral drums but they will be the ones least affected. The poor bloody infantry in all this will again be the white working class in our poorest urban and rural areas. School places, accommodation, GP and NHS dentists lists are all already challenging as pressure on public services grows.  Mr Cameron seems to be aware of this given his reluctance to act until pushed to the edge. He should remain so for we are building up problems for ourselves in our social structure which are all of our own making.

Regardless of what they think at the BBC, I’m not alone in thinking this is not going to end at all well.

"Exit light, Enter night, Take my hand, We're off to Never-Never land?"

I can't believe we really deserve this..

Here we are then. The appointed day after far too long and assanine a campaign which has lacked vision and truthfulness. The electorate have been treated like children with each party competing to scare us away from one party or the other. That they have all failed miserably to articulate a pathway that meets the hopes, dreams and aspirations of citizens is actually as tragic as it is an acute moral and political failure.

A missed opportunity doesn't come close to describing the paucity of original thought which is badly needed to meet the demands and accelerating evolution of the domestic and geopolitical world which is pressing in on us. Not to mention economic fragility, demographic pressures and a continuing technology revolution which will see 50% of white collar jobs replaced by a commuter chip or robot within 20 years. Westminster and all it encompasses; politicians, advisors, spin misters, lobbyists, the media - either they are all deeply cynical in a contemptible and mendacious way or they are simply self obsessed stupid people. We have in fact, after all that campaigning, very little hard evidence on which to make a decision and the consequences may be grave. 

another contrived and stage managed talk

Here then, are my top gripes from the last six weeks,

  • "I've talked to lots of ordinary people up and down the country." How many times have we heard that, (insert name of major party leader here). No you haven't. You've purposely been kept in a bubble away from normal people because you don't know how to communicate with them and your minders want to avoid any blowback from any disgruntled individual you might meet. 
  • Ed Milliband telling us the NHS will suddenly disappear under any other government. This rings all the bells. Untruthful, scaremongering and cowardly. The whole population can see the NHS is unsustainable in its current form for all the reasons that are evident to every family in the land. Free cradle to grave health care without restraint for every citizen employing every single facet of pharmaceutical and medical engineering advance is simply a black hole that will swallow the entire economy. Thats been known for decades. Its obvious that none will have the stones to face up to the problem right up until we reach the point of crisis. That means people will suffer and die before we begin to come up with creative solutions to meet the challenge.
  • Odd how minor matters such as Defence, Britain's role in the world in respect of foreign policy and our relationship with organisations like NATO and the Commonwealth have all but been swept under the carpet. Sure, we sent HMS Bulwark to the Med under the "Something Must Be Done," flag but I haven't seen for example, any earnest debate about the vast migration from Sub Saharan and North Africa which faces Europe and which too, has been forecast for decades.
  • Surgin' Sturgeon, that irritating women whose head wobbles like a Thunderbird puppet has done a spectacular job for someone who isn't even standing in the election. The media have of course fed the monster rather than doing their job in unpicking and unravelling the absurd demands, promises and fantasies promulgated by the SNP which for some bizarre reason are accepted as factual by all except those who quietly brood in the stillness of their own homes, worrying about the nasty and intolerant place their country is becoming. 
  • The BBC found, probably by accident, some mitigation in the Leeds debate but overall their coverage has been anything but fair and balanced. The journalists simply can't help themselves and their in built institutional left wing bias always finds a way of seeping through. As I mentioned in a previous post, Andrew Neil is probably the hero of the campaign and one of the few who has called the political class to account. He's been a joy to watch.
  • A glaring characteristic of the campaign has been the vast array of political figures who have been kept in their box throughout. Obviously, the spinmeisters decided early on that anyone with the least bit controversial views should be hidden away. They were, which has made the whole thing very dull indeed. How many times have you seen Ed Balls for example, Michael Gove or Eric Pickles?
  • Talking of Mr Pickles, just think Eric, if I may call you that, how easy a runaway election this would have been for your party if only you'd kept your promise to get the bloody wheelie bins emptied every week. This is the United Kingdom yet rubbish collection is more irregular than it was fifty years ago and more in keeping with that seen in a Peruvian shanty town than a modern advanced economy. Yes, just hand over two grand a year in council tax and drive your refuse to the recycling place yourself because we can't be bothered. Perhaps they kept Eric off the box in case someone nailed him on that, I certainly would.
  • Perish the thought but this incidentally, is not an election that anyone should perhaps actually want to win. The incumbent is most likely to remembered in history for a thousand years as the man who presided over the break-up of the United Kingdom. He will definately face a recession and probable economic crisis, that is simply as unavoidable as it is cyclical. A cursory glance at the numbers tells us that and no, the next one won't be a surprise, "none saw it coming." Plenty of people are writing and warning now. I find it beyond reason that all the parties happily expound their views on how to spend more money but not not how to create wealth. Beyond our shores, after years of ill thought out meddling by the West in the Middle East, it is now on fire. We can't ignore it indefinitely although our political elite are doing a pretty good job of it.
  • The amount of spending plans resting on taxing houses within the Circle Line is just madness; don't they realise houses can simply fall in value? Perhaps they might like to acquaint themselves with the deflation monster which is being exported from China and which is pulsing throughout western economies creating fiscal havoc.
  • If the major parties care as much as they tell us they do about the United Kingdom, why has no one discussed or debated the potential for a short term government of national unity to see off the SNP?
  • Who on earth thought it was fair or reasonable to give that deluded looney Trotskyist from the Green Party a national platform while ignoring the DUP from Northern Ireland? It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.
  • Russell Brand, seriously?
  • The smell of corruption surrounding postal votes which remains unaddressed. 

Well, we are where we are and goodness knows where that leads us to this time next week. There will be surprises and moments of incredulity aplenty tonight. Myself, I'll be at the Guards Museum for dinner following a talk on the battle of Waterloo, the battle that really cemented this nation as one, banished the Napoleonic threat for ever and provided the security on which the Empire was built. I shall enjoy that a good deal more than I have this election.

Selective Memory

Ed Balls says abolishing the nom-dom statuses would be costly for Britain In an interview on BBC Radio Leeds in January,

I’m not yet sure if I should feel uplifted by the bountiful entertainment we receive daily through election campaign mishaps or if we should feel dispirited and dismayed that some of these utter buffoons might actually get elected on the day and god forbid, some of them might end up with the keys to something important.

Labour are of course leading the way with a daily car crash and this morning’s furore over non domicile residents is especially notable. In the spirit of “knock out a quick policy announcement, grab the headlines and don’t worry about the detail,” Labour did just that this morning and it was all going swimmingly until someone had the temerity to look at the detail. The whole nonsense has been unravelling ever since. First we discover that Ed Balls in an interview with Radio Leeds in January said, “If you abolish the whole status it will probably end up costing Britain money because some people will leave the country.” Quite.

Shabana Mahmood chucks some keroscene on the flames

Then we discover that Labour has befitted from some £12m in donations from non-doms various. Ed Balls appears to have gone missing from the airwaves and his aides have been stumbling through interviews making up more stuff as they try to make sense of the mess they've been abandoned to.

Quite frankly, I care as much about non doms as they do about me which is very little indeed. The problem here is that Labour are running an election campaign based on envy. If it doesn't fail, as it deserves to, then the economy will certainly do so in quick time shortly afterwards.

Here’s a take from my chum Marcus Ashworth at BESI,

It's the Equality stoopid... this election is coming down to two words Economy vs Equality. And I defy anyone who says this is all dull, it's a right humdinger and to misquote Samuel Johnson if you are tired of this election then you are tired of life. Golly even the sainted Nicola Sturgeon was booed as she made clear that the 2016 Holyrood election SNP manifesto would likely include a call for another independence referendum.

All the rules are being broken as Bliar is wheeled out from his political banishment despite the Labour manifesto writer John Cruddas being really rather rude about him only recently. UKIP rather enjoyed Europe having its five minutes but surely the man who tried to give us the Euro and doesn't trust the hallowed British public to make up their own minds is an odd ploy for Miliband who has fought and expects to win an election on a very clear rejection of everything New Labour? Maggie died 2 years ago so what next? My how things have changed since her time as the Marxist Kraken awakes from its slumbers.

Europe and Bliar were sharply shoved back in the closet though as Red Ed lives up to his moniker by promising to revoke something that goes back to Pitt the Younger. The Tories have already pointed out that Labour is not really going to revoke non-dom status as 1. They have no clue how much it would raise (or much more likely in the law of unintended consequences how much it would end up costing us all) 2. Would only apply to those who stay for more than 4 to 5yrs (cue a little spell abroad and hey presto I’m back under a new guise).



Soak the rich class war is the only platform Miliband has left under his Equality drive - Labour is utterly moribund under anything to do with the economy but no amount of further CEOs of FTSE100 companies signing letters is going to influence what is fast becoming the most divisive election since the war (Attlee was a silent assassin). The politics of envy are to the fore and logic is the car crash victim but Miliband has never shirked from believing that the lessons of the GFC are that the moral reprehension so ably stoked by the BBC/Guardianista bien pensant is a major vote winner and hang the inevitable consequences.
 

Ed sincerely believes it is his mission to change the UK permanently and finish the job Gordy Bruin so nearly achieved. So much for the canard that all the major politicos are alike as Farage trumpets - we have a red in tooth and claw old-fashioned socialist and he wants to alter a country near you. As does his new chum north of the border with her "have it all" message to Scotland that by voting SNP you get rid of Cameron and subsequently the Sassenachs entirely. By definition the 55% who voted for the Union in Sep should logically thereby vote Tory? Unfortunately that is a leap too far sadly methinks.

By rights Cameron should be walking away with this election but Crosby has kept him on a tight leash as he stood by and let Sturgeon and all the other left-wing rabble get away with unmitigated economic illiteracy that makes a mockery of all this coalition has achieved in averting the head on car crash that Gordy drove us towards. Clegg had his chance to be remembered favourably for his unheralded sterling work that kept his unhinged party from ruining the really quite radical work of the past 5yrs.

Unfortunately he has chosen to pick and mix selective memory - if he loses Sheffield Hallam it will be the ultimate irony for the man who petulantly reneged on the Boundary Commission changes - the egregious bias that might really usher in a Miliband Govt. We can't expect Labour to have any shame but any such Admin will be founded on a lie and as with the inevitable consequence of an ending of the Union as the prize that Sturgeon/Salmond will wreak as their prize for supporting a Tories out at any cost mandate then I guess we will really get what we voted for. It's life Jim but not as we know it...

 

Salmond Crosses the Line

VC's of Wellington College

These pages are full of instances of people speaking before engaging their brains, me included. Alex Salmond though crossed the line yesterday when he said, in referring to David Cameron and the "debate" debate,  “He should have been called to account last year and should be called to account this year. Like most posh boys, given half a chance, he’ll run away from a fight."

Just for reference Mr Salmond, below you can see the number of boys on the Roll of Honour for the Great War from each of the following schools,

  • Eton 1157
  • Marlborough 733
  • Wellington 707
  • Charterhouse 687
  • Rugby 686
  • Cheltenham 675
  • Harrow 644
  • George Watson's 605
  • Dulwich 506
  • Winchester 505
  • St Paul's 490
  • Glasgow High 478
  • Malvern 457
  • Uppingham 451
  • Tonbridge 415

Contemptible

The Defence debate rumbles on and it is heartening that after a generation of cuts some members of the House and senior officers are standing up to state the case for steadiness in the Defence budget. Whether anyone is listening is another question. The Prime Minister apparently said this to LBC when he was asked about the complaints from senior figures, ‘Obviously, they have their own book to talk – sometimes quite literally a book to talk – and sometimes they just want to make their views known,’ and former Defence Secretary now Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond’s reported quote to Tory MP’s “there are no votes in Defence,” is nothing but disgraceful. 

Without going over much travelled ground about new and growing threats to our security may I just ponder on one thing, for today at least. 

n 1914 many people expected war with Germany but most assumed it would be at sea. That left most of them untroubled given the Fleet was twice the size of any other two navies at the time combined. The pesky Kaiser had other ideas and soon the Expeditionary Force under Sir John French, a small well trained and well led force of professional soldiers 100,000 strong was dispatched to France. 

The Kaiser wasn’t at all happy about this insolent move and regarded it as a 'treacherous' decision by Britain to go to war against Germany. In fact, he issued an order that Sir John's 'contemptible' little army be defeated forthwith.  

Army Order Issued by Emperor William II, 19 August 1914

It is my Royal and Imperial command that you concentrate your energies, for the immediate present, upon one single purpose, and that is that you address all your skill and all the valour of my soldiers to exterminate first the treacherous English and walk over General French's contemptible little army. Headquarters, Aix-la-Chapelle 

Unfortunately, that is exactly what they did. By the end of November 1914 the original BEF had ceased to exist and most of the original 100,000 were casualties, exhausted and overwhelmed.

The pre war British Army was equipped, trained and experienced in expeditionary warfare throughout the Empire. The current British Army is positioned in pretty much the same way. The default Government decision for any global stress point is send in a troop of Special Forces, send in some training guys for whoever is perceived that week to be on our side and if pushed, send some non-lethal equipment. Then, if things start to warm up do not very much for as long as possible giving the bad guys time to embed themselves, perhaps have a debate in the House of Commons and hope to lose and if pushed to the limit, ping off a few fast jets (if we have any spare), or fire off some Cruise missiles from a far away sub. As soon as is then practical pull everyone out, hand out a new medal and move on, thanking “the best Forces in the world.”

I know its kind of unbelievable but that really is the way some highly placed politicians and their non-military advisors think. They genuinely believe that anything other than light intervention is unthinkable in the modern environment.

Of course, that approach is all very well and works, right up until we walk into an enemy every bit as well equipped, trained and led as are we. That's mostly what happened to the old BEF. Then, all the metrics change. It’s at that point that we face an elevated risk of high casualties. When we don’t have enough replacement troops to rotate to give those on the ground proper rest. When we don’t have reserves to call upon. When we don’t have enough kit in our war stores to replace the damaged and lost. When other enemies attempt to exploit our focus elsewhere but when we’re not resourced to contain more than one situation.

We were very lucky not to suffer more casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan. There were many situations when sub units came close to being overwhelmed, (unfortunately a Military Police patrol in Iraq was). If this Government, and whoever is the incumbent after May, continues to play fast and loose with Defence there will be a consequence and that consequence is pretty simple to anticipate; more dead soldiers, a potential repeat of the military and political humiliation of Basra or possible worse..... much worse.

There is a school of thought incidentally that having failed twice in ten years, arguing over an Army strength of 82,000 or 50 odd thousand is rather irrelevant given 82,000 is just too small to offer a credible force for anything other than operations with a small Division. There is also a reasonable criticism of Army leadership both from outside and from within that it did little to offer politicians good guidance before recent conflicts and were in denial during them but are busy rewriting the recent past and its context. There is some truth in all of that.

Nonetheless, nobody likes a man who argues about the bill with a waiter who can’t talk back. Kind of the same with politicians and soldiers.