A Nasty Piece of Work

John Martin McDonnell is a nasty piece of work. Some may view him as just dim and irresponsible, others as a sinister and manipulative individual. I am firmly in the latter camp. McDonnell has called for a million people to march in protest in London on July 1st. Is that clever when London is under persistent threat of terrorist attack? Will the Met welcome having to divert resources to police the event? There will be trouble. You can absolutely guarantee that. 

Veteran Corbyn agitator riles protesters at Kensington Town Hall, (picture from Guido)

McDonnell is urging people to protest to help destabilise the government, bring down the Prime Minister and force a second general election. His disrespectful contempt for democracy is outrageous and it is dangerous. The devious and calculating way that tragic events are being weaponised to stir up a hate campaign, which is full of false facts and disinformation and includes agitators appearing to protest in West Kensington while labelling themselves ‘locals', against the Prime Minister is an affront to decency and due process. 

What is happening is much, much more than mischief making. McDonnell and his henchmen are attempting to subvert our democratic process. In clear and open view the Labour party has allowed itself to be taken over by extreme left Marxists. This is not about housing in West London, those poor souls are being used as ladders for the cynical operators of Momentum to propel themselves into a position of total dominance of the Labour party and from there, the Government.  

Corbyn meanwhile is wandering around every new disaster like some latter day saint proclaiming love and hugs for all. His new found respect for anything with a blue light on it or the word ‘security,’ in it is especially dubious. Corbyn is the anti Christ. That so many Labour MP’s who previously treated his policies with disdain are now swooning in his shadow is cowardly and pathetic. They are first in line against the wall as they will discover when they are deselected one by one. That so many feeble-minded and dim witted fools can’t see the truth of what is happening in front of them is worrying. 

 

In another place, in another time there were also demonstrations against democratic election results. It did not end particularly well.

Stranger In A Strange Land

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Many will simply shake their head while muttering, 'the world has gone mad.' I know I did. We are where we are though. Westminster is trying to figure out how to make a seized up situation work while the rest of the country is going about its business with an air of, 'well that showed them.' The chickens though, whole squadrons of them, will at some point in the future be coming home to roost. In the piece that follows, my friend Tim Price of PriceValue Partners offers his take on events, past, present and future.

“If you have been voting for politicians who promise to give you goodies at someone else’s expense, then you have no right to complain when they take your money and give it to someone else, including themselves.” - Thomas Sowell.

It is difficult to know where to begin. That 262 British parliamentary seats fell to a party led by a self-confessed Socialist is bad enough. That said leader lacks the support of 172 of his own MPs is troubling. But that someone who has publicly supported the IRA, Hizbollah and Hamas could attract 12.9 million votes while the United Kingdom is under attack by terrorists simply beggars belief. Sir Richard Dearlove, the former head of MI6, the British Secret Intelligence Service, points out that Jeremy Corbyn – who seeks the office of Prime Minister – would not be cleared to join either his former agency, or GCHQ, or MI5; and indeed would, 2 in the past, have been actively investigated by the latter. It is said that you get the politicians you deserve. So what on earth did we do to deserve this ?

Letter to the Financial Times, 8 June 2017, the day of the UK General Election.

Letter to the Financial Times, 8 June 2017, the day of the UK General Election.

Nor are we making a narrow party political point. As Clive Crook points out for Bloomberg, while Jeremy Corbyn offered the UK electorate the sort of swivel-eyed Trotskyism that ought to have died out in the 1970s along with flares and safari jackets, Theresa May was making her own lurch towards the left:

..instead of championing a solidly pro-market centrism, May adopted a semi-skimmed leftism heavy on industrial-policy meddling and other piecemeal dirigisme.

So a plague on both your houses.

Many investors today were forged in the crucible of the Global Financial Crisis. This was, no two ways about it, a crisis originating in debt. The plain numbers are stark. Simon Mikhailovich of Tocqueville Bullion Reserve reminds us of those numbers with a sobering tweet:

A bit of math. With the global debt / GDP ratio at 320% and the cost of average debt service at 2%, it takes 6.4% growth per annum just to service the debt. Not happening.

Our politics have gone mad, and our markets have gone mad with them. As Ronni Stoeferle and Mark Valek point out in their latest, magisterial study of the yellow metal, In Gold We Trust,

We live in an age of advanced monetary surrealism. In Q1 2017 alone, the largest central banks created the equivalent of almost $1,000 billion worth of central bank money ex nihilo. Naturally the fresh currency was not used to fund philanthropic projects but to purchase financial securities*. Although this ongoing liquidity supernova has temporarily created an uneasy calm in financial markets, we are strongly convinced that the real costs of this monetary madness will reveal themselves down the line.

*With that amount of money, one could purchase 20 Big Macs for every person on the planet. Notably in Switzerland – according to the Big Mac Index – the most expensive jurisdiction worldwide. Alternatively, one could also buy one 1/10th oz. gold coin for every person on the planet. We would recommend the latter.

Faced with universally expensive bonds and predominantly expensive stocks, there seems to be little point in low cost index tracking – at present, at least. This is an investment ‘strategy’ that Jim Mellon describes as “pass the parcel for investment morons”. The only sensible and credible responses to the investment challenge of our times can be to diversify broadly, and then invest selectively, and defensively. (Longstanding readers, along with our clients, will know that we put particular emphasis on Benjamin Graham-style value stocks, systematic trend-following funds, and gold.)

This is also a crisis of education. How, aside from craven bribery, could so many young Britons flock to the sirens of socialism ? How did so many millions manage to avoid any grasp of history (or choose to ignore it) ? Eamonn Butler of the Adam Smith Institute, however, is not defeatist. He quotes from the master, Hayek: 

We must make the building of a free society once more an intellectual adventure, a deed of courage. What we lack is.. a truly liberal radicalism which does not spare the susceptibilities of the mighty.. and which does not confine itself to what appears today as politically possible. We need intellectual leaders who are willing to work for an ideal.. They must be.. willing to stick to principles and to fight for their full realisation, however remote.

There is otherwise the very real likelihood of nasty intergenerational conflict. The Baby Boomers already ate most of the pies. The millennials and Generation Z are right to be angry. But last week this anger manifested itself in the form of some Corbyn supporters burning newspapers. To anyone with a sense of history, the UK today feels like a very strange, and disturbing, place.

Oopsie!

The croft in the Highlands scenario just became a viable option

The croft in the Highlands scenario just became a viable option

The REME vehicle mechanics had been working on the engine pack throughout the night. As dawn rose through the mist on the North German Plain Bombardier Clark turned to me and said, ‘Well Sir, I reckon the things properly fxcking fxcked.’ Bombardier Clark had a way with words which I find difficult to better this morning as I survey the train wreck that is the election result. 

Tory passengers noticed before the driver did that something was awry

Tory passengers noticed before the driver did that something was awry

Despite all the opposition parties swaggering around the studios like winners there aren’t any really. Except for Jeremy Corbyn personally, house prices in Scotland and Ruth Davidson. The parliamentary Labour Party have just been handed their worst nightmare. New Labour is history and New Old Labour is here to stay given that Corbyn’s position is unassailable. Theresa May is on political life-support and will in all likelihood be gone by mid morning or will give notice to leave, (although the BBC are now signalling she intends to stay). I expect you could then say that Boris is a potential winner but he, or whoever the Tories elect, will be handed a chalice laced with political arsenic. One of the things I got right, and there weren’t many, was that Ruth Davidson would shine and she has with a genuinely robust set of wins in Scotland which has nobbled IndyRef 2. The SNP though will have more influence at Westminster than before. The Lib Dems went nowhere and UKIP did every bit as badly as we expected.  The Europeans meanwhile are not happy. They wanted a strong and unified set of negotiators on the other side of the table.

As an act of national collective madness this will take some beating. I look at the fact that so many misguided half-wits voted for a man who supported terrorists uninterrupted for 30 years with bewildering incredulity. The not so nice part of me thinks, ‘Stuff it. I hope you get your grand coalition. Your loans might go down but there will be no jobs for you at the end of it.’ The Conservatives have however, only themselves to blame as I explained in a previous post. They might have been hearing but they weren’t listening. That under 30’s, of all previous political hues and family backgrounds, lurched to Labour is an unforgivable dereliction of responsibility by the Tories. 

One thing is for sure and for certain; we will have another election this year. We’re turning into bloody Italy. This morning, the croft plan doesn't seem so silly. The only, and I do mean the only mitigation in staying up all night was Emily Maitlis in that red dress. I think Bombardier Clark would concur.

Are We There Yet?

"Election Warms Up". Good coverage of the  General Election (in 1964)

One day to go until the Election and most of the parties will be wishing they could wind the clock back and start again. Led by the Conservatives, with the worst campaign in memory and about as interesting as toothache, most of the parties set low standards, failed to achieve them and have been in defensive mode from the get-go. The Liberals seemed to wandering around in a baffled daze wondering where the buses went. They were left behind at the start line when they put all their eggs in the basket marked, ‘cross about Brexit,’ without it having dawned on them that most of the ’48%,’ had moved on. (Tim Farron incidentally is rumoured to be vulnerable tomorrow). UKIP’s engines blew up when they turned the key while the SNP charged off at 100 miles an hour but in the wrong direction, having made the same miscalculation as the Liberals and subsequently went back to start again focusing on public services while under unremitting pressure for Ruth Davidson. The clear campaigning winner is Comrade Corbyn who has successfully rewritten the narrative of his personal support of terrorist groups over 30 years and presented a platform of reasonable unreasonableness by promising lots of free stuff to anyone with a hand out whether they need free stuff or not. As one member of a Question Time audience described it, ‘your manifesto reads like a letter to Santa Claus.’ It is easily the most mendacious, devious and manipulative campaign by Labour that I can recall. But clever nonetheless. So, May will win tomorrow but hasn’t really earned it. But why has CC done so well and May so badly?

The Conservative campaign has been described as ‘presidential.’ My view is that the Prime Minister initially set out to attempt to be anything but presidential. I believe her aim was to restore some gravitas and dignity to the office and to do so by avoiding electioneering stunts with hi-vis jackets and hard hats or rolled up sleeves with a pint in hand being a ‘man of the people,' as every PM since Mrs T has at some point attempted and mostly failed to do. The approach has failed though. She has come across more as something between a sub post office mistress and a doctors receptionist. Worse, until this week those ministers with a strong intellectual belief and understanding of their departments and policies, and a charm with which to communicate them, have been hidden from view. The manifesto was, I thought, much better than the press it received suggested. Despite being more 6 null Left wing than I would like I think I understand what the intended broad thrust was. In fact, it was woefully undersold and there were plenty of points which have resonance with the electorate that deserved some flesh on the bones such as the aspirations to build out the digital infrastructure so that every home has access to hi speed broadband by 2020. 

The Conservative manifesto also suggests a policy of student debt forgiveness for student nurses but is limited in its scope. The Conservatives should listen to Crumble, expand it and make a noise about it. I have long argued against the current loan regime, (how can a compound rate of 6.5% be justified in the current low rate environment? It is usury, plain and simple. A £42k student debt with compound interest at 6.5% will be £80k in ten years time). At a minimum, HMG should be offering students electing to do courses which have a direct benefit to the country, (computer science, medical, social work, teaching etc) and where there is need, discounts which increase with length of service. This should be extended to those who subsequently go into a government job where they make a career sacrifice to do so. Further, young people who engage in voluntary work on either a charitable or local government basis, join initiatives such as Teach First, or serve in the Reserves should also benefit from a discount. Given most loans will anyway remain unpaid HMG may as well attempt to derive some benefit from them for the national good. In committing to this the Conservatives would lay the foundation for some sort of vision for the under 30’s which has been the biggest miss of the entire campaign. In fact, the Tories have been watching a completely different movie and have left the young with little incentive to vote for them. Usually, when people start talking about ‘the vision,’ it is time to switch off and walk away but in this instance, a better articulated view of how the UK is going to come to terms with accelerating developments in computer power, automation, robotics and biotech against a backdrop of rapidly changing demographics would have been a good thing. A simple statement such as ‘All primary school children will be taught elementary coding by part time students and graduates who will enjoy a level of student debt relief commensurate with commitments made,’ would at least put a marker down and be duly noted by the young vote. Oh and while I am on the subject of students it’s about time HMG shook down the universities and tackled head-on the weak value proposition that so many students are paying for in terms of poor and sporadic teaching on three year courses which, in many subjects, could easily be done in two.

The Dementia Tax episode was just woeful. Again, there is some good rationale to it which would leave most if not all better off than they would be today but the delivery was mistimed and misunderstood. The big, (and getting bigger), problem we have in the UK is that since Labour years ago weaponised the NHS the chances of having a rational discussion about it are round about zero. Back in 1978 my geography teacher, Mr MacKay told us that with the then rate of growth by 2027 we would all either be working for the NHS or be patients of the NHS. Mr McKay was a lot smarter than most of our politicians. Their selfish and infantile thinking precludes debate about potentially innovative and creative solutions to a growing problem and 6 null is contemptible. The other big problem for the NHS is that it has become the default dustbin for everyone in society with any kind of problem, medical or not. That, with a galloping sense of entitlement encouraged by idiot politicians from its users produces unsustainable and unreasonable demand. If citizens in Ireland pay for GP’s appointments what makes us so special that we shouldn’t do the same? The whole national approach to the NHS, and the expectations that we have of it are in heavy need of recalibration rather than the national state of denial which exists. A general election though, is not the time to do it.

Tory strategists clearly thought they were being clever by occupying the centre ground and edging slightly to the left, presumably with the intention of pushing Corbyn further out to the extremes of policy. Unfortunately for them, they were left looking flat-footed when Corbyn outflanked them and has had the bare faced cheek, as someone who has voted against all Anti Terrorisim Acts, to start selling himself as a friend of the police and security services and a bastion of law and order. I am left incredulous that some believe the outrageous nonsense he has been promulgating. Fortunately, the electorate are not as stupid as Corbyn needs them to be in order to win. Let’s though, just remind ourselves of some of the things that would disappear if Comrade Corbyn actually won, (I'll see you all in the hills then....)

The Monarchy

The SAS

Special Branch

The 'Five Eyes' Intelligence Sharing Agreement

Winning

Foreign Corporations

Low Interest rates

Synagogues

Gibraltar

High Net Worth Individuals

Scotland

Foreign Investment

All the Regimental Silver (to be returned to its original owners)

Tax Receipts

The Elgin Marbles (and everything else cluttering up the British Museum)

Public Schools, Grammar Schools, Academies

The Falklands

Trident

The House of Lords

Our International Reputation

Statues of famous statesmen

Northern Ireland

Premium of the pound over the Euro

 

 

 

 

Scared Rabbits

Jeremy Corbyn is not having a very good day. Running over a BBC cameraman's leg is not usually the sort of voter friendly PR which helps political campaigns, although I doubt very much the BBC will cover it much. It's all rush, rush, rush to get to the next photo op in front of a group of mannequins holding placards as veteran Rob Gray discovered yesterday in York. Mr Gray shouted a question to Corbyn who was on stage outside. Mr Gray wanted to know what Corbyns position was on the pursuit and possible prosecution of Northern Ireland veterans. Mr Corbyn said he would come down and speak to Mr Gray. Instead he hurried off in the opposite direction while Mr Gray's path was blocked by a minder.

This kind of antiseptic and choreographed campaigning is endemic in British politics. It wasn't always so. There was a time when politicians were expected to prove themselves in front of their voters, when unrehearsed heckling and questioning was part of the game and politicians were expected to show a little more grit. The last time we saw such an exercise was Labour's Jim Murphy in 2014 when he did his 'No,' 100 towns in 100 days tour throughout Scotland. Before then? Well, you perhaps have to go back quite a while. I accept that politicians then did not have to face 24 hour news or any small verbal indescretion instantly being pinged around the world but the current state of affairs lacks balance. This piece from Newsnight from a couple of years ago adequately sums up where we are and where we have come from,

Election Data Point

So, ‘This Brexit thing has given me a direct motivation to get more involved in the politics.’ That'll help then.........

So, ‘This Brexit thing has given me a direct motivation to get more involved in the politics.’ That'll help then.........

The Bank Holiday weekend has delivered a welcome respite for most from the General Election campaign which actually, is delivering all that was expected with few surprises. The Conservatives are pitching the ‘strong and stable,’ script with tedious monotony and downplaying their strong lead lest the volatile electorate begin to sniff some trace of a sense of entitlement from them. Labour continue to veer off in so many directions it is difficult to keep up, especially so for the blundering idiot charged with leading them over the cliff which he will achieve with almost no effort at all, (although I’m convinced he won’t make it to the end of the campaign and suspect he’ll have a breakdown long before the end of May). The LibDems have got themselves in a right old tizzy with their leader, Tim Farron, (he’s the one that looks like a Spitting Image puppet thats been left in direct sunlight for too long), seemingly unsure of where he stands on the gay sex thing and he now tells us he’s ‘a bit of a Eurosceptic.’ Right on Timmy boy. All those supporters who knit their own clothes and cut their own hair will have been pulling it out in clumps over the weekend. The SNP meanwhile are still being mean about the English and deflecting criticism about education in Scotland like true Dodgeball champions while UKIP appear to have spontaneously combusted without many people having noticed. Across the main parties there is an unseemly rush to the exits with shouts of ‘Carpe Diem,’ from a raft of special political advisors and party apparatchiks, anxious to grab a safe seat from retiring members of Parliament and the political press can’t believe their luck that Westminster just keeps on giving with their workload brimming over with yet another election.

So far so good. 

There is change though. Some of it subtle enough to be missed, or ignored by the mainstream. The first concerns Corbyn, which I will deal with in this post. There has been a gentle hidden hand on the tiller attempting to alter the narrative where Corbyn's relationship with Sinn Fein and the Provisional IRA is concerned. The historical canvas is being recoloured to suggest that during all the years that Corbyn was involved with, and supported PIRA, he did so in pursuit and attainment of peace. This is facile nonsense. Corbyn voted against the peace process and with it the Anglo Irish agreement. This is the man who hosted Sinn Fein in the Houses of Parliament just weeks after the Brighton bombing. The same man who was a mouthpiece for the Republican pressure group in the UK, Troops Out. Corbyn regularly attended and spoke at commemorations for terrorists in the eighties and was general secretary of the left wing publication Labour Briefing,’ which supported PIRA atrocities and backed the Brighton bombing which lets remind ourselves, killed five and maimed 31. While Corbyn was honouring dead PIRA terrorists, PIRA ‘prisoners of war,’ and the active ‘soldiers of the IRA,’ families across the United Kingdom were grieving for those men women and children murdered by the terrorist and those left with broken bodies and minds, civilian and military alike. Corbyn and his acolytes are being allowed to rewrite history and it stinks. This man wanted the IRA to win and to win at any cost. If he had been sincere in pursuing a peaceful outcome he would have supported not criticised John Hume and the SDLP. He did not though. Instead he supported the bad guys and moreover, supported a continuance of extreme violence. 

DUP MP Nigel Dodds attacks Jeremy Corbyn, and Shadow Chancellor (John McDonnell) who in the past has called for IRA terrorists to be 'honoured' Notice the silence and glum expressions from the Labour benches after the question is asked.

The difficult truth for Corbyn is that the Provisionals lost. They were forced to negotiate when they realised they their organisation was riddled from top to bottom by British security intelligence and the cost of continuing was unsustainable. Even when the peace process was gaining traction Corbyn and John McDonnell could not bring themselves to support it. Corbyn in fact was a very long way from helping any successful outcome and over the years made a contribution to prolonging the conflict. 

The Manchester bombing in 1996; 3,500 lbs of Semtex and ammonium nitrate in an area where 80,000 people worked or were shopping.

The Manchester bombing in 1996; 3,500 lbs of Semtex and ammonium nitrate in an area where 80,000 people worked or were shopping.

Certainly, as far as I am concerned the concept of anyone voting for a man who supported people who would have liked nothing better than to give me or any one of my friends a headshot or blow us to bits all over the nearest three villages is total anathema. To my mind, anyone who does is spitting on the grave of all those who suffered at the hands of the terrorist and is disrespecting their memory. So too, are those who choose not to report the truth.

Brenda from Bristol with Crumble from Compton

Brenda from Bristol has a few words to say on behalf of all of us

Tonight, fifty or more Labour Members of Parliament will be staring into the bottom of their glasses contemplating P45's thudding onto their door mats in fifty one days time with love and best wishes from the Great British Public, (although it is regrettable to see that someone of Alan Johnson's calibre is standing down). Many of them will see it as a merciful release from the hell that is public life under their inept comedy act of a leader, Jeremy Corbyn. With all leave cancelled for political journalists the rest of us will be subjected to a daily battering from the media, led by that ghastly Kuensberg woman on the BBC. Thankfully, British elections are relatively short and sharp affairs and with the better weather, I am sure we'll muddle through as usual.

Theresa May has made what is probably the right decision in the best interests of the country, standing as she does at an extraordinary confluence of political events. If she gets the result she is aiming for it will strengthen our negotiating stance with Europe and indeed, will probably be welcomed by most of Europe who are if anything more keen to get the ball rolling to end the uncertainty for themselves inside the union. For her personally, she has launched a thundering broadside at her critics which is a bit cruel given the disarray her opponents are in but politically, is very astute.

Enquiring minds might though, be wondering if there are any other reasons which might explain why she has pulled the trigger now?

Of course there are.

I have been thinking for some time that Tony Blair is up to something. It was always unlikely that his ego would allow him to stand idly by and allow the Corbyn faction to completely purge the Labour Party and its machinery of all Blairites and everything they stand for. I also think whatever his plans are, they probably involve the repatriation of the exiled David Milliband from New York. That being the case it makes sense for Theresa May to announce an election before New Labour, or Old New Labour or whatever they'll call themselves have chance to launch and gain party and electoral traction. Clearly, inevitable electoral evisceration on the 8th June will trigger a Labour split or reverse takeover by the moderates but that, in whatever form, if successful still leaves them staring down the barrel of a new five year Tory term rather than the three that was left on the clock until this morning.

Second, my personal view of stock markets is that there is a high probability of a significant market event in the August - November time frame. I expect weakness in April to continue but rather than the 'sell in May and go away and don't come back 'till St Ledger Day,' mantra, I think we'll have a pretty strong summer rally. That will be the concluding move in what is a very mature bull market. The fall out from this market event will be significant, marking as it will not just the conclusion of the rally from the 2009 low but the end of much longer market cycles. I'll cover this in more detail another time but suffice to say, better to be Prime Minister with four years still on the clock, rather than eighteen months, when a bad thing happens economically.

Third, the summer Mediterranean Migration season has kicked off with large inflatables carrying hundreds of migrants leaving Turkey and Libya every day. This season is predicted to be a big one. If Turkey continues down the route it has chosen then a breakdown in relations with the EU could see the collapse of the agreement between the EU and Turkey to manage the flow of migrants. Pictures on our television news will not harm the Conservative campaign and will no doubt influence the imminent French elections and those in Germany later this year.

I'll be keeping a keen eye open for entertainment from Jezza and LibDem fall guy Tim Fallon who would look over-promoted running a minor branch of McDonalds. In fact, if he had four pens in his top pocket and a bunch of keys hanging off his belt he would be that man. The best fun though will be found watching the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Ruth Davidson. That woman is a feisty ball of fire and would make a great soldier...... except once she was.

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

Labour; The Real Agenda

Tom Watson; the Stalin to Corbyn's Trotsky

The Sunday papers are dominated by three themes. Japans fantastic win over South Africa yesterday, the refugee crisis, (and here we see the insufferable lie-down-and-cry luvvie lefties are quietly figuring out that perhaps their reflex, 'save them all, it's 1938,' reaction was perhaps a tad misplaced with only 1 in 5 migrants being in fact Syrian), and the car crash first week of the new Labour leadership. With Labour, all the papers miss the target.

While the media are diligently monitoring every move and utterance of Corbyn they are looking in the wrong direction. The key player is the new Deputy Leader, Tom Watson. He is Len McCluskey's  old flatmate and the Stalin to Corbyn's Trotsky. When Corbyn gets the metaphorical ice-pick in the forehead, Watson will automatically become leader, just as they planned all along.