Saturday, June 14, 2008

Why David Davis is right to make a stand

Article by Shami Chakrabarti director of Liberty on why David Davis is right to make a stand.

The starting lines give you a flavour of how she sees the events of last weeks 42 day vote

Last week revealed the worst and best of politics.

I watched a mighty Labour parliamentary rebellion reduced to nearly half its original size with the aid of inducements, emotional blackmail and downright bullying of the party system.

And that’s without examining the public finances of Northern Ireland.

Well worth a read to understand where David Davis is coming from.

Why David Davis is right to make a stand | Mail Online

Gordon Brown makes a serious Enemy

It's all very well making an enemy in Politics but when you make the head of the army an enemy you had better have some serious firepower behind you.
One Whitehall source said

It was Gordon’s decision, Dannatt has made a lot of enemies among the senior reaches of the Labour party.
Gordon just doesn't like criticism.

Gordon Brown pulls rank to stop General Sir Richard Dannatt heading forces - Times Online

YouGov gives Tories 22% lead

These results will mean more mobile phone buying for Gordon's secretaries on Monday.

YouGov/ Sunday Times Survey Results
Sample Size: 1769
Fieldwork: 12th - 13th June 2008
Headline Voting Intention
[Excluding Don't Knows and Wouldn't Votes]
Con 47
Lab 25
Lib Dem 18
Other 10
Would Not Vote 8
Don't know 12
Do you think Gordon Brown is doing well or badly as prime minister?
Very well 1
Fairly well 15
Fairly badly 37
Very badly 41
Don’t know 5
Do you think David Cameron is doing well or badly as Conservative leader?
Very well 10
Fairly well 53
Fairly badly 18
Very badly 8
Don’t know 11
Do you think Nick Clegg is doing well or badly as leader of the Liberal Democrats?
Very well 2
Fairly well 33
Fairly badly 20
Very badly 9
Don’t know 37
Recent news on the economy has been very gloomy.
In your opinion how good or bad is the state of Britain’s economy at the moment?
Very good 0
Quite good 5
Neither good nor bad 19
Quite bad 49
Very bad 24
Don’t know 3
Over the next 12 months do you think Britain's economy will...
Grow at a faster rate than over the past 12 months 1
Grow at about the same rate 4
Grow more slowly 28
Not grow at all 31
Go into recession 31
Don't know 5

results080613toplines.pdf (application/pdf Object)

Grammar heads being poached by academies

You couldn't make it up. This government which decries selective education, and is trying to close them or turn them into comprehensives, is trying to poach Grammar School Heads to become heads at controversial City Academies.

I bet the rush is just underwhelming.

Grammar heads being poached by academies - Telegraph

What a week in Politics

This has been one of the busiest weeks in Politics I can remember apart from when there are Elections.

I have sworn at the Irish, I have wanted to hug the Irish.

I have praised Labour Politicians, I have sworn at Labour Politicians.

We have seen Politicians without Principles, and Politicians with Principles.

What will this next week bring. It can only be interesting!

100 Holes for Grandad

Click For larger Image.

Sometimes you can be really proud of your kids. My two eldest Cameron and Malcolm completed 100 holes of golf in one day last Sunday in aid of Macmillan Cancer Relief and to publicise a 100 years of Golf in Tarland.

They did this in memory of their much loved Grandfather James Curran who died recently.

What more can I really say.

David Davis: he may strike a chord

Matthew Parris writing in the Times today generally makes a lot of sense and his article about David Davis is no exception. He is one of the few in the Westminster Village who is finally beginning to see what many of the others have ignored.

The problem with the "Village" is it is very inward looking and closed to "outsiders" very like a typical remote rural village. It does not like behaviour that does not follow protocol and custom and while, a little eccentricity is expected, major deviations are frowned upon and the "deviant" is quickly ostracised for daring to step outside the norm.

The trouble with this mentality is that when something different does happen, like say television arriving in a remote area, it is regarded with great suspicion and decried as being "dangerous" and a threat to the normal expected behavior, whilst, outside of the village it is looked upon as the more normal way of life.

So when an MP decides that Principles are more important to him than his career and money, he is immediately looked on as crank, derided as being egotistical etc etc. You only have to look at the vapid gushings of Nick Robinson for an example of what I mean.

Yet outside the village most people have been more than impressed to finally see a man, in particular an MP stand up and say enough is enough we must take action. The number of people from all sides of the fence who have said they would Vote for Davis is extraordinary.

Will all of this, though, help Davis in his mission to expose the stunning lack of respect this Labour Government has for our Liberties, its arrogance in saying it knows best about what is good for us.

At the moment I think that really depends upon how the leaders of the two main political parties react in the coming days to this threat. If David Cameron takes up the challenge and gets right behind Davis,I think this will turn out as good boost to Tory fortunes in the next election, never mind what actions are taken by Labour. If he doesn't do this he will have passed up an opportunity to impress the British voters that he is a more honest, and dare I say it, principled future Leader of this nation.

For Gordon Brown, currently hiding away in his bunker, it is as usual a quandary. If he ignores the challenge then he will again be derided as a "bottler" never willing to take up a fight. If he takes up the challenge then he will undoubtedly be beaten in the by-election, but if he at least fought this on the merits of his case he might earn some sort of respect, which he has lost, with the British Public.

Of course as Matthew Parris says it might all blow over into a damp squib from which David Davis emerges as as a diminished and broken politician. I only hope this is not the case but that he emerges from it with the knowledge that he has helped Britain get rid of this dangerous and dying Government. He will at least know that he has galvanised the public into thinking about what is happening to Britain under Gordon Brown.

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via FoxyTunes

David Davis: he may strike a chord | Matthew Parris - Times Online

Friday, June 13, 2008

I'm fighting to defend our basic freedoms, says David Davis - Telegraph

David Davis writes in the Telegraph and launches quickly into his stride with the following pawning off one of the crown jewels of our democracy, the Prime Minister stooped to the lowest level, with widespread reports that he threatened and bought off just enough voices of dissent within his own party to sneak this measure through. Despite the frenetic excitement around Westminster, this was a sad day for the mother of parliaments.
His finishing lines may help out David Cameron. Davis has this to say
There will be those that cast aspersions on this endeavour, and those who try to suggest divisions within the Conservative Party. Yesterday, Westminster was foaming with speculation about a rift between me and David Cameron. It is nonsense. We have been united from start to finish on 42 days and wider security policy. We agreed that a Conservative government would immediately repeal 42 days, in the absence of the most compelling new evidence. And I am fully committed to David Cameron's fine leadership of the Conservative Party, including the excellent appointment of Dominic Grieve, one of my closest friends, as shadow home secretary.
This may dump on some of the papers who think there is a huge rift between Davis and Cameron.

In the Spectator James Forsyth has this to say on what is going on.
I’m noticing a complete divide among my friends. Those who work in or around politics are all agreed that, at best, David Davis is suffering from a rush of blood to the head. All my ‘civilian’ friends, though, are full of praise for him. The charitable explanation for this split is that those of us who live and breathe politics are thinking two-steps ahead, imagining how Davis is going to look this time next week when he is out of job and the media caravan has moved on to the next story. The alternative is that we in the Westminster village are all hideously out of touch. Time will tell which it is.
If he wants my opinion the latter is true and Westminster is out of touch as I have already said.

I'm fighting to defend our basic freedoms, says David Davis - Telegraph

The 42DD Campaign - Principles or a Stunt

Today David Davis stunned the Westminster world by resigning on a Point of Principle. This has put the fourth estate into feeding frenzy mode as they try to work out what this means and try to understand what "Principle" means, it is a word that is normally quite alien to them. This confusion has meant that they have resorted to making up bigger and bigger stories as they try to work out what is going on in this strange new world.

Davis has really put the cat amongst the pigeons, but is it just a stunt as the Labour MP's are trying to tell us. To them it is, as most have them have deserted their principles since they were elected to power back in 1997. Since those heady days there has been a gradual drift into a world where only they know what is best for us and only they can be trusted to look after us from our cradles to our graves. They want to control us in our every move and watch us at all times in case we step out of line and threaten their cosy existence.

However Davis is a man of strong principles, he is not the standard Tory having been born to a single mother, brought up by his grandparents, his grandfather was a communist who had been disinherited by wealthy father. Brought up in some of the tougher parts of London he left school to work in Insurance and was in the Territorial Army's 21 SAS Regiment before retaking exams and going onto University (Warwick, London Business School and Harvard) He then became a senior executive in Tate and Lyle working there for 17 years. He entered Parliament in 1987.

Davis has campaigned long and hard on the 42 day detention limit and on other civil liberty issues such as ID cards. He has made many friends across political boundaries for this fight, of whom many have praised his current stand today. One worth listening to is Shami Chakrabarti, the director of Liberty on the Radio 4 PM programme just after the 5:30 news today (The article starts about 33 mins into the programme). In this Chakrabarti describes how passionate Davis is about these issues and when asked if Davis is being led by his Head or his Heart replies that cynicism has taken over and people won't step out of line or put their necks on the line, and are driven by opinion polls rather than leading opinion. To her, Davis is a man of Principle who is prepared to put them before his own career.

To my mind this is a principled stand. Davis is a man who has looked at what is happening under Brown's Leadership and does not like what he sees.

I suspect much of the problem for Davis is that he sees that Gordon Brown will not give up and we will still have at least another two years to put up with Brown ruining this country and leading us back into the situation Britain was in the dark days of the late 70's. It is a feeling of helplessness as this country lurches from one crisis to another while Gordon turns his blind eye to what is going on and leads us further and deeper into the abyss on every front. Taking a stand is the only way he can see of at least getting the public to pay attention to what is happening to them.

Will it work? Who knows, the next 3-4 weeks will be interesting! He has at least got people thinking and this can only be good. The papers, mostly, will not be great reading for him tomorrow but if he looks at blogs, comments and public opinion his resolve may be strengthened because he seems to a have a lot of support from all walks of life.

As for David Cameron, I'm sure he will not be that happy with the events of today, but I think in the end the Conservatives will be stronger after this. They need to support Davis in his fight on this issue and show that Politicians can still have Principles and that the public can start to believe in them again. If in any degree Davis achieves this then it will be a victory for him and also a victory for the Conservatives.

For Gordon Brown it's a case of mixed blessings. It has taken the spotlight away from his hollow victory last night and his lies about not bribing his own MP's and those of other parties. But it also exposes the shallowness and lack of backbone that this Government has. Brown has as usual disappeared from sight whilst, Gollum like, he makes his decision on what to do about the by-election. I suspect he will again bottle it and not put up a candidate as they will lose humiliatingly.

Davis resigned with the following speech

The name of my constituency is Haltemprice and Howden. The word Haltemprice is derived from the motto of a medieval priory, and in Old French it means "Noble Endeavour".

I had always viewed membership of this House as a noble endeavour, not least because we and our forebears have for centuries fiercely defended the fundamental freedoms of our citizens. Or we did, up until yesterday.

Up until yesterday, I took the view that what we did in the House of Commons representing our constituents was a noble endeavour because with centuries or forebears we defended the freedoms of the British people. Well we did up until yesterday.

This Sunday is the anniversary of Magna Carta - the document that guarantees that most fundamental of British freedoms - Habeus Corpus.

The right not to be imprisoned by the state without charge or reason. Yesterday this house decided to allow the state to lock up potentially innocent British citizens for up to six weeks without charge.

Now the counter terrorism bill will in all probability be rejected by the House of Lords very firmly. After all, what should they be there for if not to defend Magna Carta.

But because the impetus behind this is essentially political - not security - the government will be tempted to use the Parliament Act to over-rule the Lords. It has no democratic mandate to do this since 42 days was not in its manifesto.

Its legal basis is uncertain to say the least. But purely for political reasons, this government's going to do that. And because the generic security arguments relied on will never go away - technology, development and complexity and so on, we'll next see 56 days, 70 days, 90 days.

But in truth, 42 days is just one - perhaps the most salient example - of the insidious, surreptitious and relentless erosion of fundamental British freedoms.

And we will have shortly, the most intrusive identity card system in the world.

A CCTV camera for every 14 citiziens, a DNA database bigger than any dictatorship has, with 1000s of innocent children and a million innocent citizens on it.

We have witnessed an assault on jury trials - that balwark against bad law and its arbitrary use by the state. Short cuts with our justice system that make our system neither firm not fair.

And the creation of a database state opening up our private lives to the prying eyes of official snoopers and exposing our personal data to careless civil servants and criminal hackers.

The state has security powers to clamp down on peaceful protest and so-called hate laws that stifle legitimate debate - while those who incite violence get off Scot free.

This cannot go on, it must be stopped. And for that reason, I feel that today it's incumbent on me to take a stand.

I will be resigning my membership of the House and I intend to force a by-election in Haltemprice and Howden.

Now I'll not fight it on the government's general record - there's no point repeating Crewe and Nantwich. I won't fight it on my personal record. I am just a piece in this great chess game.

I will fight it, I will argue this by-election, against the slow strangulation of fundamental British freedoms by this government.

Now, that may mean I've made my last speech to the House - it's possible. And of course that would be a matter of deep regret to me. But at least my electorate, and the nation as a whole, would have had the opportunity to debate and consider one of the most fundamental issues of our day - the ever-intrusive power of the state into our lives, the loss of privacy, the loss of freedom and the steady attrition undermining the rule of law.

And if they do send me back here it will be with a single, simple message: that the monstrosity of a law that we passed yesterday will not stand.

David Davis statement

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Who expected this? David Davis Resigns

Follow the latest at » Blog Archive » Who expected this?

Diane Abbott on 42 Days

Can I suggest that anyone who wants to read what David Davis described as “one of the finest speeches I have heard since being elected to the House of Commons” goes to Hansard here. Or as reproduced below.

Ms Abbott: As has been said throughout this debate, the first duty of Parliament is the safety of the realm. It is because I believe that the proposals on 42-day detention will make us less safe, not more safe, that I oppose them. I do not take terrorism lightly. I am a Londoner and I heard the last major IRA bomb, at Canary Wharf, from my kitchen in east London. Like thousands of Londoners, I waited for the early-morning call that assured me that friends and family on their way to work and school had not been caught up in those bombings. I will not take lectures from Ministers about not taking terrorism seriously.

I do not believe, as Ministers continue to insist, that there is some trade-off between our liberties and the safety of the realm. What makes us free is what makes us safe, and what makes us safe is what will make us free. I ask the House to reflect on how we got here. Two years ago, this House emphatically rejected the proposal for 90-day detention. I do not talk very much about custom and practice in Parliament, but it is custom and practice that when the Government lose a vote on a proposal, they do not bring back a similar proposal in the same Parliament. My hon. Friends in the Whips Office now know why that is so: it is because losing the vote is a clue that the Government do not have the votes. The Government machinery has devoted 10 days to bone-crunching pressure on potential rebels, again because they do not have the votes. Ministers have appeared in the media saying that they have won the argument. They may win the vote, but they have emphatically not won the argument.

Two years ago, the House rejected the 90-day proposal. The issue should never have come back, and all this high drama has been caused by bringing back something that the House has already rejected. I voted for 28 days, but I remind the House that I and others did so only under duress. We believed that by voting for 28 days the debate would be finished for this Parliament and an upper limit would be established. Some of us were unwilling to go as far as 28 days. That is why we are so upset that the Government have come back with this proposal, reneging—as far as we are concerned—on a tacit understanding that voting for 28 days would finish the debate on this issue for this Parliament.

Why have the Government come back with this proposal? Speculation has raged on the Labour Benches as to what has moved the Prime Minister to take this dangerous course. Some people say that he wants to try to do something that Tony Blair could not do. Some people say that he is driven by the polls. Some people say that last year he saw an article in The Sun that said that he was soft on terrorism and he has been heading down this path ever since.

In reality and despite everything that Ministers say, nothing has changed since two years ago. The arguments that they used then about computers and complications are the arguments that they are using now. I ask Ministers to spare the House those arguments about decrypting computers. The law exists to deal with people who wilfully refuse to decrypt computer evidence.

The Government came back with a proposal that the House rejected two years ago. Interestingly, when they did so it then took them several months to come up with a time limit. Was it to be 29 days, or 30, or 40? At one point, some of us offered to put our hands in a hat and to draw out a number for the Home Secretary. They did not have a number of days because this is not an objective, evidence-driven Bill. It is the purest politics. It is about the polls and about positioning. It is about putting the Conservative party in the wrong place on terrorism. I put it to colleagues that we should not play ducks and drakes with our civil liberties in order to get a few months’ advantage in the opinion polls. We have got here through a process that involved the wrong practical politics and was wrongly motivated.

Let me remind the House of what is problematic about the proposal. The security services have unusually gone public and said that they are not calling for the change. The Director of Public Prosecutions, unusually, has gone public and said that he is not calling for it. I remind the House that he is the prosecuting authority. We will hear from Ministers about the police, but the police are split on the subject. We have heard about Sir Ian Blair—whose days might be numbered under the former Member for Henley; hey, that’s life—but the most senior Muslim policeman in the Metropolitan police force, Tarique Ghaffur, has said privately and emphatically that he believes that the risk to community cohesion of the proposal is not worth any marginal operational advantage. It is alleged—I use that word because I do not want to abuse parliamentary privilege—that he was called in by Sir Ian Blair and asked to consider his position. The police are split on this subject. Let us hear no more about the police as a whole being behind the proposal.

Frank Cook: Will my hon. Friend take account of the fact that even those chief police officers who have expressed some kind of support have done so in terms of “it could be workable” rather than “it is desirable”? Everything could be workable—Buchenwald and Dachau were workable, but they were hardly desirable.

Ms Abbott: Yes, it was said that the proposals could be workable in the future.

There are some very clever lawyers in the Chamber today, and it seems to me that much of the debate is locked into the legalities and technicalities. I come at the matter from a slightly different angle. It seems to me that, if someone is in detention for six weeks without knowing why, and they therefore have no notion of whether they will be able to get out without being charged, that detention is coercive in itself. We saw in the big miscarriage of justice cases what people will sign after only a few weeks.

The possibility of compensation which my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz) is trying to float will put pressure on the police to charge. Some of my colleagues whom one might expect to be opposed to the change because of its effect on their communities have been seduced by the compensation package, but I have read the letter. It talks about going away and considering the subject, and says that the compensation might be implemented. How will it be sustainable to compensate Muslims for being held for more than 28 days when the police have held them completely lawfully and not to compensate others of whatever religion or ethnicity who have been held for seven, eight or nine days and have not been charged? The compensation package will not survive scrutiny by the courts.

If my hon. Friends want to vote with the Government because they want to be loyal to the Prime Minister in his time of trial, they should do so. No one will think less of them for that. But they should not vote with the Government on the basis of a shoddy compensation package that will not stand up and will never come into being.

The proposal is problematic. Some colleagues say that the provision will never be used and some say it is unworkable, so why not vote for it? They say that it is just a joke and will never be used, but even if the Government never use the provision I take exception to their saying that it is worth driving a coach and horses through our civil liberties for mere short-term political advantage.

As I said earlier, because the Government do not have the votes, they have spent the past 10 days putting good, conscientious colleagues—who naturally enough want to support the leader of their party, our Prime Minister—under incredible pressure. People whom the Prime Minister has never spoken to in his life have been ushered into his presence twice in 48 hours. The House
should have a shred of sympathy for them. People have been offered Cuba, and no doubt governorships of Bermuda have been bandied about. Any rebel Back Bencher with a cause is confident—if they vote the right way of course—that the Prime Minister will make the statement, give the money or make the special visit. That is humorous, but is it right that our civil liberties should be traded in such a bazaar? Is it appropriate or right that we should trade votes at the United Nations on the basis of such political pandering?

The reason why the Government have had to put such pressure on people is because they cannot muster the votes. They have only one argument that could sway me, as a member of the Labour party for more than 30 years: the leader of our party is in a difficult situation, there are elements in the party that do not necessarily wish him the very best, so is this the time to vote against the Government?

That argument could affect people who are loyal to the Prime Minister, do not want to see him go and do not believe that a new leader can wave a magic wand, but I tell the House this: I became active in politics in the 1980s, at a time of enormous turmoil—there were riots in Brixton, Liverpool and Bristol, “Scrap sus” was a huge issue and young black men were seen as the enemy within, just as young Muslim men are today. I came into politics because of my concern about the relationship of the state to communities that are marginalised and suspected. It is easy to stand up for the civil liberties of our friends or of people in our trade union, but it is not easy to stand up for the civil liberties of people who are unpopular, suspected and look suspicious—people the tabloids print a horror story about every day. However, it is a test of Parliament that we are willing to stand up for the civil liberties of the marginalised, the suspect and the unpopular.

I came into politics about those issues, and I believe that if there is any content at all in Ministers’ constant speeches about community cohesion we must offer every part of our community not just the appearance but the reality of justice and equality before the law. Everybody knows that the provisions will impact disproportionately on the Muslim and ethnic minority communities. Everybody knows that we shall not be detaining the Saudi paymasters of terror for 42 days; just as happened under internment, we shall be scraping up the flotsam and jetsam of communities. Ministers are talking about people such as my constituents, so when Muslim boys and black converts are in prison and their mothers, some of whom may not even be able to speak English properly, come to me and say, “They have had my son for five weeks and nobody will tell me why”, what do Ministers suggest I tell them about a measure that has been brought in only for short-term political convenience?

I did not come into politics to vote for such a stratagem, and despite all the current pressures on the party I will not vote for it. The case has not been made up until now and it has not been made in this debate. Of course the public are in favour of the proposal. Of course the people whose rights some of us are trying to defend are unpopular and suspect. But if we as a Parliament cannot stand up on this issue, and if people from our different ethnic communities cannot come here and genuinely reflect their fears and concerns, what is Parliament for?

11 Jun 2008 : Column 383

David T.C. Davies: I have the near impossible task of following one of the finest speeches I have heard since being elected to the House of Commons. The hon. Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) need not fret: we will not be on the same side on many issues, although we are on this one. In the Home Affairs Committee and in the Public Bill Committee, I approached the subject with a very open mind. I have not been shy about expressing my view in the House that we need more people locked up in prisons; I have even argued with my Front-Bench colleagues on the subject. We need prisoners to serve longer sentences, and we need a lot more prisons to be built to house them all. I add one important caveat: people should not be locked up in prisons or police cells unless they have been charged and convicted of an offence. That is absolutely fundamental to the liberties of people in this country.

House of Commons Hansard Debates for 11 Jun 2008 (pt 0016)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

No Surrender....

...Said the DUP until as quoted on Channel 4

“we came in to the discussions with a long shopping list and the government were in a tight place”…
How much has this show of strength by Gordon Brown cost us in bribes and promises. At the last count it was at more than £22m per vote. Some sources are now putting the cost at over £1bn.

Now playing: Supertramp - Crime of the Century
via FoxyTunes

BBC NEWS | Politics | Brown wins crunch vote on 42 days

200 million pound bribe for DUP 42 day votes

According to the Guardian Gordon Brown has promised the DUP £200m of a bribe to get their votes on the 42 day detention act. Not a bad price if you can afford it, only £22m odd per vote. Never mind it's only our money

However it appears some Labour MP's have been bought for a share of only £42k by the promise of compensation to those unfortunates detained but not charged. Obviously Labour MP's aren't worth much these days.

DUP likely to rescue Brown in 42 day vote | Politics | The Guardian

42 Days and all that

Tomorrow in the Commons Gordon Brown will enter the battlefield to prove he is "Well 'ard" when he tries to force the 42 day detention law through Parliament.

As Bob Marshall-Andrews says in a piece in the Independent entitled This folly has provoked a unique alliance

The strong and growing opposition to detention for 42 days has created strange and wonderful bedfellows. Lord Peter Goldsmith, the former Attorney General, joins the usual Labour suspects in predicting ethnic and racial tension. (In view of his responsibility for the Iraq war this may reek of atonement, but the apostasy remains remarkable nonetheless.) Lord Falconer, devoid of his many jobs, embraces the Tory and Liberal opposition, while Liberty and the Director of Public Prosecutions drink happily from the same cup.

I join the growing list, which includes, a former Attorney General, The Lord Advocate of Scotland, Police Chiefs and MI5 of people who really don't understand why he wants this piece of legislation. The powers that are currently available are more than strong enough to handle any situation that does occur. Gordon Brown keeps insisting that there are threats existing which cannot be fully explained, you'll just have to trust him. Trust is a word no longer available to the current Labour Party, all trust has long disappeared.

Just to show how desperate the Government has added a last minute bribe to waverers, this time it's a bit less than the £2.7bn it tried on Crewe and Nantwich voters. It is the promise to pay any detainee £3,000 per day for each day over the 28 day current limit if the suspect is not charged. The coffers must be really low if their bribes are only worth a maximum of £42,000(42 is a popular number) now.

Claims of Ministers or police sexing up dossiers (Where did we hear that before?) have also been made by the Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti.

Bob Marshall-Andrews finishes off in the article with this.
Finally, when MPs vote today we must confront the most dangerous fallacy based upon a perception of public apathy – that they don't care. We must understand that the British do not articulate liberties easily any more than they define them in lists or guard them as properties or beneficence gratefully received from their masters above. For us, political and personal freedoms are not gifts or indulgences, they are defining characteristics as a nation....
....If Labour MPs of principle accede to the whip tonight they will deserve the censure that will inevitably follow led by the strangely united political forces whose opposition this folly has provoked.
I don't think many people could have put the case better.

Bob Marshall-Andrews: This folly has provoked a unique alliance - Commentators, Opinion - The Independent

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

New Award for families who have lost Service Personnel

The MOD and Des Browne have launched a new award today for the families of Service personnel who die on operations or as a result of terrorist action whilst on duty.This award will recognise the terrible loss and sacrifice made by the loved ones of Service personnel who die while serving their country.The Chiefs of Staff have recommended this new award and the recommendations have been endorsed by MOD Ministers and by the cross-Government committee on Honours and Awards, and approved by Her Majesty The Queen.
Commenting on the decision, the Chief of the Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, said:

"Our Armed Forces demonstrate bravery, commitment and professionalism on a daily basis and as a nation we must continue to show our appreciation. It is equally important that we remember their families who play a vital role in supporting their loved ones serving in the Armed Forces. "It is a sad but unavoidable reality that some of our brave Service personnel pay the ultimate sacrifice in the name of their country. That is why my fellow Chiefs of Staff and I believe the time is right to recommend a new award for the families of those who die on operations in recognition of their loss. We will now be giving careful thought to how we can do this in a fitting way."
The exact criteria for the award, how far the award should go back, who will receive it and the design and production of the scroll and emblem are now being looked at by a team specially dedicated to the task. Further details are therefore expected later this year.

This may just be a little thing for the MOD/Government to do, but anything that we do to value the sacrifice made by our forces is worthwhile.

I just hope that this announcement has not been put out today to try and deflect some attention from the continuing problems of this government.

Ministry of Defence | Defence News | History and Honour | New Award for families who have lost Service Personnel

Real Quackery

According to the Daily Mail the ingredient used to colour Peking duck can cut the risk of dying from heart disease by a third and cancer by two-thirds.

Researchers looking at red yeast rice said the benefits of the Chinese food colouring even seemed to outstrip those of statins - the much vaunted cholesterol-lowering drugs. Describing the effects as ' profound', they said extract of the fermented rice could play an important part in improving heart health.

It was only a couple of weeks ago that the government told us that we needed to take more Statins to lower Cholesterol.
GPs were being asked to trawl through patient records to pick out "high-risk" patients who would benefit from them. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) estimate 1.5m extra adults will need treatment. at an estimated cost of of £50m initially and £35m annually.
Now it looks like we just need to pop down to the local Chinese Takeaway to sort it all out. Maybe Chinese Herbal medicine has a real benefit!

P.S. For an explanation to the actual study behind this see this article. It concludes
This study provides good evidence that the red rice extract XZK reduces “bad” cholesterol and subsequent cardiovascular events in Chinese people who have already experienced a heart attack. This finding is not surprising, as this extract contains lovastatin, a cholesterol-lowering compound that is already known to reduce cardiovascular risk.
People tend to think that substances extracted from plants must be better for us than “medicines”, and cannot be harmful. However, this is not the case. The contents of medicines such as statins are carefully tested and regulated, and they contain known concentrations of the active drug. Substances sold as health supplements are not so strictly regulated, therefore their contents may vary widely and cannot be guaranteed to be safe. For this reason, people who are concerned about their risk of heart attack or their cholesterol levels should talk to their GP, who may prescribe them a statin, rather than taking red rice extracts.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Gordon Brown worse than IDS shocker.

After a bad weekend for the Tories, with Snouts in Trough alerts for 3 MEP's and the nannygate affair of Caroline Spelman, this week has got off to a rather better start for the Tories.

First we have tonights Dispatches programme on Channel 4 entitled "Gordon Brown: Where did it all go Wrong". This was illuminating in that in one hour I have never seen so many Political cock-ups or so many Cabinet Ministers ready to criticise a man who was their Messiah only one short year ago. Catch it again here shortly.

Second we have a Populus poll in the Times in which public support for Labour and Gordon Brown continues to plunge to new lows with the Prime Minister's leadership rating falling to a level even below that suffered by Iain Duncan Smith.

Labour’s rating has dropped by 4 points since early May to 25 per cent, with the Conservatives up 5 points to 45 per cent. This is by far the worst Labour position since 1997 and the best Tory one. The Liberal Democrats are up one point at 20 per cent.

The Tories may have more to think about with the vote on 42 days later this week which appears popular with the public but not so popular with a former Attorney General, The Lord Advocate of Scotland, Police Chiefs and MI5. However another vote on matters to do with changing Coroners and removal of juries from inquests may be just as hard to get past the commons.

Gordon Brown slides to lower poll rating than Iain Duncan Smith - Times Online

Alan Johnson wants me to travel miles to see a Doctor

In the nanny state that is Labour's aim we now have how best to run GP Practices by a government that doesn't know how to even run its own Party coffers.

In an interview with The Times Mr Johnson indicated that he is preparing to change funding rules this month to make it harder for single-handed GP practices to survive. He says the changes will improve access to doctors, particularly in poorer areas, and allow them to provide better care. Mr Johnson confirms he is preparing to remove a payment - the minimum practice income guarantee (MPIG) - designed to protect GPs operating alone.

“MPIG is a barrier to all sorts of things we want to do,”
So what he will do is affect many of the Practices that are located in more rural areas such as the small village I live in. The GP practice here is one of those pesky single-handed ones, but never mind by taking money away from it Mr Johnson will make myself and other have to travel a minimum of 6 miles to get to the nearest likely alternative. Not too tricky for me, when I'm well, as I can drive and have a car but to many this will be just another hardship forced upon them by the idiots in the Labour Party.

In an interview with The Times in April on this matter David Cameron accused the Government of trying to abolish
The family doctor service, Communities which have lost their post office, their local shops and their local police station, are now going to lose their doctor.
Labour cannot see past their heartlands of the city centres and always assume that one-size fits all. It sees the establishment of Polyclinics and the like as a panacea to provide better access and care to patients when in all likelihood what we will get will be an anonymous service provided by a high cost and low efficiency corporate interested only in profits who will take the NHS to the cleaners.

Labour they'll drive you to your local GP, only they won't be there anymore.

Alan Johnson's Nazi gibe to attack opponents of GP super-surgeries - Times Online

We will make a happy childhood a reality for all

According to Ed Balls writing in the Independent, Labour will

make a happy childhood a reality for all
Next week they will be nailing jelly to the ceiling of the Houses of Parliament.

What Mr Balls is writing is amazingingly similar to his name. He is in fact asking us to accept a greater and greater role in the upbringing of our kids by the state, as us poor parents, are all incapable of doing this whilst Mr Balls and his partner Yvette Cooper are experts, of course. This is typical NuLab thinking at it's worst. One typical quote from the article is as follows
"But schools know that they also have a vital role to play in addressing the broader 'opportunity gap' and tackling all the barriers to learning in and out of school. From birth to the age of majority, we need to give young people the support they need to stay safe, and be healthy, happy and make the most of their talents."
Now don't get me wrong schools have a large part to play in the education of my kids, but kids biggest support should not be the state it should be proper family life.

Contrast Mr Ball's writing with the speech David Cameron will give on Monday to Relate. He will say:
'Britain has one of the highest rates of family breakdown in Europe. And we also have some of the worst social problems."That's why I say it's time for change: to make this country more family-friendly so we can turn around the social breakdown, turn around the crime and antisocial behaviour, turn around this unacceptable situation where our cost of living's going up and the quality of life is going down.
'I don't think we'll ever get to the heart of the big problems we face, from crime and anti-social behaviour to welfare dependency and educational failure; from debt and drug addiction to entrenched poverty and stalled social mobility, if we don't help the best institution in our country - the family - do the vital work it does in bringing up children.
'What that help is - and how it is delivered - will be among the defining social reforms of the next Conservative Government.
Mr Cameron will say: 'The number one challenge in this country today is to strengthen our society. There is no more important way of doing that than strengthening families, and there's nothing more important to families than the strength of their relationships.
'This isn't comfortable territory for politicians. Our relationships break down and fail just like other people's, arguably more so. This goes to the heart of people's personal lives - and some might say the best thing politicians can do is keep their noses out. But I think that's a bit of a cop-out.
Now I know which of these two scenarios I would want for my children.

Ed Balls: We will make a happy childhood a reality for all - Commentators, Opinion - The Independent:

Sunday, June 08, 2008

The Reaper and the Royal Marines

My Wife spotted this article in the "Globe and Laurel" magazine ( The Royal Marines bi-Monthly Magazine) which at first seemed a strange place to find an article about the Reaper unmanned aircraft. All will be explained when you read the article, which should be available online shortly. I reproduce it in full so it's fairly long. With the 100th British Forces member being killed today it is hoped that these aircraft might help make a difference in this war.

The Globe & Laurel March/April 2008

The Reaper.. or ‘Viva Lost Wages’
by Sgt Gaz Farrimond RM, 39 Squadron RAF

It is usually an ominous day when your Spec Advisor telephones you whilst you are in the middle of a course away from the Corps. It was April of last year when WOl Phil Slocombe called me at the Defence College of Intelligence (DCI) Chicksands with the words ‘Gaz; I need to speak to you about something but not over the phone. Are you on camp tonight?’ The first three things that flashed through my head were, in order; ‘Who have I upset?’ then, ‘Who have I upset?’ and lastly, ‘Who have I upset?’ So it was with some trepidation that I awaited the visit.
WOl Slocombe, as Spec Advisor for Combat Intelligence, spends a fair bit of time at the DCI and was on one of his visits. The knock came on my cabin door and after pleasantries and wets were put aside, out it came; ‘How would you like to take the Reaper draft?’ This was the last thing on my mind, and came as a big surprise. But, rather than shout ‘Yes’, common sense prevailed and I asked for time to think it over as it was a decision that would impact on my wife and family in a very big way.

Fast forward a week and after much phoning, emailing and wrangling with the family I gave the reply of ‘Yes, I’ll take the job’; and this is where it all started going wrong! Without delving too deep, anything that could go wrong did. The admin involved in being the first Bootneck to join a brand new RAF Squadron was complicated enough, made more so by deploying to the US and being accompanied by my family. It is only now, six months after deploying and nine months after starting the whole process, that family life is finally settling down and I am getting paid properly! By the way, many thanks to all those involved in sorting out the admin.

Now, I can hear you all asking ‘What’s Reaper?’ In a nutshell, it is the MQ9 Reaper Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) system that the UK has purchased from the USAF, and 39 Sqn RAF are the sole UK users. The Squadron is administered by RAF Waddington near Lincoln, but (and this is where I’ll hear the cries of ‘He’s having a giraffe, it’s just a jolly!’) the Squadron is based at Creech Air Force Base, Indian Springs, Nevada. The base is 30 miles north of Las Vegas, where all the Squadron personnel are housed in the Summerlin area to the west of the city.

Fortunately, it isn’t down The Strip every night for booze and gambling, as our operational tempo is quite hectic. But I will give a few words on Vegas
- Blackpool with heat! The city has got very tired very quickly, and to be honest it is a bonus being housed so far away from the hustle of The Strip. A car is a requirement but Nevada has the highest auto insurance in the US because Vegas is lucky enough to have the highest incidents of driving while under the influence (booze and drugs) across the whole continental USA. Driving, most of the time, is similar to Manchester City centre on the last Saturday before Christmas. Countering this, the housing is far superior to that in the UK and we are very close to some beautiful natural areas such as Mount Charleston, Red Rock Canyon, and the man-made Lake Mead. To be honest, I can think of a lot worse places to be - RM Condor springs to mind!

So, what is 39 Squadron and what do we do? The Squadron’s mission is to provide persistent ISTAR support to coalition forces in operational theatres. We do this by utilising a variety of different sensors. We can provide full motion video (FMV) in real time, up-to-date still images of target areas, synthetic aperture radar (SAR) images, and once we are authorised to carry bombs and missiles we will have a strike capability. All this is to support the commander and troops on the ground. Originally the Squadron was known as 1115 Flight, it was formed in January 2004 and embedded in 15th Reconnaissance Squadron USAF, where operational missions began in May 2004. Throughout 2004 to 2006, the unit honed its skills with Predator and the first UK crews trained on MQ9 Reaper in October 2006. In March 2007 39 Squadron formally stood up and the Squadron’s Colours were consecrated on 23 January 2008.

But what is the role of Royal in all this? To answer this, some of my job background will help; I am a RM Combat Intelligence Specialist, and an additional qualification required for some of our posts is an Imagery Analyst (IA). This involves studying aerial photography where we are looking for change detection, AFV identification, building identification, defence workings etc. The list goes on. The UK Imagery Analyst Course is a 16-week in-service course and is run at the DCI.

In early 2007, WOI Phil Slocombe and Lt Col Gary Green acquired my post in 39 Intelligence (there are other Combat int IA posts elsewhere) but official confirmation of the position only came in April 2007 (while I was on course). The joining date (in the USA) of August 2007 meant it was a pretty tight schedule in terms of getting the course finished, house let, and family moved.

My job is Mission Coordinator and I am responsible for establishing and maintaining communications between the crew, other agencies, and the customer. I am also responsible for providing an intelligence assessment from the imagery we analyse, providing video and still imagery again with an assessment or annotations, and writing up any pertinent reports regarding the mission. I also bring to the table ‘boots on the ground’ type operational experience from Afghanistan, which is of huge benefit to the Intelligence, especially regarding enemy forces tactics, techniques and procedures, plus general knowledge on Afghan patterns of life.

Who do we support? Basically anyone who bids for us in Afghanistan, yes anyone. Admittedly the lion’s share of our missions so far have been in support of UKSF but we have also provided support for other organisations including US-SF, ISAF, and various other nationalities. I have personally been in the chair on a number of the occasions when we have directly supported 40 Cdo around Kajaki and Sangin. As the Intelligence now has two airframes and enough trained crews to man them, we are now increasing up from the 18-24 flying days a month we currently have, to daily operations, which should increase support to non SF units. All will be ready in time for the next Brigade deployment later this year.

And what is to come? Reaper is a massive asset for a commander on the ground to utilise. The aircraft can be everything from a flying OP providing 360-degree video, to a close air support platform once we begin carrying weapons. It is far superior in endurance, image quality, video quality and real time assessment than Hermes 450 or any other UAV utilised by the UK military at this time. The Royal Marines are actively involved, and our profile within the UAV community is rising.

Finally, if you are a commander on the ground, request us and use us. You will not be disappointed. The more you request us, the greater chance you’ll get the support.

Britain's 100 fallen heroes in Afghanistan

Fallen soldiers: The latest casualties brings the number of servicemen killed in Afghanistan to 100

Three soldiers have been killed in a suicide blast, bringing the British death toll of the Afghanistan conflict to 100. The men, from 2nd Battalion the Parachute Regiment, were on a foot patrol in Helmand province when they were attacked by a suicide bomber. One of the men was killed at the scene. Two more were seriously injured and taken by helicopter to hospital in Camp Bastion, where they died of their wounds.

My thoughts today are with all the families, relatives and friends of those who have died or been injured.

For The Fallen

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.
Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres.
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.
They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
They mingle not with laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England's foam.
But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;
As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain,
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

Laurence Robert Binyon, 1869-1943

Britain's 100 fallen heroes: Tragic milestone reached after Afghan suicide bomb kills three | Mail Online: "Britain's 100 fallen heroes"

Actor says British Soldiers are Wimps

Former rent boy and prostitute Rupert Everett who rented himself out for such heroic things as Drugs and Money has labeled British soldiers risking their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan of being

"whining wimps"
The 49-year-old, whose father is a retired major and has relatives who earned Victoria Crosses, branded modern recruits as "pathetic" and claimed:
The whole point of being in the Army is wanting to get killed.”
I'm sure those comments will go down very well with his father and relatives who must be so proud of him today.

Contrast this idiots words with the article on Brigadier Ed Butler I wrote about earlier.

Why he should think that forces personnel want to get killed is beyond me and surely beyond any normal thinking person. Amongst the many reasons for joining the forces, good or bad, getting killed must surely be one that is never seen.

According to this "actor" soldiers of old were just itching to get into the "fray"
“Now it is the opposite. They are always whining about the dangers of being killed. Oh my God, they are such wimps now!
This from a man who has such great experience of the army having served for a year in the cadet force at his school.

In the article he goes onto say
he never played soldiers as a child, not even with his brother, and that "all the VCs and the uniforms" never appealed to him because he was always dressing up as Julie Andrews instead. But what about as an adult? Does he not agree with Dr Johnson that every man thinks meanly of himself for not having been a soldier? He shakes his head and mouths the word "No".

So he was never curious about testing his courage on the battlefield? "You can do that on stage." Without bullets? "Oh, but there are! Critics can kill." Hardly the same. "It is the same! Exactly the same!"

OK, take another example. Say an al-Qa'eda bomb goes off in this street and another one is expected to go off, would he not be curious to know how he would react? Find out if he is brave or cowardly, selfish or altruistic? "Oh, but I do know. I'd be running for the exit and leaving you to pay the bill."

He then goes onto describe why people are soldiers as follows
"No, you do it because you are a nasty, jammy ---t and you want to p--- on everyone. That's what drew you to the Army and that's what they pay you for. They pay you to tie up prisoners and attach electrodes to their nipples and testicles and p--- on them. Don't let's complain that only the Americans do that. That is a horrible double standard."
So a self-confessed coward who would leave others to die, thinks soldiers are wimps and, excuse my language, shits. I suggest a weekend on the front for him with some real men so he can see what wimps get up to whilst this simpering idiot spouts off to a journalist. A truly nasty person. Please don't watch or buy any films he is in.

UPDATE: If you want to read a mincing, mealy-mouthed apology read this article.

Actor Rupert Everett shows his nasty side - Telegraph

Brown on Brown - A Ditherer

In the British Forces the expression Blue on Blue is used to describe "Friendly Fire" incidents when your own forces are attacked by allies.

Now we have Nick Brown The Labour deputy Chief Whip saying that Gordon Brown's indecision over an Election last autumn was a "watershed" from which his reputation has not recovered. Not so much "Blue on Blue" as "Brown on Brown".

Apparently during the Channel 4 Dispatches documentary subtlety titled, Gordon Brown: Where Did It All Go Wrong? - Channel 4, tomorrow, 8pm, to mark Brown's first anniversary in No10 on June 27th, we will also see Jack Straw and Jacqui Smith question the Prime Minister's judgment and character. Looks like one not to miss.

PM's oldest ally goes on TV to call him a ditherer | Mail Online

Resigning SAS Brigadier condemns lack of Resources

Brigadier Ed Butler has resigned from the services after 24 years service. He has claimed he was quitting because the pressures of overseas operations was having a ‘negative impact’ on his family.

The Mail on Sunday however says:

However paying tribute to the servicemen and women he fought with, Brig Butler said they operated 'within the well-known constraints and restraints', leading to speculation his departure was due to concern over troops' equipment and conditions.
Leaving the forces because of the negative impact on families is certainly not a new excuse. Many of those leaving just now quote this as their main reason. The forces are so stretched between Iraq, Afghanistan and their other commitments mans that despite assurances many personnel are having to do extended trips away from families without the required breaks.

Take a look at what I wrote back in November on exactly this subject to see that this is not a new issue. Among the complaints then were these.

• Delays to military inquests are a disgrace

• Military housing estates are unsafe and being overrun by immigrant families

• Poor food quality is creating a "pot-noodle and sandwich" culture among junior soldiers

• Work-life balance is an increasing concern

• Soldiers are "going sick" to get out of the Army

• Leave is often cancelled or constrained because of operational overstretch

• Harmony guidelines - the time between operational tours - are becoming meaningless

• The Army is no longer fun

• Fitness in the Army is tailing off and more soldiers are medically downgraded

None of these points have been resolved so we still have large numbers of personnel leaving the forces at the earliest opportunity. When this extends into the senior officers then you know the problem is getting worse rather than better.

This is not helped when you get Ministry of Defence insiders saying a key factor in Brig Butler’s decision was that he had been overlooked for promotion to Director of Special Forces, which would have given him responsibility for all special operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Two years ago, as commander of 3 Para, he criticised Government policy, saying the invasion of Iraq meant Nato troops were diverted from Afghanistan, leaving British soldiers with a much tougher task.

Brig Butler’s decision to tender his resignation comes just days after the head of the Army, General Sir Richard Dannatt sparked a debate over military pay when he said that many of his troops earned less than traffic wardens.

It also follows the resignation last year of Lt Col Stuart Tootal, in protest at the ‘appalling’ and ‘shoddy’ treatment of troops.

Update: Please read this post in the Telegraph's Three Line Whip. The final paragraph by Con Coughlin says it all when speaking about the debt of gratitude we owe our forces
Indeed we do, and the fact that an officer of the calibre and experience of Brig Butler feels compelled to resign his commission at a time of war is a searing indictment of this government’s fundamental inability to understand the basic needs and requirements of our heroic armed forces.

Please contrast these with the actor Rupert Everett highlighted here.

SAS commander who attacked Iraq war quits his post 'over lack of resources for troops' | Mail Online