Thursday, March 31, 2005
" Our survey predicts that Labour will lose out hugely to the Liberal Democrats and the Greens for the women's vote. .."
The New Stateswoman/Eve survey of 1,400 women readers in their thirties and forties were asked which, if any, of the leaders could be described as sexy. (Tony Blair scored no points at all) Overall, bless them, Eve readers declared themselves "far too busy to be bothered whether politicians were attractive or not."
Quite right too. The issues that they did declare themselves bothered about were :
- The environment
- Recycling and green energy
- road congestion
- the government's attitude to third world debt
- crime (insufficient numbers of police; the increase in gun- and knife-related crime),
- social responsibility
- childcare costs
- the nanny state.
53 per cent of the women said their attitude towards politics was "concerned". Only a tiny 7% cent said they were "hopeful". But if this group really are indicative of the way women who are going to vote are thinking,(and apparently 89 per cent said they intended to) then it makes me more hopeful than I have been for some time. Real politics - as Tony Benn said the other day, "increasingly focuses on the issues of peace, the environment, civil liberties, pensions.." adding that "...For the first time in my life public opinion is well to the left of a Labour government and that is why - at nearly 80 - I am so optimistic."
The survey predicts that Labour will lose out hugely to the Liberal Democrats and the Greens for the women's vote.
(To read the article in full, see http://www.newstatesman.com/200504040009)
Iraq and "terrorism" were of concern to most of the women polled. What a breath of fresh air to hear today that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has issued an open letter to politicians of all parties taking them to task for the scare mongering.
In the letter, the Archbishop says:
- "....fear makes us look first for defences – and for reactive, damage-limited solutions. And the difficulty then is that such solutions can put deeper interests, rights and needs, individual and collective, at considerable risk...There are things that really should make us tremble – rootlessness and alienation among some of our urban youth, the degradation of the environment, the downward spin into chaos and violence of large parts of the poorer world. And these simply don't lend themselves to defensive and short-term solutions."
He concludes simply:
- "....the world is to be cherished, the innocent protected and human dignity preserved. Sooner or later, injustice anywhere corrupts and kills a whole community. Ignore the needs or the dignity of another and you strike at your own life and dignity in the long run."
The Archbishop of Canterbury and the intelligent women of England - a formidable voice. Politicans would be wise to take note.
Wednesday, March 30, 2005
Tony Blair. You are charged with leading Britain into an illegal war... How do you plead?
asks Dan Plesch in The Herald. "YOU, readers, are the jury." he says - and then makes out a very convincing case for the prosecution - concluding
- "...if the precedent is established that ministers like David Blunkett can be fired if they commit a petty offence like fast-tracking a visa, but for the big crimes - like fast-tracking a war ...then the freedom for which we fought against Hitler will die out, our claim to export freedom will produce a cynical laugh around the world and the country will sink into a permanent condition of corruption."
To summarise (rather than quote) the points made by Dan Plesch in the Herald article:
- a leaked memorandum from his chief foreign policy advisor, David Manning, shows that Mr Blair agreed to hype up the threat of WMD
- The September 2002 dossier had all cautions and warnings removed
- The Prime Minister lied to Lord Hutton by claiming the reason for producing the dossier was the amount of new evidence coming across his desk
- The March 18 Commons motion for war stated that Saddam was in breach of UN resolution 1441. This was not the conclusion of the UN. The Prime Minister had not asked the intelligence services for their views on Iraq's WMD in the crucial months leading up to the war.
- The resolution before parliament placed the blame on a supposed veto threat by the French but the majority on the Security Council were against war - the French merely wanted more time to find the truth.
- The Commons motion said that the war was legal. The Prime Minister has described Lord Goldsmith's advice as a summary. It was not a summary of a considered legal analysis - it was all there was.
It is looking horribly likely that Mr Blair and his fellow sofa-occupants will, in the short term at least, get away with the lies and deceptions. It has happened before.
Most people in Britain sense that something very wrong is at work but most haven't the time or patience to grasp what it is.
The spin machinery developed by the government has now evolved into a new life form. It is driven and fuelled by power lust. It might as well have green blood hidden under its apparently human exterior since it is convincing those who still have some vestiges of humanity that common sense is irrelevant, compassion - except when temporarily placed on the face of a Minister - is weakness, power is all that matters and - "resistance is useless."
Well, where is the resistance? The last few days suggest that Michael Howard's Central Office is manned by the same sort of automatons as those who have taken the socialism and compassion out of the Labour Party. Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough - it won't be voting Tory now.
Meanwhile, poor old Britain is losing its identity, its principles, its countryside, its self respect and its way.
The Goldsmith pages on warmwell.com are here.
See also Panorama Programme and link to transcript - Iraq, Tony and the Truth
Sunday, March 27, 2005
Fine principles - and having to win power
There is a readable article from Fraser Nelson in Scotland on Sunday about the crash of Howard Flight. Some might say that Mr Howard has thrown him to the wolves as he threw Boris Johnson - except that Mr Howard took from Mr Flight not only his post but expelled him from parliament as well.
- Extract: "The tragedy of British elections is that rational discussion goes out of the window - each party tries to misrepresent their rival’s arguments. It is a time for every member of every party to watch every word they say. .."
- " must be carefully rationed, stretched and distorted"
Mr Blair decided to pour money into the NHS at the beginning of 2000. It is now the largest employer in Europe - but ask real doctors and nurses in England about insensitive centralisation and waste of money and their eyes swivel heavenwards. Thick glossy pamphlets in bright, dreary GovernmentSpeak are at the foot of every bed - but hospital departments are closing down all over the country. An example is Cirencester where people of all ages and types flocked to support the much loved local hospital. It was an extraordinary show of strong feeling and solidarity. It was ignored.
Kevan Jones has been pointing out that his constituents have to travel 20 miles for a scan when the local hospital has a perfectly good machine that can't be used because needed Government money to set up scan clinics has gone to the Private sector. The government has spent £90 million on a deal with Alliance Medical, a private company which provides scanners. Mr Jones has been "rebuked by local party officials". Rebuked for telling the truth - or is it that Mr Jones' questions have raised unwelcome speculation about Labour's election supremo, Alan Milburn?
When Alan Milburn took over from Frank Dobson as Health Secretary, the Labour Party could not use the word 'private' without a shudder of self-righteous distate. In December 1999, just before Mr Blair promised huge new spending for the NHS, Mr Milburn said that 'an expanded private sector can only mean a contraction of the public sector'. (See Telegraph 04/11/2000
Things changed and not only did money pour into the NHS but that tenet of the Labour Party about Private Health was airbrushed out. Mr Milburn turned his coat. What's more, during the short time that he opted to spend more time with his family
- "... Alan Milburn was paid £30,000 for a six-month consultancy to the venture capitalists Bridgepoint, which owns Alliance Medical. ..."The Sunday Telegraph today
The involvement of the private sector in the NHS is politically useful. It can temporarily paper over the cracks in the NHS. The political usefulness of politicians who will paper over the truth in order to get power at any price may be of value to their leaders - but not to the cheesed off electorate. Lord Callaghan was described today by David Owen in the Sunday Times We all benefited from Jim's honesty and generosity
"....He believed in cabinet government and presided over a happy ship where colleagues from left and right of the party could exchange views with a measure of trust and confidence that we have not seen under any prime minister since. This can be called old-style politics or old Labour if one wishes but I would prefer to call it honest government. .."
Saturday, March 26, 2005
The government wants us to move on. And no one wants to dwell on the fact that by Easter Saturday 2005, almost two months after the elections that were supposed to shut us all up, Iraq’s main parties have yet to form a government. Bloodshed on the streets in many parts of Iraq is as nasty as ever.
But I can't move on. I need to try to make sense of this - (just as I need to try to make sense of that holocaust of the innocent, the 2001 Foot and Mouth policy). I am not a journalist, nor a politician, not anybody of any clout whatsoever. I just want fully to grasp what is being perpetrated in our name. Even if very few people actually read this, writing it encourages me to try to follow what is going on.
Mr Simon Thomas MP Ceredigion has tabled a Parliamentary Question: "To ask the Solicitor General, on what date the legal advice from Professor Greenwood relating to the war in Iraq was received; and how much was paid for the advice."
Well. we already know from PA News that
- "... Christopher Greenwood QC, professor of international law at the London School of Economics, was first "instructed" on March 13 2003."
Lord Goldsmith said so in a written reply to Baroness Miller in the House of Lords on March 21 2005.
March 13 2003 was four days before the Attorney General summarised, in a Lords written reply, his own views on the legality of the military action.
Exactly £46,000 was paid to Geoffrey Greenwood for this work.
On the subject of exact figures, a search on the internet and the Parliament website for the number of our own servicemen and women killed and wounded has not yet given me an up-to-date total. But off to Iraq they dutifully and uncomplainingly went as soon as Chief of Defence Staff General Boyce was reassured by our own Attorney General that there would be no legal come-back.
American Military deaths in Iraq now total 1525, with 11,344 wounded
Iraqi civilian deaths actually counted (minimum): 17233
(source: iraqbodycount.net ) -
The government rejected the findings of the Lancet of 100.000 dead in Iraq since the invasion, but offered no comparable assessment of their own. A letter from many of the great and the good - including Elizabeth Wilmshurst - urged the Government to "commission a comprehensive, independent inquiry to determine with the greatest possible accuracy how many Iraqis have died or been injured since March 2003 - and the cause of those casualties." But nothing has happened.
"Lord Goldsmith was a commercial lawyer with no experience of international
law and initially relied heavily on the advice of lawyers within the Foreign
Office in the months before the war. It is widely believed that advice
overwhelmingly warned against invading without a UN resolution...."
However, when Washington made it clear to London that the UK Government needed therefore to "get another lawyer", Lord Goldsmith, it seems, looked around for some support for the war from another quarter. At the London School of Economics, Geoffrey Greenwood's views were known to be pro-war.
It seems an uncanny parallel of what happened in March 2001.
The chemistry trained Chief Scientific Advisor, Sir David King (not a Knight at that point), searched about for some scientific basis for a pre-election quick-fix for the already peaking Foot and Mouth outbreak - and found it in the Professor of Extermination, Professor Roy Anderson.
Meanwhile, in Iraq, the toll of the dead and murdered continues to rise. And the UK government is irritated by all the fuss. Just as it is about the continuing fuss about the millions of healthy livestock and their young who died to ensure that a pre-election government in 2001 could boast that it was "bearing down on the disease"
All this grief, anger and chaos ...
(Whatever the stated motives, whatever the given reasons, the bottom line does now seem to be that the UK - whether Mr Blair understands this or not - helped the Bush Administration to punish Iraq for its temerity in switching from the dollar to the euro to trade in oil - and to try to warn others such as Iran from doing the same. Venezuela has already done so and is in dire peril - and how can the US government justify what will happen in Venezuela - regime change - when it is already a popular and socially effective democracy? Well - it will accuse Venezuela of selling arms to terrorists and evil regimes - hoping that no one will make too much fuss about the fact that the US has been doing this for decades when it suited its political purposes.
It is doubtful whether even now, many of the politicians who voted for war, are aware of the economic calamity that faces the US if the dollar ceases to be the currency used globally in which to trade oil. The twin huge deficits of budget and trade are pretty much a closed book even to George W Bush, we understand. But the US trade deficit was $618 billion in 2004. His first Treasury Secretary, Paul O'Neill, described President Bush as ignorant of economic matters; at Cabinet Meetings he was like "a blind man in a room full of deaf people.")
Friday, March 25, 2005
"It was a banana republic moment. "
Sir Simon Jenkins, writing in the Times on the legal advice for war, is as scathing as I have ever known, and I have read every newspaper article he has written for over four years.
- "Robust, independent, professional advice has always been crucial to sound administration. This is no longer the British way. Professionalism is corrupted by politics and as a result ministers use the media as their sounding board.."
He also reports being told what has been suspected here for some time ( Goldsmith pages): that there can be no publication of Lord Goldsmith's advice simply because there was no formal legal opinion by the Attorney General beyond his one-page written parliamentary answer.
Of the Attorney General himself, he says, "He suddenly had to stop being a sceptical analyst and become an Alastair Campbell spin-doctor."
Simon Jenkins' article Just do what the PM wants
....surely publishing the final, March 17, opinion would have hugely helped Mr Blair. When I suggested this to a senior official some time ago, I well recall his reply. The Attorney-General’s final advice would never be published, he said, for the simple reason that “it does not exist” . It was a “sofa memorandum”, cobbled together to calm the Chief of the Defence Staff and Labour backbenchers. It was a banana republic moment..."
"...That March, Downing Street had no call for professional tap-dancers. It needed shysters and gumshoes."
"International lawyers were overwhelmingly hostile to the Iraq invasion. There was only one ostensibly independent voice cheerleading for Downing Street, Professor Christopher Greenwood, of the LSE. Last week it was revealed that he had received more than £50,000 for his services by Lord Goldsmith, a fact never revealed in his media appearances. So much for academic independence.."
Read the article in full
Thursday, March 24, 2005
"The government didn’t withhold it in the public interest, it withheld it in the government’s interest": Sir Menzies Campbell
Channel 4's revelation last night was that Mrs Elizabeth Wilmshurst's memo to Michael Wood contained the following paragraph - subsequently censored "in the public interest" - but, luckily for the public interest, obtained by Channel 4.
- "..My views accord with the advice that has been given consistently in this Office (the foreign office legal team office) before and after the adoption of UN security council resolution 1441 and with what the Attorney General gave us to understand was his view prior to his letter of 7 March. (The view expressed in that letter has of course changed again into what is now the official line.)"
The government's efforts to place the blame for the use of flawed intelligence on the intelligence services themselves, has also been intensified in the past 24 hours with the spectacle of Jack Straw responding to the criticims of the Butler Inquiry. "The government has tightened controls on the processing of secret intelligence.." And another government assumption that the electorate are blind, dumb, deaf and, frankly, complete suckers. It was not the Intelligence Services themselves who manipulated some strands of suspect hearsay into a case for war.
On January 25 2004 the
Sunday Herald's headline was:
Spy chiefs warn PM: don't blame us for war They were premature by a little over a year , it seems.
In the article, the UK's intelligence chiefs "launched a pre-emptive strike against Tony Blair", believing that it was the Hutton Report, about to be published, that would result in "an attempt by the Prime Minister and his senior Cabinet colleagues to blame the intelligence services for the shoddy information which was used by the government to convince the British people and parliament that Saddam's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) were a threat to the UK."
The senior members of the intelligence community included those from:
The Defence Intelligence Staff, which helped supply intelligence for Blair's disputed September 2002 WMD dossier; the Joint Intelligence Organisation, which includes John Scarlett, the chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC); and MI6, the Secret Intelligence Service, the main agency responsible for gathering the intelligence which went into the dossier.
The key points made at the time were:
- "Many had been openly sceptical about the presence of WMD in Iraq for years.
The intelligence community was under pressure to provide the government with what it wanted, namely that Iraq possessed WMD and was a danger.
Intelligence was "cherry-picked", with damning intelligence against Iraq being selectively chosen, while intelligence assessments, which might have worked against the build-up to war, were sidelined. Intelligence work had become politicised under Labour , and spies were taking orders from politicians. They provided worst-case scenarios which were used by politicians to make factual claims."
Wednesday, March 23, 2005
"Iraq reinforces Mr Blair’s tendency to self-beatification."
Sir Simon Jenkins in his article in the Times today asks "An election dominated by holy rows? May the good Lord spare us.."
- "Mr Blair’s excursions into Christian exegesis suggest a serious confusion between religious belief and public ethics. Politics is never morality-lite. Arguments over abortion, stem-cell research and faith schools are shot through with normative values. Without them politics would be a crude battle of interests. But it is a strength of British democracy that such debates are rooted in a rationalist consensus. They are lit by tolerance, courtesy and a respect for individual conscience. They do not flee to the backwoods of religious dogma, of texts and teachings. Britain has not, since the 16th century, been ruled by bishops or mullahs and has been the better for it..."
It seems to me that even a show of tolerance, courtesy and respect has long been lacking from politics. And from all sides, not only from those who "Do not Do God". The article is even handed about the way single issues that raise very strong feelings are being shamelessly exploited across the parties in marginal constituencies:
- "....Hence the Tories’ exploitation of a woman’s broken shoulder, a refused school place, a policeman buried in paperwork, a gypsy encampment. Hence the suggestion to reduce the abortion limit to 20 weeks, somehow to counter "abortion on demand". Hence the flirtation by both parties with religion. Never mind the apathetic masses. Can we get the Catholic Church to approve Michael Howard’s suggested toughening on abortion? Can we get Rowan Williams on board?
Simon Jnkins' article begins by saying that "God has elbowed his way into the election campaign."
(Actually, this seems a little hard on God - who, if he has elbows at all, would surely have been using them to nudge his saintly follower quite sharply in order to remind him to Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s - "and leave Me out of this unholy mess.") and it concludes
- " The Prime Minister’s concept of tolerance does not extend to civil rights. He is ready to tear up international law one day, habeas corpus the next and judicial independence the day after. The colours of religious rectitude are now nailed to new Labour’s mast, at home and abroad. There is no knowing what Mr Blair might do with a Bible in one hand and Lord Falconer in the other. .."
Also in the news today
Continuing deep concern about postal ballot rigging ~"people will no longer get away with saying this (fraud) could not happen in the UK.” The postal voting system risks provoking a spate of legal challenges in narrowly won seats after polling day. The Electoral Reform Society has called for urgent legal safeguards to prevent ballot papers from being filled out fraudulently. Richard Mawrey, QC plans to give his judgement on the Birmingham case on April 4 “unless prevented by forces beyond my control”
He said that the law as it stands at the moment is an open invitation to fraud. See Times article
The politicians' irritation with the BBC
A letter today in the Times from Tony Markham "... Respect is something that has to be earned, not accorded merely because of rank. The BBC is not there to provide political adulation. Before most resignations of disgraced politicians comes the adamant denial, often followed by the weasel explanation after journalistic questioning. It might be more worthwhile for Lord Kalms to consider why so many of the general public view politicians with contempt."
The nonsense as well as the cruelty of Guantanamo: "The value of intelligence obtained from Guantanamo Bay detainees has been cast into further doubt, with the release of new parts of a 2004 FBI memorandum that describe information extracted by coercive means as "suspect at best..." Independent - but who in their right mind would ever think that information got from torture could ever be considered safe?
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
It seems that Mr Blair is more and more irritated by the "pressures of public political debate" - or democracy as it is sometimes called.
On March 21 the Prime Minister was asked how many times the Attorney-General has attended Cabinet since 2002; and on what issues he has produced written evidence for the Prime Minister. Mr Blair answered that
- ".....There is a long-standing convention, observed by successive Governments, that the fact that the Law Officers have advised on a particular issue is not publicly disclosed. There is a strong public interest in allowing Government to have a clear space, immune from exposure to public view, in which it can debate matters internally with candour and free from the pressures of public political debate, including in deciding whether it should seek advice from its principal legal adviser, the Attorney-General..."
Llew Smith tried him on "...how many pages constituted the legal opinion provided to Cabinet setting out the Attorney-General's advice?" But this was wholly blocked (PQs for March 21st 2005)
It seems that Mr Blair is more and more irritated by the "pressures of public political debate" - or democracy as it is sometimes called.
22 March 2005 ~We somehow missed the notice of the death of Anthony Sampson although he has long been a hero of this website because of his informed optimism. Interviewed about his book "Who Runs This Place?" on Start the Week last year, he mentioned that he had found the Feb 15th March 2003 against the Iraq war "moving" because of the hundreds of thousands of people who had taken the responsibility to be there. Last July, writing in the Guardian, he assessed the faults of John Scarlett and Alastair Campbell over Iraq
and concluded that both were acting for one man - the Prime Minister.
22 March 2005 ~ Martin Kettle, writing in today's Guardian about the people at Anthony Sampson's memorial service:" .... unmistakably a gathering of English men and women of a particular kind....the stubbornly principled, occasionally self-righteous bearers of the English imagination ... haunted by the landscape and above all by the language, people permanently aware of the past, but people adaptive and comfortable in diversity, practical and pragmatic carriers of a mixed culture. ...
Most striking about the occasion were two things. First, that these liberal recusants are growing old. And, second, that there was not a single Labour minister or MP there." Read in full New Labour must find its way back to liberal England
Monday, March 21, 2005
" a tawdry story"
"What I cannot bring myself to say that I misrepresented the evidence because I do not accept that I did..."
Sunday night's Panorama told the story of what Mr Blair didn’t tell us before sending British troops into battle.
One is left feeling with Carne Ross (First Secretary – UK Mission to the UN 1998-2002) who said on the programme:
- " I personally don’t trust him, no. No, not on.. this was such a fundamental.. such an important, such a huge thing to send young men off to war…. ….. I'm afraid the government did not tell the whole truth about the alleged threat that Iraq posed, that's why I think it's a tawdry story."
House of Commons 24th September
"there has been a real concern on our part not to exaggerate the intelligence
that we get."
For the definitive evidence that Mr Blair - whatever he may believe about his own motives - did indeed misrepresent the evidence, did exaggerate the intelligence and did knowingly mislead both people and parliament, see BBC timeline of documentary evidence for the Panorama programme - and link to its transcript.
No deafening outcry of outrage in the media outlets today. But while the politicians may continue to
Smile at us,
pass us. With an election at hand they should not quite forget
We are the people of England; and we have not spoken yet.
This emailed comment was sent to us at warmwell.com "The programme was impressively authoritative - lots of people who really knew. It ought to make a big impression. As you say, it might just (but don't hold your breath).
Perhaps Jamie Oliver could take up the cause..."
Sunday, March 20, 2005
the government's mania for central control
20/21 March 2005 ~ ID cards. It will not be up to Parliament to decide what information is required on an ID card. This will be left to "the discretion of the Home Office"
“There will be no more information, in fact a lot less, and much less accessibility than there are for shopping cards at the moment”.
said Mr Blunkett last April - but his statement confuses data embedded in the identity card chip with the register or national database.
The list of more than fifty categories of information required for the register demonstrate the government's mania for central control and will probably astound you.
Quite apart from the civil liberties question, the government's lamentable record of IT competence make the whole enterprise dangerous. Their Lordships will, we hope, give the Bill short shrift and refuse to make any deal.
ID bill - subject to peer review tomorrow
20 March 2005 ~ House of Lords - Identity Cards Bill Second Reading
is tomorrow, Monday (March 21st). A deal may be done with the Opposition to carry the Bill over to the next parliament, although we understand that senior Tories now regard the Bill as "controversial". Labour has made ID cards part of one of its six pledges in the run up to the election.
Liberty's briefing to the Lords may be read here.
(The website "No2ID" may be found http://www.no2id.net/index.php)
20 March 2005 ~ Warmwell is sometimes taken to task for its distrust of - not Europe where we live and work, but - the EU. However, we remember very well the story of Hans-Martin Tillack, recorded in these pages last year and think we will stick with the distrust for a bit, thanks.
Today, Booker's Notebook brings the EU whistle blowers' story up to date: "....the most chilling passages in Muis's long email related to the "unforgiving" way in which the Commission uses its "collective firepower" to "trash" any individual who dares to challenge its corrupt and bullying culture. He recalled how he himself had once been warned not to step out of line, by an official who threatened "we have ways of breaking people like you".
20 March 2005 ~ Coming up on Panorama BBC One, Tonight, 20 March 2005, 22:15 GMT -
Iraq, Tony and the truth
"Panorama reveals how several of the claims Tony Blair made in public during the build up to the Iraq war conflict with what was going on behind the scenes .." (see also our Goldsmith pages)
Saturday, March 19, 2005
The crowds in Trafalgar Square make their voice heard
The study in October 2004, reported in the Lancet, that 100, 000 Iraqi civilian casualties occurred as a direct result of the Coalition invasion shocked to the core both supporters and non-supporters of the invasion alike. The war in Iraq could not possibly be justified on any conceivable grounds if so many tens of thousands of Iraqis were the victims of continuing mass terror, misery, bereavement, anguish and destruction. But government spokesmen quickly refuted those terrifying figures. After all, how could it be that George and Tony's invasion should result in such unimaginable ghastliness when it was backed by one whole sheet of legal advice from the Attorney General and a thick dossier of reasons from Downing Street?
Like most people, I read George Orwell’s Animal Farm at school in the days when Orwell’s warnings were thought to have been relevant only to the recent past. For some reason, I remember it quite well. It was Squealer, the cleverest of the pigs, frisking before the other animals persuasively and somehow silencing their questions, who said ( unless my memory isn’t quite accurate):
- "Surely Comrades, SURELY, you would not want me to say sorry when I am not? Now, my judgement, post September 11, is that we face a completely new security threat, I really believe this, I believe it passionately and if - no, just hang on a minute - if we don't deal with this threat, then at some point in time, in the future, it is going to engulf us."
activists who put the effort in for him in the past are not willing to do that again.
19 March 2005 ~ Two years on ...: “We’re voting with our feet and telling the Government we didn’t believe in this war. I was a member of the Labour Party and I’ve resigned from that as well. I couldn’t find anyone in the Labour Party who believed in the war – that’s Blair’s problem. His activists who put the effort in for him in the past are not willing to do that again." Scotsman report
19 March 2005 ~ As Tony Benn predicted, the Trafagar Square second anniversary protest at the Iraq war seems to be getting scant attention in the media. Even Snowmail remains silent. Here, however, is the Scotsman report. "....the demonstration passed peacefully but there was no mistaking the strength of feeling among the tens of thousands of people who flooded into Grosvenor Square."
19 March 2005 ~ "pundits should drop talk of an 80-seat Labour majority and get out more..." says Patrick Barkham in today's Guardian
19 March 2005 ~ Oil price .. It even reached $58 in New York yesterday. In the UK, hauliers are already saying that the high price of diesel may force them out of business. On Monday, the US Congress sat listening for an hour to a presentation on peak oil. On the UK parliament page, a search for "peak oil" gets no results at all.
Analysts reported in the London Free Press say that since OPEC members are already producing above their quotas, no extra supply will actually be added. (Peak Oil news)
19 March 2005 ~ David Shayler says he plans to stand against Tony Blair in Sedgefield. It was Mr Shayler, the former MI5 officer jailed for revealing state secrets, who gave this spirited defence of Katherine Gun last year after she publicised the e-mail from the National Security Agency in Washington that suggested spying on the seven swing vote countries at the UN, votes crucial to winning the eventually un-won second resolution committing the world to war in Iraq. He said, "She acted gallantly and honourably to expose an illegal operation... the 1989 Official Secrets Act remains a cancer in the body politic....In the case of Katharine Gun, the Attorney General and the man who employs him, the Prime Minister, risked being enormously embarrassed by the disclosure of legal advice regarding the Iraq war... "
(See also warmwell's Lord Goldsmith pages)
18 March 2005 ~ "Clare Short, the former international development secretary, described the nomination of the Bush administration's leading neoconservative hawk (Paul Wolfowitz) as the equivalent of sticking up "two fingers to the world". ."Bolton followed by Wolfowitz sounds like a declaration of war," the French commentator Nicole Bacharan told Reuters, "and if not that, a declaration of contempt."
." Independent which also gives Caroline Lucas' opinion.
18 March 2005 ~ "..the green revolution was very largely the result of our intensive use of oil. Most people do not know it, but all of our nitrogen fertilizer is made from natural gas. ...what we have done with the green revolution is to permit the population of the world to double and double again. So if we cannot now make sure that we stabilize population and bring it to the point where it can be supported by a technology where there is not what was ordinarily perceived as an inexhaustible supply of oil, there will simply be more people out there to be hungry and starved if we cannot meet their needs." Part of the extraordinary hour long presentation on Peak Oil to the US Congress on Monday. Today, oil is at about $57 a barrel and there is little chance of substantially lower prices. (Peak Oil page)
18 March 2005 ~ Simon Jenkins in the Times. His article on education today connects with everything else on warmwell; the disaster of an ineffectual and uncivilised government's mania for total control: "...The collapse is not just in quality. It is in central government’s faith in schools as autonomous institutions of education. Ever since Margaret Thatcher, syllabus reforms, schools, their teachers and parents have been treated as unfit to decide what is a liberal education. Politicians decide instead. ..." Read in full
Thursday, March 17, 2005
"all progress comes from below"
- ".... many people are wondering how it is that a leadership which presented itself as being so moderate could have launched us into four wars, abolished Magna Carta, and banned demonstrations in Parliament Square under the banner of modernisation. .."
Tony Benn writes in today's Guardian about the fact that for many who cannot bring themselves to vote, it is not apathy but anger. He goes on to warn that the big peace demonstration planned for this Saturday in Trafalgar Square will - as usual - receive no media coverage unless there are scuffles or arrests.
- "Meanwhile, even those who voted against detention without trial have been denounced as soft on terrorism. This is despite the fact that one of them was Lord Irvine, whom the prime minister had appointed as lord chancellor, suggesting that New Labour's election campaign is to be based on fear."
Real politics, as Tony Benn says in the Guardian article today,
- " ... focuses on the issues of peace, the environment, civil liberties, pensions, student debt, and the rights of women and trade unions..."
And - hearteningly - for Tony Benn at nearly 80 is an optimist - he reminds us that
- "...historically all progress comes from below, as the Tolpuddle Martyrs, the Chartists and the Suffragettes came to realise. So too did the "terrorists" we imprisoned for their role in the colonial liberation struggle, who ended up having tea with the Queen .."
17 March 2005 ~"......it is a scientific conclusion of the best-paid, most widely respected geologists, physicists and investment bankers in the world. These are rational, professional, conservative individuals who are absolutely terrified by the phenomenon known as global peak oil..... " See transcript of the peak oil presentation in the US Congress (House of Representatives - March 14, 2005 given by Conservative Congressman Roscoe Bartlett, Chairman of the Projection Forces Subcommittee of the Armed Services Committee
16 March 2005 ~ "Voters want MPs who know their own minds. New Labour doesn't..." writes
Mark Seddon in the Guardian - " Due process and fair play take second place when the task of the party apparatus is to deliver a parliamentary party in the image of its leader and so save him the embarrassment of having to argue and negotiate..." Read in full
16 March 2005 ~ Jon Snow: "....a very safe Brownlike budget. We are crunching the numbers as I speak and trying to see whether his £200 relief for pensions paying council tax beats the Tory one off pledge of £500. Fags are up 7p and tempers are up at seven along with some strange device for taxing the oil companies out of an extra £1.2 billion... "
16 March 2005 ~ OPEC ministers, meeting behind closed doors , have finally agreed to Saudi Arabia's proposal to raise oil production. The proposal to raise oil output by 500,000 bpd from the current 27 million bpd is due to "the need to calm oil markets down all over the world" Oil is at $56.60 today. OPEC's president said he saw prices remaining high. See alsoReuters
16 March 2005 ~ £6 million from the EU parliament’s "contingency fund" (8 million euros) has been approved for use in an "information campaign" on the EU constitution. The EUreferendum Blog comments
"... our experience is that the more Europhile MEPs open their mouths about the constitution, the less likely people will be to vote for it. " and certainly, anyone who was listening to Woman's Hour this morning may well have been impressed by the calm, intelligent language of Petrina Holdsworth of UKIP as she crossed verbal swords with Lucy Powell (Campaign Director for Britain in Europe)
Monday, March 14, 2005
imposition of control orders on 10 terror suspects descended into chaos
11/14 March 2005 ~ "The imposition of control orders on 10 terror suspects descended into chaos last night amid police warnings that officers cannot guarantee the men's safety and attacks by opposition leaders on the "total lack of planning" for such a major security operation...senior police sources charged with handling their transfer branded the security arrangements as "chaotic" and warned that the suspects may need to be given new identities..."
11/14 March 2005 ~ Norman Tebbit: "... Blair is the man who let out of prison a whole battalion of murderers, including the man that crippled my wife, that nearly killed me and murdered my friends.... a man so detached from reality and truth
In reaction, a Labour party spokesman said: "The government acts on the advice it receives from the police and the intelligence service, and the application of anti-terrorist law."
11/14 March 2005 ~ Balanced Sunday Telegraph comment "...The Prime Minister and the Home Secretary had tried to imply that the Bill as originally worded had the full support of the security services. Mr Blair's history of exaggerating the claims of the secret intelligence services - the episode of the notorious dossier on Iraq is still fresh in people's minds - did not encourage confidence that he was accurately reporting the views of MI5. The grounds for scepticism on that point were reinforced when he later suggested that MI5 was opposed to the insertion of a "sunset clause" - a claim that Lord Falconer was forced to withdraw in the House of Lords.
Legal advice and Lord Goldsmith
11/14 March 2005 ~"The Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, became increasingly isolated this weekend as the row over his secret legal advice on the Iraq war drags the Government into a mire of denials and conflicting statements"
Menzies Campbell "...there were two "material considerations" in the minds of those who voted for war on Iraq: "First, that the threat from weapons of mass destruction was so acute that only military action would do; and second, that the opinion of the Attorney General was that it was lawful to do so. " See Independent on Sunday "The A4 War: What have the Attorney General and the Prime
Minister got to hide?
11/14 March 2005 ~~ Independent
"The Attorney General is facing a damaging inquiry ...
MPs have lodged a formal complaint with the Bar Council.... the Government confirmed yesterday it would not release the legal advice for war despite a request to review its decisions.
Yesterday, Clare Short... was also told her complaint about the Attorney General's presentation of legal advice - with no supporting documentation - would be investigated by the council's complaints commissioner.
.... "I am told the inquiry will be independent," she said......
Jack Straw was also under pressure after MPs claimed he "misled the Commons.." See Goldsmith pages
14 March 2005 ~ Deepcut. Today the Army will at last be accused bythe Defence Select Committee of a cover-up and of obstructing the investigation of the deaths of recruits. See Independent
14 March 2005 ~ Mission Creep in Iraq. The Telegraph reports on the lack of fanfare as UK troops complete their move into an area bigger than the two existing provinces already under British military authority - Basra and Maysan - put together. Major Alan Richmond: "With a general election coming [the Government] doesn't want reports of mission creep."
For mission creep it is. "Operational necessity", that military euphemism for plugging the dyke, means Britain has had to take on new responsibilities because no one else would do it."
14 March 2005 ~ Mr Blair's attempt to "woo women back" hit a snag yesterday. An emailer writes, " the ladies on TV gave Blair a hard time today - it was reported in earlier bulletins, with a quote from one anti war lady, but then later cleared off the air waves. Wish I had been one of them!!" The Independent reports on what Ms Moss from south London said. Read in full
Independent on Sunday
Friday, March 11, 2005
What did the "security services" really say?
would be contrary to the strong advice given to us by our security services and our police .
Lord Falconer was asked by the Earl of Onslow early this morning: 'Have the security services told the Government that the security of the country will be at risk if we have a sunset clause?" To the astonishment of peers, the minister replied: "No, my Lords, they have not."
News of the progress of the Bill - articles as they arrive.
(The Register comments, " the main battle now seems to be for electoral advantage, with Tony Blair taking every opportunity to portray the Tory opposition as being 'soft on terror.'...what happens after midnight on Sunday, presents us with the interesting prospect, if Tony Blair eventually gets his way, of control orders imposed without charges or trial, and enforced by the private sector ..")
There was, as we suspected, no formal written advice
11 March 2005 ~ Lord Goldsmith went out of his way to insist that his parliamentary answer on 17 March 2003 on the legality of the war did not reflect his legal advice and was not even a summary of it. Now that Sir Andrew Turnball has revealed that there was no full legal advice at all (Independent) what will Lord Goldsmith say now? The extent of the lying that took us to war in the face of a huge public outcry has still not been revealed.
11 March 2005 ~ Sir Andrew Turnbull has disclosed that no "full" legal advice on an invasion of Iraq has ever existed and that a short parliamentary answer by the Attorney General was the "definitive advice" on the war sent to the Prime Minister and that "there is no other version". Independent articles today in full and the Goldsmith pages on warmwell.
11 March 2005 ~ "Tony Blair appears to be sinking deeper and deeper into a hole of his own making over the legal case for war in Iraq.
Yesterday's admission by the Cabinet Secretary that there was no formal legal opinion by the Attorney General .....provides further evidence that corners were cut in the rush to war, and is bound to fuel criticism that the advice of the most senior law officer was manipulated for political reasons.
See Independent and Goldsmith pages on warmwell.
10/11 March 2005 ~ Mr Blair voted - he was in the Palace of Westminster - but he wasn't in the House of Commons to answer the insistent questions about exactly what "advice" made these new unBritish measures so necessary. "Thursday" can last until Sunday March 13th in the surreal world of parliament.
"There is nothing new about left-wing parties being taken over by factions with a totally different agenda." Frederick Forsyth recently wrote "Beware of Fascists in Blairite Clothing."
Wednesday, March 09, 2005
Tony Blair is facing calls for a formal investigation. He breached the official code of conduct
was given only the two-page parliamentary statement by Lord Goldsmith.
After written questions by MPs it emerged yesterday that, under the
ministers' code of conduct, the Cabinet should have seen the Attorney
General's full advice as well as his summary.
The evasions and the contradictions do not end there. .." Three articles from the Independent on the Goldsmith question. See warmwell's Goldsmith pages - now extensive.
9 March 2005 ~Today Mr Clarke will try to meet his critics half way by
conceding to their demand that judges rather than the home secretary will normally decide whether the lesser category of control orders that restrict an individual's contacts and activities should be imposed and accepting that the proposed law would have to be renewed every year by votes in both Lords and Commons. He told the Guardian that he cannot agree to replace the test of reasonable suspicion with a higher level of proof, the so-called balance of probabilities See Guardian.
Tuesday, March 08, 2005
after an impassioned debate, peers voted against ...
"....The former metropolitan police commissioner, Lord Condon, was among those to vote against proposals to allow the Home Secretary to impose "control orders " on suspected terrorists. The independent peer's intervention comes despite a warning this weekend from his successor Sir John Stevens that about 200 "Osama bin Laden-trained terrorists are walking Britain's streets." He claimed it was "vital" the Bill be passed as soon as possible.
But after an impassioned debate, peers voted against giving the Home Secretary powers to impose Control orders including curfews, electronic tags and internet bans..." Read in full
Monday, March 07, 2005
Power of Nightmares
7 March 2005 ~In the recent television series, 'The Power of Nightmares', the film director, Adam Curtis, argued that since politicians are no longer able to appeal for votes by offering people hope of a better future ( no one believes they can deliver this) they have instead decided that the best way to win votes is to frighten people into voting for them. This also allows them to introduce authoritarian laws which add to their power.. You can read, watch and listen again here
7 March 2005 ~ "....
Mr Blair has attributed his gradual transformation to his becoming aware of “the society of fear”...." Tom Baldwin in today's Times, asks "whatever happened to the man to whom Cherie became engaged in that summer of 1979 ...?" and looks at how the once liberal lawyer has turned into the leader taking civil liberties
7 March 2005 ~ 200 fully trained terrorists wandering about? According to today's Guardian,
"The official Home Office assessment of the emergency anti-terrorist legislation .. admits that only 10 to 20 terror suspects are expected to be issued with control orders each year."
Tony Blair spoke of "hundreds of potential terrorists" in a recent radio interview. See Andrew Rawnsley yesterday on the connection of all this to the election.
The former Metropolitan Police commissioner, John Stevens, (someone who a year agp warned of terrorist attacks that have not materialised - such as that of Canary Wharf ) said that those of us who oppose the Bill "simply haven't understood the brutal reality of the world we live in"
Perhaps he is right. However, the brutal reality of misinformation, lying and spin to squash opposition is something we are, very reluctantly, beginning to understand.
7 March 2005 ~ The Guardian
reports on the satory that private firms are to police terror orders
in an attempt to save money, according to preparations being made to implement the policy by the Home Office.
Senior civil servants have been asked to assess the likely impact of the control orders which are being rushed through parliament. Their report discloses that private security staff are to monitor the day-to-day surveillance of the terror suspects through electronic tagging.
"where possible the monitoring of the orders will be contracted out to private companies as per existing arrangements with companies like Securicor and Group 4".
.....The existing powers allowing terror suspects to be detained in Belmarsh lapse next Monday."
7 March 2005 ~ Birmingham postal vote rigging. "Returning officers wrote to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister saying that concern about fraud was putting the integrity of the elections process at risk..." Dominic Kennedy in today's Times
Sunday, March 06, 2005
suddenly the UK has abandoned the rule of law, one of this county’s most fundamental principles
“After centuries of pride in its status as a bastion of liberty, c,” said Miller, director of McGrigors International Human Rights Consultancy and visiting professor of law at the University of Strathclyde.
“In doing so, it has given a green light for some of the world’s most oppressive regimes to clamp down upon individual freedom.
I now have to spend the first two days of every training session trying to unravel the fury over Britain’s hypocrisy.
“They [the trainees] ask how likely it is that regimes like Libya are going to stop detaining political prisoners when the so-called shining lights have just effectively endorsed the practice.
“They are outraged that an almost impossible task has been made even harder.”
Saturday, March 05, 2005
Joint Committee on Human Rights attacks the rushing through of the Terrorism Bill
5 March 2005
Independent's Political Corresspondent, Ben Russell,
" ... the Joint Committee on Human Rights said yesterday that plans to give judges - rather than the Home Secretary - the power to put suspected terrorists under house arrest without charge still failed "to satisfy the basic requirement of legality".
... police could already hold a terror suspect for up to 14 days before bringing charges.
... lesser "control orders"....should also be decided by the courts...
It questioned whether the proposed system of hearings "constitutes a sufficient safeguard against arbitrary detention to satisfy the basic requirement of legality".
Peers will resume the debate on Monday, before it returns to the Commons on Wednesday.
The ex-law lord, Lord Ackner,said senior members of the judiciary would find the measures "unacceptable". .." Read in full
4 March 2005
~Thanks to the change of heart by the Coservatives, the Government's plan to bring in a national identity card scheme is to be shelved until after the general election. See Independent
3 March 2005
~ "The government's hand was forced by a demand the previous day from Lord Boyce, then chief of defence staff, for "unequivocal" advice that the invasion would be lawful - a clear indication that the March 7 advice was equivocal. So concerned was the government to keep the March 7 advice under wraps that it initially refused to show it to the Butler committee. It gave way only after the committee threatened to go public over the refusal..." Richard Norton-Taylor
in the Guardian today "The attorney who passed the buck"
"Earlier this week Lynne Jones MP asked Tony Blair whether the complete text of the attorney's opinion on the legality of the invasion of Iraq was seen by the full cabinet, as the official ministerial code requires it to be. With no hint of irony, he replied: "Information relating to internal meetings, discussion and advice and the proceedings of cabinet and cabinet committees is not disclosed as to do so could harm the frankness and candour of internal discussion."
Friday, March 04, 2005
Prevention of Terrorism Bill faces a mauling in the House of Lords
For the Independent's round up today of the "Terror Bill: Taking liberties Today, the House of Lords debates the Prevention of Terrorism Bill. So how have our civil rights been eroded under Tony Blair? " see here . Extract: "... New arrangements between the US and UK mean US law-enforcement officers do not need to show evidence of guilt to gain an extradition order."
Last year Ben Hayes of Statewatch commented:
- "Under the new treaty, the allegations of the US government will be enough to secure the extradition of people from the UK. However, if the UK wants to extradite someone from the US, evidence to the standard of a "reasonable" demonstration of guilt will still be required.
No other EU countries would accept this US demand, either politically or constitutionally. Yet the UK government not only acquiesced, but did so taking advantage of arcane legislative powers to see the treaty signed and implemented without any parliamentary debate or scrutiny.
Guantanamo Bay, the failed extradition of Lofti Raissi and US contempt for the International Criminal Court make this decision to remove relevant UK safeguards all the more alarming"
Wednesday, March 02, 2005
law lords declared that planned anti-terror laws undermined Britain's historic legal rights
Peers lined up to attack the Prevention of Terrorism Bill as they started four days of debate on it, warning that it was "unconstitutional" and attacked fundamental protection for citizens by allowing ministers to hold or tag people without trial.
But the Conservatives last night said they were prepared to drop opposition to the Bill in return for a "sunset clause" forcing ministers to draw up fresh proposals in the autumn...."
British citizens are to be labelled terrorists and deprived of their freedom without knowing what they have done wrong
2 March 2005
~ Mr Clarke bumbles his way to a grotesque travesty of justice Simon Jenkins in the Times
- "....The Home Secretary wants to “derogate” from human rights. He demeans the British judiciary as unsound on terror. He writes mad letters to the Opposition. He demands that the Commons pass a Bill he no longer wants as law. On every side he cries threat, danger, emergency. Everyone is in uproar. So who is controlling Mr Clarke? ..... In order to get the latest Prevention of Terrorism Bill through Parliament, Mr Clarke offered what he called a concession. It was that a judge rather than himself would countersign an intelligence file imposing house arrest without trial on a suspect. On the radio yesterday Mr Clarke trivialised the concession. It would, he said, make the Bill “no less effective”.
He is right. The concession applies only to upper-tier control orders which he has already said he will not use at .... Yet the concession duped sheep-like Labour MPs to pass what was no longer a Bill but merely a vote of confidence in Mr Clarke...
...What should the Lords do? They should reject the Bill out of hand — and have no truck with last night’s Tory desperation to appear “tough on terror” by conceding its essence. The addition of a judge to any part of the control order process merely co-opts the judiciary, indeed the High Court, as accessory to authoritarianism. ..... Terrorism’s latest triumph was the spectacle of Mr Clarke at the dispatch box on Monday night. He shook and looked miserable as he laboured against the clock to do Osama’s bidding, to dismantle British liberty from within."
Tuesday, March 01, 2005
The Government has ruled out safeguards against rigging postal votes
1 March 2005
~ Warmwell.com has been concerned about postal voting fraud ever since it was introduced. Now we read in today's Times, "The Government has ruled out safeguards against rigging postal votes in the general election because time has run out, it emerged yesterday, as a court was told that Labour supporters forged 1,200 votes in a single council ward last June." Read Dominic Kennedy's article in full