Archive for July, 2010

Saturday, July 31st, 2010


David Cameron should be unfazed by Pakistani reaction to his remarks and the cancellation of a visit by the ISI. A robust foreign policy is based on telling it as we see it and following British national interests which are clearly defined. We see a stable and economically powerful India as a better partner than the never ending upheaval of Pakistan, run by a tension between democracy, Islamic nationalism, military hegemony, the Taliban and the CIA.

That said there is a role for Pakistan which is pivotal to the future of Afghanistan. There is no future for the NATO military project, as results on the ground show. Last night I watched a BBC news item about a current British offensive to clear Taliban activity from an area. Once a small advance had been made the BBC reporter went in to interview local shopkeepers. They wanted the war to end so that they could get on with their lives. When asked who they supported, the Kabul government or the Taliban, the unanimous answer was the Taliban. The war is clearly lost.

The only way forward is for negotiations with the Taliban, recognising Pakistan’s pivotal role as the immediate Regional Power. An accommodation between the Taliban and Pakistan will be the foundation of peace which can produce stability, albeit in a somewhat medieval model to Western eyes. Economic aid and a big push by business to develop the natural resources of the stabilised region will bring its own momentum towards social advancement. The best that can be done for Kazai is a safe passage to Miami. He has his chance and he blew it. We owe him nothing but his life.

Arabs say of Britain that it is best to be her enemy, because she buys her enemies but sells her friends. A straight, open and realistic foreign policy will help to dispel a perception with a ring of truth. It is also necessary for the government to recognise that its own people now know for sure that these futile wars have left our streets less, not more, safe. All around the game is up.

Friday, July 30th, 2010


Reports from Iran tell a story of an increasing crackdown by what has become a repressive and nervous regime. Its nuclear ambitions demonstrate a technological sophistication which presents a curious irony. More and more of the educated young are turning against the Ayatollah’s State, their common purpose given momentum by the communications potential of the very same technological advance. Censorship is no longer effective, as in the days of tapping landlines and closing newspapers. It is this enlightenment and growing public unrest which will in time lead to change in Iran. In other words the Iranian people alone will effect reform and bring their country in from the cold.

The more the West, egged on by Israel which is the sole author of almost all of its modern troubles and a good few of ours, bullies, berates and demands that Iran mends its way to our path, the more the regime will be bolstered and entrenched. Sanctions do not work in this situation. Witness North Korea, Cuba, Libya. The combined total of the longevity of these regimes is nearly 150 years. Sense has come to prevail with Libya, though not among certain naive U.S Senators. We also pursued an aggressive policy of sanctions against Saddam Hussein. The least said about that calamity the better.

Friday, July 30th, 2010


Following David Cameron’s strong words on Pakistan, commentators have been reviewing its situation. This reveals ever more clearly the sheer destructive lunacy of the Bush/Blair foreign policy. It also shows that the idiotic War on Terror has actually stoked up the threat from terrorism as well as terrorist attacks.  Pakistan itself has suffered more of these terorist attacks than Afghanistan and Iraq put together apparently. This is put down to forcing Musharraf to join the War on Terror, against the inclinations and wishes of many of his countrymen and women, particularly the young and, critically, the security service. Elements of this had close links with the Taliban, successors to the Mujahidin who as the West’s allies, had forced Russia back behind its borders from Afghanistan.

The mess in Afghanistan contributes to Pakistani difficulties and adds to instability within that country which though notionally a democracy, has never been able to establish a stable and effective civilian government for any length of time. It has been subject to a string of coupes and military dictatorships. This is in sharp contrast to its arch rival, India. What is needed to resolve this is a complete NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan. This will happen one day, but not yet. Pakistan will then become the lead player in determining Afghanistan’s future. In doing so it may find the key to its own. 

Meanwhile it will require strong words of expectation from us, but a helping hand as well.

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

David Miliband

David Miliband has described David Cameron as a loudmouth because he disagrees with the Prime Minister’s directness over Gaza and Pakistan. Not only is this a truly absurd description of the smoothest talker in British politics, but it says a great deal about Miliband’s rotten judgement. It also tells us why he was such a lousy foreign secretary and why his brother in garnering a surprising amount of support in the Leadership ballot.

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

Melting Pot

There is a lot going on with this new government and we are beginning to see a major shift of emphasis right across the spectrum. Not all of it is yet in effect, but it is quite a list.

There is an edgier approach to foreign policy as discussed recently in this Blog, which recognises the differences between policy which can be clear, candid and critical, and the more emollient diplomacy which follows in its wake. On the financial front we see sound money and a secure and responsive financial structure taking precedence over government initiatives and vested interests. From the Home Office we see a review of round the clock drinking and ineffective ASBO’s; the latter too often regarded as a trophy rather than a restraint. Police Commissioners are to be elected and Special Constables restored. In defence there are some signs that waste will be reined in and incompetence rooted out. The discovery of tens of thousands of idle civil servants too expensive to make redundant is shocking and proposed legislation to make their pay offs affordable is welcome. Placing GPs at the heart of the health service is the best idea since the whole thing was set up by Bevan after WWII.

There is another list where itentions and application appear unmatched. First in line for criticism comes Education. It is very good to signal a more rational approach to exams with fewer of them and more emphasis on learning rather than memorising. The learn and churn culture has had its day. So has the idea that powerless teachers can keep good discipline and directing how they teach from Whitehall will improve standards. What is not clear is that home made schools or a needless rush to Academies will be good in the long term. Neither is it clear what is to happen to leaking and crumbling schools whose rebuilding has been stopped. On th Constitutional Reform front, the new bill is a mess and the author of its own political difficulties. There is a Tory Lib Dem majority for  fewer constituencies of even size; there is a Lab Lib Dem majority for AV voting. Two bills were needed. Neither measure requires endorsement by referendum and both could pass into law on simple parliamentary majorities. Last but by no means least, there has been a failure to come up with anything new for Afghanistan which faces reality.

Nevertheless when all is said and done there are more positives than negatives which will change our country for the better. The Coalition can feel confident. So can Labour. If it elects a new leader with whom voters can identify and recognises where it went wrong (and where it went right) it can provide refreshing and powerful opposition with the prospect of returning to power before its present senior ranks are pensioned off. This tension between the camps will be good. We do not need just an edgier foregn policy. We need edgier home politics too.

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

House Prices

The National Institute of Economic and Social Research, a respected think tank, predicts that house prices will start to fall again, perhaps up to 30% over the next few years, after adjusting for inflation. It argues that prices are still too expensive and must continue to adjust downwards.

Sensibly priced housing, which performs efficiently its primary task of putting a roof over the population’s head, is a critical component of a restructured  economy which can make things competitively and provide quality services which people can afford. So long as houses are regarded as an inflatable asset, like a party balloon, there will be no sustained, or sustainable, recovery.

NIESR’s apparently gloomy prediction is, in fact, good news.

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

Junior Partner

There have been raised eyebrows over Cameron’s declaration that we are the junior partner to the U.S. and he leads a delegation to India with ‘humility’. This Blog supports the PM’s approach.

One of the primary reasons that for so long our foreign policy has been little more than ceremonial is because of our unwillingness to recognise that we are a power, not a superpower. The craven need to be up there with America, however daft the project, has prevented us being realistic about who and what we are, with the result that we punch above our weight when acting as America’s bag man, but below our weight when we are out there on our own.

Junior partners who know they are not senior are far more influential than those who suck up. Partnerships are also voluntary. We do not have to be there. America needs to know this, because it gains a good deal from our support. But when it gets confused about its objectives and the sensible way forward, we have to stop going along with them. That is why we have walked away from their misguided Senate Inquiry. We have rightly reminded these all powerful legislators that their remit ends on the Atlantic shore. If we had shown more courage and independence earlier there would not have been wars in Iraq or Afghanistan. Just think how much safer we would all be.

There is no doubt that a more assertive foreign posture, based on a modern interpretation of British interests, will ruffle feathers, especially in Israel. Pakistan will find that its inability to establish a unified consensus where all organs of their state work to the same agenda, will be begin to have a cost. The U.S. will find that its junior partner does not see eye to eye with it on all things, neither should it. India, China, Brazil, Russia and Arab states may well find they have mutual opportunities with a more independent U.K.. It will also be good for business. Those are the countries with the cash. It is an interesting footnote to the departure of Tony Hayward from CEO at BP as the alleged most unpopular man in America, that he is reported as likely to undertake a new assignment for BP in Russia.

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

Child Protection

The Serious Case Review of the death of Khyra Ishaq reveals once again the inadequate nature of the entire system of dealing with the whole challenge of vulnerable children and families.

This is why I have argued at some length for the need of reform and proposed the setting up of a new judicial structure based on District Child Commissioners with the power of a judge, sitting in an inquisitorial Court, supported by their own team of Investigating Officers. This organisation would take over the role that at present is part undertaken by often harassed and intimidated social workers or unsuited Police. The DCC would receive referrals from any organisation or person concerned about a child’s welfare, including police, social workers, carers, teachers and churches, carry out a sensitive, family oriented but robust investigation and, if needed, make necessary Court Orders based upon the outcome of those investigations.

The police would still be needed to investigate criminal acts revealed and the social services would be called on to provide support. The nightmare of the adversarial court would be averted as would the tragedy of a worried teacher calling upon the house, being threatened, calling the police and but to no avail.

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

Refreshing Foreign Policy

I have been dismissive of our foreign policy both under Miliband and Hague. This maybe the point when I have to change my tune.

I am enormously impressed with Cameron’s outspoken encouragement for Turkey in its bid to join the E.U. and his recognition of its importance as a westernised democratic Muslim power of the Middle East. His remarks were a slap in the face for France which has long been critical of Turkey joining. His attack upon the Gaza blockade will have left Israel in no doubt that there is no free lunch for it in London and that Cameron will be a tough critic if it does not come forward to direct talks with a constructive, rather than its usual nihilist, agenda.

All this en route to India with a giant entourage to forge a stronger alliance and build trade with Asia’s emerging power, with which we have ties of  culture, kith and kin. This is all very good and shows a bigger shift in the nuance of British foreign policy than commentators thus far have picked up.

Where is William Hague?  He is the invisible man of the coalition he helped to set up. Is he miffed at being displaced by Nick Clegg as the Number 2 in the government?

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

Losses and Progress

BP is making progress. The new CEO is American and the old one leaves only with his contractual dues based on nearly thirty years service and not some lavish pay off. However its assumption that it will not be considered grossly negligent may prove optimistic. Neither is there any certainty on what the size of the final compensation payout to what the Chairman calls the small people will eventually be, especially if voracious lawyers put in big claims.

Nevertheless things look better organised and with the halting of the oil flow a calmer atmoshphere prevails. At least there is an end in sight. Chapter 11 is no longer in view but what shape BP will be when all is done and dusted and how much it will be worth is far from clear.