Saturday, December 31, 2005

Lennon beats Beatles in song poll

I was there when the Beatles were new. As a small boy, I nagged for Beatles wallpaper and had my own copy of "She Loves You." In the school playground, we divided over whether our favourite Beatle was Paul or John as easily as the boys divided into Liverpool and Everton fans. My favourite was, and is, John.

There is no doubt John Lennon was a great songwriter. In his way he changed the world. There is something rather sad, however, about his "Imagine" topping the poll as the "Nation's favourite song". Think about it. The lyrics are ridiculous. A multimillionaire urging us to "imagine no possessions" even as he acquired an entire apartment building in New York, piece by piece, to give him space and privacy. The same multimillionaire who had urged us to "give peace a chance" even as he funded the IRA's terrorist campaign.

John had talent, but he was not very bright. In the 1930's, perhaps idealistic socialism was justifiable. But by the time "Imagine" was written, more than half of mankind was living under socialist regimes of various kinds. It was the largest political experiment in history, and the empirical evidence was clear that socialism sucked. People were prepared to risk the Berlin Wall death run or to face Carribean sharks to escape it. If the Berlin Wall had fallen down, there was no doubt which way the human tide would flow. Lennon was either exploiting the naievity of his young audience (including me) or he was stupid. I would prefer to think he was stupid.

That we still fall for this nonsense, decades on, does not fill me with hope for our immediate political prospects. A nation of dreamers will lead us all into a nightmare.

BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Lennon beats Beatles in song poll

Friday, December 30, 2005

Restore trust in crime figures, urges watchdog

How many times can one Government be caught lying before paying the democratic price?

The Statistics Commission cagily observes that Home Office presentation of crime figures "...creates an environment in which the media and the public assume they are receiving a filtered, government-friendly version of the truth, even though the statistical message may not be either of these things.."

"Creates an environment?" Yeah, right.

Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | Restore trust in crime figures, urges watchdog

Damning documentary evidence unveiled. Dissident bloggers in coordinated exposé of UK government lie

Help us beat the British government's gagging order by mirroring this information on your own site or blog!

Constituent: "This question is for Mr Straw; Have you ever read any documents where the intelligence has been procured through torturous means?"

"Jack Straw: "Not to the best of my knowledge... let me make this clear... the British government does not support torture in any circumstances. Full stop. We do not support the obtaining of intelligence by torture, or its use."

- Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, election hustings, Blackburn, April 2005

"I was summoned to the UK for a meeting on 8 March 2003. Michael Wood gave his legal opinion that it was not illegal to obtain and to use intelligence acquired by torture... On behalf of the intelligence services, Matthew Kydd said that they found some of the material very useful indeed with a direct bearing on the war on terror. Linda Duffield said that she had been asked to assure me that my qualms of conscience were respected and understood."

- Ambassador Craig Murray, memo to the Foreign Office, July 2004

With Tony Blair and Jack Straw cornered on extraordinary rendition, the UK government is particularly anxious to suppress all evidence of our complicity in obtaining intelligence extracted by foreign torturers.

The British Foreign Office is now seeking to block publication of Craig Murray's forthcoming book, which documents his time as Ambassador to Uzbekistan. The Foreign Office has demanded that Craig Murray remove all references to two especially damning British government documents, indicating that our government was knowingly receiving information extracted by the Uzbeks through torture, and return every copy that he has in his possession.

Craig Murray is refusing to do this. Instead, the documents are today being published simultaneously on blogs all around the world.

The first document contains the text of several telegrams that Craig Murray sent back to London from 2002 to 2004, warning that the information being passed on by the Uzbek security services was torture-tainted, and challenging MI6 claims that the information was nonetheless "useful".

The second document is the text of a legal opinion from the Foreign Office's Michael Wood, arguing that the use by intelligence services of information extracted through torture does not constitute a violation of the UN Convention Against Torture.

Craig Murray says:

In March 2003 I was summoned back to London from Tashkent specifically for a meeting at which I was told to stop protesting. I was told specifically that it was perfectly legal for us to obtain and to use intelligence from the Uzbek torture chambers.

After this meeting Sir Michael Wood, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's legal adviser, wrote to confirm this position. This minute from Michael Wood is perhaps the most important document that has become public about extraordinary rendition. It is irrefutable evidence of the government's use of torture material, and that I was attempting to stop it. It is no wonder that the government is trying to suppress this.

First document: Confidential letters from Uzbekistan

Letter #1
FM Tashkent
TO FCO, Cabinet Office, DFID, MODUK, OSCE Posts, Security Council Posts

16 September 02

SUBJECT: US/Uzbekistan: Promoting Terrorism

US plays down human rights situation in Uzbekistan. A dangerous policy: increasing repression combined with poverty will promote Islamic terrorism. Support to Karimov regime a bankrupt and cynical policy.


The Economist of 7 September states: "Uzbekistan, in particular, has jailed many thousands of moderate Islamists, an excellent way of converting their families and friends to extremism." The Economist also spoke of "the growing despotism of Mr Karimov" and judged that "the past year has seen a further deterioration of an already grim human rights record". I agree.

Between 7,000 and 10,000 political and religious prisoners are currently detained, many after trials before kangaroo courts with no representation. Terrible torture is commonplace: the EU is currently considering a demarche over the terrible case of two Muslims tortured to death in jail apparently with boiling water. Two leading dissidents, Elena Urlaeva and Larissa Vdovna, were two weeks ago committed to a lunatic asylum, where they are being drugged, for demonstrating on human rights. Opposition political parties remain banned. There is no doubt that September 11 gave the pretext to crack down still harder on dissent under the guise of counter-terrorism.
Yet on 8 September the US State Department certified that Uzbekistan was improving in both human rights and democracy, thus fulfilling a constitutional requirement and allowing the continuing disbursement of $140 million of US aid to Uzbekistan this year. Human Rights Watch immediately published a commendably sober and balanced rebuttal of the State Department claim.

Again we are back in the area of the US accepting sham reform [a reference to my previous telegram on the economy]. In August media censorship was abolished, and theoretically there are independent media outlets, but in practice there is absolutely no criticism of President Karimov or the central government in any Uzbek media. State Department call this self-censorship: I am not sure that is a fair way to describe an unwillingness to experience the brutal methods of the security services.

Similarly, following US pressure when Karimov visited Washington, a human rights NGO has been permitted to register. This is an advance, but they have little impact given that no media are prepared to cover any of their activities or carry any of their statements.
The final improvement State quote is that in one case of murder of a prisoner the police involved have been prosecuted. That is an improvement, but again related to the Karimov visit and does not appear to presage a general change of policy. On the latest cases of torture deaths the Uzbeks have given the OSCE an incredible explanation, given the nature of the injuries, that the victims died in a fight between prisoners.

But allowing a single NGO, a token prosecution of police officers and a fake press freedom cannot possibly outweigh the huge scale of detentions, the torture and the secret executions. President Karimov has admitted to 100 executions a year but human rights groups believe there are more. Added to this, all opposition parties remain banned (the President got a 98% vote) and the Internet is strictly controlled. All Internet providers must go through a single government server and access is barred to many sites including all dissident and opposition sites and much international media (including, ironically, This is in essence still a totalitarian state: there is far less freedom than still prevails, for example, in Mugabe's Zimbabwe. A Movement for Democratic Change or any judicial independence would be impossible here.

Karimov is a dictator who is committed to neither political nor economic reform. The purpose of his regime is not the development of his country but the diversion of economic rent to his oligarchic supporters through government controls. As a senior Uzbek academic told me privately, there is more repression here now than in Brezhnev's time. The US are trying to prop up Karimov economically and to justify this support they need to claim that a process of economic and political reform is underway. That they do so claim is either cynicism or self-delusion.

This policy is doomed to failure. Karimov is driving this resource-rich country towards economic ruin like an Abacha. And the policy of increasing repression aimed indiscriminately at pious Muslims, combined with a deepening poverty, is the most certain way to ensure continuing support for the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. They have certainly been decimated and disorganised in Afghanistan, and Karimov's repression may keep the lid on for years – but pressure is building and could ultimately explode.

I quite understand the interest of the US in strategic airbases and why they back Karimov, but I believe US policy is misconceived. In the short term it may help fight terrorism but in the medium term it will promote it, as the Economist points out. And it can never be right to lower our standards on human rights. There is a complex situation in Central Asia and it is wrong to look at it only through a prism picked up on September 12. Worst of all is what appears to be the philosophy underlying the current US view of Uzbekistan: that September 11 divided the World into two camps in the "War against Terrorism" and that Karimov is on "our" side.

If Karimov is on "our" side, then this war cannot be simply between the forces of good and evil. It must be about more complex things, like securing the long-term US military presence in Uzbekistan. I silently wept at the 11 September commemoration here. The right words on New York have all been said. But last week was also another anniversary – the US-led overthrow of Salvador Allende in Chile. The subsequent dictatorship killed, dare I say it, rather more people than died on September 11. Should we not remember then also, and learn from that too? I fear that we are heading down the same path of US-sponsored dictatorship here. It is ironic that the beneficiary is perhaps the most unreformed of the World's old communist leaders.
We need to think much more deeply about Central Asia. It is easy to place Uzbekistan in the "too difficult" tray and let the US run with it, but I think they are running in the wrong direction. We should tell them of the dangers we see. Our policy is theoretically one of engagement, but in practice this has not meant much. Engagement makes sense, but it must mean grappling with the problems, not mute collaboration. We need to start actively to state a distinctive position on democracy and human rights, and press for a realistic view to be taken in the IMF. We should continue to resist pressures to start a bilateral DFID programme, unless channelled non-governmentally, and not restore ECGD cover despite the constant lobbying. We should not invite Karimov to the UK. We should step up our public diplomacy effort, stressing democratic values, including more resources from the British Council. We should increase support to human rights activists, and strive for contact with non-official Islamic groups.

Above all we need to care about the 22 million Uzbek people, suffering from poverty and lack of freedom. They are not just pawns in the new Great Game.


Letter #2
Fm Tashkent

18 March 2003


1. As seen from Tashkent, US policy is not much focussed on democracy or freedom. It is about oil, gas and hegemony. In Uzbekistan the US pursues those ends through supporting a ruthless dictatorship. We must not close our eyes to uncomfortable truth.


2. Last year the US gave half a billion dollars in aid to Uzbekistan, about a quarter of it military aid. Bush and Powell repeatedly hail Karimov as a friend and ally. Yet this regime has at least seven thousand prisoners of conscience; it is a one party state without freedom of speech, without freedom of media, without freedom of movement, without freedom of assembly, without freedom of religion. It practices, systematically, the most hideous tortures on thousands. Most of the population live in conditions precisely analogous with medieval serfdom.

3. Uzbekistan's geo-strategic position is crucial. It has half the population of the whole of Central Asia. It alone borders all the other states in a region which is important to future Western oil and gas supplies. It is the regional military power. That is why the US is here, and here to stay. Contractors at the US military bases are extending the design life of the buildings from ten to twenty five years.

4. Democracy and human rights are, despite their protestations to the contrary, in practice a long way down the US agenda here. Aid this year will be slightly less, but there is no intention to introduce any meaningful conditionality. Nobody can believe this level of aid – more than US aid to all of West Africa – is related to comparative developmental need as opposed to political support for Karimov. While the US makes token and low-level references to human rights to appease domestic opinion, they view Karimov's vicious regime as a bastion against fundamentalism. He – and they – are in fact creating fundamentalism. When the US gives this much support to a regime that tortures people to death for having a beard or praying five times a day, is it any surprise that Muslims come to hate the West?

5. I was stunned to hear that the US had pressured the EU to withdraw a motion on Human Rights in Uzbekistan which the EU was tabling at the UN Commission for Human Rights in Geneva. I was most unhappy to find that we are helping the US in what I can only call this cover-up. I am saddened when the US constantly quote fake improvements in human rights in Uzbekistan, such as the abolition of censorship and Internet freedom, which quite simply have not happened (I see these are quoted in the draft EBRD strategy for Uzbekistan, again I understand at American urging).

6. From Tashkent it is difficult to agree that we and the US are activated by shared values. Here we have a brutal US sponsored dictatorship reminiscent of Central and South American policy under previous US Republican administrations. I watched George Bush talk today of Iraq and "dismantling the apparatus of terror… removing the torture chambers and the rape rooms". Yet when it comes to the Karimov regime, systematic torture and rape appear to be treated as peccadilloes, not to affect the relationship and to be downplayed in international fora. Double standards? Yes.

7. I hope that once the present crisis is over we will make plain to the US, at senior level, our serious concern over their policy in Uzbekistan.

Letter #3


OF 220939 JULY 04




1. We receive intelligence obtained under torture from the Uzbek intelligence services, via the US. We should stop. It is bad information anyway. Tortured dupes are forced to sign up to confessions showing what the Uzbek government wants the US and UK to believe, that they and we are fighting the same war against terror.

2. I gather a recent London interdepartmental meeting considered the question and decided to continue to receive the material. This is morally, legally and practically wrong. It exposes as hypocritical our post Abu Ghraib pronouncements and fatally undermines our moral standing. It obviates my efforts to get the Uzbek government to stop torture they are fully aware our intelligence community laps up the results.

3. We should cease all co-operation with the Uzbek Security Services they are beyond the pale. We indeed need to establish an SIS presence here, but not as in a friendly state.


4. In the period December 2002 to March 2003 I raised several times the issue of intelligence material from the Uzbek security services which was obtained under torture and passed to us via the CIA. I queried the legality, efficacy and morality of the practice.

5. I was summoned to the UK for a meeting on 8 March 2003. Michael Wood gave his legal opinion that it was not illegal to obtain and to use intelligence acquired by torture. He said the only legal limitation on its use was that it could not be used in legal proceedings, under Article 15 of the UN Convention on Torture.

6. On behalf of the intelligence services, Matthew Kydd said that they found some of the material very useful indeed with a direct bearing on the war on terror. Linda Duffield said that she had been asked to assure me that my qualms of conscience were respected and understood.

7. Sir Michael Jay's circular of 26 May stated that there was a reporting obligation on us to report torture by allies (and I have been instructed to refer to Uzbekistan as such in the context of the war on terror). You, Sir, have made a number of striking, and I believe heartfelt, condemnations of torture in the last few weeks. I had in the light of this decided to return to this question and to highlight an apparent contradiction in our policy. I had intimated as much to the Head of Eastern Department.

8. I was therefore somewhat surprised to hear that without informing me of the meeting, or since informing me of the result of the meeting, a meeting was convened in the FCO at the level of Heads of Department and above, precisely to consider the question of the receipt of Uzbek intelligence material obtained under torture. As the office knew, I was in London at the time and perfectly able to attend the meeting. I still have only gleaned that it happened.

9. I understand that the meeting decided to continue to obtain the Uzbek torture material. I understand that the principal argument deployed was that the intelligence material disguises the precise source, ie it does not ordinarily reveal the name of the individual who is tortured. Indeed this is true – the material is marked with a euphemism such as "From detainee debriefing." The argument runs that if the individual is not named, we cannot prove that he was tortured.

10. I will not attempt to hide my utter contempt for such casuistry, nor my shame that I work in and organisation where colleagues would resort to it to justify torture. I have dealt with hundreds of individual cases of political or religious prisoners in Uzbekistan, and I have met with very few where torture, as defined in the UN convention, was not employed. When my then DHM raised the question with the CIA head of station 15 months ago, he readily acknowledged torture was deployed in obtaining intelligence. I do not think there is any doubt as to the fact

11. The torture record of the Uzbek security services could hardly be more widely known. Plainly there are, at the very least, reasonable grounds for believing the material is obtained under torture. There is helpful guidance at Article 3 of the UN Convention;
"The competent authorities shall take into account all relevant considerations including, where applicable, the existence in the state concerned of a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights." While this article forbids extradition or deportation to Uzbekistan, it is the right test for the present question also.

12. On the usefulness of the material obtained, this is irrelevant. Article 2 of the Convention, to which we are a party, could not be plainer:

"No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture."

13. Nonetheless, I repeat that this material is useless – we are selling our souls for dross. It is in fact positively harmful. It is designed to give the message the Uzbeks want the West to hear. It exaggerates the role, size, organisation and activity of the IMU and its links with Al Qaida. The aim is to convince the West that the Uzbeks are a vital cog against a common foe, that they should keep the assistance, especially military assistance, coming, and that they should mute the international criticism on human rights and economic reform.

14. I was taken aback when Matthew Kydd said this stuff was valuable. Sixteen months ago it was difficult to argue with SIS in the area of intelligence assessment. But post Butler we know, not only that they can get it wrong on even the most vital and high profile issues, but that they have a particular yen for highly coloured material which exaggerates the threat. That is precisely what the Uzbeks give them. Furthermore MI6 have no operative within a thousand miles of me and certainly no expertise that can come close to my own in making this assessment.

15. At the Khuderbegainov trial I met an old man from Andizhan. Two of his children had been tortured in front of him until he signed a confession on the family's links with Bin Laden. Tears were streaming down his face. I have no doubt they had as much connection with Bin Laden as I do. This is the standard of the Uzbek intelligence services.

16. I have been considering Michael Wood's legal view, which he kindly gave in writing. I cannot understand why Michael concentrated only on Article 15 of the Convention. This certainly bans the use of material obtained under torture as evidence in proceedings, but it does not state that this is the sole exclusion of the use of such material.

17. The relevant article seems to me Article 4, which talks of complicity in torture. Knowingly to receive its results appears to be at least arguable as complicity. It does not appear that being in a different country to the actual torture would preclude complicity. I talked this over in a hypothetical sense with my old friend Prof Francois Hampson, I believe an acknowledged World authority on the Convention, who said that the complicity argument and the spirit of the Convention would be likely to be winning points. I should be grateful to hear Michael's views on this.

18. It seems to me that there are degrees of complicity and guilt, but being at one or two removes does not make us blameless. There are other factors. Plainly it was a breach of Article 3 of the Convention for the coalition to deport detainees back here from Baghram, but it has been done. That seems plainly complicit.

19. This is a difficult and dangerous part of the World. Dire and increasing poverty and harsh repression are undoubtedly turning young people here towards radical Islam. The Uzbek government are thus creating this threat, and perceived US support for Karimov strengthens anti-Western feeling. SIS ought to establish a presence here, but not as partners of the Uzbek Security Services, whose sheer brutality puts them beyond the pale.


Second Document - summary of legal opinion from Michael Wood arguing that it is legal to use information extracted under torture:

From: Michael Wood, Legal Advisor

Date: 13 March 2003

CC: PS/PUS; Matthew Kidd, WLD

Linda Duffield


1. Your record of our meeting with HMA Tashkent recorded that Craig had said that his understanding was that it was also an offence under the UN Convention on Torture to receive or possess information under torture. I said that I did not believe that this was the case, but undertook to re-read the Convention.

2. I have done so. There is nothing in the Convention to this effect. The nearest thing is article 15 which provides:

"Each State Party shall ensure that any statement which is established to have been made as a result of torture shall not be invoked as evidence in any proceedings, except against a person accused of torture as evidence that the statement was made."

3. This does not create any offence. I would expect that under UK law any statement established to have been made as a result of torture would not be admissible as evidence.


M C Wood
Legal Adviser

Telegraph | Opinion | It's official: Britain is run by bureaucrats

The Telegraph dare not mention the other costs of bureaucrats. To my personal knowledge, some Health & Safety inspectors demand money not to close down construction sites. Fail to pay and some imagined infringement will be found. I know someone who is thinking of closing down his small business because he can't sustain those bribes.

Massive discretion in the use of enforcement powers is likely to lead to such abuse. For example, if the competition authorities launch a "dawn raid" on a business they will, among other things, seize the company's computers to search them for evidence. That is enough to put most companies out of business, guilty or not. In dealing with the bureaucrats who wield such power, companies are well advised to be craven and subservient.

Function creep is another cost. You now need planning permission to change your window frames in Britain. How can that conceivably be of interest to the State? It isn't, but it creates non-jobs. I wrote to my local council more than two months ago about installing Continental-style security shutters on my ground floor windows and doors (following an incident I blogged about, in which intruders frightened my wife). So far, I have received only an acknowledgement and a promise that "an officer will be in contact". The windows in question are not even overlooked. They are of no interest to my neighbours. I am reduced from being an Englishman in his castle, to a supplicant of the State.

Margaret Thatcher's programme of council house sales was largely driven by tenants' desires to have choices about their own homes. They were misled. Under Labour, we have about as much freedom in such matters as if we all lived in 1970's council houses. The only difference is that we have put up our own capital for the privilege.

Telegraph | Opinion | It's official: Britain is run by bureaucrats

Monday, December 26, 2005

Waiting for real aid

Mark Steyn says most things so well that I wonder why I bother to blog at all.

Waiting for real aid - Commentary- The Washington Times, America's Newspaper

Met home page

Can I be the only person who has noticed that the Met website offers only two choices under "Report a Crime"? The first is "Hate crime" and the second is "Non-emergency"!

So is anything that is not a thought crime now not an emergency? Being murdered by someone who quite likes you, for example? Or by someone of the same race and/or sexual orientation? Is being hurt by someone who hates you for your race or sexual orientation really so much more painful than being hurt by someone who just doesn't like your face? Or is the Met simply signalling submissiveness to its political masters?

Only a few days to go before the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 gives the boys in blue discretion to arrest us for virtually anything. I have always believed most policemen were decent, well-meaning sorts. Now my freedom, at least when visiting my home country, depends on that being true.

Metropolitan Police Service - Homepage

Friday, December 23, 2005

Independent Online Edition > Transport

What Stalin would have given for such power, eh?

Independent Online Edition > Transport

A Blogger's Christmas

The season of goodwill is upon us. It is not an easy time for a political blogger. All year we make sour comments on the world’s evils. They are many, but they are not the whole story.

Perhaps the least appropriate question posed on TV this Christmas, is “The Tsunami – where was God?” One does not have to be a practising Christian to answer that He was to be found in the kind hearts moved to help the victims. Nor does one have to be religious to feel that the Devil was in the heart of local officials who levied “taxes” of various kinds on the West’s generosity.

Our television news programmes have been as trivial as ever, but at least this week there was good news. The story of 700 "gay weddings" is touching, not only for the spirit of tolerance so different from my not-so-distant youth, but also for the evident craving to establish and celebrate stable, loving relationships. God bless them, every one.

There are three more democracies than there were this time last year; all in poor, benighted Africa, the spiritual home of pessimism. This gleam of hope should not be overlooked. Old, jaded democracies have politicians self-serving in inverse proportion to voter turnout, but there are new democracies emerging. We should pause a second from our critique to wish them well.

It is also very easy to be cynical about Iraq. George W. Bush has made many mistakes, that’s true. His planning was poor and his political analysis naive. However, the idea that it’s “all about oil” is self-evidently ridiculous. If the Allies wanted oil, they could have simply ended sanctions. Saddam Hussein would have sold to them as willingly as to the French and Russian “businessmen” happily circumventing the UN regime their leaders so stoutly "defended".

If there is any justice in this sad world, we should hope the valour of our troops and the good intentions that sent them to Iraq meet with a reward their political leaders’ incompetence does not deserve.

And if nothing else, the turn-out at Iraq's election should make all us old cynics ashamed. Iraqis evidently have more self-belief than the Guardianistas who thought them unready for a democracy that was "contrary to their traditions".

Of course there are some grounds for pessimism about the year to come. The quality of our mass media continues to be dispiriting. Analysis is as thin as it is partisan. Every story is spun to suit the supposed prejudices of the target audience. But the people are not as stupid as journalists or politicians think.

This week Mrs Paine served on an English jury. It was an excellent, cynicism-busting, experience. Twelve ordinary people, variously endowed with intelligence and wisdom, came together to do justice. They took it seriously. They did their best and justice was done, just as it has been for centuries. Those twelve random citizens were neither baying for blood, as Blunkett or the editor of the Daily Mail might expect, nor as anxious about the "causes of crime", as Blair or the editor of the Guardian might think. They just did their honest best. In 2006, our politicians could do worse than to follow their example. In the blessed spirit of Christmas, let’s hope they can succeed.

Merry Christmas to you all.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

EU giveaway will cost taxpayer double

The great mystery of New Labour has been this; what would it take for a Minister to resign? Blair's administration has been characterised by a complete absence of shame, almost as much as by a complete absence of weapons of mass destruction.

The Prime Minister, it seems, either lied to us this week about the financial impact of his historic capitulation on the EU budget, or he misunderstood the scale of that capitulation by a factor of almost 100%. He is therefore a knave or a fool on an unparalleled scale. No Prime Minister cost his nation so much since Harold Wilson drunkenly conceded British North Sea oil fields to his Norwegian colleague at a meeting of European Socialists.

We only find this out because he committed lese majeste in failing to consult Gordon Brown before cutting the shameful deal. Now the Treasury is briefing against him. Their figures are no more to be trusted than his, to be fair, but this much is clear; he has dumped on Gordon Brown from an enormous height - leaving him to handle the consequences of the budget deal while, no doubt, Blair swans off to Brussels for his forty pieces of silver.

It is hard to feel sorry for our odious and miserable Chancellor, but today we must do the best we can. Blair's "legacy", as we might have expected, consists of spin and treachery, not reform.

Telegraph | News

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

'Time is ripe' for reviving constitution, say Britain's EU partners

Was there ever a less democratic body politic than the EU? The voters of two nations rejected the pompous and wordy draft constitution this year, yet here is the new president proposing to revive it.

All you need to know about the EU Constitution is that, while the US Constitution famously begins, "We, the people..." the EU version begins "His Majesty the King of the Belgians..."

Estimates suggest that Britons will have to pay as much as two pennies in the pound extra income tax to finance Tony Blair's betrayal of the nation over the EU budget. Let him call the British referendum on the EU Constitution today, so that we, the people of this United Kingdom can say what we think about the corrupt, barbarous conspiracy against the nations of the Third World that is the European Union.

Telegraph | News | 'Time is ripe' for reviving constitution, say Britain's EU partners

Monday, December 19, 2005

New powers to tackle unruly pupils | the Daily Mail

The only power needed is for a head teacher to expel, at his or her discretion, any pupil. If a given child's parents are not able to control his behaviour, they should have no legal right to force the school to accept him day after day.

The alternative, as the last thirty years have shown, is for other children in the school to lose their "right" to education.

New powers to tackle unruly pupils | the Daily Mail

Blair's return of EU rebate will force spending cuts at home

On the face of it, this story makes no sense. There is nothing for Britain in the deal. The French are laughing at our further gift to their pampered farmers. We already, before reducing the rebate, contributed five times as much to the EU as France.

Why would a British Prime Minister do this? He had a veto right. He could have used it. Who in Britain would care that the EU was not able to agree a budget? He would have been very popular, in fact. His successor will now have to make cuts in British public spending (or raise taxes) to fund the additional payments to Brussels. Either could cost Labour the next election. Economically and politically, there was no reason to do this.

If a story makes no sense there is always an unknown factor. Perhaps it is this; Mr Blair is scheduled to retire before the end of this Parliament. He has already said he will not serve in the House of Lords. Who will take a £100 bet that Mr Blair is offered a prestigious role in Brussels?

Telegraph | News | Blair's return of EU rebate will force spending cuts at home

Friday, December 16, 2005

'High turnout' in Iraqi election

If one could type through clenched teeth, this is what it would look like. The high turnout - among both Shia and Sunni - in Iraq is a vindication of the Allies' efforts. The pro-insurgent BBC, which famously won't apply the word "terrorist" to Muslims, even those who bombed the London Underground, struggles here to acknowledge good news. There is none of the relish to its reporting that has accompanied every failure, setback and Allied casualty in Iraq.

There is no doubt we were misled into war by Bush and Blair. There is no doubt that they were monumentally incompetent in planning to win the peace. It is clear that the Rumsfeld approach of committing the minimum number of troops has cost lives. Perhaps it is also true that the war was unjustified. Saddam Hussein, barbarian scumbag though he is, posed no threat to anyone but his hapless people. But having made all those mistakes, the Allied forces have worked hard to achieve positive results. Thanks to their gallantry, Bush and Blair have done good by accident.

If the BBC's thesis that the Iraqis did not want democracy were true, this story would make no sense. Neither Britain nor America can hope for such high turnouts in elections. If they had such enthusiastic voters, one wonders how long Bush or Blair could survive.

BBC NEWS | Middle East | 'High turnout' in Iraqi election

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Blair defiant on education plans

What kind of idiot thinks "a return to academic selection" is a bad idea? Would you ask every child to wear the same size clothes? Would you ask every child to read the same books, listen to the same music or play the same sports? Would you treat every sick child with the same medicine? Why would it be different with their studies?

To get the maximum benefit from schooling, children need to work at a pace and a level consistent with their abilities. How do you do that without evaluating those abilities? That is all the 11-plus exam (or its equivalent in every civilised country) was ever designed to do. Having lived in ex-Communist countries, I can assure you they were never so daft, however Marxist they were in theory, as to destroy the educational opportunities of their working classes. But then they were never as Socialist as Britain is today.

To give children the same education regardless of ability is a waste of their time. To ask bright children to wait while slower ones keep up is boring. To ask slower ones to sit around while bright kids race ahead is just as boring. The "least able" (stupidest) member of our French class used to climb out of the window during our lessons. Who could blame him? He couldn't cope. Better that he ran away than disrupt our work. Better still that he spent the time learning something consistent with his abilities.

To ask anyone who has actually attended such a school to believe that any teacher is superhuman enough to tailor all lessons on an individual basis is about as plausible as the Marxist theories behind comprehensive education. To ask such a person to believe that streaming within a massive school full of bored anti-intellectuals (and that's just the teachers in many cases) can work as well as separate schools for academically-able and less able children is equally bizarre. Only someone as genuinely stupid as John Prescott, or as cut off from reality as Tony Blair can actually believe that.

Labour has only just succeeded in abolishing selection in Northern Ireland. That Province has enjoyed higher educational attainment because it retained grammar schools. What is Labour trying to do? Destroy embarrassing evidence?

Bright kids in comprehensives are under constant peer pressure not to progress. I was stoned by the ignorant chavs at mine, God rot them. If, like me, our hypocritical s.o.b. of a Prime Minister had actually attended a "bog standard comprehensive" (instead of Fettes, the "Scottish Eton") he would not hesitate openly to demand selection.

Every day I compare the marvellous education my children are getting at their private school and I regret all the time I wasted as a guinea pig for Marxist theory. We all suspect Blair's instincts on this are right. If "education, education, education" was ever more than a meaningless mantra to him, he should have the courage to let the Tories support him in genuine reform.

BBC NEWS | Politics | Blair defiant on education plans

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Mobs riot again as Sydney race tensions explode

Friendly, liberal Australia is now suffering violent clashes between different ethnic groups. The media and Australian politicians have no hesitation in condemning white participants in those clashes as "racists" and "thugs" without considering whether they have legitimate grievances. The same commentators leap to the defence of Muslim Australians without even considering whether some of them may be to blame for the problems they are now experiencing. Isn't that knee-jerk reaction racist?

The liberties exported from Europe and further developed in the United States and elsewhere are everywhere under threat because of the barbarous actions of extremist Muslims. We have now had suicide attacks in London, street riots in France, a train bombing in Madrid, and - of course - the horrors of 9/ll. My most abiding memory of that day is of my horror at the celebrations on "the Arab street". What a large minority the "extremists" seemed to be.

Our media and politicians are quick to excuse, if not actually to justify, such actions because of the supposed alienation of Muslim communities. Thought pieces in the press invariably focus on what the rest of us can do to overcome that alienation. It is taken as read that the alienation is justified. It is also taken as read that no amount of alienation would justify similar conduct by the white community. Aren't the Guardianistas being racist in expecting a higher ethical standard from whites?

No-one ever seems to consider that a majority population can become alienated too. Australia, to the surprise of its leaders, seems to be proving the point. Of course, nothing can justify assaulting innocent individuals because they belong to a particular ethnic or religious group. If we applied that standard consistently, not least to Muslims, we might have less difficulty in explaining it to aggrieved Australians.

Telegraph | News | Mobs riot again as Sydney race tensions explode

Monday, December 12, 2005

Mocking idiots is no job for a grown-up

This country increasingly resembles China during the Cultural Revolution. Why is the story recounted in this obscure Telegraph opinion piece not headline news? What was the point of the police calling someone to say that her views had been "noted", if not political intimidation? What else are we to understand from the conviction of a protester for quietly reading out the names of our war dead in Iraq at the Cenotaph, but that we are not permitted contrary views?

David Cameron is good news for the image of the Conservative Party, but the jury is out on whether he will stop the rot in terms of free speech. The token Conservative on Andrew Marr's Sunday am yesterday, Giles Brandreth, was incongruously (for him) not wearing a tie - under orders from his leader. If Cameron is down to that level of detail, can there be doubt that he has also given orders as to the range of opinions to be expressed by his troops?

Telegraph | Opinion | Mocking idiots is no job for a grown-up

Friday, December 09, 2005

Police 'may be charged over tube shooting'

How could the police officers who killed Jean Charles de Menezes NOT be charged? If the Crown Prosecution Service fails to do so, it will be clear that another "independent" arm of the British State has fallen under political control.

I feel sorry for the officers. They were given illegal orders and they probably acted on them in good faith. However, they have no available defence to a charge of murder. They were not provoked. They did not have reasonable cause to apprehend any danger to them or anyone around them, so there was no question of self defence. The innocent young man was carrying nothing that could have been a bomb and did nothing to make the police suspicious. It was a cock-up, apparently beginning with a surveillance officer taking a slash in the bushes when he should have been ID'ing the "suspect". He only saw de Menezes in his peripheral vision while otherwise engaged. His snap judgement at that moment, seems to have cost an innocent life.

The problem is that the killers are criminally responsible. Following orders was no excuse for them. They should have refused to fire. The real issue is the responsibility of those who gave them the orders. There is no legislative sanction for a shoot to kill policy. If we need one, Parliament must change the law. Therefore the orders given by the PM, the Home Secretary, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner and the superior officers of the shooters were ALL illegal. They are as guilty as the poor schmoes in uniform who will take the rap. Who will charge them?

Telegraph | News | Police 'may be charged over tube shooting'

George Orwell estate to sue Government over breach of copyright

I love this!! Do visit and read it. Hat tip to "Attempting Escape" at

NHS may not treat smokers, drinkers or obese

This is fine, I guess, if the Government ensures that all taxes paid by the individuals concerned and applied to the NHS are repaid. By taxing them in the first place, the Government denied them the chance to make their own health care provision. To deny them treatment now is outrageous, unless they are given their money back to buy private service.

Personally, I would be more than happy to take up smoking or whatever if I could get back my taxes and pay for proper, non-socialised, health care myself.

Telegraph News NHS may not treat smokers, drinkers or obese

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Extremists 'could take over our schools' | the Daily Mail

With great respect to the teachers' unions, extremists took over our schools over 30 years ago. Their communist doctrines of "one size fits all" education have blighted the lives of millions of people in Britain, causing a decline in literacy and numeracy which is - from the point of view of employers - quite startling.

As our schools have become unpleasant theatres of class war, the quality of those prepared to work in them has declined. At one point the head of modern languages at my old school was the class dunce at French in the year above me when I was there. The man could barely string a sentence together in his own language, and he was teaching French and supervising the work of other teachers.

We are losing our capacity to teach any subject which requires skills marketable elsewhere. Hence we are increasingly unable to provide science and language education at all. This is impairing the life chances of millions of students and destroying our economic competitiveness. Blair is right to try to take on the Leftist dinosaurs of education, and Cameron is right to back him.

In a well-run society, teachers are the most important and respected of all professionals, not whingeing unionised public-sector workers. The National Union of Teachers disgraces Britain's teachers by its very existence. let alone by its ludicrous and outdated pronouncements.

Extremists 'could take over our schools' | the Daily Mail

Thursday, December 01, 2005

The Joy of Curmudgeonry: White with Loathing

Here is some advanced taurocoprology from my favourite blog. If I had not followed the links, I would have thought he was making it up.

The Joy of Curmudgeonry: White with Loathing