Tuesday, 2 March 2004

I feel better already

Clive Summerfield @ Tuesday, March 02, 2004
Well, that's alright then. Nick Raynsford is threatening to cap council tax increases to ensure that rises don't exceed 6%. While that is half the percentage increase of last year, it is still nearly 3 times the rate of inflation.

Monday, 1 March 2004

About time too

Clive Summerfield @ Monday, March 01, 2004
Looks like the Conservatives have come to their collective senses, and decided to pull out of the Butler whitewash. Taken them a while, but they finally seemed to have cottoned on to what the rest of us realised weeks ago; that the Butler Inquiry will achieve nothing with regards to revealing the truth.

Meanwhile the Government is doggedly hanging in there, still refusing to reveal the Attorney General's legal advice. In many ways Tony Blair now reminds me of HAL9000 from Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. Faced with trying to maintain a high-level deception, the poor thing became psychotic, much like HAL9000. However I do think it unlikely that Tony will resort to murder to maintain the lie, at least not directly.

This may give an insight into how the legal position was identified. After Foreign Office experts decided that war would be illegal, the US suggested that Tony find himself some new lawyers. So Lord Goldsmith wanders over to Professor Christopher Greenwood of the LSE, the most hawkish lawyer he could find, and based his advice to the Government on Greenwood's opinion.

John Major, himself no fun-loving fan of human rights, waded in on Breakfast with Frost yesterday, pointing out the obvious that country will remain divided as long as Lord Goldsmith's double side of A4 remains for the eyes of the Cabinet only. And although Tony Blair keeps falling back on the defence that the Attorney General's advice is covered by constitutional convention, there are exceptions to the rules defined in the parliamentary rule book, with disclosure occurring as recently as 1971. Besides which, Blair can't have it both ways. On previous occasions (most recently with the leaking of Dr Kelly's name to the press) he has shown himself to be no stickler for constitutional niceties. Either Butler's remit must be extended, or the inquiry scrapped and a new one set up in its place, with broader terms and members appointed by all parties. Until this happens, there can and will be no progress on other areas, not in health, education, welfare, transport, etc, etc. Instead this government will remain hog-tied and ineffectual, while the cancer of doubt gnaws at its heart.

And Tony has the temerity to be disappointed with Clare Short. Maybe he should take a look around him at just how disappointed we are with his performance.

Faintly disturbing

Clive Summerfield @ Monday, March 01, 2004
As someone who has grown up hearing about the Troubles on the news as a child, being caught in bomb scares in London, etc, there always seemed to be a perception of the IRA and Sinn Fein as the bad guys. Even though I am older and more enlightened, there are times when the words of reason uttered by Sinn Fein still catch me out. And to be honest, I do sympathise with the Republican Movement in the latest squabble around restoration of powers. Even the DUP don't seem to be screaming and shouting as much as David Trimble's UUP. And from a purely demographic perspective, the various Unionists ought by now to becoming to terms with the fact that their historical dominance cannot last much longer.

Green

Clive Summerfield @ Monday, March 01, 2004
Obviously the only thing green about the UK Armed Forces is some of the camouflage, especially if their objection to wind farms is anything to go by. Apparently any wind farm within 45 miles of a radar station interferes with signals, but only in the UK. In Germany it is only a problem if the wind farm is within 5 miles, and elsewhere it just isn't a problem. I can only assume that the MoD is still using WW2 vintage radar in an effort to make savings, as it is hard to believe that a modern radar system can distinguish between aircraft and missiles and ranges of 100s of miles, but gets confused by a windmill half a county away.

Audit?

Clive Summerfield @ Monday, March 01, 2004
Westminster City Council and the Met have brought a new meaning the word Audit. According to them, auditing beggars in Westminster involves arresting, finger-printing, taking DNA samples and then bailing them. As if criminalising them is going to solve the problem. And it gets better. Apparently charities that run soup kitchens could be prosecuted for parking or environmental health violations. I kid you not!

Yeah right, we all believe that.

Clive Summerfield @ Monday, March 01, 2004
So Tony once roughed it on a London park bench, having travelled there to try and become a rock star. Or at least that is what Cherie would have us believe. Once again, Tony is portrayed as a man of the people, who can empathise with the suffering in society.

What a load of bollocks. After all, we've been here before.

Anyone remember Blair's claim to have sat at the Gallowgate End, watching his teenage hero Jackie Milburn play football for Newcastle? The only problem being that when Milburn retired, our Tone was only four, and the Gallowgate End had no seats at the time.

Or the time when a 14 year old Blair attempted to stow away on a flight from Newcastle to the Bahamas? Which would have been tricky given that there were no flights from Newcastle to the Caribbean at the time.

And then there's his favourite dish. Is it fresh fettuccine with sun-dried tomatoes, or fish and chips from his local chippie in Sedgefield? Depends on whether you read the NSPCC Islington Cook Book or his local Labour Party news-sheet in Sedgefield.

Not bad for a pretty straight kind of guy. If he can't be honest about his own past, how in hell are we expected to believe him when he talks about the major issues.

Happy happy joy joy

Clive Summerfield @ Monday, March 01, 2004
Good old Clare Short. Not only does she recieve a threatening letter from Cabinet Secretary Sir Andrew Turnbull, warning her not to give interviews regarding the bugging of Kofi Annan, but she went on ITV's Jonathon Dimbleby programme to publicised the fact.

And now it seems that the Ministry of Defence is facing legal action of the deaths of 13 Iraqi civilians. It seems that Public Interest Lawyers (bit of an oxymoron there methinks) are preparing to sue the MoD for compensation on behalf of the victims' families. So the lawyers will get richer (at our expense), the victims' families will get a modicum of compensation (at our expense), but meanwhile the families of servicemen killed in Iraq will still get bugger all in real terms. And all this for participating in a war of dubious legality.

Meanwhile, I wonder if Tony has any regrets about signing the Treaty of Rome which set up the International Criminal Court? With all the debate around the legality of the war, it would be ironic were Tony Blair and Geoff Hoon to be hauled up in front of the ICC for waging illegal war in Iraq. After all, if the justification was the location and destruction of WMDs then any military action that did not relate to such activities (e.g. use of cluster bombs, hitting restaurants in Baghdad, etc) could be deemed illegal under the terms of the ICC. Funnier still, that the US didn't ratify the Treaty and thus is not bound by its terms.

Part of the problem stems from Tony's desire to be liked by, and have the support of the majority of people. Fully aware that there was no consensus of support for regime change, yet convinced of the moral rightness of his cause to remove Saddam, Tony had to find an issue upon which he could build his support. He settled - in a decision which will stay with him forever - on alleged WMDs. From that point onwards, the die was cast and so the case for war was built from lie upon lie, mis-direction upon mis-direction, until even tony himself was most likely no longer aware of what was truth and what was falsehood. For a pretty straight sort of guy, he now appears incapable of talking in anything but lawyer-speak, full of evasions and meaningless phrases.

Until the Attorney General, along with Blair and co, comes clean on, this issue is going to drag on and on. What is needed is not another whitewash - this time headed by Butler - but rather a comprehensive public inquiry into the whole case for war. Until that point, it is the duty of all people to challenge and question the Prime Minister on his actions, and to hold him to account.