Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Saturday, 28 September 2002

Honesty in government British-style

Part 1 - Estelle Morris dismisses Sir William Stubbs

Within one hour of the publication yesterday of Mike Tomlinson's report into the controversy surrounding A-level results in England and Wales this summer (allegations that grades had been manipulated in order to ensure that pass-levels remained consistent with earlier years), the chairman of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) Sir William Stubbs was dismissed by the Education Secretary Estelle Morris. Curiously, however, Sir William had been cleared of any wrong-doing by Mr Tomlinson's independent inquiry (as had Ms Morris herself).

It seems that Sir William's criticism of intervention by Ms Morris earlier this week, which he stated compromised the independence of Mr Tomlinson's inquiry, made Sir William's continuation in his role unacceptable to Ms Morris. Ms Morris opined the day following the allegations that they were in essence correct, but that she had not 'interfered', merely planned for a range of potential outcomes of Mr Tomlinson's report. That's all right then.

Part 2 - Curry (sic) causes Major upset

The above is not a reference to what dodgy food can do to you!

No, it seems that the Prime Minister who launched a 'back to basics' [personal morality and other such worthy things] campaign was himself a few years earlier an adulterer. Today it is revealed in excerpts published in 'The Times' newspaper of Edwina Currie's autobiography that she and John Major, then a fairly junior member of the Conservative government hierarchy, had an affair between 1984 and 1988. It is being said that he broke off the relationship when he was appointed to the Cabinet - career path, you know, mustn't risk that. It seems, from what I have heard so far, that Mrs Major has been aware of the affair for some years, but it is not entirely clear when she became aware of it, and how.

Something I haven't heard mentioned so far is the curious fact that it was also in 1988 that Mrs Currie herself resigned as a Junior Health Minister after having stated that defective animal husbandry in the poultry industry was a major contributory factor in the incidence of Salmonella in eggs; she was forced out on the pretext that she was a scare-monger, but it became clear subsequently that her remarks were in large part accurate. Could this have been some elaborate cover-up to ensure her just-ended (or about to end) relationship with Mr Major remain private. And why has she chosen to reveal this affair now, when it has so successfully been kept confidential to date?

Wednesday, 25 September 2002

The British government publishes a document detailing what it believes to be the grave danger posed to world peace by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq

The full text of this dossier is available either at the Downing Street website, or at the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ website.

The document published 24th September provides a great deal of information, some of it quite alarming, about the imminent danger posed to world peace if Saddam Hussein’s regime is permitted to continue the development of chemical, biological and perhaps nuclear weapons. It seems clear that there is additional information which has not been included in the published document, in order to protect the intelligence operatives who most likely continue to require confidentiality for their safety.

I have written a much lengthier article about this matter in my main website, and you can read this if you wish by clicking here.

Monday, 23 September 2002

The clock is ticking for the Conservative Party and its blind obduracy over Section 28

There is an excellent article in this week's Spectator magazine, what one might call a laying on the line of the 'realpolitik' of the situation the Conservative Party finds itself in. Its popularity has been flatlining at around 30% for almost ten years. Its continuing determination to maintain its policies (retention of clause 28, support for so-called 'family values', opposition to unmarried couples and gays being considered as potential adoptive parents) in the face of what even it must be aware is a large swathe of opposition in the country - hence its dismal performance in the pollls - I suppose betokens an heroic stance. Heroic, but foolish and ultimately pointless. I have no desire to see British politics realigned with the Liberal Democrats as the other main component, with Labour, in our public life, but there is now a real danger of that happening.

The Conservative Party has proved very successful over two centuries in regularly renewing itself, sometimes putting in place radical policy changes to make it once more relevant to current conditions. I hope it can pull off this trick again, but unfortunately the bigoted pygmies who currently run the Party are likely to run their political ship aground (I'm on a roll with my poor symbolism, I'm afraid) unless they, or perhaps those who can supplant them, change course. Time is running out.

Thursday, 19 September 2002

The UN may, as I feared, be about to fudge any action on Iraq

There is a worrying article in today's Independent newspaper, suggesting that Iraq will have upto 1 year of 'grace' once UN weapons insepctors go back in. This seems to confirm my worst fears that the appeasers want to delay, obfuscate and fudge any action to remove the threat to the region and the wider world from Saddam Hussein's thuggish Iraqi regime.

The Bush administration and our own Prime Minister, Tony Blair, must remain firm in the face of this diplomatic ambush.

Monday, 16 September 2002

Speculation this evening that Iraq may allow weapons inspectors back into the country. But will they be given unfettered access?

The BBC reported this evening that there is growing speculation that Iraq may permit UN weapons inspectors back into Iraq. A 'senior Arab official' is the source, it seems, although he has said the 'tenor' of the announcement apparently to be made by Iraq is not yet known.

Of course, I would love to see it possible to avoid a war and for the UN weapons inspectors to be allowed to go about their legitimate business without interference from the Iraqi authorities, but I am not holding my breath. There have been too many cases in the past of Iraq seeming to permit something, then back-tracking. It could be just one more effort on their part to obfuscate and delay action to force change in that country. The US and its allies will need to maintain a steady nerve over coming days to ensure that efforts to embroil them in pointless delays, under the guise of diplomatic moves aimed at promoting peace, do not succeed in diverting them from the path reiterated last week by President Bush and by Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Wednesday, 11 September 2002

United States Tragedy

2001 - 11 September - 2002
... one year already ...

My sincere condolences to all those who have lost family, friends and colleagues in the horrifying and incomprehensible acts of terrorism affecting four civilian aircraft, the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington D.C.

Rest in Peace.

Sunday, 8 September 2002

Does the evidence about the threat Iraq is said to pose, which is referred to regularly by George W Bush and Tony Blair, really exist?

The quick answer is that I have no idea. All I am aware of, recently, is that Tony Blair announced in a speech earlier this week that a dossier would be published in the next week or so which would satisfy all the doubters.

It seems to me that there are several possible explanations:
- Bush and Blair are simply lying, or at the very least exaggerating dramatically, when they claim that evidence exists showing that Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi regime has chemical and biological weapons ‘of mass destruction’ and that he has the means and the definite intention to use them; there could be many motives for this dissimulation, if it exists, but I don’t plan to discuss these in this article;
- Circumstantial evidence for the above exists, but because they know it would not convince those not pre-disposed to accept what they say without question they have chosen not to reveal the paltry evidence they do have;
- Real evidence does exist, but for various reasons they have chosen to retain the confidentiality of the information they do have.

They may be other possible explanations, but I think the three above cover the most likely. I tend to discount the first – I find it difficult to believe that the alleged evidence is a bare-faced lie; I have no particular views about Bush as my understanding of the intricacies of US politics and its electoral system is not perfect, although I think I have a fair understanding of both. On the other hand, I am not a natural supporter of Tony Blair at all – I like the present New Labour no more than I liked traditional Labour policies, but I have no reason to suppose that Blair would indulge in bare-faced deception; manipulation yes, media-spin certainly, but outright falsity – no, I don’t think so. At the very least, both Bush and Blair must surely know that the truth will eventually be revealed.

At the very least I suspect that strong circumstantial evidence exists to justify their forthright views. We are told often that no intelligence is available from within Iraq because it would be very difficult for those gathering it to survive given the level of state surveillance Saddam’s regime is notorious for and it is implied, but never explicitly stated, that the intelligence-gathering is all remotely-based (whether by satellite surveillance, evidence provided by Iraqi defectors or other eaves-dropping techniques).

A number of sceptical politicians here in the United Kingdom, and in the United States, have demanded that firm ‘evidence’ be provided to justify pre-emptive action against Iraq; they state that as democracies we must be seen to act legitimately at all times and that “the people have a right to know”. Nothing wrong with this, in principle, I would be the first to agree. On the other hand, though, I think that sometimes in the West we have a tendency to think that the rest of the world thinks as we do, in democracy and the rule of law; we live in comfortable societies where the bulk of the populations are reasonably healthy, well-educated and prosperous and where safety-nets exist to help those who for one reason or another need help. The rest of the world is not necessarily like this, though.

I make one final set of comments. What if the evidence against Iraq is real and credible, just as Tony Blair has stated it to be, but that it has been obtained by operatives from within Iraq who would be in grave danger if its existence and the detail behind it were to be revealed, because the Iraqi authorities would know that only one or a very few individuals could have known about it? If this is the case, perhaps the remarks by Blair and Bush that evidence would be revealed when they feel it is prudent to do so is because they need to give those who provided the intelligence the time and the opportunity to protect themselves from the retaliation of Saddam Hussein and those among his administration who remain loyal to him not just through fear, but real conviction.

Saturday, 7 September 2002

Baroness Janet Young, a reactionary force in British politics, has died

I do not rejoice when anyone dies, indeed I almost always feel saddened, but I am not going to play the hypocrite and pretend to feelings of enormous grief at the news yesterday of the death of Baroness Janet Young of Farnworth, at the age of 75. An interesting woman, by any standards, in some ways she led an exemplary life and by general consent she was a gifted administrator, although as she never succeeded in gaining elected office (I wonder why?) her contribution to government was purely as an appointed Life Peeress in the House of Lords, from which position she achieved ministerial and cabinet rank. However, specially in her latter years, she became identified with what many, and I am certainly amongst these, describe as a reactionary cabal which fought tenaciously to deny gays and lesbians in Britain their legitimate claims for equality under law - her opposition to the repeal, and indeed her role in causing to be passed into law, of the hateful piece of legislation known colloquially as 'Clause 28' and her opposition to the equalisation of the age of consent and to the theoretical eligilbility of gays being considered as adoptive parents are likely to be her lasting legacy, whether one views this legacy positively or negatively. The Guardian newspaper carries an obituary of Lady Young, in which those who applaud or condemn her are cited.