The damning report in the Times makes for great ammunition if you want to knock Tony Blair. But be careful.
There are many people who feel that the government has got too close to the USA and that our PM is more of a lapdog to President Bush that the head of government here in the UK. While I have some sympathy with this point of view it is very simplistic and omits the simple fact that the USA is our single biggest ally and has been for decades. David Cameron made this point well when he said that we should be close enough friends with the States to be able to talk frankly with each other.
There may be a number of people in the Washington elite who think that our support for the USA means nothing but talk to real Americans and the view is very, very different. The British are loved in the US because at the time when they felt truly threatened by an enemy they did not understand and could not see, we stood at their side.
Presidents and administrations come and go but the national psyche of the USA has been deeply influenced by the actions of the British government and armed forces. If you look at American sites to the "Fallen Heroes" of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan you will see that the British casualties are given at least as much deference there as they are at home (perhaps even more!).
Should we have a "blank cheque" policy towards the USA? Of course not, but we should think very carefully about looking for oportunities to undermine the relationship between ourselves and the States.
Cock-ups like this can have a hugely damaging effect on moral.
I have heard a few horror stories about the Royal Navy's HR, things like ships being pulled out of conflict zones one day short of the campaign medal entitlement period. The saliors have done the work but don't get a gong for it.
It might not sound important but it does make a difference.
"I am far more concerned that the Police should actually arrest people for the existing crimes of incitement to murder and the like, and spend less time cooking up ideas for acts that do not need to be criminalised"
Devoid of a coherent argument Recess Monkey (aka Alex Hilton) has fallen back on the traditional weapon of the left. Faux righteous anger.
In this case he is talking about the comments made by Bob Spink MP which I wrote about here.
None of this is particularly of note except for the point at which Alex crosses the line and verges on libel. In the comments section Alex defends his position with the following sentence: "The fact is, Bob Spink doesn’t care about any other correlations, because he wants to highlight race because he is a racist."
Bold call Alex!
"Bob Spink doesn't care ........ because he is a racist".
I hope you have a good lawyer Alex because from what I can remember from the "slander and libel section" of my degree you could be in a lot of trouble.
This extract was taken from the John Swift site. He's a right of centre American and well worth a read. Who says that Americans have no sense of humour?
"Every year on the eve of Thanksgiving the White House selects a turkey for the President to pardon, sparing it from ending up on the dinner table for the rest of its life. Last year President Bush pardoned not one but two turkeys. Although this annual ritual reportedly goes back at least 50 years to President Truman (although some say it hearkens back to Lincoln), it seems to me it is getting a bit out of hand and is sending the wrong message to terrorists. I think if this year the President reversed years of tradition and shocked the world by announcing that he was sentencing the turkey to death instead of pardoning it, the terrorists would realize that we really mean business."
I don't like the idea of state funding for political parties. I don't want any of my tax money going to Labour, Lib Dems, UKIP or the BNP, thank you very much.
I donate money to the Conservative party because I believe in what it stands for, if enough other people do too then they should be allowed to donate what they like. Parties should stand or fall based upon the support that they can generate.
Labour used to have huge pots of union money to play with but union membership has fallen and their appeal to big individual donors has been damaged. Now that they are struggeling financially they want to limit what the Conservative party spends. The Guardian article says that Labour want a level playing field, of course they do, they're skint.
Ask yourself this question:
Would Labour still be pushing through these plans if they thought that they could outspend the Conservatives in the key marginal seats?
London Mayoral contender, Lee Rotherham, wants to talk to you about drugs.
This is a big, big issue. The current plans is so clearly not working that some radical thinking is needed, should hard drugs and soft drugs be viewed differently? Should drugs be legalised, taxed and controlled? Should we take a zero tolerence approach to all drug use?
Don't be shy, let him know your thoughts, actually I'd be interested to hear them too.
A CBI report says that business taxes will need to be cut to keep the UK competitive in the world market.
According to the results of my (very unscientific) poll last month you agree. The readers of this site are not a representative sample and the polling numbers are small but the results are pretty conclusive.David Cameron was down to speak to the CBI but changed his plans and is now in Iraq visiting the British troops, George Osborne has taken his place and has committed to a rebalancing of taxes rather than a big reduction in taxes.
There have been rumbles of discontent within the CBI about the Conservative party's traditional support for business. David Cameron's short notice change of plan and George Osborne's speech won't have pored oil on those waters.
These are real issues and are of real concern to African and Caribbean families that I have spoken to whilst campaigning. Talking about these things may make some people uncomfortable but that should not stop us talking about them or attempting to do something about them.
Head in the sand is not a viable political position.
Back in August David Cameron said that the Conservative party's policy towards apartheid South Africa was wrong but did not go as far as to say he was sorry for our then policy. Tony Blair nearly said sorry for Britain's involvement in the slave trade and the BBC "express regret" over the coverage of Princess Diana's death.
None have said "I am sorry" and I think that is is right that they don't. You can't really say sorry for what someone else has done at some point in the past. There have been many, many events in the history of this country which, with the benefit of hindsight, we may now wish we had done differently, understand them, learn from them and then move forward.
As you may be aware a number of our target constituencies are selecting candidates at the moment. Like others on the Conservative party's priority list (A list) I have been applying to and in some cases being interviewed for a number of these.
I haven't written about this process much because it is not the most interesting read, but I don't want to seem as if I am trying to hide my search for a constituency either.
The process of matching candidates to constituencies is a big issue for any political party. For the local association it can sometimes be the biggest decision that it can make for decades, for the candidate it can mean the difference between becoming an MP or not becoming an MP.
I have applied for seats which are in areas I know and/or where I have some strong connections. This basically means London and the South East, for the record I have applied for about ten seats, some of which delayed their interview process. I have had interviews in five seats and got through to the final rounds of three. The interviews were at East Harrow and Witham and the final rounds I got to were Battersea, Dartford and Brighton Kemptown.
Some candidates apply for dozens of seats, some apply for only a few. Giving yourself a fighting chance of getting selected usually means a number of visits to the constituency, talking to local residents, local papers, hours of research on the Internet etc. This takes up a lot of time if you do it thoroughly, I don't think that it is possible to do this with more than three or four seats at once.
As I said when commenting on Ali's blog, getting a seat is a long and drawn out process. As a candidate you have to look seriously at moving your family, relocating schools, possibly changing job, spending a lot of your time and money on fighting a campaign where there are still no guarantees. Of the constituencies that I have had interviews for three have chosen local candidates and two have chosen A listers.
Is finding a seat frustrating? Yes. Do I think that the system is flawed? Probably. Do I believe that I have been unfairly treated, or that I am being discriminated against by local associations or the party? No.
From some of the responses to the Sort-it.co.uk site you would think that the word "tosser" was the most disgusting, evil, pornographic work in the English language.
Some Lib Dems are desperately trying to spin this, with "Tory call people in debt Tossers" style posts, well do your best. The point of the advert was to highlight the current debt situation without being stuck up of aloof, not everyone will like it. So what?
The site has plenty of useful stuff to help plan your personal finances, when was the last time a financial help site got this much coverage? The site doesn't try to push party politics, in fact the party logo doesn't appear at all and the word "Conservatives" is only visible in small text in the bottom corner. It isn't my cup of tea, but I'm not the target audience.
You have a choice in politics and in life, try and innovate or look backwards. We have chosen our path.
When senior officers visit your unit you can guarantee that the junior officers will say what you want them to. When senior officers visit the Sgts' mess you cross your fingers, they have a habit of speaking their minds.
This is exactly what has happened in Hulmund, The CO says that while not perfect things are OK, Sgt Brown says that they are short of key equipment. Vehicles, weapons and thermal sights are pretty important stuff. The stories of kit shortages afflicting the Paras seems not to have improved greatly with the Royal Marines. I am disappointed but not surprised.
What the government gives British soldiers is usually rubbish and there are lots of things that they don't give us which the just expect us to have. To be fair it was ever thus.
Because British soldier habitually go to war under equipped they borrow (or steal) equipment from their allies. We are known throughout NATO as "the Borrowers". Ahhhhh such a proud military tradition.
Bungees, waterproof note books, highlighter pens, wax pencils, map cases, woolly hats, tent pegs, etc, etc, etc. These may seem like trivial items but actually as any soldier will tell you, you cannot do your job properly without these.
A soldier cannot do their job at all without bullets. To hear that the government sent 3Para to Hulmund with duff ammo fills me with anger. When John Reid (Labour leadership hopeful) said that the Paras could do their job without firing a single bullet, did he know something that we are only just finding out about?
Here is the footage of the duff 50Cal ammo. The incident is 2min 20seconds in.
By the way, if you have ever had to cock a 50Cal you will know just how hard this young soldier is working.
I'm glad that DC has stood up to the transparently shallow "I'm tougher that you" competition currently being run between Brown and Reid.
Labour have been far from committed to our security over the last few years. Where is our border control force? Why was the extra funding for the security service so slow coming through? Why are there still hundreds of foreign prisoners walking the street of Britain when they were meant to deported at the end of their sentences? What workable security measures are they planning to scrap to pay for their stupid ID cards?
David Cameron is not trying to grab headlines with the Home Office brief and the shadow Home Office team are not trying to get more "profile". They are planning how to make the country safer and how to hold the Government to account for this area of government.
In the publishing industry we have a rather raw term for sales people who talk a good game but don't deliver, it is often the case that they are the most vocal in the condemnation of other people's performance. Do we really need Reid and Brown playing "who's got the biggest balls" when what we need is quiet efficiency?
Like we say at work, "stop talking about doing it and and just start doing it".
Now call me an old cynic but I wouldn't be surprised if we started to get a flurry of "good news" stories coming out of Iraq all through Spring. I imagine that there will be something of a good new crescendo in late April drifting into the early days of May.
Labour got a stuffing in the urban local government elections earlier this year and I doubt that they will want to repeat that performance in 2007.
Witham voters have confounded their critics by choosing Priti Patel as their Conservative candidate. She has a reputation as being a strong campaigner and public speaker and being a passionate Eurosceptic, just what Essex Conservatives tend to like. And that's the point. She got selected because she was a good fit for Witham, and I am sure she will prove a popular MP.
It was always the case that the parties involved in the Ladywell Pool campaign would make political capital out of the decision to keep it open. Everyone writes thier part a little bit bigger, a little bit bolder than in reality it was.
I can forgive them that.
But it takes some kind of brass neck for Steve Bullock to claim credit for it's saviour. See here for the leaflet that Labour have put out claiming credit for the resolution of the fiasco they created.
It is up there with: "I never wanted that eye anyway" Harold, Ex King of England 1066 "I'm glad that the British still control the Falklands, I'm sure they'll do a great job" General Galtieri, Buenos Aires 1982 "The English team look good holding that cup, it will make an iconic image" Captain of the German football team, Wembley 1966
I was going to write about this at the time but somehow I managed to let it slip.
This story highlights the biggest problem with the idea of multiculturalism. We like to think that tolerance is part of the British culture, so we tolerate other cultures, but what happens when one of those other cultures is itself intolerant?
We have always had a series of cultures running in parallel, what we view as "British culture" is the mean of these. We are much more "diverse" than some people think. As I said, parallel cultures have always existed here but tangential cultures could cause us real problems.
Matthew Taylor is Tony Blair's chief adviser on political strategy and the ex head of the Blairite think tank the IPPR and when it comes to the internet he's clueless.
In his leaving speech (he's going of to head up the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts) he seems to blur the distinction between blogs, the mainstream media and the general internet.
For example he said of the citizenry(?!?!): They wanted "sustainability", for example, but not higher fuel prices, affordable homes for their children but not new housing developments in their town or village.
But rather than work out these dilemmas in partnership with their elected leaders, they were encouraged to regard all politicians as corrupt or "mendacious" by the media, which he described as "a conspiracy to maintain the population in a perpetual state of self-righteous rage".
He then went on to say: "What is the big breakthrough, in terms of politics, on the web in the last few years? It's basically blogs which are, generally speaking, hostile and, generally speaking, basically see their job as every day exposing how venal, stupid, mendacious politicians are".
And finally: "I want people to have more power, but I want them to have more power in the context of a more mature discourse about the responsibilities of government and the responsibilities of citizens".
His basic point was that people think that politicians are rubbish and it is the Internet's fault.
How comfortable do you feel with people like him dripping advice into the ear of the Prime Minister. Like they say in the computing world, SISO
I have worked in publishing for most of my adult life and I have always worked in industries which I find interesting, I spent many years as the Advertising Manager on Computeract!ve Magazine just as the .com bubble was growing and bursting.
Currently I work in a publishing company which focuses on the small business market, it's a very interesting part of the economy which too often gets overlooked. I am passionate about the role that small businesses have in not only the economic health of the country but also the social health. The blurring of the edges between the private and voluntary sector is also of interest to me.
So I expect this afternoon to be a lot of fun. I am off to the British Library to do a live online Q&A session with John Bird, founder of the Big Issue (not the comedian from Bremner, Bird & Fortune). He is going to talk about CSR, business with a social conscience and his new Wedge Card which he claims will help drive footfall back into local shops.
Should be interesting!
If you want to ask him questions you can do so here.
Between the rhetoric and the reality. So much for John Reid being tough on crime and tough on criminals!
It looks like the government is going to hand over our money to drug addicted criminals without a fight. There is a good chance that forcing these inmates to go "cold turkey" infringed their "human rights" and the Home Office don't want the embarrassment of this going through the courts.
Did I miss a memo? When was the right to poison yourself in prison at tax payers expense made a "human right"?
Well, well well. It looks as though the Labour leadership race will be between Reid and Brown.
In an article written for the Telegraph, John Reid has tried to paint David Cameron as soft on crime and boasts about his own record. Clearly setting out the battle lines for a leadership bid!
Go for it John, it takes a huge degree of self delusion for anyone in the current Home Office to boast about their record and you will need plenty of it to lead Labour into the next General Election.
He boasts about how many people there are in prison and how long they are serving, he seems not to understand that overflowing prisons are a sign of increased crime and a failure of planning. He pays lip service to tackling the causes of crime but he clearly hasn't got a real plan for this side of the equation.
David Cameron is not advocating a hippy love in as a solution to youth crime, what he is saying is that the vast majority of young people are good and many of the young offenders just need focus, guidance and structure. It is a bit rich for the Home Secretary to point the finger at the Leader of the opposition when it has been his Government's undermining of teacher's authority, parent's authority and police authority which has fueled much of the increase in youth crime.
Rather like a playground bully, Reid's posturing and barking may hide a deep lack of self confidence.
I was at the Lewisham War Memorial this morning for our local ceremony of remembrance. It was good to see so many of my old TA mates, and particularly nice to see Major Martin Smith RA(V) as Battery Commander of 265 Bty RA(V) in Grove Park. Martin and I were Subalterns at Grove park together about a decade ago and he is Godfather to Rupert.
This was the first year the we took Freddy and Rupert with us, they were a bit of a handful but not to bad considering it was cold and they couldn't see much.
I thought that Alan Johnson would have been a serious threat to us if he became Labour leader, lots of people that I speak to agreed. But he has joined the ranks of those Labour MPs who do not have the bottle to take on Brown.
Good I say.
Gordon Brown may be great as a backroom operator but there was a reason that Labour didn't choose him when they had the change. I believe that their lack of courage and backward looking mindset will be the hallmark of their third term.
My colour is not the first thing that I think about in the morning and it's not the last thing I think about at night. In fact it is only part of what makes me what I am. My schooling, geography, occupation, sex, military background, etc, etc, etc all have a significant impact on what and who I am. When looking for a seat to fight at the next general election all of these things come into play, assuming your success or otherwise is solely because of one factor is unrealistic.
There are a lot of talented people on the Conservative priority list and not very many "safe" seats. That is always going to make it hard to find a safe seat.
I got through to the interview stage at Witham, along with Ali, and Priti Patel. That's 3 black/Asian candidates out of 16 (so I am led to believe) interviewed, that's almost 20%, twice the national percentage for BME numbers and about ten times the percentage of the BME population in rural Essex.
That doesn't sound racist to me.
BME candidates can get selected in "safe" seats, Shailesh Vara and Adam Afriyie are proof of that but it is hard for everyone. I did some work for Dominic Grieve MP when I first started out on this treadmill, he became something of a mentor to me, he is white, a man, a barrister, a public schoolboy, an Oxbridge graduate, straight out of "central casting". He confided to me that he very nearly gave up on becoming an MP because of the difficulty he had finding a "winnable" seat. At the 11th hour he was selected for Beaconsfield, one of the safest Conservative seats in the country. When it comes to politics, no one gets a free ride.
Yet again we see an election result in the US that pivots on a few thousand votes. I don't pretend to fully understand US politics or their complicated system but this result could make things interesting.
From what I have picked up the Democrats have bee successful on a mainly anti-war platform. The difficulty with winning votes by be anti-something is that voters often have no idea of what you are for. They might not like it when they find out.
Our current Labour Mayor of London loves hopeless causes, international communism is one of them.
His current posturing in Cuba should tell you all you need to know about where his loyalties lie and the sooner we replace him with someone who is passionate about improving London the better. The Evening Standard is getting impatient for the race to start too.
Damian Collins is impressing people all over the place. First he impressed the selectors in Folkestone and Hythe, then hi impressed the panel at the Conservative party conference and now he is impressing business journalists.
His "Acorn Areas" idea should help revitalise communities and bring employment and income into deprived areas. It is a very Conservative answer to an increasingly common problem. I hope that this finds itself in the next manifesto.
Yet again I find myself apologising for the lack of posts over this weekend.
Here are a couple of things which caught my eye on Saturday. 1 Saddam Hussain found guilty and sentenced to death, no surprise there. 2 Tony Blair's mate has the veto over the investigation into the "loans for peerages" investigation, it will be very interesting to see whether he does the decent thing.
One of the main reasons for the lack of posts is that my Saturday was taken up at a full day Conservative conference. This wasn't the usual rah-rah session but a serious look at where we are as a party, where we need to be and how we are going to get there. Strategists amongst you will be familiar with this way of thinking but it is the first time I have seen this kind of focus this early in the election cycle from the Conservative party. You can read some fuller accounts here and here.
David Cameron and the party leadership are clearly taking this seriously and professionally. Even though the message was focused on how much work we still have to do I cam out much more confident about our election prospects than when I went in.
In the evening I took my family up to Blackheath to celebrate an attempt to blow up Parliament. Luckily we escaped without being arrested for glorification of terrorism. Rosie, despite being a gun-dog, is scared witless by fireworks so we got home to find she had wet herself on the kitchen floor. Such is family life.
The National Audit Office have published a report on armed forces recruitment and retention.I have read the executive summary and here is my summary of it.
Summary of the summary
We are short of people in all three services.
The planned deployment levels on which troop numbers are based have been exceeded.
The Army & Navy think that the manning levels will improve by 2008.
There are some military trades that are worse than others for retention.
The numbers leaving exceed the numbers joining.
People leave for a range of reasons but the impact of service life on family life was a widespread reason.
The planed work life balance set by the services is being exceeded.Troops are away from their families much more than is planned.
Although the overall retention figures are acceptable in some key trades numbers are far too low.
1/3 of those leaving say that too many deployments was the reason.
Financial retention plans have been put in place.
Non-financial retention schemes also exist.
Recruiting figures are at or over target.
Recruiting into key trades is fairly good but long lead times due to training will mean the results will not be seen for some years.
Financial and non-financial recruitment incentives are in place.
A range of social/economic factors affect recruiting.
Overall value for money
Recruitment and retention schemes need to be based on need and not just money.
The cost effectiveness of recruitment and retention schemes cannot be measured.
It seems as though retention schemes are better value for money that recruitment schemes.
Financial retention schemes have been successful but pressure is likely to increase
Summary of the summary of the summary.
We don’t have enough troops!We are losing them quicker than we are keeping them!We are asking too much of them!
Liam Fox has hit the nail on the head, he said:
"This damning report confirms what we have been saying for some time. The gap between our commitments and our resources is growing and putting unacceptable pressures on our service personnel and their families. The Government cannot continue like this - if the Prime Minister is going to continue making commitments then the Chancellor must be willing to foot the bill."
This year, the Legion is offering you a different way to give to the Poppy Appeal! You can now text the word POPPY to 85099 and download one of three Poppy images to your mobile phone in return for a donation of £1.50
These downloads feature the Poppy icon with the words 'Remember' and the time and date of the Two Minute Silence on 11th November: 11.11.11.
You also get a text reminder on the day before 11th November to remind you to pause for the Two Minute Silence.
One of my personal pleasures (no not like that!) is being able to buy my poppy directly from a Chelsea In-Pensioner, and have a quick chat with them in the process. Great.
Giving sitting MPs a £10k "advertising" fund will make it even harder to unseat a sitting MP. And trust me as a candidate I know that it is hard enough already.
I am instinctively against public funding of political parties, politics needs paying for but "party" politics should be supported with party funds not public money. It is therefore particularly worrying to see that some MPs are clearly abusing their postal expenses. What justification can there be for an MP sending out over 80,000 letters a year?
I see that my good friend Robert Halfon (Conservative PPC for Harlow in Essex) has an opponent who thinks nothing of using public money to "sell" themselves. I hope that Robert reminds the voters of Harlow whose money was being spent on their indoctrination keeping them informed of Labour's progress over the last few years. I'm sure he will.