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Showing posts with label Brown. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Brown. Show all posts

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Unexpected developments in lead-up to historic general election may trigger a political and constitutional crisis

Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote
And bathed every veyne in swich licour,
Of which vertu engendred is the flour

The new month opens with a series of maybe unrelated, yet possibly linked events, quite staggering in their implications for the general election.

Alan Cochrane has been named as the successor to Jeremy Clarkson in the new Top Gear flagship programme, to be renamed and launched as Gear Sticks United. His replacement on The Telegraph editorial team, in an move that has astonished Fleet Street, will be the Scottish Graphic artist and National cartoonist Greg Moodie, famous for his biting satire supporting the independence cause.

In an interview, Greg shrugged off questions about his change of allegiance and replied in his trademark laconic style “Don’t get sarky, guys – a suite in a mock-Gothic castle on Brecqhou clinched the deal for me.”

Her Majesty, in an unprecedented departure from protocol, has in a unique and moving ceremony, knighted Tony Blair and Gordon Brown simultaneously. As they knelt before her, the two architects of what was perhaps the last act in the Great Game of Empire, the Iraq War, avoided eye contact with each other as a mark of respect to the dead.

(The Palace said that rumours that John McTernan and Jim Murphy were to be equerries to Sir Tony and Sir Gordon were unfounded, since neither of the new knights owned a horse.)

But the news that has rocked the media and political commentariat broke at midnight. Its constitutional ramifications are as yet not fully understood, as Great Britain’s family of nations comes to terms with the announcement that Land of Hope and Glory will no longer close the last night of the Proms.

Four prominent composers – as yet unnamed – have been commissioned to synthesise a new national anthem using key motifs drawn from Land of Hope and Glory, Flower of Scotland, Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau and The Londonderry Air which will reflect the combined spirit of our great family of nations. It is to be called O Britedonia

It will be sung by a choir specially coached by Gareth Malone OBE.  Early speculation on members of  the choir are Alistair Carmichael, Margaret Curran, Theresa May, Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson, Ian Paisley Junior  and historian David Starkey. (No prominent Welsh national will be included as yet, since they can all sing well already.)

Alex Salmond, once a noted boy soprano, has regretfully declined, suggesting as his replacement Aled Jones. (A Palace spokesman said off the record that Mr. Salmond had never been invited: the Queen had vetoed Mr. Salmond’s inclusion.)

As yet, no proposals have emerged for the re-design of the Union Jack from the committee of British artists, celebrities and notables who love-bombed Scotland during the Independence Referendum.

Some have said they no longer “feel the love” in view of mounting poll evidence that the Scottish electorate intend to democratically elect representatives from a party that doesn’t seem to have felt the love in the way intended.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Murphy’s Big Idea – a flawed concept

It should be evident to all but the most blinkered right-wing Murphy media fan that Jimbo is not a deep thinker.

Despite presenting a media persona that affects profundity in its body language, Murphy is devoid of content – he’s a superficial, headline-grabbing soundbyte politician. You will search in vain for his deep thoughts in writing or in YouTube archives – Murphy’s tools are the ingratiating motherhood statement - oozing vague social concerns and that nauseating brand of Scottish Labour faux internationalism - alternating with a hectoring, blustering approach honed in long university student politics (at the taxpayers expense) and in the smoke-filled rooms of West of Scotland Labour politics, red in tooth and claw.

His core problem in trying to reverse his party’s fortunes before GE2015 is that of Scottish Labour epitomised in one man – the belief that values, policies and principles are coins that can be flipped over after the toss without the electorate noticing.

Time is running out fast for Jim – he was dumped by Miliband from his cabinet and from the shadow defence post that gave him his credibility in the Henry Jackson Society. His two mentors and role models – Tony Blair and David Miliband – are no longer around to support his right-wing HJS agenda of WMD and aggressive transatlantic US/UK hawkish foreign policy. He backed the wrong horse, the wrong Miliband in the Labour leadership election.

For a conviction politician, such setbacks would be a problem, but not for Jim Murphy, who is George Galloway in spirit, but without Galloway’s undoubted intellect and rhetorical gifts. Like Galloway, facing a declining career on the margins of Westminster politics, he looked north during the referendum campaign, and reached for his Irn-Bru crate.

Here was his big chance to grab media headlines and ingratiate himself, not only with Labour, Miliband, Brown and Darling et al, but with the right-wing unionist British Establishment and its shadowy international allies who held the key to the career path he probably aspired to – the Mandelsonian, Blairite, Robertsonish, David Milibandish high road to an international stage and the glittering prizes that awaited him.

It seemed to work, despite the eggings. The media began to call him a big beast, his face was everywhere. The plan seemed to be working. The NO vote prevailed. He seemed oblivious to the fact that the people of Glasgow were not too happy with him – indeed he wore their contempt as a badge of honour – and not even the fact that Glasgow voted YES, that Glasgow was YES City dented his complacency.

But it became evident even to a man as self-absorbed as Murphy that, post-referendum, a sea change had occurred in Scottish politics and the Scottish electorate, and things were not going according to plan. Scottish Labour – his party, was in a parlous state, as poll after poll chronicled their decline, while the SNP was doubling, then trebling, then quadrupling its membership.

As his allies melted away – Brown and Darling slinking off the stage  - and as his Scottishness became a poisoned pill in London Labour’s electoral strategy – and as the British Establishment and their media shills displayed utter confusion and bafflement over why the Scots hadn’t just rolled over and peed up their bellies in craven submission after the indyref, his Westminster career looked even more uncertain and his Scottish heartland was moving en masse to the SNP and the other independence parties.

Could he rely on the former solidly Tory East Renfrewshire electorate to still stand behind his right-wing agenda – pro-Israel, pro-NATO, pro-HJS values, pro-WMD – or would they be affected by the great tectonic movement sweeping Scottish politics?

London Labour wanted none of him, an uncertain future faced him after May 2015. His Westminster defence contacts were diluted and fading fast, and the revolving doors out of the Commons and into armaments industry, commerce, non-exec directorships and consulting contract, open to many in his position, didn’t seem to be spinning invitingly in his direction. But Johann Lamont really focused his mind, in the manner of her resignation.

Time to flip the coin – time to re-invent, re-focus – time to get the tartan carpetbag out of the closet. He threw his hat in the ring for the Scottish Labour Leadership, won convincingly and the new Murphy emerged from the Tardis, swathed in tartan habiliments, now claiming to be of the Left, and militantly anti-London Labour.

But there was the inconvenient baggage of his Blairite past and the dumbells of Scottish Labour’s core referendum arguments to fall over at every turn – Iraq, support for Trident, faux internationalism, unionism and the pooling and sharing mantra.

The motherhood statements and the shining, but suitably vague social vision were wearing thin as the general election campaign loomed. Something headline-grabbing that resembled a policy had to be found, and what better one, in the grip of winter and both Scottish and rUK NHSs under severe resource challenges, than a bidding challenge on nurses to fire at the SNP.

The SNP were in government, forced to balance budgets squeaking under the strain of cuts caused by Labour, LibDem and Tory incompetence, but Jimbo didn’t have to deal with the real life! All he needed, as ever, was a gimmick …

THE THOUSAND NURSES AND THE MANSION TAX

Murphy’s thought processes, as outlined by him and by enthusiastic and admiring journalists and commentators (almost all from the right of the political spectrum) with as little understanding of post-indyref politics as himself, ran as follows -

1. The SNP is past the post-indyref honeymoon period, needs to defend its record, and show why problems exists in areas under its devolved control, especially the NHS.

2. To play down his right-wing unionist London-Labour past, and to kill the Lamont branch office label, he has to demonstrate independence of Westminster Labour, and make a big gesture of defiance.

3. Nurses, and the pressure on nursing staff, are one of the key problems in both NHSs, and nurses always elicit public sympathy and support.

4. Since real policy formation, rigorous thought and economic rationality are not in Jimbo’s skillset, a simple outbidding ploy was needed. 1000 is a nice round figure (e.g. 1000 extra policemen a la SNP 2007-2011) and 1000 extra nurses is even nicer.

So – Murphy as FM would match any SNP staffing commitment by promising 1000 nurses on top of it.  But how to fund it? Easy – the mansion tax, popular on the left, unpopular on the right. Bash the rich, fund more nurses. In the Jim Murphy Ladybird Book of Politics, this was a nice wee simple story to feed a gullible Scottish electorate, especially the fabled 200,000 older Labour voters who were going to swing the election his way.

But this would offend London Labour and Westminster, since it would be essentially the London mansion owners who would fund it. Simples! Let them be offended – this would demonstrate that born-again socialist, Scottish Murphy is not afraid to put Scotland first and take the branch office sign down.

What’s wrong with this? Just about everything …

THE WORMS IN THE MURPHY APPLE

1. The Scottish electorate are no longer the gullible, reflex Labour-voting automatons that Labour relied on for generations – honed on the grindstone of the referendum campaign, they are now politically aware, social media adept, engaged, articulate and sceptical – and organised.

2. The pooling and sharing rationale, worked to death by Murphy et al during the indyref campaign, was never credible to YES supporters, and never mattered to rUK voters – except the ill-informed – because in practice, it didn’t work that way.

But in the post-indyref climate of rUK electorate resentment against Scottish vibrancy after defeat, SNP resurgence and the Smith Commission, a major sense of resentment and inequality was building over what was perceived as bribes to Scots losers.

And now pooling and sharing was expected to favour already bribed Scots and the Scottish NHS over the rUK electorate and the rUK NHS with English - nay, London! - house owners taxes!

This was guaranteed to upset just about everybody, except the right-wing media claque for Murphy. The Tories wouldn’t like it, Londoners of all shades of political allegiance wouldn’t like it, and for Miliband’s Labour Party in electioneering mode, it would be folly to endorse it.

But crucially, the Scottish electorate that Murphy hopes to con with his pledge know that he can’t deliver it without the support of Westminster, which won’t be forthcoming – and that it’s therefore an empty gesture.

And empty gestures are the essence of Jim Murphy …

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Marr and Mandelson on Miliband: trades unions, Iraq and the Chilcot Inquiry

MANDELSON

"Ed Miliband faces a big test of his leadership in relation to the trade unions - he's got to win the fight that he started - and, quite rightly, to reform the relationship."

"He's got to navigate his way through what could be a very difficult minefield - that is, The Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq War"

Chilcot Report expected "somewhere in mid-year"

Just in time to bury Blair, Brown, Mandelson and the reputation of Scottish Labour before Scotland's Referendum on September 18th - unless Chilcot is a whitewash, which is unlikely but possible, given the high stakes for UK involved.

Ed Miliband is not up to any of these challenges.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

The tragedy – and folly – of Afghanistan



The tragic deaths today point up the continuing folly of the UK’s presence in Afghanistan. I report these blogs from 2009 and 2010, and think with horror and sadness of the deaths that have followed.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

The evidence given to the Chilcot enquiry has shed new light on the twin follies of Afghanistan and Iraq,in spite of the lack of intensity and rigour in the questioning of the witnesses.
I reprint below my piece on Afghanistan from November 2009 in the hope that it has new relevance in the light of the subsequent witness testimony.

Saturday, 7 November 2009
Corruption in Afghanistan - and Brown's folly

Gordon Brown spoke for half an hour yesterday (6 November 2009) about his government's commitment to the futile Afghanistan conflict. He mustered as much passion and rhetoric as an innately dull man can in a bad cause. There was nothing in it that spoke of the man himself, because only a leaden mass now exists where that man once was, a man whose true destiny was to be the minister in an undemanding rural kirk, or an accountant in an old-fashioned company, or a worthy lecturer in a redbrick university.

He existed for ten years in the reflected glow of Tony Blair, longing for the day when he could radiate alone, unaware that he was a dead satellite, with no inner furnace to generate the his own light. Now he is polluted ground, contaminated by the nuclear waste of Blair's deadly polluted policies. He has only a half life, his power ebbing away at exponential speed. But he continues to play the old Blair and Bush tunes as his motor runs down and the tune becomes more distorted and the lyric incomprehensible.

And those who dance to that tune stumble and twist in confusion, trying to follow a music without rhythm and words without meaning.
His entire case for remaining in Afghanistan rests on a lie - that we are there to prevent terrorism threatening Britain.

We are there, as Obama is there, as the 43 countries of the coalition are there, because of a profoundly mistaken instinct by a right-wing group of American Republicans and their puppet, George W. Bush, to lash out at something after the tragedy of 9/11 and the appalling loss of life and blow to American prestige.

We are there because enormous profits are yielded to armaments manufacturers, and to contractors of services to the military, and because a shadowy enemy, a perpetual threat, and inducing paranoia in the population have always been a prime recourse of failing regimes.

Britain is there, and the coalition is there because Europe does not yet have the cohesion to stand up to a flawed American foreign policy on the Middle East and the Israel/Palestine question. We are there because Pakistan worries us deeply, because it is an unstable ally with a nuclear capacity, with a religion and a culture the West has never begun to understand, and it, together with Israel, forces us to recognise the weaknesses of the West's self-serving nuclear policy - committed to retaining its own weapons of mass destruction while engaged in a vain attempt to stop others from following the same route.

The vacuum at the heart of Brown's position yesterday was starkly exposed by the threat to pull out if the Karzai regime did not root out corruption. Leaving aside the inconvenient fact that a significant proportion of the corruption is induced by the activities of foreign contractors, something made clear in an aside by a commentator from the region last night, what this says in effect is this -

"We are are here to prevent Afghanistan from being a seed bed for attacks on Britain, but if you - the 'democratic' puppet government that we have put in place - don't behave, we will abandon the whole misconceived enterprise and let the region revert to where it was before, thereby allowing the threat to Britain re-establish its potency."

Brown - and Britain's - behaviour over Afghanistan reminds me of the behaviour of directors and senior managers in a private company or large public enterprise who have mistakenly committed themselves to a project or policy that is manifestly going to fail. A marked distaste for re-examining the fundamental premises of the enterprise emerges, and a growing hostility to critics however rational.

The old accountant's motto, that sunk costs are irrelevant in reviewing a flawed project, is speedily abandoned, and the accrued costs to date are used as a justification for continuing.

It's like the gambler's fallacy at roulette - that if you keep doubling your bets, you must win eventually, a fallacy that ignores the sum of what has already been lost, ignores the possibility to long runs of bad luck, and and ignores the exponential growth in losses of doubling up.

Those opposed to the lunatic project are increasingly characterised as enemies, not as loyal employees trying to pull their company back from disaster.

When the Emperor has no clothes, who will speak out, except the naive child?
I

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Labour’s last redoubt–“I’m an internationalist, not a nationalist”

If you press a Labour politician hard – and you may have to press very hard – he or she will admit to being a socialist and an internationalist. The reason that the admission is reluctant is because Labour’s most successful attempts to gain and hold power in the last sixty years have relied in downplaying both to the point of invisibility, and their actions when in power have been a denial of both beliefs, the exception being the great Labour Government of 1945-51 that created the welfare state and the NHS. Perhaps only by considering this government’s achievements, its towering figures and what they stood for can we truly understand how far Labour has fallen since 1951.




Nationalisation of coal mining, creation of British Railways, establishment of the National Health Service and the creation of the Welfare State. Only the working class generations that experienced what preceded these things – my generation, and that of my parents and grandparents - can really appreciate what that meant.

The towering figure in this government, arguably the greatest British Labour figure of all time, with due respect to the Scots pioneers, was Aneurin Bevan. He and his wife Jennie Lee were the archetypical socialist couple. On Tories, he was uncompromising. “"We have been the dreamers, we have been the sufferers, now we are the builders. We enter this campaign at this general election, not merely to get rid of the Tory majority. We want the complete political extinction of the Tory Party."

He was a politician who was not afraid to challenge his party when it departed from left-wing policies, and he led the left-wing of the party, known as the Bevanites. He would not recognise the right-wing, expedient thing the Labour Party has become today. He led a Commons revolt against the British hydrogen bomb test, and had the whip withdrawn briefly. In opposition, he opposed Suez. His remarks then would be directly applicable to Afghanistan and Iraq.

If we are going to appeal to force, if force is to be the arbiter to which we appeal, it would at least make common sense to try to make sure beforehand that we have got it, even if you accept that abysmal logic, that decadent point of view.”

But in 1957, at the Labour Party Conference, this led him to oppose nuclear disarmament, with a remark that was seized upon by every advocate of nuclear weapons in every British party. On unilateral disarmament, he said -

“"It would send a British Foreign Secretary naked into the conference-chamber".

(Although this posture dismayed the left, who were opposed to nuclear weapons, one informed opinion - Paul Routledge, a journalist - suggested that he had been induced to take this stand, as an internationalist, by the Soviet Union, who suggested that he argue for British retention of nuclear weapons to permit the USSR to use this as a bargaining chip in negotiations with the United States.)

The traditional posture of the socialist has been a commitment to the international brotherhood of man, and a notional global government of workers, and because of this they have always entertained a distrust of nationalism.

In the heady days after 1917 and the Russian Revolution, British socialist, the British Communist Party and the left-wing of the Labour Party managed to convince themselves that this socialist Utopia was at  hand, and the nation states would become irrelevant. This went hand in hand with utter denial of the murderous brutalities of the Soviet regime, and the refusal to recognise that it was brutal imperialism under a red flag. Senior British diplomats, Burgess and Maclean (and Sir Antony Blunt, exposed decades later) were prepared to spy for the Soviet Union in acts of treason against their country.

This intellectual denial and dishonesty persists to this day, but without the personal courage, however misplaced and naive, that characterised the old British socialists. Labour has spent the entire life of its party under an imperialistic red, white and blue flag – the British Empire and the UK. Initially hostile to empire, it regarded this as transitional, but rapidly moved to support every imperialistic manifestation, under the seductive lure of power, influence and money. This process reached its peak under Blair and Brown.

The UK is now one of the most narrowly nationalistic states in the world, exalting ancient and outmoded imperial values, deeply distrustful of foreigners, insular, yet ready to interfere brutally and violently in the affairs of nations remote from these shores. Labour is the enthusiastic handmaiden of this ultra-nationalist state. Their vaunted internationalism is a fig leaf – a fiction – to cover their complicity with the rump of the British Empire.

Scotland is the antithesis of all that the UK stands for – open, inclusive, anti-nuclear, committed to a true social democracy, anti-inherited wealth and privilege, but entrepreneurial and committed to a vibrant private sector supported – and humanised – by a well-resourced public sector. And Scotland is, and always has been, truly European and internationalist in its most fundamental instincts.


And this is why the independence of Scotland poses such a threat to the Labour Party – because it exposes the depths of Labour’s betrayal of all its socialist ideals, and its shoddy complicity with power, wealth, non-democratic structures and institutions (e.g. The House of Lords) and the military/industrial complex.

I appeal to Scottish Labour voters and Scottish trades union members (it is useless to appeal to Scottish Labour politicians or the Scottish trades union hierarchy, who are deeply embedded in these UK power structures) to recognise where your real interests lie.

Embrace nationalism and independence, and be part of creating a nation that is truly internationalist, instead of the sham offered to you. Either join the SNP or rejuvenate the Scottish Labour Party from the grassroots up, make it truly Scottish, and reject your politicians and trades union leaders hostility to Scotland.

Campaign for your country’s independence, and vote YES to independence in the referendum.

Saor Alba!

 

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Ann McKechin MP – Shadow Scottish Secretary

I ought to like and respect someone like Ann McKechin – a guid Scots lassie, a lawyer by profession (Scots Law  at Strathclyde University), widely experienced in politics and representing the Glasgow North constituency.

But I find it hard to do either. She has been in Westminster since 2001 – the year of the Afghanistan invasion, and has been a loyal member of the Blair and Brown governments. No MP survived and prospered in either regime, as she has done, without submerging their liberal instincts and the values that used to be held by the People’s Party.

Who can touch pitch, and not be defiled by it ?

Corinthians

Her voting record shows the contradictions and the struggle with conscience that bedevilled some of the members of the Blair/Brown regimes’ more principled MPs.

She supported gay rights, was anti-hunting, sort of against Trident, and wanted an elected House of Lords, and to her credit, three years into her career, voted strongly against the Iraq War. I applaud her unreservedly for that.

But when the career chips were down – and you can bet they were down - she supported the most illiberal Labour regimes ever to have disgraced their party, Westminster and betrayed the country in the other contemptible things that defined Blair, Brown and New Labour.

She voted strongly

for Labour’s anti-terrorism laws

for a stricter asylum system

for allowing ministers to intervene in (i.e. intimidate) inquests

for ID cards

against laws to stop climate change

and she voted very strongly against an investigation into the Iraq War.

She was Jim Murphy’s right-hand woman in the Scottish Office, and together with the series of Labour apparatchiks - Wendy Alexander, Iain Gray - who replaced the men of stature who once led Labour in Holyrood - Donald Dewar and Henry McLeish – she actively participated and supported the blocking of almost every initiative by the SNP government under Alex Salmond to address the fundamental problems facing the Scottish people.

Here she is, attempting to justify the contemptible, politically expedient opposition to minimum pricing on alcohol, something supported by just about every objective Scottish institution – the Police, the Health Service, the  churches, etc.



Ann McKechin has now been rewarded for all of this by Ed Miliband by becoming the Shadow Scottish Secretary, and will sit beside the members of the New Labour Scottish Old Guard who were up to their necks in that betrayal of Scotland, – Murphy, Alexander et al – and will become Westminster’s woman in Scotland, if Labour are re-elected instead of being Scotland’s woman in Westminster.

 

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

A death in Afghanistan – Mark Evison

Lieutenant Mark Evison died as a result of a misconceived mission by his superiors and failures of equipment and communications. He displayed outstanding courage in the face of fire, and during his needlessly long wait for an air ambulance. He was loved by his platoon, and his men exhibited bravery by carrying him over open ground under fire to the compound.

This fine young man exhibited true heroism and professionalism, but was betrayed by the the politicians who sent him into this misconceived war, this benighted land, then failed to support him. He was a Welsh Guard, and a brother in arms - and death - to Fusilier Gordon Gentles, a Scot who was also betrayed by the UK government and the MOD.

Get the troops out - now.

This was one more tragic component of Blair, Brown and Labour's poisoned legacy to the UK.

Mark Evison is a true hero, betrayed by his country - his was not to reason why - his was but to do or die.


Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Iraq was a mistake: it was wrong. Ed Miliband as the new Leader of the Labour Party


At last – they have admitted to the crime of Iraq, and the frozen faces in Ed Miliband’s conference audience of those complicit in it said it all. Brother David, with a rictus smile on his face, is caught by the ever-vigilant BBC camera turning to Harriet Harman and saying “Why are you applauding – you voted for it” The ever-emollient and glib niece of the Countess of Longford smiles, and replied “I supported him …”)




Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Chilcot and Afghanistan

The evidence given to the Chilcot enquiry has shed new light on the twin follies of Afghanistan and Iraq,in spite of the lack of intensity and rigour in the questioning of the witnesses.

I reprint below my piece on Afghanistan from Novemebr 2009 in the hope that it has new relevance in the light of the subsequent witness testimony.


Saturday, 7 November 2009
Corruption in Afghanistan - and Brown's folly

Gordon Brown spoke for half an hour yesterday (6 Novemebr 2009) about his government's commitment to the futile Afghanistan conflict. He mustered as much passion and rhetoric as an innately dull man can in a bad cause. There was nothing in it that spoke of the man himself, because only a leaden mass now exists where that man once was, a man whose true destiny was to be the minister in an undemanding rural kirk, or an accountant in an old-fashioned company, or a worthy lecturer in a redbrick university.

He existed for ten years in the reflected glow of Tony Blair, longing for the day when he could radiate alone, unaware that he was a dead satellite, with no inner furnace to generate the his own light. Now he is polluted ground, contaminated by the nuclear waste of Blair's deadly polluted policies. He has only a half life, his power ebbing away at exponential speed. But he continues to play the old Blair and Bush tunes as his motor runs down and the tune becomes more distorted and the lyric incomprehensible.

And those who dance to that tune stumble and twist in confusion, trying to follow a music without rhythm and words without meaning.

His entire case for remaining in Afghanistan rests on a lie - that we are there to prevent terrorism threatening Britain.

We are there, as Obama is there, as the 43 countries of the coalition are there, because of a profoundly mistaken instinct by a right-wing group of American Republicans and their puppet, George W. Bush, to lash out at something after the tragedy of 9/11 and the appalling loss of life and blow to American prestige. We are there because enormous profits are yielded to armaments manufacturers, and to contractors of services to the military, and because a shadowy enemy, a perpetual threat, and inducing paranoia in the population have always been a prime recourse of failing regimes.

Britain is there, and the coalition is there because Europe does not yet have the cohesion to stand up to a flawed American foreign policy on the Middle East and the Israel/Palestine question. We are there because Pakistan worries us deeply, because it is an unstable ally with a nuclear capacity, with a religion and a culture the West has never begun to understand, and it, together with Israel, forces us to recognise the weaknesses of the West's self-serving nuclear policy - committed to retaining its own weapons of mass destruction while engaged in a vain attempt to stop others from following the same route.

The vacuum at the heart of Brown's position yesterday was starkly exposed by the threat to pull out if the Karzai regime did not root out corruption. Leaving aside the inconvenient fact that a significant proportion of the corruption is induced by the activities of foreign contractors, something made clear in an aside by a commentator from the region last night, what this says in effect is this -

"We are are here to prevent Afghanistan from being a seed bed for attacks on Britain, but if you - the 'democratic' puppet government that we have put in place - don't behave, we will abandon the whole misconceived enterprise and let the region revert to where it was before, thereby allowing the threat to Britain re-establish its potency."

Brown - and Britain's - behaviour over Afghanistan reminds me of the behaviour of directors and senior managers in a private company or large public enterprise who have mistakenly committed themselves to a project or policy that is manifestly going to fail. A marked distaste for re-examining the fundamental premises of the enterprise emerges, and a growing hostility to critics however rational.

The old accountant's motto, that sunk costs are irrelevant in reviewing a flawed project, is speedily abandoned, and the accrued costs to date are used as a justification for continuing.

It's like the gambler's fallacy at roulette - that if you keep doubling your bets, you must win eventually, a fallacy that ignores the sum of what has already been lost, ignores the possibility to long runs of bad luck, and and ignores the exponential growth in losses of doubling up.

Those opposed to the lunatic project are increasingly characterised as enemies, not as loyal employees trying to pull their company back from disaster.

When the Emperor has no clothes, who will speak out, except the naive child?

I am also reminded of a fable recounted by an American academic (I have forgotten his name) to illustrate this dilemma.

THE PEANUT STORY
The Chairman of a giant company calls in his favourite guru, a management consultant, and tells him of a problem he is facing.

"Gerry," he says to the consultant "I've got a big problem in the Minnesota plant, the one now devoted to developing a process to make high-octane jet fuel out of peanut oil ..."

"Fascinating! Can that really be done?" asks the consultant, Gerry.

"Hell, no! It's impossible - initially we thought it might have a chance, but it's been evident for years now that it can't. We're sinking millions of dollars into it, and it's doomed."

"Why not pull the plug on it, Glenn?"

Glenn the CEO, looks uncomfortable. "Well, you see, Gerry, it's like this - the plant director in Minnesota, Charlie, has committed his whole reputation to this project, and I just can't bring myself to pull the plug on it, because I'd be pulling the plug on his whole career. I just tell him to hang in there - that he can do it. Get down there, Gerry - see if you can talk some sense into him..."

Gerry arrives at the Minnesota plant, and is greeted by Charlie, the plant director.

"I guess I know why you're here, Gerry. It's about the big project - the peanut oil project."

Gerry nods. "I understand you're working on a process to make high-octane jet fuel from peanut oil, Charlie. Can than really be done?"

"Hell, no, " says Charlie ruefully, "but I can't pull the plug on it for two reasons. One, the CEO, Glenn, is totally committed to it, and when he comes down here he says 'Hang in there, Charlie - you can do it.' And my research director, Joe, has committed his whole reputation to this godammed project, and I just can't bring myself to destroy his career. Have a word with him, Gerry - maybe he'll take it from an outsider."

So Gerry meets Joe, and the pattern repeats itself. Joe knows the project is doomed, but it's the CEO's baby, it mustn't be questioned, and Charlie, his boss keeps telling him he can do and to hang in there.

The pattern repeats all the way down the management pyramid, except in the lower echelons, there is a growing contempt for those above them for their pursuit of a manifestly impossible objective.



This consultant's fable is playing out as a nightmare in our world, except the price is not only being paid in money - it is being paid in lives - in blood.

Call a halt, now.