Thursday, 28 May 2015
Thursday, 27 June 2013
Azeem Ibrahim should – and in most respects does - represent just about everything I most admire in a Scot, in a Glaswegian and in a Scottish Muslim.
Why then do I profoundly distrust his creation, The Scotland Institute and much that emanates from it?
The answer to that is complex, and I’m not sure I’m capable of giving it adequately, but since he invited me to the media launch of his defence and security report and I responded to his courtesy by frontally attacking his claims of bi-partisanship and objectivity in the independence campaign, I feel that I owe him an explanation.
This will be Part One of a two-part blog on this subject – Part Two late tomorrow or Saturday – with luck …
But first, let’s look at the man himself ---
The first thing to say is that Azeem Ibrahim’s achievements are formidable and beyond question. He has both a national and international profile, and is enormously influential. He is a Scot who is recognised at the highest levels of global politics and academia.
The following YouTube clip of Azeem Ibrahim receiving his honorary doctorate from Professor Sue Scott of Glasgow Caledonian University contains an excellent summary of his background and achievements -
So what’s my problem with Azeem Ibrahim and his Scotland Institute?
THE SCOTLAND INSTITUTE
The Scotland Institute is a think tank, set up and funded by Azeem Ibrahim last June (2012). Before this one came along, we had – still have – a couple of others with Scotland in their title – Think Scotland, a right-wing pressure group set up and funded by an individual, and Reform Scotland, advocates of so-called devo plus. Both are against Scotland’s full independence, Think Scotland rather more obviously than Reform Scotland.
(I have blogged previously on think tanks like these)
Despite an honourable historical tradition of rich philanthropists (Andrew Carnegie jumps to mind) I am instinctively wary of rich individuals who fund anything political, and last June, all I knew about Azeem Ibrahim was that he founded a global macro hedge fund, which I understood to be part of the shadow banking system, outside of state regulation. I therefore pigeonholed him unfairly as just another rich banker in a sector – hedge funds – that had been at the root of the global banking collapse. I was unaware of his background and wider academic, cultural and business activities.
I therefore challenged the bi-partisanship of the Scotland Institute on Twitter, and Dr. Ibrahim responded courteously reiterating that it was, in fact, bi-partisan, and took no position on Scotland’s independence. This rang rather hollow to me when the keynote speaker at the launch proved to be Alistair Darling. I was invited to the launch, but tweeted as follows on 25th June 2012 -
@scotinstitute I'm being cautious and with very good reason, given the timing and the people involved. I can't come, but will listen closely
Nothing the Scotland Institute said or did since then caused me to revise my initial judgement, but any lingering doubts were dispelled totally by the pre-launch to the press of the Institute’s paper Defence and Security in an Independent Scotland this week.
Here are some samples of how it was received by press and media -
And the SNP’s response to this barrage of panic-inducing, superficial headlines, which was in the main a product of lazy, press release journalism?
I restrict myself to saying that this was underwhelming. It referred to “experts such as Stuart Crawford and Dr Phillips O’Brien”, neither of whom are to my knowledge advisers to the Scottish Government.
Lieut.Colonel Stuart Crawford was in fact a contributor to the Scotland Institute’s paper, and his highly relevant paper on a Scottish defence force was initiated by him and his colleague some time ago at their own initiative to fill the vacuum created by any real statement of SNP or Scottish Government defence policy at the time it was written. (Stuart Crawford was not present at the Scotland Institute launch on Monday. He has previously given evidence to the Scottish Affairs Committee under Ian Davidson’s chairmanship.).
Dr. Phillip’s O’Brien’s article appeared in the Herald on 9th of June.
My view of the press and media reports is that they achieved exactly the effect – or a least one effect - that the Scotland Institute hoped for – to trigger a series of scare headlines about the awful fate that awaited Scots if they voted for independence.
The SNP and the Scottish Government’s response to this is to more or less dismiss it as not warranting any real response – just another manifestation of a hostile press and media. Well, independence supporters may shrug it off, but I don’t. My litmus paper test is the very limited sample of the reaction of reasonably well-informed friends and neighbours who are either uncommitted or NO voters. It worried the uncommitted and reinforced the Nos. Committed YES campaigners on the doorsteps, with a much more extended sample base, may however say it is not a concern of the people they speak to.
The Defence and Security report and Dr. Ibrahim
It is worth reminding oneself at this juncture what game is being played out here – the Great Game of Scotland securing its independence from what is left of the British Empire, which technically started with the conquest of Wales, but in reality truly began with the 1707 Union. Scotland, an ancient nation of five and a quarter million souls is democratically confronting a dysfunctional dynastic conglomerate, now the rump of a once great Empire, comprised of Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland with a total population of about sixty three and a quarter million, i.e. Scotland is about 8.3% of the total UK population, or a ratio of 1:11.
These would be unequal odds even if no confrontation was involved, so the fiction is sedulously maintained by the UK - and the fantasy maintained on occasion by some independence supporters - that this gross inequality doesn’t really matter, because Scotland - and Scotland alone - will be allowed to vote, and that free democratic procedures will determine the outcome.
Without going over ground I’ve covered at length before, the prospect of the independence of Scotland is perceived as a profound threat to the undemocratic power groups that control the UK’s partial and deeply flawed democracy – the monarchy and all that flows from it, the military/industrial complex and its lynchpin, the nuclear deterrent, the nuclear industry, the House of Lords, the Established Church of England and the entire London-based financial establishment, to mention but a few.
Great Britain, which lost an empire and never found a role, will find its increasingly shaky position in the global corridors of power on an even shakier nail if its nuclear power status vanishes or is diminished. And the ramification go far beyond Scotland, into NATO (which lost a Cold War enemy and is now adopting the doctrine of a perpetual war on terror to replace it) and across the Atlantic.
The very institutions of the British State have been corroding for some time without Scotland’s help, with Lords, governmental, Metropolitan police and press corruption, an incompetent MOD, the revolving door practices of senior MOD officials, civil servants and former ministers, cash for questions and influence, an over-extended military, and serious questions raised over some aspects of the judiciary, stretching from the Bloody Sunday inquiry through to the Hillsborough inquiry and beyond.
The combined forces of this British Establishment and its puppets in Westminster, while paying lip service to a democratic Scottish referendum and the will of the Scottish people, are going to use every weapon in their formidable armoury to secure a NO vote in September 2014, and in the event of a YES vote, to frustrate and delay the successful expression of that free choice.
The long arm of the British Establishment reaches deep into Scottish society at every level, in every institution, in every class of that society, through patronage, the honours system, through appointments to high office, and significantly through control and/or influence exercised over key sections of the media. It is no exaggeration to say that Establishment Scots constitute the hidden force within the belly of the British State’s Trojan horse in Scotland.
To see how this works, at least in part, we can look at Azeem Ibrahim’s list of experts, researchers, academic reviewers, other contributors and organisations who contributed. Let’s start with the panel of experts who were present at the launch in the Macdonald Holyrood Hotel.
Since many of the contributors have letters after their name representing, not qualification, but honours awarded, it’s perhaps worth reminding ourselves what these mean. (For a more in-depth look, see my 2010 blog The Establishment versus Scotland’s Independence)
These awards are made by the reigning monarch on recommendations from political parties and others, and are conferred for various reasons. They are part of a huge pyramid of precedence with the Queen (who has publicly stated her opposition to Scotland’s independence in the Queens’s Speech) at the apex.
Despite Britain’s claim to be a democracy, this pyramid of power and inherited privilege is inherently undemocratic.
The Lords, for example, way up the pyramid, are unelected by any democratic process, yet constitute a fundamental part of the government and the legislative process. No other country in the world claiming to be a democracy has anything remotely similar. In a very real sense, the House of Lords epitomises the British Establishment, which at one and the same time stands outside of democratic government and accountability to the electorate, but is yet deeply embedded in it.
Back to Azeem’s list ---
Major General Andrew Douglas Mackay CBE (Chair of the panel of experts)
The military and political figures from the 25 listed contributors -
The Rt. Hon. Lord Browne of Ladyton – a former Labour Sec. of State for Defence
The Rt. Hon Lord Reid of Cardowan – former Labour Sec. of State for Defence
The Rt. Hon Sir Malcolm Rifkind KCMG, QC, Tory MP – Maggie’s right hand man in Scotland for many years
The Rt. Hon. Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, KT, GCMG, FRSA, FRSE, PC – former Labour Defence Secretary, former Sec. General of NATO – perhaps the most extreme of all the critics of Scottish Independence, totally hostile to an independent, non-nuclear Scotland in NATO, to the point of deriding the SNP’s aspirations.
General Sir John George Reith KCB CBE – former NATO Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe
Air Commodore Gordon Moulds, CBE – former Commander Kandahar Airfield and former Commander British Forces South Atlantic
General (retd) Professor Sir Paul Newton KBE – a former military Commander and Intelligence chief, now Director – Strategy and Security Institute, Exeter University.
Lieutenant General Sir Alistair Stuart Hastings Irwin, KCB, CBE – former Adjutant-General to the Forces – former GOC Northern Ireland
Major Sir Edward Mountain – former Adjutant Career Planning UK Armed Forces, former Commander Reconnaissance Squadron
To put it bluntly, the above list represents a roll call of the British military and defence Establishment, deeply embedded in the system, handsomely rewarded and honoured by the system, steeped in its values and assumptions, committed to its global strategic views and to a flawed and destructive transatlantic foreign policy and NATO world view that has led it into two destructive and futile wars since the millennium.
The idea that this group could offer any objective view of an independent Scotland and its defence and intelligence structures – an independent Scotland that threatens all they stand for, especially the nuclear lynchpin of their status – is risible.
They see Scotland’s independence as a threat to their flawed and outmoded global narrative, their world view, and indeed their role and status in that world.
Of course, Azeem Ibrahim and the Scotland Institute are not so naive as to fail to include token voices and contributions representing the other viewpoint, so we have Angus Robertson MP and Luke Skipper of the SNP listed as contributors, and Lieut.Col. Stuart Crawford as an independent expert who has offered an objective blueprint of how a Scottish Defence Force could be structured.
And Azeem Ibrahim has made much of the fact that some of the British Establishment figures, especially the former Defence Secretaries are Scots. But as noted above, they are Scots embedded in the British State, owing all that they are - and all they have - to that state, committed to its continuance in its present form, politically and personally totally opposed to Scotland’s independence and the removal of the Trident nuclear WMD from Scottish soil.
Other contributing individuals/organisations
Senior Level Officials at NATO Office of Policy Planning
Officials from UK and Scottish Governments
Specialists on European Security Issues at RMA Sandhurst
Officials at NATO HQ/SHAPE
In the right context, this dialogue between NATO, UK, the RMA and the Scottish Government could have been helpful. I take leave to doubt that there was any such real dialogue.
CONCLUSION of PART ONE
In the second part of this blog (Friday/Sat) I will look at what I believe to be Azeem Ibrahim’s motivation and objectives in founding the Scotland Institute and in commissioning this report – and I will address the report itself, and the academic/expert contributors to it, not as a defence expert but as an informed layman and Scottish voter.
Wednesday, 1 May 2013
The M.O.D. having been in denial over the imminence of Scotland's independence, is now panicking, as is the Westminster Establishment - they're going to lose their WMDs, their seat on the UN Security Council, and as a nukeless rUK, Britain's last claim to be a world power, a global player. The final end of Empire ..
Summarised briefly, they're scared shitless, and desperate to kick the unilateral disarmament of Scotland into the long. long grass. They'll argue, then bully and intimidate - and there's little the shadowy vested interests and dirty money behind nuclear weapons and nuclear power won't do to avoid this outcome.
Friday, 25 January 2013
Wednesday, 20 June 2012
The UK Government and the Ministry of Defence have no contingency plans for the loss of their Scottish nuclear bases after independence because they don’t believe it’s going to happen – they don’t believe there will be a YES vote in the autumn of 2014. This has been stated by UK government ministers, including Nick Harvey. They have no contingency plan for a possibility that could rock the very foundations of UK defence policy, calling the very existence of a UK nuclear deterrent into question, not to mention the entire defence budget.
This extraordinary posture can only have been arrived at by believing opinion polls, which indicate many things to many people, most of them flatly contradictory of each other. Have worked for and with global companies for a large part of my life, I can confidently say that any CEO, Board or senior management group that considered evidence showing that it would only require a change of around 15 to 20 per cent in the probabilities to bring about a radical change that would nullify current key plans, budgets and strategic objectives, and did not have a contingency plan to deal with it would be regarded as incompetent, if not deluded.
Can I gently remind them that in late 2010, opinion polls showed that Labour was comfortably ahead and set to win the Scottish Parliamentary elections, and the odds being offered by major bookmakers reflected this. A few months later, the Scottish National Party, the party of independence for Scotland, was re-elected for a second term with a massive, unprecedented majority, something regard as impossible under the d’Hondt system of proportional representation.
The referendum that the UK Government and the MOD are so blithely confident will result in a NO vote to independence is more than two years away, in a time of major financial uncertainty and global confusion, with a decidedly shaky Coalition Government reeling from crisis to crisis day after day.
In the midst of this, unionist politicians and, it has to be said, profoundly misguided media commentators and pundits are criticising the Scottish Government and the SNP for not attempting to “seek clarification” from the UK Government, the Treasury, the MOD, the Scottish Office and Old Uncle Tom Cobleigh and all on matters such as the currency, a sterling zone, the status of an independent Scotland on the Monetary Policy Committee, the share of the national debt, the disposition of the armed forces, the sharing of assets, etc. Indeed, commentators with furrowed brows, not to mention opposition leaders in Holyrood are asking why Alex Salmond and his ministers have not entered into negotiations over these matters with these various UK bodies.
How in God’s name do they expect negotiations to commence with a government that is
in denial over the very possibility of Scottish independence
is implacably hostile to the very idea of Scottish independence
is actively campaigning against it?
Real negotiations can only commence against a mandate, and that mandate will come only after the 2014 referendum. Until then, the Scottish Government can only set out, in as much detail as it can access, what its objectives, plans and policies are. By definition, it will not have all the facts, because objective facts are being denied to it, or are being politicised and wilfully distorted.
It can reach no agreements, not even provisional ones, on any matter that involves acceptance by the UK Government of the possibility of Scottish independence and a YES vote.
Some measure of objectivity is being achieved by the Lords Committee under Lord McGregor. The Scottish Affairs Select Committee under Ian Davidson is a stale joke, reflected in its use of the word Separation in the title of its current enquiry. It is in fact the front end of the Coalition of Scottish Labour, Tories and LibDems against the Independence of Scotland, a body that will live for ever in the the annals of contempt in Scottish history.
The idea that we must know everything, every last detail, about Scotland after independence is unionist nonsense. We're recreating a nation!
Sunday, 17 June 2012
Great fault lines run through each of the three main UK Unionist parties – their San Andreas faults, so to speak, waiting to tear the parties apart.
With the Tories, it’s Europe – the Great EU Fault.
With Labour, it’s the Great Blair/Iraq Fault, with the party heading for polarisation behind Ed Miliband and the trades unions at one pole, and the right-wing, big money, shadowy interests represented by the Blair/Sainsbury supporters, now called, of all things, Progress. (This abuse of the language goes hand in hand with peace envoys and faith foundations)Unions fight Labour's Blairite faction 'in struggle for party's soul'
The LibDem fault line is the fact that the party is a deeply unstable, cobbled-together artefact (1981) of left and right, represented by the Orange Book right-wingers -Tories in all but name - and the old-fashioned liberal left. This is now compounded by the appalling mistake of the Coalition. What can we call this thing? It is really just one big fault line, so let’s name it the Great LibDem Fault and leave it at that.
Up to this point, the SNP haven’t had a major fault line. They have, of course, the kind of differences that exist in every party: some are monarchists, some are republicans, some lean to the left, some lean to the right, and views vary on the nature of Britishness.
But the great unifying factors in the SNP has been the party’s unswerving commitment to full independence for Scotland, to an anti-nuclear Scotland and to the removal of WMDs (Trident) from Scottish waters after independence, and to a social democratic vision for the nation.
It was inevitable that once the party secured a clear mandate to govern for a second term and to call a referendum on independence - with independence now within its grasp, but with a mountain to climb to shift the perceptions of the Scottish electorate towards a decisive YES vote - that the pressures of a YES campaign would shine an unforgiving, roving spotlight on every policy.
Within the party faithful - and among crucial ranks of those supporting independence who were not SNP – the question increasingly became – independence, but what kind of independence? This in turn led to two conflicting pressures: the party strategists needed to maintain a disciplined consistency of approach in a unified message to the whole electorate, one that would reassure those who feared change, and who clung to the familiar, the traditional, but it also needed to keep the faithful on board, because they were the foot soldiers of the independence movement and of the YES campaign.
I believe the party has made a number of assumptions in doing this that are dangerous, and that it urgently needs to revisit them before the autumn, when the psychologically important two year lead time to the referendum really starts.
1. In trying to flatten out different perceptions of change in the minds of the wider electorate, e.g. monarchy, currency, Britishness, NATO, etc. it has focused the attention of at least a minority of committed nationalists on exactly these differences, causing them to probe what looked initially like a minor fault line and question if it was symptomatic of something deeper. (In tyre manufacturing, a hairline crack in the sidewall revealed at the final inspection stage usually results in testing the tyre to destruction by sawing it apart in sections, since hairline cracks can be the beginning of major faults.)
2. The party has assumed that the crucial defence issue – the quiescent elephant in the room for so long – could safely be kept quiet by resounding, crowd-pleasing conference statements about unswerving commitment to an anti-nuclear policy, and the detail could be quietly ignored, with membership concerns being fobbed off by anodyne statements and reassurances. The elephant is no longer quiet, in fact it’s out of the room and rampaging around, causing mayhem and confusion on all fronts.
3. The party has badly underrated the nature of its nascent support from the non-SNP left, including the Greens, the minority socialist parties, the Scottish Labour Party and the trades union movement by failing to understand the deeply-held economic and social views that underpin the Left, and the wider forces that motivate them.
4. The constitutional monarchy issue, although it was a bullet some republicans found hard to bite on, would not in itself have been a problem (in my view, as a republican) but when allied to concepts of Britishness and the questions of the Union of the Crowns and flags, began to sit more and more uneasily with some nationalists.
It was probably inevitable that the party would look at the Obama campaign and draw lessons from it. But one lesson it appears to have misunderstood is from where it should draw its professional support.
Scotland has some of the finest intellects in the world in every professional disciplines, including psychology and political science. It would not have been hard to find a combination of these skills to advise the Party on the psychological aspects of its YES campaign messages and the presentation of policy.
Faced with this abundance of intellectual riches, the SNP chose to go here for its support – RED Co. It is not a choice I would have made, for a whole range of reasons, but since my focus at the moment is on the crucial issue of defence, I won’t go there for the moment. Today’s Sunday Herald has an article on this – Don’t Mention Independence by Paul Hutcheon and Tom Gordon. I can’t find a link to it at the moment – buy the paper, it has loads of excellent stuff today.
I had planned to start the day with a blog covering in detail the deliberations of the so-called Referendum on Separation for Scotland Select Committee defence enquiries. (Before the BBC bashers rush in, let me say that was the title given to it by the Labour-dominated committee, and the BBC were at pains to point this out regularly on the strapline during the channel 81 broadcast of the 13th June meeting.)
However, two stories this morning changed my agenda for the rest of the day -
The Sunday Herald front page – Goodbye Trident – a blueprint for a nuclear-free Scotland two years after independence, a report by Scottish CND ‘welcomed by the Scottish Government’.
The Sunday Telegraph with Go-ahead for new nuclear weapons by Robert Watts and Patrick Hennessy
Nowhere in the story, nor in the Telegraph Leader article on page 25 - Trident is an essential part of our armoury – is Scotland’s independence mentioned, nor the fact that the UK’s entire plans depend on the referendum outcome.
They have their heads in the sand and a nuke up their arse – not the most comfortable position to adopt …
The Telegraph Leader is instructive, in that every line of it effortlessly demonstrates exactly why we should not have nuclear weapons – not quite the leader writer’s intentions. But read it -and shudder …
For your further entertainment, I offer my unedited clips (in three parts) of the Referendum on Separation for Scotland Select Committee, where the unionist Coalition of Labour, Tories and LibDems aimed at keeping Scotland and the UK resolutely WMD-mad, and opposed to the independence of Scotland, plough their contemptible furrows, acting as straight men with feed lines for the representatives of the Coalition and the monumentally incompetent MOD.
To the credit of Nick Harvey and Peter Luff, they did not always give the Committee the answers they clearly craved. I will analyse, edit and clip these when I get time – meanwhile, eat it raw, and prepare to vomit …
Sunday, 19 February 2012
THE MILITARY/INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX
The MOD gravy train, a money-making machine for civil servants and career politicians that functions as a vehicle of death for inadequately equipped servicemen and women, an arm of government that is apparently incompetent and not fit for purpose, yet one that displays superb competence at enriching the politicians who have held senior posts in defence - notably senior Scottish Labour politicians - who wind up with directorships and lucrative consultancies in arms-related industries, and the senior civil servants who spin gleefully through the door to similar appointments.
(If you doubt this, examine the biographies of former defence secretaries, defence ministers, senior MOD civil servants, former NATO officials, etc.)
The Fox/Werrity affair briefly and embarrassingly lifted the veil, a veil that was rapidly dropped again as the Establishment closed ranks.
Today, the Telegraph - Ministry of Defence civil servant awarded £86,000 bonus with the sub-header Ministry of Defence civil servants have been awarded £40 million in bonuses despite fierce criticism of the department.
Search in vain for this Telegraph story in the Scottish Press today – if they didn’t know about it, they should have. But it doesn’t quite fit with David Cameron extolling the virtues of the UK and defence …
The Sunday Herald and Scotland on Sunday provide interesting contrasts today.Here are two Sunday Herald stories - 'Lives at risk' from poor nuclear safety regimes at Trident bases on Clyde and Anger at LibDems over Devo secrecy ruling
Search in vain for them in Scotland on Sunday – they don’t quite fit the narrative of that increasingly sad paper, although maybe they have or will appear, buried away somewhere.
Thursday, 1 December 2011
I wholly support the public service workers in their grievance against the UK Government, and I support their decision to strike in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. I do not support their decision to strike in Scotland, for reasons already stated over the last few days.
But watching the strikers on television, my reaction was that maybe it had to happen, even if the rationale was deeply flawed. It was probably cathartic, and even a little bit enjoyable for hard-pressed public servants, and it did demonstrate to the critics of their dispute just how important, indeed vital, their roles are, and what an extended dispute, or a series of such disputes would mean.
The complacent and doing-very-nicely-thank-you professional couples in the private sector, with joint incomes in excess of £70-100k who suddenly found that mummy or daddy had to stay home – or find a child minder pronto – were jolted into an uncomfortable realisation of what further strikes could mean. Those on more stratospheric incomes of course would be utterly untouched by it, and probably have an arms-length relationships with their children anyway, safely tucked away in a fee-paying boarding school, or with a resident nanny to handle things.
Regrettably, there were also working couples on very low incomes and one-parent families who had to sacrifice a day’s pay, which I know from my own economically deprived Glasgow childhood could be disastrous to precariously balance finances. They are the real inevitable casualties of such disputes, as were the patients in hospitals or people in care homes who also suffered. But third parties, innocent and some not so innocent, are hurt by strikes, and that is a harsh reality. What must be remembered is that it takes two to tango, and both parties to a dispute are jointly responsible for the collateral damage, not just the strikers.
But what I know for certain is that the strikers of yesterday will be asking themselves just what did they achieve, other than their moment on the media and exercising their lungs with a good chant and a good blow at their vuvuzelas? Post-orgasm comes sober reflection.
Perhaps as they lie back with a post-strike fag, they can also reflect on the fact that the author of their miseries, paraded and repeatedly quoted by David Cameron and every one of his millionaire pals, was that ultimate contradiction, a Labour Lord – John Hutton, Baron of Furness.
The Bloody Red Baron has an interesting background for a Labour man. Educated at Magdalen College Oxford, where he was a member of Conservative, Labour and Liberal Associations, he became a legal adviser to the CBI before entering politics. He held various governmental posts, and was one of Tony Blair’s strongest supporters. He told Nick Robinson of the BBC that Gordon Brown would be a “fucking disaster” as Prime Minister. (He got that one right.) Nonetheless he survived and served under the “fucking disaster” as Secretary of State for Defence, the luxury coach of the Westminster gravy train.
He decided to stand down less than a year later, and said he would stand down as an MP at the next general election. Shortly after the general election of 2010, he was made a Labour peer. In the same month (June 2010) he joined the board of US nuclear power company Hyperion. He was told he couldn’t lobby his former department, the M.O.D. for 12 months. Thereafter, it would be fine to do so.
A year after that, he accepted the Tory/LibDem Coalition’s offer to head up a commission into public centre pensions, and dismissed speculation about his motives for doing so.
The Labour Baron has told the unions that they have been offered a good deal on pensions. Aye, right …
THE UK GRAVY TRAIN – a train the strikers will never be on …
Reflect also on this, strikers of yesterday, and perhaps tomorrow – none of the main UK parties have any answers to what lies ahead, because they are embedded in a corrupt structure – the UK – and they can’t step off the rotten wagon careering towards the edge of the cliff.
The Lords can’t step off because it would be the end for them.
The Scottish Labour Lords can’t step off, because in addition to losing their titles, there would be nowhere for them to go.
The Tories can’t step off because they are inherently undemocratic and wedded to greed.
Labour MPs can’t step off because they have deserted their people and become Tories Mark Two.
Scottish Labour MPs can’t step off because it would be the end of the Westminster gravy train and of their careers.
Scottish Labour MSPs can’t step off because they want to be MPs and join the gravy train to Westminster one day.
The LibDem MPs can’t step off because it would be electoral oblivion for them if they submitted themselves for re-election.
Scottish LibDems have already experienced electoral oblivion, they face the same problem as Scottish Labour, and anyway, nobody would notice if they stepped off.
Only one party stand outside and above this rotten structure – the Scottish National Party. And only one thing will allow Scotland and Scots to step outside of it.
Tuesday, 2 November 2010
Some correspondents have taken me to task by private email for alleged hyperbole in the following extract from my blog The speech that Iain Gray should have delivered at Oban to the party faithful, a fictional version by me of what I felt Iain Gray should have said at Oban.
Public spending in this country prior to the global financial collapse was not just out of control under our stewardship, it was totally corrupted by large scale rip-offs on expenses by Labour MPs and ministers under the protection of their shop steward, Michael Martin, now the noble Lord Martin of Something or Other, and by a combination of incompetence on defence procurement at the MOD, and obscenely fat profits for armament companies, which contributed significantly to the fortunes of former members of our government who were also directors of such armament companies, or consultants to them. Meanwhile, our brave soldiers died because of equipment failures.
That there was - and is - incompetence on defence procurement at the MOD is not a proposition that anyone seriously questions, after a barrage of documentaries and exposés. That defence companies and armaments manufacturers profited from this is undeniable – poor procurement practices always benefit certain suppliers.
That former members of the Labour Government profited from directorships and consultancies that they held because of their experience of defence matters while in government can hardly be seriously questioned.
I do not suggest corruption or illegal activities in such relationships – the really sad thing is that it is all completely legal, above board and open to public scrutiny.
A single example will suffice to demonstrate this – Adam Ingram, Labour politician, former Member of Parliament (he stood down at the May 2010 general election) and the longest serving Defence Minister in British history – 2001 -2007. A former trade union official and computer analyst, he entered politics in East Kilbride District Council in the 1980s.
A few facts of interest about Adam Ingram, derived from the excellent They Work for You site - link -
How Adam Ingram voted on key issues since 2001:
Voted strongly for introducing student top-up fees.
Voted moderately against laws to stop climate change.
Voted strongly for introducing ID cards.
Voted very strongly for replacing Trident.
Voted very strongly for Labour's anti-terrorism laws.
Voted moderately for a stricter asylum system.
Voted moderately for allowing ministers to intervene in inquests.
Voted very strongly for the Iraq war.
Voted very strongly against an investigation into the Iraq war.
Minister of State (Armed Forces), Ministry of Defence (11 Jun 2001 to 28 Jun 2007)
Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (5 May 1997 to 11 Jun 2001)
Register of Members’ Interests
Remunerated directorships -
Non-executive Chairman of SignPoint Secure Ltd. emergency communications. (£45,001-£50,000)
(My note – a Freedom of Information Request to the MOD in 2008 on the MOD, contracts and Adam Ingram
Copy of RFI 20-05-2008-094922-004
(Details of any communication and/or meetings between MOD/Adam Ingram and Signpoint Secure Ltd and details of any contracts between the MOD and Signpoint Secure Ltd made in the last two years.
The purpose and outcome of this FOI request is unknown to me at this time.)
Adam Ingram Advisory Limited, set up May 2008, to undertake consultancy work, to which is payable income from the following:
Non-executive Chairman of Argus Scotland Ltd; design and construction services in the urban environment. (£20,001-£25,000). Payments to be made on an annual basis.
Director, International School for Security and Explosives Education (ISSEE) (non-executive). Address: 3 Wesley Gate, Queens Road, Reading, Berks, RG1 4AP. Attend meetings and offer advice. (£10,001-£15,000).
Received payment of £1,150 (including VAT). Hours: 3hrs. (Registered 31 August 2009)
Consultant to Argus (Scotland) Ltd, Ravenstone House, 4 Ravenstone Drive, Glasgow, G46 6AL. Attend meetings and offer advice.
Received payment of £2,300. Hours: 5hrs. (Registered 31 August 2009)
5. Gifts, benefits and hospitality (UK)
28 June 2009, visit to Biggin Hill Air Show as guest of BSkyB. Overnight stay, dinner and entry to the show for my wife and I. (Registered 30 June 2009)
6. Overseas visits
23-26 February 2009, to Bahrain, to participate in Bahrain Security Forum as speaker. Return flight, business class, and three nights accommodation in Bahrain funded by RUSI and the Kingdom of Bahrain. (Registered 3 March 2009)
Register last updated: 12 Apr 2010. More about the Register
March 2010 – The Telegraph
A story that broke under the Lobbygate scandal, around the time Adam Ingram decided to stand down as an MP. Telegraph link
Wednesday, 6 October 2010
Tobias – there a name one doesn’t often come across. But hold on, isn’t Toby its diminutive? There are lots of Tobys, not counting the jugs. And there was Toby in the West Wing – a passionate man of liberal values. There’s Tobias Mead, of Britain’s Got Talent notoriety.
Tobias comes from the Hebrew Biblical name טוביה which becomes in Greek Τοβίας - it means Yahweh is good i.e. God is good. If God exists, and is good, then he or she has some explaining to do when contemplating the religious wars that ravage our little planet.
In fact, if God is Yahweh and Allah and the Christian god – usually just called God or God the Father - not to mention a few hundred others, give or take a god or two, then He (or is it She) really must have a word with His most dedicated followers in Israel, in the Muslim world and in the West about settling their differences amicably, instead of massacring each other at regular intervals and stockpiling weapons of mass destruction and unspeakable horror to wreak further carnage, called – in the euphemism to end all euphemisms – the nuclear deterrent.
However, I digress, and in the process offend many good people who prefer not to have to consider such fundamental questions.
Let’s come down to earth and have a look at a more mundane Tobias, one Tobias Ellwood, Parliamentary aide to Liam Fox, UK supremo of WMDs, warship and all things designed to attack other nations - called Defence of the Realm – and custodian of the defence budget.
Poor old Liam must at times wish he was a humble doctor again, ideally a country GP, handing out pills and comforting his patients in a quiet Scottish country village, instead of trying to balance the conflicting needs of sustaining Trident as the emblem of power in the remnants of the British Empire, aircraft carriers as a lynchpin of the Tory - and apparently all the other parties’ - job creation scheme, and the embarrassing requirement to stop starving our brave boys of critical equipment in the illegal, immoral wars they are sent to fight in foreign climes. Leaked letters may have been one little weapon in this struggle, even if it backfired a little.
Who better to stonewall to the media on all this than a New Yorker with a European education in Vienna and Bonn, and a former British Army captain, one Tobias Ellwood? Tobias left the Army in 1995, and thus missed the killing fields of Iraq and Afghanistan by six years. (He may well have faced combat with the Green Jackets between 19991 and 1995 – I don’t know whether he saw combat in this period, but I’m sure he served honourably.)
Today, Tobias faced the politician’s nightmare adversary, Andrew Ferguson Neill. (Paxman has long since become a caricature of his former incisive self.)
Tobias turned out to be an exponent of the torrent of words technique to attempt to overwhelm interviewers, one used by Baroness Warsi, Chairman of the Tory Party, who doesn’t know how many members the Party has. The technique has not been working well for its practitioners of late, since under pressure, it descends into the frantic babbling defence. The Baroness has already failed spectacularly on the electoral fraud allegations debacle, and now today on whether or not Tory Party membership has declined under Cameron.
Poor old Toby must think that God was not so good to him today, since he rapidly followed the same downward path in the face of Andrew Neill’s implacable questioning.
The torrent of words technique fails the Baroness yet again - she doesn't know how many members the Tory Party has. Andrew Neil unkindly point out that she is Chairman of the Party.
The Tories have now raised obfuscation to the status of an art, especially since the coalition - or to put it another way, disingenuousness now reigns supreme.
Friday, 1 October 2010
I received a letter in Wednesday’s post (29th September) from Nick Harvey MP, Minister of Defence for the Armed Forces. It was dated 17th September. This is what presumably is known to the MOD as rapid response. If they base the UK’s defence response to threat on that, we may as well roll over and pee up our bellies right now.
In case you think I was specially privileged to get such a letter in reply to my email on the nuclear deterrent and the Strategic Defence and Security Review you would be mistaken. Several thousand people sent the same email, part of an organised protest against the manifest lunacies of the MOD, not to mention its gross and lethal incompetence.
In mitigation, I least was able to email a Minister of Government and get a response, something I guess would be unlikely or impossible in Iraq, in Iran, in North Korea, in Saudi Arabia, and so on. More likely, I would have got a knock on my door in the early hours – if they bothered to knock.
In Israel, the range of response might have ranged from deportation to assassination in my room by agents of Mossad – but they would probably have sent a letter beforehand to maintain the illusion of democratic freedom to criticise.
What does he say?
“…. the renewal of our nuclear deterrent, based on the Trident missile system, is clearly a controversial issue.”
You can say that again, Nick.
“There are substantial risks to our security from emerging nuclear weapons states and state sponsored terrorism, which we can best protect ourselves against through the continued operation of a minimum nuclear deterrent.”
Stop there for a moment, Nick. I’m old enough to remember the pre-nuclear age: I remember Hiroshima and Nagasaki: I remember when the Soviet Union developed its first bomb.
I remember the arguments, and I understand the complexity of them. The Allies were fighting a war – two wars really – one against Germany, which had been won, and one against Japan, which was costing tens of thousands of lives.
Had Germany or Japan developed atomic weapons first, they would have faced exactly the same choice America faced – to threaten the enemy with a demonstration detonation of the terrifying new weapon, or actually use it on a civilian population. There can be no doubt that the moral – the ethical – choice (if there is such a thing in total war) was to threaten by a demonstration of the destructive capacity of the bomb.
America and President Truman chose the profoundly immoral option and fulfilled Oppenheimer’s despairing quote from the Bhagavad Gita - “I am become Death – the destroyer of worlds.”
After the war, the Soviet Union developed its own bomb because America already had one – and Britain was desperate to join the club so that it didn’t “go naked into the conference chamber”.
A new era commenced, and the politicians of the new age had to come to terms with a new destructive capacity, with only the accumulated experience of centuries of warfare, conflict and diplomacy - which had been rendered almost obsolete overnight - to guide them.
The nuclear weapon was a gift to the worst kind of simplistic, populist politician – it still is. Terrify the electorate with the prospect of imminent annihilation, feed and nurture their paranoia and crush all human feelings and all rational argument.
Perhaps the great nuclear Mexican standoff that lasted almost until 9/11 was the inevitable result of the fact that homo sapiens had not evolved at the same pace as its technology. They were forced back to the most atavistic instincts – kill or be killed, fear the Other, the Stranger.
What passed for foreign policy in the original nuclear states used to go something like this -
We already have the capacity to destroy millions of people and render huge areas of the planet uninhabitable for many generations.
This gives us credibility at international conference tables - “my destructive capacity is as big or bigger than yours, so listen to me …” – and we will retain it until all the nuclear states give it up, something that will be achieved by progressive reduction of capacity over generations. We will never it use it first, but only in response to credible threats from the other nuclear states. (That position has now slipped alarmingly towards unilateral first strike action.)
This was seen by the West as a moral position to take , in spite of the fact that the only nation to have launched a first strike attack without nuclear threat from another was the United States in 1945.
In point of fact, there were powerful voices in the United States at that time who argued for a pre-emptive massive nuclear strike against the Soviet bloc before they achieved nuclear capacity. There are powerful voices today who put the same argument about Iran, both in the United States and Israel.
This was the politics of rampant paranoia, with the nuclear club anxiously hovering their trembling fingers over the buttons, and ensuring that there were no new members of the club, the doctrine of non-proliferation.
When the United States became the first nuclear power and promptly used its weapon to destroy its non-nuclear enemies, the only viable response for other nations fearful of the US – at that time the Soviet bloc – was to get a nuclear bomb pretty damn quick. Americans, in the land of the National Rifle Association, understood that mindset, which at the same time both reinforced their worst fears and terrified them – the typical reaction of the paranoid.
If your neighbour, whom you already distrust, suddenly acquires a powerful handgun and promptly shoots somebody in the street, you had better hurry on down to your gun shop on Main Street and get tooled up.
The other fantasy spawned by this lunacy has been that the possession of nuclear deterrents has prevented war and kept the world at peace since 1945. It patently hasn’t – there have been numberless wars using conventional weapons, and no nation (or terrorist organisation) that wanted to impose its will on others has been in the least deterred by the nuclear threat.
Since 1945, the world has been in a state of more or less continuous conflict. There has not been another World War, of course, but that owes more to the European Union than the nuclear deterrent - the main instigator and theatre of 20th century world wars was Europe.
I used to offer a little illustration of the assessment and use of power capacity in negotiation, which ran as follows -
A gun crew are manning an old-fashioned cannon, fully primed and ready to fire. Three men rush out of the darkness at them carrying knives. Who has the greater power?
LESSON: The superior destructive power of the cannon cannot be brought to bear on the attackers and the gun crew are massacred. Power lies in the relevance of the weapon at a point in time, and how fast it can be deployed.
I wrote this before five men armed with box cutters and rudimentary flying skills hijacked three aircraft and brought down the twin towers and damaged the Pentagon. The third flight was only stopped by the bravery of the passengers at the cost of their own lives, using what conventional force they could muster.
Was the lesson of 9/11 learned? It was not. A reflex attack with massive force followed by an occupation and nine year war by the most powerful nations on Earth, with massive military resources at their disposal, has achieved nothing.
Indirectly, the perverted reasoning spawned by 9/11 and the Afghanistan war led to the Iraq war, an international war crime that ignited the Middle East and polarised relationships between the Islamic world and the Christian West.
Incredible as it may seem, the deep thinkers of nuclear deterrence seem to think that the Trident missile system somehow protects us against terrorism.
And now we have the UK financial crisis, and it looks as if hard times may ameliorate the nuclear lunacy in a way that logical argument failed to do.
Liam Fox is worried that his budgets will be cut, and tries a pre-emptive strike with a letter to his own Government. The letter is leaked, and our Liam, straight-faced, launches an investigation.
Who had the most powerful motivation to leak this letter, a letter designed to pressurise the Government? Cui bono? I know the answer, any thinking person knows the answer, and perhaps Liam Fox knows the answer.
Saturday, 26 June 2010
Today is Armed Forces Day. This is the second annual Armed Forces Day, an event set up by the last Labour Government to encourage the country to demonstrate its support for the military. It will centre on Cardiff, but there will be upwards of 350 other events throughout the UK.
The new Defence Secretary, Liam Fox is quoted as saying
"As a nation, we have a duty to support our Armed Forces for all they do for us. Members of the Armed Forces, both past and present, have made great sacrifices in the name of our country but these men and women do not ask for sympathy, they ask for your support."
I support these sentiments. If we send young men and women, in the flower of the youth, to place themselves in harm’s way, risking death or serious injury in the service of the nation, we owe them a duty of support.
We have a bounden duty to properly equip them, to properly pay them, to support their families, and in the event of serious injury to offer speedy, effective medical care and long term support for both physical and psychological injuries.
We have a duty to rehabilitate them, return them to appropriate duties in their chosen profession if possible, and to offer comprehensive help to find employment outside of the armed forces if this is not possible. In the event of their death, we owe them and their families full and tangible recognition of the supreme sacrifice they have made, including adequate financial and support provisions for their dependants.
But above all, we owe them the right not be placed in harm’s way by politicians in conflicts that are irrelevant to the security and defence of the nation, especially where such conflicts are based on a fraudulent premise and are illegal under international law. One egregious example was the Iraq War.
Where our armed forces are deployed and engaged in a conflict that seemed justifiable at the outset, we have a duty to constantly review the rationale for such an engagement, to constantly question its continuing validity, and to speedily bring it to an end and withdraw from it when it ceases to be either winnable, or relevant, or both. Such a conflict is the ‘war’ in Afghanistan, now of nine years duration – greater than the total length of WW1 and WW2 combined – and forecast to continue, in the words of our new Prime Minister, at least for another five years.
Armed Forces Day must be a demonstration of support for all of the above objectives, but it must not be hijacked by politicians and the British establishment for other reasons. There are deeply worrying indicators that this is exactly what is happening.
Here is a quote from Sky News, and it is one of many expressing similar sentiments -
Politicians and military commanders are aware that the casualties and images from the weekly repatriation ceremonies influence public opinion.
Major-General Gordon Messenger, the military spokesman on Afghanistan, hopes events like Armed Forces Day help to balance opinion.
"If I had a plea, I think it would be to better understand the reasons why they're there and the progress that's being made and to not simply view Afghanistan through the lens of the casualties," he told Sky News.
"I think it is incumbent on me and on everyone who has an understanding of the Afghan campaign to do all we can to better inform the public as to those reasons."
In other words, the Government, the MOD and some sectors of the military are worried that the public might be questioning the weekly escalating blood sacrifice that is being made by the flower of our young people in the name of a flawed, confused and increasingly irrelevant strategy in pursuit of confused and conflicting aims. Armed Forces Day is to be hijacked and converted to a PR propaganda exercise for a failing political and military strategy.
All the emblems, symbols and techniques that support the old lie will be deployed to this end – parades of military equipment and military might, the Union Jack, old men in berets and medals, flag-waving children, and a solid presence of members of the Royal Family, together with the insidious sub-text, that anyone who does not support the Afghanistan War is somehow unpatriotic and failing to support our servicemen.
This serves as a smokescreen to obscure to real failing of a failed state – the UK – to address the very real and fundamental needs of those on the frontline, and continuing to defend the massive drain on resources represented by Trident and weapons of mass destruction that are entirely irrelevant to the modern world and the defence challenges it presents. It serves as a PR exercise to attempt to validate the UK’s increasingly false claim to be a major player in the geopolitical great game, when in fact it is merely a convenient puppet for US foreign policy, draining its resources in an increasingly nonsensical claim to be a great power on the world stage.
Meanwhile, the confused aims and contradictory strategy of the Afghanistan coalition will continue: generals will come and go, and little men like politician Liam Fox will strut and posture while young men die: behind the scenes, cuts to budgets will be made that endanger our armed forces effectiveness, bribes will be paid to corrupt Afghani politicians, and secret talks will take place with the Taliban warlords, while innocent men, women and children will be killed by ‘friendly fire’.
I fear that Armed Forces Day, with all its parades and exaltation of military might, all its band and martial music, all its speeches about heroes and sacrifice, all its flag waving and cheering, will simply be a colourful cabaret to conceal the ugly realpolitik that represents the real threat to our brave servicemen and women. I fear that the deaths and the maimings will continue - and will escalate - until the citizens of these isles see clearly the blood sacrifice of their children that is being made in their names, and in the name of Britishness.