Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The real business of politics - 2

Although the meat and drink of real politics might be about dots and commas in draft legislation, it is also about life and death, as we have pointed out before. And there can be no better an illustration of this, and the total failure of our political process, than the contrast between this photograph (left) and the one below.

The first shows a Canadian RG-31 Nyala in Afghanistan which, according to CTV News was today attacked by a suicide bomber in a vehicle. The soldiers inside escaped unscathed and no other Canadian troops were hurt in the attack.

We are told that the attack took place about two kilometres from the regional international reconstruction headquarters in Kandahar and, according to reports, the suicide bomber tried to ram a vehicle into the convoy that was travelling through the city of Kandahar on its way to the main Nato headquarters at Kandahar Airfield.

The bomber was driving what appeared to be a minivan in front of the convoy. The driver pulled over as the convoy approached, then turned around and drove into one of the vehicles in the convoy. Soldiers said there was little warning of the attack.

Now compare and contrast with the outcome of a similar suicide attack earlier this month, only this time against British troops. They, to their misfortune, were riding in a lightly armoured "Snatch" Land Rover. And, as a result of the failure of the MoD to equip our troops properly, they died.

This, as the media are belatedly beginning to realise, is one of the more egregious failures of the MoD procurement process, but one that has – with a few honourable exceptions – been almost totally ignored by the British political "blogosphere".

Nevertheless, the combined effort of the blogs that did engage, with the help of a cross-party and cross-House alliance of Parliamentarians, the support of Christopher Booker in The Sunday Telegraph and the intervention of The Sunday Times, the Secretary of State for Defence Des Browne was forced to purchase armoured vehicles for our troops.

This does show the power of the political process when it is harnessed properly and focused, hence my irritation when the growing power and influence of the blogosphere is frittered away on trivia and puerile "tee-hee" comment.

A graphic illustration of that dynamic comes from Ian Dale's website which has recently made a rare expedition into defence issues, but only to report on this issue of utmost gravity:

As part of the government's Defence Industrial Strategy (DIS), it was decreed that the Defence Procurement Agency (DPA) and the Defence Logistics Organisation (DLO) - don't they just love acronyms - should merge.

I see from the the (sic) current edition of Jane's Defence Weekly that, from 1 April 2007, the merged organisation will be known as Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S). Even by the standards of NuLab, it seems a bit much that the Secretary of State should be naming part of his empire after himself!
By his own estimation, Iain Dale's site is third in the rankings of top British political blogs and thus in a position to influence the political process for good or bad. And, while it is not entirely fair to single out Dale's abysmal efforts, his output typifies much of what is wrong with British political blogging – and illustrates how it is failing to capitalise on the blogosphere's growing power and influence.

Although not of a religious bent, I am reminded of the parable of the talents. More prosaically, one of Rudyard Kipling's quotations comes to mind.

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