Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The scum that they really are

We see that Daniel Hannan, the eurosceptic's eurosceptic, is in full flood in The Daily Telegraph today, holding forth in an op-ed about the terrors of the European Union.

"The European Union is a solution in search of a problem," he writes. "Whatever the question, the answer is invariably 'more Europe'. War in Lebanon? We need to be able to deploy an EU army. A breakdown in the World Trade Organisation talks? Let's have a more integrated European economy. People voted against the constitution? They obviously thought it didn't go far enough."

I suppose we should not be ungracious. Never mind that this is the man that staked his political reputation on the Boy King Cameron taking the Conservative MEPs out of the federalist EEP group in the EU parliament – only to have his new leader renege on the promise, leaving Hannan high and dry – and still a member of the federalist EPP.

We should quietly forget this little embarrassment and be grateful that thus highly paid MEP is not too busy to earn a little more money telling us what we already know – that the EU in reality only has one policy and that is political integration. And, in seeking to achieve this, it has become past master at exploiting situations of concern, in this particular case concern about terrorism.

This is a phenomenon we have called the "beneficial crisis", about which we have written many times on this blog, like here, here, here, here and here … and er… here and here. Not, of course, that Hannan could ever bring himself to use that phrase. It was coined by the Booker/North team and associating himself with anything we did would soooo damage his credibility.

But, as I have just said, I should not be too ungracious. The fact is that what Hannan has written cannot be said too often – especially for our American friends, some of whom still labour under the impression that the EU has some purpose other than integration for the sake of it.

But what one should really query is why The Daily Telegraph actually bothers to print this sort of stuff – unless, of course, it was a slow news day and it needed something to fill its pages.

The point is that the newspaper itself – as reflected by its editorial line – obviously does not believe it, otherwise it would be pointing it out more often, instead of trying to excise any reference to the EU as often as it can get away with it.

What occurs is that the Telegraph is vaguely aware that some of its readers are vaguely eurosceptic so that, every now and again, it throws a token piece into the pot to keep them happy, and the advertisers coming back to but more space. It is probably as simple as that – for all its high pretensions, this newspaper is a business like any other, there to make money for its owners.

What sticks in the craw though is the pretension. For instance, yesterday, the paper ran a robust editorial demanding that the MoD should "Equip soldiers properly". "We've said it before, and we'll no doubt say it again," the paper intoned. "British troops are as brave, willing and deadly as any in the world. But they are let down by poor procurement and an inefficient MoD."

It then preens itself on reporting that "our forces" in Afghanistan are short of ammunition and are to be supplied with drones bought off the shelf from America (pictured above), because of the inadequacy of our own kit. British weaponry, it seems, is not suited to the rough conditions of Helmand province.

It then goes on to declare that:

The reason for this is that, deep down, our generals are still gearing up to fight the Cold War. Our defence procurement is Euro-centric, designed to protect the Continent from a modern conventional attack. As such, it is ill-suited to the theatres in which our soldiers are commonly deployed.

What use is the Eurofighter, the most expensive item in the history of the MoD, in the Afghan campaign? What about our new nuclear submarines? Are they, perhaps, to be dismantled and carried across the Hindu Kush by mule train, and then reassembled in mountain lakes to take on the Taliban?

The purchase of drones is a welcome, if belated, development. Far more needs to be done if the British Army is to be properly suited to out-of-area deployment. We need modern military computers, guided satellites, air- and sea-lift capacity. And the best way to secure these things is to buy them from the Americans, so as not to have to duplicate the research and development costs that have already been sunk into them.

Sadly, our political leaders, for ideological reasons, prefer to participate in costly and inefficient European consortia than simply to purchase what we need from across the Atlantic. And our top brass, partly because they can see which way the wind is blowing and partly out of sheer inertia, are too ready to go along with them. It is the young British soldier, "wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains", as Kipling put it, who is left to pay the price.
Er… excuse me! This we have been saying for some considerable time, not least in my CPS publication last year called the "Wrong Side of the Hill" (and more recently here), when I pointed out that the British government was expending billions on European equipment which was more expensive and less effective than US counterparts.

And where was the Telegraph then? Did it even publish a story on the paper, or refer to it at all? And, when one of the biggest wastes on money we have seen in recent times – the Type 45 Destroyers – celebrated the launch of the first of its class, what did we get other than a gushing eulogy that could have come straight out of the MoD's publicity pack.

Similarly, when it comes to the purchase of "drones" – funny how the paper cannot bring itself to call them UAVs – I recall writing many pieces about the urgent need for this equipment, in both Iraq and Afghanistan, most recently here. But I cannot recall at any time the Telegraph calling for such equipment. The best it has been able to manage of late, is another gushing piece which could have – and almost certainly did – come straight out of the MoD press pack for gullible journalists.

And, as for the desperate (and ultimately successful) campaign we ran to get improved armour for our troops, to supplement "Snatch" Land Rovers, where was the Daily Telegraph?

And has it ever bothered to report the story of the Panther, that useless and extremely expensive pile of Italian junk, on which the MoD is spending nearly £500 million, when it could have spent less money on decent (and effective) vehicles for our troops? It had an opportunity last year but, of course, blew it.

What all this goes to show it how low grade the media really has become. Over a year ago, I was talking seriously to senior journalists in the MSM about the deficiencies of British Army equipment, stressing that there was a crying need for publicity before troops were unnecessarily killed. My efforts were in vain and now, with the latest tally of 14 troops killed in Afghanistan, we have the Telegraph preening itself over its concern for "our" forces.

As a final note, in the paper today there is a story – curiously not on-line – where it notes with glee that "the American billionaire seeking to open a super casino at the Millennium dome" is facing a "fresh controversy" after one of his companies put misleading information on its website. This it picked up from a political blog and rushed into print with it.

But isn't it odd how this same newspaper, so purient about others’ transgressions, is quite happy to post faked photographs on its website while it, and the rest of the media, is unwilling to debate its own transgressions.

Even until relatively recently, I used to believe the media had some authority and credibility. Now, increasingly, I see them for the scum that they really are.


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