Monday, April 16, 2012

They don't even read each other


Penetrating the paywall behind which The Times hides its nuggets, the Press Association istelling us that this paper is reporting that the MoD is reconsidering changes to Britain's aircraft carrier programme.

The defence ministry is, we are told, planning to drop plans to buy the F35C, the conventional carrier version of the American Joint Strike Fighter, and reverting to the previous Labour government's plans to buy the short take-off, vertical landing (STOVL) F35B version of the aircraft.

However, that story sounds rather familiar and a quick check of our own archives brings upthis story from Thomas Harding of the Failygraph on 19 March.

And what a surprise! It tells us that defence ministers "are recommending that the Government scrap its previous decision to back a conventional aircraft carrier and jets - in favour of a Labour plan for jump-jet fighters and ships".

So much for the Times's scoop – nearly a month late. We can understand their gifted hacks not reading things like lowly blogs, but one might expect them to keep an eye on the competition. Just very occasionally, they have some news.


Not a game for amateurs

olly.JPGAs someone who regards Twitter users in general as deserving of capital punishment, and harbouring a strong dislike for the use of hard-core swearwords on blogs and other public media, I am slightly ambivalent on this.

On the one hand, it seems to me that John Kerlen (aka Olly Cromwell), who has posted some distinctly unpleasant "tweets" on his Twitter account, was asking for trouble. On the other, it is manifestly clear that Bexley councillors (with whom Kerlan has been locked in battle) and the police have grossly over-reacted.

Kerlan's supporters make a very good case for him, pointing to how ghastly Bexley council really is – although it is probably no more loathsome than others. But Kerlan himself does not come over as a character who is likely to gain widespread public support.

And if that sounds less than sympathetic, it is perhaps a reflection of Kerlan's lack of tactical acumen. We are up against a ruthless, spiteful and unprincipled enemy, one who was bound to take advantage of any weakness. Publishing the "c-word" on Twitter, as did Kerlan, has given them the opening they needed.

If we are going to take these people on – as indeed we must – we are going to have to be a lot more canny. Not least, we need to identify their weaknesses, work out effective strategies to exploit them and then, where possible, to work in concert with others. Turning the electronic ether blue is not going to earn any brownie points.

One notes of Kerlen that he does tend to be a one-man band, yet he is now appealing for support when he has got himself into trouble of his own making. And, if for no other reason than the authorities are grossly over-reacting, he should be supported – at least insofar as a jail sentence, currently threatened, would be unconscionable, while the ban on his blogging cannot be acceptable.

But one might also observe that we might all get a lot further against a common enemy if more of us took the time and effort to plan and implement a winning strategy. We are not going to win by sounding off – with or without obscenities - and hoping for results.

Our enemies are not amateurs. Why should we expect that amateur attempts to take them on should have any success? If we are going to be successful, we need to raise our game.


The media just don't get it

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It used to be the case that one took some note of leaders in the newspapers, but these days the offerings seem so trite that one just pops in occasionally to sneer and jeer.

So it is with the Failygraph of "Spitfire" fame, which is proving consistently worthy of its nickname, its current leader on the water shortages being a model of superficiality. It shallowness competes with the reservoir it depicts. 

Not for this newspaper is there any thought that the current rainfall deficit is well within normal variation.  Nor is there any talk of the fact that the population has increased since privatisation by a factor greater than the current water shortfall, without there having have been any increase in storage capacity. 

And the question of leakage rates is obviously far too complex for the leader writers, so there is no reminder that just one water company drains away more than the entire annual deficit for the whole country. Such matters have to be left to lowly blogs and the Booker column, unloved and unread by the self-important leader writers. 

Instead, ignoring all these things, ignoring the fact that we have been taken for a ride by the water companies who have been feathering their own nests while failing to invest in upgrading the infrastructure, the paper tells us that we can no longer take our water for granted. 

Instead of hosepipe bans, it suggests that "a better approach would be to let people pay extra for what they use", as well as compulsory metering. 

So, let's get this straight. After being robbed blind by largely foreign-owned water companies, which have taken their consumers for granted, the Failygraph says, out of the kindness of the water companies' hearts, presumably, we should be allowed to pay more actually to get some water from them. 

Is it any wonder that the media, alongside the politicians, are increasingly the subject of derision. 


The politicians just don't get it


The energy minister Greg Barker has been very much in the news over the last few days, not least for his attack on UKIP, lashing out at their "swivel-eyed" rhetoric.

However, not only has this not been a winning tactic in the past, coming from this "uber-modernising Cameroon lieutenant"it simply serves as confirmation that the Tory establishment is getting seriously rattled by the UKIP threat. 

Barker himself is doing the best he can to lose the Tory vote in the shires, with his push-me, pull-you policy on bird choppers, telling us all that there will be no more of these hated machines built onshore … except for the thousands that have already been approved and are in the pipeline. 

And it is by no means the effete south that is up in arms, and indeed it is not only Barker amongst politicians who are putting their foot in it. Ooop 'ere in the grim North, we have Bradford council approving an application to build a 200ft wind monitoring mast, which is expected to pave the way for a "devastating" wind farm of four 330ft turbines on Thornton Moor, Denholme. 

Councillors gave the scheme the green light despite huge opposition from campaigners and the Bronte Society, who said the structure would "deface" views across the "culturally and historically significant" moorland. 

This moorland is famous for its association with the Bronte sisters, and local councillor Tony Maw, of Oxenhope Parish Council, has pointed out the potential economic damage that the planned bird choppers could cause. Regeneration of the area, including using the moors as a tourist destination, he says, is vital for the future of the area's rural economy.

This time, though, it was the turn of the other side to display the contempt the political classes have for the plebs. Said Labour councillor Imdad Hussain from Heaton – one of the more grotty parts of Bradford - "I think we have got the situation here where members of the public are against something because it is in their back gardens".

Mr Hussain's mailbag, we are told, has since been rather full of "foxtrot oscar" missives, his excretions merely underlining the sentiment that won Galloway his seat in West Bradford. 

The real problem we all have, though, is that the politicians just don't seem to get it. Barker is just as much in cloud-cuckoo land as the contemptible Mr Hussain, and just about as wildly off the mark if he thinks his utterances are going to have a positive effect on the electorate. 

The man may fool the kiddies (above), but he's going to have a harder job with the rest of us. 


Afghanistan: echoes of Tet

I've never been one for parallels between the Afghan insurgency and the VietNam War. After all, the latter was a corrupt government supported by the US, against the people who were fighting a vicious insurgency, with the assistance of a cross-border power. So you can so that there are no real similarities. 

However, with the co-ordinated raids in Kabul, the Taliban having launched tightly choreographed attacks on military bases, embassies and the parliament, one cannot help but recall the 1968 Tet offensive by the Viet Cong.

Militarily a defeat for the insurgents, it was presented by the media to the US public as a major defeat and fuelled anti-war sentiment that eventually led to the withdrawal of US forces.

Most powerful of all the media commentary was Walter Cronkite in a CBS special, when he concluded that: "To say that we are closer to victory today is to believe, in the face of the evidence, the optimists who have been wrong in the past. To say that we are mired in a bloody stalemate seems the only realistic, yet unsatisfactory conclusion".

No figure of similar stature in the US media now exists, but the sentiment is not dissimilar. Whatever optimism might emerge from the military ranks, the civilians back home are convinced that we are bogged down in a never-ending struggle than cannot be won.

Michael O'Hanlon, writing for CNN World believes the current offensive is a propaganda ploy by the Taliban, and that we shouldn't fall for it. The attacks were only moderately effective and suppressed almost entirely by Afghan forces.

But O'Hanlon does not know his history, or understand the dynamics of modern insurgencies, those where indigenous government are kept in power by external forces. These are not won or lost on the battlefields, but in the hearts and minds of the peoples of the donor countries – those that supply the forces to keep the regimes in place.

Long ago, that battle was lost, not least because so few people here - and in the United States, for that matter - believe what their governments say. And, as far as the UK goes, the MoD is as inept at publicity as its military Brass are at fighting the Taliban. They too have lost any credibility.

Thus, whatever the outcome, this current offensive will be read as another failure of the security forces, and as another reason why we should withdraw our forces as soon as possible. Whatever else happens, it is just detail.


Sunday, April 15, 2012

It's grim ooop north

A few miles to the southwest of Bradford is the old mill town of Brighouse, home of the original Brighouse and Rastrick band.  It stands on the River Calder, alongside which runs the extensively renovated Calder and Hebble Navigation, which runs 21 miles from Wakefield to Sowerby Bridge. 

And, on an idle Sunday, there can be nothing better than exploring the dark satanic mills of West Yorkshire.  And, as thee can see, it's grim oop North. 

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So, you really can see how much we are suffering. It's no wonder we're all so miserable and speak with funny accents.


A three-pillar war – part II

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At the end of March, I started an exploration of the fascinating but largely untold story of why Churchill delayed assistance to the Atlantic convoys in the early part of the war, withholding vital escorts and leaving the ships prey to the depredations of Hitler's U-Boats throughout 1940.

Part one finished with the promise that I would explore the reasons why, after agreeing to release much needed warships to escort Atlantic convoys on 4 October, Churchill went back on his word on 15 October 1940 and why he then waited until 31 October before he finally agreed to a redisposition of forces.

The first clue to this comes on 2 September, in a secret War Cabinet meeting (CAB 65/15/1). On the main agenda has been a proposal to send further armoured units to the Middle East, and this gives rise to a short discussion on the likelihood on invasion.  Here, Churchill himself raises the issue of fog saying that it was more likely in the autumn, arguing that it was "a great ally to an invader", especially was usually accompanied by a calm sea.

The First Sea Lord, Admiral Pound, observed that the "indications pointing to invasion had never been more positive than they were at the present time", but he thought the use of barges and small fishing craft for a winter invasion was "out of the question".  Such small craft "could only be used on so few days that they could not form part of any expedition which started on a pre-formed date".

It would be difficult, said Pound, to give any date after which the weather would deteriorate seriously, but after the equinoctial gales about 21st September, the weather was uncertain.

Churchill, however, was not prepared to take this as a definitive answer. On 5 September, he made his monthly report to parliament on the war situation, when he again. addressing the possibility of a German invasion. Then he told MPs: "No one must suppose that the danger of invasion has passed", then going on to say:
I do not agree with those who assume that after the 15th September – or whatever is Herr Hitler's latest date – we shall be free from the menace of deadly attack from overseas; because winter, with its storms, its fogs, its darkness, may alter the conditions, but some of the changes cut both ways. There must not be for one moment any relaxation of effort or of wise precaution, both of which are needed to save our lives and to save our cause.
In making this statement, Churchill has been fortified by a memorandum from the Joint Intelligence Sub-Committee (JISC), issued on that same day, warning that "available intelligence has shown and still shows that invasion or raids against the United Kingdom may be attempted in the near future".

However, the memorandum goes on to say that: "successful invasion of any sort … depends on sea and air superiority and there is no indication that this superiority is or can be gained by the Germans". (CAB 40/18, COS (40) 713).

What is interesting here is that, at the highest levels of the British military, doubt was already being expressed about the German capabilities, and this memorandum was not alone. The day before, the Chief of the Naval Staff has issued a memorandum about the invasion."It must be assumed", he said, "that the Germans, as very practical and experienced makers of war, would not undertake any project which they did not think had at least a reasonable chance of success". He continued:
The Germans must know that they cannot expect even local naval superiority and if they intend to attempt an invasion they must think there is a way of doing it, by use of air or otherwise, in which they can avoid having to face our naval forces.
Thus, it was hypothesised, the Germans could have in mind a coup de main. By mounting a "surprise attack in fog or some other way", the German could take possession of Dover, capture its defences and, with its own artillery across the Channel, dominate the Straits and prevent naval interference (COS (40) 711).

This was pure speculation. German records captured after the war show no evidence that any such operation was ever considered. But a renewal of the invasion threat would very much have appealed to Churchill.

Perversely, from the very beginning, he had privately expressed his doubts about the likelihood of an invasion. As early as 12 July, three days into the official "Battle of Britain", he referred to "the great invasion scare". But he had also said that it was serving a most useful purpose. It was well on its way "to providing us with the finest offensive army we have ever possessed and it is keeping every man and woman tuned to a high pitch of readiness".

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Thus, in the putative German invasion, Churchill had the makings of what we would now call a "beneficial crisis", a means of focusing the British public and keeping them in a high state of alarm. He made a great show of visiting fortifications (seen above visiting a heavy gun on the East Coast on 7 August 1940), using the opportunities to galvanise the nation.

However, by late August, the government's Home Intelligence reports were indicating that fear of an invasion, which seemed to have peaked in the July, was now on the wane. If anything, people were starting to resent what they were increasingly regarding as scaremongering.

Hence, we saw on 5 September, Churchill trying to claw back lost ground. But he did not stop there. Buried in deep in the National Archives is a series of documents, newly placed online, which show that Churchill had taken on board the possibility of a coup de main and, for a short period, had become obsessed with the prospect of a surprise German landing under the cover of autumnal fog.

Referenced CAB 80/106, and 80/19-21, in these documents we find the remarkable evidence that, dominated by this fear, Churchill held back vital convoy escorts from the Atlantic, leaving merchant seamen to their fate, and our supplies lifeline at risk.

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After the memoranda of 4-5 September, the key document comes on 14 September 1940, one day before what is now celebrated as Battle of Britain Day, when supposedly the RAF so roundly defeated the Luftwaffe that Hitler abandoned plans to invade Britain.

This is from The Chief of the Naval Staff (COS (40) 752) exploring the possibility of the Germans launching a sudden invasion under cover of an autumnal fog. It acknowledged that land fogs in the Channel area were "comparatively common", and stated: "If the enemy thought that foggy conditions might be an advantage for a sea-borne invasion, then the most favourable area for launching an attack would be the Dover Straits area".

There was, of course, the obvious, and hitherto insuperable problem of navigating the invasion fleet in conditions for poor visibility. But here the Navy chiefs had an answer, one which contributed to the extraordinary chain of events.

On the basis that Nazi bombers were using radio beams to find their targets, they "believed" that wireless aids for the landing fleet had been developed "to a high pitch" and that "it would be possible to direct landing craft to the selected points on our coast with a considerable degree of accuracy in foggy weather".

This memorandum clearly had a profound effect on the prime minister because, two days later, on 16 September, he issued a minute to the Chiefs of Staff, telling them that he considered "fog is the greatest danger", adding "fog is our foe".

However, the possibility of the German barges being fitted with radio navigational aids was speculation, based on no evidence at all. And, clearly, there were doubts as to whether this capability existed.

On 18 September (after Hitler has already postponed the invasion), the Joint Planning Staff, was referring to the concentration of barges in the Channel ports. They considered it: "most important that we should now know more about the nature and equipment of these barges than is revealed by reconnaissances and photography". A raid was proposed to obtain the necessary information. This, however, was never executed.

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As it happened, far from being so equipped, most of the barges did not even have radios. They were reliant on signal flags for communications. Yet, unaware of this, an inter-services committee on 20 September reported that it would be possible for the Germans to "navigate with accuracy" using radio beams.

On the evening of the following day, 21 September 1940, Churchill met  for dinner Lord Gort, commander of the recently evacuated BEF, and Air Chief Marshal Hugh Dowding, then AOC of Fighter Command. When the talk turned to the invasion, the prime minister visited the idea that the Germans could make a surprise landing in fog. Churchill's own military advisor, Gen. Ismay, was sceptical. But both Gort and Dowding, neither of whom had any expertise in the matter, agreed it could happen. A fuse had been lit.

The very next day, the Chiefs of Staff Committee issued a report advising that "our flotillas should patrol the narrow waters both during the night and at dawn in those parts where visibility is best, and the chances of locating and engaging the enemy are consequently greatest". The following day, Churchill sent a minute to Ismay asking about Admiralty dispositions in the Channel.

This prodding had its own effect. On 27 September, the Chiefs of Staff were reporting that "special anti-invasion patrols" were being carried out nightly by destroyers in the Channel and the southern North Sea.

But, by now, the situation out in the Atlantic was getting desperate, and – as we saw from Part I - 3 October saw a memorandum from the First Sea Lord calling for twelve destroyers and 30 anti-submarine trawlers to be diverted from anti-invasion work to the protection of trade. The following day, on the recommendation of the Chiefs of Staff, Churchill agreed to release the escorts. But it was not to be.

On 10 October, the Prime Minister told his War Cabinet colleagues that "evidence was still accumulating that preparations for invasion were still going forward". It would, he said, "be premature to dismiss the possibility of an invasion being made".  Then, as we recalled, on 15 October, the release of escorts was delayed by Churchill, and it was not until 31 October that orders were given to allow anti-invasion vessels back on the high seas. 

On the 15 October,  in the War Cabinet without any prior announcement, Churchill had again told his colleagues that it would be "premature to suppose that the danger of invasion had passed". Intelligence reports, he had said, indicated that enemy plans were still moving forward and, in these circumstances "it would not be possible for the Navy to withdraw any more of their forces from the invasion front in order to strengthen shipping escorts in the north-west approaches".

Herein lies a mystery. The normal cadence of reporting was that the Chiefs of Staff Committee first chewed over an issue. It then went to the Defence Committee, chaired by Churchill, and thence to the War Cabinet. But here, the first we see of this peremptory refusal to support the convoys is in the War Cabinet. The decision was taken by Churchill, and Churchill alone.

To find the background to this decision, we have to go to 20 October and a memorandum by the Chief of the Imperial General Staff (COS (40) 851). From this, we find that the "intelligence reports" on which Churchill relied – revealed to the Chiefs of Staff on 18 October - were from the JISC.  But rather than conveying any hard information on German intentions, they had merely pointed out that a period starting 19 October was regarded as "particularly suitable for invasion owing to conditions of moon and tide, the probability of fog, and Hitler's horoscope".

In particular, it said, the continuance of the threat of invasion was indicated because of the "greater opportunity for surprise offered to the enemy by the probability of fog, shorter days and the conditions of bad visibility for reconnaissance. And, to indicate just how desperately skewed the intelligence picture was, the JISC believed there was a need "for a spectacular success to buoy up the morale of the German people during the coming winter".

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That was an incredibly slender basis – lacking any real evidence – on which to make such important decisions. Nevertheless, it was enough for Churchill. On guesses which included a concocted horoscope, on which Hitler was supposed to have relied, he decided that men were to die in the cold waters of the Atlantic, for want of anti-submarines escorts.

Over 50 destroyers and hundred of sloops and other warships were to remain holed up in British ports awaiting that foggy day and a non-existent threat. And, apart from the fact that Hitler had already postponed the invasion, on 17 September, the idea of radio beams guiding the German invasion fleet was pure fiction.

Furthermore, that was not the worst of it. Not only were the convoys being deprived of warships, patrol aircraft were in short supply. All being well, we'll have a look at the air situation next Sunday.


Nature isn't natural

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Last week, the Booker column struggled to reach 200 comments and never made it, but this week gets more than a hundred before midnight on the Saturday.

The difference is that this week, we have a romp round climate change, which always brings the groupescules and the trolls out to play, many of them treading familiar ground which has very little relevance to the material Booker actually writes.

For the record, Booker is taking apart Nature Magazine, which has long ceased to be a serious scientific journal, having become a cheer-leader for the climate change industry. Booker has more patience than me though, charting its latest excess, one as predictable as finding bears in a sedentary position depositing organic matter in a tree-filled environment.

As always though, it is worth a read but, unless you are into such things, you can save yourself some time by giving the troll-baiting a miss.


Saturday, April 14, 2012

Treating us with contempt


This is a jolly little tale one might think. Farmer David Cundall, 62, from Scunthorpe, North Lincs, has located the aircraft, and got David Cameron to negotiate their release by the Burmese authorities.

From thereon, though, the story falls apart. The piece authors describe the Spitfires as "fighter jets" (below), an incredible description, and more so since this is the iconic "victor" of the Battle of Britain, known to every man child in the country. No fighter jet this.

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Even neglecting the "aircrafts" in the strap, the story get worse. We are told they were "hidden more than 40-feet below ground amid fears of a Japanese occupation", after having been shipped to Burma and then transported by rail to the RAF base where they have been found. But, we are told:
... advances in technology and the emergence of more agile jets meant they were never used and in August 1945, officials fearing a Japanese occupation abandoned them on the orders of Lord Louis Mountbatten, the head of South East Asia Command, two weeks before the atom bombs were dropped, ending the conflict.
The time that Burma was threatened was in 1942, of course, when there were no Spitfires in theatre, only Hurricanes. Not until 1943 with the formation of the 3rd Tactical Airforce did Spitfires appear in Burma, and then they were the tropicalised Mk Vc version, latterly replaced by Mk VIIIs (below: a Spitfire Mk VIII of No. 155 Squadron about to take off from Tabingaung, Burma, January 1945). 

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Nevertheless, we are told that the machines delivered in 1945 have somehow become "Mk II planes"? And there was a Japanese occupation feared?

In a story littered with so many factual errors, one does not have to go very far to see part of the reason. We are dealing with girlies here, Victoria Ward, and Rowena Mason. And, as we all know, girlies don't do toys.

Watching recently the ground-breaking TV series The Wire, we have an episode where the hiring policy of the local paper (in the series) - The Baltimore Sun - is described. Senior and experienced (largely white male) reporters are being replaced by "twenty-something" girlies (in experience if not calendar age) , who are so much cheaper.

So we have the disease spread to the UK, but there is more to it than that. The multiple, laughably egregious errors were missed by the subs. But then, there are so few of them now. They barely have time to read the copy – and many of them are as ignorant as the reporters.

It does not stop there though. Predictably, the readers – more knowledgeable than the writers - have ripped the piece apart in the comments section. Had I made mistakes of this order on my blog, my readers would have done likewise, and I would have responded with alacrity. But not the arrogant Failygraph. Rather than curl up in embarrassment at such an appalling piece, it sails on regardless on the "award-winning" website, with not a correction to be seen.

These, however, are obvious errors, ones that can so easily be spotted by readers. As for the more subtle errors, in more arcane areas, these stand alongside in hundreds of pieces, unchanged. The Failygraph does not care. In The Wire, we get an explanation of why it is more profitable to produce a bad newspaper than a good one, and this paper has learned the lessons well.

But the readers are being treated with contempt.

UPDATE: some, but by no means all of the errors have been corrected ... I suppose evenThe Failygraph had to do something about the piece, so bad was it that even they must have noticed.


Party Med


The BBC (and others) are reporting on yet another EU funding fraud, this one coming from the Italian tax police. They claim that money paid for the development of the tourist sector has instead been spent on restoring villas and lavish weddings.

Police say they are investigating 63 people, nearly all of them from the town of Vibo Valentia, south of Naples. Bank accounts, cars and properties worth more than €1m have been seized. Also under investigation are two officials from Calabria, a stronghold of the Ndrangheta crime group, who are in charge of distributing the EU money.

Tax police said the money was used to extend and furnish private homes, and to give furniture and televisions to relatives or friends at weddings and other occasions. The investigation is focusing on crimes including aggravated fraud to obtain public funds, embezzlement of EU funds, and using false documents.

Misuse of EU money, though, is so prevalent that this barely rates as a news story. Nothing significant will come of the reports. As one gang of crooks is picked up, another takes their place.

Furthermore, it is not only the Italians who are at it. Cranmer, recently told us about the way the EU commission has sanctioned a €29 million pay-out to Greece's top political parties for campaigning in the May elections, and for unpaid wages and other debts, such as to the state social security fund.

Here, the payments have a patina of legality, it that they have been authorised by an official body. But, as Cranmer remarks, the money has been supplied by diverse taxpayers, including us – and none of us had any idea that the money would be used to subsidise Greek politicians. Had we been given a choice, none of us would have agreed to it.

That, though, doesn't matter. They are all having a party at our expense – the Party Med. Our money, their party, and we're not invited. That's the way things work now.


Friday, April 13, 2012

An alternative explanation

"A quarter of senior civil servants quit Whitehall under Coalition" says the Failygraph.

Civil service unions say that the high rate of turnover was "because of low morale". However, we are also told that many of the senior civil servants will have gone into lucrative jobs in the private sector.

Now then, rather than "low morale", per se, could the reason why so many civil servants are leaving be because they are being offered "lucrative jobs in the private sector"?


The last resort

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At least Booker is getting some traction with the Daily Wail, which has given him a comment piece to explore the depredations of the Social Services (SS) in the ongoing "stolen kids" scandal.

And there I was writing in a piece earlier today that, in safeguarding our rights and liberties in general, we rely especially on two institutions – our courts and parliament.

With the failure of the executive – and most notably the SS apologist, Tim Loughton, masquerading as the children's minister – we rely here also on those two institutions, both of which have again failed. That leaves as a long-stop the media and, mostly through the perseverance of Booker, it is at last catching up. 

The way the Wail is handling the issue, though,is something of an indictment of the Sunday Telegraph, which has consigned Booker to his usual ghetto, giving the "stolen kids" story no exposure in the rest of the paper. And now the Wail waltzes in and steals the story from under its nose.

Booker's current effort takes its lead from the news yesterday, on the front page of the Wailand elsewhere.  But by no means all the papers are getting the point. The Independent had it that "the foster care network faces being overwhelmed as attempts by social workers to protect children from abusive or neglectful families saw the number of care applications pass the 10,000 mark".

Care proceedings, this paper said, "have been on the increase in Britain for the past five years, since the death of 17-month-old Peter Connelly, known as "Baby P", led to widespread anger over whether social workers were acting quickly enough to protect vulnerable children".

And there we have it. What was quite obviously a gross over-reaction by the media at the time has since driven a massive over-reaction by the foster care "industry". This has now become a business on a phenomenal scale, siphoning the best part of £3.4 billion a yearfrom the public purse, and getting more expensive by the day.

This colossal expenditure alone should be ringing the alarm bells, and when the money is being used to spread distress and misery as well, it is time this issue was seriously explored. Sadly, with the courts and parliament failing us once again, the last resort is theDaily Wail.

That is how bad it has become.


A whiff of panic

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The Independent talks of Tory ratings at a new low, with Labour on its biggest lead since February last year. So Tory Boy Blog rushes to the dyke to stick its thumb in the breach. It don't mean nuffink, says Timmy.

To hold the line (or plug the hole – whichever you prefer) europhiliac Bruce Anderson has been recruited, pitching in to tell us that UKIP doesn't matter, as long as "Cameron delivers economic competence and strong leadership".

That's rather like suggesting that Herod might have gone down in history as a compassionate king, had he been kind to the first born. Thus we see betrayed an untoward belief in the merits of porcine aviation, combined with a strong whiff of panic as the local elections loom closer.

A while ago, we remarked that it took a certain amount of political genius to lose a general election against one of the most unpopular governments in history. When the local election results come in, we may find that Cameron's rare genius has not deserted him.


A layer too far

Millefeuille.jpgYour Freedom and Ours takes on the idiot Sue Cameron over the issue of elected mayors. The point our Helen makes is that these new mayors have very little power, which makes them just another layer of government on top of an already cumbersome system.

And you know that there has to be something in her complaint when she andThe Guardian agree, the latter referring tothe great mayoral delusion.  What the imposition of the system, it says, "really highlights is the modern establishment's talent for messing with things for the sake of it, with no sense of history, experience, or even clarity about what exactly they want".

The worst of it, here in Bradford, is that with the political establishment united in opposition to the idea, the electorate may vote "yes" in the forthcoming referendum – one of ten throughout the country – simply because the politicians don't want it.

One can sympathise with, and admire, the sentiment, but that – as the election of Galloway shows – is a very poor basis for a decision with long-term financial implications which will end up costing millions. This, by any measure, is a layer too far, making an already poor system even worse.


Repression Я us


Raedwald this morning picks up on the column by Simon Jenkins, commenting on Monday's BBC Panorama programme.

The programme, says Jenkins, substantiated an extraordinary allegation that suggested how far the war on terror has descended into legal abyss. The claim was that MI6 "rolled the pitch" for Tony Blair's bizarre 2004 hug-in with Libya's Colonel Gaddafi by apparently arranging for the CIA to kidnap Gaddafi's opponent in exile, Abdel Hakim Belhaj.

He was seized in Bangkok, where he and his wife were en route to Britain. It has been suggested they were "rendered" via the British colony of Diego Garcia to Tajoura jail in Tripoli. Belhaj spent six years, and his wife four and a half months, at the tender mercies of Gaddafi's security boss, Moussa Koussa. Belhaj's pregnant wife was taped like a mummy on a stretcher, and he was systematically tortured.

What is especially chilling, though – in a jaw-dropping piece – is Jenkins's account of the role of the court of appeal in London, "mesmerised by the war on terror". It has declared that the war on terror embraces "acts by insurgents against the armed forces of a state anywhere in the world which sought to influence a government and were made for political purposes".

Under legislation, terrorism included not just acts of violence but any threat made for "the purpose of advancing a political, religious, racial or ideological cause". These threats might include nothing more than a "serious risk to public health and safety" or "seriously to disrupt an electronic system".

What worries Jenkins is that under this "catch-all lexicography", dissidents and insurgents under any regime were not excluded. There is nothing that would exempt those engaged in attacks on the military during the course of insurgency from the definition of terrorism. It was hard luck all Kurds, Kosovans, Benghazians, Tibetans and Iranian exiles – and today's Syrian rebels. They are all terrorists.

By this doctrine, every student agitator is a terrorist, every internet hacker, cafeteria dissident, freedom fighter and insurgent leader. The war on terror, Jenkins concludes, is corrupting all it touches, while parliament meekly passes each twist of the ratchet of repression.

And there is the story of our times. In safeguarding our rights and liberties in general, we rely especially on two institutions – our courts and parliament. When neither function to challenge the executive, and keep it in check, it is time to worry.


Smell the fear


Now that Iain Martin has "discovered" UKIP and marked the party down as a potential threat to his beloved Cameroons, the alarm bells must have been sounding in Failygraph towers.

With remarkable speed, they have dredged up another former UKIP "head of research", who is evidently thoroughly disenchanted with Master Farage and  who is prepared to dish the dirton the man and his party.

Farage does rather seem to have a problem with his research heads, and this one – a certain Abhijit Pandya – is sharing his wisdom with us as to "Why no decent Tory should vote Ukip". Having spent a year advising Nigel Farage's UKIP, he says, what he found convinced him that the "anti-EU firebrands are not a serious alternative to the Conservatives".

To be fair, one should say that Cameron's Tories are not a serious alternative to the Conservatives either, and in the absence of anything that approximates a Conservative Party, many people think that UKIP is about as near as they will get, for the time being.

Mr Pandya clearly feels differently. UKIP MEPs, he claims, are obsessed with infantile stunts. These include wondering (sic) around Brussels, at the taxpayer's expense, singing "there is a hole in my bucket". Entertaining as it is watching Mr Farage doing this, and giving bombastic speeches in the European Parliament, adds Pandya, it does nothing to curb the powers of the EU.

However, while one might share some of Mr Pandya's reservations about Farage, one should also note that "Panders", as he was known, is a rather odd cove himself.

Having, in the 2010 contest for a leader of UKIP, emerged as a prominent supporter of Farage, he was rewarded, or so we are told, by being made Head of Research. He laterpraised Farage as "the Churchill of our times", a piece he has now quietly erased from his own blog and the Failygraph has deleted from its comments when I posted it there.  This is what he actually wrote:
His orations in the European Parliament are extraordinary, not just for their energy and vitality, but because he is like David facing Goliath in a cesspit of snakes where everyone is against him. People forget that UKIP is the only political party in that Parliament that is opposed to their nation's continuing membership, and hated with a vulgar passion by the other political factions therein.

He wields his unalloyed silver tongue on the simple truth that democracy and self-government matter. Who knows with Farage continuing at its helm, where it will be in 2019, a decade after UKIP established itself as the serious political alternative in Britain?

Despite overwhelming odds it is exciting to watch to where the mercurial gifts of their leader will take UKIP. The only path and destiny open to him is upwards, or else Britons will be left scrapping over the process of fragmentation of the UK whilst the real ruler becomes Brussels, like a silent nocturnal baby-snatcher fabled in medieaval  (sic) popular myths.

Whilst Churchill was born to fight the Nazis (he wrote this in a letter as a school-boy) providence has created a parallel in Farage to fight today's EU cormorant seeking to devour our independent democracy.
Now, after being forced out of his post as head of research, he is now, through the good offices of the Failygraph accusing his former party of being more interested in "ranting and raving" and of "screaming demagoguery" – all of which is probably true.

What is also probably true is that, as head of research for an anti-EU party, "Panders" is not very good at his job. There we have him on his Wail blog in March of this year, offering reasons as to "why the European Parliament should be abolished".

And, bang in the middle of the piece, we have "Panders" telling us that "it makes a return to the free trade customs union impracticable, by ensuring that the EU's law-making is done at extraordinary speed, and without veto". This, in turn, we are told, "makes it difficult for nation-states to know which regulations to repeal if they were to leave the EU. This undermines the democratic opportunity at the national level to argue for a free-trade system and a common-custom union (the position prior to the creation of the single-market)".

Not least, there is here the obvious failure to understand what a "customs union" is, and his creation of a bizarrely mythical creature "the free trade customs union". If this tosh measures his grasp of the EU (and there is plenty more), UKIP is better off without Mr Pandya. The fact that he has been head of research may in part explain UKIP's lacklustre performance.

That the Failygraph now gives this tawdry man a platform from which to attack the party, however, is highly revealing. More usually, the newspaper treats Farage as lightweight political fluff, or ignores him and UKIP altogether. That it should be launching into the attack suggests that they are seriously worried.

Add that to Timmy's extravaganza behind the paywall and the comments in The Tory Boy Blog, and a pungent aroma assails the nostrils. It is the smell of fear.


Thursday, April 12, 2012

No known limit

Farage 001.jpg
Completing an analysis of the last of a triumvirate of moronic pieces from the Fourth Estate, we now have an offering from Iain Martin, one of Britain's leading political commentators, who informs us that the rise of UKIP "is a nightmare for David Cameron".
The piece is a classic example of MSM arrogance, with Martin posing the question: "How much damage can UKIP do to the Tories?" In the context, it comes over as if no-one but Martin had ever thought about this, leaving the "leading political commentator" then to tell us mere mortals, soooo judiciously, that he is to "tempted to conclude that Conservatives should now be very worried indeed".

Then, just to show how clever he is, Martin gets a professor to volunteer the counterpoint, leaving the gay scribe's brilliance to shine through as he gravely informs us – wait for it – that "there is widespread discontent with the major parties, including amongst the kind of Tory-leaning voters Cameron needs to get back onside".

That's the thing about the MSM. They blunder around in their bubble, totally oblivious to the real world. And then, when a dose of reality breaks through and smashes them in the chops, they spit out the blood and take possession of the idea, as if they had personally discovered it.

Outside in the real world, however, we've been discussing the "UKIP effect" for years. It is that which heavily damaged the Tories in the 2005 election and probably cost them the election in 2010.

But the likes of the Gay Martin never venture out into the real world, so they never find out these things. And then, believing themselves to be the only ones who know anything, they come up with their brilliant stuff years after everyone else, and then call themselves "leading" political commentators.

That's why, if course, the Galloway result hit them between the eyes. They really are "hollow men", thin air occupying the space where grey matter should be.

The proof of that pudding is in the eating. No one but an airhead could suggest that the Conservative leadership got any mileage in the 2010 election out of playing the eurosceptic card, saying that "Cameron was determined to govern as a robust opponent of further EU integration". Martin does though.

Yet this was the election where Cameron broke his promise on the Lisbon referendum, which drove voters into the arms of UKIP. But so far from reality is Martin that he then asks the question as to whether playing the eurosceptic card will this time be believable - the inference being that it was, the last time it was played.

Thus, the real question, I suppose, is just how far out of touch can the Fourth Estate actually get? But then, on past performance, there is probably no known limit.