Friday, July 18, 2003

Blair at home and abroad ... and why we will attack the enemies of the US, but appease our own

Harry is impressed by Blair's Congress speech, but wonders why he's so much more inspiring internationally than domestically.

"What I find bizarre is that many of those on the left who would broadly back Labour on the domestic front, are reviled by Blair's actions on the international scene.

I find myself in the other camp. I'm not enthused by the domestic agenda but I am very glad we have a radical and progressive leader on the international scene."

I think I have the answer, given me by Libby Purves, and given to her by one of her mates.

"You see, the trouble with Tony Blair is that he's terribly good when it isn't his problem."

I speculated at the time I read this that "had Al Quaeda put a couple of 737s through Canary Wharf rather than the WTC - Bin Laden would probably still be living in Afghanistan and doing the occasional 'Thought For The Day' on Radio 4, while Blair would be negotiating for Sharia law to be introduced into some British cities - after all, shouldn't the law reflect the diversity of modern Britain ?".

And on Tuesday in a Times (T2) Andrew Billen interview, ex-Northern-Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlem pretty much confirmed this.

I can't find it on the Web, so here's the relevant bit verbatim.

"Her fundamental quarrel with Blair and Campbell over Iraq, however, is not over the extent of Saddam's specific weapons programme or even over whether the nation was misled, but the philosophcal question of how to defeat terrorism. "You don't defeat terrorists by bombing and shooting. They can always bomb and shoot worse than you can as a civilised country". She has an alternative approach ... her second thought was reinforced by her previous 29 months in Northern Ireland. It can be summed up in the word 'talk'.

But, I say, Osama bin Laden was never going to get round a table and discuss his demands ?

"Well, you never know. Why do you always assume that bombing will be better ? Bombing won't be. Bombing will put Osama bin Laden's back up."

Of course, Mowlem is criticising Blair here for fighting terror abroad - but he appointed her to fight terror at home !

How Adams and McGuinness must have loved her !
BBC Bias Part 138

Great Oliver Kamm post on the BBCs Congress coverage, with a well-deserved swipe at the Tories for their opportunism. Duncan Smith's intervention today was as unworthy as Patrick Cormack's remarks were praiseworthy. The Quiet Man should pipe down.

And can't the BBC site find room for the full text of the Blair speech ?
BBC Bias Part 137

The recent coverage on BBC News of WMD, African uranium and Blair's Congress speech has once again shown that the BBC is quite happy to criticise a Labour Government - as long as the criticism is coming from the Left.

When I read last night (at Stephen Pollard's) of Blair's speech and its rapturous reception by Congress, I wondered how the BBC would spin it this morning. I woke up to find the Today programme billing the speech not as a triumph, but as the case for the defence. By nine o'clock Radio Four news felt it important, in a two-minute bulletin, to quote Peter Kilfoyle's disgusting remarks comparing the US Congress (and its freely offered applause) to a Soviet or Chinese Communist Party meeting.

This didn't make it onto the BBC website. Instead, we had a report where all three BBC staff quoted were negative. Gordon Corera said "the pair left many questions unanswered on the issue of intelligence and Iraq's weapons of mass destruction - an issue that has plagued both leaders domestically and which they hoped could be settled by developing a common line during the visit. ". Nick Assinder volunteered that "Mr Blair is preparing the ground for a fresh justification for war in the event WMD never turn up". And "the BBC's Laura Trevelyan says that even by admitting (sic) the possibility that he might have been wrong will give ammunition to Mr Blair's critics."

Ms Trevelyan then flew off on Blair's jet to Japan. Half way through the flight the news of the presumed death of Dr Kelly broke. By the P.M. news programme the spin had changed. Ms Trevelyan reported how Blair's 'triumph' in Washington had been shattered by the news. Mr Blair's conquest of Congress, previously played down, was now reinstated, the better to contrast with the news from Britain.

My view is that the number one suspect in the death of Dr. Kelly must be Andrew Mackinley. I suppose a man can't be blamed for his accent, but after this unpleasantness, delivered in Mr Mackinleys whining tones, anyone would dread the prospect of a repetition.

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Economic Management II ....

Just come back from having my foot X-rayed (middle-aged man does too much running). The radiographer had been there for 35 years, and we talked about the changes in equipment over that time as I admired the shiny new machine.

"Are any still made in Britain ? Or are they all from Germany and Japan ?" I asked. Alas, I was fifteen or twenty years out of date. "They're all made in India or China now. This is a General Electric machine but it's made in China. Hardly any of our equipment is British. Bit depressing, really".

Monday, July 14, 2003

Every Other Blogger Has Said It ....

I suppose I may as well add my voice to the chorus - that Oliver Kamm is good.

On John Major .....

"John Major became Foreign Secretary because he wasn't Geoffrey Howe, Chancellor because he wasn't Nigel Lawson, leader of the Conservative Party because he wasn't Michael Hesletine, and prime minister because he wasn't Neil Kinnock. His political success, in short, depended on his being less offensive to his party than anyone else, and on the Labour Party's continuing to be even less interested in public opinion than the Tories. All that changed when Blair became Labour leader; like Margaret Thatcher, he has innumerable detractors but he is plainly prime ministerial and he thereby commands respect."

And on his successor as Prime Minister .....

"He deserves credit on economic management and welfare reform (including the cuts in benefits), criticism on the pointless affectation that decries what it calls 'elitism' but which actually means excellence, and strong support on his willingess to intervene militarily in order to effect humanitarian ends. "

I would take issue on two out of those three though. Blair's economic management consisted of continuing Ken Clarke's (successful) policies, until the pressure to tax and spend conquered, and he abjectly failed to bite the bullet on welfare reform.

His 'pointless affectation' has real effects as excellence becomes increasingly confused with elitism. As Peter Hitchens said of the Gordon Brown/Laura Spence affair, where else could you make political capital by attacking your country's finest universities ?

Only on international intervention does Blair sit with the angels. And I'm not sure even then that Kosovo was a good idea. But compared to the Major/Hurd Bosnia shambles he's like a good deed in a naughty world.

Economic management ..... ?

Not a week passes without another famous UK name relocating overseas. And the Start-Rite story has a chilling descant. One of the reasons they packed up is that all the individual components of the shoes were already made overseas.

A friend who works for a car manufacturer is moving to Shanghai for a few years.

And what used to be called 'British Rail Enquiries' may be moving to Bombay.

Sunday, July 13, 2003

What A Pity ...

That this announcement by a senior Muslim cleric won't get any of the publicity awarded to more inflammatory pronouncements ...

.... and that this decision won't attract any of the publicity or liberal outrage that would be incurred by, say, the USA.

I recall Amnesty International's condemnation of the treatment of internees at Guantanamera, while in Morocco a suspect was said to have died 'of heart and liver failure'. Must have been cirrhosis - you know how these Islamics put it away. Had the guy died in US custody we'd have been hearing of electric shocks and beatings.