Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Never before from The Irish Times, but this is special

I have never before 'lifted' material from The Irish Times, but this is special: it's a letter to the Editor from Mr John Fitzgerald (pictured above), a legendary hero of the fight against hare coursing and other so-called 'sports' in Ireland. The specific subject is stag hunting but Mr Fitzgerald - rightly, in my view - broadens his remarks on that vile pursuit to touch on the history of the battles fought by his honourable predecessors in our country. I thought the letter worthy of inclusion here.


"Madam, – Reading through a transcript of the Dáil debate on stage two of the Wildlife (Amendment) Bill which proposes a ban on stag hunting, I am reminded of the moves to ban bull- and bear-baiting in Britain in the early 1800s.

When MP for Galway Richard Martin introduced his Bill to abolish the two blood sports, supporters of these activities subjected him to almost-non stop interruptions, accused him of attacking the “harmless and manly sports of the countryside”, and of seeking to deprive decent citizens of their time-honoured recreations.

They heaped praise on bull- and bear-baiting, enlarging on the benefits such “field sports” brought to society and even, they claimed, to the animals themselves since, they argued, the bulls and bears would die of some other, less humane cause if the sportspeople did not dispatch them via the baiting dens.

Pro-baiting MPs warned that the baiting ban would result in people losing their livelihoods, thus causing endless hardship to countless innocent families and to the communities in which the baiting thrived.

Sound familiar? MPs opposed to the ban also said it would represent the “thin end of the wedge”.

That prediction proved true to an extent, because the abolition of bull- and bear-baiting was followed by similar bans on cock-fighting and badger-baiting. More than a century and a half later, in 2004, the British parliament banned hare coursing, fox hunting, and stag hunting.

And only last week, the Northern Ireland Assembly voted to ban hare coursing.

So I believe Minister for the Environment John Gormley has history on his side. He needs to remain focused on the proven fact that stag hunting is about terrorising deer for fun, and not be swayed by the plethora of excuses and feeble arguments put forward by opponents of the Bill.

- Yours, etc,

 JOHN FITZGERALD, Campaign for the Abolition of Cruel Sports, Lower Coyne Street, Callan, Co Kilkenny."

John Fitzgerald has published a book called 'Bad Hare Days.' It's about hare coursing in Ireland. I recommend the book whole-heartedly. It can be bought from Amazon.co.uk -


Monday, 28 June 2010

"Afghan bomb disposal expert killed" (Latest from the Cambridge News) - Total British deaths now 309

We can't spare any of them, least of all a bomb disposal expert.

Go to -


"A British Army bomb disposal expert has been killed in Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defence has confirmed.

The soldier, from 101 Engineer Regiment (Explosive Ordnance Disposal), died in a firefight with insurgents in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand Province on Sunday.

He was serving as part of the counter-Improvised Explosive Device (IED) task force. His family have been told.

Lieutenant Colonel James Carr-Smith, spokesman for Task Force Helmand, said: "The soldier was part of an EOD (explosive ordnance disposal) team that was extracting from an incident when he was killed by small arms fire.

"He died seeking to rid Helmand of IEDs such that local Afghans could move freely throughout the province. He will be greatly missed and his actions will not be forgotten. We will remember him."

The latest death took the number of British troops who have died in the Afghan campaign to 309.

Meanwhile, the wife of a British soldier who died in hospital after being injured in Afghanistan said she had lost her "true soul mate".

Bombardier Stephen Gilbert, 36, from 4th Regiment Royal Artillery, was badly wounded in an explosion in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand Province on June 10.

He was brought back to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, where he died on Saturday with his wife Jackie by his side."

Sunday, 27 June 2010

"British soldier dies in Afghanistan after explosion" (The Sunday Telegraph) - total British dead 308

Go to -


"A British solider has died as a result of injuries sustained in an explosion in Afghanistan on June 10.

The soldier, from 4th Regiment Royal Artillery, part of Combined Force Nahr-e Saraj North, died at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, in Birmingham.

He was injured in a blast in the Nahr-e Saraj North District of Helmand Province. His family has been told, the Ministry of Defence said.

Lieutenant Colonel Chris Squier, Commanding Officer, 4th Regiment Royal Artillery said: "It is with sadness that I have to inform you that a soldier from 4th Regiment Royal Artillery died at the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine (RCDM) Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham today from wounds sustained while on a reassurance patrol in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

"The soldier was on a joint patrol with the Afghan National Army providing security to local villagers and protecting them form insurgent intimidation when his vehicle was struck by an explosion.

"Our thoughts are with his family at this exceptionally sad time."

His death, announced as Britain marked Armed Forces Day with a series of events, takes the number of British troops who have died in the Afghan campaign to 308."

Thursday, 24 June 2010

"Four British soldiers killed in ‘road accident’ in Helmand" (Latest news as brought by The Times)

Words fail me. Just go to The Times report link -


Words didn't fail me entirely. I left a 'comment' on The Times website:

"I have no idea if this is the truth or otherwise. What I do believe is that we and the Americans are achieving nothing 'over there.' There are plenty of problems 'over here' where there is an enemy within and where there are many 'home-grown' terrorists or potential terrorists. Bring our boys home before more of them are killed in this pointless and wasteful venture."

How long will the Liberal Democrats live with this?

My readers know that I love Peter Brookes's cartoons as published in The Times. (I recently won an original in a competition). Today's is a cracker and no words of mine - aside from my heading question - can add anything to it.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

But more awful news from Afghanistan today

Here is the link to the BBC report of the latest British death:

The text of the report reads as follows:

"Royal Marine shot dead in Afghanistan
A Royal Marine has been shot dead in a gun battle with insurgents in southern Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defence has confirmed.

He is the fourth member of 40 Commando to be killed in as many days in the Sangin district of Helmand province.

A total of 303 UK service personnel have now been killed in Afghanistan since the conflict began in 2001."

The serviceman was conducting a security patrol to reassure locals when the firefight broke out on Wednesday.

A total of 303 UK service personnel have now been killed in Afghanistan since the conflict began in 2001."

"Historic decision taken in Stormont to ban hare coursing" (League Against Cruel Sports)

Wonderful news from Northern Ireland.

Here is the link to that news via the League Against Cruel Sports:

The text of the news item reads as follows:

"Historic decision taken in Stormont to ban hare coursing.

Northern Irish politicians have voted to ban hare coursing under the new Wildlife and Natural Environment Bill.

The decision comes at a time when the UK government is giving MPs the opportunity to vote to bring back the barbaric sport in England and Wales by offering a free vote on repeal of the Hunting Act. An overwhelming 85% of the British public are opposed to hare coursing and hare hunting.

MLAs voted 23 to 18 in favour of a ban on hare coursing following hours of debating amendments to the new Bill in Stormont last night. The amendment to ban hare coursing was only tabled last week by UUP members Roy Beggs and Tom Elliott.

Deputy Head of Campaign and Communications Louise Robertson said: “This has been a vote for common sense and we are delighted MLAs have shown their support to end the cruel and barbaric sport of coursing. It makes the situation in England and Wales seem even more ridiculous with the government giving MPs the opportunity to turn the clocks back to cruelty. These blood sports have no place in modern society and the vast majority of the public support this view. We applaud Northern Ireland politicians for taking decisive steps to improve animal welfare legislation”.

I agree.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Royal Marine shot dead in Afghanistan gun battle

I'm sick of it. We lost yet another British soldier today. That brings the total to 302. And all of the while the news media seem obsessed with the World Cup.

S** the World Cup: there's a war on and our boys are getting killed.

Bring our boys home now.


And, yes, I know: our American allies have lost well over a thousand lives in this same misguided adventure. Our hearts go out to all of their loved ones at home and their friends who are still in that hell-hole.

Again I told the truth to the electors of South East Cambridgeshire, but they didn't believe me -

I am on record (my blog, April the 9th) as having predicted that VAT would have to be raised to 20% following the General Election.

The stock answer from the then Tory hierarchy was, 'We have no plans to raise VAT to 20%.'

But it has come to pass and my prediction was correct. VAT is to be raised to 20%. Mr Osborne has just announced it in his 'Emergency Budget.' He appears to have full support from the Liberal Democrat hierarchy.

Is it any wonder that people don't trust politicians?

I also said on April the 9th that:

"... in order further to reduce the deficit, we ... should save many more billions by getting out of Afghanistan."

Monday, 21 June 2010

300 British dead from the Afghanistan adventure


300 British dead from the Afghanistan adventure.

The Prime Minister has been very eloquent on the radio.

Eloquence is insufficient.

A change of policy is needed.

The Prime Minister can change the policy.

Put a stop to the waste, Prime Minister.

We cannot afford it and we don't want it.

Stop it now, Prime Minister.

Friday, 18 June 2010

"A[nother] British soldier from The Royal Dragoon Guards has been killed in an explosion in Afghanistan"

The BBC reports another British fatality in Afghanistan:


The report reads as follows:

"UK soldier dies in Afghan blast

A British soldier from The Royal Dragoon Guards has been killed in an explosion in Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defence has said.

The soldier was guarding comrades when he was hit by the blast in the Nahr-e Saraj District of Helmand province on Friday afternoon.

His identity has not been revealed but his family have been told.

A total of 299 UK service personnel have been killed in Afghanistan since the conflict began in 2001.

Task Force Helmand spokesman Lt Col James Carr-Smith paid tribute to the man.

"He was providing security for a patrol that was conducting a clearance operation when tragically he was struck by an explosion," he said.

"He died doing his duty. He was a courageous and dedicated soldier who made the ultimate sacrifice. He will be greatly missed and his actions will not be forgotten. We will remember him."

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

The over-ambitious and out-of-tune so-called 'Wicken Vision' - the awful vuvuzela of Eastern England

I often have a laugh at the letters column of the Daily Telegraph and I am very often surprised that there are people out there who write irrelevant rubbish and that the DT publishes their irrelevant rubbish. However, I was so incensed by a piece in today's paper that I had a go myself.

I have just sent off the following:

Dear Sir,


There is a certain irony in Dame Fiona Reynolds praying in aid of her arguments on behalf of the National Trust the good works of the late Urban Hanlon Broughton, M.P.

Urban Broughton's grandson, Ailwyn Henry George Broughton, the present Lord Fairhaven, is evidently unhappy with the National Trust's present-day activities for he has signed petitions created by myself in defence of the Cambridgeshire Fens adjacent to his former home at Anglesey Abbey where the Trust wishes to buy up and flood or 'junglefy' thousands of acres of fine food-growing land, the best of Britain's most basic resources and close by the ancient Fen-edge settlements of Lode & Longmeadow, Wicken, Upware, Burwell, Reach, Swaffham Prior, Swaffham Bulbeck, Bottisham, Stow cum Quy, Fen Ditton, Horningsea and Waterbeach.

The Trust should re-think the over-ambitious and out-of-tune so-called 'Wicken Vision' - the awful vuvuzela of Eastern England - before it is too late.

Yours faithfully,

Geoffrey Woollard.

"British soldiers die in shooting incidents" (The Times)

The death toll of British soldiers in or as a result of Afghanistan is rapidly approaching 300.

Here is the latest headline from The Times:

"British soldiers die in shooting incidents"

And here is the link to the story:


The total of British dead is now 298. And our boys have died for - what?

Yesterday the Prime Minister warned that there will be further British casualties this summer as the “so-called fighting season resumes.”

I despair.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

I have this morning written to my M.P.

I have this morning written to my M.P., Mr James (Jim) Paice, who is now an important Minister in the Coalition Government. The letter follows and is self-explanatory:

"Dear Jim,

I write this on a sad Sunday morning. The overnight news that yet another British soldier has been killed in Afghanistan is deeply distressing.

You may recall that I first wrote to you on this subject in June, 2008, when the total of British dead had reached 100. The total is now 295 and very little if anything seems to have been achieved in the past two years. When the total of British dead reaches 300 in a few more days, I have no doubt that there will again be much national wailing and gnashing of teeth, as there invariably is when a 'round' total makes for more arresting headlines. Well, there has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth here - on the part of Sue and I - for more than two years and I draw your attention now to that wailing and gnashing of teeth, not when the 'round' total of 300 is reached but at the point when the less round total of 295 has been reached.

Though I neither always agree with nor always approve of Mr Matthew Parris of The Times, he has put into better words than I could ever cobble together my opinions on Afghanistan. Here is the link to the Parris piece that appeared in yesterday's (Saturday's) paper:


And, lest you are unable now to access the link, here are the exact words of the article as copied and pasted from The Times. I commend them to you:

"They must know our mission is doomed

Cameron and Clegg have made a calculation: sacrifice more soldiers in Afghanistan to keep on side with the US

David Cameron has picked a fine time to make his Afghan debut. Convoy torched; helicopter shot down; the two security advisers to President Karzai whom the West most trusts resigned; and 29 Nato and British servicemen killed in nine days.

The photograph in Thursday's Times of a burnt-out convoy of Nato supply trucks bound for Afghanistan took me back: not to Afghanistan, but to an earlier visit and another place.

More than 12 years ago I stood at the head of the Asherum Pass in the baking heat of the low, dry mountains of northern Eritrea. "The bodies — thousands of them —", I wrote in The Times, "have been taken away, but the Russian tanks are still scattered across the valley like children's war-toys, smashed and discarded. Everything shows the marks of burning. What a way to die . . . fried alive in those cast-iron coffins of tanks and trucks."

Who now remembers the twists, turns, causes — or even the consequences — of that brutal, pointless, idiotic conflict? I would today be trying my Editor's patience by devoting even a paragraph's space to a war that ended hardly 20 years ago, killed up to half a million people, and cost the Soviet Union perhaps £8 billion. What was that one all about? Who cares now? At the time we all (including this newspaper) had opinions about who should win, and why; but the truth is that the Eritrean war was just a stupid and confused mess, in which no nation's ambitions finally succeeded, no nation's fears were properly conceived, and everybody lost. Thus, in a waste of rusting gun-metal, do geopolitical strategies die.

There are reports that in the ambush of military supply trucks bound for Afghanistan this week more than 50 vehicles were torched and destroyed, and many of their drivers murdered too. Appearing alongside our photo of the ambushed convoy was a report that a US helicopter (on a mission to rescue injured British troops) was shot down in Afghanistan this week, killing four American servicemen.

It has been little noted, but should be, that air transport — the backbone to military logistics in Afghanistan — has so far escaped serious attention from the insurgency. I remember wondering, while flying low and slow in a lumbering freight-carrier across the mountains from Kabul to Uruzgan last year, for how much longer that would continue to be the case, or what could be done if it ceases to be. The Afghan National Army (to which, in the crazed imagination of our own military propagandists, we hope to be handing over the conduct of operations "as soon as possible") doesn't even possess a serious air capability.

So let's get this straight: Afghanistan's own army can't shoulder, their own air capability can't support, and their own economy can't pay for, this war. And that's reckoning without the corrupt and impotent Government in Kabul we are there to shore up. Some exit strategy.

How did we get ourselves into this? In a powerfully sustained inquiry by this newspaper's defence team, The Times this week has gone a long way toward explaining how we British did get ourselves into it. Military chiefs and politicians put the exhortatory Tally-ho! before the more inquisitive What-ho? The melancholy Heigh-ho will follow, in due course. The covering of backs has started already but the truth is that many people actually wanted a fight.

I remember wondering whether my column on this page on January 21, 2006, ("An uplifting country, a worthy cause, but the mission will never work") was any more than ignorant guesswork. "We can't do this with 3,000 men," I wrote, describing what I knew of the geography and economy of Helmand, "I doubt we could do it with 30,000." It felt like whistling in the dark. But as The Times has now shown, people who knew their onions were whistling too.

I've felt proud, this week, of my own newspaper's research and analysis. One thing, however, troubles me, and it should trouble the Prime Minister as he returns from Afghanistan. This newspaper's analysis, though of the recent past, has consequences for the future. For what are we usefully saying, if not that we should never have got ourselves into this? Shouldn't we, then, get out of it?

Hopeless pursuits in politics are governed by what I shall call the Law of the Reverse Pot of Gold. Deliverance is always just a little bit behind you. My law states that in politics the point-of-no-return will typically move forward with the passage of time, but can never overtake yesterday. We can see now that we should never have gone into southern Afghanistan in 2006 — but feel that today it's too late to repent. In four years' time I fear we'll be saying that quitting Helmand in 2010 (as we are) would have been a good time to pull back completely; but now, in 2014, besieged in Kandahar (or wherever) it's too late. Britain's Afghanistan adventure demonstrates horrible parallels with the Eurofighter project which, once its developments costs had passed a few million, people thought too late to cancel. That project will cost us about £20 billion in the end.

David Cameron and Nick Clegg must know in their hearts that this Nato-Isaf operation is doomed. But pull the rug from beneath America's feet now — now, of all times, when we're trying to save BP from the wrath of President Obama? No. The Prime Minister and his deputy have made a calculation.

In one side of the balance they have placed the lives of servicemen alive today, but who will die in Afghanistan in what (when we finally, like the Russians before us, abandon a client government to its fate) will be seen to have been a hopeless cause.

In the other side of the balance they have placed the value of Britain's friendship with America; the share price of BP (with its consequences for our economy); the goodwill of militarists in Mr Cameron's own and (led by Paddy Ashdown) Mr Clegg's parties; the goodwill of much of the media (including, I suspect, this newspaper); the trust of millions who genuinely still believe we are capable of underwriting our own security by guaranteeing a stable state in Afghanistan; and the respect of millions more whose instinct would be that the humiliation of an early exit is just too high a price to pay.

That is the balance. The coalition, like its predecessors, is going to tip it against the lives of those who will, in consequence, die. The politicians don't know who they are. We don't know who they are. They have yet to make their appearance in Wootton Bassett. They remain an abstraction, and abstractions do not weigh as heavily as — in retrospect — those burnt-out tanks at the Asherum Pass now seem to weigh against Soviet adventurism in Africa. The still-to-die have therefore been outweighed. The decision may be right. But, if we can bear it, let us not turn our eyes from the logic."

When I wrote to you in June, 2008, you were a Conservative front-bencher with Governmental hopes and some expectations. You are now a Coalition Government Minister with an important Government post and influence.

I respectfully advise, request, demand that you use what influence you have in the Coalition Government (that is neither fish nor fowl - and it shows) to save the lives of 'those who will, in consequence, die.'

Yours sincerely,

Geoffrey Woollard."

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

'British soldier killed in explosion in Afghanistan'

Here (below) is more bad news from the place that we seem to have forgotten about.


(Don't you know? - it's the World Cup - who cares about Afghanistan?).

"Four killed as Taleban shoot down helicopter over British base" (The Times) - Is this another Vietnam?

From The Times -


"An American Blackhawk helicopter has been shot down with the loss of four servicemen in Helmand Province near the British held town of Sangin, Nato and local officials reported this morning.

The Times understands that the aircraft was attempting to pick up a British casualty earlier today when it came under fire over Forward Operating Base Jackson, close to Sangin.

Early indications are that it was brought down by a rocket propelled grenade, an unguided shoulder launched weapon often employed by Taleban militants. No British lives were lost in the incident.

British forces in Helmand are transported and resupplied by helicopters from a variety of nationalities. Supplies are also carried by helicopters contracted from a number of civilian companies. US Blackhawk casevac helicopters frequently extract British wounded, if necessary under fire.

Nato declined to identify the nationalities involved but confirmed that it was a military aircraft that was “brought down by hostile fire”.

The Taleban quickly claimed responsibility.

Daoud Ahmadi, a spokesman for the provincial governor said that the aircraft was “a coalition helicopter”. He identified Sangin as the crash site.

Sangin has seen intense fighting in recent months and is currently held by members of 40 Commando, The Royal Marines."

Many have been calling for more helicopters. In my simplistic opinion, helicopters provide more rewarding targets for the Taleban, for more of our boys get killed when a helicopter is downed than would be the case with individual IEDs. Is this wasteful 'mission' becoming more and more another Vietnam? Bring all of our boys home now.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

"British Soldier Dies In Afghan Gun Battle"


Soon be 300 dead Brits.

And then what?

1,812 NATO soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan

"... a total of 1,812 NATO soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan ..." (The New York Times).


In my campaign to 'bring our [British] boys home now,' I have been guilty of forgetting the tragedy of our NATO allies' losses. 10 more service people, including 7 Americans, were killed yesterday.

Some commentators here and some in the U.S. look upon the Afghanistan campaign as part of 'the war on terror.' I look upon it as a waste of valuable lives that has become our collective Vietnam.

Bring all of our boys home - now.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

292 British dead in Afghanistan - how many more?

"Their deaths takes the number of British troops who have died since 2001 when the mission in Afghanistan began to 292."


How many more must we lose before our leaders come to their senses?

Thursday, 3 June 2010

British soldier killed in Afghanistan - his family have been informed

From the Daily Telegraph:


"A Royal Marine has been killed in an explosion in southern Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defence has said.

The serviceman, from 40 Commando, died while on a foot patrol with Afghan soldiers in Sangin in Helmand province. His family have been informed.

Lieutenant Colonel James Carr-Smith, spokesman for Task Force Helmand, said: ''He died in the course of his duty seeking to improve the lives of the people of Sangin. His courage in the face of danger will not be forgotten.

''He will be greatly missed and we will always remember him.''

Sangin has been the scene of some of the fiercest fighting UK troops have endured since the Second World War, leading to a high toll of personnel killed or injured.

Commanders have admitted it is "the most challenging area" in which British forces are operating in Afghanistan.

It is particularly dangerous because it contains a patchwork of rival tribes and is a major centre of the opium-growing industry.

The number of British troops who have died since the mission in Afghanistan began in 2001 now stands at 290."

Oh, well, I suppose it's OK if his family have been informed. The rest of us can carry on as normal and as if nothing has happened. What a waste.