Thursday, 23 June 2011

I have a new hero. His name is Mark Pritchard, M.P.

I have a new hero.

His name is Mark Pritchard.

He is the Conservative MP for The Wrekin.

Mr Pritchard moved this afternoon in the House of Commons a resolution in favour of a ban on wild animals in circuses.

Against all expectations and despite the anticipated opposition of the government whips - opposition which did not materialize - Mr Pritchard's resolution was passed.

Well done, that man!

Here is a link - with a video of Mr Pritchard speaking about his being bribed and bullied - to the BBC's on-line coverage of the story.

Here are illustrations of what Mr Pritchard sought to ban.

And here (copied from the Financial Times website), most astonishingly of all, are Mr Pritchard's words as he opened the debate in the House:

"It has been in interesting last few days.

If I offered to amend my motion or drop my motion or not call a vote on this motion… I was offered reward, an incentive.

It was a pretty trivial job, as most of the ones I have had – until at least probably 30 minutes from now – are.

But I was offered incentive and reward on Monday, then it was ratcheted up to last night when I was threatened.

I had a call from the prime minister’s office directly, and I was told unless I withdraw this motion, that the prime minister himself said that he would look upon it very dimly indeed.

Well I have a message for the whips and for the prime minister of our country, and I didn’t pick a fight with the prime minister of our country, but I have a message: I may just be a little council house lad from a very poor background, but that background gives me a backbone, it gives me a thick skin and I am not going to be kowtowed by the whips on an issue that I feel passionately about."

Some questions are already being asked. I look forward to hearing or reading the answers.

I say again, 'Well done, that man!'

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

A story without a picture - direct from Afghanistan

The following has appeared on a blog on the Daily Telegraph website today. It purports to be from someone - possibly a Scot - working in Afghanistan. If it is genuine, it is a devastating demolition of the continuing and ongoing NATO intervention in Afghanistan. I re-publish it here on my blog without a picture. The words need no picture. They speak for themselves.

benny_from_the_bronx writes:

"I work out of small US FOBs in rural Kandahar...I am in one now and I can quite simply state that the place is a mess. The US are throwing money at locals (Cash For Work programmes) to prevent them being payed by the Taliban because the US pay Afghan will work for whoever is paying the most. Once this CFW programme ends and the money stops...those same afghans will simply go to the Taliban and volunteer their services for money.

Once NATO leaves...and the Karzai Government run the show (hahahahahaha) the Taliban (a ficticious name anyway) will simple disband and they will all return to their own villages and tribes and commence fighting each other...which is what they've been doing for centuries. This is Afghanistan...!!! It is different to any other country on earth...people in rural villages do not care about what Karzai proclaims or what the Government say...some of these villagers have never been to the village in the next valley nor do they care what goes on across the valley...they certainly don't care what goes on in Kabul.

Afghanistan is what it is...that's the way God made it...Insh'allah as they say...we will never change it, no matter how much money we spend or how good it makes us feel that we built a new school at the cost of $50 million and several dead soldiers... a school that will probably never be used because the Taliban will threaten and intimidate everyone from using it...and after a couple of harsh winters it will slowly collapse...because it wasn't uilt that well anyway...and why wasn't it built well...? Because, in the spirit of fair trade...the contract for the new school has been sub-contracted out...then the sub-contractor has sub-sub-contracted it out to a local afghan construction firm...who throw together a couple of bricks and cement...and the result is a $50 million school project, where only about $10,000 has been spent on the actual school. The rest has gone on bribes and people taking their "cut".

This is the way NATO is fighting it's war...this is the new Counter Insurgency me an old fashioned fool...but the whole point of to "Counter" the "Insurgency"...once that has been achieved (which it has not)...then...and only then, should we be thinking about reconstruction and development...if at it REALLY our responsibility? Or are we just feeling guilty? We scream about issues like Child Mortality rates and the Opression of Women and we send well meaning but oh so naive NGO's into the country to try and "fix" this because "we" in the West...proclaim that "we" know what's best for them...for these poor illiterate peasants of rural condescending can we be...??? Afghan villagers have dealt with low child mortality rates/abuse of their women and other such "nasty" things since the dawn of is their is their tribal culture...we are not going to "educate" some 85 year old village elder into being more understanding and moderate...are we really THAT stupid and naive...? seems we are...yes...!!!

It is a waste of time...nothing will change here...this is Afghanistan...this is a place where technology is not required nor desired...this is a country where a cow or a goat determines a mans wealth...not his car, house, watch, phone or salary...Afghans want little and have less. This has always been the way...for centuries...we will not change this...this is Afghanistan."

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

I've been reading again - here's my review for Amazon

Having been inadequately educated and having been brought up amidst Toryism and surrounded by what passes for Tory 'thought,' I have long known that what was missing in my reading at least was more study of the radicals in our British history. I have tried to remedy the omission. I came to admire David Lloyd George for his sticking up for the down-trodden in Wales and elsewhere and for his opposing the war with the Boers and, likewise, James Ramsay Macdonald for his principled but unsuccessful stand against British involvement in war in 1914. Another book has now come along that has helped me again.

'A Radical History of Britain.' by Edward Vallance, is a massive (639 pages, including notes and the index) and important study of British history as seen via radical eyes. It starts (after an 'introduction' that brings in King Alfred) with the Magna Carta. It moves on to the turbulent fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth centuries and I can now better distinguish my Jack Cade from my Robert Kett, my John Ball from my Jack Straw, and my Wat Tyler from my Lollards.

The English Revolution - one of my favourite periods of history - is well covered and such as the Levellers, the Diggers and the Muggletonians become people and causes rather than the footnotes to which they are often consigned. No radical history would be worthwhile without chapters on Thomas Paine, the Rights of Man and a description of the torn British attitudes towards the French Revolution. The Peterloo Massacre is given pride of place, as are the Tolpuddle Martyrs and the Chartists. I knew about these but I now know much more.

Later in the nineteenth century, the emergence of the women's suffragists brought to prominence the rights of women as much as the 'rights of man.' The latter didn't always embrace the former. One of my reservations about the book was that too much space is given to the suffragists' cause at the expense of other aspects of radicalism.

Another reservation was that some great radicals are not mentioned at all. For example, Mr Joseph Arch, M.P. (1826 - 1919), founder of the first union of agricultural labourers and an outstanding advocate of better pay and votes for many of the labourers - not won until 1884 - as well as a strong supporter of freedom of religion in the country areas where the Church of England was dominant and the introduction of Parish Councils. I recall in my own lifetime the mutual antagonism of the respective adherents of 'church' and 'chapel.' Sadly, both church and chapel are finding these secular times hard. Parish Councils thrive, however. Maybe that is what some of those early British radicals desired.

All in all, though I had reservations about this book, I recommend it highly. It's a very good read and I continue to learn.

Here's the link to the book, the review - and others:

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

"Britain cannot keep up its role in Libya air war due to cuts" - Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, of the Royal Navy

The following is a piece from today's Daily Telegraph:

"Navy chief: Britain cannot keep up its role in Libya air war due to cuts

The British military intervention in Libya is unsustainable, the head of the Navy has said.
Adml Sir Mark Stanhope said the campaign would have been more effective without the Government's defence cuts.
The aircraft carrier and the Harrier jump-jets scrapped under last year's strategic defence review would have made the mission more effective, faster and cheaper, he said.

Sir Mark warned that the Navy would not be able to sustain its operations in Libya for another three months without making cuts elsewhere.

The First Sea Lord's comments will stir the debate over defence cuts that have left Britain without a working aircraft carrier and forced the Royal Navy's Harrier jump jets to be mothballed.

Ministers have repeatedly argued that Britain has had no need of either HMS Ark Royal or the Harriers in the Libyan mission because planes can fly from bases in Italy, such as Gioia del Colle.

But Sir Mark said the carrier and its planes would have been useful in Libya. "If we had Ark Royal and the Harriers, I feel relatively reassured that we would have deployed that capability off Libya," he said.

Harriers would have been used for "ground support" operations, attacking Col Gaddafi's land forces, he said.

Sir Mark appeared to contradict ministers' assurances on the Italian bases. He said operating Harriers from an aircraft carrier would have allowed British forces to respond more quickly to events on the ground in Libya.

"The pros would have been a much more reactive force," he said. "Rather than deploying from Gioia del Colle, we would deploy within 20 minutes as opposed to an hour and a half, so obviously there are some advantages. It's cheaper to fly an aircraft from an aircraft carrier than from the shore."

Scrapping Ark Royal and its Harriers was perhaps the most controversial decision made in last year's Strategic Defence and Security Review. The Coalition has said it could not afford to maintain the ship or the planes. Military analysts and retired defence chiefs have said the cuts have limited Britain's military capabilities.

Despite his remarks, Sir Mark said there could be no going back on the cuts. "We have got to look forward."

British forces have been in action in Libya since March, yet Col Gaddafi remains in power. On June 1, Nato extended the military mission by another 90 days.

Sir Mark said British forces would be "comfortable" with another three months of operations.

"Beyond that, we might have to request the Government to make some challenging decisions about priorities," he said. "There are different ways of doing this. It's not simply about giving up standing commitments, we will have to rebalance."

Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, said last week that Britain and France were struggling to maintain the Libyan operation without significant American support and supplies.

Sir Mark confirmed that the Navy had been forced to ask the US to resupply Tomahawk cruise missiles used by submarines targeting Libya.

"We are not running out, but we certainly have to take action to replace those weapons to bring stockpiles back up to where they were," he said.

As well as Ark Royal and the Harriers, the Navy is losing 5,000 posts under the defence review.

Rear-Adml David Steel, the head of Navy personnel, said the defence cuts would be a major challenge for the Senior Service.

"Our ships are hugely capable but we just don't have enough of them," he told a veterans' conference in Plymouth at the weekend.

"Having to make so many people redundant would be almost comical if it were not so serious."

Dr Liam Fox, the Defence Secretary, defended the defence review last night. He said: "We continue to have the resources necessary to carry out the operations we are undertaking."

An MoD source said: "Unfortunately Harriers wouldn't have been able to carry the precision weapons needed for these operations."

Highlighting military anger over the shrinking Armed Forces, another admiral warned that "comical" defence cuts would leave the Navy without enough ships to be effective."

I have contributed an on-line comment, as follows:

"Then why on earth did our leaders blunder into yet another war that we cannot afford? They must be off their heads."