Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Libya could easily tip over the edge - (Today's Times)

The Times is now a subscription-only newspaper. Therefore links to pieces in it won't work unless one is a subscriber. However, I have been able to copy a first-class article by Deborah Haynes, who is the paper's Defence Editor.

The situation in Libya is deeply worrying (I wish that the Libyans had been left alone to sort out their problems, but out gung-ho government couldn't resist having a go at Gaddafi).

It has seemed to me all along that we know nothing of those who desire to replace the Colonel. It seems to me now that Deborah Haynes has similar concerns.

Here is the article, which is headed -

Beware. Libya could easily tip over the edge

"The mixture of distrust and disorder on the streets could yet prove to be explosive

Anyone who believes that with the fall of Colonel Gaddafi Libya will smoothly transform itself into a peaceful, progressive democracy is naive or delusional.

The rebels offer hugely persuasive assurances that the country can unite behind their cause and work together to recover from 42 years of one-man rule. They also dismiss concerns that the hunted dictator’s supporters pose any form of destabilising influence, saying that their number is too small.

However, a lot of the ingredients are in place for a new insurgency.

I would love to be proved wrong after a revolution that involved truly inspiring individuals: doctors, teachers, lawyers and engineers willing to die for their freedom. But with Gaddafi still on the loose, his followers still willing to fight and a desire for revenge still fresh within the opposition, the chaos that grips Tripoli has the potential to breed further violence rather than to mark a low point from which the new Libya will rise.

The absence of the sectarian divide that fed the Iraq insurgency, pitting the Shia majority against the Sunni minority, with help from Sunni al-Qaeda and Shia Iran, is confidently cited as the reason why Libya without Gaddafi will not go the same way as Iraq without Saddam Hussein.

But religion is not the only cause for tension. In the post-Gaddafi world there will always be underlying friction between the “pros” or “fifth column” — the militants who remain loyal to the colonel — and those who rebelled.

The emerging evidence of revenge killings on both sides should come as no surprise. This was a bloody civil war with Western assistance. People were fighting for their survival, and it will not be as easy as the rebel leaders would like to switch off such emotions, given the huge number of weapons in ordinary people’s hands and the exposure to extreme violence that most have experienced.

With Tripoli under the control of the National Transitional Council (NTC), now is the time for a brutal period of war to give way to one of restored order and reconciliation, even with Gaddafi still at large.

The restoration of water, electricity and fuel in the capital will help to build confidence in the new leadership, particularly among the people of western Libya who remained longest under the control of the old regime and are the least-well represented around the NTC table. Also, regular policemen must quickly return to Tripoli’s streets, hospitals must be restocked and even rubbish collections resumed — the stinking piles of garbage on roadsides add to a sense of lawlessness.

So far the rebel leaders have had a relatively easy ride each time their fighters have taken control of an area — Benghazi, Misrata, the Western Mountains — because the overwhelming majority of the population supported them.

But Tripoli is different, with a significant number of residents loyal to Gaddafi and hostile to the NTC. The more frank rebel estimates put the number of loyalists at 20 per cent, while regime supporters claim that it is far higher.

A wave of suicide attacks by loyalists or retaliatory killings by rebels could ignite even worse violence, preventing people from focusing on restoring public services and law and order.

There is also an external dimension. Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s new leader, has called for Libya to become a new front line for global jihad, while countries that would prefer to see the Nato-backed uprising fail will be looking for ways to exploit the power vacuum, as happened in Iraq.

The only way to counter this is through strong leadership, competent international support and by making sure that the disparate groups of rebels continue their allegiance to the NTC.

More must be done to defuse suspicion between rebels and Gaddafi supporters — not easy while he remains at liberty. The names of many loyalists are on rebel lists, so they will be detained for questioning if identified. The NTC says that only those with blood on their hands will face justice. Anyone else will simply be disarmed and allowed to go free. This sounds sensible and fair — but with emotions running so high there is little to prevent people seeking revenge for any suffering endured under Gaddafi.

An interesting insight into this was offered by a man I met who had spent two months in Abu Salim prison after the failed uprising in Zawiya, west of Tripoli, early in the revolution. He was beaten, had the nails on his big toes pulled out and was urinated on.

The man, well-educated, well spoken and moderate, knew exactly who tortured him. Asked what he would do if he saw them again, his response was simple: “I will kill them.”

Libya has a chance to emerge from four decades of dictatorship as a fair, democratic society but will require forgiveness, courage and resolve to prevent further strife."

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Have our farmers increase our home food production

The government has accepted another e-petition from me. This one is about food and farming and is addressed to DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), where Mr James Paice, M.P. is the relevant farming minister. My e-petition reads as follows:

"Farmers Guardian says that the UK is importing 51% of the food that is consumed here. To be dependent on overseas sources for more than half of our food needs is shocking. We have a population of nearly sixty-two millions and we haven't a hope in hell of feeding them without massive food imports which may not always be available. We expect all sorts of food - as well as those lovely filling station flowers - to be available all-year-round. Much comes from Africa, and by air. Many African countries cannot feed their own peoples. While Africans starve, we demand our mange tout. Do our people have no shame? Let's have our farmers increase our home food production."

Please sign the food and farming e-petition here -


The picture above is of my friend and farming neighbour, Mr David Watts, standing in a fine field of Agria potatoes here in Swaffham Prior Fen.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Will he be labelled 'Governor Rick from Hicksville'?

I watched part of Governor Perry’s speech on CNN.

It must be difficult for all aspiring politicians in America who have to try to balance the desire to seem folksy with the appearance of being clued up.

If I were so honoured as to be addressing any sort of gathering in the marvellously civilised Southern city of Charleston, I would be only too conscious of, say, the old-fashioned oratory of South Carolina’s own Senator John C. Calhoun, and I would also want to be word-perfect and prepared.

If I were aspiring to be a candidate for the Presidency, I would not only want to be word-perfect and prepared, but I would also be trying to ensure that the desire to be folksy was carefully balanced with the appearance of being clued up.

Mr Perry appeared neither to be word-perfect and prepared nor particularly clued up. He was folksy alright, but his folksiness seemed to drag somewhat and he appeared at times to be a little lost.

He must improve his act.

If he cannot improve his act, he will go down as no successor to John C. Calhoun; he will instead be labelled 'Governor Rick from Hicksville.'

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

This stupid government needs to do another U-turn

I hate to spread bad news about my country but the riots and the looting that have gone on in London during the last three nights are just too awful to ignore.

What I have said on-line (to The Times and to the Daily Telegraph) is the following:

"This stupid government needs to do another U-turn. Instead of cutting police numbers the police numbers must to be doubled. We need proper protection at all times. Think riots and looting now: think Olympics 2012."

Here is a link to the latest Daily Telegraph reportage of the events -


Saturday, 6 August 2011

"His family has been informed." Well, that's OK, then

From The Daily Telegraph (Saturday, 6th August, 2011):

A Royal Marine was killed in Afghanistan yesterday after his patrol was attacked by insurgents, the Ministry of Defence has said.

The serviceman, from 42 Commando Royal Marines, was killed by a grenade thrown into a check point in the Nad-e Ali district of Helmand Province.

The marine's patrol initially fought off an attack from the insurgents.

The patrol then returned to its check point and was preparing to redeploy when insurgents attacked again.

A grenade landed in the check point which wounded the serviceman. He was taken to the military hospital in Camp Bastion but died later, the Ministry of Defence said.

His family has been informed.

Task Force Helmand spokesman, Major Rolf Kurth, said: "The Royal Marine was part of a foot patrol deployed to reassure local residents, and deter and disrupt insurgent activity, when they came under small arms attack."

"With the help of mortars and close air support, they broke contact with the insurgents and returned to their check point. They then came under further attack, and the Royal Marine was mortally wounded by a grenade that landed inside the check point."

"He died later in Camp Bastion Role 3 Hospital. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends in their time of grief."

The total number of British service personnel who have died since operations began in Afghanistan in 2001 is now 378.

Latest news on the BBC (12 noon, 6th August): U.S. helicopter crashes in Afghanistan with the loss of 38 lives. Our sympathy goes out to the families and friends of all of those who have died.


Monday, 1 August 2011

Golden handshakes - nice 'work,' if you can get it!

If my readers are willing to run the risk of an apoplexy ('a state of extreme rage or excitement'), I suggest that they follow this link to a piece in today's Daily Telegraph -


It will all seem astonishing, especially to anyone who knows any of these expensive individuals. No wonder the country's finances are in poor shape.