Recent Articles

Have we reached the point of no return in Afghanistan?

by Septicisle     September 19, 2012 at 9:30 am

It’s a question worth asking, not just because of the decision made by the Americans to put an immediate stop to joint patrols and training in the country as a result of the ever increasing number of “green on blue” attacks (i.e. Afghans in uniform we’re meant to be handing control over to killing their trainers).

But now a substantial number of our own MPs have been prepared to say what was previously confined only to comment pieces.

On Monday, Denis MacShane, Paul Flynn, David Winnick and John Redwood all called either for a withdrawal from the country by Christmas, or as soon as humanly possible after that. While the latter three have been making similar arguments for some time, Denis MacShane is most certainly not one of the usual suspects, and was among the strongest supporters and then defenders of the Iraq war.

How can our mission in Afghanistan possibly be about national security when al-Qaida was cleared out of Afghanistan years ago, as even Hammond himself has admitted?

As John Baron asked yesterday of the defence secretary, either our continuing presence is about nation building and the training up of Afghan forces, a mission which he himself said we shouldn’t be putting lives at risk for, or it isn’t. If it isn’t about that, then we’re expending blood and treasure for seemingly little other reason than our continuing obsession with riding on the coattails of America, a decision made for reasons of prestige rather than pragmatism.

It has surely come to something when our defence secretary, completely unaware of the change in strategy made we’re told on Sunday stood up in parliament and told everyone that nothing had been altered. Recalled to the Commons to alter his comments, Hammond was left claiming that in fact everything was just as it had been, only that now we would have to apply to the Americans for permission to carry on joint patrols below company level.

Last week in an interview with the Guardian, Hammond was claiming that we could draw down our forces quicker, despite the green on blue “problems” as the work had been progressing so swimmingly; now they can’t even go out together without asking the Americans first.

According to Richard Norton-Taylor, the military has long wanted to get out of Afghanistan and it’s been the politicians holding them back. Alternatively, according to MacShane, the problem has been the “unelected military-Ministry of Defence nexus” which has been in control of policy.

If anything, the only thing we’re providing is continuing target practice for the Taliban, and while they might not as strong as they were in previous years, they’re clearly capable of a spectacular assault when they feel like it.

What we should be doing now is pushing ever more fiercely for some kind of accord between the Karzai government and the sections of the Taliban prepared to negotiate, even if that means making really unpleasant decisions about the carving out of autonomous regions within the country. Afghanistan has been at war now since 1978; just as the Russians admitted defeat, so must we.

A longer version is here.

Why even the ‘conservatory-led recovery’ won’t work

by Septicisle     September 7, 2012 at 9:10 am

It isn’t a surprise yesterday’s announcement of a temporary relaxation of some planning rules failed to set the world alight. As for whether it’ll have much of a major impact, it seems dubious in the extreme.

Apart from the likes of Lord Wolfson and other major business execs with a monomania for plonking massive warehouses, retail or otherwise on the outskirts of towns and cities, no one seriously claims that it’s been the planning rules holding the economy back.

As the Local Government Association pointed out, there’s currently planning permission for 400,000 new homes; the problem is the lack of demand, the difficulty in getting a mortgage and the banks failing to lend.
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We were wrong to be sceptical about the Leveson inquiry

by Septicisle     July 25, 2012 at 10:50 am

And so it ends, not with a whimper but a bang.

In a perfect coincidence, the Crown Prosecution Service announced its decision to charge some of those arrested over alleged phone hacking on the same day as the Leveson inquiry’s last public hearings.

For those like me who were sceptical of the inquiry to begin with, wondering whether it would be turned into a circus by the celebrity witnesses, it’s more than safe to say that we were wrong to be.
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A different view on the Ian Tomlinson case

by Septicisle     July 20, 2012 at 9:10 am

Hearing of the verdict in the Ian Tomlinson case, it was difficult not to be reminded of William Blackstone’s formulation: it was better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.

This is not to say that PC Simon Harwood was guilty of anything more on the 1st of April 2009 than common assault.

The jury more than understandably decided that it was not proven beyond reasonable doubt that Harwood caused the manslaughter of Tomlinson, and we have to respect that decision.
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Have Theresa May and G4S agreed not to attack each other?

by Septicisle     July 18, 2012 at 8:50 am

There’s one thing about the G4S Olympic security fiasco that seems to have passed everyone by: government ministers have barely directed a single word of direct criticism at the company itself.

Take a look at Theresa May’s second statement to the Commons on Monday, and if you can find her so much as saying G4S are a bit crap then you win a cookie.

Fairly obvious is that for whatever reason, G4S and the government have drawn up something resembling a non-aggression pact. No minister has so much as criticised Buckles, let alone called for him to resign. Seemingly in return, Buckles didn’t say anything yesterday to throw the spotlight back on the government.
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The parallels between Barclays and News International

by Septicisle     June 29, 2012 at 8:40 am

The parallels between News International and Barclays are obvious. Both were/are arrogant, strutting companies, ran by arrogant, strutting individuals who believed that they were above the law.

Both believed that they could either deride or injunct their critics, protected as they were by their connections with the most powerful in society.

Both believed that they could obfuscate their way through a period of trouble: whether it was countless NI execs and editors claiming their problems were all the fault of one rogue reporter, or Bob Diamond saying first that the time for apologies was over.
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The curious on-going case into the death of Gareth Williams

by Septicisle     May 3, 2012 at 2:15 pm

There are many things about the investigation into the death of Gareth Williams that leave a nasty taste in the mouth. The apparent murder of an MI6/GCHQ worker in such bizarre circumstances is always going to invite comment and speculation.

But it’s fair to say that the leaks to the press alleging that Williams was either gay, a transvestite or had come to a sticky end at the hands of al-Qaida, all emanating from uncertain sources were little short of smears.

The Met were only able to take statements from MI6 officers that were then “anonymised” afterwards, making the process a travesty.
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Omnishables: How Theresa May could have avoided the Qatada fiasco

by Septicisle     April 20, 2012 at 9:02 am

Omnishambles. The more time that goes by, the more I’m convinced that The Thick of It is the best comedy of 00s.

The great irony is that even as the language of the show is apparently being used in Number 10 to describe the budget fiasco of their own making, the show itself didn’t manage to come up with something as farcical as the latest twist in the Abu Qatada saga.

In truth, the last minute appeal by Qatada’s canny lawyers to the ECHR’s grand chamber shouldn’t really make any difference.
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Just wait until November and see how policing changes

by Septicisle     March 5, 2012 at 5:57 pm

Good to know then that deputy mayor of London Kit Malthouse last year “repeatedly told” the then Met commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson that Operation Weeting, the reinvestigation of phone hacking at the News of the World, was “over-resourced” and being driven by “press hysteria”.

This is a remarkably similar line to the one that the likes of Jeremy Clarkson and Kelvin MacKenzie were pushing prior to the Graun’s Milly Dowler revelation, both of whom are or were employees of News International.
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Hacking – the extraordinary revelations from Jacqui Hames

by Septicisle     February 29, 2012 at 9:50 am

Nothing more epitomises how damaging the collusion between the Met Police and News International than the case of private investigator Jonathan Rees. He was cleared last year of the murder of Daniel Morgan, his then partner in the PI agency Southern Investigations, after the prosecution offered no evidence.

As the former Crimewatch presenter Jacqui Hames detailed in her statement to Leveson yesterday, the initial investigation into Morgan’s murder was compromised by how the Met had been corruptly involved with the agency, as well as how Rees was a friend of Detective Sergeant Sid Fillery.

Rees went on to become one of the chief PIs used by the red-tops, as was detailed when the Met planted a bug in his office.
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