Monday, November 27, 2006

Thought for the Day - Is John Reid the Anti-War Candidate?

A couple of weeks back John Reid, Labour's weegie hardman par excellence, (by way of contrast for example to Ian McCartney - who is their whining lard-man par excellence) had some kind of cerebral aschemic attack and came over all reasonable on the Today Programme.

This was such a remarkable event that my half-dressed partner rushed out of the bedroom and into the bathroom where I was shaving to tell me. Her unusual speed (normally nothing can interrupt her leisurely progress toward 'readiness' of a morning) was fortuitous. Had she left it a few seconds longer we might have clashed at a high speed on the short flight of stairs between our bedroom and bathroom, as I was just about to launch into a similarly motivated race into the bedroom to relay very much the same expression of surprise; and it has to be said that in such instances my progress is rarely leisurely.

The Reid reasonable-ness was triggered, intriguingly, by an exchange with Jim Naughtie over whether Reid would back extending the time for which 'terrorist suspects' could be held without charge [I could start to mull whether in the interests of journalistic accuracy the term 'terrorist suspect' should in such instances be replaced with the far more accurate and easily understood term 'anyone' or 'you or your family' ..but now is clearly not the time for such argument over mere semantics...]

Naughtie was musing on whether evidence from opinion polls about 'support for jihad' among the UK population should lead us to conclude that millions of our muslim brothers were secretly plotting to destroy our way of life. In a sort of reverse attack word use of historical analogy he reminded the former Glaswegian Stalinist that he would surely remember a time when opinion polls taken in Western Scotland could have demonstarted similar levels of support for our last major bunch of (sort of) homegrown terrorists - the IRA.

Its unclear whether the analogy helped Reid get in touch with reality over the issue of what 'support' constitutes or whether he is simply becoming a cleverer politician since his last abortive re-positioning effort, when he attempted to persuade us that he was a sort of anti-war candidate for Governor of the Pashtun, went tits up in the face of a Taliban resurgence.

Or perhaps he just saw this as a rare opportunity to put some clear blue water between himself and Tony Blair or more intriguingly between himself and Gordon Brown - who had earlier indicated a desire to increase the period to 90 days like his putative pedecessor.

Brown wants to watch himself, as he backs 90 day detention, Trident replacement and every other Blairite sacred poisoned chalice he can wrap his blubbery lips around. Soon he will have nothing left (oh...forget it...) to reposition himself with except the possibility of re-launching Blair's war with his own party; perhaps coupled with a comedy caper in which he argues with his own chosen successor at the Treasury over how to pay for all this craziness.

Reid on the other hand came over all David Davis-like and said he'd not seen any convincing evidence for this yet - it could be nothing or it could just be his cunning plan to stuff one up Peter Hain, if he can't stuff it up Gordon himself.

Hain, like the rest of the Cabinet has been making very Blairite noises lately - not least about uniting behind the decision to take the most expensive option in Trident replacement. There is a sense in which all the bigger beasts are trying to play the same game so that they all have an equal claim to at least their current share of the cake when the new chief dinner lady turns up. This is also linked to an awareness of the almost suicidal level of damage done to government and party-alike by events around the succession earlier in the year.

So there is an attempt to even the keel, to stop as Hain (and others) earlier put it 'urging more open debate in the Labour Party on replacing Trident, and start talking about the responsibilities of global power '"we're a serious Government and a serious Cabinet charge of one of the world's global powers" said Hain yesterday to the BBC's AM Programme, in a moment of self-delusion chillingly reminiscent of Dr David Owen.

But 'Dr' John Reid, as he was briefly known during his time at Health, is taking a more interesting path. A subtle piece of personal re-positioning may be in the offing as the former bully boy seeks the role of eminence gris, Willie Whitelaw style, in an effort, if not to decide the future of our nation, at least to have a long-term career in the cigar clubs of social democracy.

Reid is playing a long game and I suspect his revenge on those who have questioned his ability will be bitter indeed.

Or that, failing this, there will simply be a lot of bitterness, as Labour positions itself for an internal cold war over who backs which weapons systems and abuses of civil liberties while Reid looks wearily on and wonders how all these kids who havn't even had to make such decisions can possibly have the right to express an opinion.

Reid is distancing himself from his own opportunist past and those leaping into his discarded shoes may come to find themselves barred from the swimming club because of the verukas they catch in the process.

Reid has realised that these will be yesterday's positions and that tomorrow's victors will be those who appear to have moved on.

Maybe that is what is moving the normally admirable Max Stafford Clark to call for the ditching of 'dabblers' like Reid and other Cabinet 'amateurs' who he says endanger judicial principals and civil liberties in the pursuit of policies inspired by opinion polls then leave after only a few havoc-wreaking months in the job to find another department of government to confuse.

I can only hope his speech for the Longford Lecture has been under-reported however, since his notion of professional law-makers being a solution for political opportunism smacks even less of human rights than the former positions of Uncle Joe Reid.

Meanwhile back in politics...
If (sorry 'when', fate notwithstanding) Brown wins the Labour leadership, he would do well to exile Reid North of Hadrian's Wall - to Nato maybe - or more intriguingly perhaps back to his 2001 job in Northern Ireland - where, who knows, he might actually be able to make a real contribution to something substantive.

However it is more likely that the eternally disappointed members of the benighted British party of democratic socialism will find themselves feasting on the wormwood of John Reid as a defender of the left's traditions (if not its policies, a la Prescott) come 2009.

And of course those various final scenarios are not mutually exclusive.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Generation Game, Countdown, or the Price is Right?

A couple of interesting passages from Michael Scheuer's latest bulletin for your soaraway Global Terrorism Analysis.

On the MI5's Dame Eliza's latest assessment on the threat to the UK:

A final note that will please al-Qaeda was the Dame Eliza-Prime Minister Blair refrain that it will take the UK a generation to defeat the threat. For al-Qaeda, this is a clear signal that British leaders still believe they face a limited threat that can be defeated over time, a conclusion which Islamist leaders—who know their forces are growing geometrically—will welcome as a self-defeating delusion.

On a potential "phased" withdrawl of US forces from Iraq:

Quite simply, that decision would allow bin Laden to score, in the perception of most Muslims, an unprecedented hat-trick of successes; U.S. withdrawal would: (1) Allow the redeployment of many Iraq-based foreign fighters to the Arabian Peninsula, Europe, the Levant and the Horn of Africa; (2) Dramatically increase bin Laden's stature as a leader—and almost a prophet—by disproving the Islamist leaders who damned him for bringing down the "unbeatable military wrath" of the United States on Muslims via the 9/11 attack and validating his contention that Washington lacked the will and ruthlessness to defeat Islamist forces; and, by far the most important, (3) Exponentially surpass the motivational power of the Afghan-Islamist defeat of the Soviet Union via the Arab-Islamist defeat of the United States, the world's second and last superpower.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

C2 or not C2...

I've never been a fan of Carling, obviously, but after a night of sticking to the 3.7 per cent Youngs for the morrow was a "school day" I like the look of their new lager.

According to the breweries it's perfect for a swift one-at-lunch pint, a cheeky on-the-way-home pint, a rewarding after-football-training pint or a responsible big-meeting-tomorrow pint.

Or indeed a Know Your Limits pint?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

8 November 2006 to...

Maybe it will be picked up more widely, but in the event that it is not, I think this is the most omninous development to come out of yesterday's Beit Hanoun attack.

"America is offering political, financial and logistic cover for the Zionist occupation crimes, and it is responsible for the Beit Hanoun massacre. Therefore, the people and the nation all over the globe are required to teach the American enemy tough lessons," Hamas said in a statement sent to The Associated Press.

While critical of the U.S., Hamas has always focused its violent campaign of suicide bombings and rocket attacks against Israeli targets. Wednesday's threat signaled that the group is identifying with global Islamic extremist movements, such as al-Qaida.

I wonder if future historians will consider this thus-far little-remarked upon announcement marks the moment when the War on Terror became the Third World War? Hamas, after all, is the government of the Palestinian state entity and as the article points out this effectively globalises the Palestinian/ Israeli conflict. I don't think their claims that the military and political wings are separate - pace IRA/ Sinn Fein - will cut much ice with the Americans.

Monday, November 06, 2006


I know, I know... but it's not easy to keep opining. Well, actually it is, but not necessarily easy to find the time to actually blog...

Also, winter's coming on and you know sometimes I'm just too irritated to go on about another idiot politician, of whatever ideological hue.

Meanwhile, note an addition to the side bar - Pickled Politics - which I've recently been reading and enjoy.

So, enjoy!