Chatham House Report States The Bleedin' Obvious


It's not just officials from the State Department who say Blair has no influence at all over George Bush. Now a Chatham House report has said exactly the same thing.

Despite military, political and financial sacrifices by the UK, Mr Blair had been unable to influence the Bush administration in "any significant way", the report found.

What on earth took them so long to realise that? The report goes on to describe Iraq as a "disaster", our involvement in the invasion as a "mistake" and the post-invasion situation as a "debacle" which has damaged Britain's international influence. Also, there was "no evidence" that it was Blair who persuaded Bush into accepting a two-state solution for the Israel/Palestine conflict.

"Blair has learned the hard way that loyalty in international politics counts for nothing," said Professor Bulmer-Thomas.

"And his successor will not make the same mistake of offering unconditional support for US initiatives in foreign policy at the expense of a more positive relationship with Europe."

In other words, by pathetically hanging on to George Bush and still failing to have anything to show for it (apart from a medal which he still hasn't collected), he also damaged Britain's relationship with Europe and so isolating the country even more. So much for being a "bridge between America and Europe".

Victor Bulmer-Thomas, the outgoing director of the think-tank said that Blair's successor would have to rectify the situation by distancing Britain from the USA and improving relations with Europe including a new look at our position on the Euro (I bet that went down well). He also suggested that Britain should help form a common European response to the recent ISG report.

All in all, a pretty damning report. It's a shame that only outgoing officials get to say what they want. Last week Kofi Annan let rip at America in his last UN speech which probably went down as well in New York as this report did in London.

Not wanting to be left out when it comes to belatedly stating the obvious, David Cameron has just made the astute observation that the Iraq war has increased the risk of terrorism.

Army Cutbacks Will bite


Britain's expensive disaster in Iraq is beginning to have a drastic effect on our armed forces and their readiness for any future conflict. We've talked before about how the number of mid ranking officers departing is causing a long term problem and that recruitment rates remain low, indeed the infantry alone is 3,000 soldiers short and a recent TV recruitment campaign has flopped

However dramatic cutbacks are being planned. How dramatic?

Parachute training is to be halted for four years

Donorgate : and the shredders started whirling


Blair and New Labour may not end up in the dock - and I am convinced Lord Goldsmith will play Tony,'Get out of Jail Free' card should it start looking dangerous. Wouldn't it be interesting if he tried to do a Bersculoni and claim it's not in the national interest to arrest a Prime Minister?

But this inquiry is toxic for New Labour and the drip, drip effect is going to do for Blair what it did for Major. Each day the stench of corruption grows, each day they look more and more grubby.

Jonathan Powell is going to be interviewed under caution and files relating to donors have been shredded.

In the background the war between Blair and Brown is keeping this alive. Blair's blaming Levy, Levy's blaming Blair and they would both be happy to sideline as much blame onto Brown as possible.

Meanwhile it looks like Blair misled or actually lied to the police in his interview with them.

If that's not enough the head of the Serious Fraud Office says blair gave into Saudi Blackmail, that they had plenty of evidence and sources are claiming the police were bugged

No wonder even No 10 realise they're seen as a shambles

Saudi money wins over justice

Lord Goldsmith seems to have decided (with the help of Tony Blair) that a small matter like the law shouldn't get in the way of huge British arms deals with Saudi Arabia and relations between the two countries.

The Serious Fraud Office has ended its corruption inquiry into a £6bn fighter planes deal with Saudi Arabia.

Attorney General Lord Goldsmith said the SFO was "discontinuing" its investigation into Britain's biggest defence company, BAE Systems.

The probe had related to the Al Yamamah arms deal with Saudi Arabia. BAE has denied any wrongdoing.

Lord Goldsmith told the Lords he thought that a prosecution "could not be brought".

He said the decision had been made in the wider public interest, which had to be balanced against the rule of law.

Lord Goldsmith also told peers that Prime Minister Tony Blair had agreed that the continuation of the investigation would cause "serious damage" to relations between the UK and Saudi Arabia.

So an investigation into serious alleged corruption can be quietly dropped at the behest of the Prime Minister, the Saudi government and BAE. Nice one Tony!

Knock Knock


Blair's been questioned in the Cash for Honours inquiry, but not under caution.

Conform or f*** off


Having taken the shuddering pirate hulk of the Labour Party to the right of the Conservatives, Cap'n 'Mad Eye' Blair is now pitching to take it into the clear black(shirt) water to the east of the British National Party. There really isn't a lot to say about the sheer ghastliness of Blair's speech today, but here are a few vignettes:

The BBC started their summary of the story on the 7pm R4 news with the word 'Tolerance'. There was me naively thinking that after Nick Robinson earned himself a gold star with his performance yesterday things were looking up in the BBC's cojones department. Alas not.

Far from exhibiting 'tolerance', the rhetoric is pure BNP/Little Green Footballs/Mel Phillips territory. We've had a few guys like that in the comments here and what comes across is a palpable sense of FEAR. Now, what would Tony possibly have to fear? He's only unleashed a wave of extremism across the Middle East, fuelled extremists here with his authoritarian policies, is sitting on a pile of (largely Muslim) corpses higher than Nelson's Column and has attached himself firmly to a Christian fundamentalist US President who appears to be palpably short of a full deck. Oh, and sold a few peerages.

The speech was welcomed by Dominic Grieve, which should give the lie to the idea that David Cameron has led the Tories into the centre ground - there are plenty of indications that they're still the stupid Nasty Party of Tebbit and Thatcher - when the tabloids shout 'heel' they still come running. To ram home the point, Blair praised Cameron for supporting him over immigration. Why on earth are the Tories, Labour and the BNP scrapping over the foam-flecked Mail reader vote? Surely there must be someone sane left in British politics who sees this for what it is? Please, God, don't let it be Galloway again.

This all comes after a couple of years of strenuous tabloid myth-making about either rabid Muslims (of course) or bending-over-backwards liberal councils trying to ban Christmas or force innocent schoolchildren to eat halal meat. Neatly, this is filleted in the Guardian today, in an article I can thoroughly recommend to all. As it happens, the real intolerant extremists seem to be in the high echelons of Government and the press, ever eager to, well, bend over backwards to give voice to the maddest bigots complaining about 'Caribbean' carols or halal Christmas dinner (Chicken Yoghurt has an excellent thread with a good row in the comments on this subject).

This section neatly sums it up:

"When it comes to our essential values - belief in democracy, the rule of law, tolerance, equal treatment for all, respect for this country and its shared heritage - then that is where we come together, it is what we hold in common."

So that's:

  • Belief in democracy from a man who rules with the support of 22% of the electorate and thinks that's a dandy mandate
  • Belief in the rule of law from a man who supports control orders, 90 days detention without charge, has supported numerous Bills later struck down as unlawful, permits torture flights to use UK airports, thinks Guantanamo Bay is merely 'an anomaly' and is chipping away at judicial independence and the right to jury trials
  • Belief in tolerance from a man who pays no attention to views that conflict with his own and whose party uses the dirtiest smear tactics against anyone daring to air such views
  • Belief in equal treatment from a man who is desperately trying to nobble a police investigation by manipulating the legal system using his political appointees
  • Belief in respect for the country from a man who's mortgaged the country's schools and hospitals to anyone with a few quid, ruined our international standing and reputation and severely damaged the Armed Forces by cuts, privatisations and illegal wars
  • Belief in the shared heritage of Britain from a self-proclaimed 'modernist' who has no sense of the worth of historic buildings, supports an policy towards northern city housing borrowed from the Luftwaffe and is busy trying to water down the planning system to allow building on the Green Belt.
  • I don't know what I hold in common with Tony Blair but I suspect I'd quite like to be holding, in common with a large number of Britons, a baseball bat with his name on it.

    P.S. A humorous consequence of the proposed 'crackdown on religious funding' occurs to me - as Blair says:

    Mr Blair warned that public money had been too easily handed out to organisations "tightly bonded around religious, racial or ethnic identities".

    One of the hallmarks of Blair's regime is his willingness to listen any 'faith group', even allowing them to take over schools as Sir Peter (knighted by Blair) Vardy's Emmanuel Schools Foundation have done in the North East. Indeed, without the political support given to fundamentalists and their power within Cabinet (Blair, Kelly amongst many others) it's difficult to imagine that recent rise of the religious right in the UK would have been quite so alarming. Is Blair cracking down on himself? Will future Academy school sponsors be thrown out for supporting un-British things like, well, creationism. Darwin, of course, is from the UK, modern creationism is a foreign import. Support your British scientific heritage, Tony, not these foreign extremists.

    A key complaint of the Mail (or in this case the Times) is that loony left political correct do-gooders withhold money from good honest Christian groups. As MoT puts it:

    It turns out this particular project is funding via Sure Start, and in common with many, if not most government funding programmes, one of the many things that is excluded from being funded by such programmes are specifically religious activities.

    So in fact the state already puts limits on funding for groups seeking to sponge off the public purse to promote religion. So what the hell is Blair doing crowing about it now?

Quick, there's an elephant pissing into the tent!


Ah, Charles Clarke, the Safety Elephant. Safe now in harrumphing retirement and with next to zero chances of preferment under Brown, he's slipping another of his occasional thin assassin's daggers into his ex-boss:

LONDON: An ex-minister yesterday accused Prime Minister Tony Blair of damaging Britain's standing in Europe by accepting hospitality from Italy's former premier Silvio Berlusconi and other right wingers.

Clarke is a pro-European of course, and what he doesn't say here is interesting - the reason Blair's name is a hissing and a byword in Europe is not his sucking up to failed right-wingers in Europe but sucking up to failed right-wingers in Washington, while flipping the bird at his European allies, particularly France and Germany. It's interesting to note that the Coalition of the Willing (European section) is now us, the Danes and the Poles, which isn't exactly the core of European unity.

However, Safety is ever willing to damn with faint praise:

Clarke trumpeted Blair's European credentials. "Tony has been the most pro-European Prime Minister, possibly except Ted Heath, since the war," he said, referring to the conservative Prime Minister of the early 1970s.

Trumpeted is right. Mind you, if wedging yourself up Bush's behind, sucking up to anti-European nationalists and sending Mandie to Brussels as the UK's representative counts as pro-European, one has to wonder if Charlie hasn't been at the Bordeaux again.

The Tony And George Show *UPDATED*


I had a strange feeling whilst watching yesterday's press conference (Transcript). Looking through the heavy make up to Tony's steely, immobile, unblinking face, was it just me or did he look scared? Not ordinary fear, but the look of a man who realises he is trapped.

Bush bounced him into a joint statement on the ISG report and made him stand aside him as he wittered on, disjointed, rambling and utterly unwilling to face reality.

Nick Robinson lobbed a couple of hardballs:

Mr. President, the Iraq Study Group described the situation in Iraq as grave and deteriorating. You said that the increase in attacks is unsettling. That won't convince many people that you're still in denial about how bad things are in Iraq, and question your sincerity about changing course.

PRESIDENT BUSH: It's bad in Iraq. Does that help? (Laughter.)

Laughter. A nasty hollow, nervous laugh. How can you laugh answering that question. Tony looked horrified and that's when it hit me, perhaps, deep down he realises what a huge mistake he has made. Did it finally hit him what a fool Bush is?

Then Bush turned back to Robinson:

Why did it take others to say it before you've been willing to acknowledge for the world --

PRESIDENT BUSH: In all due respect, I've been saying it a lot. I understand how tough it is. And I've been telling the American people how tough it is. And they know how tough it is. And the fundamental question is, do we have a plan to achieve our objective. Are we willing to change as the enemy has changed? And what the Baker-Hamilton study has done is it shows good ideas as to how to go forward. What our Pentagon is doing is figuring out ways to go forward, all aiming to achieve our objective.

Make no mistake about it, I understand how tough it is, sir. I talk to families who die.

He talks to families who die? Sure listening to this fool could drain anyone's life force, but what on earth does he mean? Is he following in the Reagan tradition of being deeply Christian whilst employing seers, astrologers and psychics - all banned in Christian theology?

Now Tony has to stand next to him, once again providing support and cover to his overlord. Still, Bush has him well trained. Tony now responds to the commands of Walkies! Sit! Stay! And Beg! There is a rumour that he's about to be taught to fetch - remember, you heard it here first.

Bush is going to accept as little of the report as he can and Tony's going to have to go along with that. The rest of the world knows that these two people have no answers, no solutions.

The press conference can be easily condensed (mp3)

A clue to how desperately Blair is trying to run away and bury his head in the sand is that he's trying his best to stop parliament discussing the ISG report and General Jackson continues to show how words can be lethal weapons.

ringverse writes,

You can watch Nick Robinson vs The Idiot Son here,
and the somewhat confused opening remarks of The Idiot Son and his poodle are here.

The danger of being too close to Blair


The Iraq war has claimed another political scalp. Not as dramatic as, say, that of Donald Rumsfeld across the pond, but interesting nonetheless, is the ousting of Ann Clwyd as chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party. This is the first time in 25 years that a sitting chairman has been voted out, and she lost the vote to former foreign office minister Tony Lloyd, an anti-war rebel, because she was seen as being too close to Tony Blair. We've been here before, same contest, same contestants but a different result.

Ann Clwyd who is also Tony Blair's special human rights envoy to Iraq, was one of the biggest cheerleaders for the Iraq war in the UK. She supported the war on the grounds of Saddam Hussein's atrocious human rights record but had far less to say about the human rights abuses that took place after the invasion. Ann Clwyd's defeat, which apparently has left her feeling "extremely upset", shows a shift within the Labour party as MPs frantically try to distance themselves from Blair's disastrous policies.

Bush To Blair: Walkies!


So there is going to be a meeting of everyone who thinks we're winnig the war in Iraq. Yes, both people are going to be in the same room as Tony heads East to get his instructions.

The key is Iran. Cheney et al are whispering that the only way out of this mess is to bomb Iran. Saner voices are saying that would bring the whole region into turmoil and bring in other large players, such as Russia and China. The list of recanters keeps on growing.

Buff Hoon and the Chamber of Well Kept Secrets...


More genius form the Beau Bo D’Or stable...

Council of Europe publishes draft report on Government involvement in extraordinary rendition - How will the final draft differ?


The following is from Craig Murray:
Council of Europe publishes draft report on Government involvement in extraordinary rendition

A draft report on the alleged use of European countries by the CIA for the transportation and illegal detention of prisoners (2006/2200(INI)) is now in circulation. The full draft can be downloaded from here.

The report slams the UK government for its lack of cooperation with the enquiry, condems its involvement in extraordinary rendition, and is outraged by the legal advice provided by the then legal advisor to the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Time will tell how many of its findings survive the inevitable political pressure and make it through to the final version.

Temporary Committee on the alleged use of European countries by the CIA for the transportation and illegal detention of prisoners


57. Deplores the way in which the British Government, as represented by its Minister for Europe, cooperated with the temporary committee;

58. Thanks the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Extraordinary Renditions (APPG), comprising members of the House of Commons and House of Lords, for its work and for providing the temporary committee delegation to London with a number of highly valuable documents;

59. Condemns the extraordinary rendition of Bisher Al-Rawi, an Iraqi citizen and resident of the UK, and Jamil El-Banna, a Jordanian citizen and resident of the UK, who were arrested by Gambian authorities in Gambia in November 2002, turned over to US agents, and flown to Afghanistan and then to Guantánamo, where they remain detained without trial or any form of judicial assistance;

60. Condemns the multiple extraordinary rendition of Binyam Mohammed, Ethiopian citizen and resident of the UK; points out that Binyam Mohammed has been held in at least two secret detention facilities, in addition to military prisons;

61. Is deeply disturbed by the testimony of Binyam Mohammed's lawyer, who gave an account of the most horrific torture endured by his client to the official delegation of the temporary committee to the UK;

62. Points out that the telegrams from UK security service to an unspecified foreign government, which were released to the Chairman of the APPG, Andrew Tyrie, suggest that the abduction of Bisher Al-Rawi and Jamil El-Banna was facilitated by partly erroneous information supplied by the UK security service MI5;

63. Emphasises that the former UK Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Jack Straw, conceded in December 2005 that UK intelligence officials met Binyam Mohammed when he was arrested in Pakistan; points out in this respect that some of the questions put by the Moroccan officials to Binyam Mohammed, appear to have been inspired by information supplied by the UK;

64. Condemns the extraordinary rendition of UK citizen Martin Mubanga, who met the official delegation of the temporary committee to the UK, and who was arrested in Zambia in March 2002 and subsequently flown to Guantánamo; regrets the fact that Martin Mubanga was interrogated by British officials in Guantánamo where he was detained and tortured for four years without trial or any form of judicial assistance, and then released without charge;

65. Criticises the unwillingness of the UK Government to provide consular assistance to Bisher Al-Rawi and Jamil El-Banna on the grounds that they are not UK citizens;

66. Thanks Craig Murray, former UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan, for his very valuable testimony to the temporary committee on the exchange of intelligence obtained under torture and for providing a copy of the legal opinion of Michael Wood, former legal advisor to the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office;

67. Is outraged by Michael Wood's legal opinion, according to which "receiving or possessing" information extracted under torture, in so far as there is no direct participation in the torture, is not per se prohibited by the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; points out that Michael Wood declined to give testimony...

Also, be sure to check out this from obsolete, reminding us of Jack Straws evidence[sic] on the subject back in December 2005:

Unless we all start to believe in conspiracy theories and that the officials are lying, that I am lying, that behind this there is some kind of secret state which is in league with some dark forces in the United States, and also let me say, we believe that Secretary Rice is lying, there simply is no truth in the claims that the United Kingdom has been involved in rendition full stop, because we have not been, and so what on earth a judicial inquiry would start to do I have no idea. I do not think it would be justified. While we are on this point, Chairman, can I say this? Some of the reports which are given credibility, including one this morning on the Today programme, are in the realms of the fantastic.

Blair forgets The Despot's Golden Rule


If you're in a situation where you're desperately clinging on to power and you're relying on your armed forces to 'plug the policy gap' there's one golden rule that every dictator, despot and disreputable ruler knows it's this: make sure you pay your army.

The British army is suffering manpower shortages, in new recruits and in experienced middle ranking officers. The lack of new recruits isn't so worrying - more people enlist in hard economic times and as the economy is doing reasonably well, it's hard to tell the effect on Blair's foreign adventures on these figures.

But it's the steady loss of experienced officers and key figures like sergants that is causing real concern. It was this that led Chief of the General Staff Sir Richard Dannatt to warn Blair not to 'break' the army over Iraq.

The Abandoned Poodle


It had to happen sooner or later, someone from the Bush administration articulating what has been pretty obvious for years, namely that Tony Blair for all his standing "shoulder to shoulder" with the USA, has absolutely no influence. A senior State Department analyst has exposed the myth of Blair's special relationship with the Bush administration.

Kendall Myers, a senior State Department analyst, disclosed that for all Britain’s attempts to influence US policy in recent years, “we typically ignore them and take no notice — it’s a sad business”.

He added that he felt “a little ashamed” at Mr Bush’s treatment of the Prime Minister, who had invested so much of his political capital in standing shoulder to shoulder with America after 9/11.

This revelation has caused consternation on both sides of the Atlantic with officials rushing in to do some damage limitation.

Terry Davidson, a spokesman, said: “The US-UK relationship is indeed a special one. The US and the UK work together, along with our allies in Europe and across the world, on every issue imaginable. The views expressed by Mr Myers do not represent the views of the US Government. He was speaking as an academic, not as a representative of the State Department.”

That statement would be far more believable if it wasn't for the numerous examples of Blair's sycophantic fawning for the USA and Bush's imperious behaviour. 'One sided' doesn't even begin to describe the 'special relationship'. There is also the evidence that the Bush administration has frequently ignored British advice over Iraq, and even changed the attorney General's advice over the legality of the Iraq war. Bush also betrayed Blair over the Israel/Palestine conflict when he reneged on his promise to engage in finding a solution.

With all these examples of what a sham the 'special relationship' is, it's incredible that Dr Myers comments provoked such a fuss. Myers also discussed the history of the 'special relationship', starting with Winston Churchill and going on to praise Harold Wilson's refusal to involve Britain in the Vietnam war.

“Harold Wilson, who was a great deal more clever, in my opinion, that Tony Blair, managed to fool us all on Vietnam — where the deal was not one cent, not one Johnny, not one Bobby.

“He succeeded by sounding good but doing nothing. Blair got it the other way around and in the end joined us in the Iraq adventure. If you can leap forward 25 years or so and write that biography of Blair one would have to say that one of the most brilliant [sic] prime ministerships of modern times was brought a cropper by the Iraq war. He will never recover, he has been ruined for all time . . . that is tragic.”

Blair's claim that he was a bridge between the USA and Europe has also been exposed as rubbish as his relationship with Bush has been regarded as hampering Britain's links with Europe. It seems that now that Britain's support for the Iraq war is irrelevant, the poodle is no longer needed.



[lost the first version of this so from memory]

Prescott is in for the Dear Liar, Hague for Cameron, Vince for Ming the Merciful. Prescott probably has a pack of PR lines from the spin boys, which should stand out like pearls in shit. He sounds tired and strained.

First question on Iraq - Hague's been out there and makes what should be an uncontroversial point - however brave and hardworking Our Boys are, it'll make sod all difference if there's a civil war going on.

Prescott rebuts poorly, not even doing the 'Democracy...secular government...blah' rubbish that Blair always does on these occasions.

[Stuff on wealth inequality, NHS, missed a lot of this while rewriting the above. Usual attacks on the Tories for not supporting putting more resources into featherbedding PFI contractors and management consultants]

Immigration - someone asking about ID technology, terrorists, powers for the police. Must be a Labour plant. Oh, it was. Security is the heart of what this government is prepared to bring about. What? ID cards are important (linked to terrorism here for the first time in a while). There's a case for ID cards, says the chair of the Conservative security policy group. [note: must look into that]. Obvious planted question and planted answer too.

Question on rail fare rises (which in itself is scandalous if you look at the figures). Prescott answers in a language which isn't English - 'more people travelling on the public transport 40 years' or some such gibberish. No noteworthy answer is discernable.

He's sounding more confident now, the cheers of the sheep behind him seem to be buoying him up. Still talking bollocks though. He has a habit of putting the definite article in the wrong place - 'the public transport', 'the climate change'.

Lung cancer question.

Speaker puts his oar in. Prescott shuts up. Being on the radio I can't work out what's going on, but apparently he's facing the wrong way.

Chorley Hospital - question about privatisation and ITCs. 'I think you've got to recognise' followed by some lies - standard New Labour technique. Ticked off for 'ignoring the Speaker'. Ignoring grammar and sense is a bigger crime. Doesn't come near to answering the question.

Hague back - how much pension fund money taken since 1997, requesting that Prezza answer 'straight into the microphone please'. Prescott replies that Hague will tell him. Hague whacks him down with a crack about a 'non-job' and that Prescott should have the number in his folder for how much money was 'robbed'. Prescott takes no lectures from the Tories about pensions and doesn't answer the question, using the usual 'the Opposition opposes it and therefore aren't in a position to criticize us'. Hague adds a pointless crack about ex-Labour MP Maxwell but then points out that the Bill is so new they haven't opposed it yet. Then comes out with some facts on what's happened to pensions since 1997, quoting Frank Field. Prescott responds to the Maxwell crack (Hague mistake to give him that opportunity, since it's not exactly New Labour's fault, although if he were alive today they'd doubtless be sucking right up to him). Then Prescott rabbits about the opinion polls and the Cameron honeymoon. Mentions Mr. Tosser. Doesn't mention Brown stealing people's pension. Hague has no comeback left. Good subject, appalling effort at holding Government to account.

[Blairwatch gremlins strike again - I missed a bit where a DUP bigot tried to stand up for the imaginary Christian Majority and got rightly slapped down, then Prescott boasted about £9bn being spent on PFIs (why?)]

Tailing off a bit now into flood defence questions, Farepak and other worthy stuff. And that's that. Zzzz time. I don't think they've even got any proper wankers on the panel to have a go at.