Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Hoodie who doesn't want to be hugged

Visiting Wythenshawe estate in Manchester the other day David Cameron encountered this hoodie who doesn't seem to want to be hugged. This, according to The Times, is 17 year-old Ryan Florence who has a staffordshire bull terrier, smokes cannabis every day, and is a member of a gang named Benchill Mad Dogs. He probably didn't realise how much he has in common with Cameron, who smoked cannabis at Eton and was a member of a gang of mad dog toffs called the Bullingdon Club (mind you, I should think labradors are more Cameron's style).

Friday, February 16, 2007

Cameron the Toff

If I were a Labour Party Election organiser I would stick this picture up everywhere come the next election (Cameron is No. 2). It shows a lot of arrogant rich poseurs dressed in £1,200 tailcoats. The Bullingdon Club, according to The Telegraph (13/2/07) specialise in "getting hogwhimperingly drunk on champagne and destroying restaurant dining rooms". It's all "high spirits, you see. If it happened on a council housing estate we would be talking ASBOS and Borstal and "short, sharp shocks". But not for the Bullingdon Yobs. Cameron wants to pretend he is a "normal regular guy" just like you and me. Yeah, sure...

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Blunkett Supports Terrorism

The UK Today (see Links) has picked up on a story in The Daily Mirror. In a Channel 4 Dispatches programme to be broadcast next week it will be revealed that David Blunkett urged Blair to bomb Al-Jazeera's transmitter in Baghdad during the during the Iraq war. Remember: Al-Jazeera is a civilian broadcaster. Blunkett will say he regarded it as a "legitimate target". Blunkett's stance is of course consistent with that of the US military who regard "non-embedded" journalists, especially brown-skinned ones, as "fair game". But if the deliberate targetting of civilians (on the grounds that they refuse to parrot US propaganda) is not terrorism then I don't know what is. Am I right in thinking New Labour has introducing legislation outlawing incitement to terrorism? Can we expect Blunkett to visited by the rozzers? I jest, of course.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Blog Wars: What is it all about?

Politaholic’s head is reeling. Trying to make sense of it all is not easy. What is it all about? And who cares?

So far as I can gather (and I’m sure there is stuff I’ve left out):

1: Guido and Iain Dale have been running a campaign against The Smith Institute (a Brownite think-tank) which they argue should lose its charitable status because it is not independent. Tim Ireland (aka Manic) points out that Dale is a trustee for Policy Exchange which is a Conservative think-tank (also enjoying charitable status) and clearly also not independent. Dale and Guido are, to say the least, rather reticent about this.

2. Guido’ real name is Paul Staines. He is a pretty right-wing fogeyish Conservative and a(wholly unconvinving) "anti-establishment" poseur (the "establishment" posing as "anti-establishment"). Anyone who reads the blog can easily ascertain how right-wing Guido is, although most of those who post comments are – incredibly - even more right-wing). Years ago Guido was a Young Conservative. Those were the days when young Tories sported “Hang Mandela” badges. Guido says he didn’t wear one but hung around with people who did (the “I didn’t inhale” defence). Pickled Politics claims that as a student Guido/Staines proposed a link between the Federation of Conservative Students (FCC) and the British National Party (BNP). The story was also posted by Tim Ireland. Staines is saying the story is untrue and is based on a 1986 article in the Guardian which was retracted. He is threatening legal action. Guido and his supporters are arguing that back then Guido was a right-wing “libertarian” Conservative and not a right-wing (and racist) “authoritarian” Conservative. The FCC seems to have been an alliance of both groups: “libertarians” and “Monday Clubbers”. However, in truth Politaholic has no idea whatsoever what Guido’s views were back then. On the evidence of his blog he does seem now to be of the (very) right-wing “libertarian” persuasion, although many of (rather obviously) public school and City types who post comments on his blog (and Ireland claims these are screened) are Tories of a different shade.

3. Iain Dale called – or certainly implied - that Tim Ireland is a “nihilist”, then said he didn’t, then admitted he did (but had forgotten), and claimed he didn’t know what the word “nihilist” meant until he looked it up (oddly ignorant for a political commentator), then apologised (simultaneously making a bid for the moral high ground). Tim Ireland has called Dale a liar – repeatedly - and seems unimpressed with the apology. Dale has donned the mantle of the persecuted victim – a lone voice, crying in the wilderness, pleading for moderation. He is, those who support him argue, a victim of a Brownite conspiracy. Ireland thinks this disingenuous. There is also some dispute about whether Dale has accurately recalled his editing of his own Wikipedia entry. But this is a little too complicated, technical, and parochial for poor Politaholic.

Until today most of this passed me by. I’m far too small a sprat, I think.

I suspect a lot of these guys know each other. They all work, so to speak, “within the beltway”.

What a small world.


Yesterday was Darwin Day, celebrating the birth of Charles Darwin on February 12 1809. In two years time it will be the 150th anniversity of the publication of Origin of Species and the 200th anniversity of Darwin's birth.

Meanwhile the Humanist Society of Scotland is protesting against the exclusion of secular thinkers from Radio 4's "Thought for the Day". Yesterday the society launched a series of podcasts entitled "Humanist Thought for the Day". The first was by the philosopher A.C. Grayling and today's by the stand-up comedian Stewart Lee. Radio's 4's Thought for the Day must be one of the most thoughtless and tedious things on earth. Politaholic rushes to turn off the radio whenever it comes on, but occasionally I have been caught unawares (e.g. in the bath) and have had to listen in pain to the witless wittering that TFTD has made its own (in particular I can't stand Jonahan Sachs whose repellent unctuousness oozes from every pore). I didn't hear Grayling yesterday (there doesn't seem to be a "listen again" facility on the Think Humanist web-site. Sadly, on the evidence of Lee's podcast, the style of the Radio 4 original appears to have been copied. I wouldn't say Lee is as boring as Sachs (that would be impossible). Let's say he is 10% as boring i.e. off the Richter scale. Still, I'm with the Humanists on this. Why should religious believers be given a propaganda platform courtesy of the licence fee? Why should humanists and atheists not enjoy the same privilege?
Can't resist the picture.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Cameron and Drugs

It is hardly news that Tory Toff David Cameron "smoked pot" while at Eton. He has as good as admitted as much in the past. In any case, which of us in our undergraduate days did not? The number of MP's who have admitted to past drug use is, even in these more liberal times, risibly small; one must assume that many of those who deny it are simply lying. Helena Kennedy on AM doubts that it will damage Cameron: he was only 15 at the time, he didn't "grass" on his mates (no pun intended) and this shows that he is a "regular guy" (who just happened to be at Eton!). I'm not so sure (the voting public, like their MP's, are capable of a great deal of hypocrisy on this issue). There does seem to be some inconsistency in Cameron's account. His people are saying that when, aged 15, he was caught and "gated" at Eton that this was a "wake-up call" (with the inference that afterwards he changed his ways). But the Observer says that he is also "understood" to have "occasionally" (how often is that?) smoked pot as a university student at Oxford. That seems to cast doubt on an Etonian Damascene moment. It would damage him, I think, if it turned out that it was not just cannabis, and if it occurred later in his life. Did he take cocaine as a researcher for the Conservative Party (1988-92) or when he was working in the (as I understand it) drug-fuelled PR industry (1994-2001)? So far as I can gather Cameron is denying that he took drugs "as a politician" which, presumably, means since he became as MP in 2001. So far as the period before that is concerned his stance seems to be "no comment". What happeneed between 1982 and 2001? If I were a Labour master of the black arts - an aspiring Mandelson or Campbell - I would be be assidiously digging around. Of course, Labour would be foolish to openly attack Cameron on this; but they could "leak" anything damaging that they might find to "friends in the media". Close to an election would help. Dirty business politics.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Yo, Blair

Simon Tisdall in Wednesday's Guardian reported that "...When George Bush looks for a European partner, he increasingly looks to Chancellor Angela Merkel. These are the dog days of the Blair era. Almost unnoticed, Mr. Blair has become an ex-poodle..." And they say a dog is not just for Christmas.

The west turns a blind eye to Saudi extremism

Tuesday's Guardian contained an excellent article by Mai Yamani attacking the bizarre notion that the allies of the US in the Middle East are in any way "moderate". She points out that: "...Saudi Wahhabis are fanatics; Egypts's Hosni Mubarak is intolerant of dissent..." and that these countries have "appalling human rights records". She quotes Amnesty International which describes Saudi Arabia as a country where "there are no political parties, no elections, no independent legislature, no trade independent judiciary, no independent human rights organisations...strict censorship of the media...strict control of access to the internet, satellite television and other forms of communication with the outside world". By coincidence the same edition of the Guardian reported that the Saudi-run King Fahd school in Acton, west London, uses teaching materials translated from Arabic in which it is asserted that Jews "engage in witchcraft and sorcery and obey Satan" and invites pupils to "name some repugnant characteristics of Jews". The textbooks describe Jews as "monkeys" and Christians as "pigs". (This comes hard on the heels of the Channel Four Dispatches programme which revealed similar rantings by extremist clerics at the Green Lane Mosque in London). A quick internet search turned up the link below:

Here one discovers that recently:

"...a Saudi Arabian judge sentenced 20 foreigners to receive lashes and spend several months in prison after convicting them of attending a party where alcohol was served and men and women danced, a newspaper reported Sunday".

A fairly typical occurrence in Saudi.

It is also reported that under the cloak of the "war on terror" the Saudi regime is taking the opportunity to attack liberals (who are being arrested, tortured, and raped). The west, of course, turns a blind eye.

There is also this, from The Times, revealing officially sanctioned child slavery:

Times, UK, 2005 Peter Conradi, Abu Dhabi
ALTHOUGH he is barely five years old, Shakheel has already learnt the harsh reality of life as a professional jockey: a deep scar runs up his stomach from a fall suffered in one race and his leg was broken when he was knocked from his mount during another.
Like two dozen other boys being sheltered at a safe house in a military base in the United Arab Emirates, Shakheel is a victim of the wealthy rulers’ national obsession: camel racing.
As many as 5,000 children, some as young as two, have been kidnapped or bought from their parents in the Indian sub-continent and Africa as part of a quest by camel trainers to gain the edge over their racing rivals.

Moderates? Is it not shameful that these people are our allies?

Sunday, February 04, 2007


An ICM poll in the Sunday Express shows 56% think that Blair should resign now (43% of Labour voters think the same). And 66% think that Downing Street has tried to conceal evidence from the police vis-a-vis the enquiry into cash-for-peerages. Meanwile Guido Fawkes reports that The News of the World (not Politaholic's normal reading) says that John McTernan has handed over his diary to the police and is cooperating with their enquiry. The Screws thinks that Ruth Turner and Lord Levy are about to be charged. All this will make Blair more determined than ever to stay until July, but will he be able to? How much longer can this sorry saga continue? Could this be the long-awaited endgame?

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Manchester to become capital of organised crime

The decision to bring a super-casino to Manchester is a disaster. We all know that every big city in the world has its problems, crime (organised and otherwise) among them. But we all also know that where gambling goes so too do various mafias. Mancheser will be no different. Organised crime will take root on a hitherto unimagined scale. The decision has caused some anguish (particularly among Labour supporters - Skipper (see Links) among them) not least because gambling is essentially a method of fleecing the poor, the vulnerable, the desperate, and the dim. In yesterdays Guardian Alexander Chancellor described the decision as "another stage in the process, begun by Margaret Thatcher, of turning Britain into a much nastier, greedier country...". Simon Jenkins in Wednesday's Guardian asked by what "moral compass" Blair is guided. Blair? The friend of Bush, Berlusconi, Anzar, and Sakozy? (oh, and Cliff and assorted Bee Gees). Moral compass? My dear fellow: money and celebrity. And yet is it not appropriate that the Minister in charge of this is the forgetful Tessa Jowell (who cannot keep track of her multiple mortgages). As is well known, Tessa's husband has had a long association via Berlusconi with "the friends of the Italian opera". Who better to bring the mob to Manchester?

The O'Loan Report

Politaholic has been a little busy at work recently, hence no posts for a couple of weeks. During that period several items have caught my interest. One is the publication of the report by the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman, Nuala O'Loan, which documented collusion between the RUC Special Branch and a UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force) gang, some of whom were police informants, responsible for at least ten murders, drug dealing, extortion and intimidation. According to O'Loan: "It would be easy to blame the junior officers' conduct in dealing with various informants, and indeed they are not blameless. However, they could not have operated as they did without the knowledge and support at the highest level of the RUC and the PSNI [Police Service of Northern Ireland]." At least six former senior police officers (at the level of assistant chief constable or detective chief superintendent in the Special Branch) refused to cooperate with the enquiry. Slugger O'Toole (see Links) has a link to the following article by Brian Feeney which appears in the Irish News:

As Feeney points out, it is scarcely news that the RUC and MI5 colluded with loyalist murderers over many years. The O'Loan report had a limited remit, and so was able only to focus on this particular UVF gang over a limited period; but the part of the Steven's Report which was published also documents collusion. To be frank, it is something that has been widely known for decades to anyone with the briefest nodding acquaintaince with the six counties (as they say, "the dogs in the street" knew about it).

As Feeney says:

"Does anyone imagine that the RUC-protected murder gang operating out of Mount Vernon was anything other than one tiny fraction of the total British administration's conspiracy operation across Belfast, let alone across the north and in the Republic? Does anyone think you wouldn't uncover exactly the same stomach-turning sights if you knew which stone to turn over in say, Portadown or Lisburn or Armagh?".

But Feeney also makes another point:

"We know that after the Security Services Act of 1989 the director and coordinator of intelligence (DCI) at Stormont was responsible to the secretary of state. We know that intelligence provided by top agents was read by British cabinet members of the Joint Intelligence Committee. Are we seriously expected to believe that successive secretaries of state did not know of their agents' unsavoury misdemeanours? Does anyone believe senior intelligence officers did not ask for such behaviour to be sanctioned at cabinet level?"

That is why Peter Hain is so keen to put the whole thing "in the past" and why the Government is rushing through legislation to prevent enquires revealing the scale of collusion not just in the 1970's but in the 1990's and later (for example, the Justice and Security Bill will apparently prevent the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission investigating cases before August 1 2007). The last thing the government wants is for the truth to come out.