Monday, December 31, 2007

The hereditary principle

After Tony Blair's resignation as Prime Minister the Blair family retreated to the ancestral home in Durham where Blair's "political will and testament" was read. Blair nominated his wife, Cherie, to be his successor, but the other members of the family - recalling her infamous "supermarket dash" and the Bristol flats imbroglio - ruled this out. Instead they selected Euan Blair, his nineteen year old son, as Party Leader. Euan will face the Leader of the Opposition, Mark Thatcher, at his first Question Time...

No, not really, but ceteris paribus that's pretty much what happened on Planet Pakistan yesterday. Benazir had bequeathed the party to Mr. Ten Percent but the family ruled him out and opted for the nineteen year old son, Bilawal, currently a student at Oxford. But the father will be custodian of the party until Bilawal completes his studies. It's like an episode of The Tudors. In his first press interview Bilawal spoke of the need for democracy, which, considering the manner of his succession, adds new dimensions to the world "surreal".

Bilawal does sound like a nice young man. He is being described as "reserved", "unassuming", "bookish", and "shy". At Oxford, it is said, "he does not broadcast his family connections and appears to live the life of any other first year student". (Sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll? It seems not). Then again, tons of students at Oxford are "well-connected" (another student said it was not considered "particularly interesting or special"). It's not as though he goes to the John Moores University of Liverpool (known locally as "The John"). And as for being quiet and unassuming, well, so was Michael Corleone.

But then again, living in England, is one really in a position to mock the hereditary principle? Even now 92 members of the legislature are hereditaries, and before 1999 most peers were hereditary. Astonishingly the only peers who are elected are the hereditaries (admittedly by a rather narrow electorate: the other hereditaries!). Talk about surreal. And, of course, the head of state, Elizabeth Saxe-Coburg Gotha, is an hereditary (and she is the hereditary head of the established Church).

Bilawal is certainly taking on an awesome responsibility. One assumes he is now a target for the Islamicist suicide bombers and assassins. It's not, to be frank, an inheritance I would want (I wouldn't mind the cash. Or the Surrey mansion worth - in 1995 - £2.5 million. Those Oxford tuition fees don't pay themselves). But I expect this is something he has been prepared for all his life. Again, just like The Tudors.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Death of a Feudal Princess

So who was it? Al Qaeda? Taliban-inspired religious fruitcakes of some kind or other? Elements within the security services sympathetic to the Taliban? Who knows? In a rather telling use of the double negative yesterday’s Guardian leader surmised that: “…there is no reason to believe that the suicide attack took place without the involvement of elements within Pakistan’s security forces”. The leader suggests they may have pointed the suicide bombers in her direction, rather than actually carry out the assassination themselves. Benazir Bhutto – as much feudal princess as modern politician - was obviously no saint, although she plainly did not lack personal courage. Her time in Government was notorious for corruption (admittedly par for the course in Pakistan) not least that of her husband: “Mr Ten Percent”. She may have been implicated in the murder of her own brother (Murtaza, a rival for control of the Pakistan Peoples Party) but then that’s dynastic politics for you. She was of course thoroughly westernised (hence her appeal in Britain and the US). As William Dalrymple pointed out in the Guardian not so long ago (Sep 1 2007) English was her first language: “She had an English governess and her childhood revolved around a succession of English colonial clubs like the Karachi Gymkhana. She went to a convent run by Irish nuns, and rounded off her education with degrees from Harvard and Oxford”. She was President of the Oxford Union, and in his Guardian obituary Jason Burke remarks rather tartly that: “Those who spent time with her over the years became used to her lengthy, eloquent and sometimes well-informed monologues”. Ouch. By contrast, in Urdu, according to Dalrymple, she spoke “like a well-groomed foreigner: fluently but ungrammatically”. And her Sindhi “is even worse: apart from a few imperatives, she is completely at sea”. (Not an insurmountable disadvantage, the rulers of England after 1066 by-and-large didn’t speak the native language: feudal lords and princesses don’t have to). At the time Dalrymple was writing Bhutto was touring the TV studios, prior to her return to Pakistan and getting “an astonishingly easy ride from her interviewers” (aided by her good English, good looks, and liberal persona). But Dalrymple argued that she was in fact “the person who has done more than anything to bring Pakistan's strange variety of democracy - really a form of elective feudalism - into disrepute”. Apart from the corruption – which reached “epic” levels - her regime was indicted by Amnesty International for “having one of the world's worst records of custodial deaths, extrajudicial killings and torture”. That, I think, is likely to be forgotten over the next few days. Her death seems to leave few options. Despite her failings she seems to have been on the liberal end of the spectrum (by Pakistani standards). Nawar Sharif is Islamist-lite; that he is the Saudi candidate says it all. Vis-à-vis Musharraf, if it’s either him or the “bearded ones” I’d prefer the General any day (whether he will survive this is another matter). Of course, democracy would be nice, but in Pakistan? Dalrymple again: “Real democracy has never thrived here, at least in part because landowning remains the principle social base from which politicians can emerge”.
Saturday's Guardian returns to the theme of military involvement in Bhutto's death: "...(Musharraf) may have had no personal hand in the killing of Pakistan's most popular politician, but in the popular mind (and not just a Sindhi one) he has a general in his ranks who has...". Meanwhile the official account of Bhutto's death is simply incredible: no shots were fired (despite eye witness evidence to the contrary). How did she die? It seems she bumped her head. Unbelievable.
The Guardian also carried an obliquely scabrous profile of Bhutto by Ian Jack. We learn that despite her Harvard and Oxford education her preferred reading was that of a Wooolworth shop assistant ("in private she liked...biographies of British royalty") and that she was a petty snob ("Lord Snowdon!", she said in the car, "I am being photographed by Lord Snowdon!"). What struck Jack was "...her need of idolisation, the worship of the crowds". Yes, she was brave, but "what was she brave for?". Democracy? Jack suggests she was "essentially a dynast whose ideas of public duty came out of some ancestral, unexamined self-regard". A great deal of truth in all this; but I don't think she was quite so trivial a person as Jack implies.
David Ignatious recalls her, as a young wman at Harvard, in a Rolling Stones T-Shirt "the one with the sassy tongue sticking out". God knows what the "bearded ones" would make of that. Ignatious makes the point that blaming Musharraf is a mistake, since essentially both he and Bhutto "battled the same Muslim extremists" (Musharraf has himself survived nine assassination attempts). Good point; trouble is that the security apparatus appears to be riddled with elements sympathetic to those same Muslim extremists.
The leadership of the PPP is now up for grabs. One contender is Makhdoom Amin Fahim (aged 68) who - surprise - " a product of a feudal land-owning family from southern Sindh province". He describes himself as a "social moderate": he "has acknowledged drinking alcohol". Wow! Go Makhmood go! Ah, but: "..His sisters, however, have led much more circumscribed lives". One can only imagine what that means.
Bhutto's husband - Asif Ali Zardari - is seen as an unlikely successor; because he is widely seen as corrupt.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Talking about negotiations

Politaholic thinks the story about MI6 holding talks with Taliban leaders is a bit rum. Cameron questioned Brown about this on December 12th, and now the Telegraph somehow has this story.

In any case it is nonsense.

In his statement on December 12 Brown said the aim was “isolating and eliminating” the Taliban “not negotiating with them”. He then later repeated that he would not "negotiate" with them. As we all know, in diplomatic-speak "talking" and "negotiating" are not the same thing (I seem to remember John Major adopting a similar ploy (and of course it is a disingenuous ploy, but a necessary one) vis-a-vis the Irish Republican Movement; he would not "negotiate" before they renounced the armed struggle, but it turned out they were "talking"). (Of course when "talking" one can always say: "Now you and I are are just "talking", not "negotiating", I have no authority to negotiate, but hypothetically speaking, if we proposed such-and-such what would your response be?" Of course that's not negotiating, absolutely not, perish the thought).

The Telegaph says: "The Prime Minister had denied reports of talks with the Taliban under questioning from David Cameron, the Tory leader, in Parliament. Liam Fox, the shadow defence secretary said: "If this turns out to be untrue the Prime Minister will have some explaining to do to the British public." So far as I can see it is not true Brown denied "talks"; he denied (like Major before him) "negotiations". Fox knows this, unless he is a retard. He sees an opportunity to exploit this - shall we call it a "diplomatic finesse" - against Brown. I don't think it will work. I remember before the war in Iraq the mood was ugly. It was common to hear (especially from young men) talk of going over there are "taking Saddam out". The problem is that no one should ever contemplate war unless they are prepared to take causalties, not just inflict them. After several years of this the public mood is different. I suspect the public will be more tolerant of "talking" than the Tories suspect.

And who are the people being "talked" to? I know very little about this but my guess is that the Taliban is less (or only in part) a centrally-organised hierarchically-led Islamistic "vanguard", and at least as much an alliance or grouping of tribal groups and influencial families. Brown has already said those who lay down their arms are "talkable to" (his December statement referred to the "search for political reconciliation". With whom? Doesn't this involve "talking"? What did Fox think it meant?). On the BBC even as I write this someone is saying: "Tribal leaders can quite easily be Taliban one day and supporters of the Kabul regime the next". And: "Taliban is a shorthand phrase for a whole variety of anti-occupation forces". Talking to some at least seems to make sense in this context.

The truth is that it is always - or should always - be part of the job of the security services to keep open a back-door to all kinds of deeply unpleasant people (and the Taliban are most certainly deeply unpleasant).

It seems the reason for all this is that the Kabul regime are complaining that they were cut out of the loop. They are, so they say, the sovereign power (don't laugh) and the two negotiators did not respect this. I think this translates like this: the Americans are peeved (since the Kabul regime wouldn't fart without US say-so).

Monday, December 24, 2007

Some Inchoate Musings on Gordon's Dilemma

How bad is it? That, apparently, is the question on every Labour MP’s lips. My view is: he is badly wounded, but there is no way to tell if it is fatal.

It started so well. Brown seemed to cope with floods and a failed terrorist attack ably. The opinion polls were good. He signalled that the UK would be less subservient to the US. There was talk of constitutional reform. But…

Brown always faced a more difficult task than Blair. In 1997 Blair faced an exhausted and discredited Tory administration. Brown’s task is to do what has only been done once before in living memory (incredibly, by John Major, in 1992): to win a fourth term for his party. Major himself has often remarked that he thought that in 1992 “the democratic elastic was stretched too far”; meaning - I think - that it was not actually a good thing for one party to win four times (though I think actually he would have been happy had the Tories gone on winning!). Personally, I have some sympathy for this “elastic” view (all governments become lazy and corrupt if in office for too long), but then I feel a tugging at my elbow and hear a whisper in my ear: “Come on, Politaholic”, it says, “Would it not be wonderful if there was never, ever, ever again a single-party Tory Government”? (This is one reason why Labour would be wise to consider electoral reform). Anyway, I drift from the point. Brown’s task is an uphill one; Blair in 1997 was pushing against an open door.

Brown, for all his talk of renewal and change, can hardly depict his government as a fresh departure. He was Chancellor for ten years, and a particularly powerful one. The Government was in effect a Blair/Brown “duopoly”. All the central economic policies of the Government: the good (tax credits - a good idea even if the implementation left much to be desired), the bad (PFI), and the ugly (PFI again), have his fingerprints all over them. Again, Brown may well privately have “had reservations” about the Iraq war, and may have been distressed to see shedloads of cash disappear down an Iraqi plughole, but he said not a dickey-bird. The war is as much his as Blair’s.

There are some problems governments simply cannot solve. There really is no “solution” to health care or crime. There are things a government can do in these areas that are for “better” or for “worse”; but nothing they can do to simply solve all the deep-rooted problems that, as time goes on, they will be increasingly blamed for. There will always be waiting lists and scares about crime figures. I can’t remember a time when there was not. Governments will always, when they have been in office for a time, get it in the neck for this. All governments suffer this fate.

Has he been unlucky? Well, up to a point. It isn’t Brown’s fault some half-wit lost a data disc (and another, and another…). The Tories are trying to say it has to do with cost-cutting. Maybe; but aren’t they the ones who say there are tax-savings from inefficiencies and wastage (that old chestnut)? On the other hand…driving licence details go missing in Iowa. What the bloody hell are they doing in Iowa? Well, it’s obvious; they have been contracted-out to some dippy US-owned private firm. And who is gung-ho about PFI and PPP and contracting-out? Step forward, Gordon Brown.

It hasn’t all been bad luck. Much of it is, as they say, “self-inflicted”. The truth is that Brown is as addicted to spin as was Blair; he just isn’t as good at it (although, mind you, it often back-fired on Blair).

(a) The “Goats” is a disaster waiting to happen. It is a purely opportunist ploy and it will back-fire. If, further done the line, Digby Jones does not resign from the government amid a frenzy of publicity and at a time calculated to do maximum damage to Labour, I will eat my own head.

(b) The “election-that-never-was” made Brown look incompetent and indecisive; particularly damaging since his pitch is that he is “not flash, just Gordon” quietly getting on with the job of governing. Well, no…he was trying to wrong-foot the Tories and it exploded in his face. Worse, he made himself look ridiculous by denying that the decision not to call an election had anything to do with the opinion polls. Does he think we are all stupid? Why not admit it? Why not say, “Well, of course, all politicians take account of the polls, and if David Cameron says differently he is being disingenuous…”? Would that not have been a better line to take?

(c) The inheritance tax decision looked, and was, opportunist. Of course, politicians are opportunist. The trick is not to look it. Not so bloody obviously anyway.

(d) The donations scandal is in some ways a legacy inherited from Blair. But that brings us back to the point that Brown was Chancellor all that time. He cannot say it has nothing whatever to do with him. In any case, why steer poor feckless Harriet Harman towards Abrahams, if you think there is something dodgy about it? Brown’s pledge to reform the system looks a bit like bolting the stable door post facto.

(e) If the Government do end-up nationalising Northern Rock the question will be: why wait so long before doing it? I am not an economist and don't really know if nationalising it is best. I suspect so, since otherwise the government has no real control over the sqillions poured into it, and the execs who fucked things up can stroll off with sackloads of cash. But one thing I do know is this, whether it is best to nationalise or not, it is not a good reason not to nationalise that it will make the government look "old Labour" (that's the obsession with spin again).

(f) What the hell was that farrago about the signing of the European Treaty all about? It angered everyone: pro and anti European (for opposite reasons). Pathetic.

(g) The 42-days detention is another purely opportunist ploy, designed to make the government look "tough". Skipper says the number of labour rebels on this is enough to ensure a government defeat. If so, here's another exercise in spin which will back-fire.

Then there is the vexed question of Gordon’s character. It isn’t so much that he is less comfortable in public than Blair. All that public-school schmooze and charm wears thin after a bit. Brown’s unease in public could be seen as quite an endearing characteristic (“not flash…”); could even be evidence of sincerity and genuineness (as against Cameron’s off-putting PR polish). No, the problem is two-fold. First, Brown seems to have no sense of humour whatsoever; when he smiles he looks like someone who has been told that he should smile. Then again, Thatcher had no sense of humour (famously not getting the joke when she said of Whitelaw that “every Prime Minister should have a Willie”), it isn’t necessarily a fatal flaw in a politician. But in Brown’s case it doesn’t help. Second, he seems to lack any sense of self-depreciation (so did Thatcher, but Blair was good at it, or at pretending it); he is evidently utterly intolerant of criticism (he seems to find it physically unbearable); he obviously loses his temper with Cameron at PMQ’s; and goats notwithstanding finds it impossible to give up government-by-cabal. I suspect that in these respects he will never change. Old dogs.

Then there is the economy. From what I can gather from reading the economics pages it looks like a bad patch – credit crunch, stalling house prices – is looming. The obvious conclusion is that this will damage the government. Maybe. Maybe not. Perhaps voters will prefer a steady hand at the wheel to the untried PR man Cameron? If only Brown can convince the voters that his hand is steady. (Then again, as Clive Dunn would say, Middle England “don’t like it up them”; they will squeal and squeal if they can’t turn their houses into cash-generating machines. But property prices will pick-up again. Eventually).

Then there are the polls. Bad for Labour; but not as good for the Conservatives as they might be. Indicating a hung parliament rather than a Tory victory. Hence Cameron’s earnest wooing of the Lib-Dems; although, as Charles Kennedy pointed out on the Marr show recently, it is a bit of a problem that one party is pro-European and the other is still Eurosceptic (hardly much of a “progressive consensus” there). Incidentally, isn’t it odd that both opposition parties are now led by Blair clones, each following the Blair “how-to” book to the letter?

And there is time. There need not be an election until 2010; although it will probably be 2009. It’s a long way off. Paul Linford says Brown has six weeks to sort things out. I guess the argument is that, if it remains as bad as it is now in six weeks the “brand image” (of incompetence and failure) will have become permanently fixed, and won’t change thereafter. Skipper suggested six months, but now thinks maybe Linford is right. Bob Piper is more optimistic. I think I agree with Piper; it’s a long way off, and a lot can happen. True, Major never really recovered from Black Wednesday, but failing to call an election isn’t in the same league, and although Brown has the problem of the exiled Blair court quietly spinning like mad against him (while all the time denying that they are doing any such thing and pledging loyalty), the party is not divided in the way Major’s was over Europe.

So what is the conclusion? Don’t know really. I think it is not over yet, by a long chalk. The Tories have their vulnerabilities too: their grassroots is restless, and Cameron is all fluff. It’s half-time. Labour scored an early goal; but now the Tories are a frankly jammy two-one up. There is still the second half. Here is what the manager said at half time: a bit less spin, lads; stop re-announcing policies already announced (an old Brown foible); don’t be so obsessed with tactically wrong-footing the Conservatives, just concentrate on your own game; get out of Iraq (and Afghanistan) as quickly as bloody possible (so to speak); take some distance from Dubbya; find some radical policies (stop talking about constitutional reform and bloody well do it); and, you, Gordon, lighten up, old son, you’re Prime Minister…

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Queen is a moron; the earth is not flat

According to David Starkey, Elizabeth Windsor is "poorly educated" and boorish. In short, she is a moron. It's hardly a shocker, is it? I mean, the whole family has had the most expensive private education and between them they have 2 O levels in art history. Or something like that. What next? Starkey reveals that the earth is not flat, that water turns into steam when boiled, and that TV historians are histrionic poseurs? Mind you, Starkey's stance is a bit refreshing, especially coming so soon after the programme in which we saw Blair effuse about how wise she was and how much he looked forward to his weekly meetings with her. Piffle. These PM/Queen meetings (and I doubt if they are weekly, since one or other is out of town so often) must be the dreariest waste of time for Prime Ministers. But once out of office what can they say except how much they looked forward to them, how much they gained from them, etc, etc? Some truths are just not allowed to be spoken. So, I'm a little surprised by Starkey. He does like his Queens, but not this one it seems.

The UK is not a Catholic country; it is an irreligious one (thank God)

The least surprising news of the millennium is that Tony Blair has converted to Catholicism. For someone who didn’t “do God” he contrived to ensure that his approach to Catholicism was well-publicised. It’s a bit like Blair’s claim that he would not exploit his children for political purposes. Of course he didn’t, but then again…from the “Ewan test” for the Dome to that mug, he sort of did, didn’t he?

Meanwhile, following on Nick Clegg’s avowal of disbelief, the Mail on Sunday reports that only 8 members of the Labour Cabinet say they believe in God. Most of the others avoided the question. Those who said that they did not believe were David Miliband and Alan Johnson. Intriguingly, the more interesting answers were given by Tories. For example: “Patrick McLoughlin, the Tory Chief Whip, said: "I am a Christian – perhaps not a very good one. Do I believe in a single being called God? That is a slightly different question." What can he mean? Could he be saying that he believes in religion (because of what he believes to be its socially beneficent effects) but, of course, he is not so stupid as to actually believe in God? It isn’t clear that this is what he means, but if so it is an impeccably Conservative answer (it’s good if the plebs believe it, but me?, don’t be daft, old chap). He might of course be ruminating on the trinity (not a “single being” but a hat-trick); who can say?

The Telegraph reports that Britain has become a Catholic country. Well, not quite. There are 25 million who say they are “C of E” and only 4.2 million Catholics. But the Catholics are church-going and the Anglicans less so: 861,000 to 852,000 last year. It seems Catholicism has been boosted by EU migrants; all those “Polish plumbers”. Most of the “C of E” obviously do not hold very intense religious beliefs (thank the good Lord for that); so what the evidence really suggests is that the UK is an irreligious society.

Then again, a few years ago the survey evidence suggested that there were more atheists than Catholics (18% to 11% of the population according to a MORI poll in 2001); although “C of E” considerably outnumbered both. Atheists do, however, probably outnumber church-going Anglicans. So you could just as easily argue that the UK is becoming atheist. Of course, I realise this is not to compare like-with-like. Church-going is costly, in terms of time. Us atheists don’t have to go anywhere, prostrate ourselves on our belly, declare ourselves miserable sinners, and worship some omnipotent magnificence we’ve never seen. We can go to the pub instead.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Blair, Clegg, and Religion

Tony Blair, in his recent series of softball – and unbearably tedious – interviews with the absurdly self-important David Aaronovitch, favourably compared the United States with the UK vis-à-vis public attitudes towards religion. He said that in the USA the open discussion of one’s faith is acceptable, but that in the UK he, as Prime Minister, was reluctant to talk about his faith in case people thought he was a “nutter”.

These remarks are utterly disingenuous for two reasons. First, despite Alistair Campbell’s oft-reported comment that “we don’t do God” Blair did in fact “do God”. His religious beliefs were well known, and widely reported, and on occasion he himself commented on them (most notoriously in the Panorama interview when he said he was answerable to God for the decision to go to war in Iraq). His religious beliefs were no barrier to high office. Nor are they for Ruth (Opus Dei) Kelly, nor were they for David Blunkett, nor (under the Tories) for Ann Widdicombe, Whatshisname Gummer, nor anyone else.

And this is the second reason why Blair’s remarks were – to be charitable - disingenuous. For in the United States publicly expressed non-belief is a barrier to office. It is not that politicians can discuss their faith, it is that they must; and if they do not, or if they express disbelief, they will be hounded from public office. Blair got things precisely the wrong way round; in this matter Britain is a fairly liberal society (most people don’t really care what a politician’s religious views are) and the USA is most decidedly not.

One is reminded of this by Nick Clegg’s recent disavowal of religious belief. Admittedly, he is an odd kind of atheist, and subsequent to his original admission he has backtracked somewhat. We now learn that he is more “agnostic” than “atheist”; that he brings up his children as Catholics; and, of course, he has nothing but the utmost respect and esteem (blah, blah) for those of a religious bent. Even so, if Clegg were a politician in the USA his career would now be over. Instead, even the Archbishop of Canterbury is relaxed about Clegg’s non-belief; and it will probably do him no harm at all (it won’t do him any good, but it won’t do him any harm). That is the difference, in this matter, between Britain and the USA, and I know which I prefer.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A Police State?

No, of course not, not yet anyway. But I have just seen the chairwoman of the Police Federation calling for the resignation of the Home Secretary (on Channel Four news). What the hell are coppers doing meddling in politics? We don't (yet) live in Latin American, do we?

Apparently the peelers are threatning to go on strike. I am reminded of what Dorothy Parker said when told that Calvin Coolidge had died: "How can they tell?". I am not sure I would notice any difference where I live. If I phone the cops in the middle of the night because drug dealers/prositutes are causing a problem I am laconically informed that: "It's not a priority". But then I don't live in Didsbury.

I know, let the Police Federation hold a ballot. They can choose the PM. Only fair.

(p.s. Politaholic posts infrequently at the moment. Pressure of work)

Sunday, December 02, 2007


More than a thousand demonstrators in Khartoum have demanded that Gillian Gibbons be sentenced to death for "insulting Islam". A group of men shouted that: "She must be killed by the sword". An imman, broadcasting on national radio, said she had likened the prophet to a bear, an animal that is "alien to Islam"....(as reported in yesterday's Guardian). Do these people have any idea how ridiculous they are? And anyway, what's wrong with bears?

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Where does the money come from?

So who is David Abrahams? According to Wednesday's Guardian his father was Lord Mayor of Newcastle in the early 1980's and "built up an empire of rented housing, much of it of a standard which might now be called "sub-prime"...". Abrahams inherited this and in 1992 was convicted of "illegally evicting a tenant from a flat" (although the Guardian does not describe how this was accomplished).

So there we have it...local politics...."sub-prime" rented property....illegal evictions....

Of what does this remind you?

Then again, a letter in yesterday's Guardian by Peter Walker hit the nail right on the head. The Conservatives have received "hundreds of thousands of pounds" from "unincorporated associations" such as the Midlands Industrial Council (which donated £300,000) and Scottish Business Groups Focus on Scotland (which donated £200,000). Walker asks whether these bodies could possibly be "comprised of individuals who wish to hide their identity" (for whatever reason). Again, at the end of PMQ's on Wednesday a Labour backbencher (whom I couldn't identify) suggested that the internal enquiry (I know, calling it an enquiry is a joke) widen its remit to look at "the audit trail of the Ashcroft money".

Anyway that's all I have time for now. I have my domestic chores. Right now I'm off to the laundrette.