Saturday, December 13, 2008

Brown's Sickening 'Taste For War'

The sickening spectacle of Brown paying tribute to brave soldiers killed in action while presiding over an unwinnable war is difficult to stomach. Using the lame excuse of a war on terror, the government is spinning its way out of the Iraq frying-pan into the Afghanistan fire.

As Brown prepares to make his glorious announcement of troop withdrawals from Iraq as part of his election campaign, he's been forced to resurrect the once discredited 'war on terror' excuse for sending scores of soldiers to their deaths in what is now the new Vietnam.

With blood on his hands, a change in political mood and waning public support, Brown was forced to think up another excuse as he paid tribute to the four Royal Marines killed in this hugely expensive and totally pointless war. 

Trying to rationalise why UK troops will continue to be sent to the killing fields, he said the men "died in the front line of terror" and "would never be forgotten" for what they had achieved on behalf of Britain. 

Playing the "terror" card and arguing that "we are safer in Britain" because of the work they do there is a nonsense. The threat from fundemental Islamic terrorism is worldwide. Tribal Afghans, Tailban or not, are not preparing to invade this country. 

Using the bogyman of the Tailban, he told troops they were "operating as the front line against them, making sure that they cannot make advances, holding them in, and holding al-Qaeda in as well."

It is no coincidence that Brown is in Afghanistan with a weak case for keeping troops there and increasing numbers, while preparations are being made for a withdrawal from Iraq. 

Only history will explain why the legacy of this Bush-Blair war has been allowed to escalate, going down as one of the most expensive and politically disastrous follies of recent decades with the most outrageous loss of life and human suffering.

Now, as the number of UK military personnel kiled in Afghanistan since 2001 has risen to 132, we are in danger of reporting death by numbers. A tally of the dead, followed by a heartfelt tribute and then forgotten. 

The Orange Party has warned on numerous occasions the parallels with Vietnam are deeply disturbing. 

As in Vietnam, it is the elite troops which will bear the brunt of casualties as they operate with scant cover, well outside the heavily fortified bases, making them easy targets to be picked off. Deaths in the elite 45 Commando regiment are just the latest example of this. 

The Orange Party is proud to be part of the band of journalists like seasoned Sunday Times corespondent Christina Lamb and political journalist Simon Jerkins, making a powerful case for troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, along with the growing number of like-minded politicians.

But sending troops to Afghanistan will continue to escalate, until Brown and his ministers stop copying Blair and his infamous "taste for war". 

The Orange Party is equally proud of our armed forces. But the waste of human life in this "bloody, hopeless, mad war" is shameful. 


Friday, December 12, 2008

Lies, Damn Lies And Knife Crime Stats

Officials tried in vain to stop the government's 'reckless' release of yesterday's much vaunted knife crime figures which have been exposed as a sham by the very body which compiles the statistics. Ministers and Downing Street spinners have been blasted for 'corroding public trust' by using 'selective' figures to claim they are winning the war on the streets.

That 17% fall in serious injuries and deaths over the past six months, dominated the TV news bulletins. It seemed too good to be true - and indeed it was. 

Once again this spinning government has been exposed for manipulating crime statistics to suit their own ends, pulling the wool over our eyes and peddling lies. 

Head of the UK Statistics Authority, Sir Michael Scholar, attacked the figures as "irregular" and "premature" and said the Office for National Statistics (ONS) had tried to block their release.

Ministers were quick to use the figures to prove they're winning the war on knife crime. But the figures covered just six months since the £2m home office campaign targeting 10 knife crime hotspots.

Many smelt a rat as these strange statistics popped up from nowhere and grabbed the headlines, all packaged up for the TV news bulletins, with smiling home secretary Jacqui Smith and prime minister Gordon Brown. 

But Sir Michael, in his letter to No 10 and the home office,  said the figures were not due for release "for some time" and that officials at the ONS  tried to stop their release.

Thursday's figures appeared to suggest there had been a sharp fall in the number of teenagers caught carrying knives and hospital admissions due to knife wounds in areas targeted by police.

Sir Michael said the figures were provisional and had not passed through the "regular process of checking and quality assurance". 

Ominously he had been told by ONS officials that officials or advisers in No 10 caused the home office to issue a press release containing the information.

"I hope you will agree that the publication of prematurely released and unchecked statistics is corrosive of public trust in official statistics and incompatible with the high standards which we are all seeking to establish."

So government ministers and Downing Street spinners sanctioned the selective and manipulative spinning of these statistics. Peddling lies is a shameful and irresponsible way to run the country. 


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Germans Save World From Brown

Brown won't be saving the world at today's EU summit, instead he'll be forced to save his own skin, as Germany wiped the grin off his face, slamming borrowing Brown's economic plans as 'crass' and 'breathtaking'.

Downing Street's rapid rebuttal claims Germany is 'out of step' but it is Brown who is out of step and out of touch with reality.

Like many, the Orange Party rolled around with mirth as Flash Gordon told the commons he'd saved the world. He's having a laugh ... is he having a laugh? Then the awful truth sank in. Brown actually believes all the crap his lord and master Mandelson is feeding him.

The attack came from an unlikely source, Germany's finance minister and economist, Peer Steinbruck. That cannot be dismissed as a right-wing Conservative rant, because Steinbruck is from the centre left - a social democrat - here he'd fit in nicely with New Labour.

Steinbr├╝ck's attack struck a chord. The Orange Party has long believed the prime minister's borrowing binge solution is a sham. More to do with political advantage than economics. A way of digging both Brown and Bush out of the economic hole of their own making.

What did we get in the leaked, pre-budget election Budget? A piddling little stunt to cut VAT and a cunning plan to "toss around billions", causing record-breaking national debt and a burden on the UK economy for a generation.

Steinbruck is in no doubt the government's plans are ineffective and expensive.

"Are you really going to buy a DVD player because it now costs £39.10 instead of £39.90? All this will do is raise Britain's debt to a level that will take a whole generation to work off ...The switch from decades of supply-side politics all the way to a crass Keynesianism is breathtaking."

The Orange Party believes the key to UK prosperity is manufacturing. But for a decade the government has allowed manufacturing to rot, preferring instead to switch to an economy based on the financial institutions of the City. Only perhaps pharmaceuticals have survived in any strength.

Not so in Germany, which is the biggest manufacturer and exporter in the world. A strong manufacturing base creates real jobs and pumps real cash into the economy and helps Germany weather the economic storm.

A reliance on cheap shoddy imports from China made with slave labour in appalling conditions was a high price to pay for false prosperity. Pumping billions into the coffers then going with a begging bowl to the same country to borrow billions at high interest is a topsy-turvy was of running an economy and a country.

Downing Street spinners reckon Germany "was in a minority position and out of step with most other countries on how to deal with the looming recession". But if a powerful manufacturing country like Germany with a sensible finance minister reckons Brown is talking crap - then it is Brown who is 'out of step', not the other way round.

At the heart is the stark economic fact that it was a decade of borrowing which caused the current financial mess.

As Steinbruck said: "When I ask about the origins of the crisis, economists I respect tell me it is the credit-financed growth of recent years and decades. Isn't this the same mistake everyone is suddenly making again, under all the public pressure?"

12pm UPDATE: Government ministers and supporters have been rallying around their beleaguered boss. But even Downing Street's mouthpiece, Nick Robinson (bless) isn't his usual BBC Brown self: "There is, dare I suggest, another perfectly plausible theory. Mr Steinbruck believes what he says and does agree rather more with Mr Cameron than with Mr Brown, even though they come from the opposite ends of the political spectrum." Just what is he trying to say?


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Flash Crash Gordon's Gaffe

Flash Gordon or Crash Gordon? Moses or Superman? Brown's grip on reality was laid bare during PMQs as he blew the gaffe and blurted out: "We not only saved the world..." to howls of laughter. In your dreams. But the sad thing is, Brown probably believes it.


Bevan Will Be Turning In His Grave

The welfare state is being dismantled by a heartless government bent on using a big stick to beat the weak and vulnerable, with a raft of cock-eyed draconian plans.

Harsh, misguided measures of social control will replace the benefits culture with Orwellian anti-social insecurity, ripping Bevan's In Place of Fear to shreds.

After more than a decade of lulling people into a false sense of security, creating a soft benefit culture, that same government now turns round with plans to pull the rug from under the feet of those who have come to rely on state handouts as a way of life.

It took a decade to create this dependence on a benefits culture, it should take a decade to remove it.

The government created the benefits culture, wasting billions of pounds on half-baked job creation schemes to keep down the dole queues and spin the stats. Scrapping the New Deal sham and creating real jobs would be of more benefit, as Labour MP Frank Field has suggested today.

Welfare reforms are needed. But this shameful move to use the big stick of penalties and community service to force people into work, smacks of social control and rips the heart out of the welfare state.

Wielding a big stick needs an army of enforcers made up of petty pen-pushing officials or more likely contracted out to a private army of uncaring, disinterested contractors, forcing people to jump through hoops for a crust of bread and a roof over their head.

The welfare state was created as a safety net so no-one would be left out in the cold to suffer the hardship of illness, homelessness and starvation. It gave people in desperate times the insurance of food in their belly and a sense of security. It was never meant as an alternative to work but equally it was never meant as an agent of social control.

The government made welfare reform a centrepiece of the Queen's Speech under the joke title of 'fairness'. But sinister plans by Blairite work and pensions minister, James Purnell, include penalties for people who turn down job offers or interviews, including the loss of benefits so the kids go hungry, or mandatory community service forcing claimants to clean up other people's crap.

Plans to get the jobless back to work, or cut their benefits have already been slammed by a senior government adviser who warned the new measures may push people into poverty and should be delayed.

For those with their roots in the Labour movement, the cruel and heartless plans are nothing short of heresy with some backbench left-wingers threatening revolt.

That action is laudable. There just aren't the jobs out there anymore. With the country facing a grave economic crisis, the move will do nothing to help the millions caught up in the poverty trap of spiralling debt and despair.

Once again, it's innocent children who will suffer, struggling parents will be forced onto the streets, picking up a menial and degrading job while scratching around for childcare.

But just what did they expect? Time and again New Labour has been exposed as a smug, arrogant bunch with no heart and no soul. Any pretence ministers had to care for the traditions of a welfare state or the less fortunate were ripped to shreds a long time ago.

In 1952 Nye Bevan published In Place of Fear, a landmark in socialist literature. Today he'll be turning in his grave.

The Orange Party would be happy to man the barricades of socialism. But the true Labour Party had its chance over the summer to kick out the New Labour usurpers. They blew it, preferring instead the power, influence and privileges of government.

It's a bit rich now coming over all sanctimonious - just where have they been hiding for the last ten years?

The dependence on a benefits culture must end but reforms need to be brought in with a caring heart and compassion, not bulldozed through as a cheap trick to plug Brown's borrowing gap on the slippery slope of social control.


Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Mandy's Smoking Gun

The divide between Cameron's Conservatives and Brown's Old for New Labour became clearer today as the two Parties square up for the general election. The power behind the throne, Lord Mandelson, is working overtime preparing the groundwork. 

Time and again Cameron rammed home Thatcher's housewife message of thrift while at the same time condemning borrowing Brown and relentlessly attacking the government's miserable failed economic policies.

Yet within all that talk was the clearest call for a general election - the clearest indicator yet that the Tory Party believes an election is just round the corner. And strategically for the Conservatives it makes sense to make that call now.

Today's push poll in the Times is reported by many as showing the gap between the Parties is narrowing with a four-point Tory lead.

If the government is so good for the country and with the economy it should be riding high in the popularity stakes. But as yet it isn't. That's despite the monumental propaganda exercise over the leaked PBR, Queen's Speech and Mandelson's efforts to portray Brown as the saviour of the world. Only crafty Balls has managed to capture the high ground over Baby P. 

Yesterday's commons vote on the Harman motion was a turning point for the Tories. A parliamentary issue had degenerated into a tribal political squabble, as the government kicked the Green inquiry, stuffed anyway with its own supporters, into touch. 

But there were only four votes in it despite the heavy handed pressure from the whips. That brought gasps from the Tory benches. That was too close for comfort for the government. Now both Parties know it doesn't take much to tip backbench Labour MPs over the edge.

Today's silly little smokescreen over cigarettes saw a bemused health secretary, Alan Johnson, trying taking some credit for the watered down line on smoking but behind him and every minister these days lurks the shadowy hand of the king of the castle - Lord Mandleson, stepping in from the shadows to protect small businesses.

Mandy's charm offensive knows no bounds. He's the small businessman's friend but only as long as it helps capture that crucial middle vote which traditionally sways to the Tories. 

Conservatives know the economy is Brown's Achilles Heel. They'll continue to drive home their message as the country sinks deeper into recession with dreadful consequences in the real world economy.

Westminster is starting to go over all Christmasy. In the New Year Brown begins his meet the people tour of the country, the long-awaited Iraq troop withdrawal begins, followed by the visit by then president Obama in April, as government spinners try their best to capture the media and convince voters. 

The Orange Party was formed in May as an independent voice in the dying days of the New Labour Project, knowing that it probably had just one year left to live, to May/June 2009. But that was before the return of the charming Mandleson.


Monday, December 08, 2008

Whose Parliament Is It Anyway?

MPs right to launch an immediate cross-party inquiry into the Greengate scandal is being stifled by a government trying every trick in the book to put a lid on the whole affair.

As MPs meet for the first time to fully discuss the outrage, the future of parliament is at stake. MPs should tell government ministers and their political police poodles to stuff it.

The heavy-handed anti-terrorist police raid on senior opposition spokesman, Damian Green's private commons office has made a mockery of the elected House, left democracy in tatters and the country appalled and afraid we are slipping further into a police state. The Greengage scandal exposes a government which preaches tolerance at the expense of justice, truth and freedom.

But this is showing all the signs of descending into a squalid party political squabble over the future of the speaker and the right of parliament to investigate the twist and turns of this monumental blunder and affront to civil liberties.

MPs do not hold a divine right to rule, they are elected. Their overriding job is to uphold the rights of parliament, not their Party, not the speaker, certainly not the police and not the government of the day. And that truism holds just as much for the prime minister and his home secretary as it does for a humble backbencher.

At the centre is the role of the police, the government, the commons ringmaster, Michael Martin and the right of MPs to mount an immediate cross-party inquiry.

The motion to hold back on an inquiry until the police investigation is over, tabled by leader of the House, Harriet Harman, has its own delicious irony. As a civil liberties lawyer in the 1980s, Harman herself was found in contempt of court in a landmark battle with the home office, the outcome of which is used as a legal precedent to this day (harman v home office [1983]).

Some of the government's own backbenchers are accusing ministers of trying to kick the row into touch, well aware that a police investigation could take months to complete, bringing the MP's inquiry hard up against a general election.

There are enough top legal minds at Westminster to form a committee, round up the usual suspects, subject them to forensic questioning and bring this matter to a swift conclusion. With full parliamentary privilege and no issues of national security here, that should be held in public.

But asking the key players what they knew and when they knew it, is just what the government does not want to happen. Already a likely committee of seven, stuffed with government supporters, has led the LibDems to threaten a boycott, joined this afternoon by the Tories.

The discredited speaker is toast, despite last-ditch government smokescreens. A letter from Met commissioner Bob Quick, to the home secretary Jacqui Smith, posted here, flatly contradicts the speaker's version of events. Someone is clearly telling porkies. Now the only question left to resolve is does he jump or will he be pushed into cosy retirement in the Lords.

With the top job at the Met up for grabs, the issue has become more political than ever. The convenient ongoing police inquiry, as feared by the Orange Party earlier, as this debacle unfolded, is a neat move to allow the government to hide behind that inquiry with little comment.

The opposition, with LibDem support, has been joined by outspoken voices from the Labour backbenches. But government ministers, backed by the powerful whips, hope they can rely on the huge gang of payroll MPs to steamroll through their wishes.

The New Year bring a whole different ball game, as Brown sets off on his 'meet the people' tour of the country as part of his election campaign. By then Greengate will take a back seat, as party politics and electioneering move into top gear.

Parliament reflects the will of the people through its elected members. It is for parliament to decide when and how to hold an inquiry, what to do about their discredited speaker and how to stop the police from descending further into a mere political tool of government.

That is not something to be decided and engineered for political advantage on the whim of a government of the day nor by party political bickering or misplaced tribal loyalties.

Private Eye editor, Ian Hislop, jokingly described the Greengate scandal as the most important challenge facing parliament since - Magna Carta. Only Hislop probably wasn't joking.

5pm UPDATE: Blair's former home secretary, Charles Clarke, intends to vote against the government over the outrageous plan to put off the commons inquiry. Clarke has told whips the vote is a "House of Commons matter" - commons code for voting against the government, according to the Westminster Mole. With a packed House, a full Tory and Lib Dem turnout and a good number of angry backbench Labour MPs, it is set to be a knife-edge vote this evening.