I don't like the death penalty. The taking of life should never be done lightly, in many parts of the world it is used too often and the burden of proof is set far to low.
But for those who will be up in arms about Saddam Hussein being put to death remember those killed Halabja in 1988, these were not unintentional casualties caught up near a military target, they were civilians targeted in a chemical weapon reprisal attack.
This alone would justify the death penalty in my mind but this was far from all this evil man was responsible for.
You can't be a minister and campaign against government policy. Hazel Blears seems not to understand the concept of collective responsibility, on the one hand she wants to keep in with Brown/Blair yet won't stand up and defend an unpopular (and wrong) policy.
I predict that there will be a lot more "off message" activities and announcements from Labour MPs between now and the next General Election. Nu Labour and Tony Blair were once seen as electoral assets to Labour candidates, not any more.
Not many I expect and until we know how much money is going to whom it is fair to look at this as just another Home Office gimmick.
And once again it shows that the Government just don't have any ideas about dealing with antisocial behaviour. Asbos are now a badge of honor, night courts started with a bang and went out with a whimper, police "marching" yobs to cashpoints never even started.
Talking tough is easy, being tough is not much harder, the real skill is being just tough enough and no more.
The thing that is most surprising to me is that General Shirreff is the operational head of a unit on operations. For him to make comments like this breaks so many traditional protocols it is hard to know where to begin.
Things must be truly desperate for him to speak out like this. Are Des Browne and Gordon Brown listening? I fear not.
I have said it before and I will say it again; Des Browne is either a liar or an incompetent, whichever it is he should not be in his job. I wrote here about his inability to get his head around his brief and he seems not to have improved.
There are lots of ministerial jobs where cluelessness need not be a huge disadvantage, Sec of State for Defence is not one of them. He was previously minister in charge of immigration at the Home Office, not a great record of success.
When you make mistakes in Defence people die.
I have no confidence in his commitment to or competence for the role. Please step aside and let someone half decent get on with the job.
I have just seen this article about the ex-head of the Navy complaining about underfunding too. How many more senior military people will it need to speak out before something is done.
There are public services which remain inefficient and unreformed but have money thrown at them and yet the armed forces have been slimmed, trimmed and "rightsized" but get an increasingly small proportion of public spending. Ant this despite a huge increase in commitments.
What would people say if the NHS had to double its activity levels while having its budgets cut?
This is just getting beyond a joke. The ultimate insult to the British airborne soldiers who have so recently come back from Afghanistan.
Look at the Parachute Regiment beret badge above, can you see the bit it the middle? It's a parachute.
And so is the central element of this one.
Take away the parachute capability and you destroy a large part of what makes these soldiers some of the best in the world. Gordon and Tony like to play the power games on the world stage but yet again we see that they are not willing to fund the conflicts that they commit us to.
This shows not only how little they understand the armed forces but how little respect they have for the men and women who put their lives on the line.
And if you think this is a new thing, read this account by St Crispin of how important a previous Sec of State for Defence thought a briefing from a general was.
The New Deal has been criticised by the Conservatives for ages. Whenever we do so the Minister in charge falls back on the old "you Tories are ogres" defence, which in this case is based around a combination of "you want young people not to have jobs" and "unemployment soared under the Conservatives".
The first point is clearly rubbish and the figures published in the Times proves that Labour have failed miserably to tackle youth unemployment.
Just like the gold sell off, tax credits, pension credits, etc. another of Gordon Brown's pet projects has shown itself to be well intentioned but useless. If he had just given the Bank of England its independence and then retired he might have got away with it.
The chronic shortage of key military equipment is a huge issue. I heard stories from TA soldiers deployed to Iraq after being told that kit deficiencies would be "sorted in theatre" and getting to Kuwait to be told that the should have "sorted it out in Chilwell". The buck cannot stop anywhere other with the Secretary of State for Defence.
The Government has abused the British Army's "can do" attitude and asked them to do difficult jobs, in hostile environments against highly motivated enemies without the tools to do the job.
Sgt Roberts was killed because of equipment shortages but there are hundreds of soldiers who have had to deal with the fear of stepping out from behind cover not confident that their weapon will fire. They have had to drive along streets knowing their vehicles cannot protect them from a roadside bomb. They are working in small groups dispersed over large areas with radios that habitually don't work.
These soldiers need to be apologised to as well, when they wake up sweating and screaming because the Army's psychological support is overstretched apologise to them then too.
The armed forces are being asked to do more and more and more with less and less and less. Conflict costs lives, but to waste lives like that of Sgt Roberts is inexcusable.
Harriet Harman has said that we should shift the focus to the users of prostitutes rather than the prostitutes themselves. This is a fair point, there would be no prostitution if there were no clients.
However there will always be clients, prostitution is known as the "oldest profession in the world" for a reason.
The elephant in the room is that a huge proportion of prostitutes are addicted to drugs. I don't have figures but it would not surprise me if almost all street prostitutes were habitual drug users, indeed many prostitutes start out by swapping sex for a hit when they are low on money.
These women live incredibly dangerous lives, the Ipswich murders have hit the headlines but the number of unreported assaults must run into the hundreds of thousands each year. The driving force behind their continued life of prostitution is the need to fund a drug habit.
The young women who were murdered in Suffolk died because of their drug habit, it is as simple as that. Our current drugs policy has proven itself to be almost completely ineffective and the old adage that "madness is doing the same thing over and over and yet expecting a different result" rings true here.
Either Labour or we will have to be bold in our approach to the drugs issue and I genuinly think that only the Conservatives can take the steps necessary.
Because over and over again Labour have ducked the tough choices and thrown money at each and every problem that has come along. This is a deeply reactionary position. Don't change, don't innovate, don't reform, just spend more money doing the same thing.
In no other part of our lives would this approach be acceptable. If you found out that your car's gearbox was damaged would you be happy if the mechanic suggested that you "just put more petrol in the tank"?
Despite all their rhetoric Labour are not reformers. So much crime is driven by drugs, so much international terrorism is funded by drugs, so many lives are ruined and lost through drugs that we have to be willing to look at an effective way of dealing with it. And if the effective action sounds unpalatable to some or even most people then we should not be deflected from doing what we believe to be right.
There will be no simple answers or quick fixes. We have to tackle why people take drugs, the Conservatives have looked into this in great depth, Labour haven't. We need to look at how we take money out of the drugs trade, remember drug dealing is not about drugs it is about money. And finally we have to look at why people produce drugs and what can we do to ween them off that production.
No small tasks those, but just because we have a mountain to climb should not mean that we shy away from taking the first steps.
Thank you to Iain and Guido for my hang-over this morning (especially Guido).
The Christmas drinks for the contributors to The Little Red Book of New Labour Sleaze was great fun. It had hoped that Friday would have been sensible but I ended up with two lunchtime invites and three evening invites.
I was sensible with the lunches, I only went to one, but I was foolhardy with the evening events. Attempting to navigate to three events ranging from West to SE London was, in hindsight, doomed to failure and I apologise to the Lewisham Deptford team for my no show.
My punishment for letting them down took the form of my two boys full of beans and 6.15 this morning. I was in a lot of pain!
The fact that this memo was written, the fact that it was leaked and its content all point to a government in complete meltdown.
The memo itself only says what Conservative commentators and politicians have been saying for the last year and what the public have been saying back to us.
What does this memo mean?
I guess that this is a warning shot across the bows of Gordon Brown rather than any serious attempt to "renew" the Labour party. It may mean that Blair's favoured outcome is a new face in Number 1o, neither Brown or Reid, Miliband perhaps.
Andrew Marr's show tomorrow morning could be interesting.
I will not use this post to into the situation with the British military again but my thoughts go out to his wife and family. It is worth remembering that the conflict continues and the casualties increase. Marines Richard Watson, Gary Wright and Jonathan Wigley being the most recent.
As we enjoy the Christmas break spare a thought to those still scattered around the world doing the Queens business and the families who wait at home for them.
But he did say that there was no evidence for extending the detention without charge for over 28 days. Just what the Conservatives said all along.
At the time we were accused of toying with the safety of the nation, playing politics with our security etc. Like so many things the Government quietly implements sensible, practice Conservative proposals after accusing us of being mad for suggesting them.
Still wondering why Cameron isn't parading our policies just yet?
I have to take deep breathes when I write about this man.
------- (Pause, count to 10 then continue writing) -------
Defence questions. A chance to show the House and the country that the Minister is on top of his brief, what actually happened was that he showed once again what a . . . . . he is.
- - - (Calm down James) - - -
He defended his governments treatment of the woefully underfunded/overcommitted armed forces by saying that the Tories had cut defence spending. Yes we did, when we cut defence commitments.
What job do you think that he really wants? He clearly has no passion for the defence brief, has little respect for soldiers, doesn't listen to advice, seems not to know who is where and doing what and can't grasp even the most basic of logistical requirements.
I received an email from the father of a young Royal Marine in Afghanistan, he was clearly frustrated and worried. I doubt that he had much confidence in the current Secretary of State for Defence.
Estelle Morris resigned because school performance was slipping, what will it take for Des Browne to do the decent thing?
Lack of posts due to: Conservative candidates conference on Saturday day, Christmas party on Saturday night, hangover Sunday morning, visiting friends in the Midlands on Sunday afternoon.
So what have I missed?
Pinoche dead! Right wing dictator who instigated the murder of thousands of his political oponents but who also brought in economic reform in Chile and helped us during the Falklands. On balance a nasty piece of work and I'm not sorry he's dead.
Queen's granddaughter is SPOTY. Well done you, Maam!
Labour trying to hide the complete balls-up that is the CSA behind an unworkable gimmick. If not giving prisoners hard drugs breaches the Human Rights Act what makes John Hutton think that "naming & shaming" on a web site won't?
Oh and the media ridiculing IDS an Dominic Grieve for sugesting we tackle the rise in family breakdown and youth crime. It is late so I will park my rant about this for another time, but in short: Either help us look for solutions or shut up complaining about it!
Toby Horton has used the saddest, most clichéd and arrogant of defection lines. “I didn’t leave the Conservative Party, the Conservative Party has left me”. The implication is that he is right and that everyone else in the party is wrong.
Toby, goodbye and thanks for all the fish!
He claims that the tipping point is the Conservative party's "embrace of Polly Toynbee", I think that this shows Toby's inability to read rather than his grasp of politics. The argument about relative and absolute poverty is an important one and Polly's "desert caravan" metaphor is one of the more sensible things that she has written.
Agreeing with this as a measure of poverty does not mean that Cameron has become a tax and spend left winger. Indeed Labour's boast that they have lifted a million children out of poverty is based on absolute poverty, if judged using relative poverty (the Toynbee test) these children are far worse off under Labour.
Tony Blair made the Labour party electable by embracing many issues which were traditionally Conservative, we should not be afraid to take them back. As any strategist will tell you, you must never let your opponent define the ground on which you fight, for a long time Conservative policy was "whatever Labour isn't, that is what we are". This gave Labour the ability to "triangulate" their policies and force us to take political positions which have easily be portrayed as out of kilter with modern Britain.
UKIP are what they are, I don't hate them but I do think that they are deeply misguided. At best they are a protest group at worst they open the door for Labour or Lib Dem candidates to beat Eurosceptic Conservatives.
The Kilroy, Knapman, Farage debacle should show Toby and others like him what a ship of fools he is joining.
If Gordon Brown becomes PM I would not be supriesed if he calls an early election.
This will enable him to take advantage of the natural upturn that party leaders get in the few months after taking over, unless you are Ming Campbell who managed to start badly and then sink without trace.
By the way has anyone heard from him lately? We should send someone round to his house to make sure that the heating is on etc.
Perhaps he wants to get an election in before people realise that he just can't be trusted.
There have been lots of “what a year DC has had” features over the last few days, some gushing and some scathing.
As with all these things the truth lies somewhere between the two.Here is my take on DC’s year.
The year has been a very good year for the Conservatives in general and David Cameron in particular.DC has grabbed the attention of the country and he and the shadow cabinet have driven a number of issues to the forefront of the political agenda.
The local government election results were great, particularly in London, the poll results are better than Labour for the first time in over a decade and the party leader is seen as an asset rather than a liability.
Bed of roses?Not quite.The implementation of the “Priority list” and the selection of candidate for Mayor of London have not been slickly executed.
The thing that I take most pleasure from is that DC is criticised for not being 10-15 pints ahead in the polls.It was not so long ago that I heard some Conservatives saying that we might never be in government again, those same people not only believe that will will form a government but that we should be in a position to win only 18 months after our third political drubbing in a row.
While I don’t and won’t agree with everything DC says and does I thank him deeply for giving back to the party the desire and confidence to win the next general election.
I really feel touched by the killing of Emmanuel Odunewu!I didn’t know him, never met him, I still know very little about him, I don’t even know what he looks like.What I do know was that he was killed close to where I live and from what I can make out it was another senseless murder.I have received comments on this blog which paint Emmanuel as a quite, friendly young man who was clearly loved by his circle of friends.
So why is it that his death has been almost completely overlooked by the media?Why is it that my blog, with its modest readership and with limited details of the incident, is the top search result for Emmanuel Odunewu’s name?Why is a murder outside one of the biggest police stations in Europe such an insignificant story?
Perhaps I am being naïve; perhaps senseless murders are so common in London now that this killing makes no ripples in the media pond.I really hope that it is not as simple as that.
This is not the first time I have been amazed by what I have not seen in the news.I had friends in Iraq while the Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment fought tooth and nail for over a month in Al Amara, I heard about the action from them but almost nothing in the media.Intense enough fighting to win LCpl Beharry a VC but not intense enough to hit the papers.
You can either look at this as the Guardian losing £780 million per year or the public sector saving £775 million a year.
I like the Guardian, it is generaly well written and the political section is very strong, but £780 is a lot of money which could be spent on better things. I feel sorry for the advertising team at the Guardian but it is essential that we grasp these easy savings when and where we see them.
I wrote here about how uncomfortable I was about a UK's Megan's Law.
The provision put forward under these Home Office plans seem more workable than a general "open access" list of sex offenders. The fact remains that "stranger" attacks on children are far less common than attacks by people who are known and trusted to the children and their parents.
The ability to ask about a specific individual makes sense and should help avoid the risk of vigilante action.
David Cameron has written in the Guardian (naturally) about social mobility, poverty and education. These are issues which the Labour party should be able to crow about, they can't because their record in this area is pretty poor.
Some Conservatives may feel a little uncomfortable with the party's focus on these issues but as Paul Linford says in his recent podcast, there is nothing new in the Conservatives tackling these issues. It is easy (and a little lazy) to portray the Thatcher government as being unconcerned with social issues, my view is that Margret Thatcher simply felt that the economy and the threat from Communism were higher priorities.
That said social mobility was great under Thatcher than it is under Blair. Naturally none of this fits with the cartoon version of history that many on the left subscribe to, in that history Conservatives ignored the poor and left them to starve while helping multimillionaires feast on gold plated caviar. There would have been a great deal more poverty if the British economy had collapsed in the early 1980s.
Even though global warming and international terrorism have pushed their way into the forefront of our minds we must not forget that there are still millions of people who are HIV positive.
Aids is is still growing and it is essential that none of us get complacent about it, that said medical advances are making it easier for people to manage their lives with HIV and hopefully a cure is not to far away.
There is still much to be concerned about but there is also much to be hopeful about.