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The new Bush plan for Iraq

Eddie Mair | 17:55 UK time, Thursday, 11 January 2007

what do you think - and what did you think of the defence secretary's thoughts?


  1. At 05:56 PM on 11 Jan 2007, Tony Toogood wrote:

    the Defence Secretary's constant repitition of 'strategy, strategy' makes me think he might be auditioning for a Gilbert & Sullivan role (rather than answer the question!)...

    (New York, USA)

  2. At 06:08 PM on 11 Jan 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    It's NOT the biggest mistake since Vietnam!

    It's the biggest since the Invasion, which will go down as a far bigger mistake than Vietnam.

    President Eisenhower must be turning in his grave.

    Houb Salaam
    11/01/2007 at 18:10:32 GMT

  3. At 06:14 PM on 11 Jan 2007, Brian Lawosn wrote:

    The Defence Secretary would not answer the questions,"was the UK government consulted before the President decided this new strategy" waffle was the answer.
    The same response when he was asked whether he agreed with the change in startegy.
    Why do policticians not answer the question.

  4. At 06:18 PM on 11 Jan 2007, Martin Holland wrote:

    Des Browne can waffle on an Olympic scale. Perhaps Ministerial Waffling is going to a new Olympic sport. If you thought the Welsh Windbag or Gordon Brown was bad, then, Des Brown sets new levels of answer avoidance. The best bit of the monologue was when Eddie terminated the verbal diarrhoea with an important breaking news story (the BBC governors meeting minutes). I had hoped the breaking news was that it was raining!

  5. At 06:35 PM on 11 Jan 2007, JimF wrote:

    How about getting rid of the current lot of politicians - of all parties? Return to the population their lives, their thoughts, their freedom - and most of all - their money without it being weakened by Government and its myriad of Civil Service administration costs.

  6. At 06:38 PM on 11 Jan 2007, Mahmoud nafousi wrote:

    The Editor
    The Malki PM of Iraq is controlled by Militia interests like Muktada and Al Hakeem. The Bush Administration is controlled by the right wing neo conservative. These two parties are no longer effective in finding a practical solution The way the war has been conducted in Iraq so far, Bush ignoring the Baker Hamilton Report and the manner in which Sadam was hanged are clear signs of the continuation of how they manage to miss all opportunities of finding an effective and practical solutions.

    For those who are truly want to resolve the issue of security in Iraq serious and practical steps need to be taken to change the state anarchy on the ground in Iraq.

    1) Restore Military Conscription to get all the young men between certain ages out of violence and criminality. It will also solve the partly the unemployment issue
    2) Get most of the previous militarily personnel and international assistance to help in setting the training Camps and the actual training for defence and development
    3) Dissolve all militias and absorbed them into the newly enlarged army
    4) Allocate the conscripts among the army, police plus border guards. This will remove the targeting of the Army and police as a secetarian establishment since it will be representative of the whole population
    5) Form another security body calling it the national guards. Members of the national guards to have strong link with the local communities and to assist the police in local security issues. As they are parts of the community and have strong links with the local tribal structure of the area, they will be accepted by the local population.
    6) Put into practice and implement the anti terrorism laws to punish all those who incite violence and all those who do not provide the relevant information regarding foreign fighters and criminal elements
    7) Withdraw foreign forces outside the cities with a time table to withdraw on passing certain milestone towards restoring orders
    8) Change the constitution to remove any politician whose loyalty to any element other than the State. Any link to militias or foreign powers will make the politician responsible under the anti terrorism laws

    Without the political wills and funding from allies who have no hidden agendas the Iraqis will not be able to do the job by themselves. The present loyalty of the ministers to their parties and militias is a recipe for continued bloodshed. A strong government run by military men or united nation sponsored may be necessary in the short term to restore some confidence and some normality.

    With the new momentum from the Democrats in the USA and the need for Blair to leave behind a better legacy re Iraq, a speedy action is required to influence the Push last chance plan.

  7. At 06:40 PM on 11 Jan 2007, G S Perry wrote:

    I am not going to complain about the earlier comments about Mr Brown the Defence Secretary because I agree totally with them.

    Politicians are simply incapable of answering direct questions. What I do not understand, however, is why the interviewer does not press for a "Yes" or "No" type of reply?

  8. At 06:43 PM on 11 Jan 2007, Mrs Trellis wrote:

    What do you mean "and what did you think of the defence secretary's thoughts?"
    I never heard any thoughts. He said nothing at all, he simply made noise in answer to every question and never told us a thing.
    Am I wrong to expect an elected member of parliament to actually tell me what our governments position on such an important topic is or, should I continue to accept being treated like a mushroom? If "they" want us to take more interest in politics some information to help us make an informed judgement would be nice.

  9. At 06:47 PM on 11 Jan 2007, Sam Foster wrote:

    Of course Des Brown would not give a straight forward answear to the question, thats what politicians who defend the war have been doing since it began.

    Returning to the main question of the US government's new plan for Iraq it is evidently an act of desperation aimed at trying to salvage the USA 's image abroad (by making it look like its actualy doing somthing!) This is similar to the plan it implemented for Vietnam (and look how that ended!)

    When people look back on this it will be clear to them that contrasting the mid to late 20th centuary's international problems with those of the early 21st, nothing had really changed except the location.

  10. At 06:55 PM on 11 Jan 2007, Jason Good wrote:

    In my local paper this week my local MP chose to wax lyrical about Iraq and how things were going to take 5 years from invasion to sort out - only then will we know whether it has been a success, apparently.

    On "Today" this morning and American was saying how the war was always about regime change and how, even if Saddam hadn't got WMD, he would have gone on to procure them.

    Given the unequivocal story spun at the time that this was NOT about regime change but about defending the region from WMD, given Blunkett's memoirs confirming the opposite to be true, and recent proclomations from the PM himself, how on earth are these people still in jobs?

    This is such a clear example of how our current political system is letting us down time and again. I really do despair.

  11. At 06:59 PM on 11 Jan 2007, gossipmistress wrote:

    I'm glad I didn't hear it, it'd probably have put me in a very bad mood.......

  12. At 07:18 PM on 11 Jan 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    Sir, (as in a letter to an editor) ;-)

    The almost total unanimity on certain matters, which is so often illustrated in these blogs, makes me wonder:

    Either the PM programme has a uniquely biased and one-sided listener base, or those who can be bothered to comment (including myself) constitute a uniquely biased subset.

    Considering the unlikely nature of either of these propositions, I can only conclude that those who purport to be serving our interests are somewhat out of touch with the general public.

    I am reminded of the Declaration of Arbroath:

    Him, too, divine providence, his right of succession according to or laws and customs which we shall maintain to the death, and the due consent and assent of us all have made our Prince and King. To him, as to the man by whom salvation has been wrought unto our people, we are bound both by law and by his merits that our freedom may be still maintained, and by him, come what may, we mean to stand.

    Yet if he should give up what he has begun, and agree to make us or our kingdom subject to the King of England or the English, we should exert ourselves at once to drive him out as our enemy and a subverter of his own rights and ours, and make some other man who was well able to defend us our King;

    With a few updatings, very apropos, I think. Government rests upon the consent of the governed. We do not consent to this lot.

    Time to drive them out as our enemies and subverters of their own rights and ours!

    Thursday January 11, 2007 at 19:19:05 GMT

  13. At 07:22 PM on 11 Jan 2007, David Jones wrote:

    It seems obvious that the US and UK governments are no longer talking to each other or in agreement about what to do in Iraq.

    As for Bush's new plan it is simply another attempt to blame the Iraq government for all the problems in Iraq the US created. The increase in troops will just allow the US to say in 2008 well we tried but you simply can't help these people.

    I do think Mahmoud nafousi [6] had some good ideas on the face of them.

  14. At 07:26 PM on 11 Jan 2007, Otter wrote:


    The Defence Secretary didn't seem particularly overwhelmed by the new plan set out by President Bush. He appeared to hint that he preferred the counter-insurgency plan (written by American Lt-Gen Petraeus last year). This doctrine, in many ways, runs contrary to the Presidents new "surge" strategy, in that the former is a slow, grinding struggle for hearts and minds, whereas the President is looking for an instant, fast food solution to the Iraq quagmire by putting thousands more boots (and guns) into the mix.

    The Bush plan itself is a political sticking plaster rather than a military solution. As Hugh Sykes pointed out; in previous surges the militants have slid away only to return when the crackdown has ended. Bush says that the American commitment is not "open ended", the insurgents "commitment" is, they can afford to wait and return when the Americans have grown tired and left.

  15. At 07:28 PM on 11 Jan 2007, Annasee wrote:

    I heard the interview - in between cooking - I thought he sounded terrified. Are you so scary, Eddie? Or was he terrified of actually giving an answer, inadvertently - or even an opinion that might have been his own? I'm just glad I'm not a politician.
    But what did he say right at the end? As he was being strong-armed out of the studio while you said "We're out of time"? Sounded like "I'm sure you are". Surely not!

  16. At 07:37 PM on 11 Jan 2007, Deepthought (John W) wrote:

    I don't agree with this but:

    If they had said "The strategy is still the same, the tactics have changed", it answers all the questions.

    How come not one politician has managed to think that weasle way to defend what has happened. Instead they put up a wall of blather, designed to say absolutely nothing.

    Well done PM for actually getting a senior member of the government on, but was what they said actually worth it?

  17. At 07:43 PM on 11 Jan 2007, Aunt Dahlia wrote:

    I think it sounds like what DB needed was some sort of action similar to what you kind and wonderful vets do to unblock anal glands - but I suspect the results would be about as illuminating and enhancing.
    Have another M*rs bar

  18. At 07:51 PM on 11 Jan 2007, Gillian wrote:

    Annasee (14) I'm pretty sure he said ''I'm sorry we are'' Well done to Eddie on getting some sort of apology from a politician, albeit one who is only sorry he couldn't go on enjoying the sound of his own voice. Ed (12) On this occasion I don't mind being described as biased!

  19. At 08:05 PM on 11 Jan 2007, P Wilde wrote:

    I think he was scared of saying anything that might not have been cleared by number 10! As for consultation by the Bush administration what do you think? It's a supreme delusion to think that we have any sort of "special realtionship" with America. We are just distant cousins who speak their language with a peculiar accent! They (their government) just like us when we agree with them. I just say God help the poor Iraqis. All most of them want is a quiet life like all of us.

  20. At 08:08 PM on 11 Jan 2007, RJD wrote:


    I picked up on that too, although I thought it was "I'm sorry you are." But no matter - he seemed to be suggesting that he wasn't being given time to answer the questions or put his case.

    I'm afraid I frightened the dog (again) by shouting at the radio. He waffled on and on and on, deliberately avoiding saying whether the British government was "informed" of the USA policy decision or involved in discussing and formulating it. By dint of his refusal to answer the question we know, as if we didn't already, that the government was "informed."

  21. At 08:20 PM on 11 Jan 2007, Belinda wrote:

    I now think of Iraq like an exam:

    In this case, a pass = peace.

    George Dubya went into the exam without having done any revision, but was still mightily confident. You see, he and his buddy, Tony, had talked about it beforehand and it just seemed like a really cool idea to wing it and tell everyone that he had really been cramming hard and knew what he was doing. The result didn't really matter anyway, they had just joined school. George sat down to his paper and looked at it blankly. He didn't know the first answer at all, so just wrote down everything that he knew about anything in there. His answer lasted about a sentence. The entire exam went that badly - he hadn't worked enough, hadn't revised the correct things before the exam, and didn't have enough sustained knowledge to put together a reasonable answer.
    George put his paper in and told everyone that it had been a doddle. When he got the results back, he couldn't believe it! He failed! Big red crosses all over the sheet and now everyone knew he had been lying even though he tried telling them that he had passed and got an A.

    So he secretly talked to his favourite teacher, Rummy, and Rummy told him to calm down and told him to take the test again. So George did, and put exactly the same answers as he did before - and he failed again! He couldn't understand it! He retook that test 57 times and still failed at each attempt - more and more crosses on each paper. By this point, the rest of the class had graduated and George was sitting there alone, still writing the same answers. His only hope was Tony, his buddy Tony, who had stuck by him through and through each failed test, even when the other kids were laughing at him.
    But now George was getting angry and started blaming the new teacher who had just taken over the class, and Tony had problems of his own - his girlfriend was pregnant and his cocaine dealer, Gordon, was demanding all his lunch money - so Tony stopped being there for George every night after school and George grew more and more alone and more and more panicky, but he still refused to admit that he had been putting the wrong answers down.
    Even when his graduation day was approaching, he desperately tried to make friends with the intelligent swots who thought they knew the answers, but by then it was too little, too late and George was expelled.

    That last line was wish fulfillment on my part by the way.

  22. At 08:26 PM on 11 Jan 2007, gossipmistress wrote:

    Aunt D (17) teeheehee ....and as fragrant no doubt? I do hope he wasn't scooting around the studio floor......


  23. At 08:37 PM on 11 Jan 2007, sheila parr wrote:

    >Des Brown gets my vote for the most irritating politician.Eddie, how did you keep your cool conducting that interview?

  24. At 09:09 PM on 11 Jan 2007, expat wrote:

    Mahmoud Nafousi should be signed up as a consultant by T. Blair et al or even by you Eddie. Bring back Des Browne and put these specific points to him.

  25. At 09:13 PM on 11 Jan 2007, Jason Good wrote:

    I have only just seen through the latest Bush stance.

    1. The Democrats now have a majority with which to smite down anything Bush decides to do, should they so choose.

    2. Bush comes up with a plan almost certain to enrage all right thinking people.

    3a. One option open to the Democrats is to acceed to this and, when it all goes horribly wrong, Bush et al can say "your fault too".

    3b The other option is that the do smite down this decisions and, when it all goes horribly wrong, Bush et al can say "all your fault".

    I never really took much notice of Robin Cook until the build up to this war. I so wish he were around today with a breath of honesty to clear away this cloud.

  26. At 09:26 PM on 11 Jan 2007, Chris Ghoti wrote:

    I am still wondering where those extra 20,000+ troops are going to come from: aren't they already running out of reservists and ex-grunts who retired in the 1980s?

  27. At 10:00 PM on 11 Jan 2007, Confused wrote:

    I agree with Jason (25) on the US approach to this. I really can't see any of our politicians - that's Labour and Tories, anyway (who were the only ones who wanted to invade Iraq) - daring to say we should stay in Iraq longer than the next five minutes. They all know that the entire population of Britain is against it and it's election year. They're effectively silenced.

    Mind you, they're all such mealy-mouthed twerps these days. They probably don't express an opinion because they haven't got one. Just learn their lines like the good lawyers they are. This government reminds me of the old joke:
    q)How many lawyers does it take to change a light bulb?
    a)Don't be silly. Lawyers don't actually DO anything.

  28. At 10:46 PM on 11 Jan 2007, Annasee wrote:

    It wouldn't have mattered if Des Brown had been on for the whole of the programme, I'm sure he still wouldn't have said anything. I liked the way you shifted him out to make room for the next story. Rather in the manner of theatrical auditions - when it's obvious the candidate can't do what they're supposed to do - " Thank you number 32. Next please!"

    Loved the interview with the (O K magazine?) man in Los Angeles re the Beckhams. Especially your last question to him... My feelings exactly.

  29. At 11:16 PM on 11 Jan 2007, Valery P wrote:

    Annasee - I particularly liked that exchange too! then wondered why the guy was working for OK in the first place?

  30. At 11:58 PM on 11 Jan 2007, Lewis wrote:

    I slept through what Des Brown had to say... sounds like I didn't miss much though.

    As for Bush... I've got a sick feeling he's taking a rather shrewdly and obscenely calculated gamble.

    Pretty much, in my opinion, barring miracles, when the US pulls out of Iraq the country will fall apart. Someone's told Bush that and made him believe it somehow.

    On that basis, Bush can pull out now and preside over it falling apart, he can shove more troops in and hope it's a mess for his succcessor and therefore "not his fault" (at least in his deluded world view) or he can hope the senate vetoes his money for the more troops and try to lay the blame on them.

    Of course if he was brave, he'd have done the first. He's not, so he's doing 2 and maybe 3 will happen anyway. The obscene part: He's willing to gamble with 20,000 of his own people's lives, and some higher number of Iraqi lives as immediate front line targets in the hope he can try and shift the blame.

  31. At 12:32 AM on 12 Jan 2007, Helen Sparkles wrote:

    T'was smoke & mirrors despite your erudite questioning.

  32. At 12:44 AM on 12 Jan 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    You're right on the money, Lewis.

    And, now some work on a third front:

    What was it that finally defeated Hitler/ Fighting on two fronts. Of course, nothing stands in the way of Supershrub! And his trusty poodle al Toady!

  33. At 01:01 AM on 12 Jan 2007, Roberto Carlos Alvarez-Galloso,CPUR wrote:

    I think Bush and company should resign.

  34. At 06:19 AM on 12 Jan 2007, Annasee wrote:

    Thank you Roberto. I think other people share your views!

    I can't understand how G Bush can glibly speak of putting 20,000 more troops into Iraq now, with the hideous cost in human terms of the inevitable deaths & injuries that will happen to them as the fighting continues. Not to mention the impact on the Iraqi people, whose deaths & injuries don't seem to even figure on his radar. Or only in the sense that "If they're dead, they must have been terrorists / insurgents".

    We have a friend who was in the Iraq war, & more recently Afghanistan, & just thinking about the stress & worry on his family during those tours, then multiplying that amongst those extra 20,000 troops' families- well, it doesn't bear thinking about. So it seems like George Bush isn't thinking about it. But how can the rest of his government let him carry on with this deluded behaviour?

    Hugh Sykes' report / discussion with Eddie last night very illuminating, albeit depressing. Thank -you.

  35. At 08:09 AM on 12 Jan 2007, Jason Good wrote:

    And now we have Tony asking us "rhetorically" what we want of our armed forces and what sort of influence we want Britain to have in the world.

    This makes me really angry and sparks off far more ideas than I have time to put down here right now.

    I think we should put our own house in order before we start on foreign adventures. I think we should consider where our "assistance" would have thebest effect - Rwanda and Darfur springing to mind. I think we should sort out the mess that is the Home Office, Pensions, Special Needs provision, Health Service budgets, consumer debt etc etc etc.

    Blair is making a fundamental mistake regularly made by many contestants on Big Brother. Just because the public voted to keep him in the house does not mean they like him - it just means they dislike the alternatives a little bit more.

    But he is surrounded by his team of yes men and has become isolated from reality, as happens to most senior people. I do despair.

  36. At 08:38 AM on 12 Jan 2007, Chrissie the Trekkie wrote:

    When I consider the situation in Iraq, the comparison I come up with is not Vietnam (how very egotistical of the Yanks) but it is -


    And look how that sectarian violence got solved....... and after how long.

  37. At 09:14 AM on 12 Jan 2007, A Listener. wrote:

    To PM,

    THE late Gerald Ford considered the United State's invasion of Iraq to have been a serious mistake. This was not surprising as the unfortunate President had presided over the humiliating final defeat of South Vietnam in 1975.

    For years, the US had increased its commitment of forces in order to beat North Vietnam and its Viet Cong representatives in the South. The price of defeat was considered to outweigh the costs of escalation.

    The result was a divisive and expensive war, unwinnable on the strategies adopted, and the eventual withdrawal of US combat forces. The final collapse of South Vietnam came shortly afterwards as Congress pulled the plug on vital American fire support, promised by a discredited administration.

    I think there are lessons here. First, the reluctance to recognise that defeat is certain if more and more forces are poured into a scenario tainted by ineffective strategy. Second, the disastrous and humiliating results of failing to recognise this.

    Third, that the risks of accepting defeat are outweighed by those of trying to attain an impossible victory. Fourth, it underlined the overriding power of a hostile Congress willing to flex its muscles against the interests of both a weak administration and a hapless ally dependant on that administration's support.
    For Vietnam, read Iraq.

    There are some parallels between the two situations. Although the Iraq Study Group's (ISG's) high level report of a month ago called for a change of course, it remains to be seen how far President George W Bush is willing to take its advice.

    A key part of this was to reduce the direct US military involvement in fighting the insurgency, with the target of a major (but not a complete) withdrawal of US forces by next year.

    President Bush has announced an increase in US forces. This is in accord with the reported results of the White House's Iraq study – as opposed to that of the Congressional ISG. The logic seems to be that the recent remarkable increase in violence in Iraq (3,000 civilian deaths a month) cannot be contained by the still weak Iraqi security forces and that US rapid reaction formations are required to deal with the problem.

    Such "emergency" measures could be announced as compatible with longer term plans to draw down US forces; indeed they might be presented as the beginning of the reconfiguration of the US posture in Iraq called for by the ISG.

    There are at least two problems with sending US reinforcements to Iraq. One is the sheer availability of forces. The ISG was told that no more were available. Assuming that more are indeed forthcoming, the second problem is that the deployment of more US forces will probably increase the numbers of dead rather than diminish casualty numbers.

    It is well known to the unfortunate Iraqis that they approach US forces at great risk of violent death. US forces shoot first and ask questions afterwards. The substitution of rapid reaction heli-borne forces, kept in bases until called up by potentially hard-pressed Iraqi government units, would be a constructive substitute for parading Iraqi cities in unapproachable US ground convoys.

    The activities of the latter, however, have done much to stimulate the insurgency to the point where US forces are much more part of the problem than the solution.

    The long-term solution offered, even by the ISG, is the assertion of the authority of a government based in Baghdad elected by the "Iraqi people", ruling via "Iraqi" security forces.

    Such an objective is as illusory as that of an anti-Communist Saigon-based government ruling over a peaceful and happy Republic of Vietnam, probably more so. "Democratic" rule in Iraq currently means that of a Shia-based regime which is unable to control the contending Shia militias, often in police uniform, who hold the real power in the majority Shia areas – despite the odd, well-timed British victory in Basra.

    The Baghdad government is deeply resented as inherently traitorous by the dispossessed Sunni, especially after what they regard as the sectarian revenge hanging of Saddam Hussein. And it is effectively ignored by the Kurds (who resent their travails not being given full coverage in the foreshortened Saddam trial).

    Iraq, as created in blood by Britain at the end of the First World War and maintained by a series of regimes that have never been the slightest bit "democratic", is doomed to die.

    It is the responsibility, indeed the UN mandated duty, of those who have destroyed the Iraq of the past, to manage that process with as little further bloodshed as possible. To do that requires realism above all. The ISG was critical of the tendency wilfully to ignore unwelcome realities in the formulation of policy.

    The attempt to use still greater force to attain the impossible is only a recipe for defeat, one that will do even more damage to the US position in the Middle East.

    It is a pity that President Ford is not around any more to tell President Bush to heed the lessons of Vietnam 30 years ago.

  38. At 09:15 AM on 12 Jan 2007, Simon Worrall wrote:

    Ed (12);
    I cannot stand this lot. I didn't vote for them. The largest part of the Nation which bothered to get off their backsides and vote last time around DID indeed vote for this lot. We did give our consent. Sadly.

    I think that Richard Littlejohn's description of Blair as the 'grinning jackanapes' is spot on the money. Never trust a man whose smile never touches his eyes. And his likely successor, whilst undoubtedly highly intelligent, is a boring charisma-free zone.

    To 'drive them out' is to propose insurrection and revolt, leading to the overthrow of the properly elected and appointed Parliament. Which breaks the law. Personally I could neither propose nor countenance any act tending to subvert the peace and good order of society.

    I confidently expect you to be arrested any moment now for;
    Encouragement of Terrorism (Terrorism Act 2006, section 1), incitement to riot, affray and possible treason. Not forgetting walking on the cracks in the pavement, wearing a loud shirt in a built-up area during the hours of darkness, etc. If they aren't offences yet they soon will be.... They know where you are!

    Consider yourself fortunate that hanging for treason was abolished a few years back!

    Mahmoud Nafousi (6);
    Well done!


  39. At 10:09 AM on 12 Jan 2007, Fifi wrote:

    I was fussing about in the kitchen when the interview took place, running to a tight timetable at the end of a tough day.

    My overriding impression was: If he doesn't want to answer the question, why not let Eddie finish this as he clearly wants to ... yup ... now ... er ... but ... thank ... instead of yapping on and on and STILL saying absolutely [expletives deleted] nothing?

    It's patronising to the public and insulting to the democratic process of which he's supposedly a part.

    It seems obvious to me (maybe I've got it wrong though) that Bush is sending in more troops mainly to eke it out till the end of his presidency, in hopes that the NEXT President will be remembered as the one who suffered the ignominious defeat and retreat.

    Vietnam? Learned nothing.



  40. At 10:18 AM on 12 Jan 2007, Vyle Hernia wrote:

    No, Mahmoud (6) Do not take a job as a consultant to Mr. Blair & Co. They would take no notice of your ideas. Nor should you go into politics - the system takes over intelligent people and sucks them in with all the fools!

  41. At 10:30 AM on 12 Jan 2007, Vyle Hernia wrote:

    Ed (12): "The almost total unanimity on certain matters, which is so often illustrated in these blogs, makes me wonder:
    Either the PM programme has a uniquely biased and one-sided listener base, or those who can be bothered to comment (including myself) constitute a uniquely biased subset."

    A general point:
    If everyone seems to be thinking in one direction, it can be difficult to put one's head above the parapet and speak up for the other or alternative options. I love the term, "Group Think".

    Specific points:
    a) In this case, it is doubtful if Des Brown has any speaks to thought of.
    b) Just to offer some counter to the prevailing views, bear in mind that UK government and US govt. policies must be OK as they are supported by such luminaries as:


    Oh B......

  42. At 10:31 AM on 12 Jan 2007, The Stainless Steel Cat wrote:

    Des Browne has a fantastic talent for saying very little at all. I think he's future Prime Ministerial material.

    Here's a bit of transcript from a Sky News (boo, hiss) interview with him just after an RAF Nimrod had crashed in Afghanistan:

    Boulton: I would like to put to you what Colonel Tim Collins has written this morning. He is saying that if this is an accident it is because the U.K.’s aircraft and helicopters are old and worn out.

    Browne: Let me just address that directly, the R.A.F. have a world class enviable reputation for maintaining and sustaining their fleet. This particular aircraft, the Nimrod, which has served us very well over some decades and has been renewed in service and is now the mark two has a very good safety record. It is not a function of the age of the aircraft, it is a function of it’s fitness to do the job and this aircraft has been doing the job and since the Balkans the very jobs it was doing yesterday it has been doing that job exceptionally well. So can I reassure you and Colonel Tim Collins and your viewers that these aircraft are maintained to the very highest standards.

    Not only is that a long way from answering the question directly, it wasn't long after that we heard, of a Nimrod crew had to use a teapot to jam a hatch closed.

    The Nimrod is a useful aircraft, but of 32 Nimrod MR2s, three have crashed, killing some or all of their crew. Is nearly a 10% fail rate a "very good safety record"? (Maybe it is for a military 'plane, I don't know.)

  43. At 10:32 AM on 12 Jan 2007, Fearless Fred wrote:


    Just to correct something, if I may, in your 37...

    You say "The largest part of the Nation which bothered to get off their backsides and vote last time around DID indeed vote for this lot. We did give our consent.". That is not true. Looking at the breakdown of the votes nationally ( see HERE for datails) it splits down as follows:

    • Labour 35.3%
    • Conservative 32.3%
    • Liberal Democrat 22.1%
    • Others 10.3%

  44. This clearly shows that the majority of those voting did NOT vote for the current government. Only just over a third of the voters who took part in the election voted for this government. I'm afraid to say that this shows that our first-past-the-post electoral system is bankrupt. This is not democracy. Any truly representative system would reflect (reasonably accurately) the voters wishes as a proportion of the elected members to Parliament. It's no wonder that the public has lost confidence in politics where even the one thing they have direct involvement with with regards to National politics has very little (if any) affect on the outcome.
  45. At 10:58 AM on 12 Jan 2007, F.T. Fong, Kuala Lumpa, Malaysia wrote:

    President Bush and Mr Blair cannot be allowed to walk away from Iraq to suit their own political needs. Such a betrayal of the Iraqi people, in their hour of need, would be as unforgivable as the duplicity that preceded the original invasion.

  46. At 11:04 AM on 12 Jan 2007, Simon Worrall wrote:

    FFred (40);
    I didn't say 'majority' I said 'largest part'.

    O.K. I modify; "the largest SINGLE part". Gets across my intended meaning a little better. And reflected in your own figures.

    I'm not one for Proportional Representation. It tends to lead to weak, unstable governments whose policy is driven by the minority partners agenda, for fear of breaking a coalition and forcing an election.

    I may not like this lot, but they should have been able to rule effectively because of their majority. The truly sad thing is that they've rather squandered it through vacillation, indecision and being too concerned with focus groups and public opinion.

    The focus group thing is key to understanding this government. If they'd had a policy and a commitment to drive it through, then they could have done so. They should have had a goal in mind and a clear idea of how to get there. God knows they had long enough in opposition to fix their mistakes.

    But they had no policies when they came to power, just slogans and broad themes. They had to develop the policies on the hoof and fell back on being driven around by these groups. Giving the people what they want is not a recipe for strong and decisive government. It's a recipe for being blown by the prevailing wind.


  47. At 11:07 AM on 12 Jan 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:


    Well, we agree on some things, at least. Last night, while typing something, my wife's accursed Jack Russells went into Chinese firecracker mode and I went to the door to be confronted by two policemen in full armour.

    They really do know where I am! Fortunately, they were only here to collect my signature on a form granting them permission to destroy my confiscated firearms....perhaps precautionary in case I did decide to foment insurrection.

    Mahmoud Nafousi,

    Houb Salaam, my sibling, and thank you for your wise counsel. Would that it might be heeded.

    Where are the voices supporting Our Great Leaders?

    Friday January 12, 2007 at 11:11:45 GMT

  48. At 11:10 AM on 12 Jan 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    Thanks Ffred, for putting it so well. I couldn't think of a clear and snappy way and treasured my spell of agreement with Si so much I didn't want to chance another clumsy move.
    Friday January 12, 2007 at 11:14:10 GMT

  49. At 11:11 AM on 12 Jan 2007, Fearless Fred wrote:

    Oops! didn't mean to shout so much in my las frog. It must be a think about unordered lists in HTML....

    Regarding the comments from DB last night, I'm afraid that as soon as he lapsed into the standard evasion techniques, my reaction was to shout at the PC "ansser the *expletive deleted* question!"...

    Eddie, next time you have someone go off like that, can you try something? Why not pose them a simple closed question that only allows a Yes/No type answer and say they only have 5 seconds to reply before the line cuts out. It would be interesting to see/hear what happens...

  50. At 11:23 AM on 12 Jan 2007, Tom Harrop wrote:

    When given the opportunity, the people of Iraq voted in their droves. Far greater than the turn-out in Britain.

  51. At 11:29 AM on 12 Jan 2007, admin annie wrote:

    Si, while not a particular fan of Gordon Brown, or indeed a non fan either, no strong feelings either way, it might be worth remembering that when talking of politicians 'charisma free' is not necessarily a bad thing. Hitler had charisma, as did JFK, as did - apparently Tony Bleagh.

  52. At 11:39 AM on 12 Jan 2007, Jason Good wrote:

    A Listener - Bravo.

    Stainless Steel Cat - Nimrod was a superb aircraft in it's day. Sadly that was the 1950s when it was known as the De Havilland Comet.

    Britain had no end of options when it came to the end of the service life of Nimrod, sadly most did not involve BAe. In the current climate that would Just Not Do.

    Tom Harrop - indeed true. They thought they were voting for a future that would bring them peace and governance.

    The fact that they have an appetite for voting is sadly no sign that there is an answer to this mess, nor a sign that the invasion was "A Good Thing" imvho.

    Anticipating the "would you prefer Saddam to still be there" - no, of course not. Not "prefer". Picking between two awful things is never easy. I wonder whether more or fewer would have died over the past two years, though, if the alternate path had been taken.

  53. At 11:52 AM on 12 Jan 2007, Big Sister wrote:

    I tend to agree with Admin on this one. GB is untested on the leadership front, but has clearly impressed many of those close to him, even many who would like to be successors to TB.

    The 'charisma' factor can be a bit of a trap, if recent experience is anything to go by.

    I have to say, I'm actually rather curious to see if things change under GB's leadership. He's certainly no clone for Tone.

  54. At 12:05 PM on 12 Jan 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:


    It was bound to end, wasn't it? I AM in favour of PR, and for the very reasons you seem to oppose it.

    1. "Strong" governments with big majorities usually make BIG mistakes, as frances Pym noted when Maggy T got her big majority.

    2. "Weak" governments, which have to consider their minority partners' views, are unlikely to adopt strongly partisan positions or legislation.

    My preferred option would be for there to be so many parties that it was impossible for any 'majority to be assembled by less than three. In such a situation, every matter must be debated and decided on its particular merits, and not according to one party's dogmatic viewpoint.

    Parties and majorities are two of the least attractive emergent properties of representative democracy. Turning thoughtful and committed folk into partyline automatons.

    I have always been a fan of Loose Cannons, who are the politicians who actually have beliefs and principles rather than calculating strategies to advance their party career. Robin Cook comes to mind, along with many other honourable folk, not all of whom have been of my own inclinations, but I respect them far more than the commoner breed of hacks.

    Friday January 12, 2007 at 12:06:31 GMT

  55. At 12:20 PM on 12 Jan 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:


    I'm with Sis on this. It is a huge trap, and all too often leads to the isolation (un-noticed by the isolatee) within a cordon of magic fawning yes-mirrors we have witnessed many times.

    Personally, I kinda like the idea of charisma-free (but eminently 'sound') Ming Campbell in charge, with the support of the definitely telegenic and clever (and hopefully dried-out) Charles Kennedy.

    The latter was excellent on last night's Q-time.

    Just my tuppence.
    Friday January 12, 2007 at 12:22:02 GMT

  56. At 12:21 PM on 12 Jan 2007, gossipmistress wrote:

    PM: As Fearless as Fred

  57. At 12:45 PM on 12 Jan 2007, Vyle Hernia wrote:

    Simon (45) Agree with you, but:-

    Which was it that caused the invasion of Iraq -

    Focus Group or Public Opinion? Some of us would like to get our hands on the members of that focus group!

    FF (48) Great job with unordered lists. When I tried one it apparently broke the Frog, causing my post to spl it int o se ver al.

    Big Sis et al - I agree; too much charisma is unhelpful. Not my problem HaHa.

  58. At 01:23 PM on 12 Jan 2007, Sara wrote:

    Fellow froggers Ed and FFred - much though I admire your views on very many things, I'm afraid I can't agree about PR.

    This is not because of the "strong" versus "weak" government argument, but because our democratic system is rooted locally rather than nationally. Each region/area elects by majority vote one person who is then charged with representing all of his or her constituents at national level.

    I'm not saying that all MPs carry out their representational role satisfactorily - that's down to the quality of candidates who are presented to the electorate - but it gives the whole population, wherever they live, the opportunity to relate to and to question their own elected member and to feel (sometimes mistakenly!!) that the interests of their locality are being heard.

    I am sceptical about abolishing this system and replacing it with PR for the same reason I am sceptical about abolishing the monarchy and replacing it with a President, or about abolishing the House of Lords and replacing it with a purely elected second chamber. Other systems should be studied and reforms to present ones may be made, but with great care to ensure that we don't lose more than we gain! Ideological debates are all well and good, but what we have has worked tolerably well for hundreds of years and I have yet to see any proof that other systems in other countries have done any better in practice, even though they might sound morally superior!

  59. At 01:26 PM on 12 Jan 2007, Big Sister wrote:

    Vyle: That's a vile aspersion you've caste upon yourself .....!

  60. At 01:29 PM on 12 Jan 2007, admin annie wrote:

    Charles Kennedy was up here in the autumn and I took the opportunity to have a few words. He certainly looked very well and relaxed and I would like to think would hit the come back trail in the not too distant future. Surely William Hague shouldn't be the only Lazarus in modern politics.
    I too am in favour of some form of PR; first past the post has been disastrous for the country over the past 30 years or so.

  61. At 01:37 PM on 12 Jan 2007, Gillian wrote:

    Just been listening to Clare Short on WATO. I know she can be a bit ''off the wall'' but I have to say I share her views on the UN...how Britain should have stuck by its appraisal of the Iran situation, and not turned our back on the rest of the world to go with Bush. Now that the dirty deed's been done, though, and Saddam Hussein is dead, does that change the UN's perspective? Is it too late for their involvement now? And would it make a difference?

  62. At 01:41 PM on 12 Jan 2007, Alan wrote:

    With regard to the question raised by G S perry, yesterday, - "What I do not understand, however, is why the interviewer does not press for a "Yes" or "No" type of reply?" The reason must be known a sthe Paxman Syndrome. You recall those occasions when Mr Paxman has tried to illicit a yes/no answer and all it has got him is an appearance on It'll be alright on the night!

    Politicians are incapable of uttering the words yes or no

  63. At 01:55 PM on 12 Jan 2007, Jason Good wrote:

    Charles Kennedy was on question time last night and imo looked withdrawn and a shadow of his former self. The Lord Chancellor was also on and did an awful job of trying to defend the Govt over anything.

    I just half watched TB doing his bit about the future of British adventures overseas. I am now even more depressed. Seems he has his head firnly buried beneath pre Post-Colonial boys' own fiction. Britain must ride to the aid of everyone who is bad (according to whatever definition applies at the time)...

    Is it me or is the world completely muddled? When I fix a computer the last resort (before throwing it away)...err...the last but one resort is to wipe the hard disk and perform a complete reinstall. If I renamed myself Noah and started building now......

  64. At 02:00 PM on 12 Jan 2007, Jason Good wrote:

    Sara: re PR and locally rooted democracy.

    I share the ideal but I do not believe the actualitee. (I wish I could do accents.) Today's politics is firmly controlled by centrally-run political parties no matter how much the local party thinks it controls things. Just look at the new Tory "A-list". And the way a certain Cabinet Minister is hopping constituencies in the interests of finding a safer seat.

    The future, if there is one, must be for an army of independents to step up to the line and for the electorate to have faith in them to right the wrongs. Sadly I do not have the means to take the risk and I fear the Sir Humphrey Appleby outcome.

  65. At 02:15 PM on 12 Jan 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    "I'm not saying that all MPs carry out their representational role satisfactorily - that's down to the quality of candidates who are presented to the electorate"

    by the party! Parties are an abomination, placing themselves above the constituents in the elected members' loyalties.

    If we could do without parties, we could probably do without PR, because the variety of representatives elected by their constituencies would generate a mor truly proportionally sample of the public will.

    The Scottish Parliament, for all its shortcomings, is a far better thing than it would have been without PR, and it may soon achieve my minimum desire: a situation where no two parties can cobble together a 'majority'.

    I have three MSPs - one Tory, one Nationalist, and a Green. All of them good constituency men (yes, sadly, all men) and all approachable.

    Friday January 12, 2007 at 14:14:44 GMT

    Malicious malicious posting warning received with no reason

    and another!

  66. At 02:28 PM on 12 Jan 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    Afternoon Play, YAY!

  67. At 02:47 PM on 12 Jan 2007, Sara wrote:

    Jason (62) - I do agree with pretty well all of what you say (though I don't think I ever said that the present system was an "ideal").

    Can you please tell me how PR would improve matters?

    I think we are bemoaning the quality of those who are supposed to be serving us, rather than the system which puts them in place, in which case changing the system will not necessarily correct the situation. And there's no guarantee that it wouldn't make it worse.

  68. At 02:49 PM on 12 Jan 2007, RJD wrote:

    Sara (57)

    Sorry, I've got to totally disagree with you on your first point. I am in favour of PR but I'll not rehearse all the arguments here.

    On the specific point of it being a benefit for constituents to be represented by one MP - I can’t think of one reason for that to be true and have never heard anybody expand convincingly on the subject.

    I live is a part of the UK where ALL elections, bar Westminster ones, are held under PR. It is a positive advantage to have more than one elected member for an area.

    As I say, I’ve never heard any sensible justification for the argument that one elected member for an area is better that say, three elected member for a bigger area. And the result for the bigger area under PR is obviously likely to better reflect the wishes of the electorate.

  69. At 02:53 PM on 12 Jan 2007, Lewis wrote:

    About PR:

    We've got two rather different models of it nearby. Both Germany and Italy use PR for their elections. Italy makes a hash of it in general, Germany makes rather a good job of it most of the time.

    It doesn't have to be weak and wishy-washy, but IMO comprimise politics is often better than single ideology - I'd rather a country that more or less runs straight rather than one that lurches (or lurched rather) from left to right. Find a compromise between taxation and social support that we're basically happy with en masse (however upset as individuals) rather than times of higher taxes and more support for the needy, then times of lower taxes and lower support. A system that might actually let us see how green the populous wants our government to be because voting green just might make the balance of power move that way.

    Of course we might make a complete hash of it and have governments that last a few months on average, but none of them would have the Maggies and Blairs of recent history: dictatorial/presedential politics just wouldn't work, and that's meant to be a BAD thing?!

  70. At 03:05 PM on 12 Jan 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    Scared? You should be. This man is.

    Houb Salaam
    12/01/2007 at 15:06:48 GMT

  71. At 03:51 PM on 12 Jan 2007, Vyle Hernia wrote:

    Lewis (65) When did we see the lower taxes? I've been tax-aware for 35 years - was it before then?

    It's another dream, like all the cheap food I haven't eaten over the past 56 years.

  72. At 04:09 PM on 12 Jan 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    Somewhere in limbo is my post thanking PR for the fact that I've got tyhree MSPs, a tory, a nationalist, and a green, all of them excellent folk and very approachable. And, because of the situation, they seem to feel less bound by party discipline, but that may be because they just happen to be actually decent folk.

    Interestingly, the least attractive one (from my own viewpoint) is the one with the most ambition to rise within his party (my lost post also noted that, sadly, they are all three male).

    Maybe this one will get through the frogerators?

    Friday January 12, 2007 at 16:10:43 GMT

  73. At 04:28 PM on 12 Jan 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    ON Topic (for a change?
    Cindy Sheehan | Insanity Surge

    "Bloody George, the lamest duck in US history, has announced to the nation that he will be sending 21,500 more troops into Iraq, which some call a 'surge,' some call an escalation, and I like to refer to as Operation Increasing Cannon Fodder," writes Cindy Sheehan.

    Friday January 12, 2007 at 16:29:38 GMT

  74. At 04:33 PM on 12 Jan 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:


    The food is actually cheaper, representing a much-reduced portion of 'disposable' income. probably it's all the processing you've been consuming which has kept the apparent cost rising.

    Unprocessed staples, especially un-travelled ones, are much cheaper in 'real' terms than ever before. This is one of the reasons sensible farmers' children rarely go into farming.

    Friday January 12, 2007 at 16:35:25 GMT

  75. At 04:44 PM on 12 Jan 2007, Jason Good wrote:

    Sara: Can you please tell me how PR would improve matters?

    No, even though you asked very nicely. :-)

    The reason being that I was not arguing whether PR would improve matters, I was observing that I did not share your view of localised democracy being upheld by having our current constituency-based elections. Just about the only factor that is localised is the boundary containing those voting for any particular centralised "chosen one".

    However I do have a lot of sympathy with PR - I just haven't managed to figure out answers to all the problems it throws up. The point really is, though, that the existing system has more than it's fair share of problems - but we more readily put up with them when they are contained in the status quo than we are prepared to when contained in a change.

  76. At 05:21 PM on 12 Jan 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    Ming Campbell on Blair just a few minutes ago!
    Who has said it better?
    Friday January 12, 2007 at 17:22:02 GMT

  77. At 07:35 PM on 12 Jan 2007, Suzie Sue wrote:

    Oh Ed (Inglehart), you've been busy on this blog! All good stuff here from everyone else too.

    I was awake to hear Bush on the World Service at @1.30 Wed night. At first I thought it was the State of the Union speech it went on so long and was obviously live on air, then I realised what he was saying and I was scared out of my wits! The sheer MENDACITY!

    Then on last night's Question Time, how scary was it to hear Lord Falconer adopting strange new words and phrases that seem to have arrived with "The Surge", ie the "Iraqization" of Iraq... (American) Newspeak lives!
    They really think they can change the complexion of this mess by changing the language...

    Meanwhile I wondered what Blair would say whilst commentators were boasting that the "special relationship" was no longer so chummy since we were pulling our troops out, not sending more in...Yeah, right, I thought, let's see, and sure enough the war-mongering bastard is talking now about strengthening our armed forces and remaining battle-ready (rather than peace-keeping) globally...That should keep George happy.

    What a nightmare!

    My niaive dream is for British tax payers to be able to choose how their contributions are spent. On your tax return you should be able to tick, say, Education, Health, Environment, Housing etc, and NOT tick War, Subsidising Arms Industry etc, and perhaps be able to allocate proportionally, eg give more to Housing than to Policing if you so wished or vice versa...Perhaps THEN we would feel like we had a voice and true citizenship...OK, I said it was niave...

    Lots of love...

    PS Why are you not accepting my submission? Have I been blacklisted by Big Sister?

  78. At 08:40 PM on 12 Jan 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    Hi Suzie,
    Longtime no hear! Don't be afraid of Big Sis, she's OK. It's the moderation system, outsourced to a bunch of foreigners, and inconsistent and erratic as, well you know, the place with no snowballs.

    I'll buy you a drink if you turn up in the Furrowed Brow. Just ask at the bar. I'll be on one of the softest leather sofas.

  79. At 11:56 PM on 12 Jan 2007, Big Sister wrote:

    Suzie Sue: Don't be fooled by my name. I have absolutely nothing to do with blog moderation, nor any kind of moderation really. In fact, I'm totally immoderate.

    And nice to meet you on the Blog.

  80. At 09:12 PM on 13 Jan 2007, Fifi wrote:

    Suzie, Big Sister is one of the sweetest bestest persons here, and it's not her fault that the moderators ( or 'Pixies', as one of our erstwhile regulars dubbed them ) have poor judgement and only a sledgehammer with which to do their work.

    Trust me, you will find US (as distinct from the U.S. but I'm sure they're lovely too, I just can't do HTML codes!) very forgiving, interested and accommodating.

    The PM frog is officially the best. EVER!!!!

    Fifi xxx

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