Saturday, July 18, 2009

There Were Wonderful Giants of Old ...

Vote Laban 2009 ?

Laban's not big on trumpet-blowing aka self-promotion. Not only that, but my blogging has been pretty sporadic these last few months. But when I see people who get a quarter of the readership riding high in various blog polls, I wonder if I should continue hiding whatever bloggy light there may be under a bushel. So this is a first ...

It's that time of year again, when Total Politics asks you to vote for your Top 10 favourite blogs. The votes will be compiled and included in the forthcoming book, the Total Politics Guide to Blogging 2009-10, which will be published in September. This year the poll is being promoted/sponsored by LabourList and LibDemVoice as well as our publisher Iain Dale's blog.

The rules are simple.

1. You must vote for your ten favourite blogs and ranks them from 1 (your favourite) to 10 (your tenth favourite).
2. Your votes must be ranked from 1 to 10. Any votes which do not have rankings will not be counted.
3. You MUST include ten blogs. If you include fewer than ten your vote will not count.
2. Email your vote to
3. Only vote once.
4. Only blogs based in the UK, run by UK residents are eligible or based on UK politics are eligible.
5. Anonymous votes left in the comments will not count. You must give a name
6. All votes must be received by midnight on 31 July 2009. Any votes received after that date will not count.

If you like the blog, then please vote for it !

I can think of a fair few others worth voting for, too.

(and having said that, the tribe of Laban is off to Lyonesse for a week. Unless there's an internet cafe around, blogging will be exceeding light).

NWOBJ - what did I tell you ?

earlier this month ....

"... the only jihadis who seem to fit the "weirdo loner" profile of yer average native pyrotechnician seem to be converts ..."
And behold ... poor little rich boy ...

Returning to Colston's, Andrew Ibrahim's weight and lack of sporting ability helped other pupils label him a "loser" and his increasingly unruly behaviour led the school to ask him to leave in December 2002, shortly before his 14th birthday...

Despite his increasing addiction, his parents stood by him, splitting the rent with him on a flat in Kingswood, a suburb in North East Bristol, with his mother doing a weekly food shop for him. At the flat, Ibrahim had videos of women's feet he had taken on his mobile phone at college without their knowledge, which he admitted were part of a "sexual interest" and he had searched for pictures of Kiera Knightley's feet on the internet.

He had become hooked on heroin and crack cocaine, using the drugs several times a day and stealing to fund his habit. He was reprimanded by police for possessing heroin in May 2006 at the age of 17 and warned for shoplifting on two occasions in September and October 2006.

Alongside his various addictions, Ibrahim had five tattoos done during 2005 and 2006, including "Hardcore" across his stomach and "HTID" on his right bicep to represent "Hardcore Till I Die" after a style of rave music. He also had a variety of hairstyles and colours along with a series of facial and intimate piercings.

Well, he did - and then he changed.

Before - a typical young Briton, expressing his individuality by copying loads of other people.

After - altogether a more serious figure. Grow the beard a little longer and buy a motorbike ! I digress.

Sunny once again looks at the press coverage of this kid-with-everything and sees the cancer of racism rearing its ugly head yet again - or is it the cancer of Islamophobia ? I forget.

"Let’s see – nutjob wants to take out other Britons. Is working alone. Gets caught. But one story makes the front page of the Evening Standard. Another story involving a white guy who was in a more advanced stage of bomb-making barely rates a mention in the back pages. "
He's referring of course to this somewhat sorry figure.

I can’t believe that Sunny is as daft as he pretends to be. I guess it's just that his target audience need their fill of such stories to balance his often cogent criticisms of the cultures of the subcontinent. He must know perfectly well that the ‘public schoolboy’ angle will hit the Mail, Telegraph and Evening Standard erogenous zones – they just love a ‘middle-class gone wrong’ story and this guy has the dream background. Whereas the soi-disant Waffen SS guy was an inarticulate working class drunk.

A better parallel would be to compare Neil Lewington, inarticulate white Waffen SS UK Member, with an inarticulate white working class jihadi convert. Google ‘Nicholas Roddis’ – of the fearsome Al Qaeda Organisation In Rotherham. He didn’t make much of a media splash- got reported, but never hit the front pages or radio headlines.

And as for Sunny's ‘more advanced stage’ of explosive manufacture – our Waffen SS chap basically had some firelighters – call them incendiary devices if you wish. I also have some advanced stage incendiaries - I put them in the grate, light them - and they burn at once ! Then I put coal on top.

Our public schoolboy had HTMD in his fridge – that’s stuff that makes quite a bang – and a suicide vest for it to go in.

“When they entered his flat in April last year, police found between 125-245 grammes of the unstable explosive Hexamethylene Triperoxide Diamine, also known as HMTD, in a Family Circle biscuit tin in Ibrahim’s fridge. He had also made an electrical circuit capable of detonating the explosive at short range and a half-made suicide vest … Ibrahim made the HMTD, the same substance used in the July 7 attacks, and suicide vest entirely through instructions from the internet.”

(btw, I don’t know if the 7/7 attacks actually used HMTD – you get different stories from different sources. After the attacks the story was that it was TATP as used in Gaza rockets, then it changed to being ‘organic peroxide-based’ i.e. flour and concentrated H2O2. For obvious reasons I’d reckon there was a lot of disinformation about. I note that the wikipedia entry for HMTD has been pruned to remove information about the easily-obtainable ingredients and a link to a 'how to make it' site, among other things.)

UPDATE - two other thoughts ... both Ibrahim and Lewington were nobodies with big hopes (or big fantasies if you like). Now they're somebodies, even if they're not somebodies we'd like to be ourselves.

And this strikes me as far more significant than Mr Little-boy-lost Ibrahim. The reporter is at Regents Park Mosque, listening to preachers instructing the faithful to kill apostates, adulterers, homosexuals, avoid the company of non-Muslims - you know, that stuff that would come under 'hate crime' were a Christian saying it. But it's not that, it's this :

I was amazed at how many young British women seemed to find this version of the faith attractive. One young girl told me that when she first attended the circle, she was dressed in jeans and that she had many non-Muslim friends. She now loves only those that are around her - "other sisters in the circle" - and only engages with non-Muslims to try to convert them. Many of the sisters had the idea of living as a separate community - a concept alien to me and many other Muslims I know.
More canaries in the coal mine. Like Peter Hitchens, I think it's likely that this country will see a great religious revival in this century - but that it may not be a Christian one.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Friday Night Would Have Been Music Night If I'd Got Round To It Earlier

From Laban's decadent period ... but it still sounds beautiful 30-odd years on ...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A few Wet Socks From The Curate's Line

I don't know. Somehow stories like this never seem to make it onto BBC news.

During the short hearing at Leeds Crown Court, the 60-year-old admitted all the charges read to him by the clerk, some of which were said to relate to images of girls as young as three-years-old. Brown, who was Mayor of Hebden Royd in 2006, was told to sign the sex offenders register before leaving the court on bail which contained one condition of residence at an unspecified address. The former Labour councillor on Calderdale Council was told he would be sentenced on August 25 when all sentencing options would be available. Afterwards, Tim Swift, leader of Calderdale Council's Labour group, said: "It came as a complete shock to us when he was arrested".

Now this is the kind of headline you'd never see were the perpetrators and victim reversed. The Community Cohesion Partnership would not be impressed :

GRAVESEND: Police appeal for witnesses after black man attacked by white men in street

Police are appealing for witnesses to an assault in which a black man was attacked by two white men.

The 26-year-old victim was punched in the face and fell to the floor, hitting his head, in Clive Road, Gravesend, between 10.40pm and 11.20pm on June 27.

Yet things like this never attract such headlines :

Jurors heard that Ben stood out as he was dressed in white and was the only white boy involved in the disturbances involving 60 youths armed with knives, sticks and other weapons.

The court was told Ben was seen fighting with two rivals before being surrounded by others and beaten.

I guess this is one of those 'the way we live now' tales. I'm not casting stones, having some 'previous' myself - just noting (if the surmises are correct - there's always the possibility that may have been the victim of an assault) how very extended adolescence has become since the cultural revolution. The unfortunate deceased was 35.

A maths teacher found crushed to death at a recycling site may have fallen asleep in a wheelie bin after a night out with friends, police fear.

Scott Williams, 35, had spent Saturday night in pubs in Brighton and was last seen at 1am on Sunday. On Monday morning his body was found in among rubbish dropped off by a truck bringing refuse collected in Brighton.

Government more interested in Muslims than Christians ? Never ...
"There is a perception, perhaps justified, that it has been easier for Islamic groups to receive financial support than other faith groups."

Bishop Lowe claims that there have been numerous examples of local authorities inviting consultation with local faith groups and failing to invite any Christians.

Stephen Lowe is as PC an idiot as the Church doth possess.

I've noted that Trevor Phillips has excellent political antennae, and was one of the first of the race industrialists to move from multiculturalism to community cohesion, as the post-7/7 government slowly came to terms with the landscape they'd helped create.

As a result he's made a few enemies among those who haven't got with the cohesion programme, and think the old gravy-train is still the best. Note the last, emboldened (by me) sentence. Funny, I thought it was about equality. Do I see a cat being let out of a bag ?

In April three board members resigned after a public assertion by Mr Phillips that the police were no longer institutionally racist. Mr Phillips argued that the police had "shown a much better understanding of how to deliver a public service that doesn't discriminate just because of the colour of your skin" since the botched investigation into the murder of Stephen Lawrence. But this did not go down well with the old guard.

They had already been incensed by his U-turn on multiculturalism – the notion that a diverse society should celebrate the different cultures of its ethnic groups. Multiculturalism, Phillips argued, might actually be counter-productive. Rather than creating a diverse society, he said, it could open social divisions and cause Britain to "sleepwalk towards segregation". The veterans of the race industry were dismayed.

But Phillips was not alone. After 9/11 the Government had became determined to find sets of values and touchstones that could promote a more integrationist view of the politics of race. Tony Blair, with whom Mr Phillips had become friendly via Peter Mandelson – who was best man at Mr Phillips's wedding – began to try to co-opt Muslims into "community cohesion". Gordon Brown became obsessed with Britishness.

To his critics Mr Phillips was doing New Labour's bidding. To his friends he was forming the debate. However, many in the ethnic minority communities were alarmed, arguing that it was his job to defend minorities, not give succour to attacks on them.

A little aside in this Times story by

Which brings me to a third painful truth revealed by the Cobra debacle: Asian entrepreneurs get away with more than most. I don’t mean this in a way to suggest some kind of politically correct conspiracy. But in my experience Asian companies don’t get subjected to as much critical analysis as they should be because: a) a huge number of Asian entrepreneurs are very successful and it is just assumed that they all are; b) the rags-to-riches tale is a seductive and romantic one; and c) people want to write about and hear about Asian entrepreneurs doing well, as it is one of the things that shows that multiculturalism and immigration can work.

As it happens, Lord Bilimoria is not the most extreme example of the phenomenon. This unhappy accolade must go to Reuben Singh, who, as a schoolboy, founded Miss Attitude, the fashion chain, and was listed as the youngest millionaire by Guinness World Records, publicly fĂȘted by Tony Blair, made a government adviser, dubbed “the most powerful man in Britain under 30”, had his picture hung in the National Portrait Gallery and named entrepreneur of the year at various awards ceremonies, but who in 2007 was unmasked as a serial fantasist, branded a “liar” by a judge and declared bankrupt.

Also, as it happens, Bilimoria is not your typical Asian entrepreneur, arriving in Britain with £5 in his pocket and subsequently building a huge company. For all the talk of delivering beer in a 2CV so battered that you could see the road through the floor, he comes from a privileged background. His father was a general in the Indian Army, he left India for England at the age of 19 to train as a chartered accountant, attended Cambridge and speaks with an accent that would make the Duke of Edinburgh sound chavvy.

But his ethnicity was undoubtedly one of the reasons he had a profile that far outstripped his achievements and one of the reasons he was so ludicrously overpromoted, being enobled and, among other things, being made deputy president of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, chairman of the UK-India Business Council and Chancellor of Thames Valley University.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Way We Were - "Education And The Working Class"

From the book "Education And The Working Class", by Brian Jackson and Dennis Marsden - an inquiry into the then-issue (late 50s / early 60s) of the clever working class child going to grammar school. The fact that they'd get a good education, and that previously "middle-class" careers would be opened up to them, was a given. No, the question was - how would this affect their working-class identity ? People worried about that sort of thing in those days. Luxury !

I'm not knocking the authors - both working class grammar school kids themselves, their essential decency and sincerity is obvious. And it's a rattling good read.

But what would strike the modern reader is the different world they - and the working class - inhabited. Written just before the cultural revolution, it's a reminder of what has been lost.

Here's some of an early chapter on the town where they did their research (which is available online here). To anyone who knows Huddersfield as it is now - let's just say it's changed :

Huddersfield is a rich city. It claims to have more Rolls-Royces per head than any other - place on earth. Its unemployment problem is slight, and prosperity has flowed here in easy tides since the 1930s. It enjoys a protective variety of industries, being neither an engineering centre, nor a woollen city, nor a cotton town, nor a brewing capital. It is all these at once, and much more besides. Such distribution of work and wealth guards it from the lesser trade cycles that trouble neighbouring cities. It has its poor, its aged, its crippled, its sick, its unlucky; but these are not easily seen, and their presence, if not forgotten, is obscured by the general buoyancy.

The city has a population of 130,000. In 1800 it was just touching 7,000 - for Huddersfield is one of the new cities of England, the cities bred out of the industrial revolution. Its population spiral follows Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham. By 1820 that 7,000 had nearly doubled into 13,000; by 1840 it had almost doubled again to 25,000. By 1890 it had leapt to over 90,000. The railway had arrived; and after the great new railway station came the city's major public buildings - the new parish church, the post office of 1875, the town hall of 1879. The local historians trace all this back to the medieval hamlet, or the Roman station. They point to Brigantine settlements on the surrounding hillsides, or Saxon ruins along one of the far valleys. They drag up shields and coats of arms, and all the rich drapery of the medieval past. But Huddersfield as a society has no such history. The Romans and the Normans merely travelled over the same stretch of earth, and handed nothing down. Huddersfield begins with the industrial revolution.

It sucked in the population of the surrounding countryside, and with them something of their culture. But the `culture' of Huddersfield is the submerged culture of the industrial working class. It is now settled and stylized into a pattern of living, but it was bred in the long working hours of the mills, the rapid spread of overcrowded streets, the tangles of the master-man relationship, the personal cycle of poverty (childhood/marriage/ age) crossing the national waves of work or hunger. Such a style of living, and fashioned by such conditions, radiates today from the close centres of family life into that whole web of ties -kinship, friendship, the shared childhood or working life, the formal groupings of club, band, choir, union, chapel - all the many strands of 'neighbourhood' that reach out to attain 'community' (my emboldening - LT). The expectations, dues, refusals, irritations, rights and assurances that family and neighbourhood arouse and inherit play all through this report. For the working-class culture of Huddersfield (an area with over 70 working men's clubs) is by no means the same as the national middle-class culture, some of whose facets are reflected back by the wireless, the press, the very books in the public library. We are not concerned to choose or judge between the two cultures, merely to remark the difference. For it is a question of difference, and this report finds itself continually dipping into discussion or conflict where well-meaning people on both sides are fighting out battles between 'us' and 'them'.

Huddersfield has its prosperous middle class. Or, rather, it has two middle classes. The first is national, metropolitan in interest, mobile, privately educated. Such are the senior civil servants, doctors, executives, who stay a while and pass through the city; or who belong as natives here, but 'belong' elsewhere too. And then there is that other middle class, very local and rooted, of the self-made businessmen, works officials, schoolmasters clinging to their home town. Such a class is part of 'them' but in some situations can merge for a while with 'us'. This native, rather than national, middle class has been there from earliest days; drawing its money from the work of the men, but nonetheless close to them. There is a report by a hand-loom commissioner of 1839 that `. . . the men of Huddersfield were constantly in their mills and taking their meals at the same hours as their workpeople, but the clothiers of Gloucester were indulging in the habits and mixing with the gentle blood of the land'. It is just this native middle class we present here...

We will not here describe the details of the city's streets and homes; such as matter will emerge as the survey gathers way. But the city's confidence in terms of work, of money, of pleasure, can be caught in a rapid glance. It is the confidence of the new industrial town after twenty years without recession.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

French Rioting Season Starts


Compare And Contrast

"The sentence today reflects the seriousness of the offences"

Thus a police officer (Humberside Police head of diversity and community cohesion Adil Khan) on the conviction of Simon Guy Sheppard and Stephen Whittle, who got four and a half years and two years respectively for 'publishing written material to stir up racial hatred'. The paper doesn't say what they actually did, but the BBC report that :

One leaflet claimed that Auschwitz had not really been the location of industrial mass murder but had been, instead, a holiday camp provided by a benevolent Nazi regime for Europe's Jewish population. Jonathan Sandiford, prosecuting, told the jury that it held up survivors of the Holocaust to "ridicule and contempt", accusing them of lying about the genocide of six million Jews. Another story was illustrated with photographs of dead Jews. Sheppard also wrote that Holocaust victim Anne Frank's diary was "evil".

Now they don't sound like very nice people, or indeed the sharpest knives in the drawer. But should they be imprisoned for being unpleasant about the Shoah and its victims, vile though their sense of humour seems to be ? Apparently not :

Reviewing lawyer Mari Reid, of the Crown Prosecution Service's counter-terrorism division, said members of the public were entitled under the law to hold racist and extreme views.

But ?

But she added: "What they are not entitled to do is to publish or distribute those opinions to the public in a threatening, abusive or insulting manner either intending to stir up racial hatred or in circumstances where it is likely racial hatred will be stirred up."

Me no understand, doctor. I'm presuming there was no threatening involved. Threats or incitement are criminal acts in themselves. There's presumably little doubt that what they wrote was abusive and insulting - though in that case why is the Devil still at large ? I can see how you might distribute something to the public in a threatening manner - attach to brick and hurl through windows, for example. But how do you publish something on the Web in a "threatening, abusive or insulting manner" - hit the 'enter' key with a hammer ?

It appears that it's perfectly OK (legally, I mean) for them to hold their thoughts in their heads - but an imprisonable crime for them to share them with third parties.

Yet others, who seem to non-lawyer Laban far closer to public acts of incitement (well, how do you interpret 'take that homosexual and throw him off the mountain' ?) seem to escape censure - indeed, it's those who bring such statements to wider attention who end up being investigated.

Most odd. But I digress - it was another double standard that got me :

Two Nepalese men have received three-year prison sentences at the Old Bailey today, for the manslaughter of Esher waiter Bishal Gurung last year.

Morden residents Rocky Gurung, 21, from Haig Place, and Kemik Thakali, 21, from Legion Court, both pleaded not guilty to murder during the trial last month but were found guilty of the manslaughter of the 23-year-old waiter.

During the trial, the court was told Bishal Gurung, who worked at the Sherpa Kitchen in Esher High Street, was chased along the Thames Embankment by a gang of 10 to 15 men including Rocky Gurung in the early hours of April 13, 2008, after being falsely accused of hitting Kemik Thakali with a bottle during a boat party to celebrate Nepalese new year.

He was kicked and beaten before being rolled into the Thames by Rocky Gurung and Thakali, the court was told.

Right. A guy with some unpleasant obsessions and (to put it gently) debateable theories publishes them - four and a half years. A mob chases an innocent man, beating him, kicking him and throwing in a river to drown - three years.

It used to be that talk was cheap and life was precious in this country. No more.

More double standards. Do you remember when lots of young black people were being shot in English cities, and Blunkett got tough ?

UK firearms laws are to be tightened as a result of an unacceptable increase in "flagrant gun use", said Home Secretary David Blunkett.

The changes - which come just days after two teenage girls were killed at a Birmingham New Year party - will see a mandatory jail sentence of five years for gun possession.
So the law was 'toughened' - and, to cut down on the number of black youths being shot in London, gun enthusiasts from Bromsgrove to Wrexham were banged up. The Wrexham guy got four years for the empty revolver in the drawer at his Mum's house.

Five years later the prisons were chocker and the whole thing was a bit more nuanced :

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: "The mandatory five-year term for possession of a firearm is a starting point. Judges must then take aggravating and mitigating factors into consideration when determining the final sentence." He added: "Sentencing in individual cases is a matter for the courts."

I see. 'Mandatory' means whatever the judge thinks is proper. And now what's this :

Two men have been jailed for a total of more than eight years for drugs and firearms off-ences.

Munir Hussain, 28, was jailed for five years and six months and Kab Khaliq, 25, was handed a three-year term when they were sentenced by judges in separate cases...

Khaliq, of Barkerhouse Road, Nelson, was arrested by officers from Pennine police’s targeted crime team who executed a search warrant. They discovered a black hand gun, four rounds of ammunition, £700 of cocaine and £1,600 of heroin. At Preston Crown Court, Khaliq was jailed for possession of a handgun and possession of class A drugs with intent to supply.

So you've got the gun, bullets, smack and coke - and get only three years ?

My first thought was that Khaliq must have been 'helping the police' - but then the so-called 'Mr Big' only got five. I wonder if the answer lies with the judge ? According to these posts the judge in one of the trials (doesn't say which) was Beverley 'Let 'em all out' Lunt.

UPDATE - Samizdata :

The state only regards people stating their extreme opinions as "incitement" if they belong to ritually abominated groups like white racists, whose extreme views must be punished because there is no political cost to doing so. For groups who actually throw bricks when the cops come calling, well, stating their extreme views is treated rather differently.

This is hardly new of course. Incite violence with words, but be unlikely to actually do anything, well you might well go to jail... actually kill people over many years, ah, that eventually gets you invited to help govern. No? I have two words for you: Sinn Fein.

Last time I called Britain a police state, I was dismissed as overheated because, after all, I can run this blog and state my contrary opinions, so this is hardly a police state.

Yet were Simon Sheppard and Stephen Whittle not just jailed for running a website on a US server (just as Samizdata is on a US server)? If you cast your eyes back through our archives, you will find we have on many occasions called for this or that group to have fairly violent things done to them (Ba'athists for example... and certain Wahhabi folk on occasion too... and certain Serbian nationalists)... and I suspect trawling through the archives of the Daily Telegraph would turn up articles 'inciting' not just 'violence' but calling for full blown wars.

Well it is now clear that we can say what we think, not by right as 'freeborn Englishmen' (hah!) but rather at the sufferance of the likes of Adil Khan and the whole apparatus of thought control that people like him represent. They do not feel the urge to come after us because we are not unpopular enough, although I doubt they like folks like us suggesting they prose a vastly greater threat to liberty and, gasp, "social cohesion" than a couple comically wacko racists.

Have you seen this being hotly debated in the media? Even a little? Pah. So much for the fearless and 'essential' media guardians of our liberal western order.

Told You So (Again)

This is not one of those 'told you so's' that I can take any pleasure in.

This blog on Afghanistan, 2006 :

If we had a huge army, flush with success in many theatres, full of highly-motivated officers, loads of the latest technical kit, a hugely supportive public at home, total self-belief among the political and administrative class, no worries on the diplomatic front or the 'court of world opinion' , should we go in so that Nooria can go to school ?

Well, in the latter half of the nineteenth century we had all these things in spades. We chose to keep out - to restrict our visits to the punitive 'butcher and bolt' expeditions - pretty much what the Yanks are doing now. Perhaps we had good reason.

Rory Stewart in the Telegraph, 2009 :

Sir John Lawrence, the new viceroy, persuaded Lord Derby's government that Afghanistan was less important than it appeared, that our resources were limited, and that we had other more pressing priorities. Here, in a civil service minute of 1867, he imagines what would happen if the Russians tried to invade: "In that case let them undergo the long and tiresome marches which lie between the Oxus and the Indus; let them wend their way through poor and difficult countries, among a fanatic and courageous population, where, in many places, every mile can be converted into a defensible position; then they will come to the conflict on which the fate of India will depend, toil-worn, with an exhausted infantry, a broken-down cavalry, and a defective artillery."

He concludes: "I am firmly of opinion that our proper course is not to advance our troops beyond our present border, not to send English officers into the different states of Central Asia; but to put our own house in order ..."

Lawrence might have been expected to have a more confident or arrogant view of British power than policy-makers today. But he believed that the British government lacked power, lacked knowledge (even though he and his colleagues had spent decades on the Afghan frontier) and lacked legitimacy ("the Afghans do not want us; they dread our appearance in the country... will not tolerate foreign rule").

The argument is contingent, cautious, empirical and local, rooted in a very specific landscape and time. It expresses a belief not only in the limits of Russian and Afghan threats but also in the limits of British power and capacity.

Laban, January 2009 :

One of the strange contradictions of NuLabs regime is the willingness to upset Muslims overseas while bending over backwards to avoid upsetting them in the UK (apart from the said overseas upsets). The retreat from Basra would at least be a mark of consistency, of bringing foreign policy into craven line with domestic, were it not for the fact that the withdrawal is almost certainly aimed at facilitating an additional troop movement into Afghanistan. Our boys will go from being blown up in under-armoured vehicles, short of body armour and helicopters, in Iraq, to being blown up in under-armoured vehicles, short of body armour and helicopters, in Afghanistan - all so that little Nooria can go to school.
Times :

A shortage of helicopters has forced troops to resort to supply convoys that are up to 100 vehicles long and stretch for two miles, leaving them easy prey to Taliban roadside bombs.
As for the armoured vehicles, EU Referendum is your one-stop shop for the full, tragic story.

That's the military side. I'm not against having troops there on a 'butcher and bolt' basis to give Al Quaeda a hard time. But what we're trying to do is establish a modern democracy in Afghanistan at a time when legitimacy is seeping away from our own democracy. Hubris or what ?

Laban :

I was never a fan of the project to democratise Afghanistan. The politics and culture of that fascinating nation are nearer to those of fourteenth-century England than to modern America.

Stewart :

The new UK strategy for Afghanistan is described as: "International... regional... joint civilian-military... co-ordinated... long-term...focused on developing capacity... an approach that combines respect for sovereignty and local values with respect for international standards of democracy, legitimate and accountable government, and human rights; a hard-headed approach: setting clear and realistic objectives with clear metrics of success."

This is not a plan: it is a description of what we have not got. Why do we believe that describing what we do not have should constitute a plan on how to get it? In part, it is because the language is comfortingly opaque. A bewildering range of different logical connections and identities can be concealed in a specialised language derived from development theory and overlaid with management consultancy. What is concealed is our underlying assumption that when we want to make other societies resemble our (often fantastical) ideas of our own society, we can.