Australia now has a Labour Government.
I wonder if they’ll still be jubilating ten years hence.
Australia now has a Labour Government.
I wonder if they’ll still be jubilating ten years hence.
Labour MP Shahid Malik is not very happy at the moment. He was detained at a US airport, and had his luggage analysed for traces of explosives.
Understandable that he should be cross. However, when I started reading the story, I was expecting the reason for his anger to be along the lines of ‘just because you have a muslim name and are travelling with other muslims, it doesn’t mean you are a terrorist.’
But no. This is his complaint:
… I really do believe that British Ministers and Parliamentarians should be afforded the same respect and dignity at USA airports that we would bestow upon our colleagues in the Senate and Congress.
So is it that he has no problem with muslims being searched indiscriminately, so long as they are not ‘British Ministers or Parliamentarians’?
I wonder what his beloved constituents at Dewsbury think of that.
By the way, I am not commenting on the desirability or otherwise of muslims being searched by the American authorities. It is their country to act within as they see fit, subject to the limits of their laws. I am merely surprised at the stated reason for Shahid Malik’s annoyance.
While David Cameron is away in Rwanda being photographed with a shovel and a hard hat, he might like to know that his newly-acquired outdoor skills may be of some use in his own country. As of tonight’s news, there are still lots of people trapped in their houses in Gloucestershire.
Yes, I know. I don’t actually expect David Cameron to ride in to the rescue and lift them bodily out of their watery plight. We have firemen and women for that job.
But just as we do not expect our politicians to engage in manual labour for which they are not trained, why should we think it normal when they fly to another country to do just that? Are there any particular building skills David Cameron and his merry band can impart to the good banyarwanda?
This trip perplexes me on so many levels. Having lived in that area during the 1994 genocide, I have more than a passing interest in Rwandese affairs. I have been reading Iain Dale’s Rwanda diaries, and moving as the stories are, I do not see quite why it is essential for David Cameron and his team to be visiting the place now. Is there anything they are doing there that would remain undone were Cameron not there? Do they need to engage in three days’ manual labour before they grasp the problems of Africa?
David Cameron says that the trip is important in bridging the so-called ‘obscene’ gap between rich and poor nations. That a gap exists is not in doubt. What is in great doubt, however, is what David Cameron plans to do about it. The Conservative Party website talks about the charmingly named ‘Project Umubano’. In a nutshell, the project will cover activities such as rebuilding schools and local activities for the little children.
All very worthy, but if David Cameron really wants to do something about the ‘obscene gap’ between rich and poor nations, here is a suggestion from me: push for greater financial accountability from African leaders. And while you’re at it, why not raise the issue of democracy in Rwanda? The last elections in Rwanda can hardly be described as having been free and fair. Will David Cameron be saying anything about that? These are the things that will empower the people. A few huts here and there will help, but as a leading politician from a donor country, David Cameron should be using his influence in a more effective way.
Don’t get me wrong, Africa needs help. But it needs the right help. And it needs the right people to give the right help. Digging latrines and building huts? There are charities and non-governmental organisations available to do that. Speaking a few home truths to a quasi-dictatorial Government? Now that is something he should be doing.
Sometimes I don’t understand the mainstream media. Prince Harry has just been told that he cannot join his men in Iraq because of security concerns, and today, there is a story in the Daily Mail about the Prince’s ’secret new war role’. True, they don’t have a lot of detail, but do they not see the folly in revealing to the nation (and others besides) what they have learnt about where Harry may or may not be deployed in future? Yes, I know that there is an irony in my writing about it and drawing attention to the story, but I am getting fed up with the stories that regularly appear in the media. Some come dangerously close to compromising the security of British troops abroad. Perhaps those who write them do not think that our enemies also read newspapers.
Something very wrong with this proposal:
Travel restrictions could be imposed by America on 800,000 British citizens of Pakistani origin because of concerns about terrorism, it emerged yesterday.
The move has been prompted by fears that British Muslim men were behind several major bomb plots.
I sincerely hope the Government do the right thing and reject this move, even if it means abandoning the visa waiver scheme altogether.
Once a person has acquired British citizenship, whether by birth, marriage, or any other way, that is all that matters. As far as the visa waiver scheme is concerned, the US Government is not entitled to look behind the passport and impose restrictions based on who is carrying it. That is tantamount to creating different categories of British citizens, and we should not allow that.
Under our law, every British citizen is entitled to the same rights that attend upon citizenship. We should never accept a situation that creates a dividing line between our people, that deems some holders of the passport to be somehow less worthy than others.
The Telegraph reports that the Foreign Office is uneasy about the proposal, with a spokesman stating that:
“The Muslim community, including those of Pakistani origin, are an important part of our society and we would oppose strongly any proposal to single them out in response to the actions of terrorists”.
All well and good, but that is not the point. We should resist this proposal, not because the muslim community “are an important part of our society”, but because if they are British, they are entitled to the same rights and privileges as anyone else. In other words, even if they were an unimportant and insignificant part of our society, so long as they meet the citizenship test, that should be enough.
I would advise the Foreign Office to consider carefully what is at stake here; the deliberate devaluing of our citizenship by another country. I put it as high as that.
Here are some interesting articles about the hostages etc.
Morag considers armed forces recruitment ads and wonders if perhaps the true nature of what the forces are about has been badly downplayed. Also some analysis of the MoD’s thinking. A very interesting and thought-provoking post.
EU Referendum calls for a properly constituted Board of Inquiry into how they were taken hostage in the first place. Richard North makes the valid point that the Conservatives should be demanding a proper inquiry instead of making feeble noises about ‘lessons learnt’. Well said.
Calum Carr contrasts two recent MoD actions:
True word, Calum. To that I might add a third, the MoD’s self-righteous persecution of David Kelly for talking to a reporter, even threatening him with dismissal.
Very good articles, all.
The shameful episode of the 15 Navy personnel refuses to go away. They can now sell their stories to the press. I wonder if any of their number would be so honourable as to turn down the offer, but I doubt it. Faye Turney is reported to have agreed a tabloid deal and an interview with ITV.
I wonder what form her tabloid interview will take. Going by past interviews, they will probably expect her to pose in her underwear, or better still, scantily clad in some of her uniform. Maybe she will have a gun slung over one shoulder as she pouts for the cameras: ‘Faye takes no hostages!’. The pictures may or may not appear on page 3. All this should make her story more salacious, and therefore more interesting than it currently is: female sailor captured by Iran, freed after several days.
What do you mean, she wouldn’t stoop that low? The way I see it, she may as well. It doesn’t matter what form the interview takes. Clad or not, the Faye Turney interview marks another low point in this dreadful saga.
Not to single her out, though. Most of the other ex-hostages are reported to have seized upon this money-making opportunity with both hands, not stopping to consider their profession, their uniform (what uniform?), or the effect of their decision on the morale of other serving comrades.
This is the same sorry group of captives
who [edit: some of whom], despite being humiliatingly stripped of their uniforms, saw nothing wrong in rejoicing on Iranian television like drunken footballers returning victorious from an away game. Having lowered themselves in that way, they have probably calculated that they have nothing more to lose, and may as well gain something from their debased status.
EDIT. As to the final paragraph above, Verity has rightly pointed out that not all of the ex-captives participated in what I may call the ‘Farewell to Ahmadinejad Extravaganza’. The pictures showed about three dignified looking men maintaining their composure, whilst all around them, their colleagues comported themselves like reality TV stars. Verity is right, it is not fair to lump these dignified men together with their less inhibited brethren, so I have edited the post to reflect that.
Just watching the freed sailors pay public homage to a beaming Ahmadinejad. Hilarious.
This kind of publicity he could never have bought.
Reminds me of Uganda during the ’70s, when Idi Amin performed a similar ceremony with some Britons who had taken Ugandan citizenship. First they took the oath of loyalty, paying homage to a grinning Amin. Thereafter, the four Britons lifted him shoulder high, and against a backdrop of cheering supporters, bore him aloft like a victorious king.
Perhaps we should be grateful our sailors didn’t have to go that far.
Just watching the news about the kidnapping of the British workers in Ethiopia. All manner of people have been labelled ’Africa experts’, and wheeled into news studios to give their opinion on what exactly might have befallen the hapless workers.
I view such opinions with a healthy scepticism. Perhaps having lived in the affected areas myself (Ethiopia and Eritrea, that is), I also should roll up to the studio and offer my opinion.
The truth is, nobody knows what has happened to these men. Until the investigators uncover some more evidence, we do not even know on which side of the border they are. Nobody needs an ‘Africa expert’ to tell them that.
Debt relief campaigners are unhappy that Zambia has been ordered by the High Court to pay back a debt to a private company.
The story appears in summary in the Telegraph, but I have also had a look at the case reports.
It all began in 1979 when Zambia borrowed £15m from Romania to buy agricultural equipment. (Nowadays it’s hard to imagine Romania as a lender country, but that was a very long time ago, obviously.)
In 1999, Romania sold on the debt to Donegal International, a private company, for £2m. In 2003, Donegal International and Zambia sat down and worked out an agreement as to how Zambia would pay them.
Zambia agreed to make 36 monthly payments. They agreed that if Zambia defaulted on any monthly payment, Donegal could, within 21 days of the default, terminate the agreement and sue to recover the outstanding amounts.
That is precisely what happened, and both parties found themselves before the High Court. Zambia claimed that they should not have to repay at all, but after considering all the legal arguments, the judge decided that Zambia should pay. However, he ruled that the amount of interest stipulated in the contract was punitive, so they will not have to pay that. Small comfort for Zambia.
Critics are up in arms. This case is being described as having exposed a loophole whereby private companies can enforce payment of debts from poor countries which are currently benefiting from debt cancellation.
I do not see what all the fuss is about. This debt was obviously not written off by Romania, as they would then not have been able to sell it on. To the extent that this is described as a ‘loophole’, I disagree. If a private company chooses to take the high risk of buying debts against poor African countries, then as long as it acts within the law, I do not see the problem. True, Zambia is a poor country, and much has been made of how that money could usefully have been spent alleviating the poverty of the Zambian people, but I would submit that that is not the problem of Donegal International.
There are sound economic reasons against debt forgiveness. While desirable for the debtor nation, it often does not relieve the suffering of the ordinary citizens of that nation. So many times people blindly advocate debt forgiveness without stopping to consider the long term effects on the debtor nation. This is grossly irresponsible.
At the moment, critics of the court judgment have restricted themselves to heaping abuse on Donegal, for instance calling them a ‘vulture fund’. I do not believe that emotional blackmail should be used against a private company conducting its business within the limits of the law, but that is a sign of our times, and I have learned to live with that. However, what I would really not want to see is a clamour for legislation to make it illegal for British companies to buy debts in this way. It cannot be too long before someone starts advocating that.