Blog Archives

The ultimate power-play? Trump celebrates the Space Force’s ‘new warfighting domain’

The flag for the new the US Space Command revealed in the White House Rose Garden

In March 2018, the Military Times reported another of Trump’s apparently casual observations that ‘space is becoming a “war-fighting domain”, adding later that at first he wasn’t serious when he floated the concept, but “then I said what a great idea, maybe we’ll have to do that.”

Five months later the Department of Defense released a report explaining how it intends to create the Space Force and Trump repeatedly stressed the need for American dominance in space.

In a January 2019 White House government briefing announcing his vision, though liberally using terms like protection and defense, President Trump said “we will recognize that space is a new warfighting domain, with the Space Force leading the way.” This ‘Unified Combatant Command’ will ‘protect US interests’ in space.

The voice of sanity:

Massachusetts Institute of Technology astronautics professor and former NASA deputy administrator Dava Newman said she prefers space to be as peaceful as possible: “Space is for exploration and lifting up humanity. We should learn from our mistakes on Earth and keep space peaceful.”

Good for business – developing a new arsenal, Star Wars 2 ?

On October 6th, in The Spectator’s inaugural US edition, James Adams comments: “In the new space race, victory won’t mean landing on the moon or sending a rocket to Mars, but developing a new arsenal to wage and win war in space”. This would include extending the range of orbital surveillance networks and producing weapons to attack space systems in orbit (anti-satellite weapons), to attack targets on the earth from space or to disable missiles travelling through space. Read more here.

Space Force’s stated mission is to protect American space assets and, in the first stages of a new war, destroy enemy satellites. All US military communications are dependent on satellites, as are 90% of communications intercepts and other forms of intelligence gathering. If they were knocked out, it would be almost impossible for the Pentagon to wage war.

Mr Adams reminds us that the militarization of space is regulated, in theory, by the Outer Space Treaty, created in 1967 by the United States, Russia and Britain, and signed subsequently by another 106 countries. He adds: “It governs the peaceful exploration of space and bans the placing of nuclear weapons there. But it didn’t ban the placement of conventional weapons in orbit, and it could not foresee all of the technological changes that, by altering the balance of power in space, threaten to alter the geopolitical balance on earth”.

Since 2013, Russia has launched three satellites that US intelligence believes may carry Anti-Satellite (ASAT) weapons and Adams reports that ‘sources’ have told him that the US intelligence community is certain that Russia, China and India already have ASAT capabilities, and that North Korea and Iran have programs in development.

The most recent official announcement:(29.8.19): “Department of Defense Establishes U.S. Space Command says: “At the direction of the President of the United States, Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper established U.S. Space Command (USSPACECOM) today as the eleventh Unified Combatant Command”. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, Jr. said, “This step puts us on a path to maintain a competitive advantage in this critical war fighting domain.”

USSPACECOM standup ceremony at Petersen Air Force base

The United States Space Command website reports that ‘Joint and coalition’ space officials from Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States attended a ceremony to recognize the establishment of Combined Force Space Component Command (CFSCC) at Vandenberg on Oct. 1, 2019

More detailed information can be found by following the press links given and at; though the latter’s alarmingly childish video is better avoided.

Only Peter Lazenby, in the Morning Star, in two recent articles, appears to think that this news is of any significance. He writes, “The British government is complicit in the US military’s plans, partly by its association with the NATO military alliance and partly by the presence of US military bases within the country, which will be involved in the space militarisation project.”.

He reported that a nationwide week of action to “Keep Space for Peace” was launched last Saturday as part of worldwide protests against extra-planetary militarisation. Oxfordshire Peace Campaign targeted the US intelligence-gathering base at RAF Croughton, on the Oxfordshire-Northamptonshire border.

Today, Lazenby reports, campaigners will hold a peace vigil outside RAF Menwith Hill in North Yorkshire, a US base run by the US National Security Agency, which gathers military, political and financial information communicated by spy satellites circling the Earth and feeds it to the Pentagon. (Right: meticulous report by Steven Schofield)

The Spectator’s James Adams’ sardonic comment: “Down here on the ground, it’s a good idea to buy a wind-up radio and keep that landline phone connection. And get a road atlas, just in case”.

Many will fear far more extensive repercussions from President Trump’s latest inspiration





Deliberately down-played? Belatedly, MSM publishes limited accounts of a government-funded thinktank’s dubious activities

On the 2nd December the Daily Record revealed that Gateshead Mills in Fife, which ‘presents’ as a small ‘design and creativity charity’ operating from an old Victorian mill in Fife, has been revealed in leaked documents passed to the Sunday Mail – the sister paper of the Daily Record – as the base for The Institute for Statecraft, whose Integrity Initiative is run by military intelligence specialists and receives £2million from the Foreign Office.

Spokesman Stephen Dalziel said: “It (the IFS) was set up 14 years ago and the Integrity Initiative programme was started three years ago to look at disinformation and malign influence on democratic societies and it just so happens it’s the Russians who are doing most of that at the moment . . .  What we have done is to set up this network across Europe of people who understand what the problem is”.

The Integrity Initiative claims to have built a network of networks of people who operate to counter Russia’s ‘disinformation’. The UK cluster has staff from the Institute for Statecraft, people representing hedge fund interests, think tanks like DEMOS, RUSI, Henry Jackson Society, European Council on Foreign Relations, and Chatham House, as well as from the Ministry of Defence (including EU Joint Headquarters at Northwood), the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and several journalists.

The link to the Daily Record article is no longer accessible but one dated a week later – and far less revealing – may be read here. Another article, first seen in NY Herald Tribune, reproduced with permission from the UK Column, presents a fully illustrated and even more revealing  information and – to date – its link works.  

Back to the currently inaccessible Daily Record. The leaks detail Government grant applications and the Foreign Office has now confirmed that they provided substantial funding to the Integrity Initiative. In response to a parliamentary question, Europe Minister Alan Duncan said: “In financial year 2017-18, the FCO funded the Institute for Statecraft’s Integrity Initiative £296,500. This financial year, the FCO are funding a further £1,961,000. Both have been funded through grant agreements.” A Foreign & Commonwealth Office spokesperson said: “The Integrity Initiative is a programme already in the public domain. Our funding helps ensure it can continue producing important work to counter disinformation and other malign influence.”

The investigation has found evidence that the programme’s official Twitter account has been used to attack Corbyn, his strategy and communications director Seumas Milne, the Labour Party and its officials.

Further leaked documents appear to indicate that the Integrity Initiative’s “Spanish cluster” swung into action on hearing that Pedro Banos was to be appointed director of the national security department. The papers detail how the Integrity Initiative alerted “key influencers” around Europe who launched an online campaign against the politician.

The manager of the Integrity Initiative ‘appears to be’ Christopher Donnelly.

A website biography states that he is a reserve officer in the British Army Intelligence Corps who previously headed the British Army’s Soviet Studies Research Centre at Sandhurst. Between 1989 and 2003, he was a special adviser to NATO Secretaries General and was involved in dealing with the disintegration of the Soviet Union and reform of newly emerging democracies in Central and Eastern Europe. He left NATO in 2003 to set up and run the UK Defence Academy’s Advanced Research and Assessment Group. In 2010, he became a director of IFS.

UK column adds many other staff names, including that of the active Andy Pryce.

Pryce had been making statements to the press about Russia (well worth reading in the light of this article), where he was described as ‘Head of Counter Disinformation and Media Development’ at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in September 2017. He is said to have taken part in:

UK column journalist Mike Robinson made a FOI request for more information but this was refused on the basis of ‘national security’ – though he noted that the Freedom of Information act says that national security can only be used as grounds for refusal where intelligence services are involved. The FCO’s response is now under investigation by the Information Commissioner.

Some will want to read more about the Integrity Initiative, which appears to be acting in the way that western governments and media claim Russia is doing.

The UK Column adds other staff names, including:

  • Ben Bradshaw MP, who has been promoting an anti-Russian outlook, including claiming that Russia “interfered” with the Brexit referendum,
  • Sir Andrew Wood, former British ambassador to Russia, and one of the founders of Orbis Business Intelligence, the privatised British intelligence operation which features Christopher Steele, the author of the Trump ‘dodgy dossier’ and
  • Oliver McTernan, a former Senior Adviser at the Club of Madrid and a Visiting Fellow, Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University. In 2002, he initiated and participated in the first official high-level post conflict talks between NATO and the government in Belgrade. For 25 years he was Executive Committee Member, Pax Christi International, responsible for the movement’s East-West Dialogue programme during the Soviet period. He is the founder and a director of the St Sergius Trust Fund based in London and Moscow, and was earlier a Roman Catholic priest based in the diocese of Westminster.

David Miller, noted professor of Political Sociology in the School for Policy Studies at the University of Bristol, says that serious questions need to be answered:  

“It seems extraordinary that the Foreign Office would be funding a Scottish charity to counter Russian propaganda which, for example, ends up soft-pedalling far-right politicians in the Ukraine because they happen to oppose Putin. It must raise questions with OSCR, the Scottish charity regulator, about breaching charitable rules. It would appear this organisation could have received almost £2million from the FCO, so people have a right to know what’s happening with their money.”

Labour MSP Neil Findlay added: “It would appear that we have a charity registered in Scotland and overseen by the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator that is funded by the UK Government and is spewing out political attacks on UK politicians, the Labour Party and the Labour movement. Such clear political attacks and propaganda shouldn’t be coming from any charity. We need to know why the Foreign Office have been funding it.”





Which is worse: hybrid warfare said to challenge Euro-Atlantic security or drone warfare regularly slaughtering civilians?

Redbrick’s Comment Writer Tom Moran argues that NATO must display more willingness to act against hybrid warfare.

Wikipedia describes hybrid warfare as a military strategy that employs political warfare and blends conventional warfare, irregular warfare and cyberwarfare with other influencing methods, such as fake news, diplomacy and foreign electoral intervention. 

In response to the 2014 conflict in Ukraine, NATO decided to develop ‘a set of tools to deter and defend against adversaries waging hybrid warfare’.

NATO Watch’s latest news on this subject is that US Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Thom Tillis (below) relaunched the Senate NATO Observer Group, a bipartisan group of lawmakers aiming to strengthen congressional ties with NATO, more than a decade after it was disbanded. Shaheen, a Democrat, said “Now more than ever, it’s imperative that the United States work closely with NATO to respond to the ever-evolving threats to Western democracies, particularly from the Kremlin.

The July Brussels Summit Declaration issued by the Heads of State and Government participating in the meeting of the North Atlantic Council included: “We face a dangerous, unpredictable, and fluid security environment, with enduring challenges and threats from all strategic directions; from state and non-state actors; from military forces; and from terrorist, cyber, and hybrid attacks . . . including disinformation campaigns and malicious cyber activities . . .  Russia is also challenging Euro-Atlantic security and stability through hybrid actions, including attempted interference in the election processes’.

Trump’s relationship with NATO and Putin

Probably touching on the Shaheen-Tillis concerns, Tom Moran commented, “NATO’s Brussels summit was hardly short of controversy with Trump, unsurprisingly, at the centre of this; whether that be in his questionable commitment to the alliance, his questionable understanding of it, or shortly following this, his questionable off-the-records meeting with Putin”.

He continues: ‘Russia never really invaded the Crimea; instead they used special forces, cyber-attacks, their “little green men” (to stop political protests) and fake news. Similarly, in Syria there is the same level of confusion. Against whom have Russia carried out attacks? Does Assad still have chemical weapons? And, have they been used since he supposedly gave them up? The ambiguity makes the fake news indistinguishable from the truth and in turn the confusion is the weapon of war’.

Moran is aware that Russian goals have not changed significantly over the last three hundred years: “Imperial, Soviet and modern Russia have all searched to protect their western borders through some form of buffer between them and the rest of Europe . . . NATO expansion since the end of the Cold War has, rightfully, concerned Russia as they no longer have that buffer”.

Despite this awareness, he ends by expressing the belief that it is crucial for NATO to succeed in pursuing their interests (‘expansion’) and continue to curtail Russia gaining both a buffer and further expansion in Eastern Europe.


The only winners following that course of action will be pork-barrel politicians and the arms & ‘defence’ electronics industry.





Whistleblowers 10: as revelations which damage corporate interests are penalised, useful material for ‘Russia bashing’ is rewarded

whistleblowers sufferThere have been several general articles about whistleblowing on this site & others focussing on some brave individuals who suffered for revealing unwelcome truths, including Dr Raj Mattu, Julian Assange, Ian Foxley, Peter Gardiner, Bradley Manning, Osita Mba, Jerry Bryzan and the Glaxo 4. Earlier in the century, before the site was set up, there were health sector whistleblowers; Marta Andreasen & Paul van Buitenen also revealed shocking cases of EU financial mismanagement and suffered for it.

This week a reader sent a link leading to news of sentences given to two former PwC employees who leaked data from 45,000 pages of documents which one of them had accessed through a glitch in the company’s servers. They revealed information about Luxembourg’s tax deals with large corporations such as Apple, Ikea, and Pepsi.

Though the revelations prompted parliamentary debates, select committee hearings, and an EU probe into anti-competitive tax deals the two former employees of PWC and a journalist ended up in the dock – not PwC and the tax authority.

As NATO presents Russia as a major threat, every opportunity to confirm this view is embraced

The Russian 800m runner Yuliya Stepanova, was banned from the sport for anomalies in her athlete biological passport in 2013. Yuliya and her husband Vitaly, a former employee of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA), then made a series of secret recordings and allegations that were broadcast in a German television documentary entitled “Secret Doping Dossier: How Russia Produces its Winners”.

She has now been granted a special dispensation to race again at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro as a “neutral athlete” by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) doping review board.

The guilty verdicts for the two former PwC employees are increasing calls for more robust protections for whistleblowers. One of Deltour’s lawyers William Bourdon called the verdict “scandalous”. The message of Luxembourg’s justice system was for multinationals to “sleep tight”, he said.

NB: In Britain whistleblowers are usually made to suffer, despite the nicknamed ‘Whistle-blowers Act’:




Hearing such people saying ‘stay in’ almost triggers a Brexit vote

madeleine albright

The Times reports that Madeleine Albright, the former US secretary of state, is among those who have warned that Britain’s “place and influence in the world would be diminished” if voters choose to leave the EU in next month’s referendum.

Scott Donovan: “Isn’t it hugely ironic that the country that led us with Blair’s connivance into the disaster of the Iraq war which has led directly to the emergence of Isis and the current disintegration of stability in the mid-east is now lecturing us again in their own self interest. Then the disaster of the extended stay in Afghanistan and the adventurist regime change in Libya all encouraged by the US. What a litany of failed foreign policy achievements!”

In a letter to The Times, 13 former US secretaries of state and defence and national security advisers say that the country’s “place and influence in the world would be diminished and Europe would be dangerously weakened” after a vote to leave in next month’s referendum:

Geoff Loughborough’s comment: “This from people who gave us Vietnam and Iraq”.

“In our globalised environment it is critical to have size and weight in order to be heard,” say the group of 13, which includes Ronald Reagan’s secretary of state, George Shultz; the former CIA chief and defence secretary Leon Panetta; and Madeleine Albright, the first woman secretary of state.

After President Obama warned on a visit to London of the dangers of Brexit (‘back of the queue’), five former secretaries-general of NATO — Lord Carrington, Javier Solana, Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, Jaap De Hoop Scheffer and Anders Fogh Rasmussen — wrote to The Daily Telegraph supporting Britain’s continued membership of the EU. They said: “Given the scale and range of challenges to peace and stability we collectively face, the Euro-Atlantic community needs an active and engaged United Kingdom . . . Brexit would undoubtedly lead to a loss of British influence, undermine Nato and give succour to the West’s enemies.”

Zovido: “OMG, if ever there was a reason to vote out it is when these people say stay in. Albright et al have brought the world nothing but misery”.




Secret State 16: are British drones and special forces assisting the United States in Libya – yet another disastrous military intervention?

Open government or secret state? What is going on behind the scenes?

tobias ellwood mpLast week it was reported that Tobias Ellwood, the UK foreign office minister, wrote to parliament’s foreign affairs select committee to say he would not be able to provide further details of the role being played either by the Royal Air Force or UK-controlled drones over Libya. According to the Guardian, Ellwood has admitted that drones have flown over Libya and it has been repeatedly reported that UK special forces are in the country.

There are many media rumours of plans being made to send another thousand British troops to Libya. Will British citizens ever know what the elected government will decide and how taxpayers’ money will be spent?

US-NATO forces have bombed Libya’s irrigation system and wreaked havoc on the country. American attorney Ellen Brown (below left) reminds us that before 2011 Libya had achieved economic independence, with its own water, food, own oil, money, and state-owned bank.

ellen brown 3Under Gaddafi it had risen from being one of the poorest of countries to the richest in Africa. Education and medical treatment were free; having a home was considered a human right; and Libyans participated in an original system of local democracy. The country had the world’s largest irrigation system, the Great Man-made River project, which brought water from the desert to the cities and coastal areas; and Qaddafi was embarking on a program to spread this model throughout Africa.


Today the situation is dire

libyan ruin

As Dan Kovalik wrote in the Huffington Post, “the human rights situation in Libya is a disaster, as ‘thousands of detainees [including children] languish in prisons without proper judicial review,’ and ‘kidnappings and targeted killings are rampant’.”

Ellen Brown adds: “NATO intervention was allegedly undertaken on humanitarian grounds, after reports of mass atrocities; but human rights organizations questioned the claims after finding a lack of evidence. Today, however, verifiable atrocities are occurring”.

Surely Britain and America will go down in history as having been more cruelly destructive in the Middle East than Genghis Khan, who is said to have brought unity, peace and security to the territories he invaded.

And is there more to come? Another country in their sights?


Jeremy Corbyn is right to reject Trident: Commander Robert Green, Royal Navy (Ret’d)

Exploit the opportunity cost to provide a far more tangible, useful and credible key defence diplomacy and conventional deterrence role.

robert green“Jeremy Corbyn came under attack yesterday for his refusal to countenance the use of nuclear weapons, writes Commander Robert Green. But his stance is honourable and both legally and strategically correct – especially with his opposition to renewing the Trident nuclear missile system”.

The current UK political leadership’s threat to use UK Trident requires the four submarine crews to be prepared to commit nuclear terrorism, risking them being branded as guilty of the Nazi defence against war crimes.

Felicity Arbuthnot sent this link to a powerful statement by Robert Green in The Ecologist. He writes (emphasis added):

Dear Jeremy,

As a former operator of British nuclear weapons, I support your rejection of Trident replacement.

I write as a retired Royal Navy Commander. I have served my country in the crew of a Buccaneer nuclear strike aircraft with a target in Russia, and subsequently on Sea King anti-submarine helicopters equipped with nuclear depth-bombs. Here are my reasons, in response to some of the pro-nuclear advocates’ arguments.

  • ‘Britain cannot afford to risk its national security, lose credibility amongst its allies, and leave France as the sole European nuclear power.’

The Government, Ministry of Defence, RN and public face a reality check regarding the defence budget.

Respected commentators are expressing growing concern about the mismatch between ambition and austerity; and Trident replacement is set to be the single-largest procurement programme of the next decade.

The Strategic Defence and Security Review should expose how vulnerable it is, especially when placed alongside the Government commitment to complete both super-carriers, and equip and keep operational one of them. As RUSI’s Malcolm Chalmers observed in his recent report Mind The Gap, the constraints “will make the exercise of a clear-headed strategic intellect vital to the management of defence.”

Yet the late Sir Michael Quinlan admitted to Lord Hennessy:

  • “Every British government has needed to find intellectual clothing for what has always been a gut decision never to allow France to be the sole European nuclear power.”

When weighed against the gravity of the implications, how rational and responsible is this? Besides, was not this decision rendered hollow once the ‘independent British deterrent’ came to depend upon a US-leased missile system, US software in the fire control system, US targeting data and satellite communications? This trumps any puerile ‘Little Englander’ political posturing about the French.

US officials have warned that if Britain asks the US to provide a replacement system for Trident, it will become “a nuclear power and nothing else.” So would it not be wiser to turn the current defence budget crisis to advantage, and exploit the opportunity cost to provide a far more tangible, useful and credible key defence diplomacy and conventional deterrence role?

The US and UK would not to have to sustain the fiction of UK nuclear independence; and the UK government would be seen to have truly enhanced its special relationship as closest US ally, rather than nuclear vassal.

  • ‘Britain’s ultimate security depends upon an aggressor being in no doubt that retaliation will be assured and catastrophic to their country in general and their leadership in particular.’

As for this macho ritual ‘nuclear test’ of British political leadership, the reality is that no Prime Minister would have to ‘press the button’. That dirty work is delegated to the Commanding Officer of the deployed Trident submarine. And back when I was in a nuclear crew of a Buccaneer strike jet or Sea King anti-submarine helicopter, we were given that dreadful, suicidal responsibility.

The current UK political leadership’s threat to use UK Trident therefore requires the four submarine crews to be prepared to commit nuclear terrorism, risking them being branded as guilty of the Nazi defence against war crimes.

Furthermore, nuclear deterrence is a disingenuous doctrine, because it is militarily irrational and not credible, for reasons set out in my book Security Without Nuclear Deterrence.

  • ‘Since 1945 nuclear deterrence has prevented war and provided stability between the major powers.’

The Soviet motive in occupying Eastern Europe was to create a defensive buffer zone and ensure that Germany could never threaten them again. Soviet archives show that NATO’s conventional capability and soft power were seen as far more significant than its nuclear posture.

Nuclear deterrence meant that nuclear war was avoided by luck. We have come perilously close to nuclear war on several occasions:

  • Cuban missile crisis 1962;
  • Exercise Able Archer miscalculation 1983;
  • Russian misidentification of a Norwegian meteorological research rocket 1995.
  • Also, it prolonged and intensified the Cold War.

As for stability, the reality is that nuclear deterrence stimulates arms racing – and some 1,500 US and Russian strategic nuclear weapons remain at dangerously high alert states, especially with the reckless nuclear posturing over Ukraine.

  • ‘The 1996 advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice did not conclude that the threat or use of nuclear weapons would be unlawful, especially when a nation’s survival is at stake.’

The Court, under heavy pressure from the three NATO nuclear weapon states, did not specifically pronounce on the legal status of nuclear deterrence. However, it determined unanimously that any threat or use of nuclear weapons must conform to international humanitarian law, and confirmed that the principles of the law of armed conflict apply to nuclear weapons.  The envisaged use of even a single 100 kiloton UK Trident warhead could never meet these requirements.

  • The number of states acquiring nuclear weapons has continued to grow.’

This is a direct consequence of the P5’s use of nuclear weapons as a currency of power; and their modernisation plans flout their obligation under Article 6 of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to get rid of their arsenals.

For the 184 states which have made a treaty commitment to renounce nuclear weapons, the UK’s moral authority is compromised by its nuclear posture.

  • ‘There was no international impact when South Africa and Ukraine abandoned nuclear weapons.’

Neither qualified as a recognised nuclear weapon state. The UK was the third state to detonate a nuclear weapon, and is one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (known as the P5). British anti-nuclear breakout, therefore, would be a sensational game-changer.

  • ‘No benefit would flow from a UK decision not to replace Trident.’

Seizing this moment to take the initiative would enable the Government genuinely to claim this was in line with its commitment under NPT Article 6, and to be a ‘force for good in the world’, from which it would reap massive kudos and global respect – for example, Britain would retain its P5 status.

The opportunity cost for the RN would be immediately measurable; and the Army and RAF would no longer resent the RN’s preoccupation with a militarily useless irrelevance.


Commander Robert Green, Royal Navy (Retired).

Petition:Support Jeremy Corbyn: No to nuclear weapons! No to Trident!

Robert Green served in the Royal Navy from 1962-82. As a bombardier-navigator, he flew in Buccaneer nuclear strike aircraft with a target in Russia, and then anti-submarine helicopters equipped with nuclear depth-bombs. On promotion to Commander in 1978, he worked in the Ministry of Defence before his final appointment as Staff Officer (Intelligence) to the Commander-in-Chief Fleet during the 1982 Falklands War. He is now Co-Director of the Disarmament & Security Centre in Christchurch, New Zealand.


PMQs: Lutz in the Birmingham Press got it right. Corbyn impressed

A recent article by Richard Lutz in the Birmingham Press opened: “The Prime Minister will have to have change his upper class bully boy tactics once he faces new Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

As Lutz recounted: “PMQs is hardly polite. In fact, it is so red in tooth and claw that the Speaker had to recently warn baying Parliamentarians to calm down as some of the more demure MPs said it just wasn’t worth showing up any more . . . but with the chance to perform for TV, it has become more and more nasty, personal, vindictive and, ultimately, void of any real content”. He referred to Cameron: “braying personalised attacks at those sitting across the House from him”.

Watching PMQs today – recorded here.

jc magisterial pmq firstElderly readers of the Times who have been voicing concerns about his appearance will be reassured by the fact that he was wearing a tie – a concern which also seems to loom large in the mainstream press.

Corbyn, with considerable gravitas, opened – to Labour applause and opposition silence – by referring to the public’s perception that conduct in ‘this place’ is too theatrical and out of touch. He remembered welcoming Cameron’s 2005 promise to end the “Punch and Judy” politics of PMQs, sadly unfulfilled.

Over 40,000 people sent in questions for Mr Corbyn’s consideration. Of the 2500 on housing he selected Marie’s focus on the chronic lack of affordable housing and thanked the PM for his polite, “more adult” reply. We learnt that the government’s July order to cut rents in social housing by1% for the next four years has already led to 150 job cuts in a Stevenage housing association and will mean less money will be available to spend on maintenance and housing. Elsewhere we read that it will also reduce housebuilding by housing associations.

Paul’s question, conveyed by the new Labour leader, doubted the wisdom of taking £1000 from each of 3 million working families in April through family tax credit cuts, as these credits were essential to avoid reliance on food banks.  

A relatively minor level of shouting from Labour benches (by PMQ standards a murmur) was reproved by the prime minister as not being in keeping with the new style advocated by Corbyn.

Cameron answered that employment is at an ‘all time high’ and wages are rising, and referred to those who choose to live on welfare payments rather than work. Corbyn answered gravely that many people don’t have the choice. He then cited the findings of the Institute for Fiscal Studies that 8000 families would suffer a 26% loss.

Gail provided the next question, which opened with the dramatic statement that all accept that the mental health service is ‘on its knees’ and David Cameron appeared to agree. He said the parties should ’work together on this’ adding an oblique reference to the media fables about the Corbyn economic agenda: “there can be no strong NHS without a strong economy”.

The question from Angela, a mental health professional, referred to the lack of available beds which meant that patients were left without accommodation or moved far away from family and friends. Mr Cameron agreed: “We need to do more as a country; beds are important”, but then alleged that mental health issues are often not treated when patients go to their GP.

After fifteen minutes, Jeremy Corbyn’s questions ended and there was a change of tack, which could be described as indirect sniping – when questioners no longer had to face a Corbyn reply.

SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson says his party “looks forward to working with Jeremy Corbyn and against government austerity” adding “particularly on Trident” – but had to ask ‘What happened to the new PMQs?’ after Cameron asked him in a jeering manner if ‘the SNP is frit?’

Nigel Dodds (DUP) belligerently referred to shadow chancellor John McDonnell’s remark that we should “honour” IRA members who died in the armed struggle – a remark set in full context in a careful report of the proceedings in the Independent.

Conservative bloomer, surely?

Julian Knight stressed the importance of Britain having an independent nuclear deterrent – which actually does not exist, as many point out, Alex Thomson for one: our “independent” Trident missiles in reality come from Lockheed Martin in the US and are maintained by the US Navy. So we are being asked to spend around  £100bn to maintain and replace an “independent” nuclear strike capability – which does not exist. David Morrison adds: “If Britain doesn’t maintain friendly relations with the US, then it won’t have a functional nuclear weapons system, despite having spent billions of pounds of British taxpayers’ money on it – because the US would simply cease providing Britain with serviceable Trident missiles”.

Other MPs questions followed, making references – probably planted to provoke – to increased defence spending, NATO membership, traditional values and the national anthem.

Lutz was right on target:

david cameron pmqCameron did ‘play it cool’, not going for ‘the teenage nastiness that has sadly stained the current level of PMQ debate in the last years’.

He did stick to answering questions, and for the time being he appeared to be “growing up”.

My neighbour said drily, ”Only another 25,000 questions to go.”

Devil’s advocate? Henry Chu pretends to be puzzled by the support for Jeremy Corbyn

henry chuWe are indebted to investigative journalist Felicity Arbuthnot for this link to a refreshingly lighthearted article in the Los Angeles Times by Henry Chu, born in Indianapolis, raised in Southern California, served as bureau chief in Beijing from 1998 to 2003, Rio de Janeiro from 2004 to 2005 and New Delhi from 2006 to 2008 before locating to London in 2009.

His subject is Jeremy Corbyn, an ‘unabashed’ left-winger, not quite sure why he could have needed to be ‘embarrassed, disconcerted, or ashamed’ of his eminently sensible and public-spirited policy proposals, but there it is.

Chu opens: “Jeremy Corbyn says ordinary workers didn’t cause the 2008 financial crisis but are paying for it through austerity cuts” but nevertheless finds that support for him “is surprisingly on the rise in British politics “ – surely cause and effect?

22-year old Aisling Gallagher, speaking at the Robin Hood demonstration pictured below, values the Islington North MP’s position against austerity – something other leadership candidates lack. “Governmental economic policies (ie cuts and “reforms”) have a hugely devastating impact on women and even more so on black women, migrant women, disabled women and so on”, she says.

robin hood style supporters

To those who once revelled in Robin Hood films, the comparison of this newly emerging hero with a legendary one is quite pleasing, and indeed Nottingham, where lives one of many gifted Corbyn allies – former Labour MP and environmentalist, Alan Simpson – already has much to be proud of, including:

  • its exemplary public transport system,
  • its coalfield regeneration,
  • and now its Robin Hood Energy Company, first council-taxpayer owned energy firm to operate on that basis since market was nationalised in 1948

Corbyn, for the common good

Jeremy Corbyn tells ‘hundreds of merry men and women’ – actually well over a thousand and merry/happy indeed – at the North Circus Street venue and the overflow in the courtyard behind Nottingham Playhouse , that the government needs to stop concentrating wealth in the hands of the have-a-lots and start investing in public services and welfare benefits for the have-nots. After all, he continues, single parents, nurses and other ordinary workers didn’t cause the 2008 financial crisis; bankers bent on “grotesque” profits did. Yet the rest of society is paying the price as the state slashes spending after doling out billions to rescue the banks.

Unelectable: scruffy, rumpled and non-telegenic?

casual corbyn

That’s debatable, one could instead describe his appearance as casual, relaxed and confident – decide for yourself. Chu describes Corbyn’s three rivals: “younger, slicker and, so far, fairly hopeless at firing up the public imagination” and their well-groomed youth is not of interest to Corbyn’s newly hopeful support base.

formal corbynAnd if so moved he will spruce up, wearing the totally pointless necktie and suit. See – and hear – the 2013 Oxford Union debate.

“He steps outside of the paradigm,” says Nottingham cafe owner Tres Gretton-Roche. “There’s something that feels very different. The whole thing that surrounded Blair was spin; there was something unreal about it. But what Jeremy Corbyn has is a real rhetoric, a real connection.”

Corbyn ‘clings to’ (Chu’s expression) – or rather is faithful to – causes such as nuclear disarmament. Would Chu value him more if he trimmed with the wind like most other politicians? I suspect not. He is also said to cling to a proposal to re-nationalise the country’s energy sector – for obvious reasons as the 99% are exploited and profits fly abroad.

Chu notes that Corbyn favours Britain’s withdrawal from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization – no so outlandish: several eminent commentators have said that NATO has outlived its purpose and exceeded its original mandate – see US army Lt. Col. Robert L. Bateman, Nick Witney, Senior Policy Fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, formerly the European Defence Agency’s first Chief Executive and others. The thousands who protested at the NATO summit in Cardiff last year obviously agree.

Chu’s reference to Margaret Thatcher is a great cue for tomorrow’s post – a comparison of the two politicians, also lighthearted, which would indeed encourage Corbyn if he ever finds time to read it.

Lord Mandelson – of all people – intervenes to promote ‘fairness in our society’ and ‘Britain’s place in the world’

peter mandelson2The author of the FT’s recent article about the consequences of electing Jeremy Corbyn as Labour Party leader, Peter Mandelson, is merely described as a former cabinet minister, Labour’s campaign director in 1985-91 and 1995-97.

There is much more to him than that

Several sources reported in 2011 that he had David Cameron’s support to succeed Pascal Lamy as head of The World Trade Organisation, Nicholas Watt of the Guardian also speaking of the PM’s ‘high regard’ for Mandelson.

He certainly shares with his ally, Tony Blair – another Cameron adviser – an overweening ambition and a propensity to pursue wealth.

How different from his target, Jeremy Corbyn

Refreshing the memory, Wikipedia records Mandelson’s blemished career, including:

  • his first resignation from government because he was found to be ‘hugely and secretly indebted to the Paymaster-General’ and had not declared the loan in the Register of Members’ Interests, and
  • his second resignation, following accusations of using his position to influence a passport application by Srichand Hinduja, an Indian businessman.

Lord Mandelson’s commercial interests have included acting as:

  • adviser to the advisory investment banking firm, Lazard,
  • director of a Russian arms company,
  • and adviser to Asia Pulp & Paper in selling timber products to Europe, accused in 2012 illegal logging in Indonesia and damaging the habitats of rare animals.

His words of wisdom – or vested interest – after voicing concern about fairness in our society and Britain’s place in the world:

”It would be a sad and possibly final chapter in the British Labour party’s history. If the leadership election that closes in two weeks’ time is won by Jeremy Corbyn, the current favourite, his policies — printing money, state ownership of major industries, unilateral disarmament and quitting Nato — will make the party unelectable.

“That would be a very bad outcome for anyone who cares about fairness in our society or Britain’s place in the world. For those of us who have once before trodden the road of rebuilding Labour, it would also be a poignant one”.

Used car anyone?