Tag Archives: aid

Should the UK Home Secretary be linked to ‘charity’ that supports persecution of Palestinians?

Bloodthirsty: Priti Patel.

UK Home Secretary Priti Patel, who was sacked as International Development Secretary for trying to carry out her own foreign policy in Israel, is linked to a so-called charity that supports the persecution of Palestinians.

Patel used a family holiday in Israel to carry out secret political meetings with members of that country’s government – she pretended she had told the Foreign Office about them but had not.

When she got back to the UK, she tried to divert part of the Foreign Aid budget to fund the Israeli military occupation of the Golan Heights – land that belongs to Syria.

Eventually – after some dithering by then-prime minister Theresa May, Patel was forced to resign, only to be restored to an even more important Cabinet position by Boris Johnson.

Now we see a reason for Patel’s behaviour nearly four years ago: she is linked to the Henry Jackson Society, a (so-called) charity whose leaders support Israeli Defence Force (IDF) soldiers occupying – and carrying out atrocities – in the Occupied Territories of Palestine.

I’m sure we all remember the IDF’s war crimes against Palestine in April, when it bombed civilian infrastructure in Gaza including apartments, offices, government facilities, business and roads.

The IDF justified this by saying it was attacking assets of the Palestinian group Hamas, and the uninvolved individuals it killed – including many children – just happened to be in the way.

It is right to say that Hamas has itself committed war crimes, but that does not mean the IDF should do the same in return, and it is currently being investigated by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity including apartheid and persecution.

Henry Jackson Society executive director Dr Alan Mendoza justified Israel’s violence in Gaza on LBC News in May as legitimate self-defence, making no mention of Israel’s occupation and systematic discrimination against Palestinians.

Byline Times tells us about Patel’s involvement with this questionable organisation:

Until 2016, Priti Patel was a member of HJS’ Political Council, and in 2014 HJS sponsored her to fly to Washington DC to attend a conference organised by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

During the involvement of … Patel, two of HJS’ US directors have been involved in charities with close ties to the Israeli military.

In November 2020, Byline Times revealed that between 2015 and 2018, HJS’ US-based non-profit vehicle operated under the directorship of Joshua Swidler and Liad Meidar, both of whom are Republican Party donors. Swidler is also a Conservative Party donor and his late wife Alisa Swidler was a member of the Conservative Party Leaders Group who had given a total of £336,686 to the party.

Both former HJS director Swidler and current HJS director Meidar are simultaneously directors of a number of charities which support Israeli soldiers.

The Byline Times article goes on to mention more links between directors of the HJS and IDF-supporting charities. It continues:

Patel [was] involved with HJS during its US directors’ active involvement in these IDF supporting charities.

Here’s the point:

Involvement with this alleged charity (the involvement of its personnel in both US and UK politics may infringe Charity Commission rules on political independence) means Patel has, at the very least, been in contact with people who support Israeli military atrocities against innocent civilians.

And it was after she had been a member of that organisation’s political council that she visited Israel, met politicians including then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and tried to use UK government money to fund IDF activities in an occupied territory.

The charity says it hasn’t done anything wrong, but is that true if its directors have been using the connections it allows them to make in order to increase aid to the political causes they support?

So the question has to be asked:

Is it true that Patel supports the IDF in its atrocities because she has been radicalised by her association with the Henry Jackson Society and its directors – or that she became involved because their beliefs coincide with her own?

And, given that this may be the case:

Isn’t it also true that Priti Patel is a bloodthirsty racist who should not be a member of Parliament, let alone a hugely-powerful minister in the Tory Cabinet?

To help you remember why this is important, here’s a mild reminder of the way Israeli settlers, supported by the thugs of the IDF, treat Palestinians who are trying to work on their own land:

Priti Patel supports this violence.

It seems clear that, as long as she remains in government, the UK will continue to support Israeli war crimes in Palestine.

As long as people like her – puppets whose strings are being pulled by shadowy pro-Israel organisations – are in power, there will never be peace in the so-called Holy Land.

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Is aid cut a Tory bid to inflict avoidable megadeaths on foreigners?

RIP democracy: Boris Johnson cut aid to foreign countries without offering MPs a chance to vote on it. His claim that the law allows such a move is highly debatable. 

The message This Writer took from MPs’ failure to force a vote on reversing foreign aid cuts is that it means there will be hundreds of thousands of avoidable deaths in affected countries.

That was said by Tory Andrew Mitchell, who seems to have come a long way since the “BikeGate” controversy.

And the really offensive part was that the decision to cut foreign aid from 0.7 per cent to 0.5 per cent of National Income (do they mean Gross Domestic Product?) was taken without allowing Parliament to vote on it.

It was an offence against democracy, because Boris Johnson’s Tory government believes in dictatorship instead.

And (obviously) it believes in finding ways to ensure that as many people as possible die.

Ministers have said it is possible to vary the amount spent without changing the 2015 law that makes the target binding.

But the decision to make the change unilaterally means there is no deadline for restoring that target – meaning the government could leave the cut in place indefinitely.

Isn’t there a more important question to be answered, about what’s being done with this aid money?

Isn’t it important that it should be used to ensure that the nations receiving the money need less and less of it in the future?

Has that been happening? How can we check?

There are many questions to be answered about foreign aid and This Writer hopes the debate on Tuesday (June 8) provides some of the answers.

The joy of it is that the Tory government has shot itself in the foot, whatever happens.

It has already garnered bad publicity over this in the week before the UK hosts the G7 summit.

It will receive more bad publicity with the debate.

And Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle has said he wants a substantive vote, which means if Boris Johnson refuses to grant it, he’ll have even more bad publicity.

Source: Foreign aid: Rebel Tories blocked in bid to reverse cuts – BBC News

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Tories say they have to cut aid to Yemen because of Covid crisis financial pressure. But there isn’t any!

A destroyed school in Yemen in 2017 – three years after the conflict there began – where a Saudi-led coalition has been accused of killing thousands of civilians.

The Johnson government has cut aid to war-torn Yemen by as much as 60 per cent, claiming it cannot afford the cost because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

But the entire cost of government measures to deal with Covid-19 has been paid already, with money the government created specifically for that purpose. There is no financial pressure at all.

Meanwhile, sales of weapons – to the Saudi-led coalition that has been accused of killing many thousands of Yemeni civilians in the seven years since the conflict began in 2014 – continue unabated.

So a decision to cut life-saving aid, quoting

 “recent global challenges”

that have created

“a difficult financial context for us all”

is a decision based on a lie. No wonder 101 charities have condemned it.

Source: Yemen conflict: UK cuts aid citing financial pressure from Covid – BBC News

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‘No deal’ Brexit looking more likely as UK negotiator rattles his sabre at the EU

If the UK government is not “scared” of leaving the EU without a trade deal, then it is because the interests of UK government ministers will not be harmed.

Reading between the lines of the BBC’s story, perhaps they expect the taxpayer to fund any businesses in which they have an interest?

The downside is that UK negotiator David Frost is saying your Tory government couldn’t care less if your business crashes to dust as a result of high tariffs that will be imposed by the EU nations in January.

Both sides want a deal agreed next month in order to have it signed off by politicians on both sides of the Channel by the end of the transition period on 31 December.

Differences remain on issues such as fishing and the level of taxpayer support the UK will be able to provide for businesses, also referred to as state aid rules.

The EU has said it wants full access for its boats to fish in UK waters in return for giving the UK fishing industry full access to EU markets.

On state aid, the EU has expressed concern that it could give business in the UK an unfair advantage over their European competitors and Mr Barnier has previously said the EU will require “robust” guarantees in this area if it is to agree a deal.

This Writer would be inclined to suggest that the EU should keep its nose out of the UK’s businesses if we could be sure that taxpayer funding for our firms could be administered in a reasonable way – but that’s not what we’re seeing.

Look at the Covid-19 crisis: the Tories have deliberately manipulated government procurement mechanisms to give whomping great wodges of public money to private companies run by their friends. That’s not reasonable!

On balance, the EU’s insistence on interfering in the way UK businesses are run is not acceptable, though. Does Michel Barnier really think a little state aid is going to make much difference for a single country dealing with the world’s largest trading bloc?

If This Writer was running a large concern, though, I would be worried.

Whatever happens, it seems UK businesses will end up paying large tariffs to sell into the EU, while receiving no support from their own government. Am I right?

Source: Brexit: Negotiator David Frost says UK not scared of walking away – BBC News

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Coronavirus: This tax haven exclusion is just one way the UK is missing the chance to change

Registered in a tax haven? Then no tax-funded help for you: there’s no reason the UK should give tax-dodging firms a hand during the coronavirus crisis if they haven’t paid their full dues.

Here’s a good idea. Shame it’s another country that came up with it:

https://twitter.com/withorpe/status/1251925513217675264

https://twitter.com/withorpe/status/1251940269303435264

It makes perfect sense.

Companies that have withheld their profits from HM Revenue and Customs by registering themselves in tax havens have opted out of paying the full amount of tax that they could (I would say should) have been paying.

Therefore there is no reason they should benefit from aid schemes funded by those taxes, in the UK.

And do we expect the UK to impose a restriction similar to Denmark?

https://twitter.com/KateyKay3/status/1251951667450429450

So Denmark is doing the right thing, but the UK won’t because we have a Conservative government that receives donations from tax dodgers, in the opinions of the masses on Twitter.

Yet millions of people voted for the Conservative government that allows this gaming of the system.

There will be more chances, too. The simple fact is that the coronavirus lockdown, and the many deaths that Conservative government failures have directly caused, mean the Tories will need our help to get the UK running they way they want afterwards.

Alternatively, we could demand the changes we need in order to live the kind of lives they have in Denmark (for example).

Do you honestly want a few crawlers to throw that chance away?

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Chancellor’s ‘jam tomorrow’ package for the self-employed is worse than useless now

Rishi Sunak: still discriminating against the self-employed? Why not just bring in Universal Basic Income? Then we can all relax.

How kind of Rishi Sunak to announce aid for self-employed workers who are likely to lose money because of the coronavirus crisis – except he didn’t did he?

He made a vague promise that we (This Writer is self-employed) might be able to get a grant of up to 80 per cent of our profits, which is taxable, up to a maximum of £2,500 per month – but not until at least the beginning of June, more than two months from now.

Oh, but we can claim Universal Credit in the meantime – except we can’t, because thousands upon thousands of people are queuing online and on the phone and the Department for Work and Pensions simply can’t cope with the deluge. We will lose valuable time just trying to announce that we want to claim, and even more in the processing of that claim.

Employees of companies who signed up to the government’s scheme for them can get their money straight away. Why not the self-employed?

Is this some back-handed attack on people who actually contribute to the economy on their own initiative?

Here’s a visual representation of the way Sunak and the Tories expect us to live:

It has already attracted flack.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said the delay was unacceptable: “If people cannot get access to the scheme until June it will simply be too late for millions. People need support in the coming days and fortnight. Asking people to rely on Universal Credit when more than 130,000 people are queuing online will be worrying to many people, so there is a real risk that without support until June the self-employed will feel they have to keep working, putting their own and others’ health at risk.”

Stephen Timms, chair of the Commons Work and Pensions Committee, pointed out that a wait until June simply isn’t practical: “Few will have enough in the bank to tide them over until then, so they’ll have to rely on Universal Credit in the meantime. The Committee heard yesterday that that system is already buckling under the pressure of half a million new claims. The Government must now do all it can to shore it up, so people get the money they need, and quickly. And the Advance, payable up-front to those who need it, should be made non-repayable.”

Sunak said devising a scheme had been “difficult” and it would be “operationally complicated” – but this has attracted no sympathy from anybody who knows anything at all about it.

It’s the biggest advert for implementing a Universal Basic Income scheme – in which everybody will receive enough money to support them, regardless of their circumstances – that the public could be shown.

Sunak and the other Tories have squirmed and dissembled and eventually brought forward scheme after scheme that is incredibly complicated – which means they are likely to go wrong, to the detriment of the people they are supposed to be helping.

UBI is simplicity itself – and has a lot of support:

UBI – it’s simple, it’s popular, and it’s immediate. But Sunak wants to bring in something complicated, slow (if it actually happens at all) and discriminatory. Why not get in touch with him and tell him which you would prefer?

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Tory raid on legal aid has seriously harmed justice for the disabled – as intended

Justice is blind – but there’s no justice for the blind here: Protesters argue against legal aid cuts.

This Site was among those who deplored the Tory plan to steal legal aid from poor and vulnerable people, including the disabled, from the start.

The new official figures show that I was right.

Back in 2013, I wrote:

“This vindictive government of millionaires intends to make it impossible for the poorest and most vulnerable in society to seek legal redress against cruel and unwarranted decisions that will withdraw from them the money they use to keep themselves a hairs-breadth away from destitution.

“It is a decision to attack the poor for the fun of it.”

I added: “We all thought the Tories would be left heartbroken after the Hunting Act took away their favourite extracurricular pastime. It seems they have found another blood sport to replace it.”

How right I was.

The extent to which savage government cuts have deprived disabled people of legal aid in disputes over their benefit payments is revealed today by new official figures that show a 99% decline since 2011.

The total number of disabled people granted legal aid in welfare cases has plummeted from 29,801 in 2011-12 to just 308 in 2016-17, cutting some of the most vulnerable people in society adrift without expert advice in often highly complex and distressing cases.

MPs and charities representing disabled people reacted furiously to the figures, released in a parliamentary answer, saying they bore out their worst fears at the time ministers announced the cuts several years ago.

They called on the government to speed up an ongoing review of the legal aid system and to end a Whitehall culture that, they say, too often views disabled people as easy targets for savings.

Source: Disabled people lose legal aid in 99% of benefits disputes | Society | The Guardian


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UKIP on tax: Big boost for the rich – more poverty for the poor

Speech: Nigel Farage addresses the party faithful at Doncaster racecourse. Does anyone else think he bears a striking resemblance to Adolf Hitler at Nuremberg?

Speech: Nigel Farage addresses the party faithful at Doncaster racecourse. Does anyone else think he bears a striking resemblance to Adolf Hitler at Nuremberg?

It seems the UK Independence Party has decided to lure blue-collar workers away from Labour and the Conservatives by promising to push their faces even more firmly into the dirt.

The party’s tax policies, unveiled at UKIP’s conference today (Friday) offer huge benefits to top earners while threatening fewer services to those at the bottom.

At the moment, UK citizens don’t pay tax unless they earn more than £10,000 per year, then they pay a basic rate of 20 per cent on earnings up to £41,865. From £41,866 to £150,000, 40 per cent is payable, and an ‘additional rate’ of 45 per cent is paid on anything over £150,000.

UKIP would raise the tax-free personal allowance to £13,500, with the basic rate being increased to cover earnings up to £44,000. Then the 40p rate would be cut to 35p for people earning between £44,000 and £55,000, and those earning more would pay 40p, with the ‘additional rate’ scrapped.

Huge benefits for the obscenely rich, moderate benefits for the modestly well-off, and what do the poor get?

They get a tax-receipt black hole of at least £12 billion every year.

UKIP reckons this won’t matter, because the loss would be wiped out by savings made from leaving the EU, cutting the foreign aid budget by 85 per cent and cancelling the HS2 rail link.

The trouble is, some experts reckon the changes would cost £20 billion, meaning deeper spending cuts that would impact most strongly on services for the poorest in society.

Not only that, but there is no way of knowing what effect leaving the EU will have on the economy. The European Union is the UK’s main trading partner, with contracts worth more than £400 billion a year. How many of those will remain? And what about the UK citizens currently living in the EU? There are around two million of them, if memory serves correctly. Will they lose their jobs and be sent back here? Will those who have retired be told they can’t stay any more, as they aren’t EU citizens?

What will that do to the UK?

It seems that former Treasury official James Meadway, now senior economist at the New Economics Foundation, has the right idea. He said the proposals would be a “social catastrophe” if implemented.

“What they’re proposing is a hugely expensive means to make the tax system even more unfair. The ‘blue-collar’ stuff is just so much windbaggery and spin – this is a tax proposal that will benefit the richest most, whilst slashing the amount of money available for the public services we all need,” he said.

What a good thing it’s not going to happen, as Nigel Farage and his chums are only contesting around 12 seats.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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More dodgy numbers on jobs for the disabled from the fake statistics machine

Making up the numbers: Thousands more disabled people are becoming self-employed, contributing to a huge boost in the number of private businesses - or are they?

Making up the numbers: Thousands more disabled people are becoming self-employed, contributing to a huge boost in the number of private businesses – or are they?

Someone in the Coalition government needs to watch what they’re saying – otherwise people all over the UK might come to unintended conclusions.

Take a look at this: “Over 2,000 more disabled people got the support they needed to get or keep their job, compared with this time last year, official figures released today (22 October 2013) show” – according to a Department for Work and Pensions press release.

It goes on to say that the number of people receiving support under the Access to Work programme between April and June this year increased by 10 per cent on the same period last year, to 22,760. Access to Work “provides financial help towards the extra costs faced by disabled people at work, such as support workers, specialist aids and equipment and travel to work support”.

Apparently the new stats show the highest level of new claims since 2007 – 10,390; and more people with mental health conditions than ever before have taken advantage of Access to Work.

The press release also states that young disabled people can now get Access to Work support while on Youth Contract work experience, a Supported Internship or Traineeship; and businesses with 49 employees or less no longer have to pay a contribution towards the extra costs faced by disabled people in work. It seems they used to have to pay up to £2,300 per employee who uses the fund.

Now look at this: According to a press release from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the number of private sector businesses in the UK increased by 102,000 between the beginning of 2012 and the same time in 2013.

There are now 4.9 million private businesses in the UK, with those employing fewer than 50 employees comprising nearly half of the total.

Some might think this is brilliant; that the DWP and BIS are achieving their aims of boosting private-sector business and finding work within those businesses for disabled people.

But dig a little deeper and a more sinister pattern emerges.

Doesn’t this scenario seem odd to anybody who read, earlier this year, that the DWP was having deep difficulty finding work for disabled people from the ESA work-related activity group?

Or, indeed, to anybody who read the BBC’s report that work advisors were pushing the jobless into self-employment?

Isn’t it more likely that the DWP and Work Programme providers, faced with an influx of disabled people into the programme from the ESA WRAG at the end of last year, encouraged them to set up as self-employed with their own businesses in order to get them off the claimant books?

Does it not, then, seem likely that a large proportion of the 22,760 getting help from Access to Work were offered it as part of a self-employment package that also, we are told, includes start-up money (that admittedly tapers away over time) and tax credits. The attraction for WP providers is that they would earn a commission for every claimant they clear off the books in this way.

So it seems likely that a large proportion of the 22,760 may now be self-employed in name alone and that these fake firms are included in the 102,000 new businesses lauded by BIS.

Is it not logical, therefore, to conclude that these are not government schemes, but government scams – designed to hoodwink the general public into thinking that the economy is improving far more than in reality, and that the government is succeeding in its aim to bring down unemployment?

The reference to jobs for people with mental health problems would be particularly useful for a government that has just appealed against the result of a judicial review that found its practices discriminate against this sector of society.

Some might say that this conclusion is crazy. Why would the government want to release information that directly indicates underhanded behaviour on its part?

The answer is, of course, that it would not. This government wants to convince an undecided electorate that it knows what it is doing and that the country’s future is safe in its hands. But its right hand doesn’t seem to know what its left is doing – with regard to press releases, at the very least.

And let’s not forget that, since the Coalition came into office, 52,701 firms have been declared insolvent and 379,968 individuals. Around 80 per cent of new self-employed businesses go to the wall within three years.

Therefore we can say that, in trying to prove that it is competent, the Coalition government has in fact proved the exact opposite.

So someone really needs to watch what they’re saying – if they don’t want people all over the UK to come to unintended conclusions!

AFTERTHOUGHT: The BIS press release adds that the government’s ‘Plan for Growth’, published with the 2011 budget, included an aim to create “the most competitive tax system in the G20”. By “competitive” the Treasury meant the system had to be more attractive to businesses that aim to keep as much of their profits away from the tax man as possible. It is a commitment to turn Britain into a tax haven and the VP post earlier this week shows that the government has been successful in this aim. What a shame that it also means the Coalition government will totally fail to meet its main policy commitment and reason for existing in the first place: It can’t cut the national deficit if the biggest businesses that operate here aren’t paying their taxes.

Syria: The right decision for the wrong reason?

A statesman emerges: Ed Miliband's decisions on Syria have revealed courage and determination to do what is right. They show he has the potential to be a great British statesman.

A statesman emerges: Ed Miliband’s decisions on Syria have revealed courage and determination to do what is right. They show he has the potential to be a great British statesman.

It looked as though we were all heading for another pointless adventure in the Middle East, but a day in politics really is a long time, isn’t it?

On Tuesday evening, there seemed to be consensus. The leaders of the main UK political parties had met to discuss the situation in Syria – in particular the evidence that an attack involving chemical weapons had taken place – and had parted in broad agreement that military action was warranted in order to discourage the use of such devices.

But then Labour’s Ed Miliband changed his mind. It seems likely he held a meeting with members of his own party who helped him devise an alternative plan.

In his blog on Tuesday, Michael Meacher laid down several reasons for delaying any new military adventure:

  • The UN weapons inspectors currently working in Syria have not had enough time to find conclusive proof of chemical weapon use. Attacking on the basis of the evidence we currently hold would be reminiscent of the attack on Iraq, where we were assured Saddam Hussein held weapons of mass destruction. We later discovered – to our shame – that he did not;
  • Where 100,000 citizens have already been killed by conventional means, it seems extremely odd to use the deaths of 1,000 by other means as an excuse to wade into the fray; and
  • What about international law? How would Russia and China react if the UN Security Council, on which they both sit, rejected military action but the UK – along with the USA and others – went ahead with it anyway? And wouldn’t this light a powder keg in the Middle East, kicking off a larger, regional conflict – the outcome of which cannot be predicted?

Mr Miliband concluded that it would be far better to wait for stronger evidence and he notified David Cameron that he would be tabling an amendment on Syria when Parliament is recalled today (Thursday). This would insist that a vote should be taken only after the weapons inspectors have delivered their report. He said Parliament should only agree criteria for action – not write a blank cheque (for those who want war).

This writer was delighted – the decision was almost exactly what I had suggested when I responded to a poll on the LabourList blog site, although I had added in my comment that the only decision open to Parliament was to offer humanitarian aid to non-combatants affected by the fighting between the different Syrian factions.

The decision indicated not only that Labour had learned its lesson from the Blair-era decisions to invade Afghanistan and Iraq, but that Mr Miliband had also paid attention to the will of the British people; those opposing another war outnumber those supporting it by around two to one.

Mr Cameron was now in a very difficult position as, without Labour’s support and with only limited backing from his own party, it was entirely possible that he would be defeated if he suggested military action in the Commons today.

Defeat in a major vote is, of course, something that no government voluntarily provokes. He had no choice but to change his mind, and now Parliament is being recalled to approve humanitarian aid and agree to the course of action put forward by Mr Miliband.

So now all my wishes appear likely to be granted.

It is the correct decision. But it was not the decision Cameron wanted. He wanted war.

It is also a decision that has been clearly dictated by the actions of the Opposition leader. Let’s make no bones about it, Ed Miliband called this tune and David Cameron danced to it.

Let’s look at what Michael Meacher had to say about this. It is illuminating because it comes from a backbencher who has been outspoken in criticism of Mr Miliband in the past. He wrote in his blog: “It singles out Ed Miliband as a man of inner strength and integrity who can take the gritty decisions when they are most needed, and this is undoubtedly one of those times… The hardest thing for a Leader of the Opposition to do, bereft of any executive authority, is to challenge the prevailing structure of power and change it or even overturn it. No other Opposition Leader has succeeded in this as well as Ed Miliband.

“We have already seen him take on Murdoch over BSkyB and stop the biggest concentration of media power in UK history in its tracks, and then almost single-handedly block the press counter-attack against Leveson which would have left newspapers as unaccountable as ever.”

So it seems we will see the right decision taken, albeit for the wrong reasons – thanks to the courage, leadership and statesmanship of Mr Miliband.

There’s just one further question: If the big decision is being taken after the weapons inspectors report back, and they are unlikely to do so until Monday (we’re told)… That’s after MPs were scheduled to return to Parliament. The emergency recall is therefore an unnecessary extravagance.

I wonder how much MPs will be allowed to claim for it on expenses?

(Note: This has been written while events continue to develop. All information was accurate at the time of writing.)