Tag Archives: weapon

New evidence has cast doubt on Theresa May’s Syria claims *WHILE SHE WAS MAKING THEM*

Theresa May: Protesting too much?

If Theresa May thinks we’ll swallow unquestioningly her “statement” on the air strikes she ordered last Friday, she must think we were all born yesterday.

We all know the justification by now, right? The claim is that the town of Douma, in Syria, was attacked by government forces using chemical weapons. These have been banned across the world for a century and the US, UK and France launched air strikes against facilities believed to be involved in the manufacture of chemical weapons for humanitarian reasons – to discourage any further use of such weapons. The strikes were said to be tightly targeted, focused on this single objective.

That was the substance of Mrs May’s speech. But it has been seriously undermined already.

She said: “On Saturday 7 April, up to 75 people, including young children, were killed in a horrific attack in Douma, with as many as 500 further casualties. All indications are that this was a chemical weapons attack. UK medical and scientific experts have analysed open-source reports [she means social media posts], images and video footage from the incident and concluded that the victims were exposed to a toxic chemical. That is corroborated by first-hand accounts from NGOs and aid workers, while the World Health Organisation received reports that hundreds of patients arrived at Syrian health facilities on Saturday night with ‘signs and symptoms consistent with exposure to toxic chemicals’.”

But as she was participating in a Parliamentary debate on the air strikes, journalist Robert Fisk published a claim that the casualties in the Douma attack were treated for dust inhalation – and not for a chemical gas attack. Listen:

You can also read the Independent article.

“We needed to intervene rapidly to alleviate further indiscriminate humanitarian suffering,” said Mrs May. “It was not just morally right but legally right to take military action, together with our closest allies.

“We have published the legal basis for this action. It required three conditions to be met. First, there must be convincing evidence, generally accepted by the international community as a whole, of extreme humanitarian distress on a large scale, requiring immediate and urgent relief. Secondly, it must be objectively clear that there is no practicable alternative to the use of force if lives are to be saved. Thirdly, the proposed use of force must be necessary and proportionate to the aim of relief of humanitarian suffering, and must be strictly limited in time and in scope to this aim.”

We have already seen that claims of convincing evidence may have been exaggerated – and in any case, claims that action on a humanitarian basis is legal have been disputed. As the use of chemical weapons is now in doubt, the second condition is also unmet – people are still being killed in Syria. Thirdly – well, we’ll come to that.

“This was a limited, targeted and effective strike that would significantly degrade Syrian chemical weapons capabilities and deter their future use, and with clear boundaries that expressly sought to avoid escalation and did everything possible to prevent civilian casualties.

“As a result, the co-ordinated actions of the US, UK and France were successfully and specifically targeted at three sites. Contrary to what the Leader of the Opposition said at the weekend, these were not “empty buildings”. The first was the Barzeh branch of the Scientific Studies and Research Centre in northern Damascus. This was a centre for the research and development of Syria’s chemical and biological programme. It was hit by 57 American TLAMs and 19 American JASSMs.”

In that case, if chemical weapons were present – or just the ingredients for them – they would have been spread out over a wide area by the explosions. There has been no report of any such contamination.

Quite the opposite, it seems. I accept that the link runs to a report by Russia Today, so perhaps you’d prefer a report by CBS News – the US media outlet. Both make it clear that reporters saw no evidence of harmful chemicals – just anti-venom for snakebites (as reported on This Site previously). We now see that Barzeh was the planned base for the OPCW inspectors, who would have taken up residence there on April 15. Well, it’s rubble now. Who benefits from that?

“The second site was the Him Shinsar chemical weapons bunkers, 15 miles west of the city of Homs, which contained both a chemical weapons equipment and storage facility and an important command post. These were successfully hit by seven French SCALP cruise missiles.

“The third site was the Him Shinsar chemical weapons storage site and former missile base, which is now a military facility. This was assessed to be a location of Syrian sarin and precursor production equipment, whose destruction would degrade Syria’s ability to deliver sarin in the future. This was hit by nine US TLAMs, five naval and two SCALP cruise missiles from France and eight Storm Shadow missiles launched by our four RAF Tornado GR4s. Very careful scientific analysis was used to determine where best to target these missiles to maximise the destruction of stockpiled chemicals and to minimise any risks to the surrounding area. The facility that we targeted is located some distance from any known population centres, reducing yet further any such risk of civilian casualties.”

Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn, in his response to the statement, pointed out that OPCW inspectors had given both Barzeh and the Him Shinsar facilities a clean bill of health in November 2017.

He said: “In relation to the air strikes against the Barzeh and Him Shinsar facilities, the Prime Minister will be aware that the OPCW carried out inspections on both those facilities in 2017 and concluded that ‘the inspection team did not observe any activities inconsistent with obligations’ under the chemical weapons convention.”

Mention of the OPCW brings us to further questions about the intelligence Mrs May has used:

The new questions are:

  1. If we knew where [Syrian president Bashar al] Assad was stashing his chemical weapons, why did we wait for him to use them again?
  2. If we just bombed chemical weapons factories in Syria, why was the existence of these factories never reported before – to the UN, the OPCW or the public?
  3. Why did the bombing commence before the OPCW had concluded their chemical weapons investigation?

In this context, it was bizarre to hear Mrs May saying that she supports the OPCW investigation, after having blown up the investigators’ base: “”e support strongly the work of the OPCW fact-finding mission that is currently in Damascus.”

She went on to say that she decided to act ahead of any results because the OPCW would not be able to attach blame, due to a Russian veto on a UN resolution to establish such a mechanism. She said: “Even if the OPCW team is able to visit Douma to gather information to make that assessment… it cannot attribute responsibility.

She continued: “Even if we had the OPCW’s findings and a mechanism to attribute, for as long as Russia continued to veto the UN Security Council would still not be able to act.”

So Mrs May hid evidence that Syria was developing chemical weapons from the OPCW, supported a military operation that bombed the OPCW’s planned base of operations, and would have taken part in air strikes no matter what report the OPCW investigators would have given. That doesn’t seem very supportive to me! 

Mrs May denied acting on the orders of US President Donald Trump: “It is in our national interest to prevent the further use of chemical weapons in Syria and to uphold and defend the global consensus that these weapons should not be used, for we cannot allow the use of chemical weapons to become normalised—within Syria, on the streets of the UK or elsewhere.”

“On the streets of the UK or elsewhere”. She had to mention the alleged chemical attack on Sergei and Yulia Skripal, you see. It is as though that incident was staged in order to soften up the British public to the idea of military action on the pretext of preventing the use of such weaponry. Isn’t it?

Mrs May later added: “Last Thursday’s report from the OPCW has confirmed our findings that it was indeed a Novichok in Salisbury… While of a much lower order of magnitude, the use of a nerve agent on the streets of Salisbury is part of a pattern of disregard for the global norms that prohibit the use of chemical weapons.”

The problem is, the lab that tested the Salisbury substance for the OPCW found that it was BZ – a chemical agent apparently used by the UK and the US.

And there is no evidence of chemical weapons at Barzeh, and both that facility and those at Him Shinsar were cleared by the OPCW five months ago.

Without actual evidence of chemical weapons, it is impossible for Mrs May to justify these activities. And she has no evidence.

Mrs May continued: “Why did we not recall Parliament? The speed with which we acted was essential in co-operating with our partners to alleviate further humanitarian suffering and to maintain the vital security of our operations.”

We have established that it wasn’t. Blowing up facilities that have nothing to do with chemical weapons will not alleviate humanitarian suffering (actually, what does that even mean? She was trying to say she was acting on humanitarian principles but mangled the English language instead).

“This was a limited, targeted strike on a legal basis that has been used before.”

And falsely used in this instance.

“And it was a decision that required the evaluation of intelligence and information, much of which was of a nature that could not be shared with Parliament.”

But it could have been shared with other members of the Privy Council, like Mr Corbyn. Clearly it was not, which casts it into doubt.

The best that can be said of Mrs May’s statement is that it is unconvincing.

We have an eyewitness account that the alleged victims of a chemical attack in Douma were in fact under treatment for dust inhalation, there is no evidence that chemical weapons were manufactured or stored at the sites the UK, US and France bombed last weekend (and claims that a Russian chemical weapon was used on the Skripals have been contradicted), so there was no justification for the military action.

On the other hand, Mrs May’s keenness to ascribe the Salisbury poisoning to Russia without evidence, her support for a military adventure that stymied OPCW inspectors, her withholding of evidence – or inability to supply it – from the same organisation – all these elements seem very suspicious indeed.

As this situation is ongoing, further information is likely to become available and I stand ready to be corrected if Mrs May is vindicated.

At the moment, she seems a weak leader, desperately trying to manufacture some popularity – and failing.


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May wants to bypass Parliament to go to war with Syria. Democracy is dying

Liar: There’s no reason Theresa May could not recall Parliament for a representative vote on military action in Syria. Time is not of the essence.

Theresa May has said she is prepared to go to war against Syria without asking Parliament, over the suspected chemical weapons attack in Douma.

Apparently this is because time is short. Really?

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has demanded that Parliament be given a vote. Both houses are still in Easter recess but there’s no reason they cannot be recalled – so Mrs May is talking tommyrot as usual.

Public opinion is wildly against it:

https://twitter.com/SJT78508478/status/984166460045037569

Paul Mason, writing in New Statesman, has said that bombing Syria is futile:

“To defeat Assad, and prevent the further collapse of the global order, long-range missiles are no good. Knowing this, Donald Trump and his national security adviser John Bolton will probably fire a lot of them. No. To defeat Assad you would have to engage in the kind of warfare America did in Iraq, going from house to house in the dark, killing suspected supporters of al-Qaeda, dragging their children and elderly into the dark by flashlight.

“You would have to bomb what’s left of Syria until it looked like what’s left of Gaza. And you would have to do it knowing that into the chaos you create, would move exactly the kind of jihadi groups we are trying to rid the world of.

“That’s why I am against Britain joining a military strike on Assad’s Syria.”

This is valuable advice from Peter Hitchens – who is increasingly proving to be a voice of reason:

And there’s one more important point to make:

This is the dark heart of the matter:

Theresa May would rather spend your money ensuring that innocent people in a foreign country die, than ensuring that innocent people in the UK can live.


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May’s hypocrisy: Use of UK-sold chemical weapons in Syria gives her an opportunity for mass murder

This is classic ‘cycle of hate’ behaviour.

The UK sold several chemical weapons ingredients to Syria, back in 2012/13 – with explicit approval from then-prime minister David Cameron.

It followed the sale of huge amounts of other ingredients in the 1980s.

It seems those ingredients have been turned into weapons and used on the people of Douma, in Syria.

Now the UK government, in an act of enormous hypocrisy, wants to join Donald Trump’s USA in a reprisal bombing against that country.

Mrs May said the international community needed to uphold the worldwide ban on chemical weapons – which is outrageous, considering our government’s effort to undermine it.

As UK citizens, we can only be nauseated by Mrs May’s behaviour.

This Site warned that we would be in exactly this situation five years ago.

I wrote: “In January 2012, 10 months after violence erupted in Syria, [then-business secretary] Vince Cable licensed the exporting of potassium fluoride and sodium fluoride to the Syrian government – both chemicals being ingredients of nerve gas.

“The chemicals were sold under licences that specified they should be used for making aluminium structures like window frames – but the government has refused to identify the licence holders. Dodgy!

“This means that, in the same way as the United States with Iraq, it is entirely possible that the [Conservative/Liberal Democrat] Coalition government wanted British troops to attack Syria in response to a situation that the Coalition government created!”

The fly in current UK prime minister Theresa May’s ointment at the moment is Russia, which supports Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and has blocked US-led calls for an investigation into the chemical attack. Russia’s own proposal did not gain enough votes.

The US proposal would have launched an independent investigation that would have assigned blame to a perpetrator. The Russians wanted a UN-led investigation, but with the results reviewed by Russia for “acceptance” before being publicised.

Both proposals were flawed. Russia’s demand for the ability to censor the results of an investigation is unacceptable – but then, why should the US (and the UK) be permitted to assign blame solely to Syria for an attack in which they chemical weapons were used that were made from our products?

Boris Johnson, who is still (amazingly) clinging on to his role as the UK’s foreign secretary, has leapt in to offer his biased view:

Chemical attacks made possible by the actions of your government, Mr Johnson.

The latest information is that Donald Trump is planning to bomb Syria anyway. Russia seems unlikely to tolerate any such action.

Meanwhile, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has called for a ceasefire and a political solution, rather than – as Susan Rees describes below, “bomb first, talk later”. He is the only leader who is making sense.

https://twitter.com/OWLowery/status/983755108013010951

And what good will more bombing achieve?

These words seem prophetic, in the light of Mr Trump’s latest bit of sabre-rattling:

So, a big win for Theresa May: Her government sold the ingredients of chemical weapons to Syria; those ingredients were used in an attack that gives us an opportunity to attack Syria; and if Jeremy Corbyn opposes such an attack, she can smear him as an unpatriotic peacenik.

And the only cost will be thousands of Syrian lives and the possibility of conflict with Russia – which is a nuclear superpower, let’s not forget!

As UK citizens, we can only be nauseated by Mrs May’s behaviour. Tory political decisions have created this situation and she is revelling in the opportunity to commit mass murder.


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What’s wrong with ‘Labour’s biggest independent grassroots e-network’?

This blog was going to let Jeremy Corbyn’s Andrew Marr Show interview pass without comment – it’s a BBC show and therefore unlikely to have anything approaching useful to say. It seems others couldn’t bring themselves to exercise such restraint – to their shame.

According to the Graun, here’s Conor Pope of LabourList, which styles itself as ‘Labour’s biggest independent grassroots e-network’:

150927conorpope
What’s he trying to say? That Corbyn should be in another party, not Labour, if he’s going to spout such strong, traditional Labour views?

Corbyn was elected Labour leader with an overwhelming mandate. The Labour Party wants his policies. So, if Mr Pope has different opinions and cannot reconcile them with the prevailing view, perhaps he should go to a different party himself – along with anyone who agrees with him.

And perhaps he should stop writing for LabourList – along, again, with anyone who agrees with him. That site needs to represent the views of the Labour Party, not just a few creeps who think they’re part of some non-existent elite.

I’ve been wondering for some time exactly who LabourList is supposed to represent. Perhaps its time we were told.

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Why wouldn’t Britain arm the Kurds? We’ve armed everybody else in the Middle East!

War profiteer: David Cameron loves selling weaponry to foreign countries. Only a couple of years ago he was flogging Typhoon jet fighters to Iraq's neighbours.

War profiteer: David Cameron loves selling weaponry to foreign countries. Only a couple of years ago he was flogging Typhoon jet fighters to Iraq’s neighbours.

It seems the latest Iraq conflict is all about the money.

According to the new Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, the UK would “consider favourably” any request for arms from the Kurds in their battle with the extremist militant group Islamic State.

How wonderful for them. Last time anyone asked them, it seemed all these people wanted to do was get out.

They didn’t say they wanted weapons – especially not those supplied at inevitably huge cost by British war profiteers. Maybe the UK is saying no decision will be made on whether to give weapons as gifts or sell them, but consider Britain’s own financial situation. Is this an opportunity to put the Kurds in debt to the British government? If so, how would it be paid? By allowing British industry into their country afterwards, to exploit their people?

That might be better than what IS has to offer, but let’s be honest – last time anyone asked them, it seemed all these people wanted to do was get out.

Mr Hammond has also said, “Iraq now needs to have an inclusive government representing all the people of Iraq so that we can get behind it and push back this terrible threat from IS,” so he doesn’t understand the situation at all.

Iraq was an artificial country from the get-go. Its borders were drawn up by Western world leaders who did not understand the political situation between the indigenous peoples (and didn’t care). It is falling apart now and, for the sake of the future, this is probably just as well. While the threat from IS needs to be remedied, let the borders rearrange themselves in a more sympathetic manner once the dust has settled, otherwise other problems will arise soon.

After all, last time anyone asked them, it seemed all the Kurds wanted to do was get out.

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Here’s why Cameron won’t criticise Israel: nearly £8bn a year in arms sales

140806arms

It’s a business matter – the business of bloodshed.

Despite the high-profile resignation of Baroness Warsi, despite growing unrest among his own backbenchers, despite public criticism over his government’s failure to support a UN inquiry into possible human rights breaches in Gaza and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, David Cameron remains resolute in his refusal to speak up against the Israeli government’s use of overwhelmingly superior firepower against Palestinian civilians who have been caught in the crossfire between Israel and Hamas terrorists.

His uncharacteristic silence has made him a laughing-stock in some quarters. The blogger Tom Pride, for example, took great pleasure in pointing out useful things that Cameron hasn’t been saying: “In a dramatic turnaround, Mr Cameron shocked political pundits after he blasted the Israeli Army for massacring civilians in Gaza by not quite saying something not very nice about it.

“And in a devastating speech which he was very nearly on the point of giving today, Cameron bordered on almost telling Israeli premier Benjamin Natanjahu to stop his naughty behaviour at once or face being told to shake hands and make up with the Palestinians.

“Mr Cameron also blasted the Israelis by getting pretty close to claiming there were “reasonable grounds” to believe that innocent civilians in Gaza – including children – had been targeted as a form of collective punishment,  which he almost pointed out was not very nice and was even actually rather quite naughty if you think about it.”

The reason for his reticence? The Israelis are using British weapons, bought under contracts that are worth almost £8 billion every year. Cameron doesn’t want to put that kind of income at risk!

The latest development is that the Liberal Democrats have called for the government to suspend the export licences under which these weapons are shipped to Israel. It seems the intention is to put out a clear message that Britain will not tolerate its weapons being used against innocents (and we can debate the possible levels of hypocrisy in that later).

Downing Street has stated that the licences are already under review, with no new licences issued since the Israeli government opened up hostilities last month.

“Suspending export licences is not a decision we take lightly and it is right that we examine the facts fully. This is the approach being taken by the vast majority of countries,” the spokesman said, according to the BBC.

It seems more likely that nothing will be done and the government is hoping this affair will blow itself out before it can affect the balance of import/export payments.

Cameron has been attacked by many – including commenters on this blog – for the apparent failure of his moral compass where money is concerned, and there is evidence that criticising his policy is a bad career move for fellow Conservative Party members.

It seems only people outside the government are allowed to speak their mind. Look at Dominic Grieve, the former Attorney General who was ousted, possibly for criticising plans to limit Legal Aid to those who least deserve it. According to the BBC, he has been heard questioning whether Israel’s actions had been “reasonable, necessary and proportionate”.

Outside the Westminster bubble, high-profile names have been far less reserved about expressing an opinion. Remember when Roger Waters (formerly of Pink Floyd) compared the modern Israeli state with Nazi Germany last year? He was branded as an antisemite at the time.

But take a look at his words now, about Israeli treatment of the Palestinian people on the Gaza Strip: “The parallels with what went on in the 1930s in Geermany are so crushingly obvious… The Holocaust was brutal and disgusting beyond our imagination. We must never forget it. We must always remain vigilant. We must never stand by silent and indifferent to the sufferings of others, whatever their race, colour, ethnic background or religion. All human beings deserve the right to live equally under the law.

“I have nothing against Jews or Israelis, and I am not antisemitic. I deplore the policies of the Israeli government in the occupied territories and Gaza. They are immoral, inhuman and illegal. I will continue my non-violent protests as long as the government of Israel continues with these policies.”

When did we last have a Prime Minister with such principles?

Not since 2010, for sure.

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Tories and the police – it’s like an acrimonious divorce

Confrontational: Theresa May has made an enemy of the police. They'll be taking solace from the thought that one day they might be asked to arrest her. [Image: Daily Telegraph]

Confrontational: Theresa May has made an enemy of the police. They’ll be taking solace from the thought that one day they might be asked to arrest her. [Image: Daily Telegraph]

Does anybody remember when the police were the Conservatives’ best friends? This was back in the days of the Thatcher government, when she needed them as political weapons against the unions.

She gave them generous pay and pension deals, let them move out of the communities they policed (providing a certain amount of anonymity – people no longer knew their local Bobby personally), and put them in patrol cars rather than on the beat. In return, she was able to rely on their loyalty.

The same cannot be said today. Current Home Secretary Theresa May wants you to think the police service is out of control.

In fact, it isn’t. The problem for Ms May, whose position on human rights makes it clear that she wants to be able to use the force as a tool of repression, is that our constables have found better ways of upholding the law.

This is why May’s tough talk on reforming the police rings hollow. She wants to break the power of the Police Federation, our constabularies’ trade union – but her attack is on terms which it is already working to reform.

She has demanded that the Federation must act on the 36 recommendations of the Normington Report on Police Federation Reform in what appears to be a bid to make it seem controversial.

But the report was commissioned by the Federation itself, not by the Home Office. It acknowledges problems with the organisation that may affect the wider role of the police and makes 36 recommendations for reform – whether the Home Secretary demands it or not.

One is left with the feeling that Ms May is desperate to make an impression. She has been very keen to point out that crime has fallen since she became Home Secretary – but this is part of a trend since Labour took office in the mid-1990s. Labour brought in neighbourhood policing, police community support officers, antisocial behaviour laws, improved technology and (more controversially) the DNA database. These resulted from Labour politicians working together with the police, not imposing ideas on them from above; they brought the police back into the community.

Theresa May’s work includes her time-wasting vanity project to elect ‘police and crime commissioners’, and her time-wasting project to replace the Serious Organised Crime Agency with the almost-identical National Crime Agency.

She has taken a leaf from the Liberal Democrat book by claiming credit for changes that had nothing to do with her, suggesting that police reform only began when she became Home Secretary in 2010.

Is it this attitude to history that informs Michael Gove’s attempts to revise our attitude towards the First World War, as was reported widely a few months ago? If so, it is an approach that is doomed to failure and derision, as Mr Gove learned to his cost. Ms May deserves no better.

There is much that is wrong with the police service – and most of that is due to interference from Conservative governments.

Thankfully, with the service and the Police Federation already working to resolve these issues, all Ms May can do is grumble from the sidelines where she belongs.

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No lawbreaking required: Secret police are spying on students to repress political dissent

Caught with his trousers down: Herr Flick from 'Allo Allo' - possibly the last secret policeman to be revealed in quite such an embarrassing way.

Caught with his trousers down: Herr Flick from ‘Allo Allo’ – possibly the last secret policeman to be revealed in quite such an embarrassing way.

So now not only are our students facing the prospect of a life in debt, paying off the cost of their education (thanks, Liberal Democrats!) but they know they can expect the police to be spying on them in case they do anything radical, student-ish and treasonous like joining UK Uncut and occupying a shop to publicise the corporate tax avoidance our Tory-led government encourages.

Rather than investigate and solve crimes, it seems the police are embracing their traditional role (under Conservative governments) as political weapons – targeting suspected dissenters against their right-wing government’s policies, trying to undermine their efforts and aiming to apprehend key figures.

They are behaving like secret police, in fact. Allow this to go much further and we will have our own Gestapo, here in Britain. Before anyone starts invoking Godwin’s Law, just take a look at the evidence; it is a justifiable comparison.

According to The Guardian, police have been caught trying to spy on the political activities of students at Cambridge University. It had to be Cambridge; Oxford is traditionally the ‘Tory’ University.

The officer concerned tried to get an activist to rat on other students in protest groups in return for money, but the student turned the tables on him by wearing a hidden camera to record a meeting and expose the facts.

The policeman, identified by the false name ‘Peter Smith’, “wanted the activist to name students who were going on protests, list the vehicles they travelled in to demonstrations, and identify leaders of protests. He also asked the activist to search Facebook for the latest information about protests that were being planned.

“The other proposed targets of the surveillance include UK Uncut, the campaign against tax avoidance and government cuts, Unite Against Fascism and environmentalists” – because we all know how dangerous environmentalists are!

Here at Vox Political, it feels as though we have come full circle. One of the events that sparked the creation of this blog was the police ‘kettling’ of students demonstrating against the rise in tuition fees, back in 2010. It was a sign that the UK had regressed to the bad old days of the Thatcher government, when police were used (famously) to intimidate, annihilate and subjugate picketing miners.

Back then, BBC news footage was doctored to make it seem the miners had been the aggressors; fortunately times have changed and now, with everyone capable of filming evidence with their mobile phones, it is much harder for such open demonstrations of political repression to go unremarked.

In response, we see the police being granted expanded powers of arrest against anyone deemed to be causing a “nuisance” or “annoyance”, and now the infiltration of groups deemed likely to be acting against the government, even though they may not have broken any laws at all.

This would be bad enough if it was a single incident, taken in isolation – but it isn’t. It is part of a much wider attack on the citizens of this country by institutions whose leaders should know better.

The UK is now in the process of removing the rights it has taken nearly a thousand years for its citizens to win.

It is a country that abuses the sick and disabled.

And it is a country where free speech will soon be unheard-of; where the police – rather than investigate crimes – proactively target political dissenters, spying on anyone they suspect of disagreeing with the government and looking for ways to silence them.

Who voted for that?

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.)