Saturday, June 07, 2003

"It has not been the best of weeks," writes the Guardian's Readers' Editor in an article which describes the reaction and their response to the paper's erroneous Wolffowitz report.

posted by BA on 4:14 AM link

Regular readers of Harry's Place seem to me to be the sort of people who want to know what alternative meaning their name has in old Scots (a variant of old English spoken throughout the Scottish lowlands by all social classes since the medieval period but which became increasingly confined to rural and working-class users after the departure of the Stuart court to London - in case you needed a primer) . Now they can find out, thanks to this place run by a poet and ex-schoolmate of mine, Roddy Lumsden.

Peter Cuthbertson - look away now !

posted by marcus on 1:04 AM link

Friday, June 06, 2003


This is an old story (but very funny) though seemingly mostly unreported in the UK.

posted by marcus on 12:01 PM link

The personal books and papers belonging to English novelist Iris Murdoch who died in 1999 are being sold next week in London.

The papers are reported (by the Times in an unlinkable print friendly version) to contain a copy of Murdoch's "Sectarian Songs" in which the ex-communist writer left us her thoughts on the post-war division of the British left:

"The Petty Bourgeoise philistine/
He didn't know the Party line/
Although he struggled day and night/
He was a bleeding Trotskyite."

I think it shows great promise......

posted by marcus on 10:53 AM link

I'm sorry but I can't take seriously the forced outrage of the media over John Prescott's V-sign gesture and the silly comments of 'disgust' from Lib Dem and Tory MP's.

As this BBC story reminds us it is, of course, not the first time Prescott has got himself in hot water with a gesture. But remember his approval rating actually went up when he gave some egg-chucking yob a clip around the ear and I think he is on to a winner again this time.

If the media really think that voters are going to be angered by a bloke waving a V-sign at a mocking crowd of photographers and journos they are kidding themselves big time. On the contrary - if politicians are unpopular in this country, they are certainly run a close second by the media.

The press have it in for Prescott and I think it is pretty clear why - he represents one of the most despised figures of all for the London elite - the blunt Northerner. Worse than that he is a blunt Yorkshireman - and in power.

You think I am exaggerating? Well, forget politics for a minute and ask yourself which cricketers have come in for the most stick over the years from the sports press? Geoffrey Boycott, Ray Illingworth and Fred Truman. Lancastrians fared little better when they were given a brief spell in charge as David Lloyd or Mike Atherton could tell you. It is the same in football - Yorkshireman Howard Wilkinson mocked as 'old school' for little other reason than his accent, North Easterners Bobby Robson and Kevin Keegan hounded as England managers for their supposed lack of tactical 'sophistication' (a phrase that has additional meaning when uttered by southerners about northerners). Contrast thier treatment with the crawly coverage of Londoner Terry Venables or Essex's Keith Fletcher.

Politics? Who are the two most despised PM's spokesman of all-time? Yorkshireman Bernard Ingham and Burnley fan Alistair Campbell without any doubt. Coincidence? Maybe. But look at the media's hate figures on the far left - compare the reaction to Dennis Skinner and Arthur Scargill over the years with the celebrity status bestowed on the likes of Red Ken, Tony Banks or even Islington's Jeremy Corbyn.

But Prescott will have his revenge.

If there is one legacy he can leave from his time as a minister it will be to give the North of England a chance to run its own affairs via regional government. Yorkshire, the North West and the North East, will be given referendums where they will be able to opt out of direct rule from Westminster. Personally I'd prefer a full parliament on the Scottish model for the whole of the North myself but Prescott's proposals are an excellent start.

Of course when London got its regional government it was given a warm welcome in the media whereas Prescott's plans to give the same for the North have been mocked by the London opinion-formers. No surprise there either - we are fine for comedy and sports events but we are never to be allowed to run things.

And that is what the whole of the media's dislike of John Prescott is about.

Just wait till we get the Guardian back to Manchester.

posted by BA on 8:10 AM link

In a recent post on the Guardian's Paul Wolfowitz quote, we suggested that the newspaper had simply removed the article without offering a retraction, correction or explanation. That is not the case. The Guardian has offered a correction in today's newspaper. Harry's Place apologises for any suggestion that Guardian Unlimited was not prepared to face up to the error it had made.

Also in the post on Salam Pax (June 6th) the term 'Guardian reading liberal' was used in the headline. Harry's Place accept that this is a derogatory phrase used by right-wing reactionaries and has no place on a weblog run by Guardian-reading, juice-bar lefties.

posted by BA on 6:53 AM link

A superb piece from Mick Hume in Spiked - which really is the best examination of what the WMD affair tells us about the state of the country.

Large numbers of people now tell pollsters that they do not believe the government's claims over WMD and, moreover, that they no longer believe what the government says about anything else. Is this a good thing for those who would like to see serious political change? Well, yes and no - and right now, probably more no than yes.......

This is not healthy critical questioning of those in authority, in pursuit of political change. It is based instead on cynicism and something akin to paranoia, reflecting a sense that we are powerless victims at the mercy of dark forces. The feeling is not just anti-politician, but anti-politics. It is not only that people don't believe the government, they don't believe in anything much at all.

Well worth a read.

posted by BA on 5:33 AM link

Everyone is raving about Salam Pax, the Baghdad blogger. He's been given a fortnightly column in the UK Guardian; he's been called 'brave' and 'courageous' for blogging his thoughts in a repressive state; and his blog has been described as 'far better than the stuff pumped out by the army of foreign correspondents' in Iraq.

Salam Pax is hailed as the genuine article, a real Iraqi voice among the millions of words written about Iraq over the past three months. In reality, Salam's rise to fame reveals more about liberals and their prejudices here in the West, than it does about postwar Iraq. Salam has effectively been adopted as 'one of us', a rational Western-sounding voice in irrational unWestern Iraq. Liberals love him because, more than anything, he reminds them of themselves.

So writes Brendan O'Neill in an article which might ruffle a few feathers and which in the Spiked tradition is designed to do just that.

I must admit I had similar thoughts to O'Neill when Salam Pax joined the Guardian, it did seem to be the perfect home for him. We still don't know much about Salam Pax but reading his material I had always assumed that he was an English or American-Iraqi who had returned home relatively recently - he has always sounded like a western liberal.

But where I am in total agreement with O'Neill is when he looks at why US conservative bloggers have adopted the Baghdad Blogger so enthusiastically despite his clear misgivings about the invasion of his country?

Even right-wing warbloggers, who normally attack anybody who disses Bush's warmongering, took Salam to their hearts. But again, this was driven less by any insight on Salam's part than by right-wing bloggers' own prejudices. They talk up Salam because they perceive him as giving a boost to the reputation of their beloved blogosphere. For such blogging-obsessed bloggers, what could be better than one-man-and-a-computer in the bombed-out city of Baghdad making an impact on the world?

I think he's got it spot on.

But it would be great if there were other Baghdad bloggers wouldn't it? It would be fascinating to read the views of a diversity of Iraqi opinion.

posted by BA on 5:22 AM link

I'm thinking of upping sticks to Movable Type as I am getting tired with the problems associated with blogspot. I'll have to pay for a host and other items but it sounds like a fair deal. I don't know much about MT though. Is it as easy and foolproof to use as blogger? Any feedback from others who have switched to MT (or other services for that matter) would be welcome.

posted by BA on 3:23 AM link
A very impresive debut on the blogscene from Oliver Kamm, a former chairman of the Oxford University Labour Club - a much needed and welcome addition to the UK blogscene with the bonus of being that rarest of things - a nicely designed blogspot site.

posted by BA on 3:14 AM link

Thursday, June 05, 2003


I’ve just finished reading William Woodruff’s ‘Beyond Nab End’, the sequel to his bestselling ‘The Road to Nab End’ – I thoroughly recommend both books to anyone seeking an antidote to the cynicism of our age. The first book is a moving account of Woodruff’s childhood as a Lancashire lad who grew up in the poverty of Blackburn in the wake of the First World War, the son of a weaving family. The follow-up continues his story as he moves to London and works in a foundry in the East End before, with a little help from sympathetic figures in or around the labour movement, he studies at night school and earns a scholarship to Oxford where his studies are interrupted by war.

One of the reasons why I adored these two books (and thanks Marcus for the first one!) was it took me back to some of the long conversations I enjoyed with people of Woodruff’s generation during my teenage years. Coming from a Lancashire (former) weaving town myself I had heard much about the struggles that went on during the depression years for the cotton industry – struggles in a collective sense and a personal and family context. As a young Labour Party member I spent hours talking to veteran Lancastrian socialists who cut their teeth politically in the 1930’s – men who took the temperance ‘pledge’, men who taught in Workers Education Association classes.

I heard of the men who died in Spain as volunteers and I spoke to men who fought against fascism and in defence of their country in the Second World War. I heard of the clubs and the socialist Sunday schools that organised picnics in the country and study groups. Those conversations shaped my political outlook and I like to think that the core principles I gleaned from those men remain with me now. Later, when I had chance to study the early years of the labour movement in Lancashire I read the newspaper reports of meetings attended by hundreds of workers discussing everything from pay deals to philosophy and all manner of international issues. Imagine trying to organise such meetings today.

Many of these men held religious beliefs, others took a godless but nonetheless deeply ethical socialism as their guide but together their confident class and community pride produced a generation of men and women who had a firm moral outlook allied with a genuine belief in the capacity of man to change the world for the better.

Although my home town was one of those to be dubbed ‘Little Moscow’ class warfare of the Marxist-Leninist kind never took root in Lancashire nor of course in many other working class communities in Britain – the militancy was always connected to a reformist agenda for realistic yet radical change.

It was that spirit of the labour movement which encouraged working men, like Woodruff, to educate and ‘better themselves’ while never forgetting their roots and never leaving their people behind. The collective struggles through the unions for pay and conditions and through the Labour Party for broader social benefits were allied to a commitment to give the next generation a chance to enjoy greater social mobility and those aims bore fruit with the 1945 Labour government. These roots are what still bind so many of us to the Labour Party no matter how often we may feel it’s governments have failed to live up to expectations.

It is easy to drift into a nostalgia for a lost era but I strongly belief that the spirit of those times needs to be refound by the modern left. What strikes me most in revisiting some of those conversations, prompted by Woodruff’s beautifully told accounts, is the pride of working people and the sense of morality of the men and women of those times. Morality is a word that brings smirks or surprised frowns when raised in conversation these days, largely because the term has been over-associated with sexual issues, but morality is of course, about much more than codes of sexual behaviour.

We in the wealthy west live in times where a strange form of hedonism or selfishness has gain hegemony, where making assessments about right and wrong is considered to be ‘judgmental’. We are told that other people’s behavior is none of our concern – if it is to be discussed it is in the abstract – rarely do people intervene to deal with problems in their communities. To its shame the left has allowed morality to become a term associated with Tories who blather about ‘Victorian Values’.

Of course, New Labour initially looked to ‘ethical socialism’ as a creed that could hold together its repackaged agenda but despite the occasional references to the idea in conference fringe-meetings and think-tank papers, the key task of reintroducing the moral dimension to local and national political life appears to me to have been sidelined by the day to day cut and thrust of politics and power.

But it is the idea that can reinvigorate the left and give it new purpose. The break up of working class communities and in many senses the break-up of the traditional working class itself have left many atomised, rootless and with no other goal in life then self-benefit. The state is expected to sort out the problems beyond our doorsteps, yet the state bodies (particularly at local level) are losing their legitimacy and therefore the ability to carry out their tasks effectively. Politicians are the ones who are supposed to deal with society’s many challenges, yet respect for politicians is at a low. In contrast to the active communities of the past we have handed over our responsibilities but we have little interest holding to account those who we have given the task to. Perhaps we should take our responsibilities back from them.

Yet to do so requires a political outlook which has vision and, dare I say it, a sense of morality. We need to abandon the cynicism that has gripped us and refind the ethical outlook and evangelical spirit that inspired movements for change in the past. There is no reason why scourges such as lingering poverty, drugs, violence, crime and prejudice cannot be dealt with by active citizens of vibrant communities. And how can we expect to tackle global challenges if we aren’t even interested in our own streets and squares?

If the left really does want change, if it believes in the ability of ordinary people to carry out that change then isn’t it about time we tried activating our towns and cities?

posted by BA on 2:47 PM link

If you logged onto the Guardian website last night you would have seen the top, leading story of the day was the Pentagon's Paul Wolfowitz admitting that, yep, the Iraq war was indeed all about oil.

Oil was the main reason for military action against Iraq, a leading White House hawk has claimed, confirming the worst fears of those opposed to the US-led war. The US deputy defence secretary, Paul Wolfowitz - who has already undermined Tony Blair's position over weapons of mass destruction (WMD) by describing them as a "bureaucratic" excuse for war - has now gone further by claiming the real motive was that Iraq is "swimming" in oil.

Hot story no? Stop the presses, its a scoop, all your mates will be talking about this one in the morning. So why wasn't it front page lead in the paper this morning? Indeed why wasn't it in the paper at all?

The slight problem was it was complete bollocks.

Wolfowitz said nothing of the sort as a read of the official transcript of the relevant press conference would reveal. The blog Belgravia Dispatch had done the full works on the Guardian piece, Instapundit had picked it up and anyone with half an eye on the blogosphere knew the story was at the very best 'sexed-up' to use the phrase of the moment.

Now we don't need some New York Times agonising about this but surely the Guardian could offer an explanation of why they pulled this story? Log onto the URL of the old story and you simply get told this.

Sorry Guardian, this isn't good enough.

If you use the words of a senior US administration figure in order to embarass the Prime Minister of our country on a topic of major political significance and it turns out you have offered simply a shoddy piece of misrepresentation then an online correction is the least you can do isn't it?

It makes not the slightest difference that the story was on the website and not paper. The story is still circulating on Islamic websites and other media and you can bet the next time the US gets close to military action, those misquotes will be appearing all over the Internet.

But then I suspect that might be exactly what the journalist who wrote the piece was hoping for wasn't it?

(I loved the line that Wolfowitz's 'admission' was "confirming the worst fears of those opposed to the US-led war" - you must be joking. What 'fears'? They have been telling us it was all about oil for a year now. If he had confirmed that, the anti-war crowd would have been cracking open the champagne.)

This is the second time this week that the Guardian has had to back down after one of its Iraq war reports proved to be wrong.

Sexed-up? This is Viagra-spin.

posted by BA on 8:26 AM link

posted by BA on 8:25 AM link

Thanks to Chris Bertram for pointing out this interesting piece by pro-globalisation writer Johan Norberg.

As Chris says it is a shame the article is published for the right-wing audience of the Spectator and not for left-leaning readers who need to do a bit more thinking about exactly what is happening with globalisation.

Certainly Norberg's enthusiasm for globalisation expressed through his look at Vietnam is very persuasive and those who call for a boycott of Nike might want to consider that the multinational is offering three times the minimum wage in Vietnam.

Likewise those who regret the 'opening up' of socialist countries to the global market might want to consider these facts: Since 1990, when the Vietnamese communists began to liberalise the economy, exports of coffee, rice, clothes and footwear have surged, the economy has doubled, and poverty has been halved.

AS Norberg says: The European Left used to listen to the Vietnamese communists when they brought only misery and starvation to their population. Shouldn’t they listen to the Vietnamese now, when they have found a way to improve people’s lives? The party officials have been convinced by Nike that ruthless multinational capitalists are better than the state at providing workers with high wages and a good and healthy workplace. How long will it take for our own anticapitalists to learn that lesson?

posted by BA on 7:50 AM link

I’m breaking my rule about not ‘blogging on blogs’ again but Iain Murray asks a good question today:

Odd, isn't it, that the Leftist American blogs don't link to Leftist British blogs in the internationalist way that the right and libertarians do... Any ideas why? (I'd especially like to hear from comrades on the British left on this one).

Funny, I was wondering about this one just last night. It is true that my posts rarely get linked to by US blogs and I suspect the main reason is simply that I don’t venture into US domestic debates very often.

But that shouldn’t really count should it? Adding people to your blog list is basically, as Iain suggests, an act of support or solidarity. Samizdata, England’s Sword and other right/libertarian sites, pop up frequently on corresponding US blogs despite having UK-biased content.

Yet the left US blogs I have had some contact with such as Matt Welch, Jeff Jarvis, Matthew Yglesias have never bothered given me a spot on their blogrolls (not that I have ever asked mind).

In contrast when I set this blog up, UK conservatives such as Iain, Peter Cuthbertson and Pete Briffa happily gave me a plug and plenty of advise and encouragement. So is nationality more important than ideology when it comes to giving people a bit of a hand with their sites?

I suspect it is. Basically I think we just don’t register with the American sites. The big hitting US blogs spout on and on about the power and global potential of the medium yet they have shown next to no interest in giving a helping hand to the small Britblog scene – and I suppose why should they?

Sadly the result is that when UK media write about political weblogs they still refer to Instapundit and co rather than pay any attention to their own British sites – but that is surely a challenge to us to get ourselves better known isn't it?

I don’t write for the traffic (if I did I would post on gun control and anti-Americanism every day) but of course it is encouraging to get people visiting, reading and commenting, wherever they come from.

We have passed 40,000 visits here and while that is nothing compared with some sites, I am proud of the quality of readership that regularly visits. You can read too much into sitetracking data but the stats and the emails I have received from some quite senior figures in the UK media suggest that there is a nice niche audience out there. I have a few plans to try and widen the readership and changes will continue to be made in the future – as always your ideas are particularly welcome.

posted by BA on 5:31 AM link

And this is what happens

posted by BA on 3:52 AM link

Wednesday, June 04, 2003


I don't usually buy Time Out, the London listings magazine, but did so last week. At the back of the magazine is Tania Glyde's column. The strapline asks "Bored of agony aunts ? Then try our ecstacy aunt" Reader, I did...

Someone called Annie from Holloway wrote to Ms Glyde. Annie explained:

"I am 28 and single and like everyone else these days work in the media. I keep meeting women who are on the game, and I keep thinking: I could do that. My career isn't really going anywhere, my body's ok, and these girls are making so much money ! What do you reckon ?"

How do you think Ms Glyde answered ? A warning to gullible greedy young women that disease and violence await ? No. A lighthearted piece of banter about the uselessness of media studies degrees. No. Wrong again. This is how she began:

"After a batch of really cruddy one night stands, you might well find yourself going home and thinking: I should be getting paid for this. And why not ?" Glyde doesn't list any of the numerous good reasons why not but instead explains without apparant fear of contradiction that "many marriages constitute prostitution, however prettily disguised". She goes on to point out that many women kept going on with their life in prostitution because of the money and asks "Why should society condemn an activity which enables this much expenditure, when all the media tells us to do is buy things ?".

Glyde appears to know what she's talking about aswell. She admits to a half-finished novel about being on the game. It hasn't been published but that's not a reflection of it's merit but because "the non-appearance of wedding rings at the end was a hurdle, for some, to taking it further, despite enjoying what they read. Which just goes how far we haven't come in honestly discussing what women really want, or like."

I would be interested if anyone has come across a finer example of cynicism and pathetic self-delusion. Anything that even approaches this heights attained in this 'advice' will be greatfully received and nominated for the Tania Glyde Prize.

posted by marcus on 2:26 PM link

Slugger O'Toole, the always interesting and widely respected blog on Northern Ireland is one year old. There is a brief review of the past year's best posts. If you have never visited Mick's blog then go and take a look.

posted by BA on 2:10 PM link

If you happen to be the owner or a member of a far left group then summer time means just one thing - the annual political school. It is the highlight of the year for lefty students and the weary sectivists alike and there is no shortage of events to choose from.

They are called ‘schools’ or ‘universities’ in pretence of offering an academic standard of debate. In fact all that happens is that the party hacks churn out the party line all day and then everyone retires to the bar to gossip about other sectarians, recount exciting stories of adventures at AGM’s or suspense filled trade council votes.

For the younger members it is also a giant shagfest, with students and ‘young workers’ offered ‘free accommodation’ no doubt to ease the chances of what is euphemistically known in sect circles as ‘horizontal recruitment’. Comrade 18-30 would be the more accurate title for some of the activities that go on.

Basically unless you can organise a summer school you don’t count as a major league sect – so they are all at it. As mentioned previously the Morning Star’s Communist Party of Britain have reintroduced the old Communist University and to help muddy the waters the jesters of the Weekly Worker also have an event by the same name.

But by far the biggest (and most decadent) of these jamborees is Marxism 2003 organised by those lovely people, the Socialist Workers Party.

There are some intriguing topics for debate on the agenda. “A Marxism approach to international law” is offered by China Mieville, to which one is tempted to ask the novelist if a course in the basic structures of the English language might not be a better use of his time?

“How we won the vote” is the session that will be presented by ‘awarding-winning, campaigning journalist’ Paul Foot. Surely that depends on who is the ‘we’? After all comrade Foot hails from a distinguished family, his late father was Lord Caradon, the former colonial governor of Jamaica and Cyprus. ( I might attend this one as I am keen to know which Great Reform Act resulted in the British aristocracy ‘winning’ the vote?)

There is useful careers advice: George Galloway asks “What is the alternative to New Labour?” (better find out quickly Gorgeous) and shock, horror, there is even some salacious tabloid gossip – ‘Was Engels more than Marx’s partner?’.

All of which got me thinking. Why are we war-mongering, former hard-left, neo-neo-con bastards left out of all this fun in the sun? Why can’t we have our own summer school?

Even better, rather than us spout on about our own politics, why not invite a broad range of left opinion to address an agenda of our choosing?

We don’t have thousands of student’s direct debits to fund our school so it will have to be a one-day affair but here it is brothers and sisters, the recently agreed agenda for


8:30am: Registration

9am: Round-table discussion – Playwright Harold Pinter of the International Committee to Defend Slobodan Milosevic leads a debate among victims of ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and Kosova and asks ‘Are you sure your village was burned?’

10:30 am: PFI and Public Sector Reform: The Lessons of Liverpool – Peter Taafe and Derek Hatton take a fresh look at the 1980’s in Merseyside local government, in particular their pioneering private-finance initiatives. (Speakers from Swiss banks to be confirmed – advanced taxi bookings recommended for this event)

12:00: Lunch provided by ‘Juice Bar Lefties’

1:30: How the Iraqi Communist Party returned to life– Communist Andrew Murray, Chairman of the Stop the War Coalition looks at the events that allowed the Iraqi communists to re-emerge after decades of repression and explains the lessons that the left can learn from the successful overthrow of the Ba’athist regime that murdered thousands of his comrades.

3:00 pm The struggle for Human Rights in Saudia Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – George Galloway, MP, brings the insight gained from his extensive fundraising efforts in the region. (Event Sponsored by Dubai Duty Free Shopping World)

5:00 pm: Special video presentation: Enjoy once again Tony Benn’s moving televised interview with Saddam Hussein. Afterwards Tony will take questions, as long as they are lobbed gently under-arm and you bring some Quality Street chocolates along.

6:00 pm: Nick Griffin of the British National Party discusses his differences with the Socialist Workers Party over the War in Iraq, Israel, ‘The Jewish Lobby in Washington’ and Britain’s membership of the European Union (estimated duration, six seconds)

6:01: Celebrity Pass the Parcel – A little fun to end the day as our expert panel let their hair down with this parlour game sponsored by Hamas. Which layer of wrapping will trigger the explosive? Featuring: Abu Hamza, George Galloway MP, John Pilger and John McDonnell MP.

posted by BA on 9:19 AM link

British Spin has fisked Stephen Pollard's column on the great fat-people-and-the-nhs debate. About time things livened up in sleepy post-war blogland wasn't it? And Spin doesn't hold back:

"Distorted facts, crocodile tears, and a solution that would make the people worse off. Bravura journalism, Stephen."

I find much to agree with in Spin's criticism but I do like Stephen's phrase 'juice bar lefties' - one for the collection.

posted by BA on 5:14 AM link

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

The anti-war movement are proving quite effective in their attempts to sully the achievements of the coaltion in Iraq and turn the fire on Tony Blair and his government. Apparently Blair has misled the world about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction - but has he? Interestingly even the anti-war movement accepted that Iraq had such weapons before the war and argued that it would be better to let the UN continue inspecting them - now they are pretending Saddam had nothing.

The anti-war movement have proved themselves time and time again to be hypocritical handwringers who have shown a cynical disregard for the real issues in Iraq. The best response to their sickening squealing over this issue has come from journalist Con Coughlin who has been on the ground in Iraq and pointed out in the Sunday Telegraph that the mass destruction that is being discovered in the grisly mass graves appears not to worry the flexible consciences of the anti-war brigade.

If this were Kosovo, the Government would be under fire for not having acted sooner to prevent the genocide. But this is Iraq, and the anti-war lobby appears to be far more interested in picking holes in the Government's justification for declaring war rather than conducting a sober assessment of the appalling acts of inhumanity that were conducted in Saddam's name over more than 30 years.

Forget the mass graves, what about the weapons of mass destruction? Having just returned from three weeks in post-liberation Iraq, I find it almost perverse that anyone should question the wisdom of removing Saddam from power.

So do I. But this is politics after all, pure and cynical Westminster politics.

It is Charles Kennedy and the old left united again hoping to score a few points off Tony Blair with the Tory press cheering them on. This has nothing to do with the rights and wrongs of liberating Iraq, it is about 'spin' and presentation about trying to catch people out. So much for perspective.

At a time when there are plenty of issues that need highlighting and dealing with urgently in Iraq this is the self-centred London media and their political pals at their very worst. It is truly sickening.

posted by BA on 6:24 AM link

The front page of the Times carries an amazing story on the governments latest proposed reform of the health service. Under the proposals those who don't lead a healthy enough lifestyle will not be entitled to treatment. Those in the firing line initially are heavy smokers and those who don't take enough exercise, though how these conditions are defined and whether they might be extended is not clear.

Apparantly patients will be forced to sign contracts promising to eat sensibly, give up smoking etc in return for access to healthcare. This is a legal and moral minefield to say the least and throws up a number of questions:

1. Haven't fat people paid taxes to fund the NHS in exactly the same way as their slimmer counterparts. If this is the case why should they be denied access to healthcare ?

2. Overweight people and those who smoke tend not to live as long as those who are slimmer and don't smoke. They are actually much less of a "burden" than those who survive into their 70's, 80's and 90's and who often require frequent access state-funded healthcare. Should people who are over- fond of cream cakes and Marlboro Lights be penalised for living fast and dying young even when in purely economic terms they may well pay more in tax than they get out of the system in the form of healthcare.

3. The legal effect of such a patient-doctor agreement seems to me to be fraught with potential problems. Can a patient be forced to sign-away his rights to healthcare gauranteed by statute ? I can't see how it can be unless the whole rationale of the NHS is revisited and it's remit revised so that it is obliged only to offer healthcare to healthy people.

Having said all that I am more than aware aware that reform of the NHS is neccessary. I'm just not sure that these proposals are going in the right direction.

posted by marcus on 5:19 AM link

British Spin
Tom Watson
Stephen Pollard
Nick Barlow
Paul Anderson
Matthew Turner
Jeff Jarvis

Vox Politics
Conservative Commentary
Slugger O'Toole
Public Interest
Emily Jones
Edge of England's Sword
Au Currant
Natalie Solent
Brendan O'Neill
Look Back in Anger
Cinderella Bloggerfeller
Matt Welch