Monday, 3 May 2010

Pre-election blues

I think I might just last until the electioneering ends before I blow up in a cloud of red in anger.
It is not so much the claims and counter-claims as to why I should choose one or the other party. I understand it is a sort of beauty competition but there we would see just what we were voting for. In politics, we have to accept the broad outlines of a manifesto that lacks detail.
For example, we are told that there will be cuts in public spending but just what and where these are likely to fall is not detailed. This suggests to me that the party's policy makers either do not know or have done their homework and put figures to action. If they do not know, that is highly irresponsible behaviour. If they know - why cannot we be told; chapter and verse? A prime example is the NHS that is said to be facing cut-backs. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the NHS service that I receive but there are many other Trusts with poor admin and fiscal control histories. How do I know that these will be targeted or whether the cuts will be brutal across the board reductions?
It is not as if I can question the smiling assassins who come to my door. They may well tell me what their aims are but I know full well that when/if they get into power they are the whips bitches and are told exactly what to do when a vote comes.
That is, of course, if I can trust my elected member anyway. The revelations of how their minds work when it comes to integrity and honour as shown in the expenses saga are still fresh in my mind.
What really burns me though is the way they seem to regard us as idiots. They shift and swivel almost hourly in declaring what their prime intentions are. There is just no way they would have the time to deal with all these matters. If there has to be a coalition government, the time spent posturing and bargaining has to be factored in. We are told - in broad brush terms only - what they will do but no idea of priority or timetable is given.
There is also the Curate's Egg aspect. I may like some of the manifesto and totally resist another. If I knew what sort of priority the party gave to each 'promise' I might be able to evaluate the likes against the dislikes.
In the end it all comes down to like and dislike - I like/dislike them all in about the same measure. The same applies to trust/distrust. This quandary would not be resolved by any change in the voting system. I want to vote for a party that I know will do what - exactly defined please. To give someone the keys to my safe and not know what they will do once inside is nonsense but that is what I am expected to do with my vote.
Of course, in right down to it truth, what government we have will have little effect upon me. They will decide what to do and do it. If my tax goes up - what are my alternatives? If they make an abortion of the NHS that I really depend upon - what are my remedies? I suppose my alternative will be to do nothing and stay home on election day.

Sunday, 2 May 2010


I suppose it was to be expected when our Government pressured Karzai to deal with the widespread corruption in his jurisdiction that he would respond by arresting and dealing with a British subject. Major Bill Shaw MBE, formerly of the RMP and now the Commercial Director of a security company has been sentenced to two years imprisonment to be served in a local jail with a most unsavoury reputation. The various reports of his trial and the charges laid are similar and suggest they all stem from one local news feed.

This leaves a number of questions unanswered. We do not know what part our Man in Afghanistan may have played in supporting the defence of the officer or gaining any amelioration of the conditions of his detention. It seems that much of the evidence was in the local language - not understandable to the accused - and he was defended by someone with a European name who may also have no understanding of what went on. It may be significant that the local who was alleged to have received money from the manager was not found by the police - he has ample funds to stay out of their interview rooms. One would have thought that the absence of this crucial witness would be a bar to any prosecution; hearsay reports of his actions should have been well countered by the officer and his translator.

Our Embassy will have taken things on board - I suppose this will be the usual one visit from a junior clerk every six weeks. Nothing too aggressive there then; our PM is able to insult little old ladies but our Foreign Secretary is too busy fighting for his political life to tear a strip off the Afghan ministry in London.

There is a petition for the release of the officer but that seems to be the sum total of any response. He has the right of appeal but I would not hold out much hope of that avenue. What is needed is much greater exposure of the whole case and the attention of a very high profile defence lawyer. This should really be manna from heaven for the Get Out Of Afghanistan Now In Any Way Possible brigade - of which I am proud to be a member. We have all sorts of top class correspondents and TV reporters out there and they should crowd out the courthouse. If this is an injustice, it must be exposed.

I write if this is an injustice. The reports make much of the fact that the officer served as a major in the Royal Military Police after 28 years service and is the holder of the MBE. I can only say that I have dealt with RMP officers with a similar profile who have fallen by the wayside. He had experience on the civil network in that part of the world and should have been aware that things are rarely what they seem. Meeting someone whose bona-fides he did not know to hand over a large sum in cash in respect of a dodgy seizure was on the edge of careless and the con was not particularly sophisticated.

I am minded of the words of an old copper when one of his colleagues had gone down the steps. "If you are a copper, there's always something on offer" Awareness of this is an essential part of being a policeman.