A passage to America


          Amidst the basket ball games and trip on Airforce One, the Prime Minister has plenty of time to talk to the President about the US/UK involvement in Afghanistan and the wider Middle East.

           It is a sobering week to do so. We still have in our minds the tragic deaths of six UK soldiers when their armoured vehicle was blown up by a planted bomb. We have been shocked by the mass murders of sixteen Afghan civilians in their own homes from the gun of an American soldier. Yesterday in Parliament the Deputy Prime Minister and the Deputy Labour Leader made longer than usual tributes to our forces, and expressed our common grief at the needless Afghan loss of life.

          Both leaders have long acknowledged that we need to take our forces off active duty in Afghanistan, prior to withdrawal of many of them. The policy has been for many months that we will help train more local  soldiers and police preparatory to taking a less active role and then returning home. I have just tabled some questions to ask how long it takes to train Afghan personnel. When we can get into a position where the Afghan trainees led by Afghans that are experienced and trained might undertake their own patrols and policing?

             We could move more rapdily to a position where out troops stayed in protected barracks and were on call only if some special equipment or expertise was needed by the Afghan patrols. We could plan a faster withdrawal from  Afghanistan as a means of accelerating progress in putting Afghans in charge. There is nothing like the experience of doing it yourself to complete the training.

             The period of prolonged withdrawal can be the most dangerous for our troops. For that reason if no other we should wish to curtail the period of risk. Risks are increased by incidents like the burning of the Koran and the unprovoked  murder of  civilians. All those Afghans who want foreigners off their soil or at least want armed foreigners off their streets just have more reasons to support their cause. Of course none of this was intended. Of course the overwhelming majority of foreign troops are well disciplined and generous with their skills, willing to run risks for the sake of the greater good. However, one random bad act can give propaganda victory  to those who want an early departure of overseas soldiers.

           Let us hope our leaders use their time to establish a new common position that speeds up what Mr Camron calls the “end game”. While they are about it, they might pause to reflect on how it might be better to avoid a further military intervention in the region for a bit. The USA now has access to vast shale gas reserves, which move it closer to future energy self sufficiency. The UK too could reach self sufficiency if it wished. That would be a peraceful goal which helped the world economy and took away some of the reason for such tensions over the oil rich lands of the Middle East.

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  1. Martin Cole
    Posted March 15, 2012 at 6:35 am | Permalink

    Well said and the shale oil point is well made, but I personally fear that the US move aginst China in the WTO regarding the rare earth minerals export ban probably has much more to do with our presence in Afghanistan than hydrocarbons. I see no quick resolution of that!

    • Disaffected
      Posted March 15, 2012 at 8:53 am | Permalink

      If Afghanistan was important to defeat terrorism the US and UK would not have diverted their resources to Iraq. The mission would have been completed first. All intelligence showed there was not a threat from Iraq so what does that say about the alleged threat in Afghanistan?

      120,000 Pakistani students alone enter the UK every year and is the largest common wealth group of people to do so. The Pakistani border with Afghanistan is meant to be the hive of activity for terrorism and where Bin Lade was assassinated by the US without trial. If there is a threat from this area of the world why are the borders of the UK wide open, as the article written in the papers by Messrs Green and Grayling confirm, to allow people from this area of the world into the country without proper checks or in such vast numbers? No, there is no need to be in Afghanistan whatsoever Mr Green’s mass immigration policy confirms this to be the case.

      You would have thought Mr Green had some understanding or ability to quell mass immigration over two years- no, the figure is still rising. In contrast no one in Government is putting in place the infrastructure required to cope with it. Yesterday the BBC was showing figures produced by a quango of government to show how the country would be broke by 2050 with the population increase. Is anyone in the socialists Coalition capable of stringing a cogent plan together to help our beleaguered country?

      • Disaffected
        Posted March 15, 2012 at 9:13 am | Permalink

        Fantastic article by Peter Oborne in the DT today.

        His article also reminds me of a comment I made the other day on this site: why is George Osborne in the USA and not here or Europe engaged with the budget or the EU finance ministers discussing the financial transaction tax??

        John, does Mr Osborne just act as a presenter for the civil servants at the Treasury?

        • Mark
          Posted March 15, 2012 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

          The IMF is two blocks from the White House.

      • zorro
        Posted March 15, 2012 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

        Visa applicants are rarely if ever interviewed now. They apply online, submit documentation (hopefully genuine), fulfill the tick box criteria and get their visa. This includes Pakistani young male students as we have seen in recent times. So why no interviewing of applicants after 2 years of this government? Mr Green was very vociferous before 2010 in stating that visa applicants should be interviewed. All talk and no trousers on this point I fear…..Surely if the borders are to be effectively protected against risk, this would be one of the first deterrent measures. At least, it would ensure that those who apply can actually speak enough English to undertake their courses!


      • zorro
        Posted March 15, 2012 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

        Shouldn’t the government be decreasing the number of visas issued if it wants to control the net migration figure? It can’t rely on numbers emigrating from the UK.


      • zorro
        Posted March 15, 2012 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

        Mr Green had been shadow minister for Immigration since 2005, so he certainly had plenty of time to work out what he should do in office before 2010. He can hardly say that he was thrown in the deep end! Maybe he suffers from Cameronitis, a distinct inability to put one’s rhetoric into effective action.


        • libertarian
          Posted March 15, 2012 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

          Damian Green is a (word left out-ed), useless politician and party apparatchik. He is clueless about business and commerce and is as much use as a chocolate teapot when it comes to representing constituents. Oh and sadly he’s my MP, luckily he doesn’t bother to live here.

      • A Different Simon
        Posted March 15, 2012 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

        If the Govt wanted to reduce immigration they would not have given the job to Damian Green .

        Mr Green has been caught out giving companies “off the record advice” on how to circumvent procedures to bring in cheap labour from abroad en masse .

        Another ambitious , duplicitious fifth columnist looking for a lampost to adorn .

  2. Mike Stallard
    Posted March 15, 2012 at 6:51 am | Permalink

    Let me come at this sideways.
    I woke up angry this morning over gay marriage. As a Catholic I am totally opposed and, to my surprise, I find that I really care. I listened to a programme yesterday where it was discussed and the Gat man was allowed to keep the moral high ground!
    Then there is all the stuff about gay adoption and the constant reminder (again last night) of pedophile priests.
    I am beginning to feel that the time has come for a fight back.
    I do not expect anyone else who is not a Catholic to understand any of this, by the way.

    That is certainly how the Muslims are feeling at the moment.
    I mean burning the Koran. I mean weeing on people. I mean shooting families up. The people suffering are the people, let us remember, of God Himself. If you like, it is a totally irrational point of view based on prejudice and fear and dogmatism. But it just wells up and makes people really angry.

    Which is why we are never going to do any good in Afghanistan. As soon as we leave, it will revert to its Muslim background warmly encouraged by Pakistan and all the rest of the once vibrant Abbassid Empire.

    • lifelogic
      Posted March 15, 2012 at 7:29 am | Permalink

      I cannot really see why gay marriage should bother the Catholic Church. No one is forcing the Catholic Church to conduct these “weddings”. If the participants are not religious or not Catholic why should they object. Indeed what moral rights do they have to do so?

      Nor should the church (any) intervene on regulating what non believers do on say a Sunday, or with birth control or with IVF or similar. Surely they can do what they want and leave other to do as they wish within reasonable limits? Atheists do not after all seek to make Catholics use birth control, IVF or go shopping on a Sunday what rights do they have to do the reverse?

      • lifelogic
        Posted March 15, 2012 at 9:14 am | Permalink

        Male and female couples who want to should also be able to enter civil partnership to avail themselves of similar legal rights to marriage such as exemption from inheritance tax. Not of course that there be any inheritance tax as it is counter productive.

        How is the £1M each limit coming on, perhaps in the Budget? With the abolition of the idiotic 50%, easy hire and fire, some sensible bank lending, employers NI, getting rid of the half of state sector that does nothing useful (and often worse), a new runway at Heathrow and Gatwick, the abolition of HS2 and the restoration of UK democracy.

        Oh well nothing wrong with dreaming.

        • Bob
          Posted March 15, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

          I sometimes wonder why Cameron excluded Labour from the coalition.

          • Disaffected
            Posted March 16, 2012 at 9:23 am | Permalink

            He did not. He commissions them to write reports for government ie Hutton. It was reported he tried to get Lord Odonis to work for them but he refused.

        • Disaffected
          Posted March 15, 2012 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

          I t does link to John’s blog about the Government preventing democracy by choosing who sits on select committees. The consultation paper on Gay Marriage is a a complete sham and the paper makes it clear that the views will not alter the outcome. The reported leftie views of the Equality Minister make it clear that the Government intends to change the Christian religion by force. Oh, for a Tory minister or two.

          • lifelogic
            Posted March 19, 2012 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

            I suppose if you have such a daft think as an “equality” minister then they are almost bound to be left wing by definition. As clearly is the person Cameron? who decided on such a silly counter productive & pointless ministry and decided to waste such money on it too.

      • Mike Stallard
        Posted March 15, 2012 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

        Nice argument.
        Shame it doesn’t happen.
        Gay adoption has already caused problems with the Church. It is compulsory for Catholic agencies to let children go to Gay people.
        Abortion (running recently at 200,000 per annum/2 million births) was another one “which would only affect a handful of people”. Now Catholic nurses have to join in.
        All these have rotted family life away. Now many, many children do not have a Mum and Dad living together, lots have “Uncles”, some of whom are very violent, and the birth rate has plummeted.
        You see, we can recognise the thin end of the wedge.
        So, tell me, why should this time be different?

        • lifelogic
          Posted March 15, 2012 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

          I agree. I think the church should make its own rules for its own members but I also agree it is likely they will be forced, it the end, to go along with the governments PC agenda.

      • lifelogic
        Posted March 15, 2012 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

        Obama on Cameron today (being satirical I assume):-

        “He says what he does and he does what he says” alas not to UK the voters.

        • Disaffected
          Posted March 16, 2012 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

          I suspect he turns belly up each time he is asked by Obama?

        • Bob
          Posted March 16, 2012 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

          Is Dave going to meet with any Republicans on this trip?

          If not, will Obama return the favour if he visits the UK again (assuming he is re-elected) by giving Miliband the cold shoulder?

          Or is this just further proof that Cameroon is a socialist?

      • lifelogic
        Posted March 19, 2012 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

        I am delighted that the hugely over paid Mark Thompson has finally stepped down from the BBC in order to, I assume, collect his hugely over large BBC pension.

        Can the replacement please be paid sensibly – there are plenty of people who would do a better job than Thompson for 10% of his salary. Preferably not someone who is pro EU, pro an ever bigger state, pro enforced equality, pro ECHR, pro the pro quack green science, pro back door adverts and pro dumbing down of everything.

        So it would need to be someone from outside the BBC, I assume (as there are clearly non visible there already).

        Preferably someone with a solid science degree.

    • Bill
      Posted March 15, 2012 at 8:01 am | Permalink

      I think you have every right to be annoyed. The Catholic church may not be perfect but in the balance of accounts over 2,000 years of history it has done a lot more good than harm. Its schools and orphanages are all over the world.

      • lifelogic
        Posted March 15, 2012 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

        Whether it has done more good than harm is very difficult to determine as the whole course of history would have changed and other belief systems would have doubtless filled the vacuum. They may have been better or far worse who knows.

        But I think they are still doing very great damage with AIDS in Africa and around the world which I cannot forgive. In this age of science they surely cannot not know the vast harm that is done.

        • lifelogic
          Posted March 15, 2012 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

          Also in their stance against IVF.

          • Bill
            Posted March 16, 2012 at 3:03 am | Permalink

            Agree that the RC church is not perfect. Still, it is worth remembering that children in parts of Africa are your pension: you need them to look after you when you are old and, given high infant mortality, the more babies you have the more likely it is that some will survive into adulthood.

          • lifelogic
            Posted March 19, 2012 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

            I would rather reduce the mortality.

    • Martyn
      Posted March 15, 2012 at 8:05 am | Permalink

      Why do you expect non-Catholics to not understand your feelings in the matters you discuss? I am a practising CofE Christian and endorse all that you say. In the matter of gay marriage many of my Christian friends are very angry and can hardly believe that the government would waste thei time, effort and our money when so much else is wrong with our country. If continued, this madness will cost the Conservative party dearly come the next election.

      • zorro
        Posted March 15, 2012 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

        The government’s idea of effective priority action is to force through gay marriage without a mandate, stop Christians from displaying religious symbols of their faith (unlike other faiths in the UK), oh and turfing crippled and disabled people out of employment through the closing of Remploy factories. I know of a factory close to my father’s home which employs severely disabled people who want to have a purpose in life. What will they do now? Some nonsense promise of spending the same money as before and creating 8,000 more jobs.

        A distasteful and despicable act by this government which confirms my initial opinion of it. It picks on silly cases, straining the gnat and swallowing the camel. Cameron should be ashamed of himself, he has no excuse to say that he cannot understand the issues.


    • Disaffected
      Posted March 15, 2012 at 9:02 am | Permalink

      Mr Cameron is only capable of strap lines which he thinks will grasp the mood of the country. Unfortunately he lives in a fantasy world where he is a legend in his own mind. When there a so many problems that the country needs to tackle Mr Cameron focuses on Gay marriage, not being allowed to wear a necklace with a cross and equality in accession to the throne. Oh dear.

      I appreciate he relies on the EU to create policy for the UK and for the ECRH to govern our courts, but at least one idea to help and/or solve the major problems of the country would not be too much to ask would it?

      More wind farms blighting the landscape to meet an artificial EU carbon dioxide target without purpose nor producing the energy the country needs (for business or residential use) when he travels to a basket ball match on a 747 Boeing jet for a 70 minute flight to help a socialist president win an election. I suppose the green agenda can be forgotten when on important trip like this.
      Come back Rebecca needs you!

    • Graham
      Posted March 15, 2012 at 10:34 am | Permalink

      I’m no Catholic but I find the notion of ‘same sex’ marriage very abnormal.

      Also past experience of adventures in Afghan would have told even the most war crazy politician that absolutely nothing would be gained from fighting there.

      Females in the country will be back to square one within months.

      • Bob
        Posted March 15, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

        Cameron isn’t asking the Afghans to introduce gay marriage, is he?
        I don’t think they even allow civil partnerships yet.

        • lifelogic
          Posted March 15, 2012 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

          I imagine not quite yet.

    • Electro-Kevin
      Posted March 15, 2012 at 11:19 am | Permalink

      “I do not expect anyone else who is not a Catholic to understand any of this, by the way”

      I am an aethiest and I understand it.

      Why. If the Church is to accede to the gay communities’ demands they may as well abandon the Old Testament and the teachings of St Paul altogether. Heaven forfend people start believing in a Bearded Sky Fairy ?

      • Disaffected
        Posted March 15, 2012 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

        There are some who have faith in God who might disagree with your patronising view. And there are others who might examine the scientific/biological reasons behind gay relationships in the same way religion is examined in books such as the God Delusion. Questioning is a natural and healthy act of human beings.

        What I am sure about is that it is not the business of Government to forcibly change religion by imposing its will on a social whim for political correctness when millions of people for centuries have pursued a faith that goes to the very core of their being. It also goes back to a previous blog by John questioning democracy- perhaps the socialist EU dictatorship mentality has spread further than we think. I hope those who represent the Church strongly resist this proposed law and seeks the support of as many people as it possibly can. Perhaps in the first instance, of its anti religious campaign, politicians ought to cancel daily prayers at Westminster.

        • Electro-Kevin
          Posted March 16, 2012 at 7:56 am | Permalink

          In this age of scientific revelation I have difficulty with people holding on to their religious beliefs.

          How can they do so – in the face of all scientific evidence to the contrary – without brain washing, dogma and a certain amount of bigotry ?

          What place does this have in a democracy ? Especially one where the national religion has lost its cohesive, civilising effect because it has lost primacy.

          The very worst state to be in is one of fragmented (and competing) religious and cultural belief.

          Society will reach a point where it cannot reconcile the more strident religions with scientific truths – this will act as a brake on economic progress too. If this weren’t so then the most religious nations on Earth would be the richest too.

          It is right that we should be fading religion out of politics. And we must apply this to ALL religion.

          • Electro-Kevin
            Posted March 16, 2012 at 10:59 am | Permalink

            PS, Religion should keep out of politics if it wishes politics to keep out of religion.

            This is especially appealing seeing as most in the clergy appear to be Guardian readers.

            If the C of E no longer stands for England we’re better off without it.

        • Bob
          Posted March 16, 2012 at 11:08 am | Permalink

          Will these “marriages” be recognised outside of the UK?

          Cameron and Clegg made promises about EU referendums and repatriation of powers which their reneged on and then they make changes to marriage laws which they had never even mentioned before. This tells you all you need to know about them.

      • stred
        Posted March 16, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

        Just to make a full set. I am agnostic but agree that there are natural advantages and laws which make marriage suitable for the opposite sexes. The opportunity to have a civil partnership should be available to any long term friends and realations who are greatly disavantaged by inheritance tax.

        Also, if a house is let to two couples it is classed as a family house. If one couple fall apart the house becomes an HMO and is hit by expensive licensing and fire precautions. If four heterosexual friends share, it is an HMO. If they turn homosexual and the rest it is a family house. The need for this was disproved in the ENTEC report commissioned by HMG about 10 years ago, which showed that small shared houses were no more dangerous than small family houses.

    • forthurst
      Posted March 15, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

      I think the Cultural Marxists are doing brilliantly; having infested the MSM and the entertainments industries (including sport) as well as this allegedly ‘conservative’ government, they have put Western civilisation on the back foot. Every aspect of our culture is under attack as exemplifying ‘racism’ or ‘sexism’ or ‘homophobia’ or some other thoughtcrime to be prohibited by law together with the last embers of our once great nation and culture.

      Stephen Hough’s gentle and cultivated column in the DT errupted with aggressive comments when he raised the topic. He himself said “Until this week I was loosely on the side of the ‘civil partnerships, yes; marriage, no’ side of the fence.” In other words, homosexuals as other ‘minorities’ including members of the gentler sex, are being used as weapons to attack us. Our enemy has far too much influence through their calculated invasion of cultural sources not limited to the MSM and entertainment industry but including academe, government and the law and it is time to start fighting back. Our people are being groomed to believe and accept that which will destroy them; the malignancy that was Bolshevism has simply mutated and is attacking a new host.

    • Atlas
      Posted March 15, 2012 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

      I too do not like this proposal and I’m not in any Church.

      Since this was not in any manifesto, and since the corner-stone concept of Marriage goes back way beyond even the foundation of the Christian Church – let alone the Conservative or Liberal Democrat parties, I think the Government has to put the proposition to the people in the form of a Referendum.

      John, perhaps you will post an item on your thoughts on the matter?

      • Disaffected
        Posted March 16, 2012 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

        Do you suspect this issue might be linked to Mr Clegg who is an atheist and dislikes the British culture?

  3. norman
    Posted March 15, 2012 at 7:04 am | Permalink

    I don’t think it’s fair to say we don’t want self-sufficiency in energy.

    Look at the tens, rising to hundreds, of billions we’re throwing at wind and solar. If, in a country like Britain, we’re committed to spending all this money on solar energy (sketchy in the best of conditions) and wind (useless in a lot of conditions), both of which are expenisve leaps of faith without a quantum leap in battery technology, it shows a visionary desire to be energy independent.

    Or policy is being decided by the inmates of bedlam.

    Maybe Dave can pick up a few tips from Obama on how to manage green energy firms. I seem to recall the US government heavily subsidises these, would be interesting to look at a couple of the success stories so we can see what we’re doing wrong here, where all such investments are abject failures.

    • Gordon
      Posted March 15, 2012 at 7:22 am | Permalink

      just tell Mr,Cameron to mention ‘Solindra’ to Mr. Obama. Bankrupt 6 months after receiving 500 million dollars of US Government (taxpayers) money, and they are not the only one.
      It does not work

    • Ross j Warren
      Posted March 15, 2012 at 8:15 am | Permalink

      If china doesn’t lift the restrictions on Rare Earths it may only be a matter of time before wind turbines are worth more as scrap than as alternate energy sources.

      • uanime5
        Posted March 15, 2012 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

        Despite their name rare earth metal are quite common. Only precious metals such as silver, gold, and platinum are rare.

        • Mark
          Posted March 15, 2012 at 11:38 pm | Permalink

          Yet another topic on which you are uninformed:


          97% of Nd production comes from China. No Nd, no windmills.

          • uanime5
            Posted March 16, 2012 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

            You’re making the rudimentary mistake of confusing ‘currently produces’ with ‘possesses’. China currently exports so much Neodymium because it has a fertile mine in Baotou, in Inner Mongolia.

            Were China to refuse to sell Neodymium to other countries then its value will increase until it becomes economically viable to start mining for Neodymium in other mines around the world. So Neodymium may become more expensive but it will not be rare.

        • APL
          Posted March 16, 2012 at 7:56 am | Permalink

          uanime5: “Despite their name rare earth metal are quite common.”

          I would imagine it is a matter of their concentrations in the earths crust making it economically viable or not to exploit.

          I suggest that China has economically viable deposits, where other countries, not so much.

      • lifelogic
        Posted March 15, 2012 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

        Are they not already?

    • BarryS
      Posted March 15, 2012 at 8:17 am | Permalink

      Would that include successes like Solyndra, now bankrupt with greater than $500,000,000 of government guaranteed loans? Maybe not a good place to seek enlightenment.
      One day soon, as technology progresses Solar will be cost effective without subsidy – so why not wait a little while and continue R&D to get to that point?

      • lifelogic
        Posted March 15, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

        Government are always looking for ways to pass money to friends, relatives or contacts that can be “justified” in some specious way or other.

    • uanime5
      Posted March 15, 2012 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

      Alternatively we could ask Spain which generates 16.6% of its energy from wind power.

      • Mark
        Posted March 15, 2012 at 11:24 pm | Permalink

        In 2010, renewables (including wind and solar) accounted for 8.3% of Spain’s primary energy consumption according to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy. I don’t think your statistic is right.

        • lifelogic
          Posted March 16, 2012 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

          Perhaps of its electricity production not all energy he means.

          All that over priced wind power pushed on them gives another reason why the Spanish economy is in such a mess.

    • A Different Simon
      Posted March 15, 2012 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

      Norman ,

      The trouble is that the establishments Roadmap 2050 energy plan is inflexible and does not make any allowances for disruptive technology .

      If they had formed the plan in 1935 it would have been based exclusively on coal and would not have left room for the advent of civil nuclear or natural gas .

      The Roadmap 2050 plan was put together in the past 5 years and did not even consider shale oil and gas ; not even to dismis it . Rather than admit their massive ommission the establishment have been persisting with Russian politics trying to make shale go away .

      How ironic that the only time the establishment make an effort to think beyond the short-term they cock it up due to lack of experience and actually leave us in danger of short-term power outages and rationing .

      Just like their brilliant idea for mass immigration has exceeded our potable water capacity . Why don’t they think about the consequences of their actions ?

      The UK has centuries worth of shale oil and gas and coal which could be gasified in situ .

      Premature optimisation is usually a mistake . The energy 2050 roadmap is an example of such a mistake and exemplifies why Govt should not try and pick , or decide winners .

      So what new alternatives are likely to arise between now and 2050 ?

      Quite probably decentralised , household size nuclear reactors transmuting elements other than transuranic elements or thorium safely ; i.e. a solution based on a new FUEL which would render renewables largely irrelevent and unnecessary .

      The thing to accept straight away is that we cannot predict the future or put it in a straight-jacket .

  4. backofanenvelope
    Posted March 15, 2012 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    What would be nice would be your man Cameron explaining to Obama that we have a new policy. No more American wars. No more French wars.

  5. lifelogic
    Posted March 15, 2012 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    Indeed we should never have been in Afghanistan nor most of the wider Middle East. The best way of getting out as soon and as peacefully as possible should be rapidly sought and acted on.

    Yes on shale gas, as soon as possible please, (and nuclear) and stop all the green wash subsidies now. Also publicly admit it was all a gigantic exaggeration con with little real science behind it – as is very clearly the case. Most sensible (non government funded) scientist certainly see it this way and always have.

    I see that Cameron has agree, with Obama, to look at the outrageous US extradition treaty. As this is Cameron I assume this will just be hot air as usual, but hopefully it will come to something real for a change. He also needs to deal with the equally outrageous European version.

    • lifelogic
      Posted March 15, 2012 at 7:54 am | Permalink

      As to the true value of Cameron’s words I note that, before the 2010 general election, Mr Cameron told a public meeting: “I like the child benefit, I wouldn’t change child benefit, I wouldn’t means-test it.”

      We will see if this was just another “cast iron promise” shortly I assume.

  6. colliemum
    Posted March 15, 2012 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    When we look at how this and the Obama government have been handling the situations in the Middle East over the last couple of years, then we ought to look dispassionately at what is actually going on:
    * the Arab Spring, hailed by the bien-pensants on both sides of the Atlantic, and supported actively in the case of Libya, shows that the aim of establishing a Western style democracy is not just unrealistic, it is foolish.
    It is foolish because the people of those countries prefer a fundamentalist islamic state, as the elections in Egypt, the situation in Libya and Afghanistan, are showing.

    So let us withdraw from Afghanistan, but let us also re-think what sort of aid we should give to Afghanistan and those other states.

    We – that is, we the employers of this government and of the MPs – do know, do we not, that fundamentalist islam is not well disposed to our Western societies, to express it politely.
    So my personal opinion is that the other side of the coin of complete withdrawal must be a serious appraisal of what some might call the ‘enemy within’. That means, with the problem of immigration being one of the very important problems for us, the people (not those who populate the Westmonster Village), we need to look at re-patriating those islamists who threaten our security, regardless of what our overlords in Brussels say. They are safe, we are not.

    So – let’s get out of Afghanistan, and let’s stop anything which looks like interference, from paying aid money to supporting whichever side in whatever fight.

    After all, why should we pay, why should our lads and lassies fight and die, when there is this entity called ‘Arab league’, swimming in oil money, equipped with the latest armaments, and sharing the same faith as those now involved in installing or re-installing fundamentalist islamic states?

  7. lojolondon
    Posted March 15, 2012 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    Shale gas doesn’t just give us a local source of cheap energy, it also means that oil is not as strategic, hence becomes less valuable, and our enemies in the middle east will have fewer resources than they have in the past.
    Shale gas is a no-brainer, that is why it took a man with no brain to block it.

    John, can you believe that under a CONSERVTIVE government we are intentionally ignoring this energy source ‘because it will weaken our green efforts’ ??

    • uanime5
      Posted March 15, 2012 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

      The problem with shale gas is that fracking involves radioactive elements, heavy metals, and toxic chemical which have contaminated water supplies. It also releases methane gas which endangers the lives of everyone living near fracking wells.

      Until a safe way to get shale gas is invented it is wisest to leave the shale gas where it is.

      • Richard
        Posted March 15, 2012 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

        Any research (peer reviewed of course) to back up these scare stories on shale gas extratction ?
        Other than that which eminates from Friends of the Earth or WWF or the Green Party

        • uanime5
          Posted March 16, 2012 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

          The study by Robert Oswald of Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine examined the effects of hydraulic fracking fluid expose on animals in several US states. They found there were high mortality levels in cattle exposed to hydrofracking fluid.

          Here are various stories about people who have suffered due to their water being contaminated by hydrofracking:


          Also there’s a bunch of studies that explains what effects radioactive elements, heavy metals, and toxic chemical have on humans and other animals.

          • A Different Simon
            Posted March 18, 2012 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

            I’m not an apologist for every operator in the States and recognise that there have been accidents .

            This is the country which took mass production to a new level and in which colateral damage is considered acceptable .

            Unlike the UK , due to the private ownership of mineral rights there are hundreds of oil and gas exploration wells in the US which were abandonned without proper plugging a century or more ago and do not appear any map .

            If a fracture propagates to such a well , it can provides a route to the aquifer or even the surface .

            Every respectable operator now discloses the composition of fracture fluid on every individual well . Some states require it , all should .

            An operator which can be proven to have contaminated water or having been negligent in attempting to identify abandoned wells will be fined by the EPA and are liable to be sued , prosecuted .

            This is the most litigous country in the World , if problems were widespread rather than extremely rate the courts would be jammed up and operators could not get liability insurance .

            Here is another article about Dymock

      • A Different Simon
        Posted March 16, 2012 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

        Shale gas would create loads of jobs (600,000 direct and indirect jobs in the US) .

        We are currently so dependent on imports of Gas from Norway , Russia and LNG Kuwait that if they stopped our country would fall apart .

        Replacing falling North Sea capacity is a strategic necessity and national security issue .

        It amazes me that anyone thinks we even have the option of leaving shale gas and oil in the ground .

        Gaslands was inaccurate , dishonest and dated .

        Shale extraction has not stood still . The optimum length for horizontal drill laterals in many US formations is now 5,000 feet so one well pad can drain 4 square miles .

        Sure there have been a few accidents in the US mainly due to their mass production-colateral damage mentality . George Mitchell who originated shale hydrocarbon extraction and is about as smart as smart gets even says so . However , shale hydrocarbons can be extracted safely .

        Uanime5 , what are you offering as an alternative other than a combination of fuel poverty , hypathermia , joblessness , continued importing of fuel and energy or regression to the dark ages ?

        • uanime5
          Posted March 16, 2012 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

          Gaslands is an accurate portrayal of just what can happen when water becomes contaminated with methane. Do you really believe that methane magically contaminated people’s water supplies at the exact same time fracking started?

          Shale gas extraction in the US is dangerous because fracking is exempt from the Safe Drinking Water Act, due to successful lobbying be energy companies. Unless fracking in the UK is strictly monitored we can expect the same level of water contamination as in the US.

          Finally your scaremongering about regressing to the dark ages shows just how weak your argument is. There are plenty of green alternatives that will provide jobs and lower fuel costs.

          • A Different Simon
            Posted March 18, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

            No .

            The methane from the tap-lighting scene contaminated peoples drinking water when they sunk the wells near shallow coal seams and where decomposition of organic matter produced biogenic gas .

            This was going on for 50 years before shale gas exploration started .

            Josh Fox the producer of Gaslands has even admitted this was faked and did not see any problems with a film purporting to be documentary using artistic licence .

      • Kevin Dabson
        Posted March 16, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

        So how come your an expert on this?

        Like every other area you opine on?

        All I have heard is hyperboly and propaganda on shale gas from the RT channel. Not independent and critical examination.

        What experience do you have of the energy industry ?

        What qualifications do you have in this area ?

        • uanime5
          Posted March 16, 2012 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

          I’m an expert because unlike you I research things. The fact is that the companies involved in hydrofracking aren’t conducting any research into whether hydrofracking is safe or not, and despite claiming that it’s completely safe they’ve been very quick to settle any claims made against them out of court.

          Studies by universities on the effect of these hydrofracking fluids and witness testimony from those living near fracking wells show just how dangerous fracking really is.

  8. Gary
    Posted March 15, 2012 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    Think petrodollars and control of oil supplies, for the oil itself but also for the demand for oil paid for in dollars to ensure demand for the reserve currency. This may help:

    FEBRUARY 12, 1998

  9. Andy Man
    Posted March 15, 2012 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    Afghanistan is just a rerun of Vietnam. The Yanks and their poodles (thats us) will pretend that they have left a functioning democracy which is in fact a shattered ruin of a country. The fake government will last only until the various warlords, factions or tribes tear it apart. Obama and DC will be hoping the sham Afghan state lasts just long enough for them to save face.

  10. Electro-Kevin
    Posted March 15, 2012 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    When the Afghan troops and police are left in charge will they be allowed to operate satellite technology, drones, Apaches, special forces and will they be able to base themselves in HEX reinforced compounds with choppered in supplies ?

    I gived them 5 minutes at best on their own without these things.

  11. Caterpillar
    Posted March 15, 2012 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    “took away some of the reason for such tensions over the oil rich lands of the Middle East”

    I haven’t looked up other countries’ supplies of crude oil and products thereof, but I was quite surprised to realise that only ~17% of US imports came from the Persian Gulf and of those 2/3rds was from Saudi Arabia ( Moreover the actual US production itself is equivalent to about 50% of the imports ( So perhaps I have miscalculated but ~ 5% of US oil comes from non-Saudi Arabian Persian Gulf (- I know I have ignored US exports/re-exports but just ball-parking here). Also looks like about half the oil & products goes into gasoline ( … I think I really must be wrong here but does an interest in oil rich lands equate to a 10% efficiency gain in US vehicles?

  12. waramess
    Posted March 15, 2012 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    It seemed from the publicity given that our Dear Leader and their Dear Leader were keen to display the victory they have siezed in Afghanistan and as a result their departure with great honour.

    Nothing could be further from the truth, but then why let the truth get in the way of politics.

    So, what does Obama get out of this? We should prepare for Dave agreeing to a late interference in the affairs of Syria, I guess. After all it is election year in USA and it might be a winning throw of the dice for Obama.

  13. Peter T
    Posted March 15, 2012 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    Yes, we can become self sufficient in energy production and we should. However, CO2 has been propagandised into a pollutant whereas, in reality, it is the source of our oxygen and provides the building blocks of plant life. Life on Earth depends upon CO2.

    • uanime5
      Posted March 15, 2012 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

      Life on Earth may depend upon CO2 but too much CO2 will kill all life on this planet. Were the atmosphere to become 10% CO2 it would be toxic for humans and were CO2 levels to rise too high planet Earth would become like planet Venus.

      • Richard
        Posted March 15, 2012 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

        Just how is CO2 ever going to get to 10% of the atmosphere.
        There is ridculous and then there is ludicrous

        • Richard
          Posted March 15, 2012 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

          Current levels of CO2 are 392 parts per million or 0.38% expressed as a whole of the Earths atmosphere
          It is said to be growing by 2 parts per million each year since the year 2000
          Which means it would take millions of years assuming no counter reaction by man or mother nature for it to get to 10%

      • Bob
        Posted March 17, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

        That’s it, never let reality get in the way of a good scare story!

  14. Leslie Singleton
    Posted March 15, 2012 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    On the energy (lack of) sufficiency front I wrote to you some time back asking why there isn’t more effort put in to tidal power – which is ultra reliable – and somebody kindly wrote in with a link to a Goverment study of the question – which was as negative as one would expect because (like water pipelines) tidal power (unlike say the new line to Birmingham) would actually be of some considerable use.

    What continues to puzzle me is why there wasn’t more consideration of underwater turbines in estuaries with strong tidal flow. These would be similar in some respects to wind turbines but with no disruptive effect- certainly not visually – amd total reliability. Perhaps somebody has an explanation.

    Certainly something has to be done to reduce our energy dependency on the Middle East.

    • lifelogic
      Posted March 15, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

      It is a matter of cost coal, nuclear, gas & oil are all cheaper, by far, than wind, PV, tidal and tidal currents. When all the cost are considered.

      Perhaps we can switch if/when the technology and costings change but by then we should have nuclear fusion anyway with luck. If not we will just have to wear more thermal underwear, jumpers and use those horrible low energy dim lights more.

    • BobE
      Posted March 15, 2012 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

      Anything made of any metal when placed in the sea will rapidly corode away. Any wind turbine or undersea turbine placed in or near salt water will only last a couple of years. As anybody with a car who lives near the sea.

      • uanime5
        Posted March 16, 2012 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

        How do they stop ships and oil rigs from corroding away? I’m fairly sure they don’t need to be completely replaced very few years.

        • Bob
          Posted March 17, 2012 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

          Maybe they use galvanic anodes?

  15. Phil Richmond
    Posted March 15, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    John – The one area of the Public Sector which desperately needed funding is our Armed Forces. It is somekind of sick joke how few ships the Royal Navy has and the fact that we have no aircraft carriers.
    What does Cameron do? Populate our once beautiful island with wind-farms.
    He has managed to put our national & energy security at risk. A 1001 reasons why Cameron has to go.

  16. Denis Cooper
    Posted March 15, 2012 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    The mistake was to get diverted from sorting out Afghanistan to invading Iraq for no good reason, except to allow certain lunatics to talk about going on to invade Iran next.

    Actually the mistake before that was NOT invading the whole of Iraq and overthrowing Saddam at the end of the first Gulf War, when it would have been easy and would have also been easily justified.

    • forthurst
      Posted March 15, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

      The mistake is to believe in the neocon discourse at all. They are bunch of lying traitors using our military to sacrifice themselves whilst committing mass murder on their behalf to further their ME ambitions. All these neocon wars have launched on the back of lies disseminated by Western media and there is no sign of this changing.
      If people cannot tell the difference between a building collapsing and one being blown to smithereens, then they cannot tell truth from fiction.

    • backofanenvelope
      Posted March 15, 2012 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

      The UN mandate was to liberate Kuwait, not invade Iraq. We didn’t want fellow members of the UN to go around invading each other. Then ten years later that is what we did.

    • Disaffected
      Posted March 15, 2012 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

      No it was not justified. Mrs Thatcher made it clear when she was asked this question. She stated that every country had a right to self determination. This is absolutely right. It is not for the USA nor the Uk to decide how Middle East countries should be governed, society differences, religion, culture or anything else.

      Look at America, Uk and the EU for goodness sake. Skullduggery of every kind when it suits. The EU’s coup of Greece and Italy was made possible by financial force; any difference to sanctions imposed to force Iran to comply with the wishes of the West? What makes our way of living so correct? Look at our societies, our politicians are no less corrupt than theirs. We might not like leaders of other countries, it does not give us the right to overthrow them as appears to be the case of the US foreign policy. Our politicians criticise the brutality of other regimes, how about the prison in Cuba? How about the assassination of Bin Laden and Gaddafi without the right to trail, against the rule of law, international conventions on the treatment of prisoners, and why was the wretched HRA not followed- that prevents the UK from even deporting terrorists let alone killing them abroad? The UK needs to learn to mind its own business and interests.

      • uanime5
        Posted March 16, 2012 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

        Had Greece or Italy run their economies better they won’t have needed new leaders. Even Spain, Portugal, and Ireland were able to start fixing their own problems.

        When political leaders in other countries threaten us or our allies we have every right to invade them. Also just because the US operations sometimes breach of human rights or international law doesn’t mean that everything they do is automatically a breach of human rights or international law.

  17. lojolondon
    Posted March 15, 2012 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    Hi John, sorry this is off topic, I know you are against HS2, but the article below will vindicate all your thoughts and give even less reason for the waste of Billions of pounds. It seems that HS1, HS2 and Crossrail never intersect or meet at any station – so the plan is not to have a high speed rail network, just three fast lines, randomly ending in various disparate places around London. How’s that for a ‘joined up’ rail strategy?


    • lifelogic
      Posted March 15, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

      HS2 makes even the Olympics seem like a good investment.

      • BobE
        Posted March 16, 2012 at 12:47 am | Permalink

        School sports don’t cost that much

    • Caterpillar
      Posted March 15, 2012 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

      The HS2 site lists “key facts” specifically including;

      “leaving Euston, the route will run in tunnel for about 4.5 miles, surfacing at a new interchange station at Old Oak Common in north-west London
      passengers will be able to interchange at Old Oak Common with Crossrail, Heathrow Express and Great Western Main Line services”

      My gripe is the timescale. The extra capacity of Birmingham International with a 38 minute link into London, to me, is admirable. The time is comparable to Narita to Ueno. The issue for me is that this Birmingham International link to London isn’t due until 2026, given the capacity discussions of London air and runway space, the resurgence of UK manufacture and the need to keep strong international links into the City I’d like this milestone much, much sooner. But given the project has been kicked into the long grass of the next parliament I am fearful the UK will again fail to develop infrastructure.

      I can appreciate that some interests to the West of London may fear that some location based monoploy due to Heathrow etc. will be lost with the London-Birmingham link (less clear on the effect of the 2033 Birmingham Interchange-Heathrow link) but I don’t think the “not joined up” rail strategy is a strong argument. (Also with intermediate utilisation Braess’s paradox warns us of too many links in a network).

      It is “too late” that I fear as an argument.

  18. Barbara Stevens
    Posted March 15, 2012 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

    The fact is we were taken into this war in Afganistan by Tony Blair, who then decided he was giving up politics and left it to those who followed. He like the rest of the political elite are blinded by the over emotional USA and its overbearing politics. We see that today with Obama and Cameron, another UK, PM, being used for their own ends. Its election time over there. We were led in the past and I hope we are not being led now, or blinded by a welcome with undertone expectations. We all know Israel is gunning for Iran, and the USA with its numbers of Jews would support it, are they expecting us to follow? Iran now thinks its a world power with a few ships, and missiles, another crackpot lot.
    We cannot afford another war and I hope Cameron tells Obama just that.
    What he should be doing is be here defending this country which is up in arms over the health bill, which they don’t want. He’s ignoring all of us like those before him. We have over half million signitures from the organisation 38degrees against this bill. Lord Owen is going to present it to the Lords next week and try finally to make the old Lords see the dangers of this bill, and get the report published which the court ordered it to be, before the vote. Why have we to wait till the bill goes through, is there information in the report that will let the cat out of the bag? You see while Cameron pontificates over the pond there are more worrying things going on for the public; we aren’t really interested in the capers of the PM the NHS is much more worthy of our interest. Or is this visit a diversion from what matters, if so it’s failed. As for gays marrying, another diversion that is not really important although a disgrace. This coalition should rethink its priorities.

  19. Leslie Singleton
    Posted March 15, 2012 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

    BobE says in effect that underseawater turbines will not last long because any metal will rapidly corrode away. He may be right but why would the turbines face more corrosion than the presumably in many ways identical corrosion in the turbines of the tidal barrier schemes that are up and running and how do submarines survive so long? But agreed that corrosion would be a problem.

  20. AJAX
    Posted March 15, 2012 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

    H.M. Foreign Office should stop being the USA’s 51st state & develop a role for England in the world’s affairs again.

    The PM is over at Capitol Hill doing little more than collecting his orders & it’s embrarrassing

  21. Max Dunbar
    Posted March 15, 2012 at 11:47 pm | Permalink

    Tragic though the deaths of six British servicemen is, they were doing in Afghanistan what soldiers are trained to do – kill the enemy. Our military presence in that country can be dressed up in do-gooder clothing but fundamentally our armed forces are there to enforce the will of our country on their country. The rights and wrongs of this sort of political intervention can be argued interminably. Some people may suggest that our troops are better deployed at home to counter the enemy within. Why travel thousands of miles and at vast cost to get your head blown off at the taxpayers expense when you could be doing it here?
    The British Army is a highly trained professional army – but an army needs to get real action as a body needs exercise. Without real combat experience an army will become inefficient and flabby, as a body will if not pushed hard physically. Afghanistan surely provides some of this exercise, but that is the only practical justification for being there as far as I can see. The history of that region follows a pattern which is remarkably constant.

    • peter davies
      Posted March 16, 2012 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

      The British army has since 1990 been involved in how many conflicts? I can count 7.

      I don’t think there is any chance of it getting flabby soon, theres not enough of it left for a start.

      After this is over they will need around 10 years to get over this, the scars of Iraq and Afghan will be around for years but the people involved who continue to serve will need a long period of stability – are they going to get that with the goings on in Syria, Iran and whatever else, who knows?

  22. Jonathan Tee
    Posted March 16, 2012 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    It was very astute to point out that decoupling our energy requirements from the Middle East would be an effective way to create peace (well, for us anyway). I agree with lifelogic’s point that Fusion is the true end game, but its proved so difficult to get that technology to work so far, I don’t think Britain should wait for some golden future tech before starting to disentangle ourselves.

    Opponents of renewable energy have many valid points (expense and reliability of supply being the most persuasive). However there is a lot of merit from a strategic standpoint in cultivating a range of alternatives to oil.

    It seems that most of our energy sources at the moment sit within the borders of countries which are not Britain’s greatest friends. Its great news that there may be untapped deposits of fossil fuel in Lancashire, the Weald and around the Falklands, and I hope the government can help their development with a little red-tape cutting (and in the case of the Falklands, some more naval clout). However, we should also press ahead with the renewables – its early technology and not terribly efficient, but perhaps with time that will change. Certainly we’ll save money on drawn-out wars in the Middle East, and reduce the attendant pressure from the Big Brother tendency to roll out id cards and other infringements on liberty. Wind might be a dead end, but what about bio-fuel? We’ve got plenty of farmland. All you need is to get some plants to grow there then burn them, so it doesn’t necessarily have to be willow. I know the environmentalists complain that this releases CO2, but unless a wood burner is achieving 100% combustion the carbon dioxide released must be less than the carbon dioxide absorbed by the plants.

  23. Ashley
    Posted March 16, 2012 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    Great blog, thanks for sharing!

  24. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted March 17, 2012 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    1. Bin Ladin is dead.
    2. The Taliban are no longer interested in providing a haven for Al Quaeda.
    3. The Karzai government is corrupt.
    4. The Karzai government despises women but not quite as much as the Taliban do.

    “And it’s one, two, three, four
    What are we fighting for?”

  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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