Beware talk of red lines

 

 When some politicians talk of red lines I start to count the spoons.

The worst offenders were Labour Ministers telling us they had defended the UK’s essential “red lines” when agreeing to the wide ranging federal Treaties of Nice, Amsterdam and Lisbon.They assured us  the UK would still be free to settle its own tax, welfare and benefits policies, and would still have its own criminal justice systems.

 Try telling that to Mrs May as she tries to find a way of deporting someone, or to Iain Duncan Smith as he loses yet another case on benefits at the ECJ, or to the Tresasury as they witness yet another European Court judgement on corporation tax, or further requirements on VAT, a common EU tax, or to Mr Harper as he considers the latest Commissioner demand that we help more EU migrants to receive our benefits.

This week-end the issue is Mr Obama’s use of the red line phrase over Syria. Let’s hope the delay and the spin in taking action in response to the likely use of chemical weapons in Syria is a sign that he did not really mean his red line after all, just like Mr Blair in Europe. The administration is rightly demanding more proof that chemical weapons were used, that they were used by the Syrian government, and that the user had the full authority of Assad. If this is forthcoming then it is a war crime. War criminals need prosecution once they have been toppled from the protections of state power.

Let us suppose they can prove war crimes – there is plenty of evidence anyway  of how loathsome this Syrain government is, and how cruel it is towards its own citizens with or without using chemical weapons. Shelling and bombing civilian populations with conventional munitions can impose horrendous injuries and deaths. The issue should be how could western military intervention help, rather than whether there is sufficient pretext for such intervention.

The problems with any military  intervention are manifold. How could western bombs rain down without killing some people who are not part of the government and state armed forces?  If the west uneashes some of its might to tip the balance in  favour of a rebel victory, what kind of a government might replace Assad’s?  How would any such replacement government heal the wounds of the current civil war? Is there a danger that more people who do not share the west’s beliefs in democracy, freedom and human rights take over in this blighted state? Could a change of government usher in a new instability, as pro Assad forces became the new rebels?

 

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74 Comments

  1. lifelogic
    Posted April 28, 2013 at 5:29 am | Permalink

    Indeed the question is surely, what if anything can usefully be done that will improve the final outcomes in the region.

    Red lines are just shorthand, PR propaganda. As with Major’s “subsidiarity” and lines in the sand during Maastricht. To be used and discarded, at will, by governments, to deceive the electorates and often to justify pointless, counterproductive and damaging wars.

  2. Steve Cox
    Posted April 28, 2013 at 6:35 am | Permalink

    The record of Western military interventions so far this century is hardly one to be proud of. The populations of Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya are hardly models of peace, prosperity and democracy. Rather than stand on what our politicians perceive to be the moral high ground we should only intervene militarily where there is a clear and indisputable case to do so in our own interest. The (probably illegal) invasion of Iraq was an act of extreme hubris by the younger Bush and his British pet poodle. We should have steered clear of any involvement. The US judged Afghanistan invasion to be in its own overwhelming interest in ridding the world of Al Qaeda. It may have been right about its interests, but I wonder what a full cost-benefit analysis would show now? In any case, we had no business following America, but our dear leaders evidently skipped the chapters in their history books about the British attempts to capture Afghanistan so now many British servicemen have lost their lives. And for what obvious and indisputable benefit to the UK?

    Syria has no colonial ties to Britain and is only a minor oil producer. It has little or no strategic or economic value to us and we should leave it to the French, Israelis and Americans to sort it out as they wish. It’s none of our business and we do not have any more young lives to spare for the vanity and grandstanding of our beloved leaders.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted April 29, 2013 at 7:12 am | Permalink

      It was agreed that the 9/11 attacks on the US met the conditions for the application of Article 5 of the NATO treaty:

      http://www.nato.int/terrorism/five.htm

      “The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all … “

  3. backofanenvelope
    Posted April 28, 2013 at 7:08 am | Permalink

    I would like to suggest a nice simple policy! Let us not get involved – just mind our own business. The Arabs are just doing what they have always done – killing each other. For 1400 years it has been their main characteristic. I don’t think Mr Hague is going to change them.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted April 28, 2013 at 10:33 am | Permalink

      It’s not specific to Arabs; more generally it’s populations infected with religious or ideological fanaticism transcending any feelings of common humanity, and often with an admixture of tribalism. If we could successfully intervene in countries where people were sinking into wholesale internecine slaughter and bring about peace and reconciliation then obviously that would be a good thing to do, but the history of such interventions is not exactly encouraging and thanks to cuts to the defence budget we no longer have the military resources necessary for any large scale pacification.

    • outsider
      Posted April 28, 2013 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

      Indeed. Harold Wilson may not have been our greatest Prime Minister but I shall be for ever grateful to him for simply saying No to any involvement in the Vietnam war, just as I shall always blame Mr Blair for our invasion of Iraq and for keeping occupying troops in Afghanistan to such great loss to soldiers’ lives and to all of us by making Great Britain prey to another wave of religious terrorism. We should not be interfering in Syria at all, as we already are. Leave any non-Arab interference to Turkey and France, which understand far better than we do.

      • lifelogic
        Posted April 28, 2013 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

        Indeed Vietnam and getting rid of the dreadful Cameronite, Ted Heath, he deserves to rest peacefully in the Isles of Scilly just for that. A shame he did not prevent Heath ever getting into power at all.

    • StevenL
      Posted April 28, 2013 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

      They don’t take much encouraging, but it has been Western policy for at least a couple of hundred years to keep them divided. Last thing anyone wants is a united Arab-Muslim superpower in the Middle East and North Africa. After all, this is what ‘Bin Laden’ wants isn’t it?

      • uanime5
        Posted April 29, 2013 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

        Given that most of the Arab-Muslim states were part of the Ottoman empire until 1918 I don’t see how the West could have kept them divided for hundreds of years.

        Given that Egypt and Syria weren’t able to unite into one country after WW2 there’s little chance of the Arab states uniting to form a new Caliphate. Though the Arab League may one day become an organisation similar to the EU.

  4. lifelogic
    Posted April 28, 2013 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    They assured us the UK would still be free to settle its own tax, welfare and benefits policies, and would still have its own criminal justice systems, after the treaties of Nice, Amsterdam and Lisbon.

    Indeed they did and it was lies, lies, lies as usual.

    I see the usually fairly sound Iain Duncan Smith has told the Sunday Telegraph he would “encourage” people who do not need such financial support and the winter fuel allowance, transport etc. “to hand it back”.

    Why on earth should they. They have already had their pensions and savings mugged by the Coalition and paid taxes for it. Anyway there are far better things to do with it than give it back to the coalition. For them just to waste it on HS2, pointless wars, the bloated state sector, propaganda, loans to the PIGIS, IMF& EU costs, and barmy green subsidies for house Bling.

    Far better for them to use it wisely, or give it away wisely. Almost anything will be better than most of the things the Coalition would do with it.

    • lifelogic
      Posted April 28, 2013 at 7:56 am | Permalink

      Anyway after ratting on IHT thresholds, ratting on the EU treaty referendum and ratting on university fees, universal benefits are one of the few things left they a have not yet ratted on. Trying to do it by the back door as IDS is just will not wash. If the government wants more money it should stop wasting 50% of what it currently grabs first perhaps.

      • nicolsinclair
        Posted April 28, 2013 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

        Lifelogic: I couldn’t agree with you more. I, for perhaps not only, one am sick to the back teeth of the disingenuous politicians from all sides. There are notable exceptions and our host is one of them. But the rest, frankly, belong in the gutter. (I expect to be modded…)

        • lifelogic
          Posted April 28, 2013 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

          Alas so few.

      • Bazman
        Posted April 28, 2013 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

        Got to be cuts somewhere in your benefits fantasy and where better than absurd benefits for the rich like extra sausage IDS? Cuts in benefits to the poor? Not that I believe in this.

      • Hope
        Posted April 28, 2013 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

        It is worse than you suggest because intelligent well educated people could not be so stupid. However such people can lack emotional intelligence more than poorly educated people who have a strong sense of right and wrong. Most of the cabinet are Oxbridge educated and they know the deceptions they try to create through careful use of language. Time for a radical change at Westminster. The place is rotten.

      • zorro
        Posted April 28, 2013 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

        Indeed, they are serial ratters and rotters….particularly on IHT. Get it up to £1,000,000. Why are decent people who have saved all their life having their property and funds taken away from them. I did laugh when I heard this suggestion from IDS. What person in their right mind would give anything willingly for this lot to waste on wind farms and god knows what else!?

        zorro

    • behindthefrogs
      Posted April 28, 2013 at 10:45 am | Permalink

      Most of the better off who already pay income tax on their pensions would not object to the idea of the winter fuel allowance etc. being taxed. However the government will not do this because of what was in their manifesto and that they might lose a few votes. In fact it would be much more efficient in the case of the WFA to simply replace it by an increase in the basic pension for the winter months.

      They did not have a similar conscience when it came to going back on their promises on subjects like IHT.

    • Hope
      Posted April 28, 2013 at 11:08 am | Permalink

      Of course if the rebels were not supported by the UK and others, suffering from any perceived civil war would have ended by now. It escalated through ‘help’. It could be viewed the UK is prolonging suffering by interfering in something that is none of its business. The tragic day in Boston saw many people hurt and maimed and caught headlines around the world. The same day more people were wounded and killed in Iraq which was not reported. The UK is responsible for this shameful episode as an occupying force when Blaire was PM. The UK should let every country have the right to self-determination.

      • zorro
        Posted April 28, 2013 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

        Indeed, the Western Powers, Saudis, Qataris, and Israelis should share the blame for this ongoing conflict. Look at what their rabble have done to some parts of Syria. I have seen films of rebels messing around with chemicals and poisoning rabbits. What could one have expected from Assad when they started going on a rampage through Syria. As for this chemical weapons business…..how is it in Assad’s interest. He is gaining ground. Why would he jeopardise it by using chemical weapons? the only people to benefit would be the rent-a-mob ‘Al Qaeda (TM)’ rabble.

        I hold no torch for Assad but this is a beautiful country being systematically ruined.

        zorro

    • Bazman
      Posted April 28, 2013 at 11:50 am | Permalink

      Or do nothing with it? The banks will invest it wisely? On housing loans? Or the tax avoidance by companies is good for us? Duncan Doughnut is well off the plot with handing it back like the government is with tax avoiding by corporations. You do not blame maggots for rotten food, you build a refrigerator that works.

      • Electro-Kevin
        Posted April 29, 2013 at 4:33 am | Permalink

        Of course socialists make the finest fridge manufacturers, don’t they.

        • Bazman
          Posted May 2, 2013 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

          Socialism for the rich?

    • Bob
      Posted April 28, 2013 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

      Quite right LL.

      Saw this in the Telegraph today:
      “Fridges could be switched off without owner’s consent to reduce strain on power stations”

      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/energy/10023508/Fridges-could-be-switched-off-without-owners-consent-to-reduce-strain-on-power-stations.html

      • lifelogic
        Posted April 29, 2013 at 6:22 am | Permalink

        No doubt many of these electrical cut out units will fail, wasting all the food in the fridge and/or meaning the fridge has to be replaced.

        Just like the expensive, over complex and rather unreliable condensing boilers the EU have, incompetently, forced onto the public wasting millions.

    • Jerry
      Posted April 28, 2013 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

      @Lifelogic: Not necessarily “lies, lies, lies as usual” but just a simple case of the rhetoric being over-taken by events, after all I’m sure you would not wish people to call Mrs Thatcher a lair considering that she/her government told us that in signing up for the Single European Act it would be very beneficial to the UK – it has become nothing of the sort, as I’ve said before, more like a noose around out collective necks ever since…

      • lifelogic
        Posted April 28, 2013 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

        Well either they were, very stupid indeed, deceived or just lying.

        Do you think Cameron was aware, as he made the cast iron promise, that he planned to rat on it should it be ratified but intentionally misled. I am quite sure he knew full well he would.

        Do you also think he knows full well that toy wind turbine house bling is a total nonsense in Notting Hill I am sure he does.

        Do you think he know that income tax at 50% is totally counterproductive and destroys jobs – yet he and Osborne kept it in place.

        Do you think Blair honestly though there were weapon of mass destruction but just did not bother to ask what type of weapons they were?

        You are perhaps too trusting.

        • Jerry
          Posted April 29, 2013 at 9:35 am | Permalink

          @Lifelogic: Not that “Cast Iron” clap-trap once again, for the umpteenth time, once the Lisbon treaty was ratified by all member states it stopped being a treaty passed into EU Law, thus there could be no referendum asking about ratification of the ‘Lisbon Treaty’ as it no longer existed, any referendum would have had to become an IN/OUT question – which Cameron has now pledged.

          You are perhaps too trusting.

          Not at all, but I fear that you are to dogmatic, anything that doesn’t agree with how you think it is or should be said or done is wrong, that the person must be lying at best or a “Red under the bed” at worst.

          • lifelogic
            Posted April 29, 2013 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

            When a treaty becomes law it does not cease to be a treaty a cast iron referendum was promises and very clearly ratted upon. He should have has a referendum to see if the voters approve of the treaty on was it just rammed down their throats.

            Then he could have started negotiation with a strong hand. It would not have been an in out referendum. Instead he had an absurd on the single transferable vote which was clearly never going to be passed and cost a great deal. He could have put the question on the bottom of that one for free.

          • Jerry
            Posted April 29, 2013 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

            @Lifelogic: Once ratified a treaty does become Law (just like a UK parliamentary Bill becomes and Act and thus passes into law), please stop showing your ignorance! Thus the UK can not simply un-ratify the Lisbon treaty unless we also revoke EU law, something that would mean leaving the EU in this instance.

            Perhaps Cameron should have held a IN/OUT referendum instead, perhaps he would have liked to but for the fact that the electors didn’t give him the required mandate, hence he -and we- will now have to wait until the after the next election (assuming that the electorate gives the Tories or UKIP a mandate).

  5. Bazman
    Posted April 28, 2013 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    Look at both sides of the Syrian conflict in action as well as Afghanistan and Iraq Crazy stuff. War really is hell.

  6. Old Albion
    Posted April 28, 2013 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    After the horrendous carnage of European and American involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq. Where in both cases thousands have died or been maimed. Where in both cases the countries will eventually return to just how they were before ‘intervention’ One would think politicians would do all they can to avoid making the same mistake yet again. Yet still we hear the sabres rattling.
    Politicians, the leaders of the free world. Too damn drunk on their own percieved power to say ‘it’s not our affair, let us stay out of it’

  7. Tad Davison
    Posted April 28, 2013 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    On the EU, you’re quite right to highlight those issues, so I would say better out than in, and I will vote for any party that promises to deliver that. We have witnessed far too much EU meddling in domestic politics already, but it will take strength and commitment to extricate us from its grasp. Strength and commitment the present administration simply doesn’t have, although Mr Cameron would wish to make us believe otherwise.

    If I were in his place, I would say to the British people that the Tories must honour the coalition agreement, but make it clear what a future majority Conservative government would do. Mr Clegg and his pro-EU cohorts could do the same, and explain why they think the EU is such a good idea. We would then have clear blue water between ‘us’ and ‘them’, and the people would have a clear direction and policies upon which to make a judgement, only, it won’t happen. Cameron will continue to be a fence-sitting, dithering, pro-EU stooge who stealthily cons us into thinking he’s a man of his word, and truly Euro-sceptic.

    The whole issue makes me sick to the pit of my stomach. We have been conned mercilessly all the way down the road. We are not free to make our own decisions any more, so why have Westminster at all, if this is the best they can do?

    A rubber-stamp parliament under the heel of the EU simply isn’t good enough. Everywhere one looks, the EU has delivered disaster, and there are no signs that anything will ever change.

    The pro-EU lobby will try to tell us that we must remain within the EU and change it from within. That’s just bunkum and whitewash. It hasn’t worked in the last forty years, and there is no foundation for the assertion that we will ever get it to run right by the power of persuasion alone.

    Tad Davison

    Cambridge

    • Electro-Kevin
      Posted April 29, 2013 at 4:40 am | Permalink

      Tad Davidson – Why have Westminster at all ?

      Losing jobs when work has been outsourced or outmoded, or to enable competition and choice …

      That’s only for the little people.

      (I want Westminster to stay btw – but we can’t afford two governments clearly)

  8. Mark
    Posted April 28, 2013 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    “It’s a pity they can’t both lose.”

    That realpolitik – applied from Moscow (until almost the fall of Communism) and Washington – appears to have been rather more successful than backing the Arab Spring, which is increasingly aligning an enemy of the future.

    • Mark
      Posted April 28, 2013 at 11:09 am | Permalink

      Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
      The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
      Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
      And by opposing end them.

      Hamlet’s dilemma requires that both sides be crushed if you take up arms.

  9. Denis Cooper
    Posted April 28, 2013 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    Well, at least we know that in the future nothing like the Lisbon Treaty could ever be ratified without first being approved through a referendum, thanks to the passage of Hague’s “referendum lock” law, the European Union Act 2011.

    Except of course we don’t know that, because there is nothing in that law to impede its normal repeal by a future Parliament at the instigation of a government which wanted to avoid a referendum on a new treaty and could not find any plausible loophole, or indeed if it wanted to join the euro without risking a referendum.

    As pointed out during the passage of that law through the Commons, the government would only need to insert words such as “notwithstanding any provision of the European Union Act 2011” in its Bill to join the euro without a referendum and the “referendum lock” would have been removed.

    What we really needed was a deeply entrenched law to empower the British people to demand and obtain a binding national referendum on any matter of their choosing at any time of their choosing, rather than having to trust party politicians to do the right thing and graciously give, or more likely sell, them a referendum; but of course although they all present themselves to be ever so passionate about democracy the politicians in this country will never, ever, agree to pass any such law unless they are in some way forced to do so, which would possibly even need a growing threat of (non Parliamentary pressures-ed)
    That may seem an extreme view, but historically there have been occasions when major constitutional changes opposed by most of the political establishment have only come about when it seemed that country was heading towards serious (disorder-ed).

  10. Narrow Shoulders
    Posted April 28, 2013 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    Politician seem to believe that they are entitled to our money – shocking!

    Two items this weekend highlight such belief.

    IDS suggests that wealthy pensioners might like to give their payments back. This despite those pensioners already likely to have contributed the most and being expected to pay for their own care later. Why not suggest that they might like to do something altruistic with those extra funds. How is government better at spending?

    Married persons tax allowance (which should not be open for debate it should just be implemented as a household allowance). The suggestion is that this should only apply to basic rate tax payers. Why the burden of taxation already falls heavily on higher rate payers and any respite is both morally and financially welcome. We have already had our previously universal child benefit removed (at a personal cost of £2,400 per year). My wife’s tax allowance would be worth a similar sum to me even if allowed at only 20%. Why should I not be allowed to use it when I pay for her bills while she supports our children? Surely this should be recognisable within the tax system (my earnings after all were used to calculate the removal of her child benefit so there is precedence for joint calculation).

    Way to support your core vote, Conservative. Pensioners and working families.

    • lifelogic
      Posted April 28, 2013 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

      The government is far worse at spending the money. It would be better in general if the elderly spent it, or saved it, or gave it away wisely. That would surely be far better that anything this quack green, pro EU, tax borrow and waste government would do with it.

  11. Terry
    Posted April 28, 2013 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    Whenever a disaster or crisis erupts across the world it is always “The West” that goes to the aid of the victims.

    Why is this? Syria is an Arab country, why can’t the Arabs sort out the mess? It has nothing to do with the West but it is of concern to Israel. Syria has become a hotbed of instability.
    Perhaps, we in the West, should be paying more attention to Israeli problems rather than those of the Arab nation.

  12. forthurst
    Posted April 28, 2013 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    “When some politicians talk of red lines I start to count the spoons.”

    ‘Red lines’ are used by politicians in order to divert our attention or to prefocus it on something to which otherwise we would not attach such great significance. Is the ‘red line’ when negotiating a treaty designed for the specific purpose of taking away our freedom to govern ourselves anything other than a fig leaf to hide treachery? Is a predeclared ‘casus belli’ a ‘red line’ or a tripwire? If the evil dictator and Moorfields’ trained ophthalmologist, Assad, has been prewarned that he would provoke a ‘NATO’ invasion by using ‘chemical weapons’, which since our invasion of Iraq have been reclassified as WMD, something which previously had been associated only with nuclear weapons, but now apparently can be associated with pressure cookers, why would he use them? On the other hand, in order to provoke an invasion, why would a third party not use chemical weapons themselves and try to pin the blame on Assad in order either to trick us into an attack or give us an excuse for an attack as with our ‘red line’ over Poland in 1939; (suggests other examples when such a trick might have been used-ed)
    When politicians constrain themselves with ‘red lines’ they are simply removing from themselves the capacity which sensible politicians never cede which is to be able to act pragmatically. Why would they do this if they are being sensible and sincere? (etc)

  13. Ralph McHendry
    Posted April 28, 2013 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    Mr Redwood, you invariably talk the sense which appeals to both Conservative and other supporters. I fear that your sense will not be enow. Your party and mine is not the one which I supported all these years. We are fated to lose, not because we failed to keep with the times, but rather because we pretend to do so. This is not the party of gay marriage. We are tolerant but not submissive. We lead, we shouldn’t follow. We are failing to set an agenda which ordinary people can understand and appreciate. We seem to be dragged towards a strategy rather than to be the strategy-makers. For what it’s worth, that’s how I feel, and I’m not alone.

    • lifelogic
      Posted April 28, 2013 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

      Indeed, although personally I have no real objection to gay marriage nor civil partnerships for hetrosexuals – vive la differance each to his own so long as they pay their way and do not harm others.

  14. Chris S
    Posted April 28, 2013 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    There is no appetite within the US or UK military for getting involved in the internal conflict in Syria because they know our casualty rate would be unacceptably high.

    Fortunately the politicians also know that the public in neither country will support any kind of intervention.

    It’s a sad situation but while Russia remains prepared to veto UN action it provides ample justification for us to sit on the sidelines and offer a small amount of assistance to the rebels.

    There are plenty of wealthy arab countries that could fund the conflict and they should be left to deal with it.

    As for EU red lines, we’ve been led across them blindfold by successive Prime Ministers starting with Edward Heath and this is one area where serious intervention can easily be justified.

    Trying to get other EU Member States to join with us is a waste of time, they simply won’t, so starting now, we need a National Debate over what powers we want restored so that Brussels can get used to the idea.

    Prior to any kind of negotiation, the message to Brussels needs to be clear and unambiguous : A Conservative Government will recommend leaving the EU if the settlement falls short of the minimum requirement.

  15. Elliot Kane
    Posted April 28, 2013 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    As so often, John, you ask the intelligent questions that all Western governments should be asking, but too few do.

    Horrible as the situation in Syria undoubtedly is, it is surely a problem for the Middle East, not the West, to handle.

    Far too much of Western foreign policy seems to rely on the idea that ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’, when all too often the enemy of my current enemy turns out to be my future enemy. One I have helped arm and train.

    That kind of Cold War thinking ultimately helps no-one.

    Assad being brought down would surely be no bad thing, but as you say, who will replace him? What will their agenda be? And will they be any more sympathetic towards the West than Assad is? Might they even be worse?

    I hope for the sake of the people of Syria that the horrors they face are over soon. I also hope that they – and we! – do not face worse as a result of the resolution to their civil war.

  16. uanime5
    Posted April 28, 2013 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    Try telling that to Mrs May as she tries to find a way of deporting someone

    Several of these deportation cases failed because they were prohibited under English law or where a violation of a person’s human rights; neither of which are to do with the EU.

    Iain Duncan Smith as he loses yet another case on benefits at the ECJ

    Are you referring to IDS’s attempts to prevent Romanians and Bulgarians claiming benefits?

    the Tresasury as they witness yet another European Court judgement on corporation tax

    The only juristriction the ECJ has is ensuring that UK taxes do not discriminate against other EU countries.

    a common EU tax

    A present the tobin tax only applied to eurozone countries and will not apply to the UK unless the European Parlaiment creates a law that applies to the entire EU.

    Mr Harper as he considers the latest Commissioner demand that we help more EU migrants to receive our benefits.

    Even if it’s made easier to come to the UK there’s no guarantee that immigrants will come to the UK just for the benefits (JSA is £71 per week and housing benefit only benefits the landlord).

    The issue should be how could western military intervention help, rather than whether there is sufficient pretext for such intervention.

    That’s difficult to determine. One could make the argument that helping overthrowing Assad would shortern the war, thus redusing civillians casulaties. Though Western help may encourage other countries, such as Russia, to give more support to Assad for political reasons (mainly retaining their base in Syria).

    Is there a danger that more people who do not share the west’s beliefs in democracy, freedom and human rights take over in this blighted state?

    There’s a specific problem regarding freedom of religion. The Assads are secular and as a result of this Syria has a large Christian population (including Christians who fled from Iraq). If the Assads are overthrown it’s possible the new Government may not be as friendly to non-Muslims.

    Could a change of government usher in a new instability, as pro Assad forces became the new rebels?

    Unsure if pro Assad forces would become the new rebels. If Assad is killed or leaves the country then they have very few reasons to continue to support him. Though the Taliban is still active in Afghanistan their reasons are religious, rather than based on serving a particular person, so it’s unlikely that Syria will become like Afghanistan and will probably become more like Iraq or Libya.

    In other news lawyers are now going to be paid a flat fee for their legal services, rather than a fee based on the work they do. This may cause problems as lawyers will be paid the same whether their client pleads guilty or whether they have to defend them in court, so expect a few miscarriages of justice that the ECHR will be involved in.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/new-legal-aid-reforms-end-justice-for-all-lawyers-warn-8591234.html

    • Hope
      Posted April 28, 2013 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

      Pro EU socialist drivel.

      • uanime5
        Posted April 29, 2013 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

        Just because you don’t like my comments doesn’t make them wrong. I also noticed you were unable to rebut any of my points.

        • Edward2
          Posted April 29, 2013 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

          Your usual blizzard of odd points and views Uni and I agree with Hopes short summary of your post
          But I will rebutt a few of the worst examples in the time I’ve got, as you have challenged us to do.
          1.Its the ECJ and the EHR Act that applies “the right to family life” onto our courts which result in us being unable to deport people our elected Government wishes to deport.
          2 The Tobin tax will “apply” to the UK as we will have to collect it on all relevent transactions and pass the resulting revenues to the EU.
          3 Immigration from poorer countries of the EU to the UK so far has been many hundreds of thousands and far above all official estimates and so there is every reason to assume that tens of thousands more from Bulgaria and Romania will soon be arriving here.
          4 Are you saying lawyers will only defend their client to the best of their ability, as they swear to do, if they get a big flat fee rather than a big fat fee ?
          Im bored now.

        • lifelogic
          Posted April 29, 2013 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

          I do not like or dislike your comment but they are usually wrong.

  17. margaret brandreth-j
    Posted April 28, 2013 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    I agree why should the better off hand back their benefits which were universally introduced. Many to get where they are have had to forego many of the luxuries which others take for granted, for example time off from work , holidays, time to devote to relationships, family gatherings and much more.
    I have heard rumours via the media of talk of sarin being used, a nerve gas which is 50 times more toxic than cyanide,. I certainly hope hat this is just that; a rumour; The Uk is scared of intervention and rumours now. The Iraq affair and the alleged WOMD put an end to that.
    This reminds me of a silver set of cutlery I took with me from my better off days to my matchbox house .I had a dinner party bringing out all the trappings of former glory, One whole silver setting was stolen. It is not just the spoons you need to count.

  18. Barbara
    Posted April 28, 2013 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    The truth is we all know what we need to do, but lack politicans with the will or policies to do it. Come out of the EU. We can then assume to rule ourselves without penalisation. Indeed, why do we accept this draconian measures from the EU? Why don’t we show some mettle and just refuse to operate their silly games? Its been called the ‘rule of law’, who’s law is it, we haven’t been allowed to debate, vote, on these intrusive laws at all, therefore for me they don’t exist. Its time politicans began to see these laws are against the freedoms we cherish, and withdraw from this silly club. Its no good saying we can’t, we can if we so wish, just dump the agreement in the Channel and lets being to live again for ourselves. Our problem of course is we have no party who is strong enough, or willing enough to make a stand. The Conservatives talk about the ‘coalition’, well it’s almost defuct of any respect within this country. Its actually stopping progress in this country, and Clegg and his party are holding us to ransome with their complaints and refusing to co-operate. Making a final choice is the only way forward and Camerons should do that with a minority government for the time left.
    As for Syria, its none of our business, we are not the world’s policemen, and for politicans to put this on the shoulders of this country is a disgrace. We don’t want it and we certainly cannot afford it. If we are debating cutting pensioner benefits, who are the poorest in the EU; something is very wrong, its certainly the politics of greed come back again.

  19. Antisthenes
    Posted April 28, 2013 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    We have seen many wars and revolutions; such as Iraq, Afghanistan and the Arab spring. None of which has improved much or solved much either in fact mostly the opposite can be claimed. There has to be lessons to be learnt here. It is a pity that we do not have leaders comparable to Margaret Thatcher who would then be able to discern what they are. Nincompoops now govern us who stumble from one wacky policy to the next from over reaching wealth distribution through to unnecessary high energy costs.

  20. alan jutson
    Posted April 28, 2013 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    Interesting report in today’s Mail on Sunday with regard to smart appliances.

    It would appear from the report (if it is to be believed) that future house appliances could have incorporated within them as standard, the ability to be automatically controlled by outside sources.

    Thus you could have restricted use.

    Reason given:
    Due to a possible shortage of power in future years, it may be neccessary to ration the supply !
    Also Charges may vary from hour – hour, thus peak time use may be much more expensive than use at midnight.

    Is this progress ?

    Do we now all have to plan midnight feasts !

    Why not just build some more power stations, and simply not close those that still have some useful life in them.

    Who dreams up these stupid schemes, is it the EU again or is this an April Fools joke that has arrived late (like most Government projects)

    • lifelogic
      Posted April 28, 2013 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

      It is a consequent of reliance on intermittent supplies from solar and wind due to the green religion that seems to have so impresses many MPs. So many of whom seems to earn £thousands from green “consultancy” work – coincidentally of course.

  21. Martyn G
    Posted April 28, 2013 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    UK intervene militarily in Syria? No, no, no – thrice nay, for Pete’s sake. It would be utter madness and a folly of the first water. Whatever happened we would end up being responsible for sorting out the resulting chaos and our record of doing so (e.g. Iraq and soon Afghanistan) is, to say the least, ineffective.

    Let the Arab nations sort out their own problems, say I!

  22. Mike Stallard
    Posted April 28, 2013 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    A hundred years ago, the world trembled at the might of the British navy.

    Today we have little or no punch internationally. We failed miserably in Iraq and even the Americans were disgusted with us at Basra. In Afghanistan, (why John Reed got us in so casually I shall never know) we cannot make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear and never will. The Abbasids came from there, so did the Assassins for heaven’s sake! We are turning into an international joke.

    And the current government is broke. The military has been cut down to Scandinavian or German levels.

    Meanwhile Mr Obama, a “victim” of the British Empire and a victim of slavery, husbanding a large Afro-American constituency, is not interested in this half of the world.

    He, by the way, is broke too.

    So stop messing around. There is nothing quite so pathetic as a powerless Polonius.

    • uanime5
      Posted April 29, 2013 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

      Given that the assassins operated mainly in the Near East and their capital was Alamut (near Tehran) it’s unlikely they came from Afghanistan. Though the descendent of the assassin order are currently running the Agha Khan university in Pakistan they have long since given up violence and are now committed to peace.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nizari_Ismaili

  23. Epimenides
    Posted April 28, 2013 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    OT, I note that the CP, led by Clarke, has embarked on a smear campaign against the UKIP. Great tactics from an organisation that ostensibly wants the UKIP voters to change allegiance.

    As for the war in Syria? It is none of the UK’s concern unless Britain is threatened – and not by Blair’s imagined WMDs.

  24. Bert Young
    Posted April 28, 2013 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

    We have wasted so much time , money and lives sticking our nose in affairs we should never have been involved in . If Obama believes the red line has been crossed in Syria , and wants to do something about it , there is absolutely no reason why the USA should not act alone ( providing it has the support of the UN ). We have not got the resources to support the USA whatever the judgement and the outcome . Turmoil in the Middle East is going to continue and we have nothing to gain by trying to sort it out .

  25. Wokingham Mums
    Posted April 28, 2013 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

    No!!!!!!

  26. Dennis
    Posted April 28, 2013 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    I have heard many of the media today repeat what supposedly some MPs are suggesting which is to return money pensioners are getting from their Bus Pass use – how is that to be done? -add up all the bus fares one uses weekly/monthly/yearly by asking bus drivers on each journey what the fare is then send cheques? Do these media people know anything about bus passes and busses?

    Also it is still being said that pensioners automatically get bus passes – they don’t -it must be applied for as some rich people do like Norman Lamont, Joan Bakewell etc. who say it is wrong that rich pensioners get these freebies!

    As for heating allowances it is well known there is no provision to return money as many have testified – the media at least on The Andrew Marr Show today don’t know this.

  27. Alan Wheatley
    Posted April 28, 2013 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

    I am minded to recall how bad “we” thought the Shah to be, only to find that what replaced him in Iran was far less appealing.

  28. John McEvoy
    Posted April 28, 2013 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

    “War criminals need prosecution once they have been toppled from the protections of state power”

    (suggests a senior former politician “who got away with it-ed)

  29. Jon
    Posted April 28, 2013 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

    I really hope we don’t get more involved than we already are. If things really get bad, Iran and Israel then maybe need to re think but for now lets just hold our dogs on a tight leash and let others take their turn.

  30. they work for us
    Posted April 28, 2013 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

    Red lines and events in the middle east are a distraction to the UK’s necessary moves towards returning to being a prosperous economy. It would be better if prime ministers stayed at home and minded the shop.

    24 hr news bombards us with disasters and problems world wide that we could not solve even if we wanted to and in any case in which we should not be involved except by voluntary personal contributions via charities.

    When I hear of yet another problem, disaster, human rights violation, rigged election whatever the quotation that springs to mind is – “Tt is a place of which we know little and probably (really) care even less. Or as Windsor Davies the actor used to put it “Oh dear, what a pity, never mind”.

  31. Max Dunbar
    Posted April 28, 2013 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

    The question of war crimes is muddy, uncomfortable and embarrassing. Its a laudable idea but does not work in reality and probably does more harm to the accusers than the accused. The whole process is mired in hypocrisy and humbug. Is the “International Court” to try the Russians and Chinese on charges of aiding Assad?
    I cannot see Dr Redwood giving the order to rain bombs down on anybody and, thereby, exposing himself to accusations of war crimes himself. The entire concept of this type of intervention is unwise when exposed to even brief examination.
    Virtually all military interventions which are carried out by liberal democracies end up tying themselves in moralistc and diplomatic knots. We wisely kept out of the Spanish Civil War and let the totalitarian powers get involved with it. At the end of the war they all turned a healthy profit, the Russians from Spanish gold and the Germans from mineral resources and access to naval bases.
    Unless Britain can profit from involvement then keep out.

  32. foxinsoxuk
    Posted April 28, 2013 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

    It would be crazy for us to get involved, leave it to the Arabs, Israelis and Turks to resolve. assads regime will collapse in the end ( though the successor is unlikely to be an improvement) damaging Russian and Iranian influence in the region.

    Of course the war crimes by both sides are outrageous, but our only role should be support for mediation between the sides, and for the refugees. Military action would be futile and unlikely to win us friends. Remember the Commonwealth war graves trashed in Benghazi, by those who we helped?

  33. Pleb
    Posted April 28, 2013 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

    If wealthy pensioners should forgo bus passes should wealthy MPs forgo expense accounts?
    In the interest of us all of course.

    Reply Mr Duncan Smith was proposing a voluntary system, and some better off MPs do decline to claim some or all of their expenses.

  34. Monty
    Posted April 28, 2013 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

    I’m not in favour of UK involvement in the Syrian civil war. There is no “good” side to be on. We didn’t play any part in creating the mess, and we shouldn’t allow any of it to end up on Britains desk.
    I’m rather more concerned about British jihadists who are learning their craft in the Middle East,then coming home and applying their newly honed techniques on our civilian population.

    • John Eustace
      Posted April 29, 2013 at 8:22 am | Permalink

      Absolutely right.

  35. David Langley
    Posted April 29, 2013 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    IDS says that he does not care if wealthy pensioners hand their cash back in, the government has an action line as a result of some pensioners wanting to return their payments. That ends that.
    Regarding Arab religious and power wars, keep out. The sight of shattered people murdered and maimed by their own is regrettably nothing new to us. It seems that the road to sanity and prosperity is impossible without tremendous sacrifices being made by the common people. We have had our mad moments, and been forced to choose between one mad lot or another. When the killing stops and all the Syrians have reduced their country to rubble and corpses, when beggars rule the ruins perhaps then some sanity will appear, lessons will have been learned and survivors will say never again. They must throw out religions and corrupt leadership until the survivors can band together in love and mutual friendship to learn how to manage their affairs, then we can offer some support.

  36. Peter Davies
    Posted April 29, 2013 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    I like your “Red Line” analogy – as you say we have been there before and we know full well that lines can be crossed out, moved and discarded so amounts to little more than PR propaganda.

    As for Syria, it is an Ex French colony and the roots of this conflict come from that era when Assad’s people as a minority group in the country put themselves into a position to seize power.

    We have seen plenty of other well documented results from interventions in Islamic countries and these types of problems and crusades go back 1000s of years.

    No one wants to see people suffering and neither do we want to see the conflict spread but I really think that the US and West should stay out of this one and stick to finding a common consensus through the UN and Arab world. This will take much longer but will probably be the least worst option given the results of Iraq, Libya and Afghan.

  37. Derek W
    Posted April 29, 2013 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    It might be sensible to tax all benefits and have no tax free benefits.For some arcane reasons the simplicity of taxing all income and deemed value of benefits and perks has not taken off.Any suggestions!Secondly, I am aware of the fact that many fighters from Iraq escaped across the Iraqi/Syrian border whilst being cornered by coalition troops.The anti-Government forces in Syria have many resentful armed people who are against the West.

  38. Martin
    Posted April 30, 2013 at 6:17 am | Permalink

    I think some look at the problem too much and not at the solution.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/terrorism-in-the-uk/10025512/France-shows-us-how-to-deal-with-jihadis.html

    Perhaps an example of what Mrs Merkel means when she says more Europe !

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    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, He graduated from Magdalen College Oxford, has a DPhil and is a fellow of All Souls College. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.

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