John Redwood's Diary
Incisive and topical campaigns and commentary on today's issues and tomorrow's problems. Promoted by John Redwood of 30 Rose Street, Wokingham RG40 1XU.

Anyone submitting a comment to this site is giving their permission for it to be published here along with the name and identifiers they have submitted.

The moderator reserves the sole right to decide whether to publish or not.

My speech on Too many wars

Some years ago I was asked to speak to the local British Legion. Whilst praising them for the sacrifices our armed services have made, I chose to speak about how we could and should fight fewer  wars. We can learn from past wars which were not all well judged.

Last Friday I was asked to speak to local Conservatives about Defence at a lunch. I returned to the theme.

I made clear I do believe as we want peace we need to prepare for war. There are nasty enemies around who only respect force and think again if we deter.

I also made clear my admiration for the sacrifices of my parents generation to see off a major threat to our island home from Germany and to go on with the USA to liberate western Europe.  So too to our armed forces who evicted Argentina from the Falklands and helped free Kuwait.

The loss and sacrifice made in Afghanistan was great but it was undermined by the USA ‘s overhasty surrender of the base and airport that was a commitment and support for the domestic police and army of the Afghan state. Take it away and the Taliban swept to power undoing many of the reforms and improvements. The USA must too look back on Viet Nam with a heavy heart.

I have published the slides I made for the talk. These set out how  the  UK should build its strength. Wars depend not  just on armed service personnel but also on the ability of a country at war to feed its population and make its armaments and necessities of daily life. There is much more to be done to grow our own food , produce our own steel and timber, and fabricate our own weapons.

The outrageous costs of public sector disasters

This week we read taxpayers will be slapped with a bill for £10 bn for the NHS using contaminated blood when treating patients. It has taken years  to enquire into what went wrong, and to offer people compensation.

We await the full bills to compensate sub postmasters which the nationalised Post Office put into prison  on made up charges of misconduct. It was  covering up its own gross management mistakes  with an expensive computer system. Despite wrongly taking large  sums from its employees it also sent taxpayers a ballooning bill to pay its trading  losses.

We are  paying billions for nationalised HS 2. Vastly overpaid bosses have presided  over a tripling of the costs of the scheme. The full railway will never now be built thanks to the  out of this world cost overruns and timetable delays by years.

The Bank of England is the worst and dearest of them all. It has already been paid £50 bn to cover unacceptably large losses on its bond dealing, with much more to come over the  next few years according to the OBR.

These disasters were organised by senior managers paid large six figure salaries  and often paid bonuses to celebrate their incompetence.

So who do so many MPs think nationalisation a good idea? How much more  money do they want to grab from taxpayers to pay to incompetent public sector managers who assume they can rely on  taxpayers to pay for their grotesque mistakes?

NATO and Ukraine

The forces of Ukraine face a larger enemy and need plenty of help from NATO with weapons, ammunition and financial support.

So far the leading money  donors, the EU and US, and the leading provider of military items, the USA have given enough to Ukraine to be able to largely halt and in some places reverse Russian advances, but not enough to give them victory. There are strict controls and rules over use, stopping Ukraine using NATO weapons outside Ukraine. A lot of the weapons given have been older ones from stocks.

I have no wish to see a NATO/Russia war. NATO has a large superiority to win a conventional war against Russia but victory could impose a high price in losses before achieved. NATO rightly claims to be a defensive alliance so it should continue to avoid provoking  war with Russia. Russia   has not invaded a NATO country which is the trigger wire. War would of course follow were Russia to attack a NATO member.

NATO led by the dominant US power needs to be clearer about its plans for Ukraine. It is not good for Ukraine to be able to largely hold the line but be unable to win. Clearly if the EU and US do will a Ukrainian  victory as they say they do they need to expand weapons supplies greatly to show Russia the West can win any battle of ammunition and weapons production. Putin has turned to a new Defence Minister said to be good at cranking up Russian war production. This is no time for the EU and USA to be reducing their commitments if they both want a Ukraine win. The Ukraine war has shown NATO weapons stocks were low and has led to more investment in weapons manufacture and more orders for the armourers.

At some point there will need to be negotiations and a ceasefire. It is strange how  current debates and US policy are dominated  by the  imperative of a ceasefire in Gaza to end civilian deaths whilst preoccupied with continuing and intensifying the war in Ukraine where civilians and reluctant conscripts are also being killed.

.

Wars in Europe

The UK has fought all too many wars in Europe. Often we were fighting to defend the right of another country to govern itself, or to support political and religious freedoms. We had to fight Philip II of Spain, Napoleon and Hitler ¬†for our very national survival as we fought for Europe’s liberties and saw off invasion threats.

After the world war ended in 1945 there was an uneasy peace in much of Europe, with an iron curtain between an enforced Union of the USSR, and the increasing number of democracies in the West as Spain and Greece threw off dictators and military government.

Following the break up of the USSR a series of nasty wars broke out . Slovenia and Croatia detached from Serbia. Bosnia partially left Serbia after an intense civil war. Kosovo wants to leave Serbia.

This century Putin’s Russia pushes to recreate part of the old USSR. There is a scramble for influence between an expansion minded EU wishing to grow by arguments, votes and treaties, and Russia prepared to use force as well as persuasion and diplomacy. The EU has pushed its borders up to Russia in Finland, Poland ¬†and the Baltic Republics.

The obvious current centre of this battle is Ukraine. The Kosovo/Serbia split, the Transnistria /Moldova split, the Georgia arguments and others are all part of this clash with a subjugating Russia. In Ukraine the EU backed the protests to remove an elected pro Russian President in 2014, only to see Russia seize Crimea. In Georgia today an anti EU majority in Parliament has passed a media control bill which the EU and its supporters condemn. Serbia, and Moldova are both candidate countries to join the EU, though Serbia is out of favour. Kosovo could become a candidate.The range of candidate countries will give the EU closer exposure and longer borders  with Russia.

I will look tomorrow at NATO and UK options

My Intervention on the Agriculture Motion – homegrown food

My Conservative Home article on Mayors and Councils

The local elections were ignored by a large majority of the electorate. Whilst polls usually show enthusiasm for more devolution and more local decision making, when people are offered a chance to vote for local representatives most choose not to.
         The Police and Crime Commissioners have not taken off as an idea, with many people regarding it as an unnecessary layer of government. Few of them  become well known names in their regions, and most avoid undue controversy. The public want an independent police force enforcing the law without party preferences coming into it. The Commissioner has to be careful not to intervene in operational matters or seek to politicise the look and thrust of daily policing. Setting a budget, an agenda and priorities are all good things to do, but they have rarely become matters of general debate. There is no formal opposition to the Police Commissioner to highlight issues, options  and differences.
          The idea of elected mayors is not universally popular and some areas have rejected the proposition. Some of them decide to use the mayoralty as a platform to grandstand on national issues. Labour mayors often  seek to  enter the national debate talking about things they have little or no power over, and may see the mayoral pulpit as a means of enhancing their position and career prospects within their own party. When it comes to things they do have power over they normally blame the government for anything that goes wrong whilst claiming credit for anything positive that happens whether they initiated it or whether it came from government.  They often have difficult relations with the Councils they need to work with.
          As a former County Councillor myself I want local government to work. A good Council can make a lot of difference for the better, making wise choices over local services and the local environment whulst  providing good value for money.  I find too many Councils lack good political leadership capable of using the considerable financial and other resources they command to serve their public well. The Lib Dems running Wokingham Borough waste huge sums on things we do not want, pursue vendettas against local drivers, hike the car parking charges and Council tax, plead poverty and blame the government for everything that goes wrong. They often ignore the views of the public whilst spending liberally on formal consultations. Many Labour and Liberal led Councils run down local government, belittle their budgets and powers and run campaigns against the government and local Conservative MPs. They  see their job as advancing their party rather than looking after the needs and the money of the people they are meant to serve.
          Many Councils have spent too much money buying up properties at high prices, claiming they would make money for taxpayers,. Some of them are teetering on  the edge of bankruptcy as a result, now finding the interest they have to pay on the large borrowings they took out exceeds the rentals .They did not forecast the big changes to local property markets which have led to some empty shops, lower office rents and difficulty in keeping and recruiting tenants. The private sector saw them coming and offloaded shops and fringe properties to Councils.  These same Councils apparently have plenty of money to spend on consultants, on new schemes to wreck roads and impose  more cameras, lights and controls, to increase their numbers of well paid officials and maintain large office estates.
        Few Councils experiment with better ways of delivering social care. Not enough spend transport money on improving junctions to make them safer and easier to use, avoiding jams and delays. Most Councils think they can  keep on adding extra homes without adding road capacity, and without  facilitating more cables and pipes to increase utility supplies. They  often even allow delays in putting in more surgeries and school places, then have to rush to catch up.
         To succeed Councils need opposition groups that concentrate on expressing the needs and preferences of the public. They need to  expose what is wrong with the way the ruling group is spending all the money available with a  view to improving priorities and value for money. Those Councillors leading Councils need a good working relationship with officers, need to be well informed about what is going on and need to take complaints seriously. Local government controls much of social care, education, most roads, local transport services, leisure and amenities, and the maintenance of our important public spaces. They have wide ranging planning powers to decide on how much development and where it should go.
         We need a better and more honest account of how much money they spend and how much power they have. We need more focus on their options and their responsibilities. With that more people would see a good reason to go and vote. Democracy needs the voters to engage as well as the politicians. Too many are put off by parties wrongly claiming everything comes from central government.

Illegal Migration Act: Northern Ireland

Keeping our right to self government

The Opposition parties in Parliament would still like to surrender more powers of self government to the EU. Meanwhile there are three issues currently before Ministers which pose the same question, should we govern ourselves?  Labour and Lib Dem MPs take no interest, or would like to see us give more power away in each case. I was able to highlight the view that the UK should be self governing on two of these issues on Tuesday when colleagues secured Urgent Questions to remind Ministers to avoid any ceding of power.

The first is the World Health Organisation draft Treaty. Ministers assured us they will not sacrifice our sovereignty, our power to respond to a health crisis and to run our own NHS.  I urged them to publish the amendments they are seeking, because they rightly said the current Treaty takes  power away from member states.

The second is the continuing influence of the courts over the government’s wish to control UK borders. I and others pressed the government to put through urgent clarifying legislation given the decision of the Northern Ireland Court.

The third is Gibraltar. I have  put to the Foreign and Defence Secretaries the need  not to cede any  power over the Gibraltar border or the RAF  and naval bases. These sovereign bases are an important part of Gibraltar and of NATO defences. Foreign and Defence policy are not devolved to the Gibraltar government. I think it would be a good idea for Gibraltar to be represented by an MP in the UK Parliament to confirm the democratic structure.

 

 

My question on the WHO Pandemic Treaty negotiations