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Cameron: Sailing into
clear blue water?

Two rather interesting things have happened this week. The first was the rather curious approach of David Cameron to this week’s Prime Minister’ Questions and the second is a letter from twenty-five Conservative MPs in today’s Daily Telegraph. It prompts one to ask if the Conservative party has spotted a rather attractive niche in the political market.

Before coming back to these two intriguing things in a moment, I am reminded that one of the reasons that I started blogging was a sense of considerable unease at, if not fear for, the state of the British body politic. Ten years of Tony Blair have done much to change the way in which Parliament, parliamentarians and politics is viewed by the electorate, none of it for the better.

After all he has spent much of that time debauching the British political system in a quite conscious decision to establish a general Labour gerrymander, that process by which so much of the political process is being subverted to give Labour an unfair advantage, to ensure even, in the electoral stakes. This has manifested itself in a number of ways.

Firstly he made a naked attempt to subvert the process whereby proper and balanced information about what the Government has achieved and what the Government planned to do. To effect this he appointed one Alistair Campbell to be his Chief Spokesperson (yuk!), of whom I am wont to say, with reason, that he is the most interesting Propaganda Chief since April 1945. That was the month when the career of one Josef Goebbels came to a sticky end.

Campbell has had an appalling, baleful influence on British politics. It is he who has made a virtue out of the lie, the bigger the better. It is he who has made a virtue out of the smear. It is he who has made a virtue out of seeking at every turn to manage and manipulate the press. It is he who has single-handedly given all politicians the reputation for being, to a man, utterly dishonest. And in so doing he turned his master, who in this context begins to look like a weak and malleable individual, into a master of the art of making a purse out of a sow’s ear.

Secondly Blair has introduced into British political life an element of corruption which has not been seen since the days before the Great Reform Act. He promised that his administration would, in effect, be whiter than white. Yet, with the Ecclestone affair, he threw that promise out of the window within a short time of taking office. The business of ‘cash for peerages’, ‘cash for lobbying access’ and all the other shenanigans that they have got up to concerning funding of the Labour Party has been designed to sustain Labour in power by providing it with the wherewithal to campaign at and between elections.

In this sense, Labour sleaze is, for the most part, of a quite different order from that experienced under the last Conservative government when sleaze was almost without exception concerned with personal venality and personal gratification. I cannot think of anything which amounted to corruption designed to bolster the party’s electoral chances. Most of it was either grubby self-enrichment or for sexual gratification, just as Derek Conway’s fall from grace has been about personal enrichment. That is not, of course, to condone the latter but it really only destroyed the individuals concerned.

Labour’s corruption has been all about how to obtain (and, where possible to conceal the fact of it) an unfair electoral advantage as against all others, but in particular as against the Conservatives.

The third aspect has been the manner in which the Labour Party has evinced almost total contempt for the British electorate. It starts with the lies which have been told which suggest strongly that they think we are stupid and that they can get away with it. It manifests itself in its attitude, for example, to the road pricing petition that got so many signatures. We were told that the Government would listen to the message and would act on it. Within a few weeks someone had ferreted out the fact that plans for the infrastructure needed for road-pricing were continuing apace.

Another aspect of this has been the constant promise to review, consult, reconsider, ‘listen to the people’ and so forth. What inevitably happens is that it becomes apparent at the time of consultation that the Government has already made up its mind what it is going to do and nothing those consulted say is going to make a blind bit of difference. People are not stupid, however, and they recognize quickly that this is the case and resent therefore being patronized by the Government who make out as if they consider the views of the public important when, in reality, they actually despise and hate what the people want because it does not fit either their view of how the corporate state should work or their general left-wing statist mindset.

The existence of a niche in politics into which David Cameron might thus insert the Conservative party is therefore important and has been flagged up by Guido, Coffee House, Dale and Iain Martin.

I am quite sure that the electorate does have a serious sense of detachment from politicians and that, with the events over expenses and allowances, it has decided that it likes them even less than estate agents or second-hand car salesmen. Into this discontent the Tories can tap and I am sure that it is no coincidence that Cameron went on this issue in PMQs in the same week that a large chunk of the 2005 Tory intake wrote a letter such as they have to the Telegraph. If it is right that polling has identified a desire in the electorate that politicians be forced to take us seriously and to engage better with us as well as cleaning out their Augean stable, then this is a means of establishing credible clear blue water between themselves and Labour.

Labour, on the other hand, are unable to follow this line. Because it is they who have, right up to the present been the ones to evince such contempt for the electorate, a process which continues with their refusal to honour their manifesto commitment to give us a referendum on the EU Treaty, were they suddenly to turn round and announce that, like St. Paul, they have just been on the road to Damascus and have undergone a conversion, no one will believe them. Indeed I reckon this issue is as toxic to them as sleaze and economic incompetence have been to the Tories since 1992 and will, if Cameron can displace them prove as substantial a bar to their return as the Tories have experienced since 1997.

There may yet, in the process of cleaning up, be further Tory casualties. So be it. It would be far better that the casualties come because of the Tories cleaning up than having it done for them by a press which seems more in tune with the people than are politicians.

One interesting feature of Cameron’s PMQs was his linkage with the refusal of the government to grant a referendum. This is something I have been saying (as has Richard North) which is that this whole business is a symptom of something much wider, a general dissatisfaction that politicians have become, because of the extensive cession of power to the EU, almost powerless to do the job which we think they should be doing, all the while helping themselves to the trappings of power. This is in part why the campaign to force a referendum on the government is so important: the British people plainly want their say, even if the government says we cannot. If we can win that argument, it will be a significant victory for the people over arrogant politicians who contemptuously overthrow not only our wishes but, at the same time, their promises to us.

That said, I am not yet sure that Cameron has fully made the connection, nor that he has fully worked out his policy. But he thinks that here is something upon which he can be consonant with the wishes of the vast majority of the people. A complete sea-change in the way we do politics as is being talked of here would indeed be a piece of Tory radicalism and if that is where he wants to take us, then that is something which I can firmly support.

I am pleased, by way of a footnote, to see both Ben Wallace, who was the first to publish his expenses in extenso and my local MP, Phillip Hollobone, who is almost Cromwellian in his approach to expenses (he is by a very long way our cheapest MP in that sense) amongst the signatories to this letter. Both of these gentlemen deserve further exposure to the light of day.

Whilst the idea they put forward may not be practical ultimately, it shows that they are thinking radical thoughts about the political process. This can only be a good thing.

COMMENT THREAD

Ethic Minority Shall Speak
Unto Ethnic Minority

In the old days the BBC used to delight in prefacing anything to do with South Africa with the adjective ‘racist’ – the ‘racist government of South Africa’, for example. Well now comes the time when we may properly return the compliment and begin to refer to the BBC (al-Beeb to its many fans) as ‘the racist BBC’.

I am prompted so to do by the news that the BBC has on offer ninety positions on what it calls a ‘mentoring programme’. Of these forty-five are reserved for persons from ethnic minorities. Al-Beeb has denied that this amounts to illegal positive discrimination.

Well, an institution which has denounced itself as ‘institutionally racist’ and has demonstrated time and time again its hostility to and hatred of Britain would say that, wouldn’t it?

It does not matter how you cut the mustard, there are forty-five posts on offer from the BBC for which I as a white person cannot apply. That is unlawful discrimination pure and simple, discrimination against me because I am white and for no other reason whatsoever.

I appreciate that I would not get past question two on the interview either (How many times a day do you read The Guardian?), but if you utilise the English language the way it was intended, there is no way whatsoever to dress up job reservation for non-whites as anything other than ‘racist’.

Therefore, when I can remember, I shall henceforth always qualify the BBC with the adjective ‘racist’. Let them sue, if they so wish.

COMMENT THREAD

Austin Mitchell: a maverick
for all seasons and reasons?

MPs’ instinctive reaction to criticism of their salaries, expenses and allowances has been to rail against any delving into how Taxpayer’s money is spent or misspent. But it is not just this cocking a snook at the taxpayer that has diminished respect for Parliament but MPs’ abject failure to hold government to account, a significant reason why we send them there in the first place.

Thus last night I watched, with some fascination, Austin Mitchell, Labour MP for the fishing port of Grimsby, rehearsing the tale of how we lost control of our sovereignty over our fishing grounds when Heath took us into what was then the Common Market (see Hansard here et seq.).

I had thought to call it a ‘sorry’ tale but having listened carefully on BBC Parliament to Mr. Mitchell’s account and then reread it again this morning, I realise that ‘sorry’ is a hopelessly inadequate description of the story of how successive governments have treated the fishing industry in the UK and the people whose livelihoods have depended upon it. Having given it further thought, it is actually quite difficult to find a word that is up to the task of describing just what a shameful, discreditable and infamous business this has been since 1970. Alex Salmond’s intervention is also worth the time spent reading this speech.

But the other disgrace was there for all to see: the empty Chamber of the House of Commons as the Bill to subordinate the United Kingdom entirely to the authority of the Union makes its shabby way through Parliament. Behind Mitchell sat the inestimable Kate Hoey, but elsewhere the government benches were as bare as the beach at Skegness on a winter’s day. There was a goodish smattering of Tories but the Lib ‘Dems’ were conspicuous by their absence. This was presumably due to the sanctimonious hissy fit which they threw earlier in the evening.

The Lib ‘Dems’, faced with a massive internal split over their dishonourable discarding of their promise to the British people to hold a referendum on the EU Constitution, have found a fig leaf (of minuscule proportions) to cover their tackle when it comes to the Treaty. This is to try and convert the debate from the narrow confines of whether there should be a referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon to the wider one of whether we should be members at all. When their amendment to achieve this was binned, they all stomped out of the Chamber. This is childish and petulant behaviour.

Thus the Chamber was largely bereft of those whose job it ought to be to see that we are not sold into the serfdom of the European Union. The British people know that this is an important issue and will be perplexed by the failure of MPs to pay any or any adequate attention to the debates.

It is, therefore, unsurprising that we hold MPs in contempt if they will not exercise even the small amount of power which remains to them (the bulk having been signed away long ago to the Euro Nabobery and to the unelected and unaccountable Eurocracy).

The present imbroglio concerning MPs’ expenses is only in small part about the expenses themselves.

Rather it is a symptom of the frustration of the British people with the political elite who, having got themselves a distinctly cushy billet in Parliament, have decided that they are not going to rock the boat by acting in the interests of the British people and of Britain. Instead have decided simply to turn up like so many Gaderene Swine when summoned by the division bell to vote according to the requirements of their Whips solely in the partisan interest of their party.

I see the fury of the British people at the indefensible arrangements concerning the structure of and openness of the system of expenses and allowances as a means by which we can get their attention in the matter of the whole business of rebuilding that element of trust which must, for our democracy to work properly and in the interests of our nation, exist between governed and governing.

If we can win this battle and force them to come to heel, then we can set about the business of persuading them properly to dishcarge their duty to uphold the sovereignty of our country and to hold our government to account.

COMMENT THREAD

Austin Mitchell: a maverick
for all seasons and reasons?

MPs’ instinctive reaction to criticism of their salaries, expenses and allowances has been to rail against any delving into how Taxpayer’s money is spent or misspent. But it is not just this cocking a snook at the taxpayer that has diminished respect for Parliament but MPs’ abject failure to hold government to account, a significant reason why we send them there in the first place.

Thus last night I watched, with some fascination, Austin Mitchell, Labour MP for the fishing port of Grimsby, rehearsing the tale of how we lost control of our sovereignty over our fishing grounds when Heath took us into what was then the Common Market (see Hansard here et seq.).

I had thought to call it a ‘sorry’ tale but having listened carefully on BBC Parliament to Mr. Mitchell’s account and then reread it again this morning, I realise that ‘sorry’ is a hopelessly inadequate description of the story of how successive governments have treated the fishing industry in the UK and the people whose livelihoods have depended upon it. Having given it further thought, it is actually quite difficult to find a word that is up to the task of describing just what a shameful, discreditable and infamous business this has been since 1970. Alex Salmond’s intervention is also worth the time spent reading this speech.

But the other disgrace was there for all to see: the empty Chamber of the House of Commons as the Bill to subordinate the United Kingdom entirely to the authority of the Union makes its shabby way through Parliament. Behind Mitchell sat the inestimable Kate Hoey, but elsewhere the government benches were as bare as the beach at Skegness on a winter’s day. There was a goodish smattering of Tories but the Lib ‘Dems’ were conspicuous by their absence. This was presumably due to the sanctimonious hissy fit which they threw earlier in the evening.

The Lib ‘Dems’, faced with a massive internal split over their dishonourable discarding of their promise to the British people to hold a referendum on the EU Constitution, have found a fig leaf (of minuscule proportions) to cover their tackle when it comes to the Treaty. This is to try and convert the debate from the narrow confines of whether there should be a referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon to the wider one of whether we should be members at all. When their amendment to achieve this was binned, they all stomped out of the Chamber. This is childish and petulant behaviour.

Thus the Chamber was largely bereft of those whose job it ought to be to see that we are not sold into the serfdom of the European Union. The British people know that this is an important issue and will be perplexed by the failure of MPs to pay any or any adequate attention to the debates.

It is, therefore, unsurprising that we hold MPs in contempt if they will not exercise even the small amount of power which remains to them (the bulk having been signed away long ago to the Euro Nabobery and to the unelected and unaccountable Eurocracy).

The present imbroglio concerning MPs’ expenses is only in small part about the expenses themselves.

Rather it is a symptom of the frustration of the British people with the political elite who, having got themselves a distinctly cushy billet in Parliament, have decided that they are not going to rock the boat by acting in the interests of the British people and of Britain. Instead have decided simply to turn up like so many Gaderene Swine when summoned by the division bell to vote according to the requirements of their Whips solely in the partisan interest of their party.

I see the fury of the British people at the indefensible arrangements concerning the structure of and openness of the system of expenses and allowances as a means by which we can get their attention in the matter of the whole business of rebuilding that element of trust which must, for our democracy to work properly and in the interests of our nation, exist between governed and governing.

If we can win this battle and force them to come to heel, then we can set about the business of persuading them properly to dishcarge their duty to uphold the sovereignty of our country and to hold our government to account.

COMMENT THREAD

Austin Mitchell: a maverick
for all seasons and reasons?

MPs’ instinctive reaction to criticism of their salaries, expenses and allowances has been to rail against any delving into how Taxpayer’s money is spent or misspent. But it is not just this cocking a snook at the taxpayer that has diminished respect for Parliament but MPs’ abject failure to hold government to account, a significant reason why we send them there in the first place.

Thus last night I watched, with some fascination, Austin Mitchell, Labour MP for the fishing port of Grimsby, rehearsing the tale of how we lost control of our sovereignty over our fishing grounds when Heath took us into what was then the Common Market (see Hansard here et seq.).

I had thought to call it a ‘sorry’ tale but having listened carefully on BBC Parliament to Mr. Mitchell’s account and then reread it again this morning, I realise that ‘sorry’ is a hopelessly inadequate description of the story of how successive governments have treated the fishing industry in the UK and the people whose livelihoods have depended upon it. Having given it further thought, it is actually quite difficult to find a word that is up to the task of describing just what a shameful, discreditable and infamous business this has been since 1970. Alex Salmond’s intervention is also worth the time spent reading this speech.

But the other disgrace was there for all to see: the empty Chamber of the House of Commons as the Bill to subordinate the United Kingdom entirely to the authority of the Union makes its shabby way through Parliament. Behind Mitchell sat the inestimable Kate Hoey, but elsewhere the government benches were as bare as the beach at Skegness on a winter’s day. There was a goodish smattering of Tories but the Lib ‘Dems’ were conspicuous by their absence. This was presumably due to the sanctimonious hissy fit which they threw earlier in the evening.

The Lib ‘Dems’, faced with a massive internal split over their dishonourable discarding of their promise to the British people to hold a referendum on the EU Constitution, have found a fig leaf (of minuscule proportions) to cover their tackle when it comes to the Treaty. This is to try and convert the debate from the narrow confines of whether there should be a referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon to the wider one of whether we should be members at all. When their amendment to achieve this was binned, they all stomped out of the Chamber. This is childish and petulant behaviour.

Thus the Chamber was largely bereft of those whose job it ought to be to see that we are not sold into the serfdom of the European Union. The British people know that this is an important issue and will be perplexed by the failure of MPs to pay any or any adequate attention to the debates.

It is, therefore, unsurprising that we hold MPs in contempt if they will not exercise even the small amount of power which remains to them (the bulk having been signed away long ago to the Euro Nabobery and to the unelected and unaccountable Eurocracy).

The present imbroglio concerning MPs’ expenses is only in small part about the expenses themselves.

Rather it is a symptom of the frustration of the British people with the political elite who, having got themselves a distinctly cushy billet in Parliament, have decided that they are not going to rock the boat by acting in the interests of the British people and of Britain. Instead have decided simply to turn up like so many Gaderene Swine when summoned by the division bell to vote according to the requirements of their Whips solely in the partisan interest of their party.

I see the fury of the British people at the indefensible arrangements concerning the structure of and openness of the system of expenses and allowances as a means by which we can get their attention in the matter of the whole business of rebuilding that element of trust which must, for our democracy to work properly and in the interests of our nation, exist between governed and governing.

If we can win this battle and force them to come to heel, then we can set about the business of persuading them properly to dishcarge their duty to uphold the sovereignty of our country and to hold our government to account.

COMMENT THREAD

Mr. & Mrs. “Frugal Householder” 2008

There can have been few more nauseating sights in the history of Parliament than the fawning, creeping, obsequious toadying of Mr. Speaker Martin’s lickspittle claque yesterday. This little piece of theatrical mummery further damaged the Speaker who, sticking up two fingers to the public, took this piece of deep brown-nosing as a sign of the House’s approbation of his conduct.

It may well be that he has done nothing that is either against the rules or is unlawful. That does not make splurging his Air Miles (earned on the back of Taxpayers’ money) on paying for entirely private journeys by his family morally right. Nor does it make morally right his helping himself to £77,504, over the last six years (that is £12,917 per year on average), of Taxpayer’s money to maintain his house in Glasgow whilst being the beneficiary of a magnificent grace & favour pied-à-terre in the Palace of Westminster.

Concerning which, one is bound to ask what it is that he has spent £248.41 per week of Taxpayer’s money on when it comes to his house. Has he simply been improving it at public expense?

Sadly neither he, nor his Labour chums, yet get the point or begin to understand what it is about this issue that the taxpayer finds so utterly offensive. That much is evident from the sight of the chumocracy patting one another on the back when Mr. Speaker called the House to order yesterday.

It is abundantly clear that the process of bring these arrogant people to heel is going to be both painful and long. But, if we are to begin the process of restoring the reputation of Parliament and Parliamentarians, they must first, like alcoholics in denial, admit that the present system, opaque and wide-open to flagrant abuse, is wholly inappropriate and must be transformed into one of complete openness and transparency.

In the circumstances, what possible objection can there be to 100% disclosure online in the manner of the Scottish Parliament?

COMMENT THREAD

Blair: is he helping a
regime mired
in conflict
diamonds and
conflict minerals?

By his friends shall you know the man. Tony Blair found infamy for saying “I’m a pretty straight sort of guy”. That was, like most of his bluster, a lot of tommyrot, the former Prime Minister being as sinuous as snake in the savannah. But what of his long-standing friend Paul Kagame? How straight is he?

I ask the question because of, first, the announcement in January that Blair was to become an unpaid adviser to the government of Rwanda. According to the Daily Mail, Blair will now use his international status to promote the opportunities on offer there to foreign investors. and secondly, his arrival in Rwanda over the weekend to begin that role of which the Telegraph told us:

“Tony Blair is a long standing friend of Paul Kagame, and this is a part of his unpaid role for the presidency,” said a spokesman for Mr Blair.

“Rwanda has transformed itself since the genocide into a vibrant and stable country, and the two of them have discussed ways in which we can help them in terms of the government’s capability and capacity building.”

It was the phrase ‘long-standing friend’ that caught my eye. One knew that Paul Kagame had been in and out of Downing Street as an official visitor in the Blair years, but then the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom has to let, as part of the job, some pretty rum characters through the front door of Number 10 to whom he has to be nice on our behalf. He does not, however, have to have them round to share a fondue with himself and his ghastly wife.


I find this assertion of ‘friendship’ with Paul Kagame deeply troubling, even for a man with his track record. So I thought it might be time to return once more to the case of Mr. Kagame (I have previously posted on this individual (7-07, 9-07 9-07 and 10-07) as the relationship of our politicians with him seems to deepen rather than weaken.

In order for you better to understand the case against befriending this man, I must digress into a brief discussion of Mr. Kagame’s position (a) as an individual; (b) as President of Rwanda; and (c) under Article 45 of the Rwanda Constitution, as Commander-in-Chief of Rwanda’s armed forces and, as such, the duties which international law places upon him.

As an individual there is a simple duty upon him not to commit, inter alia, any of the following offences:

Genocide

Torture

Crimes against humanity

Grave breaches of the laws and customs of war (“war crimes”)

As President and Commander-in-Chief, he is under a duty to prevent the commission of such offences by military forces under his command or authority, which can include militias that operate independently of the Rwandan Patriotic Army. If he knows or ought to know that such offences area bout to be committed, he is under a duty to take steps to prevent them from being committed. If he knows or ought to know that such offences have been committed, he is under a duty to take steps to ensure that the perpetrators are apprehended, prosecuted and subjected to appropriate punishment.

The phrase ‘ought to know’ ensures that no person in authority can simply close his eyes to the reality of what is going on and the law will impute constructive knowledge to an individual in a wide range of circumstances. Thus Milosević was bound to have been convicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia of offences charging him with failing to prevent or punish crimes by forces under his de facto or de jure control, if only because the likes of Paddy Ashdown had told him to his face of the appalling crimes being committed by the Yugoslav National Army and a variety of militias supported by Milosević which put him on notice that he was under a duty to act.

There are three sets of allegations which lie against Mr. Kagame.

Firstly he is charged with participation in the murder of Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana and his counterpart President Cyprien Ntaryamira of Burundi in 1994, who were shot down by a surface-to-air missile in an event which effectively triggered off the genocide of that year. An investigation was carried out by Jean-Louis Bruguière, a French judge, who concluded that the shooting down of the plane was ordered by Kagame. In November 2006 Bruguière signed international indictments against nine of President Kagame’s senior aides and accused Kagame of ordering the assassination of the two African presidents. Kagame cannot be indicted under French law: as a head-of-state he has immunity from prosecution.

Whilst these indictments have been attacked as having been politically motivated, on the basis that France has a substantial axe to grind against Kagame, it should be noted (a) that Bruguière is noted for his independence from the French Government (often to the latter’s considerable frustration) and (b) the fact of the matter is that one of our principal European allies to whom we are bound by a plethora of treaties has made the allegation and has warrants outstanding.

Secondly we must consider the role and conduct of Mr. Kagame in the war which led to the defeat of the Hutu-led government which is alleged to have presided over and orchestrated the genocide. In that conflict he was the commander of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, the Tutsi-dominated armed forces which defeated the Hutus. This force is alleged by many to have been engaged in the widespread and systematic commission of crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture, the totality of which may also, as a matter of law (particularly in the light of the Srebrenica Judgement) amount, ironically, to genocide.


The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda is in possession of a veritable mountain of evidence (and has been for many years) which establishes a more than sufficient prima facie case for Article 17 (4) of the Tribunal’s Statute to kick in:

4. Upon a determination that a prima facie case exists, the Prosecutor shall prepare an indictment containing a concise statement of the facts and the crime or crimes with which the accused is charged under the Statute. The indictment shall be transmitted to a judge of the Trial Chamber.

It will be seen that legally, once a prima facie case is established, the Prosecutor is under an obligation to prepare an indictment. That such a case exists but that an indictment has yet to be issued is one of the principal reasons why the ICTR is an affront to justice. The suspicion is that the prosecutor has, for reasons which will become evident below, been nobbled by powers with an interest in the continued survival as President of Paul Kagame.

The third matter which impinges upon the suitability of Paul Kagame as a friend of Blair or, indeed, as a partner of any civilised state, concerns the activities of armed forces under the control of Kagame in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Since 1994 Rwanda has exercised de facto control over a substantial area of the eastern DRC wherein lie considerable important mineral reserves, potentially large oil reserves and in which are to be found the remnants of the Interahamwe militias who were at the forefront of the 1994 genocide.

Whilst the business of hunting down the latter remains of considerable importance to Kagame in order to secure his position as President (he is of the 15% Tutsi minority which lords it over the 85% Hutu majority without holding genuinely free and fair elections which would see him ejected from power), it is the reserves of minerals and oil which are the real prize. In this regard there is a considerable equivalence between the situation in Darfur (where the prize is oil) and that in DRC. For, in order to assert effective suzerainty over the eastern DRC Kagame maintains considerable armed forces there and these forces have been involved in armed conflict during which crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture have been endemic. In the course of such operations, Kagame’s forces, assisted by his ally Uganda, have been responsible for anything up to 3.5 million deaths.

I cite by way of example an article by George Monbiot (not normally a correspondent for whom I find it possible to evince any enthusiasm whatsoever) in he Guardian of 13th. April 2004:

After the genocide in Rwanda, many of the perpetrators – assisted, disgracefully, by French soldiers – fled to what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Paul Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) chased them over the border, helped Congolese rebels to capture much of the east of the country, and, in 1997, overthrew President Mobutu. Hunting down the genocidaires and deposing the President who sheltered them could both be judged legitimate means of securing peace in Rwanda, but Paul Kagame’s army also had other interests.

The misfortune of the Congolese is that they possess tremendous natural wealth. This means, as it has meant in all such places, that they are perpetually exposed to theft, expulsion, slavery and murder. We know all about the crimes of men like King Leopold II of Belgium and President Mobutu. We are less ready to notice the crimes of Paul Kagame.

Six foreign armies have been involved in the theft of the DRC’s resources over the past 10 years, but Rwanda’s was singled out by the UN’s report on the catastrophe there for the “institutional” nature of its piracy. The plunder was not caused by an ill-disciplined army running out of control. It was a deliberate policy, commissioned and implemented by the Rwandan government.

By 1999, the “Congo Desk” of the Rwandan army was generating 80% of the Rwandan military budget – some $320m. This is the equivalent of 20% of Rwanda’s gross national product. The money came principally from two sources: diamonds and coltan. Coltan is the ore from which tantalum, the expensive metal used in mobile phones, is extracted, and almost all of it comes from the DRC.

Sixty to 70% of the coltan exported from the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the United Nations reported in 2002, has been mined “under the direct surveillance” of the Rwandan army. Most of the rest was produced by subcontractors and companies answerable to the army or to other departments of the Rwandan government. Kagame’s people, in other words, had a near-monopoly on global coltan production.

After fighting off the Ugandan army in June 2000, the Rwandan forces managed “to funnel all the diamonds in Kisangani [in eastern DRC] through the Congo Desk”. Local diamond traders were forced to sell to the contractor nominated by the Rwandan army, and at prices set by the desk. The Rwandans appear to have been stealing about $2m worth of diamonds a month. The army also captured almost all the eastern Congo’s public funds, taxing the people and seizing the revenues from water, electricity, roads and airports.

The RPF’s original excuse for intervention disappeared pretty rapidly – in fact it soon linked up with the Hutu killers it was supposed to be hunting, and used them to help control the region. Instead, according to the UN: “With minor exceptions, the objective of [its] military activity is to secure access to mining sites or ensure a supply of captive labour.” On the shores of Lake Tanganyika, according to a report by the Catholic church, Rwandan soldiers tortured, raped and murdered local people.

Ten days ago, Alison des Forges wrote for the Guardian that: “There is no equivalence, of course, in the kind of crimes charged to the RPF and the crime of genocide.” It’s true that the Rwandan army never sought to exterminate the people of the eastern Congo. It is also true that its displacement of local people, who fled as it burned their villages and seized their resources, caused more deaths than the Interahamwe. The militias murdered around 800,000. In the DRC, the UN suggests, more than 3.5 million deaths in excess of previous levels of mortality “occurred from the beginning of the war up to September 2002. These deaths are a direct result of the occupation by Rwanda and Uganda”.

Kagame formally withdrew his troops from the DRC in 2002, but before doing so he made sure that its wealth continued to flow into Rwanda. He replaced the Congolese bosses of public utilities with his own people, put the soldiers running the coltan mines in civilian clothes and inserted his troops into local forces. The prosperity which has helped to secure peace in Rwanda derives in large part from the plunder which has helped to sustain war in the DRC.

It will be appreciated therefore, that the man to whom Tony Blair is so kindly lending his aid is engaged in the business of looting the mineral wealth of a Sovereign independent state, a process which forces under his control facilitate by the commission of crimes against humanity and war crimes. In short Blair is aiding and abetting the DRC equivalent of ‘conflict diamonds’ to be plundered. As such he is in breach of the duties as president which I set out above and, on the face of it, is guilty of egregious braches of international criminal law, up to and including genocide (as defined by the jurisprudence of the International Criminal Tribunals)

I would also commend the reading of reports by the UN (html) and Amnesty International (pdf or html file) which set out at length what has been going on.

I should add that the Conservative party is by no means immune from having an enthusiasm for Mr. Kagame. David Cameron’s difficulties in the summer of 2007 were in part caused by a visit to Rwanda where he too was cosying up to this appalling regime but that said, their relationship is as nothing compared with the closeness of Blair and Kagame who are now able to think of themselves as ‘longstanding’ friends.

Place this relationship and the fact that Kagame’s suzerainty holds sway over an area of the DRC rich in minerals, gem and oil alongside Blair’s contract with the Wall Street giant JP Morgan, worth £2.5 million and his closeness to the Bush-Cheney administration which has such an interest in oil and its exploitation and one begins to see a quite different Blair from the nice boy who could claim I’m a pretty straight sort of guy”.

The problem for Blair is that he is now seen to be hand in glove with a man who has a significant background of involvement in serious international crimes and in the looting of property belonging to the DRC.

Is that really appropriate for an ex-Prime Minister of the United Kingdom?

More to the point, is there a danger that a Blair will find himself aiding and abetting serious international crimes if he continues to pursue this relationship?

The time has come for Mr. Blair to explain why his relationship with this man is an appropriate one.

COMMENT THREAD

John Prescott, the dimmest dumbcluck ever appointed to Government, had a refined way of campaigning: if someone expressed dissent by, say, hurling a nicely over-ripe tomato at him, he would retaliate by smacking the tomato-flinger smartly on the snout in best Hull Ferry Steward style. Smuggo’s friend, Nicholas Sarkozy, also knows a thing or two about charming birds off trees.

In proof of which I bring you this quite splendid video from YouTube via le Parisen.

All you need to know is that the gentleman in the crowd declines to shake Sarkozy’s hand on the perfectly reasonable grounds (if you do not like the man) that he does not want to get his hand dirty.

Sarkozy responds in kind which I have rendered into modern day vernacular English (those faint of heart should stop reading now!):

“Bugger off then, you stupid fuckwit!”, smiling all the while and calmly walks away.

Somehow I do not see either Gordon or Dave emulating him, though I guess Charlie ‘Mine’s A Large Double’ Kennedy might have done something similar when in his cups.

A propos of which, anyone reading Sir Ming Campbell’s somewhat anodyne account of Kennedy’s blotto period might be inclined to ask how it was that the Lib ‘Dems’ had the brass neck to advance to the country as potential Prime Minister (as in ‘I have my finger on the nuclear button’) a man they knew full well spent much of his time drinking himself into a state of sodden oblivion. And how they explain away the collective lie in which they colluded for years to the effect that their man was suffering from this or that ailment or was tired after a night feeding the baby.

By dissembling, as usual, I suppose.

COMMENT THREAD

A nasty, po-faced Raúl Castro

Cuba has elected a new President. Hurrah! Hurrah? Our pleasure that whatever ailment laid Fidel Castro low was a prolonged lesson in pain such as some of the victims of his terror might have experienced is tempered by his replacement: seventy-six year old Raúl Castro, younger, dumber hardline brother of Fidel who gave the world that other nasty bit of work, Che Guevara.

Raúl Castro has been a commie bastard longer than his older brother and looks set to maintain, if he can, the communist dictatorship’s control over the benighted people of this sad island. He may tinker at the edges of the system, but it will remain a hardline communist dictatorship in which there is no democracy and lots of grief for anyone who is inclined to speak their mind. His choice of José Ramón Machado, another hardliner two years older than himself suggests that any thought the Cuban people might have had of even a slight lifting of the yoke of dictatorship from their shoulders is illusory. Their calvary continues unabated.

I say he was ‘elected’ but that, of course, is a nonsense. The 609 members of the National Assembly of Cuba were presented by the Politburo with but one candidate for ‘election’ and one is inclined to think that trying to defy the Communist Party Whips might well be rather bad for one’s health. Rather than being shouted at by Geoff ‘BuffHoon’ Hoon, you get to be attached by your testicles to that great achievement of the Cuban Revolution, the Cuban National Grid. Hence the unanimity of his ‘election’.

In effect, then, Raúl was the popular choice of the forty-odd members of the Cuban Council of Ministers. The involvement of the rest of the eleven and a half million people of Cuba in this exercise has been precisely zero.

Still, being chosen as President by forty people is something of an improvement on the position in the EU where just twenty-seven out of 450 million of its people will vote for the new President of the Council later this year or early next, assuming, of course, that nothing derails the plan to railroad the EU Constitution through the process of ratification.

Lefties all over the UK will tonight be celebrating the smooth transition of power from one commie bastard to another and they will pass swiftly, in their Onanistic Joy, over the fact of the rank nepotism involved.

Raúl will now become a lefty hero in his own right, though not for long bearing in mind his age. He too will shuffle off like his brother, clad in dressing gown and carpet slippers, sooner rather than later. At which point the Cuban electorate will stand mutely by once more as yet another commie bastard is chosen as President for them, unless, of course, the downtrodden Cuban people decide to have a hand in it for themselves, at which point the game will be well and truly up.

Meanwhile back in London, Chairman Ken is no doubt getting himself thoroughly soused as he drinks himself under the table toasting Cuba’s new Caudillo.

COMMENT THREAD

A Burglar’s Toolkit
As issued to Labour Ministers

If the Taxpayer diddles the Revenue, he may well be prosecuted. And when you fire up almost any Labour politician on the subject of tax evasion (illegal) and tax avoidance (legal but deeply hated) he or she can find themselves quite literally self-combusting. But the corruption of this Labour Government is such that when they shaft the Taxpayer, they destroy the evidence.

Or try to, that is. So incompetent are they that they cannot even manage a decent cover-up as the Sunday Telegraph tells us.

The report makes it clear that Ministers and civil servants knew that up to 400,000 households paying council tax have been overcharged because they had been placed in the wrong council tax band and have had such knowledge since 2005.

Instead of doing the honest thing and owning up so that redress could be made, Ministers and Civil Servants chose instead to conceal the facts for two reasons: (1) to avoid making repayments; and (2) to avoid the inevitable adverse publicity which would attend such disclosure.

Sadly for them but fortunately for us, whoever was given the job of effecting the cover up was so incompetent that the words on the page were still legible. Thus we know that Ministers, over whom that nasty Tub O’Lard John Prescott presided, engaged in a cynical, cowardly, dishonest and corrupt course of conduct which had the effect of cheating taxpayers out of their money.

If an ordinary citizen discovers that property he is holding which he believes to be his actually belongs to another, at that moment he falls under a duty to restore the property to its rightful owner. If he then fails dishonestly to restore the property to the rightful owner he is guilty of the offence of Theft under Section 1 of the Theft Act 1968.

Why should any different standard apply to Ministers of The Crown or Civil Servants?

COMMENT THREAD

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