What's Gordon up to?
What's Gordon Brown up to?
Hope for a boost in Labour idealism when Gordon Brown takes over took a knock this week.
Does he really want to throw away £25 billion on a useless 'Son of Trident'? On Tuesday I talked long and hard to my friend Gordon Prentice on what to ask Tony Blair on Wednesday. Gordon had Question Three and I urged him to go on Afghanistan to warn of a possible British Vietnam.
The only other subject we talked about was Trident. In October I asked Tony whether we would have a vote on Trident. Gordon Prentice did the same on Wednesday. He had the same non-reply.
How can Brown, a son of the manse, want to cling to this dangerous virility symbol that could wreck the campaign to restrict proliferation of nuclear weapons? It mocks all his professed beliefs in campaigning for world peace and an end to poverty. Many of his friends are deeply shocked.
Probably it's just the political game that all parties are playing. The canard is that the next election will be won in the marshy middle ground of politics; the harvest of votes comes form the politically ignorant that lacks all conviction. That's why David Cameron presents himself as a politically correct, LIB-Dem Green - which he isn't. So Gordon Brown must metamorphose into a Cold War Colonel Blimp clinging to his nuclear comfort blanket.
There could be another explanation. Gordon Brown may be out to shoot Cameron's fox, which is snapping at Brown as a destructive Labour left-winger. What could be better than an internal Labour contest for the leadership with Gordon triumphing over a 'wild-eye Trot'. That's the game that Tony Blair loves to play.
Could it be that Gordon Brown is trying to provoke a challenge from the Left? Or am I being a touch cynical?
National Beardism Day
BBC Wales reminded me that Friday was National Beardism Day.
Quite right too. In these days of the feminisation of politics the case for beards has to be made with vigour.
Feminisation has its place - among women. Thatcher refused to appoint any bearded ministers. New Labour demanded that Alistair Darling and Harry Cohen removed their lustrous locks. They meekly complied and took up the unnatural practise of shaving. If we accede to demands for the removal of one male appendage what will they demand next?
The forces of anti-Beardism ignore bio-diversity. Beards provide the only habitat for a variety of nano life forms, many of them, no doubt, threatened species.
Let a million beards grow, long and luxuriant!
Little Question Joy
Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what information the Government have sought from the United States Administration in respect of the (a) cause and (b) circumstances of the deaths of three detainees held at the Guantanamo Bay military detention centre; and what information has been provided.
Dr. Howells: The United States Government have told us, as they have also announced publicly, that they will conduct an investigation into the deaths of the three detainees. We welcome that decision and look forward to hearing the results of the investigation.
Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what matters in respect of (a) Israel's possession of nuclear weapons and (b) the prospects for Israel joining the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty were raised during her meeting with her Israeli counterpart on 12 June.
Dr. Howells: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary did not discuss the prospects for Israel signing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty (NPT), or Israel's possession of nuclear weapons, during her meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Livni.
We have on a number of occasions called on Israel to accede to the NPT as a non-nuclear weapon state and also to the Chemical Weapons Convention, and will continue to do so.
Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what estimate she has made of the reduction in the volume of the poppy harvest which will result from the work of the British and coalition troops in Afghanistan in each of the next four years.
Dr. Howells: UK forces in Afghanistan are deployed under the international security assistance force (ISAF) and are not there to take direct action against the drugs trade. They will contribute to the broader counter-narcotics effort by providing the secure environment in which the rule of law can be applied, reconstruction can take place and legal rural livelihoods can be developed. ISAF forces will be able to help with the provision of training to Afghan counter-narcotics forces and will, within means and capabilities, provide support to their operations. They will also help the Afghan Government explain their policies to the Afghan people.
Sustainable drug elimination strategies take time. Bringing about a sustainable decrease in poppy cultivation requires a range of activities including arresting and convicting the traffickers who profit from the trade, and putting in place the development programmes which enable farmers to move awayfrom growing poppy. That is why the UK is spending £270 million over a three-year period on supporting the Government of Afghanistan's National Drug Control Strategy.
Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will take steps to ensure that in human trials of medicinal drugs not previously ingested by human beings the drugs are not to be ingested simultaneously by the volunteers.
Andy Burnham: Following the recent drug trial incident involving TGN 1412, an expert working group of leading international experts was established to address the scientific questions that were raised by it. In particular, recommendations we requested regarding this type of drug and how to manage the risks associated with making the transition from pre-clinical testing in animals to trials in humans. On receipt of the report from this group, the Government will consider what steps might be required to minimise risk for first human trials in the light of their recommendations.