Time to cut taxes
The sluggish economic growth figures - only 0.2% between April and June - are reportedly causing consternation in Downing Street. Jeremy Heywood, the PM’s private secretary, is apparently demanding urgent action and there were rumours that Chancellor George Osborne was eyeing business taxes and the higher income tax for cuts in the autumn. These were swiftly slapped down by PM David Cameron last night, only to be resurrected again today by Boris Johnson, the ambitious Mayor of London. He is calling for cuts in National Insurance and the 50p tax. Certainly, conservatives have long been calling for cuts in business and personal taxes and red tape – all of which were promised in our manifesto. I simply cannot understand why these are not a priority, when the outlook is so bleak. We cannot focus on the deficit alone. Punitive taxation will torpedo economic growth and enterprise. We must urgently stimulate our economy – whatever that takes - or possibly go back into recession.
Posted on 28 July 2011 by Richard Drax
Gaddafi stays on
The slow but sure disintegration of the military alliance against Colonel Gaddafi is another nail in the coffin of the toothless United Nations and an embarrassment for our government. Yesterday, William Hague admitted that - if it is the will of the Libyan people - Colonel Gaddafi may be allowed to stay in his country, albeit stripped of power. Four months into the onslaught, there seems no alternative. The ‘no fly resolution’, which allowed French, British, American and others to bomb Gaddafi loyalists in order to prevent them from killing the so-called rebels, has proved how inadequate fighting at arm’s length is. There have been many comparisons with Vietnam; certainly the aerial might of the West is no match for determined guerrilla tactics on the ground. In order to get around the UN’s ‘no boots on Libyan soil’ decree, there have been suggestions that the alliance should unleash a mercenary army, which could train and back up the rebels. This is an option, which anyone familiar with the inglorious history of US security firm Blackwater, which operated in Iraq with impunity, should view with dread. Certainly, allowing Gaddafi a quiet retirement would cost less lives.
Posted on 27 July 2011 by Richard Drax
Is the extreme right really more dangerous than Al Qaeda?
The terrible crimes of Anders Behring Breivik may never be fully explained, especially if, as his lawyer has claimed tonight, he is insane. For that very reason, I would counsel against rushing to blame it all upon his politics. Already in Britain, there are hysterical claims that far right wing organisations, with which Breivik associated, pose a bigger threat than Al Qaeda. This is simply not true. In an article in today’s Telegraph, Andrew Gilligan points out that the far right on Britain is a disorganised rabble, following a complete collapse in the BNP vote. He says that in the last decade “half a dozen or so white British right wingers have been convicted of possessing explosives and other weapons. But all were loners, not acting on concert with any group.” In contrast, he says, over the same period there have been “138 convictions for Islamic related terrorism in the UK, many relating to serious, carefully organized, often multinational plots against specific targets involving substantial numbers of people.” We have yet to see if Breivik is linked to a global, fascist conspiracy. But it seems far more likely that he was an inadequate loner who made himself significant in the most desperate way.
Posted on 26 July 2011 by Richard Drax
Coldstream rumours and leaks
The leader in today’s Telegraph refers to the weekend’s rumour that the Coldstream Guards – the oldest regiment on the Army – is to be disbanded. The paper dismisses the rumour on the basis that there is no evidence to support it. I certainly hope they are right, being a former Coldstream officer myself. But there is a serious point here. Ever since the disastrous SDSR, the British people have been learning of the dismantling of the Armed Forces through these random leaks, rather than through proper, minesterial announcements. Only this week, a leaked memo announced that an extra 5,000 soldiers face losing their jobs, in addition to the 7,000 already announced. It is shameful that entire battalions currently fighting in Afghanistan face disbandment upon their return – and even more shameful that we should find out like this. The effect upon morale is incalculable. I have said it before – a government’s first priority should be defence of the realm. We should scrap the SDSR before it does any more damage.
Posted on 26 July 2011 by Richard Drax
Massacre in Norway
I have been visiting Norway for 10 years and never, ever would I have imagined anything like the appalling saga that has unfurled over the past few days. By coincidence, I am on holiday with my Norwegian in-laws. First of all, we heard the news of the bomb in Oslo, followed slightly later by the initial reports of teenagers being mown down by a lone gunman. It would now appear that the same man was responsible for both atrocities and that 76 have died and five more are missing. It is hard to describe the feeling of national grief that overwhelms the country. As a father myself, I can only imagine the sheer horror of waiting to hear whether your son or daughter has been murdered by a young man with twisted views of multiculturalism and the far right. I think that all one can say is that our thoughts and prayers extend to all the families and friends of those who have been killed by this madman. What is tragic is that these one-off incidents are virtually impossible to predict or prevent.
Posted on 24 July 2011 by Richard Drax
Wendy Deng and Kung Fu
Much has been made in the press recently of ‘tiger mothers’ – Chinese mums who hothouse their children into becoming the ultimate high achievers. Watching Wendy Deng – Rupert Murdoch’s Chinese wife – sock it to the shaving foam pie attacker, there is obviously a new breed of ‘tiger wife’ about, too. Somehow, having seen the speed and power of Mrs Murdoch’s riposte replayed countless times on television, it comes as no surprise to learn that she was taught Kung Fu by the great Jackie Chan, no less!
Posted on 22 July 2011 by Richard Drax
A free press
How much further will this phone hacking scandal go, I wonder? How many more skeletons will fall out of the cupboard? How many more heads will roll as a consequence? These allegations are appalling and I really do wonder what those in the know thought they were doing. There is no doubt that for too long politicians have been far too enamoured with press barons and what their papers are going to print about them. I believe strongly that as a politician you need to have gut instinct which naturally pushes you down a path that you and your Party believe in. You pander to the press, or to anyone else for that matter, you lose your way. Tony Blair is a classic case in point. Secondly, I hope this debacle does not lead to the draconian tightening of press laws. A free and unfettered press is an integral part of our democracy and a knee-jerk reaction now would, in my view, be potentially harmful to the freedom we take so much for granted. Phone hacking is wrong and illegal, make no mistake, and journalists need to know that if they behave in this fashion there are serious consequences. Any decisions on the future of reporting in the press, though, need to be taken at leisure and in the cold light of day. I say this as a former journalist of some 17 years and I no doubt speak for the thousands of colleagues who still pursue their trade with honour and professionalism.
Posted on 11 July 2011 by Richard Drax
With the phone hacking story stealing the headlines, a concerning report by the National Audit Office (NAO) on the future of this country's defence went almost unreported. The report, which I have seen, is pretty damning of the government, and questions the decisions made following the Strategic Defence and Security Review. It, like me and many others, feels that in effect the accountants were allowed to run riot, cutting here and there, with serious consequences, not least a ten year wait for carrier strike and even then one whiich might not materialise due to rising costs. There is no doubt in my mind that defence should have been removed from the spending review, while longer term strategic thinking and planning was allowed to stew. It is no surprise to me that the moment we scrapped our carrier capability than Libya raised its ugly head. You only have to study history to see how politicians of all colours have failed the defence of this country again and again and again. Somehow 'I told you so,' does not make me feel any better.
Posted on 11 July 2011 by Richard Drax
These revelations about the behaviour of the News of The World newspaper are an insult to the majority of professional, sound journalists. I was one for 17 years and never embarked on phone hacking, or anything else for that matter which might be regarded as dubious and immoral. I have to say, nor did the hundreds of colleagues I worked alongside. As always, it is a minority which ruins it for everyone else. I feel desperately sorry for all those affected, especially the families of those who have died on duty. If true, this is dispicable behaviour and beneath contempt. I was flabberghasted when a former tabloid journalist on Newsnight last night said he felt there was nothing wrong in hacking into the phones of politicians and actors, although he agreed that targeting the war dead was a step too far. Phone hacking is illegal: full stop. And, no one should be subjected to this major invasion of their privacy. I attended part of the emergency debate in the Commons yesterday and was fascinated to hear all the allegations made under parliamentary privilege. The Prime Minister has now announced there will be an inquiry and possibly more than one. I agree. Whats saddens me most is that a handful of deceitful journalists have damaged my former profession irrevocably. Let's hope that democracy itself is not endangered as efforts are made to clear up this mess.
Posted on 7 July 2011 by Richard Drax
The appalling pictures on our screens from the Horn of Africa are heart-rending. And it's not the first time we have witnessed them. A combination of drought, civil war and political incompetence are once again impacting on the most vulnerable and millions of people, potentially, are on the move as they search for food and shelter. The problem is vast and probably unsolvable in the short term. All we can do is contribute generously and ensure that our monies are used for the right purposes. In the longer term, those countries affected must take more responsibility for the plight of their peoples, rather than rely on donations from the West. Of course, we should help, but I believe in providing practical assistance rather than sending cash, which all too often ends up in the wrong hands.
Posted on 5 July 2011 by Richard Drax
Yet again the EU continues on its green dream, seemingly oblivious to reality. A newsletter from Conservative MEP Ashley Fox reports how the EU wants to "increase carbon reduction targets across Europe from 20 per cent to 30 per cent". Mr Fox points out that there is no point in setting targets like this unless the reduction is unilateral. He adds: "Whilst it is desirable to reduce our environmental impact, it is pointless doing so if other nations don't participate." Naturally, our economy and prosperity would suffer substantially were we to chase targets that are unrealistic. Common sense is needed like never before if we are to get the balance right.
Posted on 4 July 2011 by Richard Drax