Another way out
While Colonel Gaddafi should undoubtedly be held to account for his crimes, he may yet escape the International Court of Justice at the Hague. It's becoming increasingly clear that routing this despot will mean bitter, bloody street fighting and even more lives lost. Discussions are now taking place on giving him a way out. While Gaddafi would escape justice, at least in the short term, it would enable the no-fly zone to be lifted and perhaps an end to the bloodshed.
Posted on 30 March 2011 by Richard Drax
The thuggish behaviour of several hundred people on Saturday was unacceptable. Those bent on violence appear to be hijacking protest marches more and more for their loutish aims. More than 50 police officers were injured, some seriously. I have spoken to many since Saturday who say how depressing the scenes of violence were. I, too, was depressed that so many idiots could pursue a path of wanton destruction for no reason other than they clearly are unable to communicate in any other way. This growing underclasss is a genuine concern and I would argue for a radical approach to deal with it. For example, those found guilty for smashing windows of daubing graffiti should be made to clear it up wearing bright orange boiler suits. I am fed up with this sort of behaviour, as is the majority of the country.
Posted on 28 March 2011 by Richard Drax
Missiles fired from planes, ships and submarines have caused extensive damage and seemingly prevented Gaddafi from assaulting Benghazi. I would suggest that the Prime Minister now has to show as much leadership and courage in calling off the conflict as he was to enter it. The conflict on the ground can, and should, only be resolved by the Libyans themselves. We do not want to be drawn into a protracted campaign, which frankly we cannot afford anyway. For the moment, our job is done, lives have been saved, so let's take our aircraft out now.
Posted on 24 March 2011 by Richard Drax
A hesitant 'yes'
Yesterday, I took part in a long afternoon as we debated the no-fly zone over Libya. I think it fair to say that while the vote for such action was emphatic, many of the speeches, including mine, voiced serious concerns. There were frequent calls for 'clarity', which I reminded the House was instantly lost in war. The best we can hope for, I would think, is that the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary remain light on their feet and respond to events as they occur as best they can. This may sound rather Heath Robinson, but a no-fly zone is not a panacea and with no troops on the ground one's actions are pretty limited. The best we can hope for is that Gaddafi's tanks, planes and guns are destroyed to the extent it renders him incapable of attacking his own people. One thing is for certain: none of us were for putting boots on the ground, and this is where we shall be watching the government carefully.
Posted on 22 March 2011 by Richard Drax
As missiles rain down on Gaddafi's forces, fired from submarines and surface ships, and we scramble together our dwindling RAF, I wonder if the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Defence are contemplating what they've put in motion so far as cuts to our armed services are concerned? As we have been reminded, events occur at a moment's notice, and when they do governments turn to their armed services when dialogue ceases. With huge commitments in Afghanistan, and other duties around the world, our diminishing forces are now being asked to execute a no-fly zone over Libya. There are some things far more important than money, and the defence of our country, her people and her interests are three. I have no doubt our forces will do a remarkable job; they always do. But let's not forget this latest scrap on the world stage and realise there will be more.
Posted on 20 March 2011 by Richard Drax
The no fly zone - Libya
The ‘no fly’, or air exclusion zone over Libya, agreed on last night at the UN, leaves me sucking my teeth a bit. We have led the way on this since day one, with the Prime Minister being slapped down at first for his gung ho attitude. Now he has got his way, supported loudly by President Sarkozy. We are told that the British and the French will lead the way and our Typhoons and Tornados have already been moved to forward operating bases in readiness. So far, there is no sign of any aircraft provided by the Arab nations, despite the estimated $500bn a year they spend on arms.
I understand that Gaddafi cannot be left to massacre his own people, but surely his brothers in the Arab League can be counted upon to stop him? Is it really our job to stop every crazed despot and, if so, why haven’t we dealt with Mugabe before now? Why did it take so long to indict Charles Taylor of Liberia before a UN Court? Why aren’t we more concerned about the killings today in Yemen and yesterday in Bahrain? These countries cannot be expected to sign up to our ideas of democracy and nor do they want to. Remember, Egypt – after the recent ‘revolution’ – is now controlled by a military junta.
This is another country’s civil war and it is bloody. I totally support any humanitarian relief we can give to those fleeing Gadaffi’s jackboot. But I must pose the question; if we were not so totally reliant on Libya for our future supplies of oil and gas, would we really be involved?
Posted on 18 March 2011 by Richard Drax
The People's Pledge
I read with interest today about the 'people's pledge' a new, grassroots upwards attempt to force a referendum on our continuing membership of the EU. The backers are targeting the most marginal constituencies with the aim of getting more voters than the incumbent's slim majority to sign up to the pledge - and then to present it to MP's as a way of focusing their minds. The last referendum on Europe was on joining the Common Market in 1978 - as a result, no one under the age of 54 has ever had a chance to vote. I think it is high time we revisited the subject, especially as in the intervening 43 years, the EU has grown into a many-headed hydra which will soon devour us all.
Posted on 16 March 2011 by Richard Drax
I read today that a herd of 30 Friesian cows were shot after escaping from a field in North Wales. Incredulous, I read the article again to ensure I hadn't misread it. I don't know whether dairy cows are especially psychotic in that part of the country, but the Friesians we have on our farm have never required such radical action, nor do I suspect did those poor cows in Wales. No doubt questions are being asked, and rightly so. The whole thing sounds ridiculous.
Posted on 15 March 2011 by Richard Drax
Today, the papers report that nearly 200,000 migrants whose visas have expired and who should have left the country are still here. The figures come from the National Audit Office. I wonder how many illegal migrants there really are in this country. The mind boggles. In Opposition we talked tough on cracking down on immigration, but there is precious little evidence of this to date. Our membership with the EU, of course, prevents us from protecting our borders properly, let alone the internal bureaucracy. My constituents are tired of talk on this subject and rightly want action. Let's have it please.
Posted on 15 March 2011 by Richard Drax
If Gadaffi wins...
The awful possibility that Gadaffi might win must be keeping the most hard headed diplomats awake at night wondering which way to jump. Today, the rebels in Benghazi have announced that they will not sell oil to any country which does not support them in the struggle to free themselves of Gadaffi. Gadaffi, of course, will not sell oil to anyone who has attempted to depose him. For Britain, which has rightly condemned him almost from the first day of the uprising, the only way to go now is with the rebels. Certainly, the £6 bn oil and gas deal with BP, brokered by Tony Blair, MI6 and others in the interests of our future energy security, has no future unless we back the winners. Incidentally, France signed an understanding with the Benghazi rebels more than a week ago. That could explain President Sarcozy's unusually wholehearted support for the British proposal of a no fly zone - surely a first in Anglo French relations. They need the rebels to win, too.
Posted on 15 March 2011 by Richard Drax
I, like all of you, am appalled at the scenes which unfold on our television screens every day. As more and more pictures come in, we begin to understand the scale of this disaster. What has struck me forcibly so far is the sheer dignity, courage and sense of order which the Japanese people are showing. Even those in the tsunami-hit areas display a resolve and restraint which defies imagination. Meanwhile, thousands are feared dead, many of them British, and towns the size of Blandford and Swanage have been literally wiped out. To add to the horror, failures are now occurring at a nuclear plant, while concerns have spread to two more. The Japanese, with the world's help, will overcome this unimaginable disaster, but it's going to take years, not months, to rebuild and move forward. My heartfelt sympathies extend to all those affected by this shattering event.
Posted on 14 March 2011 by Richard Drax
Outgunned by Gadaffi
Quite apart from whether we should employ a no fly zone over Libya, could we? Gadaffi has kept control in his vast country for 42 years and has spent a good proportion of the spoils from the oil that floats his regime on some very sophisticated kit. While we beat ourselves up over the news that some of his crowd quelling equipment was sold to Libya by British arms manufacturers, we have in fact, always been careful not to sell him any major hardware. Some of our allies have not been so particular. His mirage jets (sold to him by the French) could outperform our tired harriers and there were early reports of a state of the art soviet sukhoi jet brought down by a lucky rebel missile near Benghazi. Without some very serious backup from countries which still have an air force, we might find ourselves outgunned, literally.
Posted on 12 March 2011 by Richard Drax
Power of nature
The massive earthquake off Japan is a reminder, if any was needed, how powerful nature is. My heart goes out to all those who have been affected. The horrifying pictures showing a wave of water, cars, houses and boats making its relentless way across acres of countryside in the north of the country was almost surreal. The world appears to be very unstable at the moment and I can't help wondering just what's going to happen next. We are so lucky on our island and this horrifying incident only reminds me just how fortunate we are.
Posted on 11 March 2011 by Richard Drax
Debt of gratitude
Last night in Weymouth one of my team attended a public meeting organised by the Maritime Coastguard Agency (MCA) to debate the future of this wonderful service. The government is proposing to close a number of co-ordination centres, including the Portland Coastguard, which is based just off the quay in Weymouth. The government is proposing to replace with two new super centres at Solent and Aberdeen. I have opposed this proposal from the start on the grounds that local knowledge - a key factor in any rescue/search - must be co-ordinated by local people. Only then can the right decision be made and resource used to execute the rescue/search. Understandably, serving officers are upset and concerned about their futures. I suspect few, if any, will be able to commute to Southampton. I would like to add that another reason I oppose the government's plans is that the role of the Coastguard service in Weymouth and Portland encompasses so much more than just rescuing people. These men and women are highly respected members of the community and looked up to by everyone. Their sheer presence in our seaside resort is a huge plus, providing a uniformed service dedicated to others, whose magic rubs off on us all.
Posted on 9 March 2011 by Richard Drax
A so-called diplomatic mission goes wrong when the SAS team is captured by farmhands and kicked out of Libya. On the surface, this was not a glorious success, however the government is clearly trying to establish a dialogue with the rebels, which could be argued is a perfectly sensible thing to do. However, taken from another perspective, where do we stand if Gaddafi crushes the uprising and retains control? We've certainly shot our bolt diplomatically. I am all for democracy and freedom, but surely it's up to the peoples of that nation to resolve, not for us. Perhaps keeping our powder dry, especially when we are neutering our armed services, might be a more pragmatic option.
Posted on 7 March 2011 by Richard Drax
Well done David Cameron for saying he will tackle bureaucracy, red tape and anything else which stifles business and enterprise at the Party's spring conference. However, words are one thing, action is quite another. The biggest bureaucrat stifling virtually everything is the EU and until we leave this socialist gravy train there is no hope of truly letting business free. Recall Mr Brown's fine words along the lines of British jobs for British people, only to be told minutes later that was impossible to achieve because of EU regulations. It's time for politicians to stop talking and start acting. That's what the people of this country want, I believe, and we have to be bold to pursue policies which are best for the country in the long term. The country's in such a dire state that tinkering at the edges for political expediency is not a luxury we can afford.
Posted on 6 March 2011 by Richard Drax
I read in the Sunday Telegraph that our armed services will have to face further cuts, totalling about £500 million, due a shortfall identified in the budget. Defence chief s will hear within the month how much each service will have to bear. I call on the Government to stop the strategic defence and spending review (SDSR), review the review and in the light of what is going on in the Middle East to re-think as a matter of urgency our defence strategy. If Saudi Arabia goes, I cannot see how the West can stand off any longer. The very liquid which keeps us alive - oil - would really be threatened and with it ultimately our long term security and economy. As someone once said: "Events, dear boy, events!" How true, and our government would be wise to spend more money on defence, not less.
Posted on 6 March 2011 by Richard Drax
The Chinese in Africa
The Chinese warship currently stationed off the Libyan coast only serves to underline the vast influence China wields in Africa. Already, 20,000 Chinese workers have left Libya and 15 flights a day for two weeks are scheduled to take them home to Beijing. There are already 5m Chinese residents in Africa. Every tin pot dictator and despot in some of the most desperate nations on earth has Chinese ‘friends.’ And now some of the poorest countries on earth can boast Chinese-built stadiums, hospitals and schools – all given in exchange for unfettered access to mineral riches. The spoils are transported via secure routes and dubious agreements through war torn Somalia to ports, where Chinese ships are loaded with African mineral wealth and transported east to fuel the Chinese economic miracle. The Chinese are not always welcome in Africa; having stripped out what they need, they often leave overnight, leaving areas poorer and more desperate than before. Miners in Zambia have gone on strike over being ruthlessly undercut by Chinese mineworkers. Africa Matters Ltd, the organisation headed by Baroness Chalker, has highlighted the unfair deals made and aims to educate African leaders in getting a fair deal. It is an uphill fight.
Posted on 1 March 2011 by Richard Drax
There is no doubt that Blair and Bush did us all a favour when they persuaded Muammar Al Gadaffi to relinquish his weapons of mass destruction in 2004. However, although the nukes have gone, not all the chemical weapons have been disassembled yet and some reportedly remain in Libya. The respected BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner today reported that an estimated 9.5 tons of mustard gas are still there, though it would take time to weaponise. This Colonel boasted this week that he created Libya and he can destroy it. Let’s hope that his murderous behaviour does not worsen. And let’s get all our citizens out, now.
Posted on 1 March 2011 by Richard Drax