David Milliband's resignation
So David Milliband has left frontline politics to spend more time with his back bench. It may be the wisest move he ever made. Like his good friend James Purnell, who resigned when he could no longer stand the excesses of Gordon Brown, his time may well come again.
After listening to Red Ed on this morning’s Today programme, I wondered how this serial evader of serious questions ever got elected. He has mastered all the tools of politicking – using his interviewer’s name, answering a different question to the one he was asked and talking without breathing until his listeners have lost the will to live. But he didn’t once explain how he would tackle the deficit.
I understand party conference goers have nicknamed him Wallace, after the widely grinning, pop-eyed, cheese eating plasticine man in the Wallace and Grommit cartoons, to whom he bears an uncanny resemblance. Others have named him Forrest Gump.
Neither quite conjures up the statesmanlike figure one would hope was in charge of the Labour party. I give him two years, max.
Posted on 29 September 2010 by Richard Drax
The Milliband Dilemma
They told us they were friends, spoke of their brotherly love and they swore to uphold each other in office. Then Ed won – perhaps unfairly. And David walked offstage - after making the best speech of his career - into the arms of his inconsolably sobbing wife. It was then that it became obvious that this was no friendly contest. The relationship is fatally wounded, one way or another.
Already, David has let us see his anger. Yesterday, when Ed used his maiden speech to condemn the war in Iraq, David rounded on Harriet Harman, who was clapping, to say, ’Why are you clapping? You supported it.’
In fact, David was part of Blair’s government, which voted for war before Ed was even an MP. He is said to deeply resent his brother using it against him.
If Ed turns out to be the lightweight many of us suspect, David can’t win. If he leaves, he has probably permanently lost his chance to make a difference. If he stays and serves under a man who destroys everything David worked for and believes in, he will sustain irredeemable damage to his reputation anyway. I don’t envy him this one.
Posted on 28 September 2010 by Richard Drax
Ambassador for Outer Space
The truth is out there. This has been a special week for those who believe we are not alone in the universe. Firstly the UN has seen fit to designate one Professor Mazlan Othman – a Malaysian astrophysicist - as its ambassador for the Office of Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA). The Agency, set up in 1962 to monitor the peaceful use of space, has now apparently decided that alien contact is virtually certain. Othman, we are told, is the person to whom we are to direct the little green men when they come knocking. Good to know.
The other galactic news is that seven veteran American airmen have gone public with stories of sightings of UFO’s over nuclear installations, both in Britain and the USA. The nukes they were hovering over malfunctioned as a result. One airman on duty at Malstrom nuclear base in Montana on March 16, 1967, says that 10 Minuteman nuclear missiles shut down after a visit from an alien craft. Another officer alleges that the same happened at RAF Bentwaters, a nuclear base near Ipswich, 30 years ago. These officers have 120 signed statements from other witnesses, all alleging UFO surveillance and intervention at nuclear sites. The airmen say they want the authorities to confirm that aliens have long been visiting earth.
Maybe some of them stayed… Or else, these chaps escaped the Men in Black when they came round with their memory erasers.
Posted on 27 September 2010 by Richard Drax
Keeping 'the few'
Yesterday in Parliament, I and many of my colleagues fought to protect our armed services, which face further cuts next month. I heard some quite excellent speeches, missing sadly what I was told was the best made by James Arbuthnot MP,the chairman of the defence select committee, because I was attending a ministerial meeting. Alarm bells had rung in the morning when the BBC had reported that the Trident upgrade was going to be delayed until the next parliament. This is short-termism in the extreme and not something that I or my colleagues can accept. The Prime Minister has said the nuclear deterrent will be upgraded and so it should be. With defence expenditure now standing at 2.7% of GDP - compared to 5% in 1982 when I was serving - we are in danger of falling out of the premier division. I shan't bore you with the many reasons I think this is madness, except to say you can see my speech on my website - www.richarddrax.com. Our freedom does not come cheap, it never has. And, as one of my colleagues so eloquently put it yesterday, our armed services are rather like an insurance policy; we don't like paying for it, but we're relieved it's there when we need it.
Posted on 17 September 2010 by Richard Drax
Missing the point
An attempt by teachers at a primary school in Kent to break with formality misses the point, in my view. Pupils will no longer have to call their teachers 'Sir', but use Christian names instead. The whole point of maintaining a formality at school is not to subjugate the pupil, but to teach respect, something which is sadly missing today. At a small prep school I attended for five years, we had to call everyone 'Please'. It sounds ridiculous, but it worked, and from a very young age taught us all that politeness and good manners cost nothing and more often than not gained a lot.
Posted on 17 September 2010 by Richard Drax
Back to Parliament this week with a bang. The Coalition is revving up for some radical and powerful legislation and looks likely to get most of it through. So it cannot be a coincidence that, after a summer of non-stories, some serious mischief making – aimed at the three most significant Tories in this Government - is afoot. William Hague has been under siege for his choice of special advisor and was forced to make a statement denying that he is homosexual. Michael Gove has been beset with nasty suggestions that his academies and free schools have failed to attract support from school heads – when the truth is that teachers and parents are being held to ransom by militant unions. And the Labour legions are baying for a new investigation into an old phone bugging scandal, which happened while Andy Coulson – David Cameron’s Head of Communications - was Editor of News of the World. All are vicious attacks in different ways, all are potentially hugely damaging and all bear the marks of the old Labour smear machine.
Posted on 6 September 2010 by Richard Drax
Watching Tony Blair being interviewed by Andrew Marr this week, I was struck by a number of things. Whoever it was who said we have the face we deserve by 50 was absolutely right. Years of messianic self belief have left him wide eyed and staring – strangely reminiscent of the old Spitting Image puppet of Margaret Thatcher. But there’s a desolation about him, too. This is a man who longs for the power he has lost and has been thwarted so far in his quest. Life as the Quartet Representative in Jerusalem, with Palestinian development as his remit, is not quite the world saving opportunity he imagined. The EU Presidency – which would have been right up his street – was cruelly snatched away by those who do not share his great faith in himself. And so far, despite his assiduous courtship of some of the loonier elements of the middle, far and near east and his complete prostration before the USA, nothing else is on offer.
Posted on 3 September 2010 by Richard Drax