Daily Archives: April 20, 2011

Jim Pickard

Most of the attention on the number of candidates for the May 5 local elections has centred on the relative numbers compared to 2007. The Lib Dems are contesting 59.2 per cent (down from 63.6 per cent), the Tories are fighting 93.7 per cent (up from 88.7 per cent) and Labour has candidates for 72.1 per cent (up from 60.5 per cent).

Clearly this narrative conveys a sense of momentum for Labour in particular, representing a rise of a fifth in its army of candidates. 

When David Cameron dispatched “military advisers” to Libya, he crossed an important line. It is a relatively small military contribution that carries with it a heavy burden of extra responsibility.

The prime minister is taking part-ownership of rebel actions, whether he likes it or not. The barbarity of the Gaddafi regime is well documented. But small wars like that in Libya usually involve both sides committing atrocities. Now that British officers are involved in helping the rebels, Britain will be more answerable for what they do.

William Hague insists the officers won’t be involved in planning or executing operations. But when they are providing advice on “military organisational structures, communications and logistics” they are bound to find out more about rebel military preparations.

What happens if they discover something unsavoury is afoot? This will be a question taxing the minds of lawyers in Whitehall. Should they attempt to stop them? Withdraw support and defence materiel that has been provided? Inform Nato so strikes can be prepared to protect civilians?