Riots in Bromley? It’s hard to imagine. Yet, last night, a few young people threatened to bring havoc to a borough that traditionally has one of the lowest crime rates in the capital. You can see here an extraordinary video of the looting of the Nugent shopping centre. Fortunately, the incidents yesterday were limited in scope and isolated. But there is no room for complacency.
I spent part of the afternoon with the Orpington local Safer Neighbourhood Team, which is bracing itself for a repeat performance tonight. Now that the mob has done the capital’s bigger high streets and now that the police are out in force in the city centre, the fear is that secondary targets, such as Bromley, Beckenham and Orpington, will become the next front line. Read more
I am no expert in military logistics, but I was struck by the extraordinary recent deterioration in the performance of the surface route to the Afghan theatre.
Right now, British troops are acutely dependent on our ability to send supplies by sea to Karachi, where they are unloaded and then taken by road through Pakistan. Ahead of this week’s Public Accounts Committee, the National Audit Office provided me with a briefing based on its detailed report into the Ministry of Defence’s logistics supply chain. This noted that only 15 per cent of consignments shipped by land through Pakistan between 10 December 2009 and 8 December 2010 arrived within the targeted time of 77-87 days, a fair way off the 75 per cent target. Read more
The 50p rate – dubbed the “banker tax” – was always going to be a blunderbuss of a weapon with which to punish the guilty men of the UK’s financial services community. But who is it really going to affect? Read more
Cold turkey would hardly have been a sensible way for the UK to withdraw aid from India. There are too many DfID programmes on the ground that still need British support, reflecting the fact that the UK (the last time I checked) had a near 30 per cent share of all bilateral foreign aid to the country. Read more
How does the world look from Westminster? Foreign policy is woefully under-scrutinised in the UK, where governments can wage war and sign treaties without reference to parliament, and the limited attention it does receive could arguably be better directed. Read more
As it’s prediction season, here goes… My crystal ball, for what it is worth, foretells political and economic union between France and Germany, perhaps within the next 12-24 months. Europe needs a gamechanger, one that creates an insurmountable firebreak against the speculators. Crises have historically been the motor of European integration and a full union, much like the panicky one Britain offered France in June 1940, might look tempting. It would provide for joint organs of defence, foreign, financial and economic policies, finally fulfilling the founding fathers’ dream of “ever closer union”. Read more
As it’s Guy Fawkes Day, at the end of a long run of bum-numbingly exhausting late night sittings, the idea of metaphorically blowing up parliament and all its antiquated working practices has a fleeting appeal. Read more
The Commonwealth Games are in crisis and New Delhi wants to know where its friends are. If he wants to show real commitment to the “new special relationship” with India, David Cameron must make sure the English athletics squad turns up all present and correct, with big smiles on their faces. The Scottish team has already announced that it is delaying the departure of its 41 squad members, citing ongoing health and security fears over conditions in the athletes’ village. Now the Welsh have raised the stakes, giving the Delhi organising committee until five o’clock British time this afternoon to provide reassurances – saying that otherwise they might not travel. English officials have said the situation is “on a knife-edge”. Read more
Why do 9,000 people in the public sector earn more than the Prime Minister’s £142,500? It would be good to get the Public Accounts Committee, whose role is to scrutinize public spending for value for money across government, stuck into this question. Read more
How much longer will the UK subject its citizens to an extradition regime that acts like a mindless and robotic catapult, flinging people across the Atlantic at the mere whim of US Homeland Security? Read more
Pankaj Mishra, writing in The Guardian, says David Cameron’s India delegation seemed to “want little more than safe landing for its Hawk jets and other military hardware”.
Of the 60 or so delegates, by my count, only four were from the defence industry. Read more
There is no political capital to be won defending MPs on expenses. The media is not ready and nor is the public. The pendulum has not swung back. The coalition government does better by trumpeting its plans to do away with large numbers of MPs altogether, ostensibly to “lower the cost of politics”. In today’s prime minister’s questions, however, David Cameron unexpectedly took on the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (the body set up in the wake of last summer’s expenses scandal to set policy and process MPs’ claims).
Cameron was responding to cross-party fury that IPSA has not only lumbered parliament with a dysfunctional new computerised system, but also adopted what many MPs regard as a vindictive, petty-fogging and demagogic approach to policy. In a hearing with IPSA chief Sir Ian Kennedy a few days ago, for example, Lib Dem MP Bob Russell reflected the frustration of many at the way a bug-ridden, clunky system is draining parliamentary resources that would otherwise be deployed in the service of constituents. Read more