Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Moving Forward

Why do I get the feeling that this will be more Chucklevision than 2020 Vision? The website, and especially that photo (New Labour: now with added symbolism and sexiness and everything), almost provoked an inadvertent tea/nostril interface. My snort was somewhere between amusement and derision.

And Alan and Charles would clearly make excellent Chuckle Brothers. Which one has the guts, not gut, that's obviously Charles, the guts to stand against Gordon?

"To you." "To me." "To you." "To me..."

On the face of it, the project itself is not a bad idea. On the face of it. But there's obviously a bit more to it than that.

Personally, I'd very much like to see Brown face a credible challenger when Blair finally departs but there isn't exactly an abundance of those doing the rounds. Meacher and McDonnell have no realistic prospect of winning, Reid is the scariest man in British politics, Alan Johnson's bid was a busted flush, David Miliband has repeatedly ruled himself out and John Denham doesn't seem interested either.

And really, Milburn and Clarke? Politics is about the future not the past.

(Those philistines unfamiliar with the Chuckle Brothers artistic output can start their education here.)

Monday, February 26, 2007

Lost in Translation

As you may be aware, Professor Juan Cole disputes that President Ahmadinejad ever said that Israel should be wiped from the map. He argues that Ahmadinejad actually said that "the occupation regime over Jerusalem must be erased from the page of time".

In a private email which was hijacked by Christopher Hitchens without permission and subsequently published on Prof. Cole's blog, he wrote:
Ahmadinejad was not making a threat, he was quoting a saying of Khomeini and urging that pro-Palestinian activists in Iran not give up hope-- that the occupation of Jerusalem was no more a continued inevitability than had been the hegemony of the Shah's government.

Whatever this quotation from a decades-old speech of Khomeini may have meant, Ahmadinejad did not say that "Israel must be wiped off the map" with the implication that phrase has of Nazi-style extermination of a people. He said that the occupation regime over Jerusalem must be erased from the page of time.
There are those who argue that this is a triviality, that the two translations have essentially the same meaning but there are important differences. Prof. Cole has alluded to one of them in the above.

Firstly, the notion that Ahmadinejad wants to wipe Israel from the map can be used to evoke Hitler and the Holocaust. Yesterday, everyone's favourite propagandist, Con Coughlin, provided a perfect example of how this is done:
Most Israelis believe their country will do the same again if the outside world fails to call a halt to Iran's controversial uranium enrichment programme, which few in Israel doubt is ultimately aimed at giving the ayatollahs a nuclear weapons arsenal to fulfil Ahmadinejad's pledge to erase the Jewish state from the map.

Having already suffered a near-apocalypse in the form of the Holocaust, the Jewish people have no intention of being the hapless victims of Ahmadinejad's genocidal designs.
Textbook.

Secondly, the phrase "wipe Israel from the map" evokes a literal meaning which conjures up images of mushroom clouds over Tel Aviv.

For those attempting to portray the Iranians as desperate to acquire nuclear weapons so that they can physically destroy Israel, the initial translation of Ahmadinejad's phrase was a gift. With bows on. No wonder they've been so reluctant to give it back.

But there are a number of problems with this whole line of reasoning. The most glaring is the fact that Israel is home to some of Islam's most holy sites. The idea that the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran would turn the Dome of the Rock into radioactive slag seems rather far-fetched. Also, the right of return of Palestinian refuges, one of the keys to the continuing antagonism towards Israel in the Middle East, isn't going to be greatly aided by destroying the country. And, like pretty much any other government, the Iranians are strongly motivated by a desire to hold on to power. They know that an Iranian nuclear attack on Israel would mean the end of the Islamic Republic.

And what does Ahmadinejad himself say about the infamous quotation? TIME magazine asked him:
TIME: You have been quoted as saying Israel should be wiped off the map. Was that merely rhetoric, or do you mean it?

Ahmadinejad: People in the world are free to think the way they wish. We do not insist they should change their views. Our position toward the Palestinian question is clear: we say that a nation has been displaced from its own land. Palestinian people are killed in their own lands, by those who are not original inhabitants, and they have come from far areas of the world and have occupied those homes. Our suggestion is that the 5 million Palestinian refugees come back to their homes, and then the entire people on those lands hold a referendum and choose their own system of government. This is a democratic and popular way. Do you have any other suggestions?
There is no doubt that Ahmadinejad wants to see the end of the "occupying regime over Jerusalem"; he has said so repeatedly. There is, however, an enormous difference between that and the suggestion that he has said he wants to physically destroy the country of Israel along with all of the people living in it.

Iraqis are already suffering the disastrous consequences of one war justified by spin and misrepresentation. It would be the direst of follies to allow that to happen again with Iran.


Strawman Disclaimers in Full
  • None of the above is meant to suggest an opinion as to whether Iran is developing nuclear weapons. Evidence is thin on the ground but there is a possibility that they are.
  • None of the above is meant to suggest that it would be no bad thing if Iran developed nuclear weapons. It would be a bad thing.
  • None of the above is meant to suggest that Ahmadinejad is a good President of Iran He's not.
  • None of the previous disclaimers are a sop to those on hawks on "the right". They are my actual views

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Strawmen For Adults

18 Doughty Street's fearless campaign to attack strawmen in full public view continues apace. Iain is pleased. Look at that straw fly!

The strawman that Iain and co. are proudly thrashing this week is that everyone on the left hates Bushmerica. It's hardly an original construction, it has to be said. In fact, you've got to wonder whether they had to pay royalties to the Republican Party for use of that battered old thing. Surely not. Look at the state of it.

Still, let's get into the spirit of things and add a couple more blows to the mix

The Little One
  1. I am opposed to the foreign policies of Anthony Charles Lynton Blair.
  2. I am not opposed to the existence of the United Kingdom.
There's a difference, you see. I strongly suspect I'm not the only person on the left who realises this.

The Ironic One

Using accusations of anti-Americanism in an attempt to stifle, disparage or misrepresent political dissent is, well, unAmerican. Well it is, isn't it?


There are lots of "adult" reasons why 18 Tory Street's "attack ad" is unconvincing. The whole premise of the thing is wrong on many levels. In fact, it's just the sort of thing you could imagine the Swift Boat Veterans for the Tories doing.

By the way, viewing the video in question will confirm beyond doubt that Beau Bo D’Or was bang on the money.

What Would Sophocles Do?

Remember that Beckett interview with John Humphries on Today a while back? Here's a reminder:
Beckett: Mr Ross' basic thesis is that in some way, there was an assertion that Saddam Hussain was a threat directly to the U.K. You and I are both speaking from memory now but I don't recall that argument being one that was used. It...

Humphries: Sorry, Tony Blair didn't tell us Saddam Hussain was a threat to the United Kingdom?

Beckett: Wait a minute, wait a minute. What was said throughout was that Saddam Hussain was a threat to his region and that he had the intention and the desire to be a threat much more widely...

Humphries: 45 minutes?

Beckett: John, you and I both know that was a statement that was made once and it was thought to be of such little relevance and perhaps people began to quickly think 'I'm not sure about that'. It was never used once in all the debates or questions in the House...

Humphries: It didn't need to be. It was on the public record.

Beckett: Oh come on. No-one thought it was relevant. Nobody thought it was actually a big sweeping statement.
It's still extraordinary.

Anyway, I was just poking around TheyWorkForYou looking for something else when I found this written Q&A from 19th March 2003:
Paul Flynn: To ask the Prime Minister what plans he has to publish amendments to his assessment in the document 'Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction' presented to the House in September 2002 arising from the evidence of UNMOVIC inspectors on Iraqi (a) bases, (b) presidential palaces and (c) uranium imports.

Tony Blair: I have no plans to publish an amended version of the dossier presented in September 2002, the contents of which still accurately reflect our assessment of the position with regard to Iraq's proscribed weapons programmes.
Let's play spot the liar.

If Beckett was telling the truth about the 45 minute claim, if, as she put it, "people began to quickly think 'I'm not sure about that'", the statement by Blair six months later and one day after the war started is totally indefensible.

Perhaps Gilligan was wrong to say that the government "probably knew that the 45 minutes claim was wrong or questionable" when the dossier was released. Perhaps. Beckett certainly appears to have confirmed that the government knew it was questionable before the war started.

And when Nick Robinson* stripped down Blair's waffle today, it laid bare the ridiculous nature of his position. Again.

Iraq is what should have brought Blair down. Here are some clues as to the reasons why it won't.

And here are the dots being joined up beautifully.

The people who attended the largest demonstration in this country's history weren't fooled by Blair's "evidence". To hear various Conservatives, the very people whose job it is to scrutinise the activities of the government, complaining that they'd been being tricked is derisory. They could have listened to Robin Cook but they were too busy cheering Blair on.

And all this in the name of defending democracy.

If the ancient Greek playwright's were still with us today, I don't think they'd be struggling for inspiration.

* I'd like to say a few more things about Nick's post and might do later if time allows.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Corrections and Clarificatios

For some unknown reason, I'd got it into my head that the mayor of London could only serve a maximum of two four year terms and that Livingstone was therefore not going to be able to run in the 2008 election. That was totally wrong. There is no two term rule and Ken has already said he wants to stand again in 2008.

But hey, I'm 500 miles away from the capital.

Bloody provincials...

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Victory!

As Bush's Iraq surge struggles to do more than add even more chaos to an already highly unstable situation, Blair is about to make an announcement on British troop withdrawals.

The timing is all about the situation on the ground in Iraq; it has absolutely nothing to do with Blair's date of departure. After four years of occupation, it is a coincidence that these two events just happened to, well, coincide. In fact, Basra, Maysan, Muthanna and Dhi Qar, the provinces administered by the British in the south of Iraq, are all jolly peaceful places. Any cynical journalist who doubts this can go see for themselves...

Well, no, they can't. Not easily anyway. One of the ways to understand a little of what the situation is really like in Iraq is to look up the Foreign Office's travel advice. It's one of the few places where the government simply cannot spin.
We strongly advise against all travel to Baghdad and the surrounding area, the provinces of Basra, Maysan, Al Anbar, Salah Ad Din, Diyala, Wasit, Babil, Ninawa and At- Tamim (At -Tamim is often referred to as "Kirkuk Province").

We advise against all but essential travel to the provinces of Al Qadisiyah, Muthanna, Najaf, Karbala, and Dhi Qar. [my emphasis]
So if you want to go and see whether the benefits of the war now outweigh the enormous costs, particularly in human lives, the government advises against it. Even the supposedly peaceful provinces are too dangerous. And as British troops withdraw from these provinces, Western journalists are going to find it increasingly difficult to gain access to these areas. The fog of war, already heavy, will become almost impenetrable.

Perhaps that's why Blair still feels he can spin this as a success.

As General Dannatt famously noted, British troops have been serving no useful purpose down in the south for some considerable time. Any moves to bring them home are long overdue. But as Baghdad continues to unravel and with the government increasingly divided along sectarian lines and fragile in the extreme, any pretence that the operation in Iraq has been a success is clearly risible. Blair's almost certainly about to give it a go all the same.

One further point. That we now know of the existence of a detailed U.S. plan of attack against Iran is not of itself particularly informative; the U.S. military has all sorts of plans for all sorts of everything. That "diplomatic sources" in the U.S. have passed information from that plan to BBC journalists, however, is significant; they don't do that with all of their plans.

There is still the possibility that this is all part of a well constructed bluff, that Bush does understand that attacking Iran is not a credible option. While this would mean that the protests of those opposed to any military action are giving credibility to the bluff and effectively becoming useful idiots for Bush, it's still a comforting possibility. Perhaps he's just bluffing.

Considering everything we know about the man and his still influential vice-Dick, this comforting possibility doesn't appear to be built on anything.

And if Bush makes a move on Iran while there are still a few thousand British troops in the south of Iraq, that could turn really ugly. It'll be bad news for everyone but it could be really bad news for them.

Swift Boat Veterans for the Tories

This post is about 18 Doughty Street. Yes, yes, we're all obsessed leftist moonbats over here.

The thing is, living in a country where the Sun and the Mail are the two best selling daily newspapers, us on "the left"are quite used to having our views misrepresented, marginalised and ridiculed. We're used to not getting a fair hearing in the mainstream media.

(In recent weeks, I've submitted three comments to right of centre media websites; two to the Telegraph and one to the Sun. Not one of the three made it past their moderators. On the other hand, I've never had a comment removed from Comment is Free and it's awash with people expressing anti-Guardianista views. There may be an interesting point there about hypocrisy and defence of the right to free speech in the media.)

We tend to be less hostile to Auntie because she's obliged to be politically neutral. As a result, of course, the Beeb looks to be to the left of much of the rest of the media. Claiming that this is proof of a left bias at the BBC rather silly. This claim is part of a concerted effort to move the "centre" to the right. That's not to say there's a grand conspiracy at work, just a number of right wing media owners and editors all working towards a goal which they believe will benefit themselves and their companies.

This would be all well and good if Murdoch, Wade and Dacre played fair but they don't. For example, the Scum currently sells in Scotland for 15p and it has boobs. I know a fair few people who buy it, some for the sport, some for the boobs but I've never heard anyone say they buy it for the news. But there is a drip, drip, drip effect going on there which pushes a particular political agenda and ridicules another.

And it's worth restating the suggestible nature of the human condition. You, yes, you, are suggestible. Advertising is a multi-billion pound industry for a reason. Have a quick peek in your kitchen cupboards and check how many brand names are in there. Why didn't you buy the cheaper no brand option? We're all suggestible to some extent.

And it's the way that Wade and co. go about things which really damages any possibility of honest political debate. As I've already said, a key component is misrepresentation of the other view. Us "leftists" are well used to having our views turned into strawmen.

So, it's just a tiny bit irritating to see the same thing starting to happen on the interwebs.

Anyway, on Friday, Iain Dale wrote that:
Leftist bloggers seem to think that this blog and 18 Doughty Street are somehow funded by some shady Americans.
As a "leftist blogger" who has been writing about 18 Doughty Street, I decided to make it clear that I wasn't in that camp. I was also curious to know whether Iain could provide any examples of leftist bloggers making these claims:
Iain, could you could provide information as to which "leftist bloggers" have been writing about that? The only time I've ever seen that suggested was in anonymous comments made on your blog. These suggestions are very easy to refute and to ridicule.

In fact, in the spirit of "reaching out", if you point me at any leftist blogs making such claims, I'll happily tell them they're talking crap. 18 D... is funded by Stephan Shakespeare, Tory candidate for Colchester at the 1997 G.E. and ex-mayoral campaign manager for Jeffrey Archer. 18 D... is funded and run by British Conservatives, not Republicans or neo-cons.
Fair enough, I thought. Attempt at a little humour without being needlessly rude. To be fair to Iain, his reply was quick and courteous (he's also fixed the link to individual comments feature which is nice):
Curious Hamster, I have seen it on several sites over the last few weeks, ever since the onslaught on me started. People have queried both my funding and that of 18DS. Someone kept editing my Wikipedia entry to that effect too.

As you say, the only source of funding for 18 Doughty Street is indeed Stephan Shakespeare, something we were totally open about right from the start.
So, no examples for me to go poke fun at. I was disappointed. I did have a sniff around the history of Iain's Wikipedia page - didn't find any mention of funding but it was hardly an extensive search - but it was really the leftist bloggers making those claims I was interested in. Guess I'll just have to keep an eye out for these elusive creatures.

But Iain is quite correct about the openness of the declaration of funding for 18 Doughty Street. Sort of. The relevant section of the 18 Doughty Street FAQ says:
Doughty Media Limited is the company that owns www.18DoughtyStreet.com. The directors of the company are Stephan Shakespeare, Iain Dale, Tim Montgomerie and Donal Blaney. The company is wholly owned and funded by Stephan Shakespeare, the co-founder and Chief Innovations Officer of YouGov Plc.
And I've no reason to doubt that this information is absolutely true. Other information which might be considered relevant, however, makes no appearance.

It is perhaps understandable that Mr Shakespeare is no longer keen to remind people of his close asociation with Lord Archer but some sort of indication of his party political affiliations on that page might just add a little bit more credibility to Iain's claim of total openness. At the moment, the inclusion of his YouGov credentials and omission of his party political credendials creates an impression of political impartiality which isn't entirely accurate.

I also asked Iain another question but over-egged the pudding slightly in my attempt to keep my comment reasonably short:
On a related note, can you confirm that 18 Doughty Street placed an advertisement which stated that it would be "like Fox News"? (Please don't try to spin this; the report I read suggested that 18 D... is a vehicle for the promotion of British Conservatives in the way that Fox News is a vehicle for Republicans in the U.S.)
That report appeared in the Register (via). Iain's answer was interesting:
On your last point, we are not a news channel. However, if people want to say we are like Fox News, I have no objection to that at all. Fox News is highly professional. I am not aware of an advert that said that, and I think it is a fundamental misunderstanding of both the editorial role of Fox News and the Republican Party.

Fox News is totally independent of the Republican Party just as we are totally independent of the Conservative Party. We have a centre right editorial line, in the same way that the Daily Telegraph does. That does not make us slaves to the Conservative Party and more than the Mirror is a slave to the Labour Party.
"I am not aware..."

I'm starting to understand how Paxo feels.

As I said, I over-egged the pudding slightly on the connection between Fox News and the Republicans but "Fox News is totally independent of the Republican Party"? Crikey!

No doubt, the Swift Boat Veterans were totally independent of the Republican Party too.

But let's just repeat one of the lines above, written by 18 Doughty Street's director of scheduled programming:
We have a centre right editorial line, in the same way that the Daily Telegraph does.
Given that that newspaper is commonly called the Torygraph, I can't decide whether Iain is pulling my chain here or what. In any event, Iain's description of 18 Doughty Street's editorial line is not quite the same as the one in their FAQs:
Does 18 Doughty Street have a particular editorial line?

Yes. We are anti-establishment.

A large number of issues that matter to voters going about their everyday lives are deemed too sensitive to debate, or the major political parties have adopted a consensus that prevents fresh, innovative solutions being considered for problems that have plagued Britain for decades. We raise issues where an unhealthy consensus has developed (such as on state funding of political parties or on Britain’s membership of the EU) and we ask questions of our guests from a perspective from which they have rarely been questioned to date.
No mention of centre right there. Perhaps there should be. Just for the sake of openness and transparency.

(By the way, it surely can't be just us lefties who think it's bizarre that this venture, owned and staffed by conservatives, describes itself as anti-establishment. Unless I've misunderstood the whole point of conservatism, it's just silly. We establishment radicals should not stand for it...)

The fact is that 18 Doughty Street is owned and operated by members of the British Conservative Party. The specific purpose of the channel is to promote a right of centre agenda. I don't think it's too much of a stretch to conclude that promotion of this agenda will include attempts to help the Tories win the London mayoral election, other local elections and the big one; the next general election.

Of itself, there's nothing wrong with that. The way they've sought to present their agenda, however, doesn't inspire a great deal of confidence in the future of British politics.

Update

Credit Beau Bo D’Or

Update 2

And another. Heh.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Not merely inadequate but also misleading

Yesterday's High Court ruling stating that the government's consultation on energy policy had been "seriously flawed" was both extraordinary and totally unsurprising. As with consultation on the possible replacement of the U.K.'s WMD delivery system, it was always clear that the decision had preceded the "consultation". In fact, these consultations were actually government attempts to sell decisions which had already been taken.

As Blair continues to drag out his departure to the detriment of his party and the country, what was most extraordinary about yesterday's ruling was his response to it. The judge agreed with Greenpeace's contention that the consultation had not adequately addressed the issue of radioactive waste and the costs of dealing with it.

It's a major area of concern with regard to nuclear power and one which has been consistently marginalised over the years. There is a very real possibility that the costs of dealing with nuclear waste (and of decommissioning of obsolete plants) will have to be paid for with large public subsidies at some future point. The judge ordered the government to conduct another consultation so that these issues could be properly considered.

And Blair said:
This won't affect the policy at all.
So there you are.

At least he's decided to drop any pretence that the government ever intended to conduct a meaningful consultation with the public before making a decision.

By the way, underneath all this, there's an interesting discussion to be had on the strengths and weaknesses of representative democracy as compared to direct democracy. Roy Hattersley, a representative democracy sort of chap, raised this on Question Time last night. What I would say is that representative democracy in what is essentially a two party system, particularly one in which the party whips play such a powerful role, isn't working. Public confidence in the current system is at an all time low and Blair's pretend consultations have made that worse, not better.

Anyway, with modern technologies now creating new possibilities for expanding the role of direct democracy, this whole area needs to be looked at very carefully. And the first question is, should decisions on this issue be taken by our elected representatives or by the people a whole?

While you think abut that, I'm off to chase my own tail.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

After being threatened with court action for publishing an article related to "Guido's" past, Sunny at Pickled Politics agreed to interview him so that he could put his side of the story. Sunny agreed to the interview in good faith. Judge for yourself whether that good faith was reciprocated.

See also today's suggestion that it was all a Brownite plot to smear the fearless Guido.

As Alistair Campbell could not doubt tell you, spin is most effective when the truth can be successfully suppressed.
Unity has spotted Iain displaying his extensive knowledge of local politics to amusing effect.

The People's Republic of Camden?

In light of a recent refusal to address certain questions, this might go some way to explaining the existence of the Great Firewall of a certain Tory blogger.

(The above recycled from Unity's comments because Unity got in first with the Little Blue Book joke.)

Independent Research

Just noticed an interesting article on Policy Exchange which appeared in the Guardian a couple of days ago. Before linking to this article, here are the authors credentials:
Marie Breen Smyth and Jeroen Gunning are director and deputy director of the Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Contemporary Political Violence at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth.
Given that the article relates to a specific Policy Exchange report concerning their own area of study, it seems highly unlikely that these authors are coming at P.E. from the same direction that some of us on the interwebs have been recently.

The article is called The Abuse of Research
As political parties set out their stalls of new ideas in preparation for a general election, the increasing influence of privately funded research on political discussion will demand closer scrutiny. Private thinktanks are increasingly shaping national debates in the media, something made possible through the private funds required for high-profile launches, websites and email campaigns.

A striking example of this symbiotic relationship is Policy Exchange's report Living Apart Together, on Muslim social attitudes, which is officially launched today. It was released to the press two weeks ago to provide research cover for David Cameron's speech attacking multiculturalism and prominent Muslim organisations. The report included claims that a significant minority of Muslims were "living apart" from British society, claims that were widely reported in the media and appeared to legitimise Conservative party rhetoric.

Yet few reports made clear that Policy Exchange has an explicit political agenda. Michael Gove, the Conservative MP and author of the book Celsius 7/7 - How the West's Policy of Appeasement Has Provoked Fundamentalist Terror and What Has to Be Done Now, is a founding chairman of Policy Exchange. And he has made it clear that thinktanks are crucial for the next general election campaign, stating that "a precursor to electoral victory is victory in the battle of ideas and the battle for the agenda".

The politicisation of research can lead to serious distortions in debates on policy issues. Debates about multiculturalism, security and British Muslims are bound to have a central place in the next election.

A closer scrutiny, however, suggests the report cannot be regarded as a reliable guide to formulating policy. Its findings are at odds with much other research, which would not be a problem if the writers engaged with the body of scholarship in this field. But without such an engagement, their validity remains dubious.
Note also the opinion of the academics of the actual result of this "independent" report:
Reports such as Living Apart Together in fact contribute to problems of "living together" by constructing a homogeneous category of British Muslims on the basis of certain alleged differences between "them" and other Britons. [my emphasis]
So, according to these academics working in this field, the Policy Exchange report, released to the press on the day Cameron made a keynote speech attacking multiculturalism, was counter-productive and of dubious validity. But did appear to legitimise Conservative Party rhetoric.

Who would have thought it?

The Evidence

On Sunday, on condition of anonymity, U.S. officials told reporters that they had evidence which showed that Iranian weapons were being smuggled into Iraq on the orders of the highest levels of the Iranian government.

On Wednesday, General Pace, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, said something entirely different. He agreed that weapons manufactured in Iran had been found in Iraq but went on to say that:
I would not say by what I know that the Iranian government clearly knows or is complicit.
Later on Wednesday, Bush attempted to tread a line between these two positions. He claimed that the Iranian Quds Force was the source for the weapons but that:
I don't think we know who picked up the phone and said to the Quds Force: 'Go do this'.
So that's all totally unambiguous then...

Here are a couple more things to bear in mind when considering the possibility of direct Iranian government involvement in weapons transfers.

During his short time as head of the CPA, Paul Bremer managed to lose several billion dollars of Iraq's money. It is almost certain that that some of this money found its way into the hands of insurgents who had infliltrated many of Iraq's ministries. It is highly likely that some of this money has been used to fund attacks on U.S soldiers. This does not, however, suggest that the U.S. government deliberately aided the insurgents; it suggests that Bremer was an idiot who had no real control or understanding of a very unstable situation.

Today in Iraq, "U.S. issued Glock and Walther 9-millimeter pistols, and pristine, unused Kalashnikovs" are readily available on the black market. These weapons have been distributed by the U.S. authorities to Iraq's security forces and are then sold on to the black market by members and ex-members of those forces. It is almost certain that some of these U.S. issued weapons have been bought by insurgents and used in attacks against U.S. soldiers. This does not, however, suggest that the U.S. government deliberately aided the insurgents; it suggests that in a chaotic place like Iraq, many things happen which are beyond the control of the world's only hyperpower.

If there are Iranian weapons being used against U.S. forces in Iraq, there are any number of possible explanations. Milo Minderbinder would understand that just as General Pace appears to.

Bush however, appears determined to fix the intelligence and facts around the policy he's already decided he wants to adopt. Again.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Sound of Silence

The European Parliament has approved a report condemning a number of European countries for their involvement in and/or silent acquiescence of extraordinary rendition.

It is only a matter of time before the PMOS utters those immortal words yet again. Move along now, nothing to see here...

And, disgracefully, they'll probably get away with it too.

There's a clue as to why Blair will probably get away with it here.

A further clue is to be found in the contribution to today's debate made by Conservative MEP Charles Tannock:
I was opposed from the very start to the Temporary Committee. It has proven to be an expensive exercise. We do not have any figures but I estimate the cost to be over EUR 1 million. It has duplicated Senator Marty's efforts in the Council of Europe and has produced nothing substantially new which was not already in the public domain. Regrettably the Left and Liberals cannot resist an opportunity to bash NATO and the United States which, in spite of making mistakes, remains a democracy which shares European common values and is our ally in the fight against global terrorism.

The Fava report is heavy on allegations and accusations, but light on conclusive proof. Inevitably some mistakes and excesses may have occurred but in my opinion there was no systematic US policy for extraordinary renditions to illegally torture abductees in third countries or any proof of the existence of CIA detention camps in Romania or Poland.
Take out the gratuitous leftie bashing (or maybe not) and you could easily imagine that the above was the work of a mindless Blairite drone.

That doesn't excuse Blair's behaviour in any way, of course. What it does highlight is the way that Blair's refusal to address the whole issue of extraordinary rendition has been greatly aided not just by the silence of a large part of the Labour Party but also by a similar silence on the part of the Conservatives (a few backbenchers aside). With Cameron now looking to appeal to voters with his rebranded "liberal compassionate conservatism", his silence on this issue is worth bearing in mind.

Freedom of Information

If you're a fan of free speech, defending the forums in which is practised should be an ongoing activity. It is my opinion that total anarchy does not actually enable free speech; total anarchy allows unscrupulous bullies to dominate the forum and silence, ridicule or otherwise marginalise those they do not wish to be heard. This is detrimental to the right to free speech.

Anyway, Tim at Bloggerheads has a succinct summary of the state of play in the "blog war". The linked posts are all worth clicking through also.

On "Guido", Paul Staines is a man who publishes his own "tittle-tattle, gossip and rumours" through a company based in Nevis so as to limit his exposure to British libel laws. He is a man who then taunts those he has written about with that fact.
Guido has a mini-corporation behind him, Global & General Nominees LLC of Nevis. If you want to sue the publishers go ahead, the office for service is properly registered in accordance with the law. The laws of the island require that the plaintiff first deposits US$25,000 with the court before commencing action. Guido will defend himself vigorously.
- Paul Staines
He is a man who allows people to be smeared in the most extraordinary way in the comments to his blog.

And he is a man who threatened to take to court those blogger who republished an article about him which was printed by the Guardian and never retracted. It is an article which is still in the public domain and which is available to anyone with a subscription to the Lexis-Nexis database. Note that it was the little guys who Paul threatened with legal action.

He is, in short, a hypocrite and a bully.

On Iain Dale, I've decided to take down the button. This is not because he's offered a genuine apology; he hasn't; I'm taking it down because he went on record at his blog with an explanation of sorts. It spoke volumes that he he didn't provide a link to the relevant post so that his readers could judge for themselves whether his explanation was plausible. For a man who claims to like blogging because it enables conversation, it's a strange way to behave. It's impossible to resist suggesting that he might be well served by looking up the word "conversation" in his dictionary too.

As for Iain's call for a ceasefire, everything you need to know about Iain's "olive branch" is encapsulated in the following:
In the spirit of reaching out to those who seem to have developed an unhealthy obsession with me...
What class.

Throughout all of this, by deploying a variety of techniques, Mr Dale has consistently managed to avoid meaningfully addressing questions about Nick Boles and Policy Exchange. Emails to Mr Boles at Policy Exchange asking for clarification of certain issues (as recommended by Policy Exchange trustee Iain) have so far been ignored.

For me (the only person I ever speak for), those questions were never about Brownite revenge or attempts to protect the man. The fact that Policy Exchange trustee Iain had made a film criticising the Smith Institute was interesting because it seemed that there was a possibility of Pots and Kettles. It was doubly irresistible because Iain himself likes to hand out Pots and Kettles awards (for the record, I agree with the actual contents of that post).

But answers on the activities of Policy Exchange were not forthcoming. Attempts to have those questions answered will be ongoing.

As I said in the comments to a previous post, there's nothing like a bit of openness and transparency...

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Russians are Coming

Vladimir Putin made a very significant speech this weekend. An edited version is now available on Comment is Free. The central theme of his speech is encapsulated in this paragraph:
Today we are witnessing an almost unrestrained hyper-use of force - military force - in international relations, a force that is plunging the world into an abyss of permanent conflicts. As a result we do not have sufficient strength to find a comprehensive solution to any one of these conflicts. Finding a political settlement also becomes impossible. We are seeing a greater and greater disdain for the basic principles of international law. One country, the United States, has overstepped its national borders in every way. This is visible in the economic, political, cultural and educational policies it imposes on other nations.
Putin, the wily ex-KGB officer, knows full well that it's a message which will be well received by huge numbers of people all over the world. I certainly can't find much fault with the message itself but that doesn't mean it's time to join the Vladimir fan club. Putin is seeking to exploit the whole "enemy of my enemy is my friend" thing but he's really not the sort of man progressives ought to be befriending.

And not just because of Alexander Litvinenko, Chechnya, or Russian restrictions on the operation of NGO's.

There are underlying motivations to Putin's speech and they shouldn't be ignored. Russia's involvement with the Iranian nuclear programme and it's wider economic relationship with Iran is the most obvious. Putin's opposition to military action against Iran should be welcomed but it should also be recognised that it's a position based largely in a desire to protect Russian national interests.

And, while it would be an exaggeration to say that Putin seeks a return to the days of the Cold War, it is clear that this speech signals a desire to build a new coalition which would challenge the current hegemony of the United States. Potential allies might include China and India but there's no doubt that Putin expects Russia to lead this new alliance. Again, Russian national interests are the driving force in this desire to challenge American dominance of international relations.

This might still appear useful to progressives worried about the current U.S. administration's unilateral approach to international affairs but it doesn't offer the prospect of any real reform of the way nation-states interact with each other. Putin isn't standing up for multilateralism, he's attempting to recreate a bipolar world with his nation at the head of one of the two dominant blocks.

Putin's message may be appealing but his proposed solution is a return to the past, not a step into the future.

Monday, February 12, 2007

"Blog Wars"

"Guido" has agreed to give an interview to Sunny at Pickled Politics. He wants a "fair hearing" apparently. Now there's an irony of genuinely monumental proportions. Fair play to Sunny for offering Paul something which Paul himself never considers offering to others. Likewise Tim and Justin and others.

Given his own attitude towards such things, it will be interesting to hear Paul explain why he threw a hissy fit and threatened to take everyone to court yesterday. Whatever happened to "If you don't like it, don't read it"?

Meanwhile, Iain has decided that playing the victim card is the way to go after all. How very noble...

I didn't highlight this before, but here's a further titbit about Iain which might explain a little more about the reason why he's become involved in the "blog war". After my post on his refusal to answer my questions on Nicholas Boles, Policy Exchange and a certain party political issue - a genuine attempt to ask questions on matters of fact - Iain turned up in the comments to my post to say this:
nice to see you have deleted my comment I left last night.
I've checked and the comment was definitely left by someone signed in using Iain's blogger account. I think it's reasonably safe to assume that it was Iain. As I said at the time, I did no such thing. Iain did not respond again however; he was happy to just leave his allegation hanging there.

Now, it seems to me that there are two possibilities here. The first is that Iain made a spurious accusation against me in an attempt to deflect attention and/or make me look bad.

The second is that Blogger somehow lost Iain's comment. Since I switched from Haloscan to Blogger comments, no-one has ever made a complaint about a missing comment before and I'm not aware of this being a problem for Blogger users. Nevertheless, the possibility cannot be ruled out completely.

Iain, however, certainly did rule out that possibility. He made a specific and unqualified allegation against me which was entirely false. When challenged, he didn't withdraw it or offer an apology; he let it stand. That's not the sort of thing you'd expect from someone who says they like blogging because it enables conversation. At best, Iain has made an ill-advised claim in the heat of the moment which he now ought to withdraw. At worst, he has deliberately attempted to smear me.

I'm not really a fan of the victim card myself but I'd ask you to consider what chance I'd have of getting Iain to retract his spurious accusation.

Again, I must stress that for me, this whole issue is only coincidentally related to left and right. What I'm currently attempting to do is point out the ways in which two of the U.K.'s most prominent bloggers behave.

It'd be nice to think that these two people, underneath it all, are human beings who might now be reflecting on the way they treat other people on the interwebs. At this stage, however, and particularly in light of Iain's post today, I have to say that that doesn't look likely.

Update

More reactions to Iain's latest post.

Bloggerheads: Iain Dale plays the victim... again

Ministry of Truth: Open Letter to Iain Dale

Obsolete: Ceasefire?

Tygerland: Iain's Wet Rebuttal
Busy again this morning but here's something I've noticed.

That post by "Guido" attempting to mock Tom Watson for having to disappear a story has, er, disappeared. It's not been corrected or updated, it's just vanished into the ether. You'd never even know it had been there if you hadn't seen "Guido's" site yesterday.

Interesting.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

President George W. Bush has finally gone on record with specific allegations against the Iranian government. Oh no, hang on:
The US officials, speaking off camera on condition of anonymity...
What's that all about then?
Scottish Blog Roundup 18 is out now.

Yes, it's late. Bet you can't guess whose turn it was this week...

Friday, February 09, 2007

Been busy today but I can't help but notice that Iain still hasn't apologised. In light of that, I've taken the opportunity to add a button to the blog to highlight a true statement. Just to emphasise the point, the difference between this and a smear is that this is a true statement.

Get them while they're hot.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Guardian: How the US sent $12bn in cash to Iraq. And watched it vanish
Paul Bremer, the head of the CPA, reminded the committee that "the subject of today's hearing is the CPA's use and accounting for funds belonging to the Iraqi people held in the so-called Development Fund for Iraq. These are not appropriated American funds. They are Iraqi funds. I believe the CPA discharged its responsibilities to manage these Iraqi funds on behalf of the Iraqi people."

Bremer's financial adviser, retired Admiral David Oliver, is even more direct. The memorandum quotes an interview with the BBC World Service. Asked what had happened to the $8.8bn he replied: "I have no idea. I can't tell you whether or not the money went to the right things or didn't - nor do I actually think it's important."

Q: "But the fact is billions of dollars have disappeared without trace."

Oliver: "Of their money. Billions of dollars of their money, yeah I understand. I'm saying what difference does it make?"

Brian 1 - 0 Politicians

Brian Haw has won this year's Channel 4 award for Most Inspiring Political Figure.
Mr Haw received 54 per cent of the votes cast by the public in the channel's political awards for 2007.

Gen Sir Richard Dannatt, the head of the British Army, who embarrassed the Government by saying troops should be withdrawn from Iraq, came second with 18 per cent.

Tony Blair was backed by eight per cent and David Cameron by six per cent.
Excellent.

Like one tiny water molecule in a very large wave, my own small effort to encourage people to vote for Brian was entirely surplus to requirements.

The boy wonder's six percent really is quite astonishing. He polled even fewer votes than the stupendously unpopular Mr Blair.

When Cameron told Blair that "he was the future once" he was right. Now, of course, he's finished (although he appears not to have realised it). It's hard to even be interested in pointing out the absurdities of what he says any more. Proper enquiries into his behaviour during his time at Number 10, particularly with regard to Iraq, are what I'm waiting for now.

And yet, the boy wonder, as leader of the opposition to a government which is widely reviled, still doesn't seem to be the future.

(And the Lib Dems are not going any better either. They really need to up their game.)

We can safely assume that the result of the Channel 4 vote demonstrates the unprecedented levels of public dissatisfaction with politicians of all stripes which currently exists in this country. Rather than fighting over the scraps using the same methods (sometimes wrapped up in shiny new packaging), politicians should be attempting to rebuild confidence and genuinely re-engage with the badly disillusioned public.

The opportunity is there. People still care about politics; they just don't care for scheming politicians.

PS - "Guido" is a tool.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Bloggerheads: Iain Dale is a lying liar.

Update

Iain Dale is a liar!

Iain is having a "rare" night off tonight so it looks like an apology is not imminent.

It would be churlish to speculate as to whether he's preparing the full apology or the already overused victim card. Decisions, decisions...
Simon Jenkins: This aerial onslaught is war at its most stupid
Watching a person kill another is the purest horror. Watching it done from the air, from a sanitised distance, is less so. Distance launders the bloodletting and technology purifies it. War becomes another video game. The camera sees no broken bodies. If it sees a mistake it does not see the mistake that caused the mistake.

The Non-Existent Neo-Con Nonsense

Guido 2.0: Iain Dale and the non-existent neo-cons

Iain 1 - 0 Strawman

Thinking about this, and looking back on previous posts, I've realised that I'd been rather careless in something I'd written last week about 18 Tory Street. I wrote:
Fox News Lite was exactly what it looked like.
This was careless in two ways.
  1. It would be very easy to misrepresent what I meant.
  2. It is possible that some people genuinely misunderstood what I meant.
It was one of those moments where I knew what I meant and didn't clarify the matter because I presumed it was obvious. Careless.

To avoid any possible confusion, here's a clarification of the point I wanted to make. The short version is that 18 Tory Street looks exactly like Fox News Lite in the context of the British political scene.

Fox News is stacked full of neo-cons and various other Republicans talking heads discussing whatever subject from an (American) conservative perspective. Internal memos from the man responsible for the editorial direction of FOX News clearly demonstrate a desire to push the agenda of the Republican Party. They do this under the banner "Fair and Balanced". Satire truly is dead.

18 Doughty Street is not literally exactly like that. It isn't stacked full of neo-cons and various other Republican talking heads. That isn't the point of the comparison at all.

18 Doughty Street is about the Tories, not the neo-cons.
18DoughtyStreet Talk TV launched in October as Britain's first political internet TV channel. It describes itself as "an anti-establishment TV station on the internet" with "citizen journalist reporters" who will be "championing rebel opinions" and "constantly questioning authority". But its five directors are all former Conservative candidates or employees and it advertised for staff in America with the claim that it would be "Like Fox News".

18DoughtyStreet streams up to five hours a night of political chat (talk radio for the eyes) untroubled by Ofcom regulations that require "due impartiality" from broadcasters. And it is not subject to Ofcom's Broadcasting Code that states, "No politician may be used as a newsreader, interviewer or reporter in any news programmes unless, exceptionally, it is editorially justified. In that case, the political allegiance of that person must be made clear to the audience."
It's like Fox News in the context of the British political scene. It's stacked full of Tories and various other conservative talking heads.

Now, you may say that an internet TV station directed by former Conservative candidates or employees is obviously going to strongly favour the Tories and you'd be right.

Sometimes, it can be a good thing to state the obvious. This is especially true when there are signs that "anti-establishment" positioning and use of "citizen journalist reporters" is intended to draw attention away from the obvious and add "real world" authenticity to a venture clearly run by members of the Conservative Party.

(Just to clarify, as well as Iain, I believe that actual real world citizen journalists are also used occasionally. That provides bonus authenticity points. They might not be quite so keen on citizen journalism if someone wanted to make a film about Nicholas Boles using time and/or facilities provided by Policy Exchange to create a home for a personal website with a clear party-political purpose, however.)

18 Tory Street is not currently subject to Ofcom's Broadcasting Code. For this reason if no other, some scrutiny of their activities is almost certainly in order.

Do the directors of 18 Tory Street welcome that scrutiny? Perhaps it's too early to come to a definitive conclusion but one of them doesn't appear to be hugely enamoured by the idea.
New Statesmen: Not Bright's Blog III - Guido j'accuse!
British political blogging saw an outburst of internecine strife in the last few weeks as two of blogging’s biggest names trained their artillery on each other.

Campaigning blogger, Tim Ireland of Bloggerheads fame, broke a fragile ceasefire by opening a front on the notorious Westminster gossip peddler Guido Fawkes. Tim’s beef with Guido is largely a charge of rank hypocrisy.
Read more.

Top stuff.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Fog of War

Jalal Sharafi, an Iranian diplomat, has apparently been kidnapped in Iraq.

The Iranians are claiming that the kidnapping was the work of a group linked to Iraq's defence ministry "which works under the supervision of American forces". The American authorities have denied any involvement.

The kidnappers were wearing Iraqi army uniforms (36th Commando Battalion) and there is a possibility that were carrying official Defence Ministry identification.
A senior Iraqi official said that the credentials initially appeared to be genuine but that investigators later received conflicting information about whether the men had been dismissed from the ministry but somehow kept their identification.
According to Reuters, six of the kidnappers were caught by the Iraqi police but have since disappeared.
The official said that police close to the scene opened fire on the gunmen and arrested six of them. Later, another security force came to the police station and said they were taking the six to the Serious Crimes building in Baghdad but the police discovered later that they never arrived there.
Curiouser and curiouser.

In truth, there's really know way to know what actually happened to Mr Sharifi. There are any number of possibilities and speculating on those possibilities is probably pointless. It is strange that the captured kidnappers seem to have vanished but strange things happen in Iraq every day.

What is clear is that this kidnapping is only going to increase the current extremely high levels of tension between the U.S. and Iranian government's.
This is an experiment. Please ignore.
Iain has just switched on comment moderation. Interesting.

Who thinks the most outlandish anonymous allegations, and hence the easiest to refute, are the one's most likely to make it past Mr Moderator? Just so his readers know what Iain has to deal with, you understand...

Anyway, it's competition time. Your specialist subject is Nicholas Boles.

Monday, February 05, 2007

The Richard Gere Moment

That name had to come up eventually and now it has finally happened. I've blogged as CuriousHamster for nearly two years now so I suppose I should be grateful it has taken this long but I've always known it was only a matter of time before someone took the obvious cheap shot. Tonight's the night. I'm not good at all that suspense stuff so I'll tell you who it was straight away. It was Iain Dale.

For a full understanding of the rest of this, you'll need to have read this first.

OK?

Right, here are some facts.

Iain Dale is a trustee of a think tank called Policy Exchange.

Iain Dale is also one of the directors of 18 Doughty Street. He's in charge of scheduled programming.

18 Doughty Street is about to make an attack ad targeting Ken Livingstone, the current Labour major of London.

Nicholas Boles is the director of Policy Exchange.

Nicholas Boles is also reported to be the front-runner in the race to become Conservative candidate for major of London. Although Ken won't be standing again, any attacks on the current Labour major which drives down Labour's poll ratings could be of significant benefit the Tories come election time. In particular, they could be of significant benefit to Nicholas Boles.

In the interest of openness and transparency, I thought I'd ask Iain about these facts in the comments to his post plugging the attack on Livingstone. Iain's answers are most revealing but perhaps not in quite the way he'd like.

So is Mr Boles, the Policy Exchange director, still the front front-runner to be the Conservatives London mayoral candidate? Who knows? It's difficult to tell from Iain's answers whether he's even still a candidate.

I didn't think it was appropriate to trouble an independent charity with a request for information on what is obviously a party political issue so I've emailed a request for a full list of the candidates to Conservative HQ instead. Can't imagine it's the sort of thing the Conservatives are keeping secret so we'll hopefully find out what Mr Boles' position is soon enough. I've said this already but it really is quite surprising that Iain doesn't know.

Anyway, I'd like to point out for the record that I have never met Richard Gere. Not even once.

And finally tonight, a quickfire quizz. Who said "It's when I read this sort of rubbish that I know it's hitting home"? Was it:
A) Pete Doherty
B) Rocky VIII
C) Iain Dale
And at the buzzer...

Update

Just in case anyone isn't aware of it, this unlikely possibility having only just occurred to me, the Gere story is an urban myth. And the Great Wall of China is not the only man made object visible from space either. Vigorously mock anyone who suggests that it is. The wall is how wide exactly? And that's wider than, say, a motorway then, is it? Urban myths. Bah!

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Tree Hugging Hippy Crap

Yesterday, the U.S. government published their latest National Intelligence Estimate.
The intelligence community judges that the term 'civil war' does not adequately capture the complexity of the conflict in Iraq, which includes extensive Shia-on-Shia violence, al-Qaida and Sunni insurgent attacks on coalition forces, and widespread criminally motivated violence.

"None the less, the term 'civil war' accurately describes key elements of the Iraqi conflict, including the hardening of ethno-sectarian identities, a sea change in the character of the violence, ethno-sectarian mobilisation, and population displacements."
The 16 separate U.S. intelligence services who together compile the report, on the record, said that Iraq's civil war is only one of the problems facing the country.

I guess all 16 agencies have been infiltrated and subverted by those dastardly Bush hating liberal media types...

There was also supposed to be a briefing on Iranian "meddling" in Iraq yesterday but that has been postponed (via).

The NIE downplays Iranian involvement in Iraq's sectarian violence.
The involvement of these outside actors is not likely to be a major driver of violence or the prospects for stability because of the self-sustaining character of Iraq's internal sectarian dynamics.
Bloody appeasers...

Friday, February 02, 2007

Tim at Bloggerheads has been trying to ask Iain Dale some questions this week. I've had a wee go too.

A brief summary of the state of play so far.

Iain Dale made a film claiming that the Smith Institute, which operates as an independent charity, is too close to Gordon Brown.

Iain Dale is a trustee of right centre think tank Policy Exchange.

Policy Exchange, which operates as an independent charity, looks to be just a bit close to David Cameron.

Questions were asked about this.

Iain's response has been most informative. New Labour trolls? Oh dear.

The Long Goodbye, Part 94

The captain is merrily steering the ship directly towards an enormous iceberg, every alarm on board is flashing in that way that really alarming alarms do, and the crew are still busy discussing the finer points of a smooth and orderly transition.

Those of a sensitive disposition may want to look away now.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

The Questions Iain Dale Should Answer

First, an important point. I don't have a problem with Tories blogging. I have a problem with these Tories blogging.

Personally, I have no interest in playing down the Smith Institute story or diverting attention away from it. My view is that both main parties sail very close to the wind when it comes to their relationship to "independent" think tanks. This is about something else.

The short version (a longer version is in the pipeline) is that the Tories may finally be managing to create the impression that they are electable and that they're using the interwebs as an important part of that process. As such, their behaviour ought to be scrutinised in a way that it really hasn't been up till now. I believe this is essential if we are to have any hope of actually improving the standard of behaviour of our politicians, particularly on the interwebs but more generally too. I'm sure most people (party types aside) would agree that an improvement is desperately needed.

So, following on from Unity's post on Policy Exchange, I did some googling to see what other people had to say about this "independent" think tank and it's director

The Globalisation Institute: Britain's most influential policy wonks
Nicholas Boles is part of the Notting Hill Set of Conservatives surrounding Tory leader David Cameron. The think tank he founded, Policy Exchange, very much sets the ethos of the Cameron leadership, and publications from Boles's organisation are very likely to be adopted by Cameron as Tory policy. A future Cabinet minister.
Spin Watch: After Blair
But The Smith Institute, named after ex-Labour leader John Smith and set up to pursue a social justice agenda, is closest to Brown. Bell Pottinger's Bingle goes as far as to say: 'The Smith Institute will provide the strategy and context under which Brown operates. [Its director] Wilf Stevenson is the holder of the Brown agenda, bringing it all together and moulding it.'

Policy Exchange has correspondingly strong ties to Cameron. It was set up three years ago by director Nicholas Bowles, the MP Michael Gove and Francis Maude.

Bowles says its key areas of interest will be economic competitiveness, security and terrorism, childcare, the environment and public service reform. A main income source is a 'business forum' that companies pay £5,000 to £10,000 to be part of. Members include BP, SAB Miller, BSkyB and Bupa.

'Corporates want intelligence about the policy directions and instincts of how a Cameron-led government would think', he explains.
[my emphasis]
An "independent" charity which openly charges money to corporations for providing inside intelligence on the way the leader of the Conservative Party thinks?

Here's my favourite.

Reform (no lefties there): The champions of New Politics
Policy Exchange (PE), founded by Tory MP Michael Gove and chaired by the former Daily Telegraph editor Charles Moore, is closely tied to David Cameron.

[...]

While Reform's closest links at the top of the Tory party are with David Davis, the home secretary, Policy Exchange is tied to Cameron and his 'Notting Hill' advisors.

Policy Exchange claims to be the most progressive of the Tory think tanks. Boles, 41, is severely critical of Blair, arguing that his failure to be radical during his third tenure has been a disaster for him and the government. PE has about 15 different events and interviews on the fringe at Bournemouth this week and it's a fair bet that Boles will have had a hand in Cameron's big speech tomorrow.
[my emphasis]
The director of an "independent" think-tank being rude about Tony Blair and helping the boy wonder write his conference speech?

And here's Jesse Norman, a senior fellow at Policy Exchange and already selected as a Conservative candidate at the next election, having a wee cheer for Cameron and a wee pop at Brown (and plugging a book) in the comments at CiF. I hope he wasn't doing that on "independent" charity time...

So when Iain Dale, Conservative A-lister and trustee of the "independent" Policy Exchange, Cameron's favourite conservative think tank, makes lots of noise on the interwebs about Brown's overly close connections to an "independent" charity while failing to mention his own connections to a very similar organisation with very similar connections to the boy wonder, I'm inclined to believe that it wasn't a great day for standards of openness and transparency in political life on the interwebs. I am, rather, inclined to think about pots and kettles, glass houses and dirty tricks.

That's what this is about.