Daily View 2×2: 17 July 2009

2 Big Stories

Troops need more, says Dannett

The BBC has the interview and the story:

The head of the UK Army has said better equipment is needed to protect troops from roadside bombs in Afghanistan. General Sir Richard Dannatt told the BBC troops “needed more” and added that he would be compiling a shopping list of what was required. … The general’s comments will be seen as careful “parting shots”. …

In return for their service, he says more money needs to be spent on equipment for British forces in Afghanistan. Earlier this week, the general – on his last trip to Afghanistan before he stands down – revealed he was being flown around in an American helicopter because no British alternative was available. In response, ministers have pointed out that all coalition helicopters in Afghanistan are available for use by all NATO allies.

But the row over helicopters is, says the Lib Dems’ shadow defence secretary Nick Harvey, by no means the only problem with the Government’s current Afghanistan strategy:

It has been clear for years that there has not been enough helicopter capacity, but the Government has failed to respond. Our Armed Forces are now paying a heavy price for this, which will simply get worse unless ministers urgently procure more helicopters. But we will not win in Afghanistan by military means alone.

“Helicopters and armoured vehicles will save British lives, but they will not solve the fundamental problem of a strategic stalemate in the country. The Government needs clear, realistic objectives for what it intends to achieve in Afghanistan – something which it has so far lacked.

“The Government’s plan to patch up ageing Puma helicopters is misguided – getting new Merlin helicopters into the field instead would be much safer for our troops and in the long run better value for the taxpayer.”

Shortest Commons session for 30 years end

Ah, the paradox! On the one hand the press chastises politicians for busy-bodily interfering in our everyday lives; and yet still journalists feel the compulsion to accuse those same politicians of a dereliction of duty for “going on holiday” until October. Because apparently spending time in your constituency doesn’t count as real work. Hmmm. Here’s The Times:

MPs depart from Westminster for 82 days on Tuesday, one of their longest breaks in years. … In terms of days spent in Parliament, the current session will have been the shortest for nearly 30 years. The Commons will have sat for only 128 days from the State Opening on December 3 until the prorogation, and that has caused unease among some MPs.

Simon Hughes is one of those who thinks Parliament must sit for longer:

Everybody would understand if Parliament was not sitting when schools were on holiday. But nobody outside Parliament understands how we can leave Westminster on July 21 and not come back until October 12, and do our job properly.”

2 must-read blog-posts

The Fernandos expose a wider failure (James Graham)

The defection yesterday of the Fernando siblings, on one level, is quite easy to laugh off. If Chamali and Chandila are “senior” party members … then I must be one of the most senior party members out there. Been a member for five minutes? Not elected to anything? Well, on that basis David Cameron wants to hear from you too! … Once the laughter dies down however, the party needs to wake up to some home truths. Specifically, we really are failing get BAME candidates selected in winnable seats.

Well done, Pullman, Horovitz, Morpurgo and Fine (David Boyle)

I must say, I cheered when I read about Philip Pullman and his friends, and their brave stand against the government’s latest child protection database horror. … Like CRB checks for people working with children, this kind of database simply gives the illusion of safety, and by doing so makes people less vigilant. In fact, like so much New Labour regulation, it punishes, frustrates and molests people who comply, but makes it easier for those who don’t – the real fraudsters or paedophiles – to slip through the net.

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