Yo – Blair – speak for us, not US

I have been shocked and saddened by the events unfolding in Lebanon. As I write, the human toll of this latest conflict is more than 400 deaths, 90% of those Lebanese – mostly civilian. While no-one can condone hostage taking by terrorists, Israel is showing an arrogant contempt for human rights and international law. Wholesale bombardment of civilian areas in another country is an outrageous response to the hostage taking. Can any of us have imagined the RAF being scrambled in responses to IRA outages in the seventies and eighties? Of course not – but what is the difference? How sad, then, that the British government did not feel it could condemn Israel’s response and call for an immediate cease-fire.

One thing is certain, brute force alone will not stop the terrorists that plague Israel and her neighbours. Only dialogue can ever lead to any improvement in the situation. I fear that Israel’s heavy-handed response is more likely to serve as a recruiting sargeant for the terrorists. We in Britain have learned this – and that is why the situation in Northern Ireland has improved so much since meaningful dialogue began.

Once again, British foreign policy seems to be slavishly following the Bush agenda. Once again, I am led to question the so-called special relationship between the UK and the US. It seems to be all one-way traffic.

This morning, I hear that there is a possibility of a UN or an EU peacekeeping force being allowed in to Lebanon. I sincerely hope that Britain will be part of it – with or without George W Bush’s permission.

The beginning of the end

When Tony Blair came to Downing Street, it was on an almost euphoric wave of public goodwill. Blair promised to clean up politics, and oh how we wanted him to succeed. How ironic that the issue that will probably ensure Blair goes sooner rather than later is that of sleaze. The arrest of Lord Levy (or Lord Cashpoint as he is known in New Labour circles) could hardly be more embarrassing to Blair. They are so close that they even play tennis together. Whilst it is fair to point out that Levy hasn’t been charged with anything yet, it is now hard to see how the police investigation can avoid the questions that must be directed to Blair himself. One US President famously had a sign on his desk which read ‘The buck stops here!’. In the process of awarding peerages, the buck stops with the Prime Minister. But if the police are going to question Blair, they will need to put their best inquisitors on the case. After all, even Jeremy Paxman struggles to get a straight answer from him!

Shine On You Crazy Diamond

Roger Keith “Syd” Barrett (January 6, 1946 – July 7, 2006)

I was saddened to learn today of the passing of Syd Barrett. For those who don’t know Pink Floyd, Syd was a founder member of the legendary band. But he was never able to realise his full potential, succumbing to mental illness which may or may not have been made worse by substance abuse. As the rest of the band rose to stellar heights, he lived a reclusive life in Cambridge.

But the band never forgot how important his influence was, and even as recently as Live8 last year, Roger Waters remembered to point out that one important member of the band was missing.

Stop Making Excuses

BBC SPORT | Football | World Cup 2006 | Teams | France | Zidane blames Materazzi insults

It seems everyone is queueing up to make excuses for Zinedine Zidane. Even President Chirac:

Dear Zinedine, in such a hard and intense moment for you, I would like to express the whole nation’s affection and admiration for you.

You are a virtuoso, a genius of football and an exceptional human being. That is why France admires you.

What we have not yet heard is the humble and unreserved apology deserved not only by his countrymen, but millions of viewers worldwide. Chirac’s words are wholly inappropriate, and fool no-one.

I don’t care what was said to him by Materazzi, the assault was one of the most vicious and shameful I have witnessed in any professional football game at any level. That it took place in the showpiece of the World Cup Final beggars belief.

There can be no doubting Zidane’s exceptional contribution to the sport. For that reason he is a role-model to millions. He must make it clear that what he did was wrong and inexcusable. Chirac and others must stop making excuses for what he did – and perhaps reflect on whether, had Zidane kept his cool, a winning goal might yet have come for France.

In fact, the only people who won’t feel let down will be the Italians!