The Nether-World

October 30, 2006

Waking up to the Surveillance Society

Filed under: Bliar, Civil Liberties, Privacy — netherworld @ 6:56 am

Back in February I wrote a post entitled “Fascist Britain” in which I outlined numerous ways in which our freedoms are being eroded. Since then the situation seems to have worsened. The British are now the most spied-on people in western world.

BRITISH people are now more spied upon by their political leaders than any other population in the free world, according to an official report.

The linkage of databases and surveillance systems mean people are now having their movements tracked, habits profiled and photograph taken hundreds of times a day. The findings, in a report compiled on behalf of Richard Thomas, the information commissioner, raised concerns that Britain is “waking up in a surveillance society”.

Thomas said: “Many of these schemes are public sector driven, and the individual has no choice over whether or not to take part. People are being scrutinised and having their lives tracked, and are not even aware of it.

“They don’t know, for instance, that a record is kept of every internet site they visit. They don’t realise that when identity cards come in, there will be a record of their movements and every time they have engaged with any public service.”
Read on

The intrusions into our privacy go even further than those outlined in the above article. For instance, Tony Blair wants as many people as possible to have their DNA stored on a national database. Not to be outdone, Gordon Brown is planning to allow shops to share confidential information with police databases with the ID card scheme. Even our household wheelie bins are being secretly tagged with hidden electronic “bugs” and and innocent children are to be subjected to compulsory fingerprinting.

How could we let things get so bad? There are several possible answers to this. Most obviously is the climate of fear that is being spread by our Government which uses the so called “War on Terror” to scare us into accepting ever more draconian restrictions on our freedoms… in order to preserve them. John Reid is particularly prone to using this absurd argument as is Tony Blair. But there is more to the phenomenon of the surveillance society than just scare mongering. One way we allow this to happen is to be sold the idea that all this surveillance makes our lives easier. By allowing private businesses in on the act, the Government can avoid taking responsibility for what happens and just calling it ‘progress’. For example, the idea that shoppers may one day be able to pay their grocery bills using a microchip implanted in their body is being sold to us as a quicker and more secure way of purchasing goods. By falling for this trick we willingly participate in our own enslavement. In other words we are responsible for how free we are and governments and businesses can only intrude on our privacy because we let them. We reverse this process only by refusing to be terrorised into accepting these initiatives; boycotting businesses that participate and protesting. It may well be too late, but do we really want to sleepwalk into a fascist state?


I just found news of a conference on Data Protection and Privacy whilst reading Spyblog. The theme is:

“A Surveillance Society?” – 28th International Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners’ Conference, London 2nd – 3rd November 2006

I was struck by the welcome address by The United Kingdom’s Information Commissioner, Richard Thomas:

Whilst I cannot promise the sunshine of Buenos Aires, I can promise that by coming to the United Kingdom you will be visiting a country with over 4 million CCTV cameras. Visiting London, you will be staying in a city able to monitor its citizens as they travel around the capital by car or on the Underground system. But London is also a city that has witnessed the kind of terrorist atrocities that spark calls for governments to do more and more to protect its citizens.

I’d be interested in reading a report from anyone going.


Antipholus Papps makes a very good point in the comments.

It’s also worth mentioning the Big Brother/reality TV propaganda offensive that has accompanied this. Constant surveillance is being sold to the podlings as a lark. A sign of importance and celebrity.

And while I’m updating this post again, I should include some other articles that have just come out and are very relevant to this post. First this:

The man who developed DNA testing in the 1980s has attacked the spread of data collection by police as “mission creep”.

Sir Alec Jeffreys said that the tool, which was meant to catch criminals who reoffend, has created a vast database of gene profiles of thousands of innocent citizens.

And more alarming still there is this:

By 2016, they’ll be able to watch you everywhere

By Richard Ford

Surveillance systems installed to fight crime and terrorism track us as we go about our lives. It may be too late to halt Big Brother

Britain is becoming a “Big Brother” surveillance society with millions of people being tracked throughout their lives, according to a report published today.

Shopping habits, travel movements and car and train journeys are being monitored increasingly as part of the fabric of daily life.

The report gives warning that funding from the War on Terror is being used to explore the opportunity of connecting data-gathering systems to track “the movements and behaviour” of millions of people.

Massive surveillance systems now underpin modern life and are set to transform the ability of the Government, law and order agencies and companies to keep a closer check on citizens.
Read on

It’s worth reading the whole article as it paints a very scary and accurate picture of what is going on in our society. Also there is this article from The Independent:

Britain has sleepwalked into becoming a surveillance society that increasingly intrudes into our private lives and impacts on everyday activities, the head of the information watchdog warns.

New technology and “invisible” techniques are being used to gather a growing amount of information about UK citizens. The level of surveillance will grow even further in the next 10 years, which could result in a growing number of people being discriminated against and excluded from society, says a report by the Information Commissioner, Richard Thomas.

Future developments could include microchip implants to identify and track individuals; facial recognition cameras fitted into lamp posts; and unmanned surveillance aircraft, predict the report’s authors.

I’ve saved the article as a pdf file which you can access here when the on-line version expires. The Guardian is also reporting on this phenomenon as is The Telegraph. This creeping surveillance has been steadily increasing and, as the article says, we have been sleepwalking into it. How many people remember this sinister poster campaign from the Mayor of London?

Secure beneath the watchful eyes

I don’t know about you dear reader but when I saw these posters crop up all over London I felt far less secure; and yet we accepted it despite the Orwellian implication of the message. If Richard Thomas, the UK Infomation Commissioner is concerned then we should be as well.


Oh, one more thing.

The NHS database will soon be on line. This means that:

Millions of personal medical records are to be uploaded regardless of patients’ wishes to a central national database from where information can be made available to police and security services, the Guardian has learned.

Details of mental illnesses, abortions, pregnancy, HIV status, drug-taking, or alcoholism may also be included, and there are no laws to prevent DNA profiles being added. The uploading is planned under Whitehall’s bedevilled £12bn scheme to computerise the health service.
Read on

In fact, better still, read the same article via this post by Obsolete. It’s worth it.
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October 29, 2006

Message from the Stop The War Coalition

Filed under: Iraq, Protest, UK Politics — netherworld @ 6:54 am

I have just received this message as part of an e-mail from the Stop The War Coalition:

(Nearest tube: Westminster)

On Tuesday 31 October, Parliament will debate and vote on the Iraq war for the first time since March 18 2003. Alex Salmond, one of the MPs who initiated the debate, says: “This is the first time since the invasion of Iraq that the government can be held to account over this illegal and unwanted war.”

STOP THE WAR COALITION has called an emergency protest in front of Parliament when the debate takes place between 5pm and 7pm. MPs must end a war which has brought nothing but mass slaughter and devastation to the people of Iraq. There is no excuse. It’s what the majority of British people want. It’s what even the head of the British armed forces, General Sir Richard Dannatt, wants.

STWC flyer


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October 28, 2006

Provoking a New War

Filed under: Bush, Iran, US Politics — netherworld @ 4:47 am

In 1964 President Lyndon B. Johnson lied to the world by saying that North Vietnamese forces had attacked US destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin and used the incident as a legal justification to bring American troops into the Vietnam War. The Gulf of Tonkin Incident was a pretext to escalate a war. Six weeks before the Iraq War, President George W Bush revealed to Tony Blair a plan to lure Saddam Hussein into war by flying a U2 reconnaissance aircraft painted in UN colours over Iraq and hoping he would shoot it down. In order to start a war these days it is necessary to appear to be attacked so as to claim the moral high-ground, and if the enemy does not oblige then warmongers resort to deception.

Recently there has been a covert naval build-up in the Persian Gulf. There has been almost no coverage of this build-up at all in the mainstream media leading to speculation that America may now be attempting a new deception in order to trick Iran into ‘starting’ a new war. The build-up has been continuing with with the USS Boxer now joining USS Enterprise and USS Iwo Jima off the Iranian coastline. The reason given for the presence of all this fire-power in the region is military exercises or ‘war games’.

The exercise, set for Oct. 31, is the 25th to be organized under the U.S.-led 66-member Proliferation Security Initiative and the first to be based in the Gulf near Bahrain, across from Iran, the officials said.

A senior U.S. official insisted the exercise is not aimed specifically at Iran, although it reinforces a U.S. strategy aimed at strengthening America’s ties with states in the Gulf, where Tehran and Washington are competing for influence

Iran is justifiably nervous about having this military might off its shore, especially with the American military presence in Iraq on one side and in Afghanistan on the other and with numerous bases within air strike distance in Eastern Europe. With tensions in the region as high as they are, a small incident could escalate into something more serious very quickly. This is known throughout the region which is why we are hearing stories like this:

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Coalition naval forces in the Persian Gulf are on watch for possible terror threats to oil facilities in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, Western naval officials said Friday.

A British navy official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press, said a threat from al-Qaida last month to target gulf oil terminals had resulted in stepped-up security and vigilance at Saudi Arabia’s Ras Tanura terminal, as well as a refinery in Bahrain.
Read on

There has been speculation in some blogs about an ‘October Surprise’ before the American mid-term elections which take place in early November in which the Republicans are expected to do badly. If Bush looses control of the House of Representatives, waging new wars will be that much harder for him… unless of course American forces appear to be attacked. And for Bush war with Iran might be his only option as he is unlikely to get from the UN the kind of sanctions he wants imposed on Iran. This might not be the ‘October Surprise’, but the potential for an incident to occur will be greatly increased by these war games. And let’s not forget that there is also a significant military presence in the Eastern Mediterranean off the coast of Lebanon. German warships have already been threatened by Israeli aircraft. And French UNIFIL troops have complained of the continuous violations of Lebanese airspace by Israel.

Of course this could all be coincidence, there have been rumours of war in Iran for some time now. But the underlying causes for conflict are not going away. This is a fight for the world’s oil resources. I doubt we’ll know for sure what the true intentions of the USA are in the region unless we suddenly hear of an attack on a warship or something similar, but with all the military might in the Gulf firing off rounds in such a tense area, it’s worth being alert.

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October 27, 2006

George Bush Delays the Second Coming of Christ

Filed under: Bush, US Politics — netherworld @ 5:27 pm

Some (but not all) Republican evengelicals and end-timers are not pleased. It seems that George Bush’s foreign policy, as well as being a total failure, has incurred the wrath of God.

Voters should oust congressional Republican leaders because U.S. foreign policy is delaying the second coming of Jesus Christ, according to a evangelical preacher trying to influence closely contested political races.

K.A. Paul railed against the war in Iraq on Sunday before a crowd of 1,000 at the New Spirit Revival Center in Cleveland Heights, his first stop on what he hopes is a 30-city campaign.

The Houston-based preacher said he believes that the Bush administration has delayed the second coming because U.S. foreign policy has blocked Christian missionaries from working in Iraq, Iran and Syria.

“Somebody needs to say enough is enough,” he said to worshippers who stood, waved and called out in support.

At just over 5 feet tall, the charismatic man in a beige three-piece suit trimmed with sparkles is the latest – and perhaps the most flamboyant – voice in the debate this fall over religion and politics in Ohio.

Ohio Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Blackwell has rallied many of the state’s religious conservatives. His Democratic opponent, Ted Strickland, is an ordained minister. And a group of clergy members formed We Believe Ohio to counter what they consider threats to the separation of church and state.

Paul, who claimed to support conservative political leaders in the past, is launching “a crusade to save America from the wrath of God and Republicans abusing their power,” according to his press materials.

His focus on Sunday was on national races, and he didn’t single out any Ohio candidates.

“God is mad at this country,” Paul told the congregation. He described the war in Iraq as “unnecessary genocide.”

What a change from a couple of years ago when a vote for Bush was a vote for Jesus and Democrats were expelled from churches. Has God gone off-message or is He no longer talking to Bush?

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CIA Silencing the EU on ‘Torture Flights’

Filed under: Torture — netherworld @ 5:52 am

If the CIA does not render suspected terrorists to countries where they are possibly tortured, then why would they want to silence the EU on torture flights?

The CIA tried to persuade Germany to silence EU protests about the human rights record of one of America’s key allies in its clandestine torture flights programme, the Guardian can reveal.

According to a secret intelligence report, the CIA offered to let Germany have access to one of its citizens, an al-Qaida suspect being held in a Moroccan cell. But the US secret agents demanded that in return, Berlin should cooperate and “avert pressure from EU” over human rights abuses in the north African country. The report describes Morocco as a “valuable partner in the fight against terrorism”.

The British Government has continuously refused to discuss the issue of ‘extraordinary rendition’ with both the Council of Europe investigation and the more recent inquiry by MEPs in which Geoff Hoon was particularly evasive when questioned. Some MEPs have even received death threats. Clearly there is something that the American and British governments do not want to be made public.

In other news Vice President Dick Cheney has confirmed that detainees are subjected to the form of torture known as ‘water-boarding’ although the Bush administration denies that causing the sensation of drowning counts as torture. Cheney seems to think it’s a good idea.

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October 26, 2006

Quagmire Accomplished

Filed under: Iraq — netherworld @ 7:33 am

No one interested in current events can have failed to notice the change in tone coming from the Bush and Blair administrations when the subject of Iraq come up. It seems we have indeed reached a tipping point and finally there are admissions (of sorts) that things are not going well. That of course is an understatement, Iraq has become every bit the disaster that was predicted by the many anti-war factions. It is now abundantly clear that the Bush administration does not have the faintest clue what to do as it desparetely looks for a way out. None of the options up for consideration have much of a chance of ending the chaos let alone bringing peace and democracy to the region. Iraq seems set to be torn apart whatever new tactics are imposed on the country.

Let’s look at what is being considered:

The break-up of the country along ethnic lines

I think that ultimately this is inevitable whether it is desired or not. Iraq’s different factions were held together by the brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. Without that sort of leadership, weak governments plagued by in-fighting and corruption were bound to be the alternative. The break-up of Iraq could trigger a full-scale civil war with wider implications for the region as other countries like Iran and Turkey get drawn in. The fighting over final borders will be messy and violent and the coalition (such as it is) will be unable and unwilling to do much about it. For America and Britain it might provide the ideal excuse for withdrawing. Another thing the Americans may be considering is the possibility that smaller oil-rich states each populated by one ethnic group might be easier to control.

The imposition of a strong-man

This would be highly embarrassing for Bush and Blair who waxed lyrically about democracy and freedom. Removing Saddam Hussein only to put in another tyrant will not go down well with anybody. The first problem would be who the new dictator would be. Whoever it is would find himself under attack from all the other factions. Britain tried this before when it installed kings in Iraq. Tyrants can’t be chosen like that, they tend to emerge on their own as Saddam did. I seriously doubt America and Britain would consider re-installing Saddam. Also the chaos is probably too great now for any autocrat to quell and any potential tyrant endorsed by America will be as unpopular as the current puppet government.

Talking to the neighbours

This, of course should have been done right from the start. Iran and Syria are already involved in the struggle. Whatever happens in Iraq directly affects those countries so they should never have been side-lined the way they were by America and Britain. At this late stage though, it is uncertain whether there is much these countries can do anyway other than arm different factions. America is still being bellicose towards both Iran and Syria and the war in Lebanon compounded the problem. Talking to these countries would mean America eating a huge slice of humble pie and that may be more than it could swallow.

Cut and Run

This is unlikely at the moment but as the situation deteriorates, it may seem more attractive. Bush has hinted at a withdrawal within 18 months if things don’t improve. A sudden withdrawal would inevitably lead to a bloodbath in Iraq and a very obvious Vietnam-like defeat for the coalition. Simply declaring a victory before leaving will fool nobody as the country will quickly descend into anarchy and other powers will move in to fill the vacuum. However, seeing as a descent into anarchy seems to be happening anyway, the likelihood of cutting and running is increasing. Gradual troop reductions are a distinct possibility and this seems to be the British strategy as they hand over provinces, but success is limited.

More troops

Sending in more troops just won’t work. It’s been tried numerous times throughout the conflict and any improvement has been temporary at best. Usually it is ineffective as insurgents either move elsewhere as they did with Falluja, or, as we have seen recently in Baghdad, the violence increases. More coalition casualties will not go down well with the American and British public. In the short term, increased troop levels do seem likely, if only to cover a withdrawal.

Internationalising the problem

It is far too late for this option. The coalition has now shrunk dramatically since the start of the occupation (and it wasn’t that impressive to start with). I can’t see any other countries volunteering to send their citizens to what looks more and more like a lost cause. The recent conflict in Lebanon should serve as an example as to how unenthusiastic other nations are to send troops to a war zone with no exit strategy.

Staying the course

This is what Bush and Blair have been advocating all along (although Bush is now denying this). It hasn’t worked and now even the American public is waking up to how futile this is. Most people are sick of this war and a failed foreign policy and what they want to hear is news of their soldiers coming home rather than staying indefinitely in a hostile environment. The occupation is a major part of the problem so any talk of more of the same won’t please the electorates of America and Britain.

These seem to be the main options being discussed and as you can see none of them are particularly pleasant. As Bush ponders which options are the least unacceptable to him, Blair is waiting for his orders. Britain won’t do a thing without prior authorisation from America so we have the unedifying spectacle of Blair literally not knowing which way to turn. he offers the same platitudes as Bush, agrees with one of his generals who says the presence of British troops are exacerbates the problem, makes some noises about being able to withdraw in 16 months or so, and then goes back to saying that we won’t leave until the job is done (the job being either undefined or totally impossible).

Meanwhile, more and more people on both sides of the Atlantic are speaking out against the war and the foreign policy that spawned it. As usual they are side-lined and marginalised and bullied, but they are becoming harder to ignore. One idea which might help ease the situation is a frank and unambiguous admission from both governments that the invasion of Iraq was a catastrophic mistake, and then publicly holding the perpetrators to account for the prosecution of an illegal war, numerous war crimes and misleading the people on every aspect of it, from the objectives of the war to the casualty figures. Then there might be a better chance of success at attempting any of the options outlined above. It wouldn’t solve the conflicts, but a greater degree of honesty might elicit more co-operation from the various players involved and the wider international community. I realise that this is highly unlikely and it will fall to the electorates of America and Britain to remove these dangerous criminals from public office. For such an unmitigated disaster, it is the very least we can do.


October 13, 2006

Israel’s new weapon tested on the Palestinians

Filed under: israel, Palestine — netherworld @ 12:26 pm

Israel appears to have an experimental new weapon which is being used on the beleagured Palestinians. It is called a DIME (Dense Inert Metal Explosive) and is thought to be similar to something the US military have been developing. So far the weapon is said by doctors to have caused 200 deaths and 62 amputations and severe burns in June and July.

The same team of Italian journalists who uncovered America’s use of white phosphorous on Iraqis in Falluja have also been investigating Israeli weapons. The weapon is supposed to cause a powerful blast within a small radius.

Israel Air Force Maj.-Gen (res.) Yitzhak Ben-Israel, formerly head of the IDF’s weapons-development program, told the Italian reporters that “one of the ideas [behind the weapon] is to allow those targeted to be hit without causing damage to bystanders or other persons.”

Doctors in Gaza reported inexplicably serious injuries which prompted the investigation. They found that the bodies of the dead and wounded had small entry wounds. Juma Saqa of Shifa hospital said that the victims had a powder on their bodies and internal organs.

“The powder was like microscopic shrapnel, and these are what likely caused the injuries,” he said.

Habas al-Wahid, head of the emergency room at the Shuhada al-Aqsa hospital, told reporters that the legs of the injured were sliced from their bodies “as if a saw was used to cut through the bone”.

The Dime is said to be made of a carbon-fibre casing and filled with tungsten powder and explosives. It is likely to be carcinogenic.

According to the website, the weapon was successfully tested during 2004 and 2005 but is being further developed.

Samples of the particles found in wounds of the injured Gazans were sent for analysis to a laboratory at the University of Parma, in Italy where high concentrations of carbon and unusual materials, such as copper, aluminum and tungsten were found. The weapon is also likely to be carcinogenic.

Physicians for Human Rights has asked Israel’s defence Minister, Amir Peretz for an explanation to these injuries. They shouldn’t hold their breath for an explanation. The usual lies will be trotted out, and when they are exposed then claims that they are justified in using the Palestinians for weapons tests. The international community will just say that ‘Israel has the right to defend itself’ and give the Israelis something even more nasty.

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Guess Who Are Still Running The World!

Filed under: Bliar, Blogging, Bush — netherworld @ 7:57 am


Click here to find out


From Tim Ireland of Bloggerheads who has had an attack of cynicism and is taking a short break from blogging to work on a new project. I hope we don’t have to wait too long to find out about it. You can see some of his other Flash Animations here.


October 12, 2006

Blunkett confesses to urging Blair to commit a war crime

Filed under: Al Jazeera Memo, Bliar, Iraq, Nu Labour, UK Politics — netherworld @ 7:57 am

As confessions go this one is a blinder (no pun intended). It’s not just George Bush who tried to convince Tony Blair that bombing Al Jazeera was a good idea, David Blunkett is claiming that he also told Tony to attack the news outlet. On this occasion it was the transmitter in Baghdad which was later bombed by the Americans during the invasion of Iraq.

DAVID Blunkett has admitted he urged Tony Blair to break international law and bomb al-Jazeera’s Baghdad TV transmitter during the Iraq war.

The disgraced ex-Home Secretary makes his astonishing revelation in a Channel 4 Dispatches programme, to be shown next week, saying he viewed the Arab television station as a legitimate target.

He brushes aside protests that, as a civilian organisation, the bombing of al-Jazeera would have been illegal under international law.

The amazing exchange will be shown on Monday in the second episode of a two-part screening of the audio-diaries he kept during his time in the Cabinet.

Mr Blunkett tells Dispatches he suggested to the war cabinet that al-Jazeera’s Baghdad transmitter be attacked.

Asked whether he was not worried that this would be “outside the rules of engagement”, Mr Blunkett says: “There wasn’t a worry from me because I believed that this was a war and in a war you wouldn’t allow the broadcast to continue taking place.”

Dispatches reporter Isabel Tang protests: “But al-Jazeera was a civilian target.”

Mr Blunkett replies: “Well, I don’t think that there are targets in a war that you can rule out because you don’t actually have military personnel inside them if they are attempting to win a propaganda battle on behalf of your enemy.”

Tang goes on: “But surely that’s against international law.” Mr Blunkett says: “Well I don’t think for a minute in previous wars we’d have thought twice about ensuring that a propaganda mechanism on the soil of the country you were invading would actually continue being able to propagandise against you.”

Two weeks after Mr Blunkett pressed the Prime Minister to attack al-Jazeera, the station’s Baghdad offices were bombed by the Americans, killing journalist Tareq Ayoub.

So if Blunkett can come clean about suggesting a war crime, isn’t it time Blair owned up about his little discussion with Bush. Over at Blairwatch I have been following the case of David Keogh Leo O’Connor who are accused of violating the Official Secrets Act by leaking what is now known as the Al Jazeera memo. It seems a striking coincidence that this revelation should come now just as we are told that the trial David Keogh Leo O’Connor is postponed until next year and will be held in secret.

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David Cameron runs rings around Tony Blair

Filed under: Bliar, UK Politics — netherworld @ 6:00 am

Perhaps it was the long break, or, more likely, the fact that Tony Blair is the lamest of lame ducks, but the first PMQs after the Parliamentary recess was not a stunning success for the Prime Minister. So bad was his performance that it has cast fresh doubt over his plans to stay in power until next summer as a chorus of MPs including loyal Blairites called for him to stand down.

The funniest moment was when Blair suffered a syntax error and announced the deportation of foreign secretaries instead of foreign prisoners. Actually that would have been the most sensible policy announcement he’s made.

The Tory benches were on ebullient form. When a Labour backbencher asked about the NHS, Tory MPs started shouting, “Cuts, cuts, cuts”. Tony Blair ignored them and warbled on about how fantastic everything is. David Cameron popped up: “There we have it, Mr Speaker, no buts, just cuts.” The Tory backbenchers roared in behind him, creating an ocean of noise.

Dave “Give me Sunshine” Cameron could do no wrong, although perhaps the truth is that Mr Blair could do no right. Dave’s first topic was the prisons crisis and Mr Blair gave a less than convincing rebuttal. Dave demanded to know why the foreign prisoners had not been deported automatically.

“What the Home Secretary is doing, very sensibly,” said Mr Blair, “is ensuring that all those foreign secretaries . . .”

The chamber went berserk at the idea of foreign secretaries being deported. Margaret Beckett, for whom deportation would be a kindness, looked alarmed. MPs hooted with laughter. “There’s not much of a recovery after that one,” admitted Mr Blair.

He was right. On the next subject, the NHS, he gave a rambling defence that sounded very tired. Then Dave asked the killer question. In January Mr Blair had backed the Chancellor as his successor. “Do you still think that today?” Mr Blair said nothing. The Tories were screaming. Labour MPs looked stunned. Gordon pursed his lips. John Reid crossed his arms and his legs. Finally, to the baying crowd, Mr Blair muttered: “I don’t resile from anything I said.”

It was as real as a pantomime cow. Mr Blair then insisted that, instead, he would talk about Tory policy on the NHS. This was so rambling that the Speaker interrupted him and told him to stop. The Speaker! This is a man who is afraid to say boo to a goose. But then Mr Blair wasn’t a goose: he was a duck, and a lame one, and even the Speaker could see it.

Mr Cameron was on the crest of the wave now: “Do you back the Chancellor as your successor? Yes or no? I mean, I do. Do you?” More screams but, again, Mr Blair demurred. “I’m sure he is a lot happier talking about that than he is about policy. But I am going to talk about policy! Yes I am!” Dave shouted: “Everyone can see that this Government is divided and paralysed!” Mr Blair retorted that there was no paralysis and said lots of other words but all anyone heard was “quack, quack, quack”.

With this lousy performance, the all too obvious failure of his foreign policy, his domestic policy scarcely any better and the cash for peerages investigation getting ever closer to him, I can’t see Blair hanging on until next Summer. It would be a kindness to put him out of his misery now.

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