It was reported at the weekend that General Sir David Richards will be stepping down as Chief of Defence Staff in July, despite the fact that the Prime Minister wanted him to stay on as head of the armed forces and his principal military adviser.

But apparently General Richards doesn’t relish another year working with Defence Secretary Philip Hammond, the two of them having been at war over defence cuts and withdrawal plans from Afghanistan.

Interestingly, before his deployment to the Afghanistan, I remember that General Richards had a clear view of repeating Britain’s ‘inkspot’ strategy that had worked so well previously in the Oman and Malaysia campaigns. In the former, it was achieved by just 60 SAS troops over a period of some four to six years.

It works thus: geographically starting from a Government-held safe base, you move to a few outlying villages, arm and train the locals to defend themselves against the bad boys, rebels, etc. You give the villagers all the wells, clinics and schools the government promised them. Then move out farther again and repeat the process in more villages.

The villagers start to love the government because, for once, all the their lofty promises have actually been kept. And the people defend themselves, because they have been trained how and now want to keep out the bad guys. In this case, the Taliban.

It is sort of the best example of good public relations in extremis. Is that Latin?

Unfortunately, General Richards’s plan didn’t seem to work out quite like that. I’ve heard that interference from the Afghan President and others with local political interests made it impossible to work.

What a shame. For a long time I held out high hopes that it would.


That Lib-Dem grandee and Europhile Ken Clarke, who accidentally wandered into the Tory party, has been bad mouthing those of the free electorate who might be considering voting UKIP in the upcoming elections on Thursday.

This despite the fact, that these are the very same people he wants to vote for him and his adopted Conservative Party.

Trust me, if you hadn’t guessed already, he doesn’t know what he is talking about.

I worked for UKIP very briefly in its early days (1998-99) in a communications advisory rôle, after I’d discovered some of the dark truths about the European Union and the deliberate deception of its real intentions spun by our political classes to Britain’s hard-working citizens.

(If you want to learn more about that in a lighter and more digestible form, try reading my thriller COLD MONDAY ).

I worked at the very top of UKIP with its erstwhile leader at the time, Michael Holmes. Nigel Farage and others of the current hierarchy were all there. I can assure you that they were all passionately anti-racist.

Knowing what the accusations of their enemies would be, the party went out of its way to encourage ethnic minorities to join them with welcome arms. Any signs of racism were ruthlessly stamped on. And to no small extent UKIP has succeeded. Just look at the lists of members and candidates.

Far from being the ‘clowns’ that Mr Clarke describes, some in UKIP have a far sharper vision of what Great Britain could and should become. Of Europe, but not in a political or monetary union with it.

Not joined at the hip in the EU. More a Hong Kong of Europe. An off-shore Switzerland on steroids, but much, much more…

Part of a new expanded world-wide Commonwealth of democratic free-trading nations.

Apart from the existing customers of the USA and old Europe, its new customers would be India, China, Brazil and the smaller developing countries of Africa and Asia.

Britain would be more self-sufficient in agriculture and farming, and energy. Already a centre of excellence in finance, insurance, and car production, it would expand specialist ship-building, aeronautics and IT.

Water desalination plant and recycling development, green methane power technology like electricity-generating window glass and river turbines, will be high on the wealth creating agenda for the nation’s industrial renewal.

Does that sound like the thinking of clowns, Mr Clarke?

One wonders if he’s ever stopped to think why he is the Minister without portfolio. It’s just possible there’s a reason.


Waiting for decent TV drama is like waiting for a bus nowadays. Yet it’s rare for one, let alone two, to come along at once. But it’s happened this week, and it’s the girls who are driving and conducting both.

Always slick, lifting itself out of the slightly soapy series cop drama category, Sally Wainwright’s SCOTT & BAILEY (ITV) surpassed itself with plot, script and superb acting. If you missed Part One, try and catch up and be ready for Part Two next Wednesday.

Isn’t Lesley Sharp the sexiest girl-next-door on telly, or is it just me?

Apart from Suranne Jones and Amelia Bullmore, this series is also blessed with Nicola Walker and Pippa Haywood (who’s time has come at last) acting their socks off with fantastic realism and conviction.

If that wasn’t enough, along comes Paula Milne’s three-parter on BBC2 THE POLITICIAN’S HUSBAND. If you think we’ve been seeing a bit too much of the talented David Tennant just lately, you might think again. He’s changed his hair-do and swallowed his accent to incredibly great effect.

What’s more, there’s not a cop or a medic in sight!


In the late 1990s Dr Andrew Wakefield suggested he’d discovered through research that there could be a link between the combined MMR jab for mumps, measles and rubella with autism.
He was subsequently vilified by the medical authorities and his research condemned.

Yet worried mothers naturally remained concerned and take up levels of the 3-in-1 vaccine plummeted. We now have an outbreak of measles in Wales with upwards of 800 cases reported. The consequences can be dire.

Yet it is hard or impossible to prove a negative. The immune system of a child is very fragile. While most children can cope with the 3-in-1 is it not possible that some cannot. After all, we all know that we are not all are not all the same. Some of us are more susceptible to different dideases than others.

The renowned naturopathic doctor, the late Keith Mason told me how he treated many airline pilots and soldiers from the first Gulf War, who had serious side-effects from multi-vaccinsation jabs.

Would it not be sensible for the Department of Health to bite the bullet and return to three separate jabs and boosters. Saving money isn’t everything; having to spend a life suffering with autism ,or the result of a bad case of measles, mumps or rubella, is.

Reverting to a separate jab programme is surely a win-win situation. Problem solved. Or is that just too simple to resolve the current crisis?


Here we go again. The sudden newsflash interrupting some dreadful TV drama show with an unwanted dose of something far more real. Shock horror. Stunned silence as we absorb what’s happened. Leaving us ranting at the television set. Ranting at the evil of it, the stupidity of it, at the pointlessness of it.

This atrocity had all the hallmarks of al-Qaeda. Their MO. Cocky, showing off their prowess at death and mutilation.Three or more explosions simoultaneously, or several in quick succesion. Like the Twin Towers, like London, like Lisbon.

In Boston it appeared that, thankfully, two more bombs failed to detonate, it’s being said. If so, that’ll probably be their downfall.

It’s difficult if not impossible to build a bomb wearing anything on your hands, including latex gloves. It’s just too intricate. (I studied all this with the British Army bomb teams when writing The Tick Tock Man).

Another trueism learned from the police is that in big operations like this, the bad guys always make mistakes.They tend not to be the brightest sparkers in the box, or else they’d never have been taken in by their mentors, who never volunteer themselves, you’ll notice, for the front line. So the forensic evidence means that it is odds-on the perpetrators will eventually be caught.

One of my drinking mates at my local, The Lying Toad, is Old Smithy. In his 80s, he was nearly caught up in the Glasgow Airport bombing a few years ago, when he was on holiday with his wife.

Afterwards, he asked to borrow my English copy of the Koran. Smithy served as a pilot in both the British Army and the RAF at the end of World War Two, flying and teaching in India before partition. Still able to speak fluent Pashtu and motor-cycling around the Hampshire countryside on his motorbike and side car, Smithy wanted to determine just where Mohammed had written all this stuff about killing the infidels, keeping women hidden and denying them an education.

Despite his studies he could find no mention of any of it. Nor, thankfully, was he converted to “the cause”.

It appears that most of the negative side of Islam that Westerners come to loathe or fear is the invention of clerics who have had their own agenda over the years. Of course, Smithy could have it wrong. After a glass of wine or two, he was prone to falling asleep while he was reading.


I really don’t think we should worry too much that the jaunty little tune from the Wizard of Oz has been hijacked by a ignorant bunch of oiks, who mostly appear to be either  anarchists by profession or else teachers of our nation’s children.

She was well used to dealing with such people during her lifetime, and no doubt suffered worse being lampooned in Spitting Image.

The sadness is that the family and friends of Baroness Thatcher may be affected by such crass behaviour and lack of basic human decency at a time of mourning. It is an unfortunate sign of the times.

For Margaret Thatcher’s spells finally and magically brought Britain back to life after the long, seemingly never-ending doldrums of World War 2. She replaced them with the verve and vigour of a conviction politician.

And she understood, from the beginning, that she would make enemies as well as friends during her crusade.

According to the Sunday Times, when Tim Bell of the advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi first met her prior to her election in 1979, she told him not to use any clever marketing trickery to get her elected. Because if the people didn’t want her, she said, they simply would not fall for it.

She also anticipated and warned him to expect a lot of abuse while working for her and hoped he could cope with it. “I hope you’re a big boy,” she reportedly said.

Such a different attitude from that of the spin-doctors and bury-bad-news manipulators of the Blair era who tried to create a totally artificial Cool Britannia overnight.

I’ve met Margaret Thatcher’s former chief press secretary, Bernard Ingham (he told me he’d read Rogue Element). You could not hope for a more stolid and honest communicator, from the times when Public Relations was an art and respected profession, and not just a dirty word for lying.

Yet urban myths about Margaret Thatcher persist. That somehow she destroyed British industry. Such damage was done by history and changing times, and the all-powerful trade unions which in those days repeatedly held the country to ransom.

She didn’t make British coal uneconomical. History and market forces did. She didn’t decide to sink the Belgrano. Her Chiefs of Staff did. She didn’t destroy British industry, refused to subsidise obsolete manufacturing with taxpayers’ money. Following union reforms, motor manufacturing is now booming along with the defence, electronics, food and IT industries. Others, like clothes manufacturing, that have been lost to cheaper labour abroad, are starting to come home.

Margaret Thatcher put low taxes, free-market forces and personal liberty first. She allowed low and average paid workers the opportunity to buy their own council homes to get onto the housing ladder, and to invest in shares of nationalised utilities.

Her firm belief in democracy helped defeat the Argentinian invaders of the Falklands, galvanised one America president into freeing Kuwait from Saddam Hussein’s occupation, and worked with another to help bring an end to the tyranny of the old Soviet Union.

Did she make mistakes?

Of course she did. Eggs and omelettes. Winston Churchill, with whom Margaret Thatcher is so often compared, made his fair share.

Interestingly, one was her decision to ban Irish Republican terrorists from speaking on the media, allowing Shakespearean thespians to deliver their weasely words with stirring and theatrical gravitas.

The BBC nearly made a similar mistake over the playing of the witch’s song.

However biggest and final error was trying to force through Poll Tax. PT or “Community Tax” was reckoned to be the fairest of all – especially compared to Rates – because everyone had to make a contribution towards public services that everyone enjoyed.

But was unpopular with all those who had never had to pay before. One suspects they may be the same people who are now rejoicing that the wicked witch is dead.

Some witch. Some book of spells. Some story.


Couldn’t we do with some of her magic now?