Monday, December 18, 2006

How low can we go?

The news that Blair has ordered a halt into an investigation by the SFO into corruption between BaE and Saudi Arabia rather than risk losing a deal for flogging Eurofighters to the despotic regime demonstrates all too clearly how far we have fallen as a nation.

I know I'm knocking on a bit, but it wasn't that long ago was it that we would have told nations like Saudi Arabia that if they try to interfere with our justice system then they know what they could do with their orders.

I know some people will try and tell me that this sort of thing has always gone on and that it's normal "diplomacy". Well, they are right in a way. This is the sort of thing that was commonplace in Europe for many years - and we in Britain used to sneer at the "corruption" of Italian and Spanish governments that indulged in this sort of "diplomacy" many years ago. A few years under the thumb of the EU and we're now doing exactly the same thing. Maybe it is "normal" and "accepted" now - that does not make it right!

If anything we should be telling the Saudi's to open up their country to democracy, reform their repressive society and introduce more reform more quickly before we sell them so much as a bullet (if we made such things any more).

Blair's intervention is necessary because many British jobs depend on this order. Many British jobs depend on this order because we have put all our eggs in the same basket with the Eurofighter and, the truth is, it's the wrong aeroplane at the wrong time. The Eurofighter was designed to be an interceptor for the supposed waves of Soviet aeroplanes that were to sweep west in the event of war between the Western and Eastern Blocs.

What we really need now are aeroplanes that are cheap, durable and have long endurance. That can hang around a battlefield and provide close support to ground troops at a moment's notice. Which can take substantial damage and still get back to base intact and with the pilot safe and sound. Which can operate from makeshift airfields in hostile environments. In short, we need things like the A10 Thunderbolt.

But when it comes to defence - we've given up doing things for ourselves and have opted for European "collaboration". This basically means that it takes twice as long to agree on what we need, three times as long to agree the specification, four times as long to build what we have spec'ed and five times the budget to finally deliver to our armed forces.

And because BaE is basically all Britain has in terms of defence manufacturers, we now have to bow down to the demands of the Saudis to keep them happy or lose what little defence capability we have.


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