Baroness Ashton to resign? (updated)

And for the EU’s latest foreign policy disaster (and one that reflects enormously badly on Gordon Brown if the story is true), the Telegraph claims that Baroness Ashton is on the brink of resigning after only months in her job:

“Every day is an uphill struggle,” said a European Commission official. “No one predicts she can stay five years, not even she.”

Lady Ashton has come under fire from powerful countries led by France, for allowing the Commission to seize too much control of a new EU diplomatic service that she is building from scratch.

Her lack of political authority has been blamed for a failure to stamp out bureaucratic Brussels in-fighting over who will control the new European External Action Service, with 7,000 diplomats manning over 130 embassies around the world.

Bitter turf wars over budgets and senior posts mean the diplomatic corps will be delayed, a situation that has angered governments and embarrassed the EU on the global stage.

Following one recent row, she allegedly threatened to walk out of her job and had to be talked out of resigning on the spot by diplomats and officials.

Of course, this may be wishful thinking by the Telegraph, but it’s another shocking misstep if true…

Update: And the plot thickens. According to the Daily Mail, Peter Mandelson is floating the resignation rumours because he expects to be Foreign Secretary and needs to find a job for David Miliband.

An Ashton aide told the MailOnline the report had ‘Mandelson’s fingerprints all over it.’ Mandelson wants to force Ashton to resign and hand over the EU job to David Miliband, the source said.

Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, was offered Ashton’s job last year but refused it, reportedly because he didn’t want to spend ‘years on a plane’.

But does Mandelson really expect Labour to form the next government? And how could he push Ashton out between now and Gordon Brown naming his cabinet after the election?

Popegate – the gays and foreigners did it

Today, the Telegraph plumbs new depths in its vendetta against the FCO over Popegate.

Yesterday, after quoting an anonymous threat from the Vatican to cancel the Papal visit, it was forced to admit that official sources had dismissed the memo as having “absolutely” no impact on the Pope’s plans.

Instead of backing off (having made the most of what was, even without the garnish, a good story), the paper has now doubled down in a truly despicable article that:

  • Outs the author of the memo,  23 year-old Steven Mulvain, as gay, based on his Facebook status. (I wonder how the paper got that information? Surely, Mulvain didn’t have a completely open profile.)
  • Names Mulvain’s boss – Anjoum Noorani – printing his photo to ensure that readers are in no doubt that Noorani is (gasp) a member of an ethnic minority.
  • Hassles Noorani’s mother (!) in Windsor, as if she is in any way relevant to the story.

Of course, the paper doesn’t come straight out and allege that the whole affair is a gay/Muslim plot, though that is clearly the implication. Instead, it complains that the FCO failed to put a Catholic in charge of the visit, rustling up another anonymous quote from the Vatican:

The most striking thing about the Foreign Office team has been how ineffectual they are. They have been disengaged and, frankly, clueless.

I have never had the impression that any members of the team were informed or even sensitive to the Catholic Church or Catholicism generally.

Gutter journalism.

Update: Damian Thompson throws some more paraffin on the fire:

The Catholic Church in this country is (a) not wildly enthusiastic about Benedict XVI, and (b) paralysed by political correctness. The four-strong FO team was led by a member of an ethnic minority and included a gay man. There’s nothing wrong with that: they could have done a fantastic job, particularly if the team had included a practising Catholic (perhaps from an ethnic community – they’re the ones who go to Mass these days). But they didn’t.

And there’s no evidence that any danger signals were spotted by Eccleston Square, which has delegated the papal visit organisation to the Left-wing Mgr Andrew Summersgill, a Magic Circle hardliner some of whose colleagues are heavily into rainbow coalition-style politicking. (If Summersgill had been told that the FO team included an Asian and a gay guy, I can imagine him asking why the transgendered community had been left out.)

Telegraph: Impeach Obama (update x3)

Writing for the Telegraph, Gerald Warner argues that President Obama could face impeachment if he signs the healthcare bill:

The nasty car crash that is Obamacare is dragging down Barack Obama’s presidency. The cancellation of his visit to Indonesia and Australia to stay at home offering pork-barrel enticements to doubtful House Democrats is the kind of desperate expedient we expect from Third World dictators apprised of a potential coup at home. It advertised to the world the precarious nature of a presidency that has all but lost control.

In his obsession with his healthcare fantasy, Obama is prepared even to allow the subversion of the US Constitution. For what else is the so-called Slaughter Solution [click for an explanation]? Leaving aside the grim irony of this name being associated with legislation that seeks to promote an explosion of abortions in America by injecting billions of dollars into state support of that abomination – and thereby making every taxpayer complicit in abortion – the fact remains that the fundamental purpose of the Slaughter Solution is to bypass the American Constitution.

Expect much more of this in the coming years – especially if Obama wins a second term – with the London papers pursuing their traditional role of trailblazing stories that are not yet mainstream enough for their American counterparts to print.

Depressing though to see the Telegraph get in on the action this early in the game…

Update: With reports suggesting that deem and pass (aka the Slaughter Solution) will not now be used to pass healthcare, a constitutional challenge is now likely to be directed at the individual mandate. Wonder if Warner will update (or even tone down) his post…

Update II: More on constitutional challenges here. Michelle Malkin says the first lawsuits are imminent.

Update III: After passage of the bill, Warner doubles down:

The struggle is no longer simply to avert a corrosively socialist imposition, but to reclaim the American governmental system and democracy from an Emperor-President. The Obama healthcare coup d’état is naked Bonapartism and, as such, must be overturned.

Telegraph vs Obama

Rumours have long been floating around that the Abu Ghraib photos that Barack Obama has been battling to keep secret are much more graphic than anything yet published. A week ago the Telegraph dived into the fray to confirm the story:

Photographs of alleged prisoner abuse which Barack Obama is attempting to censor include images of apparent rape and sexual abuse… At least one picture shows an American soldier apparently raping a female prisoner while another is said to show a male translator raping a male detainee.

Further photographs are said to depict sexual assaults on prisoners with objects including a truncheon, wire and a phosphorescent tube. Another apparently shows a female prisoner having her clothing forcibly removed to expose her breasts.

Shocking stuff and all the more credible because their source, Major General Anthony Taguba, conducted the original investigation of Abu Ghraib and has since played a key role in continuing to describe “a systematic regime of torture” authorised directly by George Bush. Taguba believes that there is “no doubt” that the Bush adminstration was guilty of war crimes.

The Telegraph, however, had Obama in its sights, not Bush. He’d promised to release the photos, then relented when lobbied by the military. He’d then lied about their content: “I want to emphasise that these photos that were requested in this case are not particularly sensational, especially when compared to the painful images that we remember from Abu Ghraib.” Rape? Sodomy? Not particularly sensational! It was quite a scoop.

The Obama adminstration was unamused, trying to divert attention by attacking the British meda, with an Obama spokesman describing the British press as the last place you’d look for “something that bordered on truthful news.”

The Telegraph was apoplectic, publishing three furious responses. Nile Gardiner: “‘juvenile,” an “absolute disgrace.” Toby Harnden: “a smokescreen,”  “as arrogant as anything the Bush administration ever said about the press.” James Delingpole: “stop pooping on our lawn.”

One problem. It turns out the Taguba had been misquoted. He was referring to other photos that he’d seen – and which have already been published in 2006 – by Salon. Scott Horton, who had also been promoting the story, issued this apology:

The 44 photos subject to the ACLU lawsuit and reviewed by President Obama do not contain sexually explicit images. I regret my errors.

And the Telegraph? Well, so far it’s just kept digging. Indeed, it reported Taguba’s clear denial as confirming its story, while claiming Scott Horton’s reporting also backed them up. Apologies, as James Delingpole would no doubt put it, are clearly for “pantywaists”.

Expect more “robus”‘ reporting from the Telegraph in the future, now it’s cemented in its role as the scourge of the political class, and as it acts to correct the failings of America’s “congenitally libtard Mainstream Media.” According to Delingpole:

We don’t respect politicians any more. Not our politicians, and not yours either. Imagine how this new strain of irreverence bordering on utter contempt is going to affect our reporting of political affairs.

It’s going to be a fun ride…

The people of Sark “reap what they sow” – democracy in action

The Barclay twins – billionaire owners of the UK’s Telegraph newspapers and various other interests – are famously reclusive. So in the early 1990s, they bought the island of Brecqhou, which can be seen in the picture below from its (not much larger – it’s three miles long) neighbour Sark.

On Brecqhou, they built a huge castle, said to be the largest built in the 20th century, and at a cost of £60m or so. Sark’s inhabitants weren’t happy:

Round-the-clock construction is said to have polluted the pristine skies of the island, which has nary a streetlight, with a sodium glow. And size is its main architectural achievement; from the air it has been mistaken for a prison, and indeed the construction crew is said to have called it Alcatraz. One islander said of the brothers, “They have the taste of Saddam Hussein.”

In 1996, the Barclay brothers tried to declare Brecqhou’s independence. They took no services from Sark and travelled to and from their island by helicopter. They were said to resent visits from Sark’s police (when, say, a worker on their estate met an accidental death). They may also have been looking to more fully protect their financial affairs from scrutiny.

When their plans were frustrated, they began to lobby for replacement of Sark’s political system – often described as the last remants of feudalism in the Western world. Thus began a long legal battle, with the brothers fighting for what they describe as “modern democratic principles and the requirements of the European Convention on Human Rights.”

Meanwhile, they embarked on a buying spree, which saw them took control of large swathes of Sark itself. According to the FT, they bought hotels, shops, golf courses – and were said to be pushing for an end to the ban on cars (and helicopters) on the island. 

Finally yesterday, Sark’s 474 voters headed to the polls for the island’s first ever democratic election (even Afghanistan didn’t have to wait so long). You can see what the islanders made of it here. The Telegraph’s Chief Reporter, Gordon Rayner was sent to cover this momentous event. The owners of his paper, he reported, had endorsed a slate of ‘reform’ candidates. They’d better get the result they wanted or there’d be trouble:

The Barclays, proprietors of Telegraph Media Group, feel so strongly about the future of Sark that they have threatened to withdraw their multi-million pound investments in the island if pro-reform candidates do not hold sway in the new parliament.

The Barclays have invested in hotels, property and agricultural land on Sark, employing around 140 people either directly or indirectly.

But all did not go according to plan. After each of the intricate ballot papers was read out aloud, in a session lasting ten hours or so, it became clear that the Barclay’s candidates had been heavily defeated – the ‘establishment’ had gained a clear majority of seats.

So how have the Barclays reacted? Well it seems they have done just what they threatened to do – immediately close down all their businesses, throwing about a sixth of the population out of work (the island has no welfare state). The twins’ lawyer told the BBC that:

The people of Sark are reaping what they sowed the day before. They only have themselves to blame. They could have co-operated with Barclays Investment but they chose to obstruct it. It was clear the Barclays were clear on their commitment to the island with support – they got no support at all.

Sark doesn’t appear to want or appreciate the Barclays’ investment and so it doesn’t have it. The island cannot at the same time treat the Barclay family in the way that it has and expect them to continue investing large sums of money into its economy.

Sark is going back to where it was before the Barclay brothers were there.

I just heard from a BBC reporter who was not expecting his hotel to be open when he got back to it. Sark’s voters have not come up with the ‘right’ democratic answer. And they’ll be punished, it seems…

Update: Another sympathetic quote from Gordon Dawes – the Barclay twins’ lawyer:

I find it very hard, particularly at this time of year, not to wonder about the old saying to do with turkeys and whether or not they would vote for Christmas; well it seems we have our answer. I am genuinely saddened. The people of Sark have spoken.

Apparently the Barclays produced a newsletter characterising one of their opponents as a “feudal talibanist” and another as having a “socialist streak”. Can’t think why that didn’t go down well with Sark’s electorate…