Disarray in a deepening crisis

Last updated at 14:28 12 May 2004

In chaos, confusion and total disarray, the Government flounders deeper into the morass.

We now know that Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon was being economical with the actualite when he told MPs that the Red Cross report on alleged abuses by coalition forces was seen by our former Iraq envoy, Sir Jeremy Greenstock. Hoon's claim is contradicted by Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, backed up by Downing Street.

Instead, it is claimed that explosive information vital to our national interests was dealt with by a junior official and never passed to Ministers. In stark contrast, America's nabob in Iraq, Paul Bremer, DID see the report.

What on earth is going on? If Mr Blair's Government operates an administration in which junior officials keep crucial information from Ministers, it is guilty of dereliction of duty and incompetence. If, however, all this manoeuvring is to protect Ministerial backs, new depths of dishonesty are being plumbed.

Unfortunately, this Government has a poor record on the truth front. The latest example is Defence Minister Adam Ingram, who apparently misled MPs when he said he had not received 'adverse' reports about mistreatment of prisoners.

But Amnesty yesterday produced a letter from Mr Ingram proving he knew all about the allegations of misconduct by British troops. No wonder it accuses him of an "unfortunate lapse of memory".

Ministers are losing their grip. With only six weeks to go before a handover of power in Iraq, trust has all but collapsed. It is increasingly difficult to see how Britain and America can extricate themselves with honour from this tragic debacle.

People power

Who says the big battalions of the biotech industry are unstoppable? In a spectacular U-turn, Monsanto announces it is abandoning plans to grow GM wheat, a programme that would have changed forever the nature of the bread we eat.

Yet everything seemed in Monsanto's favour. It has invested vast sums. It is backed by President Bush. It enjoys support from New Labour. This paper was a lone critical voice five years ago when we launched our campaign to alert Britain to the potential problems of GM food.

So what made the company think again? When there are so many concerns about GM crops, the British people don't want them at any price. Our bakers warn they won't touch modified wheat. The rest of Europe is equally unenthusiastic.

Hence the climb-down - a huge victory for public opinion and consumer power. And proof that ordinary people can stand up to politicians and conglomerates.

Bingeing Britain

The scene is familiar in any city, any town: drunken yobs and bloodied brawls, young girls vomiting in the gutter, raucous disorder, an atmosphere of menace. And now police chiefs say alcohol-sodden Britain is about to become even worse.

New Labour's plans for round-the-clock pub opening, they declare, are a recipe for uncontrollable late-night violence. Police warn that dealing with binge drinking "is beyond our capability".

Not for the first time, a confused and ill-thought through 'reform' threatens dire social consequences.

This is a Government that subscribes to the liberal credo that restraint never works. And so it declassifies cannabis, promotes condoms for children, encourages gambling with a casino freeforall and now naively thinks extra time in the pub will discourage drink abuse.

Would it surprise anyone - apart from politicians - if a misguided, ill-disciplined element in British society continues to binge ever more ruinously on under-age sex, drugs, gambling and drink?

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