Sunday, 27 February 2011
Government By Blackberry
In the past seven days the Westminster government has been severely criticised over their handling of the evacuation of British nationals from Libya.
The MSM and the 24-hour drip feed of news provided by Sky and the BBC have delighted in bringing angry Brits, with their stories of abandonment by the UK government, to our living rooms.
From what I've seen on television, I think the UK government has done a reasonable job considering the PM and deputy were out of the country, but more about that later. The initial hesitation may have been attributed to this.
Anyone going to work or live in a country like Libya must know the risks involved. Many go because they're paid more than they would be in the UK and if they stay out of the UK enough days each year, they do not have to pay UK taxes. I have no problem with that because it's their choice.
What I do have a problem with is some Brits expecting immediate rescue when - with the exception of those in the desert - they could have left the country a week ago as civilian flights were still operating to a reasonable schedule and the UK also chartered aircraft. Many decided to disregard the situation until the middle of the week when they found Tripoli airport in chaos with thousands desperate to leave and civilian flights few and far between.
"It's the UK government's fault," was a popular response in the media. I disagree. When anyone decides to go abroad, for whatever reason, they must take responsibility for their own health and safety. In serious emergency the British Embassy may be able to help but it's not always possible. In the past couple of days Libya has become a serious emergency and, if the words of those who have successfully escaped the country, the Embassy staff have done everything in their power to ensure they were safely escorted to the port/airport. I've yet to hear a word of criticism against anyone connected with the evacuation by an evacuee. Neither have I heard any criticism of BP who also accepted other nationalities when space was available on their flights to Malta.
It is unfortunate some oil workers' families, here in the UK, decided to go public with their concerns for their loved one's safety because they also gave too much information to the interviewer. Those who work in middle east oil fields are well protected by guards employed by the relevant company. Looting from local crooks is not unknown and the guards and workers do their best to keep a good relationship with the host nation. After William Hague's plea to oil workers to let the Foreign Office know where they were, it was obvious to anyone listening that their safety was in doubt and action was being considered.
Most are very acquaint with survival skills but these were reduced when one of their escape routes, through the desert, was blocked. Too much information was being provided on news channels which was putting any rescue attempt in jeopardy. Thankfully late yesterday around 150 British and other foreign nationals were airlifted safely to Malta by the British military. Another 300 await rescue.
The media must be told to be more responsible. Gaddafi's henchmen didn't need to spend much time finding out where the UK's special forces were gathered. There is a fine line between news and news which must be withheld from the public because it would endanger the lives of others. The line was crossed a few times this past week.
But David Cameron certainly didn't provide an acceptable level of leadership this week. Since the coalition was formed I've occasionally questioned why he was giving Nick Clegg so much exposure in the media and wondered if he was hoping Mr Clegg would eventually flounder. Nick Clegg did so last week - spectacularly, but David Cameron was unable to capitalise on it. Why? For some strange reason he allowed Mr Clegg to trot off on a skiing holiday in the same week the middle east was in uproar and he was to jet around parts of it in an effort to boost the sales of his business entourage. Such planning is not permitted in Ruralshire and certainly it was poor diary organisation from No 10.
It escapes my memory whether it was David Cameron or Nick Clegg who was reported to have said there was no necessity for the PM or his deputy to physically be in the country because communications equipment was excellent these days. The Blackberry was mentioned. Does this show that Britain's PM and other senior politicians are purely figureheads these days or has it always been so and it's only due to modern communication systems, such as the Blackberry, that their hollowness has been revealed?