Andy McSmith's Diary: Saddam Hussein bequeath arms to Assad? The idea is nonsense, as Alastair Campbell knows

Our Man in Westminster

The Syrian imbroglio has prompted a lot of Britain’s political class to revisit where they were 10 years ago, arguing over the Iraq War. Alastair Campbell has given a long, confessional interview with the Nottingham Post, in which he talks with honesty about the alcohol-fuelled breakdown he suffered in the 1980s.

In the midst of it, the old spin doctor offered this aside: “The huge difference is that we’re talking about chemical weapons, rather than weapons of mass destruction. When they weren’t there, some people suspected they had gone across the border into Syria. Now there is no doubt the chemical weapons are in Syria and have been used.”

Some people did suggest that at the time, but they were talking rubbish. There was vicious enmity between Iraq under Saddam Hussein, and Syria under the rule of the Assad family, one being a predominantly Shia country ruled by Sunnis, the other a Sunni country ruled by Alawites. When Saddam seized power in 1979, he slaughtered any Iraqi officials suspected of being in cahoots with Bashar al-Assad’s father, and started an eight-year war with Syria’s ally, Iran, which cost hundreds of thousands of lives and during which Iraq used chemical weapons with results as ghastly as anything in the 21 August massacre in Syria. In 1990, Syria was part of the military alliance that forced Saddam out of Kuwait. The idea that Saddam Hussein’s parting gift, as his regime collapsed, his sons were killed and he went into hiding, was to donate lethal weaponry to his old enemies is absurd, as Campbell must surely know.

There were so many reasons why Iraq and the world is better off without Saddam Hussein. The coalition should have completed the task when they had a valid reason for going to war in 1991, but when eventually they did, the explanation that Tony Blair gave the public for sending in British troops was spurious. Hence the public’s instinctive opposition to being drawn into Syria’s terrible conflict.

Dead-ication to combating zombie menace

A man named Arnold, surname unknown, has submitted a Freedom of Information request to Yorkshire’s East Riding council, asking “Can you please let us know what provisions you have in place in the event of a zombie invasion?”

Arnold’s research has led him to conclude that zombie invasions unfailingly catch the local authorities unawares, and he believes they are a contingency that “councils throughout the kingdom must prepare for”. He is right on the first count, of course. East Riding council is unable to offer any information at all about what it would do if their graveyards heaved open and their streets were overrun by living corpses crying “Meat! Meat!” the Hull Daily Mail reports.

In this matter, Yorkshire has shown less imagination than Quebec, where responding to a zombie apocalypse was placed on the agenda for last February’s annual symposium on civil security, prompting a question in Canada’s Parliament about whether the rest of the country was equally prepared. The Foreign Minister, John Baird, replied that he was – I quote – “dead-icated” to keeping Canada zombie-free. Sad to relate, Quebec’s Public Security Minister Stephane Bergeron cancelled the zombie combating exercise at very short notice, fearing that it might make the province’s authorities look ridiculous.

Tasting how the other half live

“She’s represented a certain part of our constituency very well – but there’s a whole other slew of people there who have felt their voice has not been listened to or heard in any sense,” Lindsay Hall, the Tory challenger in Westminster North, says of the incumbent Labour MP Karen Buck.

And as a demonstration of how she is in touch with that other slew, I see from the freesheet West End Extra that Ms Hall spent Thursday evening hosting the “Bayswater Super Wine Tasting.” Tickets were £25 a head. There were 100 wines to be sampled.

Council of despair – but not for all

Council budgets have been reduced by a third, with another 10 per cent cut on the way, and it is reckoned that 230,000 local government jobs have disappeared since June 2010 – but it’s not all bad news. Wiltshire County Council, which accepted 252 voluntary redundancies in July, has enough in the kitty to give senior managers salary rises of between £10,000 and £20,000. “The biggest risk for me is that we can’t recruit new managers,” the council’s Tory leader, Jane Scott, explained.

Has Ukip’s Bloom seen the light?

An invitation arrives from the Ukip MEP Godfrey Bloom and his colleague Janice Atkinson to a champagne reception to launch a new campaign: “Women in Politics – We need more women in politics but how do we get there?” Could this be the same Godfrey Bloom who once said his mission was “to promote men’s rights” because women “don’t clean behind the fridge enough”? Yes, I believe they are one and the same.

a.mcsmith@independent.co.uktwitter.com/@andymcsmith

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