The Sketch: Miliband's urgency is quite radical

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The Independent Online

That nice young David Miliband kicked off the new year with a report on the Yemen, and why we've closed our embassy there. He described the difficulties faced by Yemen's government. Tribal rebellion in the north, secessionists in the south, a collapsing economy and al-Qa'ida everywhere. A bit like Burnley, in short.

Our optimistic young friend said the only solution was "urgent political reform". But then he's an urgent political reformer, he has no other answer to any question you might ask. Schools, hospitals, field sports, Yemen: reform them politically. And not in any sort of leisurely way. No, urgently!

His plan is to "address the underlying facts of radicalisation". It must be easier than it sounds. David Miliband addresses the underlying facts of Yemeni radicalisation by urgently reforming them politically. Then on Thursday...

He was asked how much aid money was promised to the benighted country in the "pledging conference" four years ago. It was £5bn. That's not nothing. But how much had been delivered? "Um, £38.60" (he didn't quite say). Four-fifths of rock-all is the answer. "A very small proportion," he said. Then he started making those pre-invasion noises about the place being "a threat to regional stability", and belligerent Tories talked about the need "to eradicate the breeding grounds" of terrorists and using aid to "remove the scourge".

Oh Gawd, we sighed.

Why doesn't he just pass a law making it illegal for Yemenis to radicalise? He could add it as an amendment to the new Fiscal Responsibility Bill which will make it illegal not to halve the UK deficit.

Alan Johnson turned up with a statement on aviation security following the Johnny Bomb Pants thing at Detroit. They have snapped into action again, as events demand. They're putting in a whole lot more airport scanners, which all share one interesting deficiency. They are incapable of detecting the sort of explosives that are hidden in Y-fronts.

But it was Alan Johnson's assertion that governments "didn't comment on security matters" that got the Tories going. Chris Grayling did well to get a rise out of the equable Home Secretary by saying the Prime Minister had "made false claims" twice in relation to the US and that their record in "commenting on intelligence" was gruesome considering what they did in their fraudulent dossiers on Iraq.

Alan was "saddened" (or, as we say, "delighted") that Grayling had used this "tense" occasion to launch "a personal attack" on the Prime Minister. He said Tory faces had been "appalled". They weren't. They too were delighted. Perhaps we'll have a law against that, too.

simoncarr@sketch.sc

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