Toms Blog

As I write, we are witnessing another extraordinary confusion over Western intervention in complicated Middle Eastern situations, this time without either UN approval or much support at home. The American military and intelligence community are clearly driven by their own agenda - they have long seen Syria as a sponsor of terrorism: the President, no hawk but boxed in by his earlier tough talk on red lines being crossed, has felt compelled to submit the whole plan to Congress for approval. Meanwhile the UK government, up till last week at least inextricably linked to its historic US nexus is in an even more tricky situation, having been ambushed by its own political establishment: up till that moment both France and Britain, under relatively inexperienced leaders and fresh from (rather unlikely) joint military adventures in Libya and Mali, seemed to be itching to make more bangs and flashes in distant parts. A huge mess all round: but lessons may come out of it that wars, especially of the non-defensive variety which lack popular support, are rarely a good idea.

Back in the UK, the dear old NHS has progressed to a new order of health scandal, this time over the body designed to enforce quality standards in our hospitals.  The Care Quality Commission, as it is rather optimistically called, first failed to notice (let alone challenge) a persistent trend in neo-natal deaths in an NHS hospital in Cumberland: it then suppressed the report criticising it for the same. It then had to admit to employing a total of 12 communications officers tasked with putting a positive spin on its activities. When will we all realise that quality, efficiency and patient focus comes as a result of competition and fear of losing business, not from exhortations from faceless committees?  In the end, a bureaucracy will always put its own interests first, with those of its clients far behind.

Tom Sackville