Monday, 28 February 2011


The rapidly deteriorating situation in Libya puts into clear perspective the remarkable achievements of the Egyptian People in peaceably deposing President Mubarak, and it is unmistakably clear to the Egyptian interim government that they must keep to their stated intention of creating a full democracy within the next few months, with the reins of government in the hands of the civil population, not the armed forces, and underlined by the discussions that took place when the Prime Minister, David Cameron, visited Egypt.

The whole region will have noted today the stiffening resolve of the international community. The region will have noted too the open talk of the military option, not only with US Forces now increasing its presence in the waters off Libya, but again, the PM, on the floor of the House of Commons today, making it clear that not only must a no-fly zone be established over Libya, but that other military options are also now being considered. When we look behind the language of diplomacy, we know only too well, that we are being prepared to commit our armed forces if this becomes necessary.

The Foreign Secretary, William Hague, spoke bluntly today in Geneva, as too did Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of the USA.

Ideally, the Libyan People will be able to remove Colonel Gaddafi without the involvement militarily of the Allies.

But that is clearly not going to be easy. With the death toll already standing on unconfirmed reports of between 1,000 and 2,000 people, this is surely going to increase.

When a no fly zone is established, this gives those countries enforcing the zone carte blanche to survey the territory. It also means that if they see an attempt by the Libyan Government to use its military hardware, it is almost certainly going to be a challenge to that no fly zone. Anti-aircraft batteries are a direct threat to a no-fly zone. So those are simply taken out. That leads to assessing other military hardware. Is any part of it capable of violating the zone ie by attacking aircraft that are enforcing the zone? If so, that too is taken out.

The admission today that the 'pot shot' at one of the British RAF C130 Hercules Transports rescuing British and Foreign Nationals actually struck closer to home than just hitting the outer fuselage, namely, managing to hit the helmet of the pilot, means that even small arms fire is also a direct threat!

Colonel Gaddafi's arranged interview with three Journalists from the BBC and ABC today shows us the problem. The interview was not at all surprising. What is far more ominous is the Jekyll and Hyde antics of one of his sons - appearing on state TV yesterday with all the calm and dignity of the voice of reason, speaking the Queen's English and highlighting his British education, and then the unofficial footage of the same man on top of a vehicle waving a heavy weapon in the air and inciting his followers to violence.

These are very dangerous times. Let us not under-estimate what is happening. Neither let us forget our troops in Afghanistan.

Ian Bradley Marshall
28 February 2011

Thursday, 24 February 2011


My last column ended with the following words:

And let us also be truly thankful for all of the journalists and camera crews who are taking their lives in their hands too in order that we might receive proper reports of what is going on, and then able to respond nationally and internationally.

I cannot emphasise enough the bravery of the journalists, reporters and camera crews.

Two days later, in the early hours of this Friday morning, these words stand truer than ever. It is not always understood or appreciated by the viewer that the journalists and their camera crew are under tremendous pressure from the local population who rightly see them as a window onto the outside world, and with it the chance perhaps for freedom? It takes courage to report from any ongoing incident whether it be here at home dealing with a problem in the street or standing outside the cordoned off house where the bodies of a parent and children have been found, or from the front line in Afghanistan with our troops, or in Libya surrounded by street to street fighting, the local population either both involved in that fighting and its older and younger generations trying to find safety.

Around the world, well nigh for a Century, the BBC has been viewed with detestation by many a foreigner who has been brought to account for daring to report matters that a country's own broadcasting company dare not for fear of losing their lives.

And the reports we receive are at tremendous personal sacrifice. In any conflict situation, the first lesson taught is the need to keep calm, to retain measured thinking and analysis and then to have that ability to report even the most horrendous situations in a manner that enables us at home to fully understand what is going on and then to respond appropriately. And that response will be stiffening resolve, which in itself helps government to make the right decisions, to sort itself out where it is temporarily going off the rails, and boost the confidence of those charged with the task of rescuing people, both British and foreign nationals.

It is very easy to criticize the Government's handling of this current situation; and there is justification for that, as evidenced by the Prime Minister's public apology yesterday morning. Nevertheless, the PM will be chairing the National Security Council later this morning and a smaller inner Council Meeting as well. Very clear lessons are being learned and the PM has made it clear, as too has the Defence Secretary - that we have to be fully prepared for when this type of thing arises in the future. And arise, it will! Let there be no doubt about that.

A Ship of the Line lies at anchor not far from where I am now looking out. She came into port quietly yesterday and preparations are underway. Another ship of the line, HMS Cumberland, is now taking passengers to Malta and will return to Benghazi, and there are fevered unspecified operations underway to rescue the Oil Workers trapped inland at the refineries. This operation is huge and complex. It requires the clearest thinking. It will involve our special forces.

We, the general public, must allow the people tasked to do this work, to do so without besetting them with endless criticism. Let us not be like the "know alls" on the football terraces who shout what they think the managers or captains should be doing! If they were heeded, we wouldn't see them for dust!! Having said that, it is right and proper that the Shadow Foreign Secretary raise concerns. This is good government. It is how our Parliamentary system should operate.

When I was in Beaconsfield in 2002 I was talking to an elderly client about her wartime service as a rigger on Spitfires. She then mentioned that she was later transferred 'because of my voice' to the Ops Room. This lady explained how unnerving it was, to talk in a calm, measured and reassuring tone to the crews returning from raids - but with a difference. Many of these crews were flying to certain death because they had no way of landing safely; but this lady, as a young woman no older than the crews, had to talk to these young men. I shall never forget the look she gave me as she described it - "harrowing, very harrowing Mr Marshall. Mine was the last voice they heard."

As a police officer I had been taught the same. My police inspector explained, "It does not matter what is happening out there, you just make sure you remain cool, calm and collected. Lives depend on it!"

I never cease to think of these two illustrations when I watch the news reports. All of us need to know what is going on and it is the bravery and, at times, sheer bloody-mindedness of the journalists, reporters and camera crews who enable this to happen.

To all of these men and women, I say, thank you. Genuinely.

Ian Bradley Marshall
25 February 2011

Tuesday, 22 February 2011


All of us will have been horrified at the increasingly insane ramblings of a dictator about to be deposed, haranguing his People and the international community and most surely sending out a coded message to the few foolish people who remain loyal to him, to commence the killings.

It is the action of every dictator as we glance back along the path of history even to just the last 70 years.

To use one of the most awesome phrases, 'the writing is on the wall; you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting; this very night...'

Whilst the UN Security Council has acted in passing the resolution, politics and diplomacy is a long drawn out affair, and whether we like it or not, we have to take note of the unwillingess of Russia and China to become involved in what they see as purely internal affairs within a nation state, that no matter how bloody they become, is not a matter that should concern the international community. Simply put, it is because they resent any outside interference in their own affairs.

So we have not been able to secure for the Libyan People the protection of an immediate no fly zone over Libyan airspace. But we do have very deliberate and strategic operations now being implemented. This country alone has dispatched HMS Cumberland, a very powerful Frigate that is often moored up not far from my lounge windows here in Liverpool. A fraction of the size of its predecessors, it has the firepower of and capacity to wage war that 50 years ago would have needed a small fleet to achieve.

We have no reports on US Operations or Naval movements but we can rest assured that the traffic between the Pentagon and GCHQ Cheltenham UK will be considerable, and this means that we are moving inexorably towards the overthrow of a despicable dictatorship and the institution of democracy by the people themselves.

As I watched the news this morning, many will have felt pride as our Prime Minister spoke on the deepening crisis whilst himself in the Middle East. Pride because Mr Cameron hit the nail on the head in praise of all of the young people he met in Tahrir Square, and we know full well that the young people of Libya have likewise stood up and refused to withdraw in spite of the massacre and possible genocide that is now taking place.

The Prime Minister spoke eloquently and passionately:

“Meeting the young people and the representatives of the groups in Tahrir Square was genuinely inspiring. These are people who have risked a huge amount for what they believe in.

“They were extremely articulate and passionate about the changes they want to see in their country.

“I absolutely believe it is possible to have greater openness, accountability and democracy without the risk of extremism.

“They were inspirational people to spend some time with.”

Let us therefore embrace the principles enunciated by Mr Cameron and stand resolutely by the Libyan People both in their Country and all Libyans who are living abroad. Libyans in Britain and the other democracies see daily what we take for granted. Now they are on the threshold of obtaining democratic rights and principles too; freedoms that their families back at home can barely comprehend.

But a huge price is being paid for winning this freedom.

Let our own people here also stand with the crew of HMS Cumberland and with our Troops in Afghanistan. Being in the front line is horrendous. Its dangers do not stop when the TV news moves to the next programme and we pop into the kitchen to make another mug of tea! The rescue of our own people caught up in this requires great skill and ability; our diplomatic and specialised military units will be able to achieve it, but not without great risk.

And let us also be truly thankful for all of the journalists and camera crews who are taking their lives in their hands too in order that we might receive proper reports of what is going on, and then able to respond nationally and internationally.

I cannot emphasise enough the bravery of the journalists, reporters and camera crews.

It is good too to see cross party support to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and in particular to the Foreign Secretary and his ministers.

There must be no party bickering at a time such as this, for peoples' lives are at risk.

Ian Bradley Marshall
23 February 2011


There is a deep and abiding relationship quite naturally between the UK and New Zealand, as indeed there is with Australia, despite the popular ribaldry and playground name calling that goes on!

This year has seen New Zealand and Australia undergo terrible natural disasters and in reality the people of Great Britain stand resolutely with the Kiwis and Ozzies at this traumatic time.

Across the world it is easy to concentrate upon the political upheavals that are going on, but in times such as these, these Island Peoples will always rise to the challenge of not only supporting those who are daring to challenge the totalitarian regimes within which they have the misfortune to live, but because, as an island people, it is within our very being, our subconscious, our psyche to do so. Anyone born within the British Isles will always look to the sea, knowing that our shoreline has guaranteed our freedom for well nigh a thousand years and enabled us to be the springboard when the New World joined with the Old World to restore peace, good order and self-discipline among the peoples of Europe. That noble objective has taken a very long time to achieve, but we are slowly obtaining this, with a long way still to go.

To the Peoples of New Zealand and to Australia (with whom there is an incredible bond of natural affection), we stand with you in these traumatic times, and we thank you also for demonstrating the resilience and fortitude you have and are doing so that must surely be an inspiration to people everywhere.

Her Majesty The Queen has spoken for all of us this morning and much is now already in place to help the citizens of Christchurch. As a minister of the collapsed Christchurch Cathedral remarked this morning, these are just buildings, they can always be replaced. But it's the people under them that we cannot replace. We pray that He will enable as many as possible to be saved.

The Olympics 2012 London

It is a marvellous spectacle to see the developers hand over the keys of the new cycling Velodrome this morning. What an achievement. From a big hole in the ground has now risen this beautiful arena that is already regarded by athletes as the best of its kind in the world.

It is good to report on these things when there is so much distress and people are finding the Recession hit home with the force of a sledgehammer (and on this I speak personally). We have to stand firm, we have to remember that out of the ruins we are always able to rebuild.

Let us do all we can to inspire young people to make the most of this wonderful opportunity to excel. All around the world thousands are working towards this, now very much aware that the countdown is 521 days remaining and counting!

Ian Bradley Marshall
22 February 2011

Monday, 21 February 2011


In just two days the situation has deteriorated since the last entry, events moving so swiftly that news agencies around the world are unable to keep pace, and yet despite the ruthless attempt to subjugate the Libyan People, Libyan's discredited leader and his sons have become international pariahs.

We have a leader employing mercenaries; orders issued to the military and the police to shoot, and there is plenty of evidence that the order is to shoot to kill.

We have the UN Libyan Mission requesting the immediate intervention of the United Nations on its Peoples' behalf to intervene.

We have the deputy Libyan ambassador to the UN stating that genocide is now being carried out in his country.

But the most telling, and the most moving illustration of all, is the defection of two Libyan Air Force fighter jet pilots refusing to carry out its Squadron's battle order to bomb civilians, and instead in a tremendous demonstration of defiance, seeking permission to land on Malta and then requesting asylum.

It IS now for the United Nations:

to act swiftly and decisively. To close down Libya's airspace to prevent any further in flow of mercenaries. To open safe corridors for medical aid.

It IS for the European Union:

to act swiftly and decisively too. To have its full military capability demonstrated to the Libyan army, air force and navy - in short, to lay down their arms.

This is happening in our own back yard, and if we cannot respond to this situation then the EU will be discredited and the UN will be seen as bellicose in rhetoric but empty in action.

The UK is showing very decisive leadership.

Today the Prime Minister, Mr Cameron, gave his reaction during a visit to Egypt, the first international leader to visit Egypt since the removal of President Mubarak. And this demonstrates this Country's ability to understand this type of dangerous situation. We are better placed than most to do this given our historical knowledge of this whole region and the practical experience thereby learned.

We see too the reaction of the Libyan Expatriates in Manchester - surely a comfort to those at home who can somehow gain access to the international media - that Libyans the world over, and the democracies are mobilising and will come to the Libyan People's aid.

The European Council of Ministers is meeting, and the Foreign Secretary William Hague has also shown decisive leadership, sending out a very clear signal to the international community that the view of the UK will be heard.

It is going to get worse before it gets better; that is for sure.

But uniting internationally will put such pressure on the Libyan President to step down or, better still, to flee his benighted country, that the slow process of creating a true democracy for the first time in 41 years can begin.

It is a signal also to other repressive regimes in the region. Consider where you stand. Consider how you treat your people. Consider the consequences if you do not heed to their insistence on full democratic rights and freedoms, something that we, here in the West and in the UK in particular take for granted and mistreat.

To all such regimes, and to Libya, the eyes of the world are upon you.

Ian Bradley Marshall
21 February 2011

Saturday, 19 February 2011


Egypt is the fuse that has lit the taper, and we now watch the flame moving along that taper with increasing speed and intensity towards the powder keg to which it leads, and hence an almighty explosion - Bahrain and Libya and let us face it, possibly Saudi Arabia and Iran. The people are no longer frightened of tanks, armies and police even though the price paid is many fatalities and ruthlessly being put down by regimes that now realise that their days are numbered.

Pearl Square is a bloodbath, a totally opposite picture to that prevailing in Tahrir Square for 18 days earlier this month in Egypt. What is happening in the Middle East is surely that sinister build up to a third world war. We know it is coming if we permit certain Middle Eastern states to operate under a code of law that is little more than medieval in composition and which the flimsiest veil of democracy over totalitarian dictatorship.

Middle Europe was the powder keg that set off the Second World War; the Balkans the powder keg for the First World War. For decades we have known that the Middle East is the powder keg for the Third World War.

The greatest diplomacy is required by the World Powers, by the USA, China, Great Britain, Russia, France, Germany - the UN. The greatest diplomatic pressure must be applied to these bully states who have scant or no regard for the rule of law, to listen to the people, move to granting the basic democratic freedoms that their peoples rightly demand, and avert the slide to nuclear war; for let us be in no doubt about it. Israel has a considerable nuclear capability and it would be foolish to think that left with no other options, Israel would not hesitate to consider that option if all else failed.

Let us, therefore, here in the UK, give cross party support to all efforts by the Coalition Government to find a diplomatic resolution. Let us give full support to the Foreign Secretary and to the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister. For the stakes are high and time is running out when we read, not the tabloid press, but the newspapers reflecting responsible and reasoned journalism.

Ian Bradley Marshall
19 February 2011