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‘Britain is not a superpower’, says Wallace as he rebukes Raab over Afghan intelligence

“Britain is not a superpower, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said last night – as he warned that the scrambled withdrawal from Afghanistan ‘could have been much worse’ if the Taliban had put up a fight. Mr Wallace said it was time for the public to take a realistic look at Britain’s place in the world. In an interview with the Spectator magazine, he said Britain ‘hasn’t been able to field a mass army for 50 years – if not longer’. But he said the country still had ‘a huge range of tools at our disposal: from soft to hard power, economic power, scientific power and cultural power’… His comments will be seen as a swipe at the United States after its decision to abandon its military effort in Afghanistan. But defence sources denied this, saying he was making a wider point about the need for the West to stand up to adversaries prepared to stick to ‘100-year plans’.” – Daily Mail

  • ‘It’s not about failure of intelligence, it’s about the limits of intelligence’ – Interview, The Spectator

More:

  • Britain faces higher terror threat after frantic Afghanistan withdrawal, ex-MI6 chief warns – The Sun

>Today: ToryDiary: Raab v Wallace. Downing Street should force a ceasefire.

Foreign Secretary to visit Afghanistan’s neighbours amid refugee efforts

“Dominic Raab is to visit countries neighbouring Afghanistan amid efforts to help those left behind by the airlift from Kabul, after facing criticism from MPs for refusing to estimate how many were eligible to come to the UK. While Raab declined to tell the foreign affairs committee where he was going, citing security protocols, it is understood the foreign secretary will first go to Doha, the Qatari capital, where the Taliban’s exiled leaders have been based. “We’re always very careful about signalling travel movements because of the security implications,” he said. “But I can tell you I’m leaving after this committee to go to the region.” Raab indicated he would also go to Pakistan, telling the committee chair, the Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat, that it would be his first visit to the country as foreign secretary. Amid repeated questions from the cross-party committee about those left behind when the final UK troops were flown out last week, Raab confirmed these included some Afghan nationals who had guarded the British embassy in Kabul.” – The Guardian

  • Spy chiefs begin discussions over safe passage for Brits and Afghans left behind – Daily Mail
  • Intelligence chief seeks assurances over Afghan helpers and that country will not become terrorist base – The Guardian
  • MPs brand militants a vicious death cult and warn we can’t trust them – Daily Mail

>Today: Garvan Walshe’s column: Behind the return of the Taliban is the not-so-hidden hand of Pakistan

Raab tells MPs Britain and allies were ‘caught out by speed and scale’ of Taliban advance

“The UK foreign secretary has said the government’s central assessment on Afghanistan was that the capital was “unlikely” to fall to the Taliban this year despite the withdrawal of international forces last month. Dominic Raab on Wednesday evening will travel to Qatar, where British officials are co-ordinating the operation to secure safe passage for eligible Afghans who have been left stranded in the country and at risk of Taliban reprisals following the fall of Kabul last month. Interrogated by furious MPs on the House of Commons foreign affairs select committee on Wednesday, Raab admitted Britain and its allies had been “caught out by the speed and scale of the fall” and pointed to “optimism bias” surrounding the withdrawal… Pushed on the “intelligence failure”, the foreign secretary said: “We’ve got a very professional way of approaching these things but when they’re wrong . . . you need to look at how you correct that.”” – FT

  • Foreign Office ‘warned in July that Taliban could retake power’ – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: “The central assessment” suggested “it was unlikely Kabul would fall this year”, Raab tells MPs

Quentin Letts: Their self-serving salvo barely left a dent in Raab

“As cynics know, select committees are not really about policy. They are vehicles for the ambitions of the MPs who run them and they can be used to give legs to a juicy hoo-hah. Chris Bryant (Lab, Rhondda), making liberal mentions of Raab’s holiday, was plainly angling for a clip on the evening news bulletins. Claudia Webbe (Mensa, Leicester East), narrowed her eyes to what she hoped was an intellectual pose and asked for Raab’s thoughts on the history of tribalism in Afghanistan. Prof Webbe said the West had been involved there for 40 years. Raab, suppressing a laugh, said he was reasonably sure the Russians had been there for a while too. The most interesting questions came from MPs who were less frenzied: Labour’s Graham Stringer and Bob Seely (C, Isle of Wight). Seely asked if we could ever now rely on America as an ally. Raab thought the US would “bounce back” but suggested that lack of “psychological confidence” was a reason Nato members would not act militarily without the Americans.” – The Times

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Andrew Gimson’s Commons sketch: The Foreign Secretary fails to win friends and influence people

Schools ‘need £6bn’ for pupils to recover from lost learning due to Covid, Williamson warned

“An extra £5.8 billion is needed to enable education to recover from Covid, head teachers and influential academy chains are advising Gavin Williamson. In a letter to the education secretary, also sent to Downing Street and the Treasury, the school leaders warn that children are months behind academically and facing mental health crises. The government has committed £3 billion for Covid catch up. The leaders say, however, that £5.8 billion is the minimum needed to avert “serious long-term damage”. Their intervention comes as YouGov polling for The Times Education Commission showed that 78 per cent of voters and 83 per cent of parents supported the government making extra funding available to schools for catch up lessons or tutoring for children.” – The Times

  • Spending per pupil falls by nine per cent in a decade – Daily Mail
  • Britain’s schools shut for longer than any European country bar one during pandemic – The Sun

>Yesterday: Emily Carver’s column: This September, unions cannot be allowed to sabotage and obstruct children’s education again

MoD could move UK nuclear subs abroad if Scotland breaks away

“The UK has drawn up secret contingency plans to move its Trident nuclear submarine bases from Scotland to the US or France in the event of Scottish independence. Another option under consideration is for the UK to seek a long-term lease for the Royal Navy’s nuclear bases at their current location in Faslane and Coulport on the west coast of Scotland. This would create a British territory within the borders of a newly separate Scotland, said people briefed on the plans. The UK government is fiercely opposed to Scottish independence but the prospect of a potential break-up of the Union is worrying Whitehall. The governing Scottish National party returned to power in May and has pledged to ban all nuclear weapons in an independent Scotland. Several senior officials told the Financial Times that the contingency plans for moving the submarines underscored the difficult choices ministers will have to make for Britain’s nuclear programme after a potential Scottish breakaway.” – FT

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: A formal alliance with the Greens shows that the SNP are on the defensive

Hammond rebuked for using Treasury contacts to help bank

“Lord Hammond of Runnymede, the former chancellor, has been reprimanded by an independent watchdog for using his government connections to assist a bank he advises. Lord Pickles, chairman of the advisory committee on business appointments (Acoba), said it was an “unwise step” for the Tory peer to contact a senior Treasury official about a project developed by OakNorth. Hammond argued that he had emailed Charles Roxburgh, the second permanent secretary at the Treasury, to ensure that senior officials were aware that the bank was offering free support during the pandemic. However, Pickles said that Hammond’s use of his contacts “in this way was not consistent with the intention of the rules and was not acceptable”… Former ministers must seek advice from Acoba when they take up any new paid or unpaid appointment outside of government within two years of leaving office.” – The Times

Corbyn ‘to be barred from speaking at Labour Party conference’

“Jeremy Corbyn is set to be barred from speaking at the Labour Party conference this year, it has been claimed, as Sir Keir Starmer was embroiled in a row with the party’s youth wing on Wednesday. In a sign of mounting tensions ahead of the four-day event in Brighton, the leader of Young Labour has claimed Mr Corbyn and anyone affiliated with a Palestine pressure group will “be refused as a speaker”. Jess Barnard made the allegations amid a dispute with the party leadership over a number of events it hopes to hold at the conference at the end of this month. While Young Labour is the umbrella group for all members under 27, its leadership is affiliated with the party’s Left wing and its political positions clash with the direction in which Sir Keir is attempting to take Labour. Ms Barnard said that despite submitting proposals for Young Labour events at the conference “months ago”, the party had failed to confirm whether its plans and proposed speakers would be admitted.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Starmer urged to create ‘political cabinet’ with other UK Labour leaders – The Guardian

News in Brief:

  • The battle to be virtuous inspires endless political cruelty – Ed West, UnHerd
  • How did a violent male manage to sneak into a female space? – Olivia Hartley, The Critic
  • Top dog: how animals captured politics – William Moore, The Spectator
  • It’s time to shut down Young Labour – Oliver Kamm, CapX