David Cameron and Liam Fox flew into Afghanistan this morning in a visit billed as showing support for Britain’s troops and for the work they are doing. The Tory leadership is keen to be seen to be both on the side of the armed forces in the region whilst criticising the Government’s confused oversight of under-resourced operations. Last week Dr Fox also attacked the BBC for failing to report on the good work being done by UK troops. This comes from Saturday’s Independent:
"Liam Fox, the shadow Defence Secretary, has accused the BBC of pumping out "unrelentingly negative" reports about Iraq without giving adequate coverage to more positive developments. He received complaints from British servicemen on a visit to Basra and promised to raise their "frustration and irritation" with BBC chiefs. One soldier said: "The BBC will report if we get shot at or killed, but not if we reconnect electricity, repair sewers or rebuild a bridge."
The Cameron trip could be overshadowed, however, by a call from Tobias Ellwood MP, Tory whip, for Afghanistan’s opium trade to be legalised. This is what Mr Ellwood told Guardian Unlimited:
"The poppy crops are the elephant in the room of the Afghan problem. We’re in complete denial of the power that the crops have on the nation as a whole, and the tactics of eradication are simply not working… Last year we spent £600m on eradication and all that resulted was the biggest-ever export of opium from the country."
Mr Cameron might be positive towards Mr Ellwood’s proposal for opium farming to be licensed to plug a suggested shortage of opiate-based medicines. The Tory leader has demonstrated a repeated openness to a more liberal approach to drugs (see here and here).