Robert Gates, the former US defence secretary, had a salty phrase for summing up the problem of negotiating with North Korea. “I’m tired of buying the same horse twice,” he said while attending a security conference in Singapore in 2009.
Gates was referring to a familiar pattern that has emerged in America’s dealings with the world’s last Stalinist state. North Korea promises to freeze its nuclear programme in return for US food aid or other concessions. Washington duly supplies the goods, while North Korea breaks the deal. Pyongyang then says “please give us more aid and we will keep the deal that we’ve already broken”. The US coughs up again – and North Korea breaks its side of the bargain. Again. And so the process goes on, with North Korea extracting more concessions in return for agreeing to keep an agreement that it has already broken #and then reneging on the deal to keep the deal#.
Yesterday PC David Rathband was killed in the line of duty. The precise circumstances of his death are not known, but police sources have confirmed they are not looking for anyone else in connection with the incident. Raoul Moat, as far as I’m concerned, has claimed another victim.
Like many people who heard the news of PC Rathband’s death I was shocked. Partly because death always manages to take us by surprise. But also because it didn’t fit with my, or I suspect many people’s, lazy preconception of heroism.
Tritely, I thought I knew the script. Brave police officer is seriously wounded. He fights back, rebuilds his life and goes on to become a inspiration to us all. We cheer him on his charity runs. Marvel at his stoicism. Wonder at the humility with which he tells us there are many in a much worse position than himself.
But David Rathband refused to conform. He was understandably bitter at the wanton act of violence that had robbed him of his sight. Angry that his career, and life as he had known it, had been ripped brutally from him. And he was not willing to sit back patiently and wait out the decade the “experts” told him it would take him to come to terms with his disability.
As businesses call for the 50p higher rate of income tax to be scrapped, Mr Browne said ministers should aim to reduce taxes on individuals to a level “closer to or preferably slightly lower than the competition”.
The minister’s comments put him at odds with the tone of his party leader, Nick Clegg, who strongly supports wealth taxes and will not allow the Coalition to scrap the 50p rate for high earners.
Mr Browne said the priorities at the moment are reducing taxes on business and raising the personal allowance for income tax, rather than scrapping the 50p rate.
“We have to recognise what is affordable given the massive budget deficit,” he said. “If we’re going to have any tax cuts, and the scope is very limited, I think we should probably be trying to stimulate enterprise and work at the bottom end of the scale. The Government’s priority, approved by both the parties, is to try and raise the personal allowance to reward work and reduce dependency.”
The disclosure raises questions about the closeness between the Prime Minister and Mrs Brooks, the former tabloid editor who quit as chief executive of News International at the height of the phone hacking scandal last summer.
It emerged this week that Mrs Brooks was lent a retired police horse by the Metropolitan Police for two years. The horse, called Raisa, was stabled at her farm in the Cotswolds from 2008 to 2010, before it was handed back to Scotland Yard. It was put out to pasture in Norfolk and has since died.
An aide close to the Prime Minister confirmed for the first time that Mr Cameron had gone riding with Mrs Brooks’ husband Charlie, a racehorse trainer and an old friend from his Eton schooldays.
The source said that it was “possible” that one of the horses could have been Raisa, because Mr Brooks had lent a number of horses to Mr Cameron over the years. The aide said: “It is possible. He used a number of Charlie’s horses.”
Mr Cameron had no recollection of ever going riding with Mrs Brooks, however. The aide added: “He never rode with Rebekah Brooks. He has no recollection of ever going riding with Rebekah Brooks.”