MINISTERS REACTED with horror last week when it was suggested that MI5, the army and others had talked up the 'terrorist threat' at Heathrow airport. The defence and security services are strictly non-political in such matters, we were told. How embarrassing then that just a day later came confirmation of conspiracies and subversion by just such people. A British army brigadier and up to 20 other soldiers and police officers may be prosecuted for working with Loyalist terrorists in Northern Ireland. Brigadier Gordon Kerr could be accused of conspiracy to murder.
The revelations are part of the inquiry by Sir John Stevens into the murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane. The Ulster Defence Association (UDA) shot Pat Finucane. It was supplied with crucial information about Finucane by people in the army's top secret Force Research Unit. Brigadier Kerr headed this unit and recruited former solider Brian Nelson to infiltrate the UDA.
Nelson scouted Finucane's house and passed on his photo to his killers. Questions remain about just how much the Stevens inquiry will expose. Although it has already given us a glimpse of the army's bloody role, there are fears that it may leave hidden an even higher level conspiracy.
Bush's barmy buddies
IF YOU think George Bush is mad, wait until you see his crazier supporters. Over 4,000 conservative activists in the US met recently in Arlington, Virginia, at the conference of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). The delegates heard vice-president Dick Cheney, Oliver North and other right wing heroes.
Many wore 'Fry Mumia' T-shirts aimed at the black activist who is fighting against his death sentence for a murder he didn't commit. Others held up 'Give war a chance - peace through superior firepower' posters. CPAC hates a lot of things, especially 'Black Marxism', 'the homosexual agenda', the former president Bill Clinton, environmentalists and Islam.
THE deluge of anti-French propaganda in the press has provoked a response in Paris. The newspaper France Soir has published a series of anti-English jokes. The best of them are excellent, and our favourite one is the following. Q: How do you find a train in London? A: Follow an ambulance.
Spies sent out to count braziers
FIRE BOSSES have been accused of spying on firefighters during the recent strikes. London Fire Brigade launched the undercover Operation Firewatch mission by employing plain-clothes workers at the security firm Group 4 to visit fire stations during strike days. This is said to have cost £10,000 a day.
The Group 4 employees were to report back on how many pickets and fire engines were there, what fundraising was taking place and if the firefighters had petitions. Bosses also wanted to know whether firefighters had braziers and banners, and if TV crews were there.
'This is an outrageous waste of money,' says a FBU firefighters' union source. 'Management don't have money for new equipment and training - £10,000 is half the pay of a firefighter for a year. This is something the chief fire officer has to answer for.'
Driven from home and then she died
PENNY-PINCHING Gloucestershire social services moved a woman of 88 from her nursing home to save the council £12 a day. Her doctor warned the council that her life expectancy would be 'considerably reduced' if she was moved. He was ignored.
She died five days after leaving her old home. Violet Townsend was moved from the home where she had lived for eight years when it raised its fees to £463 a week.
The council moved her to another home five miles away that charged £394 a week. After she had a stroke in 1992 Violet had found it difficult to make herself understood due to the effect on her speech. But staff at her nursing home had learned how to communicate with her.
Is this justice for Jimmy Hall?
DEMOLITION firm Brown and Mason has been fined £40,000 for the death of one of its workers at Blyth power station. Jimmy Hall, aged 21, died in May 2001. Tony Blair had given the firm a personal commendation for its commitment to safety.
Brown and Mason has a £12 million contract to demolish the station. The assistant site supervisor Richard Brown was a member of the family that runs the firm. He was not trained properly. Brown cut a wire supporting a junction box that fell on Jimmy Hall. 'The £40,000 is nothing to a firm that size,' said Pat Henderson, Jimmy Hall's mother.
Research shows the war is wrong
OPPOSITION TO war is running deeper every day. Researchers who work for Labour MPs have set up a Researchers Against War group. The group says, 'This is an opportunity to express opinions that might not concur with those of your employer.
'A regular Monday night meeting will soon commence to discuss campaigns.' 'It is unprecedented for researchers to organise themselves against a political issue - and against the party line - in this way,' says one researcher. 'Heaven knows what will happen if they down tools.'
Things they say
'THE AXIS Of Weasel.'
NEW YORK POST on Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Shröder
'FRANCE and Germany have finally responded to Iraq's flagrant violation of United Nations disarmament orders by mounting an offensive. Yet the target of their campaign is not Saddam Hussein but the US.'
'CHEESE-eating surrender monkeys.'
'JOKE' about the French repeated by US politicians and media pundits
'THE US should come up with an anti-French strategy.'
US adviser RICHARD PERLE
'WE ARE doing this for one reason only - to harm the German economy. Why should we continue to support a country which has treated NATO with such incredible contempt?'
PENTAGON SOURCE on Donald Rumsfeld's plan to impose unilateral sanctions on Germany
'THE AIM is to hit German trade and commerce. It is not just about taking out the troops and equipment, it is also about cancelling commercial contracts and defence-related arrangements.'
Another PENTAGON SOURCE
'WELL, IT looks like we moved a step closer to war. Not with Iraq, with France and Germany.'
US chat show host JAY LENO
'THERE'S A thrilling energy to politics here that has withered away higher up.'
Times journalist KATE MUIR describing a Marxist forum in Hackney