Putin says the blindingly obvious

RUSSIAN President Vladimir Putin yesterday became the first international leader to state publicly what has been blindingly obvious for 18 months – terrorists are aiming to derail US President George W Bush's chances of re-election through their attacks in Iraq.

RUSSIAN President Vladimir Putin yesterday became the first international leader to state publicly what has been blindingly obvious for 18 months - terrorists are aiming to derail US President George W Bush's chances of re-election through their attacks in Iraq.

"I consider the activities of terrorists in Iraq are not as much aimed at coalition forces but more personally against President Bush," said Putin. "International terrorism has as its goal to prevent the election of President Bush to a second term.

"If they achieve that goal, then that will give international terrorism a new impulse and extra power."

With a British General Election looming, would anyone bet against more of our citizens in Iraq being kidnapped and beheaded and our troops in the country being targeted as a way to pile the pressure on Tony Blair?

Meanwhile I cannot understand Michael Howard's tactic of questioning whether the Prime Minister told the truth over the invasion of Iraq. The Conservatives supported the war, and trying to get the Prime Minister to say sorry - not on the basis that Saddam Hussein was toppled, but on the grounds that the intelligence was flawed and politically manipulated - is never going to succeed.

Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy and anti-war Labour backbenchers sound far more credible. If I was one of Howard's advisers, I'd tell him to stick to law and order, pensions, and immigration, the three areas where the Conservatives have policies which resonate more highly with the voters than those on offer from the Government.

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At least the Tory leader was right to force Boris Johnson to go to Liverpool today and apologise in person for a leading article in The Spectator which criticised the "wallowing" in grief and sentimentality of its citizens following the brutal murder of Iraq hostage Kenneth Bigley.

Johnson is a well-paid MP, yet he continues as editor of The Spectator. What Howard should now do is insist Johnson either quits his editorial role or stand down as an opposition spokesman on culture.

The offending article, which Johnson did not write but for which he takes full responsibility as editor, should end all talk of the journalist becoming a future Tory leader. He may be a witty and very clever man, but his upper class toffishness and the bumbling baffoon style which he milks would be the final nail in the Tory coffin north of Amersham and west of Eton.

THE last party conference of the season begins on Thursday when the Greens head to Weston-super-Mare for four days of debate by the Bristol Channel. Featured topics include restoring public services, a pledge for pensioners, renationalisation of the railways, and "progressive Euroscepticism."

If the Greens wish to be considered a major force, they'll have to start reacting instantly to political events. Well trailed proposals for nearly 500,000 extra homes in this region were greeted with a Press release, outlining the party's policy, eight hours after the decision by the East of England Regional Assembly was made on Friday - well beyond media deadlines.

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