The popularity of scuttle

Gordon Brown will announce in the House of Commons that the British Army will hand over security for Basra province to Iraqi security forces before the end of Christmas. The Guardian reports that this will form part of a wide-ranging package of troop movements and economic aid. Most shamefully, this will include asylum for those Iraqis employed by the British Army, who currently face harm to themselves and their families.

However, British defence officials remain concerned about the prospect of US forces having to "fill in" for absent British soldiers in the event of renewed heavy fighting in the area. That is one risk British military chiefs want to avoid.

Mr Brown today will respond to demands by senior British officers who have shamed the government into helping Iraqi interpeters and others who have provided valuable assistance to the army but now face intimidation and even death at the hands of insurgents.

Since the Guardian, most sympathetic to Brown's government, uses the word "shamed", one anticipates the remainder of the press. As part of an announcement, this measure forms part of a response to political pressures rather than a decision to care for those put in danger by their employment with your army. The test that indicates a moral response is the immediacy of change in policy. The evidence of a gap in support from the British Army was clear; from the press, less so (too many interviews that could not be propely sourced). Brown's separation of politics and morality has become much wider when he uses a u-turn on saving army interpreters as a way of shoring up popular support. One wonders at his motives: does he deign to show that he listens and that he is concerned? Is this another issue, gift-wrapped and kept on the shelf, yet announced fresh and glistening as an indicator of Brown's attendance to human rights?

And, even an announcement by the Prime Minister is no guarantee that this government will actually do anything about the Iraqi interpreters.

Labour sidles back to parliament for another year

Philip Webster of the Times states that Dr. Liam Fox's attack on Brown for allegedly using the troops in Iraq as an electoral stunt stuck in the public mind. Webster charitably absolves Brown of this intention as part of his narrative, though he does not manage to explain the announcement of troop reductions that had already taken place.

It does mean that stories on the armed forces are beginning to gain traction with the general public and about time too. Labour ministers have popped up to defend Brown with some success. If the best that the media can pick up on is a Harriet Harman slip, then you know that they are playing well. Nevertheless, they are aware that the fragile economy remains their strongest card.

She [Jacqui Smith] was joined by Alistair Darling, the Chancellor, who aid voters now wanted the Government to “get on with the job of governing” - especially with possible economic upheaval ahead.

“Crucially, especially as we are entering a time where they may be some economic turbulence, they are looking for the Government to make the right decisions, not make any irresponsible promises, meet the undoubted challenges that we will face over that period and also meet their own aspirations,” he said.

The most immediate aspiration for most people is receiving post. Labour may find that its link to the unions is given an unpleasant reminder.