by Ray Fleming

How quickly the Olympic “lift” has evaporated. After two weeks when everything worked and there were none of the expected hitches it is business as usual -- in government, at least. In The Times yesterday its widely experienced Diplomatic Editor Roger Boyes described the handling of the Julian Assange situation as “a case study in incompetence”. And, I would add, evidence that old-style arrogance in dealing with lesser nations remains -- “You need to be aware” wrote the British ambassador in Quito loftily to the Ecuadorean government “that arresting Mr Assange on your embassy premises is an open option for us”. (Arrogant and probably wrong.) No wonder the cry came back in a radio interview, “We are not a colony.” I wrote here on Wednesday about the government's decision to take the West Coast railway franchise away from Richard Branson's Virgin operation and give it to First Group whose reputation on other lines is far from impressive. It is clear that the choice of First Group has been made almost entirely on financial grounds without concern for passengers' interests. Resistance to this decision by the inexperienced Transport minister Justine Greening has been immediate and impressive. It has the making, I think, of a replay of the successful opposition to the controversial National Health reforms which had to be subject to special consultation last year. Lessons have not been learned.

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