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The English have always been pugnacious.
We come from rough stock and maybe that’s why we think everything has to be challenged.
As when the monarchy was challenged in the English Civil War.
It was a step towards our democracy.
( Jeremy Irons )

The Scots were an incredible fighting force.
Going back to the Picts, we have a history of being very proud and ferocious when defending our country.
We have something that is rock solid and is part of our heritage, our culture, our history that we should be very proud of.
It makes me feel proud not just to be Scottish but British as well.
( Dougray Scott )

If we look at Britain in a world context we’re a free people, and that is not an accident.
That happened because people fought for it – our ancestors, our grandparents and great-grandparents and so on.
They fought battles for it.
( Ken Follett )

The warrior women, Mother Courage if you like, has always been a part of being a British woman.
It’s a fantastic notion, isn’t it, of those women standing there, confronting their invaders, prepared to die in defence of their land.
And if you wanted to teach someone who knew nothing about the British people, guide them to Shakespeare.
You can see the foolishness, the arrogance, the humour and the brutality.

( Dame Helen Mirren )

If you look at the history of Britain it’s been infused with other influences and cultures from very, very early on.
This is an island race that absorbs other cultures, because fundamentally there is a sense of decency and an acceptance of the outsider that is not present elsewhere.
Also, perhaps because Britain’s an island, there is a sort of ecosystem of rebellion that flourishes here.
That alongside every act of oppression there has always been an equal reaction of rebellion.
( Meera Syal )

Harrier Jump-Jets Sold Off Cheap.
The Ministry of Defence tried to cover up the fact its Harrier jump-jets were sold to the Americans for a knock-down price of £112 million shortly after a £600 million refit.
The deal to sell the 74 Harriers was announced on November 16, 2011.
At the time, the Government refused to say how much the US Navy had paid for the jets.
The aircraft were upgraded in the last ten years at a cost of £500 million and a weapons system upgrade was carried out in the last five years at a cost of £100 million.
The decision to take the Harriers out of service was controversial, as was the decision to abandon the aircraft carriers from which they operated.
Many claim that scrapping the Harrier has left Britain with a dangerous capability gap.

The Poverty On The Other Side.
Azerbaijan is a Western-facing Muslim country, an oasis of calm and stability in a region of notorious turmoil.
Go south little more than a hundred miles from Baku and you’re in the nuclear-ambitious theocracy of Iran.
Azerbaijan is a Muslim country where women generally do not cover their heads, and couples stroll hand in hand and kiss on park benches close to delightful fountains.
Nightclubs are common.
In Iran, the mullahs despise all they see in Azerbaijan, including its open business and diplomatic ties to Israel and the West.
By 2019, Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, will boast the tallest building on the planet (or so it is claimed).

The £1.25billion Azerbaijan Tower, soaring 3,445ft and 189 floors, or more than one kilometre, into the sky.
It will be 30% higher than Dubai’s Burj Khalifa tower, the current record holder.
And this in a region prone to earthquakes.

No one knows quite how much of Azerbaijan’s extraordinary oil wealth has made its way into the bank accounts of President Ilham Aliyev and his family, or their retinue of friends and hangers-on.
But it is safe to say they are all unimaginably rich.

According to independent research, SOCAR, the state oil and gas company may have brought in revenues of £19billion in 2011.
In a country with fewer than ten million people.
The deepening love affair between British businessmen and the oil wealth of Baku has been growing inexorably stronger.
Political delegations visit every year at the behest of SOCAR and the European Azerbaijan Society, or TEAS, based in London.

Ex-Defence Secretary Liam Fox, Lord Fraser, Lord Sheikh, Bob Blackman MP, Mark Field MP, Transport Minister Stephen Hammond – all Tories – and Ulster Unionist peer Lord Kilclooney have all enjoyed trips to Azerbaijan.
Tony Blair, another traveller to these parts, was reportedly paid £90,000 for a 20-minute speech on a visit in 2009.
But none has been so high-profile or controversial as Prince Andrew, a regular guest of President Aliyev.
In Azerbaijan, Prince Andrew is routinely described as a ‘dear guest’ by the leader of a country that ranks as one of the most corrupt in the world on the Transparency Index.
The UK is Azerbaijan’s biggest investor, mainly through BP, though via dozens of other oil-related companies too.
About £20billion has been pumped into the country since 1991.

The UK Foreign Office has turned an almost blind eye to human-rights abuses, including curbs on freedom of expression, assembly and association, political interference in courts, and repeated claims of torture and abuse of foes.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been half-hearted in her denunciations of the regime.
There are 4-metre-high sandstone walls on the new highway into Baku from the airport.
A taxi driver explains. “To stop you and other foreign visitors seeing the poverty on the other side.”

( Will Stewart, 25.11.2012 )

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