The Ubiquity of Evil 3671

My world view changed forever when, after 20 years in the Foreign Office, I saw colleagues I knew and liked go along with Britain’s complicity in the most terrible tortures, as detailed stunningly in the recent Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee Report. They also went along with keeping the policy secret, deliberately disregarding all normal record taking procedures, to the extent that the Committee noted:

131. We note that we have not seen the minutes of these meetings either: this causes us great concern. Policy discussions on such an important issue should have been minuted. We support Mr Murray’s own conclusion that were it not for his actions these matters may never have come to light.

The people doing these things were not ordinarily bad people; they were just trying to keep their jobs, comforting themselves with the thought that they were only civil servants obeying orders. Many were also actuated by the nasty “patriotism” that grips in time of war, as we invaded Iraq and Afghanistan. Almost nobody in the FCO stood up against the torture or against the illegal war – Elizabeth Wilmshurst, Carne Ross and I were the only ones to leave over it.

I then had the still more mortifying experience of the Foreign Office seeking to punish my dissent by bringing a series of accusations of gross misconduct – some of them criminal – against me. The people bringing the accusations knew full well they were false. The people investigating them knew they were false from about day 2. But I was put through a hellish six months of trial by media before being acquitted on all the original counts (found guilty of revealing the charges, whose existence was an official secret!). The people who did this to me were people I knew.

I had served as First Secretary in the British Embassy in Poland, and bumped up startlingly against the history of the Holocaust in that time, including through involvement with organising the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. What had struck me most forcibly was the sheer scale of the Holocaust operation, the tens of thousands of people who had been complicit in administering it. I could never understand how that could happen – until I saw ordinary, decent people in the FCO facilitate extraordinary rendition and torture. Then I understood, for the first time, the banality of evil or, perhaps more precisely, the ubiquity of evil. Of course, I am not comparing the scale of what happened to the Holocaust – but evil can operate on different scales.

I believe I see it again today. I do not believe that the majority of journalists in the BBC, who pump out a continual stream of “Corbyn is an anti-semite” propaganda, believe in their hearts that Corbyn is a racist at all. They are just doing their job, which is to help the BBC avert the prospect of a radical government in the UK threatening the massive wealth share of the global elite. They would argue that they are just reporting what others say; but it is of course the selection of what they report and how they report it which reflect their agenda.

The truth, of which I am certain, is this. If there genuinely was the claimed existential threat to Jews in Britain, of the type which engulfed Europe’s Jews in the 1930’s, Jeremy Corbyn, Billy Bragg, Roger Waters and I may humbly add myself would be among the few who would die alongside them on the barricades, resisting. Yet these are today loudly called “anti-semites” for supporting the right to oppose the oppression of the Palestinians. The journalists currently promoting those accusations, if it came to the crunch, would be polishing state propaganda and the civil servants writing railway dockets. That is how it works. I have seen it. Close up.

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Not Content with Constant Anti-Scottish Output, the BBC is Extending its Reach to Anti-Scottish Censorship. 177

The BBC’s success in taking down Wings Over Scotland’s YouTube channel – and Youtube’s complacent compliance with the BBC instruction – has a very dodgy foundation in law. Excerpts of copyright material may be published for purposes of “criticism, review or quotation” provided the source is acknowledged. As Wings would only use BBC material for review and criticism – they are hardly repeating it as great news reporting – the BBC’s copyright infringement claim is at best very dubious.

More to the point, this despicable infringement on freedom of speech is appalling behaviour for a state broadcaster. Removal of criticism is the BBC’s only purpose here. The BBC is not protecting a state asset – the old news clips in question have zero commercial value; Wings was not republishing episodes of Dr Who.

Not content with constant anti-Scottish output, the BBC is extending its reach to anti-Scottish censorship.

If you have not yet seen it, I do urge you to watch this eye-opening, indeed breathtaking, documentary on the BBC’s fake news output in the Scottish referendum campaign. The strange colour toning in the BBC excerpts were in fact an additional defence against a copyright claim. Watch it now in case the BBC and YouTube take this one down too.

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Liberal Comfort Blankets 366

Carole Cadwalladr posted a nonsensical tweet today showing the swing of opinion from Remain to Leave during the EU referendum campaign and claiming this as evidence that the Leave advertising worked.

This is a ludicrously childish assumption of cause and effect by Cadwalladr. Consider this graph showing the even more spectacular leap of support by Labour during the 2017 general election campaign. Yet the Tories vastly outspent Labour on advertising.

Then look at this graph of the Scottish Independence Referendum, where again No outspent Yes on advertising but opinion swung the other way.

Carole Cadwalladr has done excellent work on the Cambridge Analytica and Facebook data sales scandals, revealing dark doings that needed to be exposed. But the claim that advertising spending has a decisive effect on polling intentions is very dodgy indeed. In fact, looking at the examples of the Scottish Referendum and General Election, using the Cadwalladr induction method you would conclude that advertising spending is counter-productive.

But Cadwalladr’s foolish tweet today is more than an attempt to enhance the importance of the research of Carole Cadwalladr. It is part of a continuing effort by the liberal elite to find simplistic reasons why their views were rejected by a major section of the general populace in two seismic political events – Brexit, and the election of Donald Trump. The elite are seeking to comfort themselves with the idea that happenings of very marginal significance – Cambridge Analytica’s audience research, or 13 Russians allegedly trying to hack unspecified info – were in fact massive factors that explain the electorate’s “deplorable” behaviour.

For what it is worth – and perhaps it is not worth much, though it is worth more than Cadwalladr’s logical fallacy – my own view is that hatred of the political class, by a population which has come to realise it is exploited, was a major factor.

In the Brexit referendum, Remain made the fatal mistake of being fronted by detested politicians – Nick Clegg, Will and Jack Straw, George Osborne, Tony Blair. The chance to kick these people proved irresistible. Similarly Hillary was the most detested machine candidate the Democrats had available. By contrast, while the “authentic” personas of Donald Trump, Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage may be fake, they were well placed to tap into the anti-politician mood.

This also explains why Remain did much better in Scotland, where it was headed by the SNP’s far less detested politicians who are themselves regarded as anti the UK establishment

Finally, the key factor that unites all the three opinion poll charts above – General Election, Brexit and Scottish Indyref – is that opinion swings very fast indeed inside the period of broadcasting restrictions, when broadcasters have to give at least a semblance of fair time to the view which the Establishment generally derides. Unlike the advertising explanation, which works in only one out of three cases, the hypothesis that broadcasting restrictions redressing establishment bias is the most important factor, would appear to work very well in all three cases.

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Wow! Did We Really Just Do That?

The Levellers Play Doune the Rabbit Hole

I find it hard to get my head round the fact that this is the little festival Jamie started nine years ago with a group of his schoolfriends and the money from an endowment life insurance I took out for him the day he was born. 2018 was the year Doune the Rabbit Hole finally attained critical mass, and everything went right.

As the years go by, I have become more rather than less involved in helping run the show. I also have got older. I find that I am still capable of working like crazy for the week before and during the festival and averaging only three hours sleep a night for seven days. But what I can no longer do is recover easily from it. I have effectively been out of action for the last ten days, having come down with a sore throat and cough on the Festival’s last evening that simply will not go away, coupled with exhaustion. It is a hard thing to admit we are past our physical prime and on the slope towards extinction, but there we are.

I know some readers resent my taking time off from blogging to run music festivals, because some readers write and tell me so, but I am afraid it is an important part of what keeps me going, and while I am extremely grateful indeed to those who pay subscriptions to keep the blog active, it does not purchase any part of my life. Regular readers will recall that finally in December I got paid years of arrears for work done in Ghana. Well, I quixotically invested much of this – a six figure sum – to keep the Doune the Rabbit Hole and Eden Festivals going, both of which share the philosophy of being non-commercial with no sponsorship, no advertising and no rip-off pricing, and both of which were in danger of going under. largely due to 2017’s appalling weather.

Amazingly, the Scotsman got precisely what we are trying to do, in a four star review of DTRH 2018:

The atmosphere was, as ever, bohemian and laid-back, probably more akin to the free festivals of the 1970s than the corporately sponsored affairs which draw large audiences nowadays.

While this review from eFestivals picked up on an atmosphere which precisely matches my description before the Festival of why it is important to me and why I find renewal there (and no, I don’t know the author):

The reviews from people who just went along to enjoy have a similar vibe:

As a seasoned festival veteran (albeit I had not been at one since 2005) I have to say that I was totally blown away by this festival due to the intimacy of it all. Far removed from the commercialisation of big festivals, this was right down to earth, you could freely chat to most of the bands and it was easy to get up the front of crowd without having to maintain your position for the entire day!
The vibe was nice and friendly and as the festival goers were there to see the music rather than want the kudos of a Glastonbury Facebook check-in it was a lovely atmosphere…But, there is so much more to this event than simply the music. The boys (8 and 10) had a ball in the kids area, the free deckchairs that were scattered about sporadically were a marketing masterstroke and the bar sold a nice selection of cold local ales. (Added to this the free drinks for the children – a lovely touch)
We sang, we danced, we chilled. I even took in part of the World Cup final with the Levellers! What a memory that will remain. (again to highlight the intimacy of the event, the bands generally mingled with their fans rather than being penned in to a huge backstage commune far from the madding crowd)…
The support of local bands, up and coming bands and the sheer variation on offer meant it was a brilliant weekend loved by us all and we cannot wait to return in 2019. It was a triumph and I thank the organisers for a great show in a beautiful setting.

Doune the rabbit hole is an experience I would recommend to everyone.
What a fantastic weekend! Never have I seen so many happy people!
A super family friendly atmosphere. There’s lots for the kids to do. There’s showers if you don’t mind paying a little. Lots of space to lay about in the sun and relax.
The music was amazing, you are guaranteed to be dancing all weekend. There’s something for everyone.
The estate is beautiful too, so many trees to lay under or lounge around in deckchair.
I had such a brilliant weekend!

First time at this festival and it was absolutely brilliant. The toilets were always clean and never without toilet roll or hand sanitizer! the variety of seating available in the main arena was unlike any other festival I’ve been to. Great variety of music and alcohol available as well as food. Absolutely loved Pyroceltica and loved the night time camp fire. Fantastic atmosphere, everyone seemed friendly and it was a wonderful festival suited to all ages. I can’t wait to go back again next year!

My first time at DTRH and I was only there for the Sunday. I had a fabulous time though. Love that dogs and kids are welcome, love all the fun stuff laid out to entertain kids – and mostly for free. We took our son to Belladrum last year and everything cost extra money once you were in there so it was lovely to see it was only face painting and hugging an alpaca that cost here. I saw lots of very different bands and loved several of them. Lovely laid back vibe around the place, nice size of arena for the number of people. Hope to come back, with my son, in future

Felt like one big happy family in a field for the weekend. Great mix of music. Young & older, shoulder to shoulder sharing unforgettable festival experiences. Perfect introduction to festival life for our young daughter who had a whale of a time. Doune the Rabbithole put a lot of effort & imagination into the weekend resulting in a laid-back, thoroughly enjoyable time. An absolute treat of a wee festival

First time at DTRH which is surprising as live right next to site ! How to describe this wonderful little festival .. . Well as a late 30s gent who gave up my festival going after some fairly poor experiences at other events ( and a belief that I was getting on a bit and passed it ) my love of getting away from it all and listening to some good music is restored ! Doune is a family friendly ( and dogs so many lovely mannered four legged friends ! ) festival small in size but jam packed with character. From Friday to the Sunday night the stages offered something for every music taste or opportunity to create your own jam in one of the many tents dotted around the site where you could sit relax or get your groove on. Hammocks filled with giggling children or glorious deck chairs were a fantastic addition and offered somewhere to watch the unique and interesting characters that passed by or to fill bellies with the awesome food on offer notably the haggis man truck and gastro gorillaz ( seriously this was one of the best meals I’ve had at a festival ! ). We spent the majority of time between the campsite and main arena easily within walking distance and drama free throughout the weekend. The behavior of all in attendance was as chilled as the atmosphere. Never had an issue or witnessed anything concerning or that would have ruined your weekend ( and the toilets weren’t awful either ! ) In short will be back and highly recommend anyone who loves the festival atmosphere of old but without the drama to attend as you’ll definitely find something at DTRH that will bring back those memories of how good it used to be and can apparently be again ! Great job

There are many more, but I trust that it comes across that this event is about the people and the way they interact socially – in a “pop-up society” that is kinder than our normal one – and thus it gives a glimpse of society’s potential. This year it felt like we succeeded in doing precisely what we set out to do. I am extremely grateful to the readers of this blog who came along to work as volunteers with me in the bar or elsewhere, or just to take part in the festival – I was approached by scores of people including from Moscow, Warsaw and Berlin! Happily everyone seemed to “get” that it was about lifestyle not about political analysis.

I should love to be able to tell you that bands react to the non-commercial nature of the festival by charging us less than their full commercial rates, but sadly that would be untrue, and the artists always hide behind their agents. Supporting musical talent is of course a key aim, but I have to confess I worry sometimes that we have people working many hours – often weeks – for love of it, while some chap turns up, strums a guitar for 45 minutes and walks away with thousands of pounds. But I suppose that is the nature of talent. On the positive side, they do almost all react by chilling out and joining in with everyone else when not performing.

So, for those wondering why articles are few and far between lately, there is your answer. I continue to live a very full and varied life. I just need to pace it a little better!

.

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The Silence of the Whores 829

The mainstream media are making almost no effort today to fit Charlie Rowley’s account of his poisoning into the already ludicrous conspiracy theory being peddled by the government and intelligence agencies.

ITV News gamely inserted the phrase “poisoned by a Russian nerve agent” into their exclusive interview with Charlie Rowley, an interview in which they managed to ask no penetrating questions whatsoever, and of which they only broadcast heavily edited parts. Their own website contains this comment by their journalist Rupert Evelyn:

He said it was unopened, the box it was in was sealed, and that they had to use a knife in order to cut through it.

“That raises the question: if it wasn’t used, is this the only Novichok that exists in this city? And was it the same Novichok used to attack Sergei and Yulia Skripal?

But the information about opening the packet with a knife is not in the linked interview. What Rowley does say in the interview is that the box was still sealed in its cellophane. Presumably it was the cellophane he slit open with a knife.

So how can this fit in to the official government account? Presumably the claim is that Russian agents secretly visited the Skripal house, sprayed novichok on the door handle from this perfume bottle, and then, at an unknown location, disassembled the nozzle from the bottle (Mr Rowley said he had to insert it), then repackaged and re-cellophaned the bottle prior to simply leaving it to be discovered somewhere – presumably somewhere indoors as it still looked new – by Mr Rowley four months later. However it had not been found by anyone else in the interim four months of police, military and security service search.

Frankly, the case for this being the bottle allegedly used to coat the Skripals’ door handle looks wildly improbable. But then the entire government story already looked wildly improbable anyway – to the extent that I literally do not know a single person, even among my more right wing family and friends, who believes it. The reaction of the media, who had shamelessly been promoting the entirely evidence free “the Russians did it” narrative, to Mr Rowley’s extremely awkward piece of news has been to shove it as far as possible down the news agenda and make no real effort to reconcile it.

By his own account, Mr Rowley is not a reliable witness, his memory affected by the “Novichok”. It is not unreasonable to conjecture there may also be other reasons why he is vague about where and how he came into possession of this package of perfume.

The perfume bottle is now in the hands of the Police. Is it not rather strange that they have not published photos of it, to see if it jogs the memory of a member of the public who saw it somewhere in the last four months, or saw somebody with it? The “perpetrators” know what it looks like and already know the police have it, so that would not give away any dangerous information. You might believe the lockdown of the story and control of the narrative is more important to the authorities than solving the crime, which we should not forget is now murder.

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Detente Bad, Cold War Good

The entire “liberal” media and political establishment of the Western world reveals its militarist, authoritarian soul today with the screaming and hysterical attacks on the very prospect of detente with Russia. Peace apparently is a terrible thing; a renewed arms race, with quite literally trillions of dollars pumped into the military industrial complex and hundreds of thousands dying in proxy wars, is apparently the “liberal” stance.

Political memories are short, but just 15 years after Iraq was destroyed and the chain reaction sent most of the Arab world back to the dark ages, it is now “treason” to question the word of the Western intelligence agencies, which deliberately and knowingly produced a fabric of lies on Iraqi WMD to justify that destruction.

It would be more rational for it to be treason for leaders to blindly accept the word of the intelligence services.

This is especially true on “Russia hacking the election” when, after three years of crazed accusations and millions of man hours by lawyers and CIA and FBI investigators, they are yet to produce any substantive evidence of accusations which are plainly nuts in the first place. This ridiculous circus has found a few facebook ads and indicted one Russian for every 100,000 man hours worked, for unspecified or minor actions which had no possible bearing on the election result.

There are in fact genuine acts of election rigging to investigate. In particular, the multiple actions of the DNC and Democratic Party establishment to rig the Primary against Bernie Sanders do have some very real documentary evidence to substantiate them, and that evidence is even public. Yet those real acts of election rigging are ignored and instead the huge investigation is focused on catching those who revealed Hillary’s election rigging. This gets even more absurd – the investigation then quite deliberately does not focus on catching whoever leaked Hillary’s election rigging, but instead seeks to prove that the Russians hacked Hillary’s election-rigging, which I can assure you they did not. Meanwhile, those of us who might help them with the truth if they were actually interested, are not questioned at all.

The Russophobic witch hunt has its first real life victim in 29 year old Maria Butina, whose life is to be destroyed for chatting up members of the NRA in order to increase Russian influence. With over 20 years of diplomatic experience, I can tell you that every country, including the UK and US, has bit part players of its own nationals who self-start in a country to make their way, and if they gain any traction are tapped by their national security service as potential “agents of influence”. I could name quite literally scores of such people, but have no desire to get anyone in trouble. The elevation of Butina into a huge threat and part of a gigantic plot, is to ignore the way the United States and the United Kingdom and indeed all major governments’ Embassies behave around the globe.

The war-hawks who were devastated by the loss of champion killer Hillary now see the prospect of their very worst fear coming true. Their very worst fear is the outbreak of peace and international treaties of arms control. Hence the media and political establishment today has reached peaks of hysteria never before seen. Pursuing peace is “treason” and the faux left now stand starkly exposed.

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The Holes in the Official Skripal Story

In my last post I set out the official Government account of the events in the Skripal Case. Here I examine the credibility of this story. Next week I shall look at alternative explanations.

Russia has a decade long secret programme of producing and stockpiling novichok nerve agents. It also has been training agents in secret assassination techniques, and British intelligence has a copy of the Russian training manual, which includes instruction on painting nerve agent on doorknobs.

The only backing for this statement by Boris Johnson is alleged “intelligence”, and unfortunately the “intelligence” about Russia’s secret novichok programme comes from exactly the same people who brought you the intelligence about Saddam Hussein’s WMD programme, proven liars. Furthermore, the question arises why Britain has been sitting on this intelligence for a decade and doing nothing about it, including not telling the OPCW inspectors who certified Russia’s chemical weapons stocks as dismantled.

If Russia really has a professional novichok assassin training programme, why was the assassination so badly botched? Surely in a decade of development they would have discovered that the alleged method of gel on doorknob did not work? And where is the training manual which Boris Johnson claimed to possess? Having told the world – including Russia -the UK has it, what is stopping the UK from producing it, with marks that could identify the specific copy erased?

The Russians chose to use this assassination programme to target Sergei Skripal, a double agent who had been released from jail in Russia some eight years previously.

It seems remarkable that the chosen target of an attempt that would blow the existence of a secret weapon and end the cover of a decade long programme, should be nobody more prominent than a middle ranking double agent who the Russians let out of jail years ago. If they wanted him dead they could have killed him then. Furthermore the attack on him would undermine all future possible spy swaps. Putin therefore, on this reading, was willing to sacrifice both the secrecy of the novichok programme and the spy swap card just to attack Sergei Skripal. That seems highly improbable.

Only the Russians can make novichok and only the Russians had a motive to attack the Skripals.

The nub of the British government’s approach has been the shocking willingness of the corporate and state media to parrot repeatedly the lie that the nerve agent was Russian made, even after Porton Down said they could not tell where it was made and the OPCW confirmed that finding. In fact, while the Soviet Union did develop the “novichok” class of nerve agents, the programme involved scientists from all over the Soviet Union, especially Ukraine, Armenia and Georgia, as I myself learnt when I visited the newly decommissioned Nukus testing facility in Uzbekistan in 2002.

Furthermore, it was the USA who decommissioned the facility and removed equipment back to the United States. At least two key scientists from the programme moved to the United States. Formulae for several novichok have been published for over a decade. The USA, UK and Iran have definitely synthesised a number of novichok formulae and almost certainly others have done so too. Dozens of states have the ability to produce novichok, as do many sophisticated non-state actors.

As for motive, the Russian motive might be revenge, but whether that really outweighs the international opprobrium incurred just ahead of the World Cup, in which so much prestige has been invested, is unclear.

What is certainly untrue is that only Russia has a motive. The obvious motive is to attempt to blame and discredit Russia. Those who might wish to do this include Ukraine and Georgia, with both of which Russia is in territorial dispute, and those states and jihadist groups with which Russia is in conflict in Syria. The NATO military industrial complex also obviously has a plain motive for fueling tension with Russia.

There is of course the possibility that Skripal was attacked by a private gangster interest with which he was in conflict, or that the attack was linked to Skripal’s MI6 handler Pablo Miller’s work on the Orbis/Steele Russiagate dossier on Donald Trump.

Plainly, the British governments statements that only Russia had the means and only Russia had the motive, are massive lies on both counts.

The Russians had been tapping the phone of Yulia Skripal. They decided to attack Sergei Skripal while his daughter was visiting from Moscow.

In an effort to shore up the government narrative, at the time of the Amesbury attack the security services put out through Pablo Miller’s long term friend, the BBC’s Mark Urban, that the Russians “may have been” tapping Yulia Skripal’s phone, and the claim that this was strong evidence that the Russians had indeed been behind the attack.

But think this through. If that were true, then the Russians deliberately attacked at a time when Yulia was in the UK rather than when Sergei was alone. Yet no motive has been adduced for an attack on Yulia or why they would attack while Yulia was visiting – they could have painted his doorknob with less fear of discovery anytime he was alone. Furthermore, it is pretty natural that Russian intelligence would tap the phone of Yulia, and of Sergei if they could. The family of double agents are normal targets. I have no doubt in the least, from decades of experience as a British diplomat, that GCHQ have been tapping Yulia’s phone. Indeed, if tapping of phones is seriously put forward as evidence of intent to murder, the British government must be very murderous indeed.

Their trained assassin(s) painted a novichok on the doorknob of the Skripal house in the suburbs of Salisbury. Either before or after the attack, they entered a public place in the centre of Salisbury and left a sealed container of the novichok there.

The incompetence of the assassination beggars belief when compared to British claims of a long term production and training programme. The Russians built the heart of the International Space Station. They can kill an old bloke in Salisbury. Why did the Russians not know that the dose from the door handle was not fatal? Why would trained assassins leave crucial evidence lying around in a public place in Salisbury? Why would they be conducting any part of the operation with the novichok in a public area in central Salisbury?

Why did nobody see them painting the doorknob? This must have involved wearing protective gear, which would look out of place in a Salisbury suburb. With Skripal being resettled by MI6, and a former intelligence officer himself, it beggars belief that MI6 did not fit, as standard, some basic security including a security camera on his house.

The Skripals both touched the doorknob and both functioned perfectly normally for at least five hours, even able to eat and drink heartily. Then they were simultaneously and instantaneously struck down by the nerve agent, at a spot in the city centre coincidentally close to where the assassins left a sealed container of the novichok lying around. Even though the nerve agent was eight times more deadly than Sarin or VX, it did not kill the Skripals because it had been on the doorknob and affected by rain.

Why did they both touch the outside doorknob in exiting and closing the door? Why did the novichok act so very slowly, with evidently no feeling of ill health for at least five hours, and then how did it strike both down absolutely simultaneously, so that neither can call for help, despite their being different sexes, weights, ages, metabolisms and receiving random completely uncontrolled doses. The odds of that happening are virtually nil. And why was the nerve agent ultimately ineffective?

Detective Sergeant Bailey attended the Skripal house and was also poisoned by the doorknob, but more lightly. None of the other police who attended the house were affected.

Why was the Detective Sergeant affected and nobody else who attended the house, or the scene where the Skripals were found? Why was Bailey only lightly affected by this extremely deadly substance, of which a tiny amount can kill?

Four months later, Charlie Rowley and Dawn Sturgess were rooting about in public parks, possibly looking for cigarette butts, and accidentally came into contact with the sealed container of a novichok. They were poisoned and Dawn Sturgess subsequently died.

If the nerve agent had survived four months because it was in a sealed container, why has this sealed container now mysteriously disappeared again? If Rowley and Sturgess had direct contact straight from the container, why did they not both die quickly? Why had four months searching of Salisbury and a massive police, security service and military operation not found this container, if Rowley and Sturgess could?

I am, with a few simple questions, demolishing what is the most ludicrous conspiracy theory I have ever heard – the Salisbury conspiracy theory being put forward by the British government and its corporate lackies.

My next post will consider some more plausible explanations of this affair.

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Dawn Sturgess

The terrible death of Dawn Sturgess casts a new shadow over the Salisbury Affair. Dawn appears to have been a popular and well grounded woman with close friend and family ties, whose life had taken a downward turn before being cruelly ended.

The illogical, inconsistent and shifting government narrative over events in Salisbury and Amesbury had appeared so ludicrous as to be tragi-comic. Any sense of amusement is now abruptly dispelled. But less us take a serious and sober look at the government case.

Savid Javid stated today:

We know back in March that it was the Russians. We know it was a barbaric, inhuman act by the Russian state. Again, for this particular incident, we need to learn more and let the police do their work.

Actually, we know no such thing and, contrary to Javid’s deliberate insinuation, the police have adduced no evidence that it was the Russian state.

The media appear to have entirely excluded from the narrative that Porton Down specifically stated that they cannot determine the origin of the poison that attacked the Skripals. Nor has the OPCW. There are scores of both state and non-state actors who could have produced the nerve agent. No evidence has been produced as to the physical person who allegedly administered the poison. In short, nothing so far has been shown which would lead any reasonable person to conclude a case against the Russian state was proven.

I believe this following is the government narrative currently. I hope I am not mistating it:

Russia has a decade long secret programme of producing and stockpiling novichok nerve agents. It also has been training agents in secret assassination techniques, and British intelligence has a copy of the Russian training manual, which includes instruction on painting nerve agent on doorknobs. The Russians chose to use this assassination programme to target Sergei Skripal, a double agent who had been released from jail in Russia some eight years previously.

Only the Russians can make novichok and only the Russians had a motive to attack the Skripals.

The Russians had been tapping the phone of Yulia Skripal. They decided to attack Sergei Skripal while his daughter was visiting from Moscow. Their trained assassin(s) painted a novichok on the doorknob of the Skripal house in the suburbs of Salisbury. Either before or after the attack, they entered a public place in the centre of Salisbury and left a sealed container of the novichok there.

The Skripals both touched the doorknob and both functioned perfectly normally for at least five hours, even able to eat and drink heartily. Then they were simultaneously and instantaneously struck down by the nerve agent, at a spot in the city centre coincidentally close to where the assassins left a sealed container of the novichok lying around. Even though the nerve agent was eight times more deadly than Sarin or VX, it did not kill the Skripals because it had been on the doorknob and affected by rain.

Detective Sergeant Bailey attended the Skripal house and was also poisoned by the doorknb, but more lightly. None of the other police who attended the house were affected.

Four months later, Charlie Rowley and Dawn Sturgess were rooting about in public parks, possibly looking for cigarette butts, and accidentally came into contact with the sealed container of a novichok. They were poisoned and Dawn Sturgess subsequently died.

I am going to leave you to mull over that story yourselves for a while. I believe it is a fair statement of the British government narrative. I also believe almost (but not quite) every single sentence is very obviously untrue. I hope tomorrow to publish a detailed analysis explaining why that is, but want you to look at it yourselves first.

One final thought. I trust that Dawn Sturgess will get a proper and full public inquest in accordance with normal legal process, something which was denied to David Kelly. I suspect that is something the government will seek to delay as long as possible, even indefinitely.

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Thoughts Inspired by Julian Assange

I took half an hour out yesterday from building the Doune the Rabbit Hole site to take part in a worldwide broadcast in support of Julian Assange. You can see me here on YouTube from 3 hours and 43 minutes in, though you may prefer to watch Slavoj Zizek who is on just before me.

The fact that I could broadcast video to people all over the world from a beautiful but remote field in the shadow of the Trossachs, via a mobile phone connection, is an example of just why the state and corporate media can no longer dominate the narrative with their propaganda. That is the main subject of my brief talk.

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No Trump, No Clinton, No NATO

Marina Hyde’s vicious and spiteful attack on Susan Sarandon and the Green Party points to the real danger of anti-Trump protest next week being hijacked by the neo-con warmonger franchise. The idea that those of us who do not want arch warmonger Clinton in power are therefore supporters of Trump is intellectually risible and politically dishonest.

Yesterday the OPCW reported that, contrary to US and UK assertions in the UN security council, there was no nerve agent attack on jihadist-held Douma by the Syrian government, precisely as Robert Fisk was execrated by the entire media establishment for pointing out. The OPCW did find some traces of chlorine compounds, but chlorine is a very commonly used element and you have traces of it all over your house. The US wants your chicken chlorinated. The OPCW said it was “Not clear” if the chlorine was weaponised, and it is plain to me from a career in diplomacy that the almost incidental mention is a diplomatic sop to the UK, US and France, which are important members of the OPCW.

Trump’s reaction to yet more lying claims by the UK government funded White Helmets and Syrian Observatory, a reaction of missile strikes on alleged Syrian facilities producing the non-existent nerve agent, was foolish. May’s leap for British participation was unwise, and the usual queue of Blairites who stood up as always in Parliament to support any bombing action, stand yet again exposed as evil tools of the military industrial complex.

Hillary Clinton, true to form, wanted more aggressive military action than was undertaken by Trump. Hillary has been itching to destroy Syria as she destroyed Libya. Libya was very much Hillary’s war and – almost unreported by the mainstream media – NATO bombers carried out almost 14,000 bombing sorties on Libya and devastated entire cities.

Sirte, Libya, after NATO bombing

The destruction of Libya’s government and infrastructure directly caused the Mediterranean boat migrant crisis, which has poisoned the politics of much of the European Union.

Donald Trump has not started any major war. He has been more restrained in military action than any US President since Jimmy Carter. My own view is (and of course it is impossible to know for sure) that, had Hillary been in power, Syria would already have been totally destroyed, the Cold War with Russia would be at mankind threatening levels, and nuclear tension with North Korea would be escalating.

“He hasn’t destroyed mankind yet” is faint praise for anyone. Being less of an existential danger to mankind than Hillary Clinton is a level achieved by virtually the entire population of the planet. I am not supporting Trump. I am condemning Clinton. I too, like Susan Sarandon, would have voted for Jill Stein were I an American.

So do protest against Trump. But do so under the banner No Trump! No Clinton! No NATO! And if any Clintonite or Blairite gets up to address you, tell them very loudly where to get off. I remember the hijacking of the Make Poverty History campaign by Brown, Darling and Campbell on behalf of their banker friends. Don’t let that happen again.

Or here is an even better idea.

Escape the Trump visit completely. Rather than stand penned in and shouting slogans at a police van parked right in front of you, turn your back on all of that and come join me at the Doune the Rabbit Hole Festival from 13 to 15 July. As our regulars know, this blog has been intimately connected with running the Festival from the start. This year is much bigger, with the Levellers, Akala, Atari Teenage Riot, Peatbog Faeries, and literally scores of other bands, and a great array of other festival activities too, including for kids, who come free and get free drinks.

DTRH has no sponsorship, no advertising, no government money and no rip-offs – beer and cider from £3.50 a pint at the bars. It is very much an alternative lifestyle gathering, and I find spiritual renewal there in the glorious Stirlingshire countryside. (I know that sounds corny, but I do). Tickets are £90 for full weekend including camping, which I think makes it the cheapest festival on this level around. Or you can buy a cheaper day ticket and drop in just for the day. If tickets are too expensive or you fancy a different kind of fun, you can volunteer, including to come and work with me in the bar, though there are a whole range of other tasks to be done if you don’t fancy that. Volunteers get in free and get fed in return for one six hour shift a day.

I really do hope I will see some of you there – it looks set to be a glorious weekend. Forget stress, forget Trump and hang out with nice people!

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The Amesbury Mystery

We are continually presented with experts by the mainstream media who will validate whatever miraculous property of “novichok” is needed to fit in with the government’s latest wild anti-Russian story. Tonight Newsnight wheeled out a chemical weapons expert to tell us that “novichok” is “extremely persistent” and therefore that used to attack the Skripals could still be lurking potent on a bush in a park.

Yet only three months ago we had this example of scores from the MSM giving the same message which was the government line at that time:
“Professor Robert Stockman, of the University of Nottingham, said traces of nerve agents did not linger. He added: ‘These agents react with water to degrade, including moisture in the air, and so in the UK they would have a very limited lifetime. This is presumably why the street in Salisbury was being hosed down as a precaution – it would effectively destroy the agent.'”

In fact, rain affecting the “novichok” on the door handle was given as the reason that the Skripals were not killed. But now the properties of the agent have to fit a new narrative, so they transmute again.

It keeps happening. Do you remember when Novichok was the most deadly of substances, many times more powerful than VX or Sarin, and causing death in seconds? But then, when that needed to be altered to fit the government’s Skripal story, they found scientists to explain that actually no, it was pretty slow acting, absorbed gradually through the skin, and not all that deadly.

Scientists are an interesting bunch. More than willing to ascribe whatever properties fit the government’s ever more implausible stories, in exchange for an MSM appearance fee, 5 minutes of fame and the fond hope of a research grant.

According to the Daily Telegraph today, the unfortunate Charlie Rowley is a registered heroin addict, and if true Occam’s Razor would indicate that is a rather more likely reason for his present state than an inexplicably persistent weaponised nerve agent.

If it is however true that two separate attacks have been carried out with “novichok” a few miles either side of Porton Down, where “novichok” is synthesised and stored for “testing purposes”, what does Occam’s razor suggest is the source of the nerve agent? A question not one MSM journalist seems to have asked themselves tonight.

I am slightly puzzled by the picture the media are trying to paint of Charlie Rowley and Dawn Sturgess as homeless, unemployed addicts. The Guardian and Sky News both state that they were unemployed, yet Charlie was living in a very new house in Muggleton Road, Amesbury, which is pretty expensive. According to Zoopla homes range up to £430,000 and the cheapest ones are £270,000. They are all new build, on a new estate, which is still under construction.

Both Charlie Rowley and Dawn Sturgess still have active facebook pages and one of Charlie’s handful of “Likes” is a mortgage broker, which is consistent with his brand new house. They don’t give mortgages to unemployed heroin addicts, and not many of those live in smart new “executive housing” estates. Both Charlie and Dawn appear from their facebook pages to be very well socialised, with Dawn having many friends in the teaching profession. Even if she has been homeless for a period as reported, she is plainly very much part of the community.

Naturally, there is no mention in all the reports today of MI6’s Pablo Miller, who remains the subject of a D notice. I wonder if he knows Rowley and Sturgess, living in the same community? It should be recalled that Salisbury may be a city, but its population is only 45,000.

The most important thing is of course that Charlie and Dawn recover. But tonight, even at this early stage, as with the entire Skripal saga, the message the security services are seeking to give out does not add up. Mark Urban’s piece for Newsnight tonight was simply disgusting; it did not even pretend to be more than a propaganda piece on behalf of the security services, who had told Urban (as he said) that Yulia Skripal’s phone “could have been” tapped by the Russians and they “might even” have listened to her conversations through the microphone in her telephone. That was the “new evidence” that the Russians were behind everything.

As a former British Ambassador I can tell you with certainty that indeed the Russians might have tapped Yulia, but GCHQ most definitely would have. It is, after all, their job, and billions of our taxes go into it. If tapping of phones is seriously presented as evidence of intent to murder, the British government must be very murderous indeed.

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Wheel Out the Skripal Story Again

Just as the World Cup had forced the British media to grudgingly acknowledge the obvious truth that Russia is an extremely interesting country inhabited, like everywhere else, by mostly pleasant and attractive people, we have a screaming reprise of the “Salisbury incident” dominating the British media. Two people have been taken ill in Amesbury from an unknown substance, which might yet be a contaminated recreational drug, but could conceivably be from contact with the substance allegedly used on the Skripals, presumably some of which was somewhere indoors all this time as we were told it could be washed away and neutralised by water.

Amesbury is not Salisbury – it is 10 miles away. Interestingly enough Porton Down is between Amesbury and Salisbury. Just three miles away from Muggleton Road, Amesbury. The news reports are not mentioning that much.


“I am all out of ideas Inspector. What can possibly be the source of these mysterious poisonings?”

Neither Porton Down nor the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has any idea where the substance to which the Skripals were allegedly exposed was made. Boris Johnson’s great “coup” of obtaining a majority vote at the OPCW to expand its powers to place blame for chemical attacks, has proven rather otiose as the OPCW has no evidence on which to base any blame for Salisbury. In fact, four months on, May and Johnson’s shrill blaming of Russia remains entirely, 100% evidence free.

I do however wish to congratulate the neo-con warmongers of the Guardian newspaper for verbal dexterity. They have come up with a new formulation to replace the hackneyed “Of a type developed by Russia”, to point the finger for a substance that could have been made by dozens of state or non state parties. The Guardian today came up with “Russian-created novichok”. This cleverly employs a word that can encompass “developed” while also appearing to say “made”. It also again makes out that novichok is a specific substance rather than a very broad class of substances. The Guardian’s Steven Morris, by this brilliant attempt deliberately to mislead his readers, runs away with this week’s award for lying neo-con media whore of the week. His achievement is particularly good as the rest of his report is largely a simple copy and paste from the Press Association.

I most certainly hope that the couple in Salisbury hospital recover from whatever is afflicting them. The media is, by making this the lead story on all broadcast news after last night’s football, inviting us to make the connection to the Skripals. In which case I assume the couple were perfectly well for five hours after contact, able to be very active and even to eat and drink heavily, before being mysteriously instantly disabled at the same time despite different ages, sexes, weights, and metabolisms and random uncontrolled dosages.

Replicating that would be quite a feat.

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No Need For Nato

A NATO summit approaches that brings Donald Trump to Europe and then on to these shores, and brings the usual clamour for more of the taxpayers’ money to be given to arms manufacturers.

Yet NATO is a demonstrably useless institution. It’s largest ever active military deployment, for 12 years in Afghanistan, resulted in military defeat throughout 80% of the country, the installation of a pocket regime whose scrip does not run further than you can throw the scrip, and a vast outflow of heroin to finance the criminal underworld throughout NATO countries.


Look at this chart closely, and marvel at the fact that the NATO occupation began in early 2002.

In invading Afghanistan and boosting the heroin warlords, NATO countries destabilised themselves

NATO’s second biggest military operation ever was the attack on Libya, where NATO carried out an incredible 14,200 bombing sorties using high explosive munitions and devastated Libya’s infrastructure and entire cities. Here is Sirte after NATO “liberation”.

The direct result of the devastation of Libya and destruction of its government infrastructure has been the massive untrammelled exodus of migrants, especially from West Africa, through Libya and across the Mediterranean on boats. This has not only led to the appalling exploitation and tragic death of many migrants, it has fundamentally weakened the governments and indeed governing public ethos of European NATO member states and led to a right wing populist surge throughout much of the EU.

In short, in destroying Libya, NATO members destabilised themselves.


The direct result of NATO’s destruction of Libya.

Now NATO is focusing once more on the original “threat” it was supposed to combat, a Russian invasion of Western Europe.

Russia has absolutely no intention of invading Western Europe. The very notion is ludicrous. It does not require NATO to deter a threat that does not exist.

Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia alone have a combined GNP as big as Russia. On a purchasing power parity basis, if you add in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania those Eastern states still match Russia economically. On a PPP basis, the combined GDP of all NATO states is 12 times that of Russia.

Russia does have disproportionate military power for its size – but not that much. Russia’s defence spending is one sixth that of NATO defence spending, though it is slightly more efficient because, despite corruption, less of Russia’s defence spending goes into the pockets of arms company shareholders, lobbyists, politicians and other fatcats than happens in the West. But that cannot outweigh Russia’s massive economic disadvantage. Nothing can. Russia is very well placed to defend itself, but in no position to attack major powers.

Russia’s foreign policy successes – in Crimea, Syria and Georgia – have been based not on massive military strength – the NATO powers far outweigh Russia there – but simply on much better statecraft. And NATO, for all the trillions western taxpayers spend on it, has been unable to do anything about it, despite the fact that Russian actions in Crimea and Georgia have been illegal in international law.

In fact if anybody has not worked out by now that our famed nuclear arsenal is a chocolate teapot, then they have not been paying attention. In none of the recent foreign policy crises – including the North Korean nuclearisation issue – nobody, anywhere, ever has mentioned Trident missiles as part of the solution. They are utterly worthless.

The threat of a Russian attack on NATO itself is non-existent. The EU is not officially a military alliance but the idea that any part of EU territory could be subject to invasion without the rest of the EU reacting is a political impossibility. It is very plain that Vladimir Putin’s policy is to reincorporate into Russia those bordering pockets of ethnic Russians in former Soviet states. But this has been approached piecemeal and avoiding major confrontation. There is no practical threat to the Baltic states whose security is already de facto guaranteed by EU membership.

So NATO’s role of defence against Russia is otiose, and its wider military adventures have been a total disaster.

Finally, a thought about China. I cannot think of a parallel to China these last two decades, where any country in history has obtained so much economic pre-eminence in the World and shown so very little interest in military expansion. The invasion of Tibet occurred before China’s economic flowering, and the South China Sea dispute is hardly the invasion of Iraq. I do not claim any expertise in Chinese culture or thought, but they appear to realise that dominance can be achieved by more subtle means than the sword. It is going to be a fascinating few decades as China rapidly overtakes the USA in the superpower stakes.

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The Unsubtle Art of Non-Verbal Communication

Human beings can communicate by gesture and facial expression as well as by verbal language. In the following video, at 39 seconds in BBC presenter Jo Coburn is not communicating to the viewer – the director has switched back to her before she expects. She is however working very hard on communicating non-verbally to somebody, presumably the director, with quite an extreme facial gesture.

My question to you is this – what do you think she is trying to communicate with that facial gesture, and why? It is not a rhetorical question, your answers are welcome. You need to watch the whole video for context – it’s less than a minute.

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Blair and Brown Governments Gory with Torture

Even I was taken aback by the sheer scale of British active involvement in extraordinary rendition revealed by yesterday’s report of the parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee. Dominic Grieve and the committee deserve congratulations for their honesty, integrity and above all persistence. It is plain from the report that 10 Downing Street did everything possible to handicap the work of the committee. Most crucially they were allowed only to interview extremely senior civil servants and not allowed to interview those actively engaged in the torture and rendition programme.

Theresa May specifically and deliberately ruled out the Committee from questioning any official who might be placed at risk of criminal proceedings – see para 11 of the report. The determination of the government to protect those who were complicit in torture tells us much more about their future intentions than any fake apology.

In fact it is impossible to read paras 9 to 14 without being astonished at the sheer audacity of Theresa May’s attempts to obstruct the inquiry. They were allowed to interview only 4 out of 23 requested witnesses, and those were not allowed “to talk about the specifics of the operations in which they were involved nor fill in any gaps in the timeline”. If the UK had a genuinely free media, this executive obstruction of the Inquiry would be the lead story. Instead it is not mentioned in any corporate or state media, despite the committee report containing a firm protest:

It is worth reflecting that the Tory government has acted time and time again to protect New Labour’s Tony Blair, David Miliband, Jack Straw and Gordon Brown from any punishment for their complicity in torture, and indeed to limit the information on it available to the public. The truth is that the Tories and New Labour (which includes the vast majority of current Labour MPs) are all a part of the same elite interest group, and when under pressure they stick together as a class against the people.

Despite being hamstrung by government, the Committee managed through exhaustive research of classified documents to pull together evidence of British involvement in extraordinary rendition and mistreatment of detainees on a massive scale. The Committee found 596 individual documented incidents of the security services obtaining “intelligence” from detainee interrogations involving torture or severe mistreatment, ranging from 2 incidents of direct involvement, “13 to 15” of actually being in the room, through those where the US or other authorities admitted to the torture, to those where the detainee told the officer they had been tortured. They found three instances where the UK had paid for rendition flights.

My own evidence to the Committee focused on the over-arching policy framework, and specifically the fact that Jack Straw and Richard Dearlove had agreed a deliberate and considered policy of obtaining intelligence through torture. The report includes disappointingly little of my evidence, as the Committee has taken a very narrow view of its remit to oversee the intelligence agencies. This is the only part of my evidence included:

130. This was not unique to the Agencies. Their sponsoring Departments appear to have adopted the same approach. We heard evidence from a former FCO official, Craig Murray, who suggested that “there was a deliberate policy of not committing the discussion on receipt of intelligence through torture to paper in the Foreign Office”.
In July 2004, when he was Ambassador to Tashkent, he raised concerns about the use of Uzbek intelligence derived from torture in a formal exchange of telegrams with the FCO. Mr Murray drew our attention to FCO documents from the same time, which we have seen, one of which referred to “meetings to look at conditions of receipt of intelligence as a general issue”. He told us that the meetings “specifically discuss[ed] the receipt of intelligence under torture from Uzbekistan” and “were absolutely key to the formation of policy on extraordinary rendition and intelligence”.
Mr Murray told us that, when he had given evidence to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee about this, they sought the documents from the FCO which replied that the “meetings were informal meetings and were not minuted ”. He went on to say:
“the idea that you have regular meetings convened at director level, convened by the Director of Security and Intelligence, where you are discussing the receipt of intelligence from torture, and you do not minute those meetings is an impossibility, unless an actual decision or instruction not to minute the meetings has been given.… Were it not for me and my bloody-mindedness, … you would never know those meetings had happened. Nobody would ever know those meetings had happened.”

131. We note that we have not seen the minutes of these meetings either: this causes us great concern. Policy discussions on such an important issue should have been minuted. We support
Mr Murray’s own conclusion that were it not for his actions these matters may never have come to light.

Jack Straw to this day denies knowledge and involvement and famously told Parliament that the whole story about rendition and torture was a “conspiracy theory”.

Unless we all start to believe in conspiracy theories and that the officials are lying, that I am lying, that behind this there is some kind of secret state which is in league with some dark forces in the United States, and also let me say, we believe that Secretary Rice is lying, there simply is no truth in the claims that the United Kingdom has been involved in rendition full stop, because we have not been, and so what on earth a judicial inquiry would start to do I have no idea. I do not think it would be justified.”

In fact I strongly recommend you to read the whole Hansard transcript, from Q21 to Q51, in which Jack Straw carries out the most sustained bravura performance of lying to parliament in modern history. The ISC report makes plain he was repeatedly involved in direct authorisations of rendition operations, while denying to parliament the very existence of such operations.

For over a decade now the British government, be it Red Tory or Blue Tory, has been refusing calls for a proper public inquiry into its collusion with torture. The ISC report was meant to stand in place of such an Inquiry, but all it has done is reveal that there is a huge amount of complicity in torture, much more than we had realised, which the ISC itself states it was precluded from properly investigating because of government restrictions on its operations. It also concluded in a separate report on current issues, that it is unable to state categorically that these practices have stopped.

The Blair and Brown governments were deeply immersed in torture, a practice that increased hatred of the UK in the Muslim world and thus increased the threat of terrorism. Their ministers repeatedly lied about it, including to parliament. The British state has since repeatedly acted to ensure impunity for those involved, from Blair and Straw down to individual security service officers, who are not to be held responsible for their criminal complicity. This impunity of agents of the state is a complete guarantee that these evil practices will continue.

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There Is Another England

Given the centuries of economic exploitation, political domination and depopulation, I perfectly understand why many Scots support any team at the World Cup which is playing England. But, with an English mother and two English grandparents who largely brought me up, I do not feel that way and I raised a glass at Harry Kane’s late winner. Let me tell you why.

My grandfather Henry was a lifelong socialist who had no illusions about the British Empire and its role in the World. Yet he was also a patriotic Englishman whose life, like so many of his generation, was largely defined by the struggle against Nazism, in which his only son had been killed. That focus on the Second World War partly explained his fondness for the Soviet Union, in discussing the abuses of which he would always remark “But you have to consider what came before. Given where they started, they are making progress”. He would recite “A man’s a man for a’that” to me as a small child and explain its meaning. Yet Henry would fly his St George’s flag proudly when occasion warranted it. I do not therefore automatically associate that flag with UKIP or with Essex man.

Because there is another England, that from which Henry sprang, the England documented lovingly by E P Thomson and vividly recorded by Robert Tressell, the England of William Hazlitt, Mary Wollstonecraft, the Putney debates and Thomas Paine. Michael Foot embodied the inherited wisdom of that tradition and it has re-emerged with unexpected vigour in the shape of Jeremy Corbyn, a man whose attraction lies in the very fact he encapsulates notions of basic decency that the English political elite had attempted to cast off.

I regard Scottish Independence as part of the continuing process of decolonisation. Ireland’s population will in the next decade overtake Scotland’s for the first time in centuries, and as of today Ireland’s GDP per capita stands 25% higher. Scotland can never achieve its potential without first achieving its Independence. But we can do that without wishing ill to our neighbours; some of them are quite nice.

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A Longer View

A few weeks’ break gives you a perspective on British politics aside from the day to day excitements, and the long view is just horrible. An astonishingly inept and irrelevant government maintains itself by a series of straight lies to both Tory Remainers and Tory Brexiteers about its intentions. Both these groups know they are being lied to, but the show stutters on because all in the Tory Party are clinging on, with a death grip, to office if not to power. They are in turn sustained by a Northern Irish party of antediluvian beliefs that appears to have time traveled from the less enlightened parts of the seventeenth century, and whose leader’s idea of politics is to march at the head of a group of ill-educated bigots, who will muster far too few teeth in relation to number of feet, proceeding with drunken braggadocio along the streets of Cowdenbeath.

Meantime society is well on its way through an extremely painful process of transformation. Well-paid, long term jobs offering job satisfaction and career progression are almost as improbable a dream for people under 30 as appearing in the World Cup final or owning their own home. Employee protection, whether through organised labour with clout or a legislative framework to prevent employers from abusing their power, has dwindled in practice and is a concept well outside the Overton window. Our younger generation grasp for the prospect of a few months’ unprotected employment at low wages, as desperately as did their ancestors in the 1830’s.

It is as though there has been a deliberate rolling back not just of human progress, but of human sensibility.

Meantime the rich get richer at an unprecedented rate. The concentration of wealth is mirrored by a concentration of the ownership of housing. Media ownership concentration into an ever-tightening circle continues to exert social control, while the gatekeeper role of the big new media corporations of twitter, facebook, google and wikipedia is now being very openly abused to maintain the Establishment narrative.

In the international world, the interests of the City of London and the armaments industry shamelessly and openly drive British foreign policy, with the continuing economic dependence of the flimsy UK construct on the pandering services to the global 1% offered by the City of London remains always at the front of the government’s mind. At the front not in acknowledgement of the fact that London’s days as a major global financial centre are very plainly numbered as economic gravity moves East, but rather in desperate attempts to avoid the need for an economic re-orientation that would affect the distribution of wealth in the UK away from the core of the Tory Party.

The days of the United Kingdom itself are now numbered in a very short series of figures. Tory hubris at having climbed, on the back of an incredible concerted propaganda deluge, to 25% electoral support in Scotland, appears to have convinced them that Scots will endure any humiliation at all and not have the courage to stand up. The incredible arrogance involved in the Tory abrogation of devolved powers, against the express vote of the Scottish parliament, was captured by the jeers of “Bye-bye” at SNP MPs leaving the Commons in protest at the lack of debate. That “Bye-bye” will have a significance they did not intend.

Any political party with the slightest prospect of power, will always be influenced and infiltrated by those with a strong stake in the economic status quo wishing to defend it, while advancing their personal interest. That is an eternal truth and afflicts both the Labour Party and the SNP. But while the programme of neither the Labour Party nor the SNP is as radical as is needed, both do reflect a genuine discontent with the status quo and with an economic philosophy which emphasises above all the freedoms of the very wealthy. There is more genuine choice on offer to the electorate than has been the case in the UK as a whole for many decades, which explains the crescendo of reaction from the media and the de facto casting off of the practice of political neutrality of the BBC, which was prepared to be reasonably fair in treatment of political parties only when they were all neo-conservative.

Whether in the next decade the Labour Party is now sufficiently radical to contain the tensions racking the UK’s political economy, within a broadly constant political system, remains to be seen. It continues to be my view that the first great crack will open with Scottish Independence, and more radical societal change throughout the rest of the UK will swiftly follow that catalytic event.

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Tempting Fate

This is the third time I have posted that there is a temporary hiatus in blogging but nothing to worry about, and subsequently ended up in hospital. Just discharged from Edinburgh Royal Infirmary after losing an unexpected argument with a piece of agricultural machinery. Between Eden Festival and that, I have missed the most fascinating fortnight in politics this year. Next time I have a break I shall put up a post asking you to worry a lot, then hopefully nothing will happen.

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The Mills of God Grind Slowly. Particularly in Spain.


One of these two is a dreadful spiv and crook. The other is Arthur Daley.

That’s Luis Barcenas, former Treasurer of the ruling Francoist successor Popular Party in Spain and long time confidante of Prime Minister Rajoy, happily now in prison for his part in a corruption scandal in which, over twenty years, hundreds of millions of euros in kickbacks from taxpayer-funded projects were channelled into the Popular Party coffers, and then doled out in secret payments to party leaders. Rajoy himself had to give evidence in court and the judgement made plain he was not believed.

This is the obvious cause of the no confidence motion that may lead to the Popular Party being removed from power tomorrow. The power of the brown envelope may yet save Rajoy, and the constitutional role of a monarchy which is itself financially corrupt will also come into play.

It says everything about the state of Spanish politics, that in responding in Parliament to the charge of corruption in the no-confidence debate today, Rajoy should turn to the leader of the opposition and declaim “And who do you think you are, Mother Theresa? Your hands are not so clean”. It says even more about Spain that this has not caused shock and “you are corrupt too” is not seen as a wildly inappropriate defence. It is true that the Socialist Party has no shortage of its own skeletons.

What may bring down Rajoy is the fact that the Basque parties, whose support Rajoy had bought with subsidies even more obvious than those lavished by May on the DUP, cannot be seen to prop up Rajoy after his enthusiastic policy of clubbing Catalan grandmothers over the head and imprisoning Catalan leaders. Only the neo-con fake opposition Ciudadanos, originally sponsored and financed by the German BND security service to head off Podemos’ perceived threat to the Euro, is doing its utmost to maintain Merkel’s close ally in power.

If Rajoy finally pays a political price for his appalling persecution of the Catalans it will be a moment of joy, even though the Socialists who would replace him have themselves been shamefully playing to Spanish Nationalist opinion throughout the crisis. But the downfall of one of the nastiest and most vicious and corrupt politicians in power that Europe has seen in decades is nevertheless devoutly to be wished.

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