Yes Minister Fan Fiction 198

I have been rather unwell this last week with atrial fibrillation, and at 5am last Sunday morning had the paramedics out and puzzling over the ECG results. This particularly severe episode was a result of being out in the cold and storm for hours on the AUOB march, and I felt so guilty at being a self-inflicted drain on the NHS that I declined their offer to take me into hospital and decided to recover at home.

I did however get to thinking about whether, had I indeed toddled off on my next great adventure, I would regret holding information which I had not imparted to you. Well, I couldn’t in those circumstances regret not having imparted it as I would be deid, but you know what I mean. As it happened the thing I found I was most worried about not being able to impart was not, at least on its surface, a case of world sweeping importance, but rather of individual injustice. Though the surface often hides a great deal.

Anyway, having recovered I was saddened by the death of Derek Fowlds, who to me was always Mr Derek of Basil Brush. In fact I remember my confusion when Mr Derek replaced Mr Rodney, who I only learnt this week was in fact Rodney Bewes, another great comic actor of whose wider work I was at primary school unaware. Derek Fowlds of course became most famous in his brilliant role as Bernard in Yes Minister. Lying in bed getting better, I decided to while away the time by writing some Yes Minister fan fiction in tribute.

As with the original series, although based on a realistic civil service scenario dealing with similar events to those the civil service actually deals with, this conversation between a Minister and Permanent Secretary is purely fictional. No real situation is alluded to and any resemblance between the people and situations portrayed here and anything that is happening in real life is entirely accidental. Please do not attempt in the comments section to relate this entirely fictional hommage to Yes Minister to any actual events involving any actual court cases. Because you might wander into contempt of court.

This is of course my first Yes Minister effort.

FIRST YES MINISTER

Perm Sec. You see Minister, all you have to do is destroy your predecessor’s reputation. In the modern “Me Too” atmosphere, you accuse someone of sexual offences and politically they are finished. In fact you can do what you like to him.
Minister Like Julian Assange?
Perm Sec Exactly, Minister. Like Julian Assange. We yelled “rape” at him and then had to do nothing else. The left themselves destroyed him, led by the feminists of course. You see Minister, we feminists can be useful sometimes. (Canned Laughter)
Minister Yes, by the time they had finished with him, the government could torture him to death in plain sight and nobody cared.
Perm Sec Precisely Minister, and the hilarious thing was that there never was any rape and we never had to produce any evidence in court.
Minister Yes, brilliant. But it’s not an exact parallel with Orpheus though, is it Permanent Secretary? We don’t have any extradition request for Orpheus once any sexual charges fall.
Perm Sec The charges won’t fall, Minister, they won’t fall. We will get him found guilty.
Minister But he isn’t actually a rapist, you know. Not one of these incidents looks anything like rape. In fact they are all very flimsy. There isn’t one single independent witness and I don’t think any of them could be proven in court.
Perm Sec Please don’t worry yourself. It doesn’t matter, Minister. All we need is the word “rape” in the newspaper headlines. “Attempted rape” will do. You just tell the prosecutor to get the word out there, spread it in the media and Orpheus is finished.
Minister Even if he is not guilty?
Perm Sec He will be guilty. Whether he is guilty is irrelevant, he will be found guilty. This is where we use “more of”.
Minister “More of”?
Perm Sec Yes, “More of”. It’s not an official legal term, but all the lawyers know it as the oldest trick in the prosecutor’s book.
Minister What do you mean, Permanent Secretary?
Perm Sec Well look, we have the canoodling episode, the kiss in the office and a couple of suggestive remarks about sexy clothes.
Minister The sexy remarks are hardly illegal, are they?
Perm Sec Good God, Minister, what century are you in? (Canned Laughter). Sexual harassment, Minister. Kiss someone at the office party and tell someone else their figure looks good in that blouse, and you have established a pattern of behaviour. “More of” you see, Minister. The “more of” this stuff you throw, the better chance some of it will stick.
Minister But we don’t have that many instances. We went through absolutely everything. We had a team of 24 policemen working on it for 10 months and this was all we can find.
Perm Sec It is time to get creative then, Minister. We need more women to make allegations. In these circumstances it is always best to keep things close. Activate the women you know, Minister, activate the women you know.
Minister I don’t have that many friends, Permanent Secretary. I spend all my time reading books. (Canned Laughter).
Perm Sec Oh really, Minister, think. You must have some women very close to you.
Minister Well, there is Miss Barclay, my own Private Secretary.
Perm Sec Perfect, Minister perfect! Miss Barclay should be good for at least four allegations! Get her to say he tried to kiss her. Often.
Minister But surely nobody will believe my own Private Secretary – and she was involved in putting the dossier together and in discussions on handling the case. Nobody is going to believe her. And (gasps in horror) it really leads straight back to me being behind it, doesn’t it?
Perm Sec It can’t be traced back to you, Minister.
Minister Phew, that’s a relief. It can’t be traced back to me you say. How does that work?
Perm Sec Accuser anonymity, Minister.
Minister Accuser anon… oh yes! Oh yes! I am beginning to see!! They are sexual allegations so…
Perm Sec The identities of the accusers can be kept hidden by the court under penalty of severe jail sentences for anybody who reveals them so…
Minister …the accusers can just be my closest political cronies and the public will never be aware of that! That’s brilliant, Perm Sec!
Perm Sec Thank you, Minister (Canned Laughter)
Minister And thank God for that, because if the party faithful thought that I was trying to stitch up my predecessor they would have my guts for garters (Canned Laughter).
Perm Sec Heaven forfend, Minister!
Minister What? Oh too right. I was just thinking, Permanent Secretary, you know I am starting to get the hang of this. What about old Marmalade? He is very keen to get back into parliament and sees himself as a potential successor.
Perm Sec Marmalade? Well I suppose if we start adding in gay allegations, it does give a slightly more exotic tinge for the tabloids.
Minister I was thinking more of his wife, Permanent Secretary. If the old Marmalade family want a nice safe seat in the capital, let them do something to earn it.
Perm Sec Indeed, Minister. And is the wife not a former Special Adviser?
Minister Yes, is that a problem?
Perm Sec On the contrary, Minister. You see it is very useful. A SPAD is of course only a particularly spotty political hack whom politicians have conned the taxpayer into paying, but technically a SPAD is still a form of civil servant.
Minister Yes, and what of it?
Perm Sec Well, the words “civil servant” convey integrity, honesty and trustworthiness. (Canned laughter). We can leak to the tabloids that one of the accusers is a civil servant, and people will believe it must be genuine and independent. Very cunning idea if I may say so, Minister.
Minister Was it? Oh yes, I am cunning, aren’t I. (Canned laughter). But I still worry that none of the accusations is going to be individually convincing.
Perm Sec Doesn’t matter, Minister, doesn’t matter. Remember “More of”. Quantity not quality, Minister, quantity not quality. They don’t have to be individually convincing, just to give the impression of no smoke without fire.
Minister Oh well, I understand that now. In that case I can think of three or four more women very close to us indeed who can make allegations, if independence or credibility are not important and nobody will ever know who they were.
Perm Sec Volume is important, Minister, volume. It does not have to be heavy stuff. Just get them to allege an attempted kiss here, a brush of the hand on the bum as they were going out the door there.
Minister To build a pattern of behaviour.
Perm Sec Precisely, Minister, precisely. To build a pattern of behaviour. I see you have got it.
Minister But isn’t there a problem here, Permanent Secretary? If this man was a sexual predator on a large scale, there would be whispers for years and people in political circles would surely know. But he doesn’t have that reputation at all.
Perm Sec Don’t worry, Minister, he soon will have that reputation. (Canned Laughter). The media will believe it because we will tell them to believe it. And once the media believe something, the population will believe it too. Every politician has enemies, Minister, Orpheus more than most.
Minister But isn’t there a potential danger here, Permanent Secretary? I mean all of this is nonsense, so won’t he be acquitted and emerge possibly stronger than before?
Perm Sec Don’t worry, Minister, he won’t be acquitted. We have a legally invincible alliance on our side. “More of” is powerful, but “more of” combined with “home” becomes an irresistible force.
Minister (puzzled) “More of” and “home”.
Perm Sec Yes Minister. Answer me this. What does a jury want more than anything?
Minister To do justice?
Perm Sec Wrong, Minister, wrong. Home. A jury wants to go home. (Canned Laughter) Jurors are ripped away from their homes, jobs and families for weeks. At the end of it they are locked in a stuffy room with other jurors they don’t like, and not allowed to go home until they have all reached a verdict. So what do they do to reach agreement?
Minister Aaah, I see now. They compromise.
Perm Sec Exactly, Minister. They will compromise. It’s a natural human instinct to avoid conflict. There will be some people who think him totally innocent as nothing was individually proven, but there will be others who will think he must have done something wrong or there could not possibly be so many accusations. The power of “more of”. Of course they will chuck out the “attempted rape” very quickly as obvious nonsense. In the end they will find him not guilty on nearly all counts, but as a compromise will convict him of stroking someone’s hair, patting their bum or saying they look sexy.
Minister But surely he will hardly be jailed for that?
Perm Sec Doesn’t matter, Minister. “Rapist” will already be firmly printed on the public mind, and so long as we have the magic word “guilty” it does not matter what he is guilty of. And it can’t fail. With so many charges, the jury is simply bound to find him guilty of something so they can compromise and all go home.
Minister Brilliant, Permanent Secretary, brilliant.
Perm Sec Thank you.
Minister So that’s finally going to put a stake through his heart. No more Frank Sinatra comebacks and no more Quixotic campaigns chasing unicorns.
Perm Sec Yes, Minister.

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Westminster Cannot Block Scottish Independence 645

Boris Johnson’s facetious, point-scoring reply to the formal request from the Scottish government for agreement to a second Independence referendum is an act of extreme arrogance. An off-the-cuff campaign remark from a single politician has no weight in weighing the will of a nation, and I presume Johnson is not arguing that every political statement Nicola Sturgeon or Alex Salmond has ever made has the force of law.

The “once in a generation” remark has no more force than “die in a ditch”. It is not contained in any official document, and appears in neither the Edinburgh Agreement nor the Smith Commission report. For Johnson to base his refusal of a vital democratic step on such a flimsy pretext is extremely arrogant. It is born of colossal self-confidence. He is perfectly confident the highly centralised Westminster system will allow him simply to ride roughshod over Scotland.

Johnson is of course right. You may be surprised to hear that I agree with the analysis of McHarg and McCorkindale published today that a legal challenge arguing the Scottish Government’s right to hold a referendum is a waste of time, not least because if such legal challenge looked like succeeding the Tories would simply pass Westminster legislation outlawing the referendum explicitly. There is no doubt whatsoever that such legislation would be upheld by the UK Supreme Court under the doctrine of the Sovereignty of (Westminster) Parliament.

I also have no doubt that a futile and time-wasting court action is going to be a key part of the Scottish Government’s approach in response to Johnson, of pretending to do something about Independence a few more years.

McHarg and McCorkindale are quite right on UK Constitutional Law, which is where their expertise lies. They know very little about public international law and still less about international politics.

The truth is that UK Constitutional Law is as irrelevant to Scottish Independence as Soviet Constitutional Law was to the question of Latvian, Lithuanian and Estonian Independence. The UK is disintegrating and not the smirk of Johnson, the frippery of the UK Supreme Court nor the witterings of lawyers can hold it together.

Independence is not a matter of domestic law. It is a matter of international law alone. Independence is the existence of a state in relation to other states. It is gained not by any internal process- internal process is utterly irrelevant, and in 95% of cases does not involve a referendum – but by recognition of other states, formalised through the General Assembly of the United Nations.

I touched on these points in my brief statement at the AUOB press conference after the march on Saturday.

In its judgement on Kosovo, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) specifically confirmed that the agreement of the state being seceded from was not necessary for Independence. That is the position in law, whatever any UK court may say. Indeed it was the UK government itself that put this argument most clearly to the ICJ in the Kosovo case.

5.5 Consistent with this general approach, international law has not treated the legality of
the act of secession under the internal law of the predecessor State as determining the effect
of that act on the international plane. In most cases of secession, of course, the predecessor
State’s law will not have been complied with: that is true almost as a matter of definition.

5.6 Nor is compliance with the law of the predecessor State a condition for the declaration
of independence to be recognised by third States, if other conditions for recognition are
fulfilled. The conditions do not include compliance with the internal legal requirements of
the predecessor State. Otherwise the international legality of a secession would be
predetermined by the very system of internal law called in question by the circumstances in
which the secession is occurring.

5.7 For the same reason, the constitutional authority of the seceding entity to proclaim
independence within the predecessor State is not determinative as a matter of international
law. In most if not all cases, provincial or regional authorities will lack the constitutional
authority to secede. The act of secession is not thereby excluded. Moreover, representative
institutions may legitimately act, and seek to reflect the views of their constituents, beyond
the scope of already conferred power.

That is a commendably concise and accurate description of the legal position. It is the legal opinion of the Government of the United Kingdom, as submitted to the International Court of Justice in the Kosovo case. The International Court of Justice endorsed this view, so it is both established law and the opinion of the British Government that a state has the right to declare Independence without the agreement or permission of the original state and its political or legal authorities.

I have continually explained on this site that the legality of a Declaration of Independence is in no sense determined by the law of the metropolitan state, but is purely a matter of recognition by other countries and thus acceptance into the United Nations. The UK Government set this out plainly in response to a question from a judge in the Kosovo case:

2. As the United Kingdom stated in oral argument, international law contains no
prohibition against declarations of independence as such. Whether a declaration of
independence leads to the creation of a new State by separation or secession depends
not on the fact of the declaration but on subsequent developments, notably recognition
by other States. As a general matter, an act not prohibited by international law needs
no authorization. This position holds with respect to States. It holds also with respect
to acts of individuals or groups, for international law prohibits conduct of non-State
entities only exceptionally and where expressly indicated.

So the key question is, could Scotland get recognition from other states for a Declaration of Independence? The attitude of the EU will be crucial and here Catalonia is obviously a key precedent. But it is one that has been totally misunderstood.

The vast majority of the politicians and functionaries of the EU institutions viewed the actions of the Francoist government of Spain in assaulting the people of Catalonia who were trying to vote, with extreme distaste. But they held their noses and supported Spain. Because over 20 years experience as a diplomat taught me that the EU functions as a club of member states, who will support each other in almost any circumstance. So Spain was supported.

But the UK is shortly going to stop being a member. It is Scotland, as a potential member with a long history of valued membership and a firm intention to join, which will have the natural support of the EU, the more so as there will be a strong desire to get Scotland’s fishing, energy and mineral resources back within the bloc. The disintegration of the UK will also be encouraged as a salutary lesson to any other states that consider leaving the EU. The political forces within the EU are very, very strongly behind recognition of Scottish Independence.

Once the EU decides to recognise Scotland (and crucially it is not a decision that needs unanimity in the EU vote, an extremely important and overlooked fact) the rest will be easy. The UK is detested in much of the developing world for its continued refusal to decolonise Diego Garcia, for the Iraq War, and for the whole history of colonialism.

So how should Scotland proceed? My advice would be to declare Independence at the earliest possible opportunity. We should recall all Scottish MPs from Westminster immediately. We should assemble all of Scotland’s MEP’s, MP’s and MSP’s in a National Assembly and declare Independence on the 700th Anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath, thus emphasising the historical continuity of the Scottish state. The views and laws of London now being irrelevant, we should organise, as an Independent state, our referendum to confirm Independence, to be held in September 2020.

The key criterion which governments have traditionally used to recognise another state is control of the state’s internal territory. (They do not have to use that criterion, each state can recognise on whatever basis it wishes, but that is the usual one cited). This is where the Catalonian Declaration of Independence failed, the Catalan Government never managed to enforce it on its own ground.

There is going to be no process of Independence agreed with the British government. We have to take Independence, not beg for it. At some stage, there is always the danger that the British government may try to react by sending in the British Army to enforce Westminster’s will. If we believe we are an independent nation, we have to be prepared to defend ourselves as an independent state should the worst happen. Calling a confirmatory referendum as the first act of the Independent state would make it difficult for Johnson to justify sending in the British Army to try to prevent it, but we cannot rule it out. Hopefully that will not involve anyone getting killed, but we must be plain that Westminster will never voluntarily allow us to leave and may physically attack us if we try.

I appreciate this may all sound very unpleasant and confrontational.

We have two alternatives now – we stand up for ourselves and our inalienable right of self-determination in international law as defined in the UN Charter, or we grovel before Johnson’s smirk and try various “legal” and “constitutional” avenues in terms of the UK’s utterly irrelevant domestic legislation. Which will get us nowhere, slowly.

The time has come for Scottish Independence. With a referendum denied by no fault of ours, we must seize the moment and take the Independence for which they will not let us vote.

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A Window for Peace 1348

There is this morning a chink of light to avoid yet more devastation in the Middle East. Iran’s missile strikes last night were calibrated to satisfy honour while avoiding damage that would trigger automatically the next round. The missiles appear to have been fitted out with very light warhead payloads indeed – their purpose was to look good in the dark going up into the night sky. There is every reason to believe the apparent lack of US casualties was deliberate.

Even more important was the Iraqi statement that “proportionate measures” had been “taken and concluded” and they did not seek “further escalation”.

I agree their response was proportionate and I would say that I regard the Iranian action so far, unlike the assassination of Soleimani by the US, legal in international law.

The entire world should congratulate Iran for its maturity in handling the illegal assassination of its General, who was on a peace mission, travelling as a civilian on a commercial flight, carrying a mediation message the US had been instrumental in instigating. If as seems possible the US actively manipulated the diplomatic process to assassinate someone on a diplomatic mission and traveling on a diplomatic passport, that is a dreadful outrage which will come back to haunt them. Life insurance rates for US diplomats no doubt just went up.

It is also worth noting the 2.8% rise in the Lockheed share price in the 24 hours immediately before the Soleimani assassination, outperforming the Dow about three times. That would bear investigation. Arms manufacturers and oil stocks have soared this last few days – and remember that nowadays the vast bulk of financial transactions are bets on the margins of movement, so vast fortunes will have been made out of all this.

The UK has been, as ever, complicit in US crimes. Our laughingly so-called “defence” industry – when were its products last used in self-defence and not colonial adventure? – is tied in to and dependent on the US military machine. The current build-up of US troops and hardware in the Gulf has Mildenhall as a major staging post. We do not have to do this. Whether officially or on a pretext, French airspace was closed to the US military build-up and the Americans have had to fly from the UK, skirting France, around the Atlantic.

In a huge Boris Johnson slap in the face to international law, extra US bombers to attack Iran have been flown into Diego Garcia, in the Chagos Islands. You will recall that is where the UK committed genocide against the population in the 1970s to clear the way for the US military base. Last year, the UK lost a hearing before the International Court of Justice and was subsequently instructed by the UN to decolonise the islands and give them back to Mauritius by last November. The UK simply persisted in its illegal occupation and now is threatening the use of the islands as the base for yet another illegal and destabilising war.

That the UK is a permanent member of the UN security council is a disgrace which surely cannot endure much longer. What the current crisis has shown us is that under Johnson the UK has no future except as a still more compliant servant of whoever occupies the White House.

Wars are easy to start but hard to stop. Trump appears to have calmed, but we cannot rule out a stupid “last word” attack by the USA. It is to be hoped that Iran now concentrates on using the immense political leverage it has gained to get western troops out of Iraq, which would be a tremendous result for all of us after 17 years. But we cannot rule out hotter heads in the Iranian government insisting on further attacks, or attacks from regional forces whose Tehran authorisation is uncertain. On either side this could yet blow up badly.

I am a sucker for hope, and the best outcome would be for the US and Iran to start talking directly again, and a deal to be made from this break in the logjam that is wider than, and Trump can portray as better than, “Obama’s” nuclear deal and would enable the lifting of sanctions. I am sure Trump will be tempted by the chance to go for this kind of diplomatic coup under the political cover provided him by Soleimani’s assassination. But the US is now so tied in to Saudi Arabia and Israel, and thus tied in to irrational hostility to Iran, that this must be extremely unlikely.

For those of us in Scotland, this is still more reason why Independence must be early. We cannot be tied in to a rogue state. As we march for Independence on Saturday, the potential for war in Iran gives the sharpest reminder why we must leave the UK and form our own, peaceful, law-abiding state.

——————————————

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

Subscriptions to keep this blog going are gratefully received.

Choose subscription amount from dropdown box:

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Account name
MURRAY CJ
Account number 3 2 1 5 0 9 6 2
Sort code 6 0 – 4 0 – 0 5
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Bank address Natwest, PO Box 414, 38 Strand, London, WC2H 5JB

Subscriptions are still preferred to donations as I can’t run the blog without some certainty of future income, but I understand why some people prefer not to commit to that.

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Lies, the Bethlehem Doctrine, and the Illegal Murder of Soleimani 1165

In one of the series of blatant lies the USA has told to justify the assassination of Soleimani, Mike Pompeo said that Soleimani was killed because he was planning “Imminent attacks” on US citizens. It is a careful choice of word. Pompeo is specifically referring to the Bethlehem Doctrine of Pre-Emptive Self Defence.

Developed by Daniel Bethlehem when Legal Adviser to first Netanyahu’s government and then Blair’s, the Bethlehem Doctrine is that states have a right of “pre-emptive self-defence” against “imminent” attack. That is something most people, and most international law experts and judges, would accept. Including me.

What very few people, and almost no international lawyers, accept is the key to the Bethlehem Doctrine – that here “Imminent” – the word used so carefully by Pompeo – does not need to have its normal meanings of either “soon” or “about to happen”. An attack may be deemed “imminent”, according to the Bethlehem Doctrine, even if you know no details of it or when it might occur. So you may be assassinated by a drone or bomb strike – and the doctrine was specifically developed to justify such strikes – because of “intelligence” you are engaged in a plot, when that intelligence neither says what the plot is nor when it might occur. Or even more tenuous, because there is intelligence you have engaged in a plot before, so it is reasonable to kill you in case you do so again.

I am not inventing the Bethlehem Doctrine. It has been the formal legal justification for drone strikes and targeted assassinations by the Israeli, US and UK governments for a decade. Here it is in academic paper form, published by Bethlehem after he left government service (the form in which it is adopted by the US, UK and Israeli Governments is classified information).

So when Pompeo says attacks by Soleimani were “imminent” he is not using the word in the normal sense in the English language. It is no use asking him what, where or when these “imminent” attacks were planned to be. He is referencing the Bethlehem Doctrine under which you can kill people on the basis of a feeling that they may have been about to do something.

The idea that killing an individual who you have received information is going to attack you, but you do not know when, where or how, can be justified as self-defence, has not gained widespread acceptance – or indeed virtually any acceptance – in legal circles outside the ranks of the most extreme devoted neo-conservatives and zionists. Daniel Bethlehem became the FCO’s Chief Legal Adviser, brought in by Jack Straw, precisely because every single one of the FCO’s existing Legal Advisers believed the Iraq War to be illegal. In 2004, when the House of Commons was considering the legality of the war on Iraq, Bethlehem produced a remarkable paper for consideration which said that it was legal because the courts and existing law were wrong, a defence which has seldom succeeded in court.

(b)
following this line, I am also of the view that the wider principles of the law on self-defence also require closer scrutiny. I am not persuaded that the approach of doctrinal purity reflected in the Judgments of the International Court of Justice in this area provide a helpful edifice on which a coherent legal regime, able to address the exigencies of contemporary international life and discourage resort to unilateral action, is easily crafted;

The key was that the concept of “imminent” was to change:

The concept of what constitutes an “imminent” armed attack will develop to meet new circumstances and new threats

In the absence of a respectable international lawyer willing to argue this kind of tosh, Blair brought in Bethlehem as Chief Legal Adviser, the man who advised Netanyahu on Israel’s security wall and who was willing to say that attacking Iraq was legal on the basis of Saddam’s “imminent threat” to the UK, which proved to be non-existent. It says everything about Bethlehem’s eagerness for killing that the formulation of the Bethlehem Doctrine on extrajudicial execution by drone came after the Iraq War, and he still gave not one second’s thought to the fact that the intelligence on the “imminent threat” can be wrong. Assassinating people on the basis of faulty intelligence is not addressed by Bethlehem in setting out his doctrine. The bloodlust is strong in this one.

There are literally scores of academic articles, in every respected journal of international law, taking down the Bethlehem Doctrine for its obvious absurdities and revolting special pleading. My favourite is this one by Bethlehem’s predecessor as the FCO Chief Legal Adviser, Sir Michael Wood and his ex-Deputy Elizabeth Wilmshurst.

I addressed the Bethlehem Doctrine as part of my contribution to a book reflecting on Chomsky‘s essay “On the Responsibility of Intellectuals”

In the UK recently, the Attorney
General gave a speech in defence of the UK’s drone policy, the assassination
of people – including British nationals – abroad. This execution
without a hearing is based on several criteria, he reassured us. His
speech was repeated slavishly in the British media. In fact, the Guardian
newspaper simply republished the government press release absolutely
verbatim, and stuck a reporter’s byline at the top.
The media have no interest in a critical appraisal of the process
by which the British government regularly executes without trial. Yet
in fact it is extremely interesting. The genesis of the policy lay in the
appointment of Daniel Bethlehem as the Foreign and Commonwealth
Office’s Chief Legal Adviser. Jack Straw made the appointment, and for
the first time ever it was external, and not from the Foreign Office’s own
large team of world-renowned international lawyers. The reason for that
is not in dispute. Every single one of the FCO’s legal advisers had advised
that the invasion of Iraq was illegal, and Straw wished to find a new head
of the department more in tune with the neo-conservative world view.
Straw went to extremes. He appointed Daniel Bethlehem, the legal
‘expert’ who provided the legal advice to Benjamin Netanyahu on the
‘legality’ of building the great wall hemming in the Palestinians away
from their land and water resources. Bethlehem was an enthusiastic
proponent of the invasion of Iraq. He was also the most enthusiastic
proponent in the world of drone strikes.
Bethlehem provided an opinion on the legality of drone strikes
which is, to say the least, controversial. To give one example, Bethlehem
accepts that established principles of international law dictate that
lethal force may be used only to prevent an attack which is ‘imminent’.
Bethlehem argues that for an attack to be ‘imminent’ does not require it
to be ‘soon’. Indeed you can kill to avert an ‘imminent attack’ even if you
have no information on when and where it will be. You can instead rely
on your target’s ‘pattern of behaviour’; that is, if he has attacked before,
it is reasonable to assume he will attack again and that such an attack is
‘imminent’.
There is a much deeper problem: that the evidence against the
target is often extremely dubious. Yet even allowing the evidence to
be perfect, it is beyond me that the state can kill in such circumstances
without it being considered a death penalty imposed without trial for
past crimes, rather than to frustrate another ‘imminent’ one.
You would think that background would make an interesting
story. Yet the entire ‘serious’ British media published the government
line, without a single journalist, not one, writing about the fact that
Bethlehem’s proposed definition of ‘imminent’ has been widely rejected
by the international law community. The public knows none of this. They
just ‘know’ that drone strikes are keeping us safe from deadly attack by
terrorists, because the government says so, and nobody has attempted to
give them other information

Remember, this is not just academic argument, the Bethlehem Doctrine is the formal policy position on assassination of Israel, the US and UK governments. So that is lie one. When Pompeo says Soleimani was planning “imminent” attacks, he is using the Bethlehem definition under which “imminent” is a “concept” which means neither “soon” nor “definitely going to happen”. To twist a word that far from its normal English usage is to lie. To do so to justify killing people is obscene. That is why, if I finish up in the bottom-most pit of hell, the worst thing about the experience will be the company of Daniel Bethlehem.

Let us now move on to the next lie, which is being widely repeated, this time originated by Donald Trump, that Soleimani was responsible for the “deaths of hundreds, if not thousands, of Americans”. This lie has been parroted by everybody, Republicans and Democrats alike.

Really? Who were they? When and where? While the Bethlehem Doctrine allows you to kill somebody because they might be going to attack someone, sometime, but you don’t know who or when, there is a reasonable expectation that if you are claiming people have already been killed you should be able to say who and when.

The truth of the matter is that if you take every American killed including and since 9/11, in the resultant Middle East related wars, conflicts and terrorist acts, well over 90% of them have been killed by Sunni Muslims financed and supported out of Saudi Arabia and its gulf satellites, and less than 10% of those Americans have been killed by Shia Muslims tied to Iran.

This is a horribly inconvenient fact for US administrations which, regardless of party, are beholden to Saudi Arabia and its money. It is, the USA affirms, the Sunnis who are the allies and the Shias who are the enemy. Yet every journalist or aid worker hostage who has been horribly beheaded or otherwise executed has been murdered by a Sunni, every jihadist terrorist attack in the USA itself, including 9/11, has been exclusively Sunni, the Benghazi attack was by Sunnis, Isil are Sunni, Al Nusra are Sunni, the Taliban are Sunni and the vast majority of US troops killed in the region are killed by Sunnis.

Precisely which are these hundreds of deaths for which the Shia forces of Soleimani were responsible? Is there a list? It is of course a simple lie. Its tenuous connection with truth relates to the Pentagon’s estimate – suspiciously upped repeatedly since Iran became the designated enemy – that back during the invasion of Iraq itself, 83% of US troop deaths were at the hands of Sunni resistance and 17% of of US troop deaths were at the hands of Shia resistance, that is 603 troops. All the latter are now lain at the door of Soleimani, remarkably.

Those were US troops killed in combat during an invasion. The Iraqi Shia militias – whether Iran backed or not – had every legal right to fight the US invasion. The idea that the killing of invading American troops was somehow illegal or illegitimate is risible. Plainly the US propaganda that Soleimani was “responsible for hundreds of American deaths” is intended, as part of the justification for his murder, to give the impression he was involved in terrorism, not legitimate combat against invading forces. The idea that the US has the right to execute those who fight it when it invades is an absolutely stinking abnegation of the laws of war.

As I understand it, there is very little evidence that Soleimani had active operational command of Shia militias during the invasion, and in any case to credit him personally with every American soldier killed is plainly a nonsense. But even if Soleimani had personally supervised every combat success, these were legitimate acts of war. You cannot simply assassinate opposing generals who fought you, years after you invade.

The final, and perhaps silliest lie, is Vice President Mike Pence’s attempt to link Soleimani to 9/11. There is absolutely no link between Soleimani and 9/11, and the most strenuous efforts by the Bush regime to find evidence that would link either Iran or Iraq to 9/11 (and thus take the heat off their pals the al-Saud who were actually responsible) failed. Yes, it is true that some of the hijackers at one point transited Iran to Afghanistan. But there is zero evidence, as the 9/11 report specifically stated, that the Iranians knew what they were planning, or that Soleimani personally was involved. This is total bullshit. 9/11 was Sunni and Saudi led, nothing to do with Iran.

Soleimani actually was involved in intelligence and logistical cooperation with the United States in Afghanistan post 9/11 (the Taliban were his enemies too, the shia Tajiks being a key part of the US aligned Northern Alliance). He was in Iraq to fight ISIL.

The final aggravating factor in the Soleimani murder is that he was an accredited combatant general of a foreign state which the world – including the USA – recognises. The Bethlehem Doctrine specifically applies to “non-state actors”. Unlike all of the foregoing, this next is speculation, but I suspect that the legal argument in the Pentagon ran that Soleimani is a non-state actor when in Iraq, where the Shia militias have a semi-official status.

But that does not wash. Soleimani is a high official in Iran who was present in Iraq as a guest of the Iraqi government, to which the US government is allied. This greatly exacerbates the illegality of his assassination still further.

The political world in the UK is so cowed by the power of the neo-conservative Establishment and media, that the assassination of Soleimani is not being called out for the act of blatant illegality that it is. It was an act of state terrorism by the USA, pure and simple.

——————————————

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The USA Doubles Down on its Saudi Allegiance

For the United States to abandon proxy warfare and directly kill one of Iran’s most senior political figures has changed international politics in a fundamental way. It is a massive error. Its ramifications are profound and complex.

There is also a lesson to be learned here in that this morning there will be excitement and satisfaction in the palaces of Washington, Tel Aviv, Riyadh and Tehran. All of the political elites will see prospects for gain from the new fluidity. While for ordinary people in all those countries there is only the certainty of more conflict, death and economic loss, for the political elite, the arms manufacturers, the military and security services and allied interests, the hedge funds, speculators and oil companies, there are the sweet smells of cash and power.

Tehran will be pleased because the USA has just definitively lost Iraq. Iraq has a Shia majority and so naturally tends to ally with Iran. The only thing preventing that was the Arab nationalism of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Socialist Party. Bush and Blair were certainly fully informed that by destroying the Ba’ath system they were creating an Iranian/Iraqi nexus, but they decided that was containable. The “containment” consisted of a deliberate and profound push across the Middle East to oppose Shia influence in proxy wars everywhere.

This is the root cause of the disastrous war in Yemen, where the Zaidi-Shia would have been victorious long ago but for the sustained brutal aerial warfare on civilians carried out by the Western powers through Saudi Arabia. This anti-Shia western policy included the unwavering support for the Sunni Bahraini autocracy in the brutal suppression of its overwhelmingly Shia population. And of course it included the sustained and disastrous attempt to overthrow the Assad regime in Syria and replace it with pro-Saudi Sunni jihadists.

This switch in US foreign policy was known in the White House of 2007 as “the redirection”. It meant that Sunni jihadists like Al-Qaida and later al-Nusra were able to switch back to being valued allies of the United States. It redoubled the slavish tying of US foreign policy to Saudi interests. The axis was completed once Mohammad Bin Salman took control of Saudi Arabia. His predecessors had been coy about their de facto alliance with Israel. MBS felt no shyness about openly promoting Israeli interests, under the cloak of mutual alliance against Iran, calculating quite correctly that Arab street hatred of the Shia outweighed any solidarity with the Palestinians. Common enemies were easy for the USA/Saudi/Israeli alliance to identify; Iran, the Houthi, Assad and of course the Shia Hezbollah, the only military force to have given the Israelis a bloody nose. The Palestinians themselves are predominantly Sunni and their own Hamas was left friendless and isolated.

The principal difficulty of this policy for the USA of course is Iraq. Having imposed a rough democracy on Iraq, the governments were always likely to be Shia dominated and highly susceptible to Iranian influence. The USA had a continuing handle through dwindling occupying forces and through control of the process which produced the government. They also provided financial resources to partially restore the physical infrastructure the US and its allies had themselves destroyed, and of course to fund a near infinite pool of corruption.

That US influence was balanced by strong Iranian aligned militia forces who were an alternative source of strength to the government of Baghdad, and of course by the fact that the centre of Sunni tribal strength, the city of Falluja, had itself been obliterated by the United States, three times, in an act of genocide of Iraqi Sunni population.

Through all this the Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi had until now tiptoed with great care. Pro-Iranian yet a long term American client, his government maintained a form of impartiality based on an open hand to accept massive bribes from anybody. That is now over. He is pro-Iranian now.

Such precarious balance as there ever was in Iraq was upset this last two months when the US and Israelis transported more of their ISIL Sunni jihadists into Iraq, to escape the pincer of the Turkish, Russian and Syrian government forces. The Iranians were naturally not going to stand for this and Iranian militias were successfully destroying the ISIL remnants, which is why General Qassem Suleimani was in Iraq, why a US mercenary assisting ISIL was killed in an Iranian militia rocket attack, and why Syrian military representatives were being welcomed at Baghdad airport.

It is five years since I was last in the Green Zone in Baghdad, but it is extraordinarily heavily fortified with military barriers and checks every hundred yards, and there is no way the crowd could have been allowed to attack the US Embassy without active Iraqi government collusion. That profound political movement will have been set in stone by the US assassination of Suleimani. Tehran will now have a grip on Iraq that could prove to be unshakable.

Nevertheless, Tel Aviv and Riyadh will also be celebrating today at the idea that their dream of the USA destroying their regional rival Iran, as Iraq and Libya were destroyed, is coming closer. The USA could do this. The impact of technology on modern warfare should not be underestimated. There is a great deal of wishful thinking that fantasises about US military defeat, but it is simply unrealistic if the USA actually opted for full scale invasion. Technology is a far greater factor in warfare than it was in the 1960s. The USA could destroy Iran, but the cost and the ramifications would be enormous, and not only the entire Middle East but much of South Asia would be destabilised, including of course Pakistan. My reading of Trump remains that he is not a crazed Clinton type war hawk and it will not happen. We all have to pray it does not.

There will also today be rejoicing in Washington. There is nothing like an apparently successful military attack in a US re-election campaign. The Benghazi Embassy disaster left a deep scar upon the psyche of Trump’s support base in particular, and the message that Trump knows how to show the foreigners not to attack America is going down extremely well where it counts, whatever wise people on CNN may say.

So what happens now? Consolidating power in Iraq and finishing the destruction of ISIL in Iraq will be the wise advance that Iranian statesman can practically gain from these events. But that is, of course, not enough to redeem national honour. Something quick and spectacular is required for that. It is hard not to believe there must be a very real chance of action being taken against shipping in the Straits of Hormuz, which Iran can do with little prior preparation. Missile attacks on Saudi Arabia or Israel are also well within Iran’s capability, but it seems more probable that Iran will wish to strike a US target rather than a proxy. An Ambassador may be assassinated. Further missile strikes against US outposts in Iraq are also possible. All of these scenarios could very quickly lead to disastrous escalation.

In the short term, Trump in this situation needs either to pull out troops from Iraq or massively to reinforce them. The UK does not have the latter option, having neither men nor money, and should remove its 1400 troops now. Whether the “triumph” of killing Suleimani gives Trump enough political cover for an early pullout – the wise move – I am unsure. 2020 is going to be a very dangerous year indeed.

——————————————

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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The Terrifying Rise of the Zombie State Narrative

The ruling Establishment has learnt a profound lesson from the debacle over Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction. The lesson they have learnt is not that it is wrong to attack and destroy an entire country on the basis of lies. They have not learnt that lesson despite the fact the western powers are now busily attacking the Iraqi Shia majority government they themselves installed, for the crime of being a Shia majority government.

No, the lesson they have learnt is never to admit they lied, never to admit they were wrong. They see the ghost-like waxen visage of Tony Blair wandering around, stinking rich but less popular than an Epstein birthday party, and realise that being widely recognised as a lying mass murderer is not a good career choice. They have learnt that the mistake is for the Establishment ever to admit the lies.

The Establishment had to do a certain amount of collective self-flagellation over the non-existent Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, over which they precipitated the death and maiming of millions of people. Only a very few outliers, like the strange Melanie Phillips, still claimed the WMD really did exist, and her motive was so obviously that she supported any excuse to kill Muslims that nobody paid any attention. Her permanent pass to appear on the BBC was upgraded. But by and large everyone accepted the Iraqi WMD had been a fiction. The mainstream media Blair/Bush acolytes like Cohen, Kamm and Aaronovitch switched to arguing that even if WMD did not exist, Iraq was in any case better off for having so many people killed and its infrastructure destroyed.

These situations are now avoided by the realisation of the security services that in future they just have to brazen it out. The simple truth of the matter – and it is a truth – is this. If the Iraq WMD situation occurred today, and the security services decided to brazen it out and claim that WMD had indeed been found, there is not a mainstream media outlet that would contradict them.

The security services outlet Bellingcat would publish some photos of big missiles planted in the sand. The Washington Post, Guardian, New York Times, BBC and CNN would republish and amplify these pictures and copy and paste the official statements from government spokesmen. Robert Fisk would get to the scene and interview a few eye witnesses who saw the missiles being planted, and he would be derided as a senile old has-been. Seymour Hersh and Peter Hitchens would interview whistleblowers and be shunned by their colleagues and left off the airwaves. Bloggers like myself would be derided as mad conspiracy theorists or paid Russian agents if we cast any doubt on the Bellingcat “evidence”. Wikipedia would ruthlessly expunge any alternative narrative as being from unreliable sources. The Integrity Initiative, 77th Brigade, GCHQ and their US equivalents would be pumping out the “Iraqi WMD found” narrative all over social media. Mad Ben Nimmo of the Atlantic Council would be banning dissenting accounts all over the place in his role as Facebook Witchfinder-General.

Does anybody seriously wish to dispute this is how the absence of Iraqi WMD would be handled today, 16 years on?

If you do wish to doubt this could happen, look at the obviously fake narrative of the Syrian government chemical weapons attacks on Douma. The pictures published on Bellingcat of improvised chlorine gas missiles were always obviously fake. Remember this missile was supposed to have smashed through ten inches of solid, steel rebar reinforced concrete.

As I reported back in May last year, that the expert engineers sent to investigate by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) did not buy into this is hardly surprising.

That their findings were deliberately omitted from the OPCW report is very worrying indeed. What became still more worrying was the undeniable evidence that started to emerge from whistleblowers in the OPCW that the toxicology experts had unanimously agreed that those killed had not died from chlorine gas attack. The minutes of the OPCW toxicology meeting really do need to be read in full.

actual_toxicology_meeting_redacted

The highlights are:

“No nerve agents had been detected in environmental or bio samples”
“The experts were conclusive in their statements that there was no correlation between symptoms and chlorine exposure”

I really do urge you to click on the above link and read the entire minute. In particular, it is impossible to read that minute and not understand that the toxicology experts believed that the corpses had been brought and placed in position.

“The experts were also of the opinion that the victims were highly unlikely to have gathered in piles at the centre of the respective apartments, at such a short distance from an escape from any toxic chlorine gas to much cleaner air”.

So the toxicology experts plainly believed the corpse piles had been staged, and the engineering experts plainly believed the cylinder bombs had been staged. Yet, against the direct evidence of its own experts, the OPCW published a report managing to convey the opposite impression – or at least capable of being portrayed by the media as giving the opposite impression.

How then did the OPCW come to do this? Rather unusually for an international organisation, the OPCW Secretariat is firmly captured by the Western states, largely because it covers an area of activity which is not of enormous interest to the political elites of developing world states, and many positions require a high level of technical qualification. It was also undergoing a change of Director General at the time of the Douma investigation, with the firmly Francoist Spanish diplomat Fernando Arias taking over as Director General and the French diplomat Sebastian Braha effectively running the operation as the Director-General’s chef de cabinet, working in close conjunction with the US security services. Braha simply ordered the excision of the expert opinions on engineering and toxicology, and his high-handedness worked, at least until whistleblowers started to reveal the truth about Braha as a slimy, corrupt, lying war hawk.

FFM here stands for Fact Finding Mission and ODG for Office of the Director General. After a great deal of personal experience dealing with French diplomats, I would say that the obnoxious arrogance revealed in Braha’s instructions here is precisely what you would expect. French diplomats as a class are a remarkably horrible and entitled bunch. Braha has no compunction about simply throwing around the weight of the Office of the Director General and attempting to browbeat Henderson.

We see now how the OPCW managed to produce a report which was the opposite of the truth. Ian Henderson, the OPCW engineer who had visited the site and concluded that the “cylinder bombs” were fakes, had suddenly become excluded from the “fact finding mission” when it had been whittled down to a “core group” – excluding any engineers (and presumably toxicologists) who would seek to insert inconvenient facts into the report.

France of course participated, alongside the US and UK, in missile strikes against Syrian government positions in response to the non-existent chlorine gas attacks on Douma. I was amongst those who had argued from day one that the western Douma narrative was inherently improbable. The Douma enclave held by extreme jihadist, western and Saudi backed forces allied to ISIL, was about to fall anyway. The Syrian government had no possible military advantage to gain by attacking it with two small improvised chemical weapons, and a great deal to lose in terms of provoking international retaliation.

That the consequences of the fake Douma incident were much less far-reaching than they might have been, is entirely due (and I am sorry if you dislike this but it is true) to the good sense of Donald Trump. Trump is inclined to isolationism and the fake “Russiagate” narrative promoted by senior echelons of his security services had led him to be heavily sceptical of them. He therefore refused, against the united persuasion of the hawks, to respond to the Douma “attack” by more than quick and limited missile strikes. I have no doubt that the object of the false flag was to push the US into a full regime change operation, by falsifying a demonstration that a declared red line on chemical weapon use had been crossed.

There is no doubt that Douma was a false flag. The documentary and whistleblower evidence from the OPCW is overwhelming and irrefutable. In addition to the two whistleblowers reported extensively by Wikileaks and the Courage Foundation, the redoubtable Peter Hitchens has his own whistleblowers inside OPCW who may well be different persons. It is also great entertainment as well as enlightening to read Hitchens’ takedown of Bellingcat on the issue.

But there are much deeper questions about the Douma false flag. Did the jihadists themselves kill the “chlorine victims” for display or were these just bodies from the general fighting? The White Helmets were co-located with the jihadist headquarters in Douma, and involved in producing and spreading the fake evidence. How far were the UK and US governments, instrumental in preparing the false flag? That western governments, including through the White Helmets and their men at the OPCW, were plainly seeking to propagate this false flag, to massively publicise and to and make war capital out of it, is beyond dispute. But were they involved in the actual creation of the fake scene? Did MI6 or the CIA initiate this false flag through the White Helmets or the Saudi backed jihadists? That is unproven but seems to me very probable. It is also worth noting the coincidence in time of the revelation of the proof of the Douma false flag and the death of James Le Mesurier.

Now let me return to where I started. None of the New York Times, the Washington Post, the BBC, the Guardian nor CNN – all of which reported the Douma chemical attack very extensively as a real Syrian government atrocity, and used it to editorialise for western military intervention in Syria – none of them has admitted they were wrong. None has issued any substantive retraction or correction. None has reported in detail and without bias on the overwhelming evidence of foul play within the OPCW.

Those sources who do publish the truth – including the few outliers in mainstream media such as Peter Hitchens and Robert Fisk – continue to be further marginalised, attacked as at best eccentric and at worse Russian agents. Others like Wikileaks and myself are pariahs excluded from any mainstream exposure. The official UK, US, French and Spanish government line, and the line of the billionaire and state owned media, continues to be that Douma was a Syrian government chemical weapons attack on civilians. They intend, aided and abetted by their vast online propaganda operations, to brazen out the lie.

What we are seeing is the terrifying rise of the zombie state narrative in Western culture. It does not matter how definitively we can prove that something is a lie, the full spectrum dominance of the Establishment in media resources is such that the lie is impossible to kill off, and the state manages to implant that lie as the truth in the minds of a sufficient majority of the populace to ride roughshod over objective truth with great success. It follows in the state narrative that anybody who challenges the state’s version of truth is themselves dishonest or mad, and the state manages also to implant that notion into a sufficient majority of the populace.

These are truly chilling times.

In the next instalment I shall consider how the Establishment is brazening out similar lies on the Russophobe agenda, and sticking to factually debunked narratives on the DNC and Podesta emails, on the Steele Dossier and on the Skripals.

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Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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My New Year Wishes

1) Scottish Independence
2) Freedom for Julian Assange
3) A genuine, public inquest into the murder of Dawn Sturgess
4) Recognition of the State of Palestine
5) Genuine moves towards a paradigm shift in wealth distribution here and across the globe
6) Radical action on climate change
7) The decolonisation of the Chagos Islands

I obviously do not claim that as a comprehensive analysis of the ills of the world; it contains both individual cases and aspects of the widest scale public policy. It is however an indication of the areas where I expect to be expending my own small budget of energy and activism in 2020. What are yours?

I do hope you are all enjoying family and friends in a refreshing festive season. I know it can be a stressful time; mine has not been. I think the implications of an unbridled right wing populist government in Westminster took us all a little time to process. I feel fully refreshed now, and ready for the fight.

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45 Years of Rebellion

Generally I manage to dig up some recent lecture or published work to post while I am on holiday, on a mission or indisposed. I have a video somewhere of a really stunning symposium on whistleblowing at the University of Newcastle, to which I made a minor contribution, which I intended to use for that purpose today. But out of the blue I received an email this morning which changed my plan.

So here is one I did earlier – 45 years ago.

Dear Craig

Many years ago, as a fellow schoolboy at Paston, I witnessed your remarkable stand against militarism when Gen Sir Ian Freedland (I think it was) came to inspect the CCF. I have vivid memories of you appearing on the top floor of the School House and shouting what seemed to us lesser mortals very daring anti-military views (“Troops Out of Ireland” was one) before your sudden and rapid transit backwards from our sight – due to unknown assailants – and the window being slammed shut. It’s only with the intervening years that I realised what an extraordinary event this was, years ahead of its time, and I have often wondered what became of you. A friend recommended your blog to me very recently and it was then I realised it was the same Craig Murray. I heartily agree with what I have read of your work since, and am very pleased to become a subscriber.

With kind regards, and every good wish for the success of your work in the New Year.

It is very hard to explain to a modern audience how very militarist our school was. The headmaster was referred to everywhere, in school and by wider society, as Colonel Marshall, even though I believe it was a rank he only held in the Cadet Force. My peculiar education was designed to teach you to strip down and reassemble a .303 rifle, whilst explaining the process in Latin.

Funnily enough, after I spoke at the recent St Pancras meeting for Julian Assange, a gentleman introduced himself to me who I did not at first recognise but was Merlin, my co-conspirator in that old school protest, who I was seeing for the second time in 45 years. That made me weep and I fear I looked rather silly.

But receiving that recollection of an event I had almost forgotten, is a reminder of how important it is to be true to your beliefs. Policy views may change with circumstance or experience, but I am delighted that my underlying principles remain constant after getting on for half a century of political activity.

It also made me realise how lucky I am. I have been a career diplomat, a British Ambassador, the Rector of Dundee University, a bestselling author and Chairman of a successful energy company. All that was possible on an entirely state education, including full maintenance grants. And it was possible without ever having dissembled or hidden my personal radical beliefs – including turning down three separate honours from the Queen on grounds of republicanism and Scottish nationalism.

I am not sure that would be possible now. In fact I am pretty sure it would not be possible now. The tolerance of dissent has radically decreased. It is worth saying that in 13 years of working as a civil servant for Tory governments I never had any problems, despite ministers like Malcolm Rifkind and Lynda Chalker knowing very well my personal opinions were very different from the official policy. I might give an example of Nicholas Soames, who when a junior defence minister attended a NATO exercise in Drawsko in Poland which I help to organise. I remember a very interesting conversation when I told him I believed that NATO had served its purpose, that there had never been any Russian intention to invade Western Europe anyway, and that the entire narrative was a device to bolster the profits of the arms industry and budget of the army.

Soames of course did not agree with me, but we had an extremely good and good natured discussion (alcohol was involved) and he did concede that the fall of the Iron Curtain had proven western intelligence estimates of Soviet military capability to have been vastly exaggerated, greatly boosting the interests of the western arms industry, the military and of course the institutional interests of the security services themselves.

But the important point is that while Soames did not agree at all with my broad points, he did not suggest – because he did not think – that it was wrong for anyone holding my personal views to be in an important position in the FCO, and he did not make any stupid jibes about me working for the Kremlin. I fear that kind of tolerance has disappeared from public life now – as indeed has the Tory party’s tolerance of the more broad-minded kind of Tory.

It was New Labour that was responsible for much of the change of culture. If you have read Murder in Samarkand, you will know that while Ambassador my dissent at the policy of obtaining intelligence through torture was entirely internal. I was trying to stop it through the correct Whitehall mechanisms, and all my communications on the subject were classified Top Secret. It was Blair and Straw who decided this internal dissent was unacceptable. I had neither leaked nor blown the whistle when they decided pre-emptively to fit me up with 18 major disciplinary charges.

By 2003 the Foreign and Commonwealth had transformed to a degree where it would not tolerate internal dissent. There is no serious civil service career open to a young radical today. The free education was destroyed long ago, also initiated by New Labour. Meantime, the last general election showed the horrifying unanimity of state and billionaire mainstream media in demonising even moderate social democratic thought.

I would be unlikely to become Rector of a University now either, as UK universities have moved from being centres of free speech to the precise opposite. I very seldom get to speak in universities at all nowadays. Student groups label me a “rape apologist” due to my support of Julian Assange, and University authorities label me an “anti-semite” due to my support of the Palestinians. I am excluded from the places I would most like to discuss my ideas.

I hope you will forgive the rather rambling thoughts that email inspired. It was not easy to dissent then. It is still harder now.

——————————————

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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London Will Never Give Independence – We Must Take It

Yesterday the Scottish Government published “Scotland’s Right to Choose“, its long heralded paper on the path to a new Independence referendum. It is a document riven by a basic intellectual flaw. It sets out in detail, and with helpful annexes, that Scotland is a historic nation with the absolute and inalienable right of self-determination, and that sovereignty lies not in the Westminster parliament but with the Scottish people.

It then contradicts all of this truth by affirming, at length, in detail, and entirely without reservation, that Scotland can only hold a legitimate Independence referendum if the Westminster Parliament devolves the power to do so under Section 30.

Both propositions cannot be true. Scotland cannot be a nation with the right of self-determination, and at the same time require the permission of somebody else to exercise that self-determination.

I was trying to find the right words to discuss the document. One possibility was “schizophrenic”. The first half appears to be written by somebody with a fundamental belief in Scottish Independence, and contains this passage:

The United Kingdom is best understood as a voluntary association of nations, in keeping with the principles of democracy and self‑determination.

For the place of Scotland in the United Kingdom to be based on the people of Scotland’s consent, Scotland must be able to choose whether and when it should make a decision about its future.

The decision whether the time is right for the people who live in Scotland again to make a choice about their constitutional future is for the Scottish Parliament, as the democratic voice of Scotland, to make.

Yet the rest of the paper completely negates this proposition and instead argues that the necessary powers must be granted by the Westminster Parliament:

The Scottish Government is committed to agreeing a process for giving effect to its mandate for a further independence referendum. When they make a decision about their future, the people of Scotland must do so in the knowledge that their decision will be heard and respected and given effect to: not just by the government in Scotland, but also by the UK Government, by the European Union and by the international community.

For a referendum to have this legitimacy, it must have the confidence of all of those that it would effect. This means not just the UK Government acknowledging and respecting the Scottish Government’s mandate, but the Scottish Government and UK Government seeking to agree the proper lawful basis for the referendum to take place.

We call on the UK Government to enter discussions about the Scottish Government’s mandate for giving the people of Scotland a choice, and to agree legislation with the Scottish Government that would put beyond doubt the Scottish Parliament’s right to legislate for a referendum on independence.

I am frequently told that this paper is all just a cunning ploy, and that when the Tory Government rejects – as it will reject – this servile request to grant Scotland the powers to hold a referendum, the Scottish Government will go to court to say it has the right to a referendum.

If that really is the cunning plan, it is the most stupid cunning plan since Baldrick and his turnip. In what way does publishing an official Scottish Government paper which states explicitly that a referendum “must have” the agreement of the UK government to be legitimate, prepare the ground to go to court and argue the precise opposite? Plainly that is not the intent here.

Nicola Sturgeon’s speech presenting the paper made the acceptance of a veto from “the rest of the UK” on the holding of a second referendum even more explicit:

It is based on the solemn right of the people of Scotland to decide their own future.

The Scottish Government believes that right should be exercised free from the threat of legal challenge.

In line with our values, we acknowledge that a referendum must be legal and that it must be accepted as legitimate, here in Scotland and the rest of the UK as well as in the EU and the wider international community.

We are therefore today calling for the UK Government to negotiate and agree the transfer of power that would put beyond doubt the Scottish Parliament’s right to legislate for a referendum on independence.

And what does Ms Sturgeon plan to do when Boris Johnson just says no, as he assuredly will? To be fair to Nicola, she could not have been clearer about what she intends to do. Absolutely nothing different.

Of course, I anticipate that in the short term we will simply hear a restatement of the UK government’s opposition.

But they should be under no illusion that this will be an end of the matter.

We will continue to pursue the democratic case for Scotland’s right to choose.

We will do so in a reasonable and considered manner.

So this is the Sturgeon plan: in the short term, we accept Johnson can block Independence. Beyond the short term (how many years is that?) we do nothing except continue in democratic politics as the SNP already is, operating at Holyrood and putting before Scottish voters “the democratic case for Scotland’s right to choose”, while accepting Westminster’s veto. This will have the pleasant side effect of keeping Ms Sturgeon living very nicely indeed in Bute House, with her husband picking up a massive salary as CEO of the Party, and the SNP just like the last five years doing nothing whatsoever about Independence other than occasionally blether about it, “pursuing the democratic case”, while very explicitly accepting Westminster’s veto.

The truth is there is no route to a referendum by legal challenge in the UK courts. The UK Supreme Court has already ruled that Westminster, the “Crown in Parliament” is sovereign, that the Sewell Convention has no legal force and that any powers that the Scottish parliament has, and indeed the very existence of the Scottish Parliament, is entirely at the gift of Westminster. The clue is on the tin. It is the UK Supreme Court. To be fair the Scottish Government paper plainly does not anticipate any such pointless legal challenge, though it is not inconceivable that one may be futilely undertaken at some stage to keep the SNP’s pro-Independence activists happy, by pretending to do something and kicking Indy yet a few months further down the road.

Because the truth is, that is the purpose of the current Scottish Government paper. The reason it is schizophrenic is that it is a deeply dishonest document. All the stuff at the beginning, about Scotland’s ancient right as a nation and the sovereignty residing in the Scottish people, is no more and no less than window dressing to keep Scottish Independence activists happy. The actual meat of the paper, that Indyref2 “must have” Westminster agreement or it is not legitimate, sits there like a great steaming turd whose stink cannot be disguised no matter how much the SNP leadership has tried to conceal it under flowers.

I have to say, I am astonished how many very decent people in the SNP have fallen for the trick.

The Scottish Government position is fundamentally incorrect. The Independence of a nation is a matter of international law, not of domestic legislation. The UN Charter enshrines the right of self-determination of peoples, and nobody has argued that the Scots are not a people in the encapsulated sense.

It is perfectly normal for States to become Independent without the permission of the state from which they are seceding. The UK Government itself argued precisely this position before the International Court of Justice over Kosovo. I here repeat a post I wrote almost exactly one year ago setting out the legal position:

BEGINS

The London Supreme Court last week not only confirmed that the Westminster Parliament could overrule at will any Scottish Government legislation, irrespective of the Scotland Act and the Sewell Convention, but it also ruled that Westminster had already successfully done so, by retrospectively passing provisions in the EU (Withdrawal) Act that overruled the Bill on the same subject, within the competence of the Scottish Parliament, that had already been passed by Holyrood.

Not content with that, the London Supreme Court confirmed that London ministers may, by secondary legislation, under the Scotland Act decree laws for Scotland that are not even passed through the Westminster parliament.

Which leaves Scotland in this extraordinary situation. English MPs or English ministers in their London Parliament can, at any time, impose any legislation they choose on Scotland, overriding Scotland’s parliament and Scotland’s representation in the London parliament. Yet, under the English Votes for English Laws rules of the London Parliament introduced by the Tories in 2015, Scottish MPs cannot vote at all on matters solely affecting England.

That is plainly a situation of colonial subservience.

I am firmly of the view that the Scottish government should now move to withdraw from the Treaty of Union. Scotland’s right to self determination is inalienable. It cannot be signed away forever or restricted by past decisions.

The Independence of a country is not a matter of domestic law it is a matter of international law. The right of the Scottish Parliament to declare Independence may not be restricted by UK domestic law or by purported limitations on the powers of the Scottish Parliament. The legal position is set out very clearly here:

5.5 Consistent with this general approach, international law has not treated the legality of
the act of secession under the internal law of the predecessor State as determining the effect
of that act on the international plane. In most cases of secession, of course, the predecessor
State‟s law will not have been complied with: that is true almost as a matter of definition.

5.6 Nor is compliance with the law of the predecessor State a condition for the declaration
of independence to be recognised by third States, if other conditions for recognition are
fulfilled. The conditions do not include compliance with the internal legal requirements of
the predecessor State. Otherwise the international legality of a secession would be
predetermined by the very system of internal law called in question by the circumstances in
which the secession is occurring.

5.7 For the same reason, the constitutional authority of the seceding entity to proclaim
independence within the predecessor State is not determinative as a matter of international
law. In most if not all cases, provincial or regional authorities will lack the constitutional
authority to secede. The act of secession is not thereby excluded. Moreover, representative
institutions may legitimately act, and seek to reflect the views of their constituents, beyond
the scope of already conferred power.

That is a commendably concise and accurate description of the legal position. Of major relevance, it is the legal opinion of the Government of the United Kingdom, as submitted to the International Court of Justice in the Kosovo case. The International Court of Justice endorsed this view, so it is both established law and the opinion of the British Government that the Scottish Government has the right to declare Independence without the agreement or permission of London and completely irrespective of the London Supreme Court.

I have continually explained on this site that the legality of a Declaration of Independence is in no sense determined by the law of the metropolitan state, but is purely a matter of recognition by other countries and thus acceptance into the United Nations. The UK Government set this out plainly in response to a question from a judge in the Kosovo case:

2. As the United Kingdom stated in oral argument, international law contains no
prohibition against declarations of independence as such. 1 Whether a declaration of
independence leads to the creation of a new State by separation or secession depends
not on the fact of the declaration but on subsequent developments, notably recognition
by other States. As a general matter, an act not prohibited by international law needs
no authorization. This position holds with respect to States. It holds also with respect
to acts of individuals or groups, for international law prohibits conduct of non-State
entities only exceptionally and where expressly indicated.

As I have stressed, the SNP should now be making a massive effort to prepare other countries, especially in the EU and in the developing world, to recognise Scotland when the moment comes. There is no task more important. There is a worrying lack of activity in this area. It may currently not be possible to spend government money on sending out envoys for this task, but if personal envoys were endorsed by the First Minister they would get access and could easily be crowd funded by the Independence Movement. I am one of a number of former senior British diplomats who would happily undertake this work without pay. We should be lobbying not just the EU but every country in Africa, Asia and South America.

My preferred route to Independence is this. The Scottish Parliament should immediately legislate for a new Independence referendum. The London Government will attempt to block it. The Scottish Parliament should then convene a National Assembly of all nationally elected Scottish representatives – MSPs, MPs and MEPs. That National Assembly should declare Independence, appeal to other countries for recognition, reach agreements with the rump UK and organise a confirmatory plebiscite. That is legal, democratic and consistent with normal international practice.

There will never be a better time than now for Scotland to become an Independent, normal, nation once again. It is no time for faint hearts or haverers; we must seize the moment.

ENDS

Events since I wrote that have made the case still stronger. With the UK now leaving the European Union, EU states will be extremely eager to recognise Scottish Independence and get Scotland and its resources back inside the EU, while sending out a strong message that leaving the EU can have severe consequences. At the UN, the UK’s repudiation of the International Court of Justice ruling and overwhelming General Assembly mandate over the Chagos Islands has made the UK even more of a pariah state, while senior statesmen in the developing world see Scottish Independence as a wedge issue to open the question of the UK’s ridiculous permanent membership of the UN Security Council.

The claim that to proceed to Independence without Westminster consent is illegal and illegitimate lies at the heart of this truly disgraceful Scottish Government paper. That claim is wrong at every level.

You cannot both believe that the Scots are a people with the right of self-determination, and believe that Westminster has a right to veto that self-determination.

This paper by the Scottish Government is nothing more and nothing less than proof that the gradualists who sadly head the SNP are perfectly happy operating within the devolution system and have no intention of ever paying any more than lip service to Independence.

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Indigenous Eurasian Islamic Populations

This blog was defending the human rights of the Uighurs a decade before the neo-conservatives for whom they are now a fashionable cause even knew of their existence. The Uighurs are the closest linguistic and cultural cousins of the Uzbeks, and the populations are contiguous. (China is not contiguous with Uzbekistan but Osh and the eastern Ferghana Valley in Kirghizstan are Uzbek majority areas).

The dynamic spread of Islam northwards and eastwards under the Abbasids, (much less commented that the expansion of its early centuries) and the temporary patronage of Islam by the Mongol Yuan conquerors of China, left very substantial Islamic populations throughout Eurasia, which later became subsumed into non-Muslim polities, including by the expansion of the Chinese and Russian empires. The persecution of the Uighurs is a historic continuation. For decades from the mid eighteenth century they were subjected to one of history’s most sustained and organised campaigns of mass rape of the female population by Chinese occupiers. In a historical perspective, it was the period of comparative tolerance that preceded the current massive attempt at cultural genocide which was the aberration.

I do despair of those on the left who excuse the mass imprisonment of hundreds of thousands and the extrajudicial killing of thousands, because it is China doing it and not a CIA aligned power.

The Uighurs are a people with the right of self-determination. They are not Chinese; their language, culture and religion are completely different. They have a clearly defined territory they have occupied continuously for many centuries. One of the problems with the British is that as an island, we tend to only think of colonies as places you sail to. Colonies you walk to is a concept we have not grasped. That is one of the reasons the left in the UK have such difficulty recognising that China is an Empire and Kashgar is a colony. The other reason is that whole “West Bad, Opponents Good” thing.

It is excellent to recognise that the Western powers have done a huge amount of evil in the world. It is a completely illogical step to assume from this revelation that they have a monopoly on evil. All major governments do evil.

Kashmir is the other pressing issue of a Hindu minority population under pressure. Six years ago I annoyed rather a lot of people when I warned that my personal experience of living among them for some months in India was that it was changing into an an “increasingly oppressive and rabidly conservative Hindu society”. I have viewed the rise of Modi and his Hindu nationalists with great concern, while Western governments have been much more concerned with seeking to benefit from India’s economic boom.

The revocation of the autonomous status of Kashmir and Jammu was a reckless and aggressive act of centralisation that was grossly insensitive to both the population and the history of the region – and I write in full awareness that there have been not only Muslim but also many Sikh victims of intercommunal violence over the years. The incorporation of Kashmir into India was a dreadful British error, semi-apologetically enshrined in its special constitutional position, now destroyed by Modi. It is only the statesmanship of Imran Khan which has averted a hideous war.

The Supreme Court of India’s firmly anti-Muslim ruling in the Ayodhya dispute, and the new immigrant citizenship law excluding Muslims (which has outraged the remnants of liberal India), are evidence of intercommunal policy which is all pushing in an anti-Muslim direction. Modi has been portrayed in the West as a moderniser. This is a fundamental error – he is just a populist in the Trump and Johnson mode who succeeds by stirring up feelings against the “other” in the population. The situation in India is destabilising and I fear more violence against the Muslim population is bound to ensue.

The Muslim populations of Central Asia now live in autonomous republics, none of which has transitioned to effective democracy, all of which have been more or less looted by oligarchs, all have continuing serious human rights problems, and all are increasingly under the economic sway of China (which is not, in itself, a bad thing). China remains something of an enigma. Its economic success continues to be staggering, if severely pollution creating. As I frequently assert, there has never been a power in the world of such economic dominance which has shown such a comparatively tiny appetite for military dominance. If you compare China to the USA in this regard the difference is striking. China has very few military bases outside China, the USA has eight hundred.

But the Central Asian “stans” only contain a minority of the Muslim colonies in Eurasia which Russia acquired in the eighteenth and nineteenth century, simultaneous with the expansion of the British Empire. Many of these colonies, with their overwhelmingly Muslim populations, remain part of the Russian Federation which – make no mistake about it – is still an Empire.

The Tatar are the most widespread of the colonial peoples within Russia. Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, Cherkessa, Kabardino Balkaria and Karachai are all areas of Russia where I believe the original Muslim population, absorbed into the Russian Empire by conquest, will in the fulness of time achieve independence, in addition to the better-known Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia. The astonishing brutality of the Russian repression of the perfectly justified Independence movements of the latter countries cannot hold back the tide of decolonisation forever. Crimea, of course, should belong to the Tatars who were deported from their land by Stalin. Not Russia, not Ukraine, but Krim Tatar.

As I said earlier, even though Russia’s colonies were colonised contemporaneously with the British ones, and even though the indigenous populations are Muslim, we in the UK have difficulty perceiving them as colonies because they are contiguous with Russia by land and have been institutionally absorbed into the metropolitan. It is also worth noting that, largely but not entirely as a result of the Soviet period of running its Empire, Russia did a much better job of providing education, health and other public services to its colonies than the British ever did.

It is important to state that these colonised peoples are not Russians but separate peoples in the sense of the UN Charter, with very distinct cultures, histories, languages and religion, and thus they do have the right of self-determination. I do not deny that at present, outside the colonies of Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia, there is little evidence of separatist desire. But I expect that to change over historic time.

It is of course a personal irony that I am very often accused of being a Russian agent because I debunk ludicrous anti-Russian scares like the fake Skripal narrative, or the totally unfounded narrative that Russia has any desire to attack Western Europe. These scare stories about Russia are of course essential to the profits of the western military-industrial-security complex, and I debunk them because they are nonsense, and because of their propaganda power in controlling western populations. But while I have a deep-seated love for Russia, its culture and people, I know of no other commentator who calls for the Russian Federation to be divorced of its internalised colonies, an opinion the Kremlin would find outrageous.

The Eurasian Muslim populations were overtaken by history from around the seventeenth century and, Islam having expanded itself in Eurasia by conquest, the Muslims were generally themselves absorbed into larger Empires by conquest. In Central Asia they have in the last thirty years regained a kind of independence, but are still dominated by foreign imposed institutions and the colonial subordinate administrative and political class. In China and India the conditions of Muslims are worsening markedly. In Russia the brutal crushing of Independence attempts in some areas has led to the current position where the colonial status of the Muslim sub-polities within the Russian Federation is shunned by the entire world as a Pandora’s Box.

This is of course not in any sense a comprehensive survey. But sometimes it is useful to step back and try to see current events in a broader perspective, both historically and geographically. I do hope this gives some food for your own thoughts. I do hope that some of those thoughts are more profound than the notion that Russia and China, as diplomatic opponents of the West, are beyond criticism.

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Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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The Difficulty of Gender Issues

It should go without saying that an important part of the approach to this debate should be not to hate anybody, on any side of the argument. Looking through the comments below I am very surprised that several people seem unable to do this.

I write as somebody who has spent virtually his whole life doing things other than think deeply about the rights of transgender people. The subject has however inserted itself centrally into Scottish political debate and particularly preoccupies sections of the leadership of the Independence movement. With the banning of the twitter account of Wings Over Scotland for what are judged by Twitter to be “transphobic” tweets, and the same day publication of the new Gender Recognition Reform Bill by the Scottish Government – and the coincidence of those two happenings worries me – I need to set down rather more coherent thoughts on the subject than I have previously.

To start from first principles, I believe that people should be treated as they wish to be treated. If somebody wishes to be treated as female I will treat them as female. That seems to me good manners. It seems the height of bad manners to do otherwise. If I meet someone who tells me they are a woman, I would not dream of querying them or demanding evidence. I would treat them as female. In my life so far, that is how I have always in practice dealt with people I have met whom I suspected might be transgender or what we used to call transvestite. I treat them as the gender they present themselves as. (I do not care in the slightest for the latest fashion in politically correct jargon for these things). The same also obviously applies to people who wish to be treated as male.

I therefore support the principle of self-declaration that appears to be the basis of the Scottish government’s new bill. People should be what they wish to be, not what a doctor or psychiatrist tells them they are. Please note possession of genitalia does not factor in my thinking at all, in normal social situations.

We then come to the difficult bits. It appears to me plainly daft for a man simply to be able to declare themselves a woman and then to compete in elite sport in women only events. Men have natural competitive advantages from the effects on physique of testosterone. That is simply true, although I do find it rather ironic that feminists are now so insistent upon the fact, as it is precisely to adopt the arguments of Bobby Riggs against those of Billie Jean King. In non-elite, mixed ability sport – which is 99% of all sport that actually happens – I can see no reason why people cannot participate as the gender of their choice, and indeed I do not know why non-elite sport is gender specific at all. I am yet to play the woman who cannot beat me at squash. I suspect our cat could beat me at squash.

The attitudes towards these things change over time. When I went to primary school we had a segregated playground. There are still plenty of old Victorian schools around Edinburgh where the marking for boys’ and girls’ entrances survive in the brickwork. Though while talking of schools, I would add that I think gender re- assignment of children under 16 should almost never be allowed, as they are over-susceptible to adult influence.

Having lived so much of my life abroad, I have never quite understood the British obsession with gender segregated toilets anyway.

When it comes to prison, I have no doubt that Chelsea Manning should be in a female prison and treated as a female. Equally, there was a case highlighted on Wings over Scotland some months ago of a man convicted of sexual offences who had obtained admittance to a women’s prison after claiming female gender, who proceeded to carry out sexual assaults there. Plainly a convicted male sexual assailant ought not to be put in a women’s prison, even if they now claim gender re-identity.

So I quite accept that the right of self-declaration cannot be absolute and there are situations – highly unusual situations like prisons for violent offenders – where authorities should decide on its applicability in gender segregated areas. There are two things to say here. The first is that the entire debate so far elevates dogma on both sides above commonsense. The second is that to make law from extreme examples is foolish. We don’t make building codes for the general population on the basis of specifying the banning of the methods of Fred and Rosemary West.

Personally, I quite accept the view that a woman who arrives at a beauty salon ought to be able to refuse to have her intimate parts waxed by somebody she does not feel comfortable is the same sex as her, without being accused of “hate crime”. Others might not object at all and trans people ought not to be banned from working in beauty salons. These problems seem to me best solved by societal interaction and minimal intrusion of the state.

I realise that both sides of a currently heated debate will find my folksy take on this, based on empathy and tolerance not on rigid application of first principles, to be entirely wrong. Some will object to my lack of the latest PC jargon. One side will insist that being male or female is a simple physical thing and choice does not come into it. Some argue that men are violent, dangerous creatures from whom women need loads of safe spaces into which they can securely retreat, without fear of infiltration by “pretend women”. Others argue that identity is an entirely personal matter that nobody else can decide, and that the law should compel society to accept self-declared identity in every circumstance, and to do otherwise is a hate crime.

My own view is that, irrespective of whether gender is a binary divide, the question of how we treat trans people ought not to be a binary divide. It is a question of complex social interactions at a time of changing mores, and different factors are crucial in different situations. The safety of women is a crucial factor in the case of the male sex offender declaring themselves into a women’s prison. But the safety of women is not in imminent danger in the large majority of social interactions. The large majority of people, including the large majority of trans people, are decent and kind. Let us order relations on that basis, with safeguards in place for the unusual.

For what it is worth, in general the Scottish Government’s proposals do not seem to me a bad stab at these difficult questions. Self declaration should be the basic rule, and then there should be specified rules to cover unusual situations where problems might arise from aberrant behaviour, which may be exhibited by either party.

Finally, less than one per cent of the population have prosthetic limbs. If I were writing about the subject I would not feel the need to refer to everyone who does not have a prosthetic limb as “organics” or some such antonym. The idea we have to refer to everyone who is not trans as cis deserves to be ridiculed. The truly pathetic intellectual level of what passes for academic or expert led debate on these questions is a matter of some concern. I blame deconstructionism as the root of much trivial thought.

This whole issue is one of those subjects where I am aware that I need to duck for cover after writing.

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Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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Resolution

It is very difficult to collect my thoughts into something coherent after four hours sleep in the last 48 hours, but these are heads of key issues to be developed later.

I have no doubt that the Johnson government will very quickly become the most unpopular in UK political history. The ultra-hard Brexit he is pushing will not be the panacea which the deluded anticipate. It will have a negative economic impact felt most keenly in the remaining industry of the Midlands and North East of England. Deregulation will worsen conditions for those fortunate enough to have employment, as will further benefits squeezes. Immigration will not in practice reduce; what will reduce are the rights and conditions for the immigrants.

Decaying, left-behind towns will moulder further. The fishing industry will very quickly be sold down the river in trade negotiations with the EU – access to fishing (and most of the UK fishing grounds are Scottish) is one of the few decent offers Boris has to make to the EU in seeking market access. His Brexit deal will take years and be overwhelmingly fashioned to benefit the City of London.

There is zero chance the Conservatives will employ a sizeable number of extra nurses: they just will not be prepared to put in the money. They will employ more policemen. In a couple of years time they will need them for widespread riots. They will not build any significant portion of the hospitals or other infrastructure they promised. They most certainly will do nothing effective about climate change. These were simply dishonest promises. The NHS will continue to crumble with more and more of its service provision contracted out, and more and more of its money going into private shareholders’ pockets (including many Tory MPs).

The disillusionment will be on the same scale as Johnson’s bombastic promises. The Establishment are not stupid and realise there will be an anti-Tory reaction. Their major effort will therefore be to change Labour back into a party supporting neo-liberal economic policy and neo-conservative foreign (or rather war) policy. They will want to be quite certain that, having seen off the Labour Party’s popular European style social democratic programme with Brexit anti-immigrant fervour, the electorate have no effective non-right wing choice at the next election, just like in the Blair years.

To that end, every Blairite horror has been resurrected already by the BBC to tell us that the Labour Party must now move right – McNicol, McTernan, Campbell, Hazarayika and many more, not to mention the platforms given to Caroline Flint, Ruth Smeeth and John Mann. The most important immediate fight for radicals in England is to maintain Labour as a mainstream European social democratic party and resist its reversion to a Clinton style right wing ultra capitalist party. Whether that is possible depends how many of the Momentum generation lose heart and quit.

Northern Ireland is perhaps the most important story of this election, with a seismic shift in a net gain of two seats in Belfast from the Unionists, plus the replacement of a unionist independent by the Alliance Party. Irish reunification is now very much on the agenda. The largesse to the DUP will be cut off now Boris does not need them.

For me personally, Scotland is the most important development of all. A stunning result for the SNP. The SNP result gave them a bigger voter share in Scotland than the Tories got in the UK. So if Johnson got a “stonking mandate for Brexit”, as he just claimed in his private school idiom, the SNP got a “stonking mandate” for Independence.

I hope the SNP learnt the lesson that by being much more upfront about Independence than in the disastrous “don’t mention Independence” election of 2017, the SNP got spectacularly better results.

I refrained from criticising the SNP leadership during the campaign, even to the extent of not supporting my friend Stu Campbell when he was criticised for doing so (and I did advise him to wait until after election day). But I can say now that the election events, which are perfect for promoting Independence, are not necessarily welcome to the gradualists in the SNP. A “stonking mandate” for Independence and a brutal Johnson government treating Scotland with total disrespect leaves no room for hedge or haver. The SNP needs to strike now, within weeks not months, to organise a new Independence referendum with or without Westminster agreement.

If we truly believe Westminster has no right to block Scottish democracy, we need urgently to act to that effect and not just pretend to believe it. Now the election is over, I will state my genuine belief there is a political class in the SNP, Including a minority but significant portion of elected politicians, office holders and staff, who are very happy with their fat living from the devolution settlement and who view any striking out for Independence as a potential threat to their personal income.

You will hear from these people we should wait for EU trade negotiations, for a decision on a section 30, for lengthy and complicated court cases, or any other excuse to maintain the status quo, rather than move their well=paid arses for Independence. But the emergency of the empowered Johnson government, and the new mandate from the Scottish electorate, require immediate and resolute action. We need to organise an Independence referendum with or without Westminster permission, and if successful go straight for UDI. If the referendum is blocked, straight UDI it is, based on the four successive election victory mandates.

With this large Tory majority, there is nothing the SNP MPs can in practice achieve against Westminster. We should now withdraw our MPs from the Westminster Parliament and take all actions to paralyse the union. This is how the Irish achieved Independence. We will never get Independence by asking Boris Johnson nicely. Anyone who claims to believe otherwise is a fool or a charlatan.

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Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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A Very Difficult Night

Quite possibly the most ungracious speech I have ever heard from Michael Gove. So much for uniting the country. Five years of vicious triumphalism and denigrating opposition loom.
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The SNP vote share in Scotland is just higher than the Tory vote share in the UK. So if Johnson has just been given a resounding mandate for Brexit, then the SNP has just been given a resounding mandate for Independence.
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Banff and Buchan was the constituency held by the Tories which means Johnson is now definitely over the line with a majority. One thing I can absolutely guarantee is that the duped fishing communities will be sold down the river completely when serious negotiations with the EU on trade get going next year.
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I normally manage to find some sympathy for MPs who have lost their job, on a purely personal level. But it is hard to believe that their Tory replacements can actually be worse than Caroline Flint and Ruth Smeeth.
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Astonishingly, after results from all kinds of Scottish constituencies, the SNP is currently at over 50% of the popular vote itself. With the news from North Belfast, it looks like Boris has got his Brexit and lost the Union. This is vital; the break up of the UK is the only way to break the weird imperialist delusion that feeds this extreme English nationalism.
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The BBC, in case anyone isn’t feeling bad enough about Boris Johnson’s triumph, now bring out war criminal Alastair Campbell to lecture us.
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Seeing the back of the inane Kirstene Hair in Angus was particularly welcome. Putney was cheerful and gave hope for Uxbridge. In Scotland the SNP getting swings of about 5% from both Unionist parties.

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It is hard to doubt the basic accuracy of that exit poll now the Conservatives have taken the Blyth Valley. If the Conservatives sweep to power in England, then we have to move very early – and I mean within weeks – on Scottish Independence.

I am extremely sorry for all my friends in England who have no such escape route from the Conservative Party. I am much more impacted by this result than I have ever been before, because it brings a still more right wing Conservative Party to untrammeled power, and because I genuinely feel the electorate which has swung are fueled by anti-immigrant racism. I am not vehemently opposed to Brexit itself, funnily enough, but the ending of freedom of movement and single market access I view as crazed xenophobia.

I am also unhappy with the campaign itself, which seemed to take media bias to new levels in ways I have documented, particularly from the BBC. We saw the same in 2014, and the entire experience has been a reminder of how difficult to fight any new independence referendum will be.

If the SNP takes 50 seats in Scotland I shall be delighted. Scotland is of course a Remain area. I am for the next glass of Lagavulin clinging to the idea that Remain leaning areas in England may cause trouble for the Tories too.

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The Most Crucial Constituencies and How You Should Vote in Them to Block the Tories

Below is a list only of constituencies where I think the result will be close, and the Tories will be one of the parties in contention to win it. I recommend how you should vote to keep the Tory out.

It is my judgement that Brexit will guarantee against a Tory/Lib Dem coalition. Johnson’s Tory Party is not Cameron’s Tory Party. Besides, the Lib Dems lost 90% of their MPs from their last coalition with the Tories, and are unlikely to be keen to repeat the experiment. Your vote is yours and you must vote with your conscience. But to block a far right government with media control and serious anti-democratic tendencies, this is my recommendation of which are the really key constituencies where your vote might change the future. I do implore you to consider abandoning your first choice and following my recommendation in these seats.

I expect this election to be very close. A few thousand tactical votes in key seats can really make a serious difference.

This is a much larger list than would normally be sensible. Generally not that many seats are in doubt in our grossly inadequate electoral system. But the Tory campaign to go after broadly northern working class Brexit votes at the expense of broadly southern liberal voters, has put many more seats in doubt. This is my personal selection of where you might make a real difference – it is my list and I have compiled it with great care and without consulting any other such advice out there. My list is informed not just by polls (and my own interpretation of those polls), but on data from the ground and so includes more Tory seats than other lists, as I believe the Tories will lose quite a few. Tomorrow night will be very exciting because so many individual results are uncertain.

Aberconwy – Vote Labour
Aberdeen South – Vote SNP
Ashfield – Vote Labour
Aylesbury – Vote Labour
Ayr Carrick and Cumnock – Vote SNP
Banff and Buchan – Vote SNP
Basingstoke – Vote Labour
Bassetlaw – Vote Labour
Beaconsfield – Vote Independent
Bedford – Vote Labour
Bishop Auckland – Vote Labour
Blackpool South – Vote Labour
Bolsover – Vote Labour
Bradford South – Vote Labour
Brecon and Radnorshire – Vote Lib Dem
Bridgend – Vote Labour
Broxtowe – Vote Labour
Buckingham – Vote Lib Dem
Bury North – Vote Labour
Bury South – Vote Labour
Camarthen East – Vote Plaid Cymru
Camarthen West – Vote Labour
Canterbury – Vote Labour
Carshalton and Wallington – Vote Lib Dem
Central Ayrshire – Vote SNP
Ceredigion – Vote Plaid Cymru
Cheadle – Vote Lib Dem
Chelsea and Fulham – Vote Lib Dem
Cheltenham – Vote Lib Dem
Chesham and Amersham – Vote Lib Dem
Chingford and Woodford – Vote Labour
Chipping Barnet – Vote Labour
Cities of London and Westminster – Vote Labour
Clwyd South – Vote Labour
Clwyd West – Vote Labour
Colne Valley – Vote Labour
Corby – Vote Labour
Coventry North West – Vote Labour
Crewe and Nantwich – Vote Labour
Croydon South – Vote Labour
Dagenham and Rainham – Vote Labour
Delyn – Vote Labour
Dewsbury – Vote Labour
Don Valley – Vote Labour
Dudley North – Vote Labour
Dumfries and Galloway – Vote SNP
East Renfrewshire – Vote SNP
Eastbourne – Vote Lib Dem
East Devon – Vote Independent
Eastleigh – Vote Lib Dem
Esher and Walton – Vote Lib Dem
Filton and Bradley Stoke – Vote Labour
Finchley and Golders Green – Vote Labour
Gedling – Vote Labour
Gloucester – Vote Labour
Gordon – Vote SNP
Great Grimsby – Vote Labour
Guildford – Vote Lib Dem
Hastings and Rye – Vote Labour
Harrow East – Vote Labour
Hazel Grove – Vote Lib Dem
Hendon – Vote Labour
Hitchin and Harpenden – Vote Lib Dem
Hyndburn – Vote Labour
Ipswich – Vote Labour
Keighley – Vote Labour
Kensington – Vote Labour
Lanark and Hamilton East – Vote SNP
Leigh – Vote Labour
Lewes – Vote Lib Dem
Lincoln – Vote Labour
Loughborough – Vote Labour
Maidenhead – Vote Lib Dem
Mid Dorset and North Poole – Vote Lib Dem
Milton Keynes North – Vote Labour
Milton Keynes South – Vote Labour
Monmouth – Vote Labour
Moray – Vote SNP
Morecambe and Lunesdale – Vote Labour
Newbury – Vote Lib Dem
Northampton North – Vote Labour
North Norfolk – Vote Lib Dem
North West Durham – Vote Labour
Norwich North – Vote Labour
Ochil and South Perthshire – Vote SNP
Oxford West and Abingdon- Vote Lib Dem
Penistone and Stockbridge – Vote Labour
Peterborough – Vote Labour
Perth and North Perthshire – Vote SNP
Preseli Pembrokeshire – Vote Labour
Pudsey – Vote Labour
Putney – Vote Labour
Reading West – Vote Labour
Redcar – Vote Labour
Richmond Park – Vote Lib Dem
Romsey and Southampton – Vote Lib Dem
Rother Valley – Vote Labour
Runnymede and Weybridge – Vote Labour
Scunthorpe – Vote Labour
Sedgefield – Vote Labour
Shipley – Vote Labour
Southampton Itchen – Vote Labour
South Cambridgeshire – Vote Lib Dem
South East Cambridgeshire – Vote Lib Dem
South Swindon – Vote Labour
South West Hertfordshire – Vote Independent
South West Surrey – Vote Lib Dem
St Albans – Vote Lib Dem
St Ives – Vote Lib Dem
Stevenage – Vote Labour
Stirling – Vote SNP
Stockton South – Vote Labour
Stoke on Trent North – Vote Labour
Stroud – Vote Labour
Surrey Heath – Vote Lib Dem
Sutton and Cheam – Vote Lib Dem
Taunton Deane – Vote Lib Dem
Thornbury and Yate – Vote Lib Dem
Truro and Falmouth – Vote Labour
Uxbridge and South Ruislip – Vote Labour
Vale of Clwyd – Vote Labour
Vale of Glamorgan – Vote Labour
Warrington South – Vote Labour
Watford – Vote Labour
Wells – Vote Lib Dem
West Aberdeenshire – Vote SNP
West Bromwich East – Vote Labour
West Bromwich West – Vote Labour
Westmorland and Lonsdale – Vote Lib Dem
Wimbledon – Vote Lib Dem
Winchester – Vote Lib Dem
Witney – Vote Lib Dem
Wokingham – Vote Lib Dem
Wolverhampton North East – Vote Labour
Wolverhampton South West – Vote Labour
Worcester – Vote Labour
Workington – Vote Labour
Worsley and Eccles South – Vote Labour
Wrexham – Vote Labour
Wycombe – Vote Labour
Ynys Mon – Vote Plaid Cymru

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Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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The Largest Vote Swings in British General Election History Censored Out By the BBC and Mainstream Media

This election is seeing the largest vote swings in British political history. But that truth has been hidden by the largest media distortion in British political history.

Let me prove these claims. Certain constituencies have featured again and again in media coverage of the election, to reinforce the dominant media narrative, corresponding precisely to the government’s preferred election strategy, that working class Labour voters are deserting the party because of Brexit.

But if you look at the YouGov constituency model, conducted on a scale 100 times greater than most national opinion polls, and comparatively accurate in 2017, the bigger story is much more breathtaking.

Dudley is a case in point. As I posted a few days ago, Dudley North has been continually featured in vox pops as typical of a Labour seat being potentially lost because of Brexit. According to BBC vox pops, a large majority of the population of Dudley is deserting the Labour Party over either Brexit or allegations of anti-semitism by its ex-MP, Ian Austin.

Yet the YouGov constituency poll shows a swing from Labour to Tory in Dudley of 4.9%. Substantial, but not massive, in a seat where Labour only had a majority of 22 anyway. 41% of the population of Dudley still plans to vote Labour, which makes the balance of the BBC’s vox pops remarkably unrepresentative.

DUDLEY NORTH

Now compare that with this:

WOKINGHAM

Unlike Dudley, Wokingham has not featured in any of the BBC’s vox pops. In safe Tory Berkshire, close to Johnson’s own Uxbridge constituency, John Redwood the MP for a generation, surely there is nothing to draw the BBC to Wokingham?

Except YouGov shows a swing from Tory to LibDem in Wokingham of 20.35%. Let me say that again, 20.35% swing from Tory to Lib Dem. That is one of the biggest swings in general election history (excluding freak circumstances like brand new parties). To give a comparison, Blair’s 1997 landslide, the benchmark for modern seismic general election movement, was achieved on a Tory to Labour swing of 9.7%. What is happening today in Wokingham is on a scale with the massive swing to the SNP in Scotland in 2015 following the devolution referendum.

The Lib Dems need another 2.5% swing to take what is now a marginal seat. They may well achieve it by polling day.

Yet how many vox pops have you seen from Wokingham? What is happening there is perfectly plain. Brexit, the expulsion of moderate Conservative MPs and the hard right Tory stance on immigration and social services has caused a revulsion among liberal Tories from Johnson. In the UK as a whole, the swing against the Tories by liberal former Tory voters is every bit as large as the swing to the Tories in Brexit seats – hence the Tories are on almost exactly the same percentage overall as in 2017. For every racist dullard voting for Johnson’s dog whistle racism, there is an urbane Tory in Wokingham or similar towns refusing to vote for him for the same reason. Yet our televisions and radios have for a month been crammed with literally hundreds of selected representatives of the former group and virtually nil of the latter group.

This is not an accident nor is it unimportant. The media – and the BBC have been most guilty of all – know very well what they are doing. It is deliberate reinforcement of the government’s campaign message. Featuring stream upon stream of working class voters saying they will vote Tory normalises the idea and plays to the popular desire to join the winning team.

Just imagine for one moment that every time the broadcast media had shown a man in a high vis saying he was deserting Labour to “get Brexit done”, they had balanced it with a doctor’s wife from Cheam saying she was deserting the Tories over NHS funding. It would have challenged the entire government narrative. But the media have not done this. They have instead chosen to tell only the pro-government side of this story of electoral swings. This is probably the worst period of concerted state and billionaire controlled media propaganda in the modern history of the “democratic West”.

Ask yourself this simple question. The Tory vote has not increased since 2017. Have you heard that simple fact stated on the broadcast media and is it the impression the broadcast media have been giving?

Let us look at another pair of constituencies. Massively reported Grimsby. Here the swing measured by YouGov from Labour to Conservative is only 3.6%, yet I defy anyone to say they have not seen or heard media reports of how the Brexit supporting people of Grimsby are deserting Labour in droves, with people vox-popped to say precisely that.

GREATER GRIMSBY

PUTNEY

Putney has the same swing as Grimsby, with Labour expected by YouGov to take the seat from the Tories on a swing of 3.5%. Yet has Putney been swarming with TV cameras? Have you had enough of hearing Putney accents on the TV explaining why they are switching from Tory to Labour? Again, the counter-narrative is totally ignored.

The exception to the rule has been Esher and Walton, where there has been some brief media mention of the anti-Tory surge purely because it makes Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary, a possible loser. But again I have not seen one single vox pop from there with voters explaining why they are deserting the Tories. And again the swing is absolutely massive, with YouGov measuring a 19.6% swing from Tory to Lib Dem in voting intention and only another 1% swing needed to get rid of Raab. This is much higher than any of the fabled swings against Labour in Northern England.

Compare that to Rother Valley, where the BBC had an extended vox pop feature showing only voters switching from Labour to Tory. While YouGov do predict a substantial swing from Labour to Tory in Rother Valley, of 6.3%, it is on nowhere near the scale of under-reported swings from the Tories elsewhere. And how much of that swing has been produced by the BBC reporting telling people there is a swing and vastly over-representing local anti-Labour voices? 36% of the Rother Valley voters still intend to vote Labour, but the BBC could not locate any.

Remember this. The Tory vote has not increased. It is the same level as 2017. But the media has vastly over-represented, in vox pops and in debate and panel audiences, those switching from Labour to Tory.

More importantly, the YouGov constituency poll of over 100,000 interviews was conducted from 3 to 10 December. The momentum was already against the Tories, and the large majority of its responses were from before the Boris Johnson phone snatching interview and NHS child on the floor scandal, which I suspect has put off more prospective Tory voters. So it was a snapshot of voting intent mostly several days ago, not today, let alone tomorrow when we vote. Remember also the evidence of 2017 is that after a time the highly controlled, slogan-led campaign wears on voters. People who were quite impressed the first time they saw Boris Johnson say “Get Brexit Done” are less impressed when they have seen him say that and nothing else for four weeks. They are inclined to conclude he is an empty slogan parrot, as they did with Theresa May and “strong and stable.”

The final reason to believe that the Tory lead will narrow from the YouGov constituency model poll is that they themselves reported this. Their poll was taken over seven days; at that start of that period it was showing an 11 point lead to the Tories, by the last day it was showing an eight point lead. I see every reason to expect that momentum to continue. Finally, remember that YouGove are an extremely Tory friendly pollster.

Most importantly it shows the number of ultra-marginal constituencies to be substantially more than the predicted Tory overall majority, and all of them susceptible to tactical voting. Scotland and Wales are particularly important. Ultra marginals in Scotland and Wales alone can wipe out the projected majority if the go the right way. There are no Tory/Labour marginals in Scotland, only Tory/SNP marginals and I strongly urge everybody in Scotland who wants to stop Johnson to vote SNP.

I will post some thoughts on key seats in England and Wales in which to vote tactically later. But I already feel confident Johnson will not get his majority.

——————————————

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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The Invisible Tories

UPDATED Good Morning Britain trumpeted its latest poll today showing a net increase in the Tory lead since last week of four points, to 45% to 31% over Labour.

As you know, opinion pollsters do not just take the raw figures provided by respondents, they weight those respondents to provide a representative sample by age, gender, location, past voting history etc.

But when you drill down into the headline results from the weighted samples, they make no sense at all. For example Survation in this poll have the Conservatives sweeping up Labour in London by 46.8% to 41.2%. In 2017 the Conservatives got hammered in London by 33.1% to 54.5%. Survation are showing a swing from Labour to Conservative in London of 13.5%. That is absolutely massive, and nobody believes that is happening on the ground. The Tories could well lose several more seats in London.

Similarly in Scotland, Survation show the SNP vote down nearly nine per cent compared to 2017, at 33.2%. Again, nobody believes for a moment the SNP vote is really as low as that.

Of course I understand that the sub sample for each area from which these results are calculated is very small. But expecting that a number of sub-samples, which at the regional level are self-evidently nonsense, chance to balance out into an accurate national picture when you add them all up, is ludicrous. I am only looking at one poll here, and not particularly picking on Survation for any reason. But I hope this demonstrates that opinion polls should be viewed with extreme scepticism.

Original Post:

I live in a marginal constituency, where the excellent Joanna Cherry of the SNP has a lead of just over 1,000 over the Tories. If the most recent opinion polls are correct, the parties’ standings at this moment are similar to the result last time, the momentum is with the Tories and this should be a key Tory target. Yet I have not received one single Tory leaflet (and I live on one of the main residential streets) nor have I seen one single Tory campaigner, including when I have been out delivering leaflets for Joanna Cherry myself. Nor have I seen one single Tory poster in a house.

It is not just on TV that the Tories have been skipping interviews and debates, they seem to have eschewed any semblance of a ground campaign too, in what presumably is a key target seat for them. Boris Johnson is not popular with any of the local residents I have spoken to, and there is no enthusiasm at all for Brexit in this part of Edinburgh. In short, I am absolutely unable to square the opinion polls with the evidence of my own eyes and ears.

What is your experience?

——————————————

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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The Truth About this Election

UPDATE Andrew Marr seemed to have a moment of contrition, much too late. In the “paper review” agenda-setting section at the start of his programme, he actually pointed out that the large majority of the papers are Conservative supporting, the first time I have heard this noted on the BBC. He then promised that today the paper review would be “balanced” by a look at social media.

This balance turned out to be a 15 second reference to the billionaire owned Huffington Post, the rabidly neo-con internet “news” site which is NOT social media. The content of this “balance” was rabidly anti-Corbyn Brexiteer ex-Labour MP Gloria Del Piero (who was herself the BBC “balance” to the Daily Mail’s ultra-Tory Brexiteer Sarah Vine, wife of Michael Gove), praising Angela Rayner for saying to the Huffington Post she understood why so many Labour voters were leaving the Labour Party.

Read the rest of this article, written yesterday, to understand why this is so stunning:

This is the most vital fact to understand what has happened so far in this election. There is a striking consistency across the opinion polls that the Tories have stabilised around 42%. That is just less than they achieved at the 2017 election.

So how can the Tories be slightly below their 2017 vote, when every single news and current affairs programme on TV and radio for the last three weeks has included vox pops or audience members switching from Labour to Conservative over Brexit?

The undeniable truth is that almost precisely as many voters have deserted the Tories as have switched to them. Hence they are on the same percentage. As the media have lovingly documented, and as is the accepted narrative of the election repeated to us ad nauseam, there are a substantial number of working class Leave voters switching from Labour to Tory over Brexit. They tend (and it is a simple matter of fact) to be less educated, older, and from deprived areas that have suffered most from a finance sector led economic policy.

But an equal number of voters have deserted the Tory Party. They are mostly pro-EU, better educated, more liberal and horrified by the change of the Tories to a hardline far right populist party. Their existence is hardly a secret, and they have an extremely impressive, ultra high profile leadership in John Major, Michael Heseltine, Kenneth Clarke, Phil Hammond, Dominic Grieve etc. Yet the liberal Tories abandoning the party in droves have been almost completely unrepresented in broadcast media coverage.

Here is the zinger. I have been keeping a tally of vox pops and audience members declaring they are abandoning their allegiance on broadcast media.
I have tallied 57 vox pop/audience members saying they are deserting Labour, because of Brexit/Corbyn. I have tallied 1 – yes ONE – audience member (and zero vox pop) saying they are abandoning the Tories over Brexit/Johnson.

Even though, with the Tory vote stable, we know in the real world both groups are the same size, and Major/Heseltine/Clarke/Hammond/Grieve are not friendless and uninfluential.

Now this is not a count of the entire coverage, but of those news and current affairs programmes I have watched during the campaign. It is weighted towards the BBC with less of Sky and ITN, and very little radio apart from the Today programme. But is is a pretty good sample, and while I would welcome a more scientific study I do not expect it would show anything significantly different. I don’t think anybody reading this can claim their own experience of the coverage is different.

How is this achieved? Mainly, of course, because the media pre-set the narrative that this election would be about Labour voters in the North switching to Brexit, having been heavily briefed to that effect by No. 10. They then concentrated almost exclusively on this narrative. Deliberately choosing vox pop locations to suit the narrative has been a key part. Dudley, Hartlepool and Grimsby; not Putney, Bath and Bristol. There is also then editorial choice of who is selected to speak.

What is undoubtedly true is that the broadcasters have colluded, by massive, repeated and deliberate acts, in pushing and reinforcing the No.10 strategy of seeking working class Leave votes, in an effort to normalise the idea that working class northern English communities can vote Tory. And it is undeniably true that they have massively under-reported the equal movement of liberal Tory voters – and former Cabinet ministers – deserting their party.

Nowhere has this been more obvious than in the comparative treatment of Ian Austin and John Major.

Austin was a Labour Parliamentary Private Secretary, the most junior of all ministerial ranks, for just eight months. When he urged people to vote Tory, it was the first headline on every BBC News broadcast all day. Austin had 15 minutes unchallenged on the Today programme to spill out bile against the Labour Party, before going on to eight minutes unchallenged on BBC Breakfast TV, and a similar appearance on Good Morning Britain, all of which from the timings and travel must have been pre-organised, especially as he left from there to a pre-prepared giant poster launch, carried by all the print media.

But Austin was a comparative nobody. Yesterday John Major, seven year Tory Prime Minister, former Chancellor of the Exchequer and Foreign Secretary, urged people not to give the dangerous Johnson a Tory majority. He was backed up by former Tory Deputy PM Michael Heseltine and former Tory Chancellor of the Exchequer Kenneth Clarke. On any rational measure, this is a far, far bigger story than Ian “nobody” Austin giving the opposite message.

Yet unlike Austin, Major was not the lead story on any major news channel. He did not get 10% of the total broadcast time devoted to Austin. Because the narrative of moderate Tories not voting for Johnson is comparatively suppressed; to the extent that the only possible explanation is the active connivance of broadcasters in securing a Tory government.

So who do we vote for?

The Tories are stuck around 42%. That means tactical voting is essential to knock them back. You need to look very, very carefully at who can beat them in your own constituency.

In Scotland, it makes no sense to vote anything other than SNP. There are no Labour/Tory marginals. There is nowhere that a SNP vote risks letting the Tories in. There are however plenty of constituencies where voting Labour risks letting the Tories in. In Scotland do not overthink, just vote SNP.

In England and Wales, it is complicated. Firstly you need to research who can best beat the Tories locally. Then you may have to hold your nose and support a near-Tory Lib Dem or, and there are still a good few of them as Labour candidates, an even-nearer Tory Blairite. The majority of people who need to abandon their natural choice and vote tactically against the Tories are Lib Dems. I urge you to do what needs to be done, because we have to work within the stupid electoral system we have at present. In probably 85% of English and Welsh constituencies the answer is to vote Labour. Elsewhere, Lib Dem, Plaid Cymru, Green or Independent. Please check carefully.

In Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, I urge people to vote for Dominic Grieve. He was chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee and treated me extremely well in enabling me to give my evidence on torture and extraordinary rendition and reflecting it in the very fair – and damning – report. In Cowdenbeath and Kirkcaldy vote for Neale Hanvey, who has been badly treated.

In Northern Ireland I generally support Sinn Fein, but just this time in safely Republican areas I would prefer people to vote SDLP, as having votes available at Westminster may be vital.

That Tory strategy of going for right wing populism has changed the demographic of their vote in a way that has reduced its geographic concentration. That can be a disadvantage under First Past the Post and the Tories may end up losing seats in Scotland, London and parts of Southern England, and piling up votes in northern England, without achieving enough there to actually win the seats. This election is not a foregone conclusion by any means.

But to stop Johnson people sweeping the board on 42% people have to vote smart.

I do not condemn anyone who instead votes with their conscience for their preferred party. But I believe the country faces a lurch to the genuine far right, and just this once I urge you not to. Vote to stop Johnson, whatever it takes.

Note: This post very briefly said 87 not 57 due to my inability to read my own handwriting. A transposition error in para 2 has also been corrected.

——————————————

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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Violence and the State

The state rests its power on a monopoly of violence. Indeed, in the final analysis a state is nothing but a monopoly of violence. Even when a state does good things, like tax to provide healthcare, it ultimately depends on its ability to employ violence to enforce the collection of the tax. Arrest and imprisonment is, absolutely, violence. We may not recognise it as violence, but if you try to resist arrest and imprisonment you will quickly see that it is violence. Whether or not blows are struck or arms twisted to get someone there, or they go quietly under threat, confining somebody behind concrete and steel is violence.

I use the case of tax evasion and healthcare to show that I am merely analysing that the state rests on violence deliberately. I am not claiming that the violence of the state is a bad thing in itself. I just want you to recognise that the state rests on violence. Try not paying your taxes for a few years, and try refusing to be arrested and go to court. You will, ultimately, encounter real violence on your person.

John Pilger gave a harrowing account of the everyday application of state violence at the Free the Truth meeting at which I spoke last week. Here is an extract from his speech describing his visit to Julian Assange:

I joined a queue of sad, anxious people, mostly poor women and children, and grandmothers. At the first desk, I was fingerprinted, if that is still the word for biometric testing.

“Both hands, press down!” I was told. A file on me appeared on the screen.

I could now cross to the main gate, which is set in the walls of the prison. The last time I was at Belmarsh to see Julian, it was raining hard. My umbrella wasn’t allowed beyond the visitors centre. I had the choice of getting drenched, or running like hell. Grandmothers have the same choice.

At the second desk, an official behind the wire, said, “What’s that?”

“My watch,” I replied guiltily.

“Take it back,” she said.

So I ran back through the rain, returning just in time to be biometrically tested again. This was followed by a full body scan and a full body search. Soles of feet; mouth open.

At each stop, our silent, obedient group shuffled into what is known as a sealed space, squeezed behind a yellow line. Pity the claustrophobic; one woman squeezed her eyes shut.

We were then ordered into another holding area, again with iron doors shutting loudly in front of us and behind us.

“Stand behind the yellow line!” said a disembodied voice.

Another electronic door slid partly open; we hesitated wisely. It shuddered and shut and opened again. Another holding area, another desk, another chorus of, “Show your finger!”

Then we were in a long room with squares on the floor where we were told to stand, one at a time. Two men with sniffer dogs arrived and worked us, front and back.

The dogs sniffed our arses and slobbered on my hand. Then more doors opened, with a new order to “hold out your wrist!”

A laser branding was our ticket into a large room, where the prisoners sat waiting in silence, opposite empty chairs. On the far side of the room was Julian, wearing a yellow arm band over his prison clothes.

As a remand prisoner he is entitled to wear his own clothes, but when the thugs dragged him out of the Ecuadorean embassy last April, they prevented him bringing a small bag of belongings. His clothes would follow, they said, but like his reading glasses, they were mysteriously lost.

For 22 hours a day, Julian is confined in “healthcare”. It’s not really a prison hospital, but a place where he can be isolated, medicated and spied on. They spy on him every 30 minutes: eyes through the door. They would call this “suicide watch”.

In the adjoining cells are convicted murderers, and further along is a mentally ill man who screams through the night. “This is my One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” he said.

When we greet each other, I can feel his ribs. His arm has no muscle. He has lost perhaps 10 to 15 kilos since April. When I first saw him here in May, what was most shocking was how much older he looked.

We chat with his hand over his mouth so as not to be overheard. There are cameras above us. In the Ecuadorean embassy, we used to chat by writing notes to each other and shielding them from the cameras above us. Wherever Big Brother is, he is clearly frightened.

On the walls are happy-clappy slogans exhorting the prisoners to “keep on keeping on” and “be happy, be hopeful and laugh often”.

The only exercise he has is on a small bitumen patch, overlooked by high walls with more happy-clappy advice to enjoy ‘the blades of grass beneath your feet’. There is no grass.

He is still denied a laptop and software with which to prepare his case against extradition. He still cannot call his American lawyer, or his family in Australia.

The incessant pettiness of Belmarsh sticks to you like sweat.

You can see John give the speech here:

Assange’s “crime”, of course, is to reveal the illegal use of force by the state in Iraq and Afghanistan. That the state feels the need to employ such violence against somebody who has never practised violence, is a striking illustration that violence constitutes the very fabric of the state.

Just as we are not conditioned to recognise the violence of the state as violence, we do not always recognise resistance to the state as violence. If you bodily blockade a road, a tube station or a building with the intention to prevent somebody else from physically passing through that space, that is an act of physical force, of violence. It may be a low level of violence, but violence it is. Extinction Rebellion represents a challenge to the state’s claim to monopolise violence, which is why the Metropolitan Police – a major instrument of state domestic violence – were so anxious to declare the activity illegal on a wide scale.

Ultimately civil resistance represents a denial of the state’s right to enforce its monopoly of violence. The Hong Kong protests represent a striking demonstration of the fact that rejecting the state’s monopoly of violence can entail marching without permission, occupying a space, blockading and ultimately replying to bullets with firebombs, and that these actions are a continuum. It is the initial rejection of the state’s power over your body which is the decision point.

Just as I used the example of tax evasion and healthcare to demonstrate that the state’s use of violence is not always bad, I use the example of Extinction Rebellion to demonstrate that the assertion of physical force, against the state’s claim to monopoly of it, is not always bad either.

We are moving into an era of politics where the foundations of consent which underpin western states are becoming less stable. The massive growth in wealth inequality has led to an alienation of large sections of the population from the political system. The political economy works within a framework which is entirely an artificial construct of states, and ultimately is imposed by the states’ monopoly of force. For the last four decades, that framework has been deliberately fine-tuned to enable the massive accumulation of wealth by a very small minority and to reduce the access to share of economic resource by the broad mass of the people.

The inevitable consequence is widespread economic discontent and a resultant loss of respect for the political class. The political class are tasked with the management of the state apparatus, and popular discontent is easily personalised – it concentrates on the visible people rather than the institutions. But if the extraordinary wealth imbalance of society continues to worsen, it is only a matter of time before that discontent undermines respect for political institutions. In the UK, once it becomes plain that leaving the EU has not improved the lot of those whose socio-economic standing has been radically undercut, the discontent will switch to other institutions of government.

In Scotland, we shall have an early test of the state’s right to the monopoly of force if the Westminster government insists on attempting to block a new referendum on Independence, against the will of the Scottish people. In Catalonia, the use of violence against those simply trying to vote in a referendum was truly shocking.

This has been followed up by the extreme state violence of vicious jail sentences against the leaders of the entirely nonviolent Catalan independence movement. As I stated we do not always recognise state violence. But locking you up in a small cell for years is a worse act of violence on your body even than the shocking but comparatively brief treatment of the woman voter in the photo. It is a case of chronic or acute state violence.

Where the use of violence by a state is fundamentally unjust, there is every moral right to employ violence against the state. Whether or not to do so becomes a tactical, not a moral, question. There is a great deal of evidence that non-violent protest, or protest using the real but low levels of physical force employed by Extinction Rebellion, can be in the long term the most effective. But opinions differ legitimately. Gandhi took one view, and Nelson Mandela another. The media has sanitised the image of Mandela, but it is worth remembering that he was jailed not for non-violent protest, but for taking up violent resistance to white rule, in which I would say he was entirely justified at the time.

To date, the Catalan people and their leaders appear firmly wedded to the tactic of non-violence. That is their choice and their right, and I support them in that choice. But having suffered so much violence, and with no democratic route available for their right of self-determination, the Catalans have the moral right, should they so choose, to resist, by violence, the violence of the Spanish state. I should however clarify that does not extend to indiscriminate attack on entirely innocent people, which in my view is not a moral choice.

All of which of course has obvious implications should a Westminster government seek to block the Scottish people from expressing their inalienable right of self-determination following the election. Which fascinating subject I shall return to once again in January. Be assured meantime I am not presently close to advocating a tactic of violence in Scotland. But nor will I ever say the Scottish people do not ultimately have that right if denied democratic self-expression. To say otherwise would be to renounce the Declaration of Arbroath, a founding document of European political thought.

As western states face popular discontent and are losing consent of the governed, one of the state’s reactions is to free up its use of force. Conservative election promises to give members of the UK armed forces effective immunity from prosecution for war crimes or for illegal use of force, should be seen in this light. So also, of course, should the use of agents not primarily employed by the state to impose extreme violence on behalf of the state. The enforcers of the vicious system John Pilger encountered were employed by Serco, G4S or a similar group, to remove the state one step from any control upon their actions (and of course to allow yet more private profit to the wealthy). Similar contractors regularly visit strong violence on immigrants selected for deportation. The ultimate expression of this was the disgusting employment by the British and American governments of mercenary forces, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan, to deploy brutal and uncontrolled violence on the local population.

The pettiness of the election campaign, its failure to address fundamental issues due to the ability of the mainstream media to determine and manipulate the political agenda, has led me to think about the nature of the state at a much more basic level. I do not claim we are beyond the early stages of a breakdown in social consent to be ruled; and I expect the immediate response of the system will be a lurch towards right wing authoritarianism, which ultimately will make the system still less stable.

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Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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Free the Truth – A Short Speech

This is the speech I came down to London to give.

I have had a fascinating few days catching up on many people. It is an interesting fact that one of the suite of rooms where the great ones gather for their sparkling wine and snacks before and after the Cenotaph ceremony on Remembrance Sunday is literally my old office, from when I was Deputy Head of the Africa Department of the FCO. It has always interested me that the grand people of British society, particularly those born to it, overlook the “little people” and forget they have agency. People like Boris Johnson do not see janitors, cleaners, cooks, drivers and waiting staff as anything but cyphers. They however see him, and I can tell you with certainty that the reason he messed up the Cenotaph ceremony, starting backwards and forward at the wrong time, laying the wreath upside down and generally stumbling around looking like an unmade bed, is that he was drunk. You could smell it off him. He arrived in that condition.

I am working on a longer and more thoughtful piece about the morality of the use of force. I hope to post that tomorrow. Am on the train back to Edinburgh.

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Interfering with Laura Kuenssberg

Last night the BBC was reporting on the Conservative manifesto. This is a document whose most striking pledge is to fill in some of the potholes in roads that have proliferated due to massive cuts in local authority funding, and to give free hospital car parking to those visiting a terminally ill relative. Just think of the last one. How do you prove your relative is terminally ill? What if there is a chance they might get better? The administration of this system is going to require people to have some form of certificate or token that all hope is now lost. For the car park. The Tories are all heart.

As the News continued, Laura Kuenssberg told us that the battle lines between the parties are now clearly drawn, and the major division is over how much the government “should interfere in the economy”.

Interfere. Not intervene. Not regulate. Interfere. It is a very deliberate choice of word. Let me turn to the Oxford English Dictionary:

Interfere

1) Prevent from continuing or being carried out properly
2) Handle or adjust without permission
3) Become involved in something without being asked
4) Sexually molest

Words matter. Kuenssberg chose a word with powerful negative connotations and no possible positive meaning, to describe the alternative to the Tories. Kuenssberg talking of government interfering in, rather than intervening in, the economy is in itself a very strong and explicit declaration of Kuenssberg’s belief in an Ayn Rand, “Britannia unchained”, free market, ultra neo-liberal world view. To explicitly frame the choice in the election as between the Tories and “interfering” is just another example of the way the BBC slants their election coverage, permanently.

Now I started to draft an article three days ago, before that particular Kuenssberg propaganda masterclass.

Here is what I wrote as a draft three days ago:

“Maybe I am just unlucky. I have had television news bulletins transport me to hear vox-pops featuring former Labour voters in Dudley who now want to vote Conservative to GET BREXIT DONE. I have seen vox pops in fishing wharves in Peterhead and Grimsby, in dismal cafes in Hartlepool, in bingo halls in Yarmouth, in pubs back in Dudley, on high streets in Wakefield, in a shopping mall in Thurrock, in hardware stores back in bloody Dudley again. The country is full of people who want to GET BREXIT DONE, and who will NEVER VOTE LABOUR AGAIN.

The strange thing is that I have not seen a single vox pop from Richmond, featuring an educated woman who is switching from a lifetime of Tory voting because they have become a far right party and are going to crash the economy with hard Brexit. But there are many people like that in Richmond, and indeed all over London, and throughout much of southern England. They exist but are not worth vox-popping, apparently. Because they are not the broadcasters’ chosen “narrative”.

The BBC, ITN and Sky will doubtless defend the very obviously targeted demographic and destination of their “vox-pops” on the grounds that this is the “narrative” of the election. But that is a self-reinforcing prophecy. The public are relentlessly being told that what ordinary people want is to “GET BREXIT DONE” and to vote Tory. But that is actually only what about 40% of the people want. We just aren’t being shown the other 60% as the broadcasters focus relentlessly on areas with the highest leave vote, and on vox pop subjects with the least possible education.”

While that passage was atill on the stocks, last night, alongside the Kuenssberg analysis, the BBC gave us a vox pop from the Rother Valley that fitted perfectly the above description. It came from a Yorkshire Labour seat that voted Leave. It featured Labour voters who will now vote Conservative. The ladies interviewed were perfectly primed with precisely the main Tory slogans. A lady told us she wanted Boris so we could “get Brexit done and get on with domestic reforms”. Another ex-Labour voter told us she would vote for Boris because “he may not be trustworthy, but I like him”. Trust and likeability are two factors the pollsters regularly measure. It is important for the Tories that voters prioritise likeability over trust, because Johnson’s Trust numbers are appalling. How fortunate that the BBC happened to find a little old lady in the Rother Valley who could express this so succinctly!

Or maybe it is not so surprising. With the mainstream media as such a reliable echo chamber of public slogans, perhaps it is not surprising to find the public just echo them too, as they do in North Korea. The state media in the UK is of course not the only propaganda outlet. Billionaires control 87% of print news media by circulation, and are aggressively Tory for obvious reasons of self-interest.

This leads to the incredible circularity of the “Newspaper Reviews” that take up such a high proportion of broadcast news output. The broadcasters “review” the overwhelmingly right wing print media. And who do they invite to do the reviewing? Why the billionaire employed journalists of the overwhelmingly right wing print media, of course! So we have the surreal experience of watching journalists from the Times and the Spectator telling us how great an article in the Daily Mail is, about how Corbyn is a Russian spy and Scotland not really a country at all.

If that was not bad enough, we then get deluged by “commentators” from “think tanks” which are again billionaire funded, like the Institute of Economic Affairs and scores of others, sometimes with money thrown in from the security services, like the Quilliam Foundation and scores of others. It is a never-ending closed circular loop of propaganda.

The truth is that it largely works. Social media is overwhelmingly sceptical of the government narrative, but we still live in a society where the power of mass broadcasting and even print retains a remarkable amount of influence, particularly on the old and the poorly educated. It is no coincidence that it is precisely the old and the poorly educated that are the targets of Cummings’ “Brexit election” strategy. If it comes off, Kuenssberg and her fellow hacks will have proven that the power of the mainstream media is as yet unbroken.

——————————————

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

Subscriptions to keep this blog going are gratefully received.

Choose subscription amount from dropdown box:

Recurring Donations



 

Alternatively:

Account name
MURRAY CJ
Account number 3 2 1 5 0 9 6 2
Sort code 6 0 – 4 0 – 0 5
IBAN GB98NWBK60400532150962
BIC NWBKGB2L
Bank address Natwest, PO Box 414, 38 Strand, London, WC2H 5JB

Subscriptions are still preferred to donations as I can’t run the blog without some certainty of future income, but I understand why some people prefer not to commit to that.

View with comments