Dr Who 211

I just had to sit through a whole bloody tennis match to find out about the new Dr Who.

I remember watching the first transformation, from William Hartnell to Patrick Troughton, with my sister when I was 8. The transformation itself was the most technically amazing thing then seen on TV, and I remember distinctly our deciding we liked Troughton a lot more, with his cheery trews and little flute. People forget that Hartnell’s Dr Who was himself part of what was scarey about the original series, a rather more alien character than subsequent doctors.

Anyway there are probably few people alive who have watched more Dr Who than I have over 50 years. (There, that’s an unexpected confession about my private life). And I cannot see any problem at all with a female appearing doctor. It is an alien life form, for goodness sake. If it can travel through time, regenerate and always speak English despite being from Gallifrey, it can appear in different humanoid sexual roles.

What Dr Who requires is an excellent character actor, full stop. And the series has been astonishingly, if not uniformly, well served.

But there will only ever be one Tom Baker.

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Mosul – Worse than Srebrenica 167

Here in South Eastern Turkey I have been watching a great deal of news coverage, on a satellite system showing news channels of many regional countries, of the major massacre of Sunni Muslims in Mosul which is taking place as you read this. The video of a couple of people being thrown off a cliff is something I wish I had not watched; it is on the Independent website here. Human Rights Watch have confirmed the location in Mosul. This video had become so viral on social media that some Western mainstream media felt obliged to note its existence. But I have been watching, on other national channels, TV images still more disturbing. These include images of mass shootings. Most chilling of all have been much less graphically violent pictures, of shambling columns of men –and boys – being marched off. It is fairly plain that these are residents of Mosul rather than ISIL fighters. The images reminded me forcefully of Srebrenica.

Whether the number killed in cold blood will exceed the horror of Srebrenica only time will tell. It is currently too hard, without being there, to discern the truth from the propaganda on all sides. But there is one way in which, morally, this is a much worse outrage for any British citizen than Srebrenica. The Shia troops carrying out the massacre only were able to conquer the Sunni city of Mosul because the British and Americans had not only armed and financed them, but British and American forces were actively fighting alongside them. It is not possible to shrug off the moral responsibility for the massacre we have actively launched.

In Srebrenica the cowardice and bureaucratic blinkers of a group of Dutch officers were shameful. But Mosul is the equivalent of the Dutch having fought alongside the attackers then pretended not to notice anything at all was happening.

There is also another great difference in western culpability. In the Balkan Wars the Serbs were the “enemy” of the West – NATO even bombed them – so justified mainstream media outrage was screamed at us. In Mosul, those perpetrating the massacre are on “our side”, so you will never hear much of it. The deliberate conflation of Sunni tribesmen defending their homes against their traditional enemy, with the separate forces of ISIS, aids this lie.

The greater irony is of course that in Syria the UK and US forces are operating on the opposite side of the same conflict. There the Sunni jihadists, with precisely the same ideology and the same financing as ISIL and before Mosul was cut off sometimes the same physical people, are our allies. There is no distinction of the remotest importance in beliefs, funding or operational methods between the jihadists who were controlling Mosul and those who were controlling Eastern Aleppo.

Yet, despite the glaringly obvious intellectual paucity of the position, the devastation of Mosul by western backed forces was described as a “liberation”, whereas the precisely analogous devastation of Eastern Aleppo by Syrian government forces was described as a… “devastation”.

Still more astonishing, the Western media in co-ordinated fashion played up fears of a massacre in Eastern Aleppo, whereas in fact no massacre took place. In the event, so concerned were the Syrian government (of which I do not generally approve) to refute allegations of intended massacre, they allowed many of the actual jihadists to bus out to Raqqa, where they are fighting again today.

Whereas whilst an actual massacre does take place in Mosul, the Western mainstream media has fallen almost completely silent.

The other interesting silence is from Saudi Arabia, which poses as the defender of Sunni Islam throughout the world, but actually has no interest at all in it, except as a tool for promoting the much more worldly interests of the Saudi elite. It was Saudi fury at the US effectively handing Iraq to Iranian control through its majority Shia population, that caused the USA to change policy to back the Saudi inspired and financed Sunni proxy war throughout the rest of the Arabian peninsula, and especially in Syria. The USA turned a blind eye to the Saudi military invasion of Bahrain to crush its majority Shia uprising, and actively facilitated the devastating aerial attacks on Shia civilian populations in the Yemen. The Saudis have found their grievance over Iraq to be useful leverage on the US.

For the Saudi elite, the money they pumped into ISIS in Iraq was a trifle; Mosul ISIL were pawns to be sacrificed and the Sunni civilian population of Mosul is no more important to them. By the combination of funding the spread of Wahhabi ideology and providing unlimited arms and organisational financing, the Saudis can pop up another Al Qaida, Al Nusra or ISIL more or less anywhere, any time it seems useful. Meantime they are focused on cementing their burgeoning axis of Saudi Arabia/Israel/USA to continue the violent promotion of Saudi regional ambition.

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The Stink Without a Secret 498

After six solid months of co-ordinated allegation from the mainstream media allied to the leadership of state security institutions, not one single scrap of solid evidence for Trump/Russia election hacking has emerged.

I do not support Donald Trump. I do support truth. There is much about Trump that I dislike intensely. Neither do I support the neo-liberal political establishment in the USA. The latter’s control of the mainstream media, and cunning manipulation of identity politics, seeks to portray the neo-liberal establishment as the heroes of decent values against Trump. Sadly, the idea that the neo-liberal establishment embodies decent values is completely untrue.

Truth disappeared so long ago in this witch-hunt that it is no longer even possible to define what the accusation is. Belief in “Russian hacking” of the US election has been elevated to a generic accusation of undefined wrongdoing, a vague malaise we are told is floating poisonously in the ether, but we are not allowed to analyse. What did the Russians actually do?

The original, base accusation is that it was the Russians who hacked the DNC and Podesta emails and passed them to Wikileaks. (I can assure you that is untrue).

The authenticity of those emails is not in question. What they revealed of cheating by the Democratic establishment in biasing the primaries against Bernie Sanders, led to the forced resignation of Debbie Wasserman Shultz as chair of the Democratic National Committee. They also led to the resignation from CNN of Donna Brazile, who had passed debate questions in advance to Clinton. Those are facts. They actually happened. Let us hold on to those facts, as we surf through lies. There was other nasty Clinton Foundation and cash for access stuff in the emails, but we do not even need to go there for the purpose of this argument.

The original “Russian hacking” allegation was that it was the Russians who nefariously obtained these damning emails and passed them to Wikileaks. The “evidence” for this was twofold. A report from private cyber security firm Crowdstrike claimed that metadata showed that the hackers had left behind clues, including the name of the founder of the Soviet security services. The second piece of evidence was that a blogger named Guccifer2 and a websitecalled DNC Leaks appeared to have access to some of the material around the same time that Wikileaks did, and that Guccifer2 could be Russian.

That is it. To this day, that is the sum total of actual “evidence” of Russian hacking. I won’t say hang on to it as a fact, because it contains no relevant fact. But at least it is some form of definable allegation of something happening, rather than “Russian hacking” being a simple article of faith like the Holy Trinity.

But there are a number of problems that prevent this being fact at all. Nobody has ever been able to refute the evidence of Bill Binney, former Technical Director of the NSA who designed its current surveillance systems. Bill has stated that the capability of the NSA is such, that if the DNC computers had been hacked, the NSA would be able to trace the actual packets of that information as those emails travelled over the internet, and give a precise time, to the second, for the hack. The NSA simply do not have the event – because there wasn’t one. I know Bill personally and am quite certain of his integrity.

As we have been repeatedly told, “17 intelligence agencies” sign up to the “Russian hacking”, yet all these king’s horses and all these king’s men have been unable to produce any evidence whatsoever of the purported “hack”. Largely because they are not in fact trying. Here is another actual fact I wish you to hang on to: The Democrats have refused the intelligence agencies access to their servers to discover what actually happened. I am going to say that again.

The Democrats have refused the intelligence agencies access to their servers to discover what actually happened.

The heads of the intelligence community have said that they regard the report from Crowdstrike – the Clinton aligned private cyber security firm – as adequate. Despite the fact that the Crowdstrike report plainly proves nothing whatsoever and is based entirely on an initial presumption there must have been a hack, as opposed to an internal download.

Not actually examining the obvious evidence has been a key tool in keeping the “Russian hacking” meme going. On 24 May the Guardian reported triumphantly, following the Washington Post, that

“Fox News falsely alleged federal authorities had found thousands of emails between Rich and Wikileaks, when in fact law enforcement officials disputed that Rich’s laptop had even been in possession of, or examined by, the FBI.”

It evidently did not occur to the Guardian as troubling, that those pretending to be investigating the murder of Seth Rich have not looked at his laptop.

There is a very plain pattern here of agencies promoting the notion of a fake “Russian crime”, while failing to take the most basic and obvious initial steps if they were really investigating its existence. I might add to that, there has been no contact with me at all by those supposedly investigating. I could tell them these were leaks not hacks. Wikileaks. The clue is in the name.

So those “17 agencies” are not really investigating but are prepared to endorse weird Crowdstrike claims, like the idea that Russia’s security services are so amateur as to leave fingerprints with the name of their founder. If the Russians fed the material to Wikileaks, why would they also set up a vainglorious persona like Guccifer2 who leaves obvious Russia pointing clues all over the place?

Of course we need to add from the Wikileaks “Vault 7” leak release, information that the CIA specifically deploys technology that leaves behind fake fingerprints of a Russian computer hacking operation.

Crowdstrike have a general anti-Russian attitude. They published a report seeking to allege that the same Russian entities which “had hacked” the DNC were involved in targeting for Russian artillery in the Ukraine. This has been utterly discredited.

Some of the more crazed “Russiagate” allegations have been quietly dropped. The mainstream media are hoping we will all forget their breathless endorsement of the reports of the charlatan Christopher Steele, a former middle ranking MI6 man with very limited contacts that he milked to sell lurid gossip to wealthy and gullible corporations. I confess I rather admire his chutzpah.

Given there is no hacking in the Russian hacking story, the charges have moved wider into a vague miasma of McCarthyite anti-Russian hysteria. Does anyone connected to Trump know any Russians? Do they have business links with Russian finance?

Of course they do. Trump is part of the worldwide oligarch class whose financial interests are woven into a vast worldwide network that enslaves pretty well the rest of us. As are the Clintons and the owners of the mainstream media who are stoking up the anti-Russian hysteria. It is all good for their armaments industry interests, in both Washington and Moscow.

Trump’s judgement is appalling. His sackings or inappropriate directions to people over this subject may damage him.

The old Watergate related wisdom is that it is not the crime that gets you, it is the cover-up. But there is a fundamental difference here. At the centre of Watergate there was an actual burglary. At the centre of Russian hacking there is a void, a hollow, and emptiness, an abyss, a yawning chasm. There is nothing there.

Those who believe that opposition to Trump justifies whipping up anti-Russian hysteria on a massive scale, on the basis of lies, are wrong. I remain positive that the movement Bernie Sanders started will bring a new dawn to America in the next few years. That depends on political campaigning by people on the ground and on social media. Leveraging falsehoods and cold war hysteria through mainstream media in an effort to somehow get Clinton back to power is not a viable alternative. It is a fantasy and even were it practical, I would not want it to succeed.

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Beware Bewildered Blairites 147

The Guardian/Observer remains the house journal of the Blairites, and while they have temporarily turned down the volume on the Corbyn hate, it is a good place to assess how the right wing forces in Labour are planning to reassert themselves. And the answer is in part that they are clutching at racism like a drowning man clutching at a straw. Andrew Rawnsley, the epitome of the Blairite journalist who exudes overpaid entitlement, quotes with endorsement Gordon Brown protégé Natascha Engel, defeated Labour ex-MP for NE Derbyshire, who states “what we need to do is reconnect with our white working class voters”.

Now ask yourself, what is the purpose of the word “white” in that sentence?

Tom Watson, in a co-ordinated interview in the same edition also much quoted by Rawnsley, does not use the word white. He employs the euphemism “traditional”. He talks of the need to “give greater reassurance to our traditional working class voters.”

But we know exactly what the Labour right mean when they talk about reassuring the “white working class” or the “traditional working class”. They mean that Labour should mimic UKIP and the Tories and pander to popular anti-immigration racism.

Rawnsley reports:

“Deborah Mattinson, the strategy director of Britain Thinks, was involved in her first Labour campaign in 1987. She can’t be dismissed as a Tory stooge. After conducting extensive focus groups with swing voters in six marginal seats, she reports: “There were as many who voted Labour in spite of Corbyn as did because of Corbyn.”
That chimes with the views of the many Labour MPs who are still Corbyn-sceptics. They are keeping their heads down at the moment for fear of being monstered by Momentum activists and targeted for deselection, but their secret view is that the election result was not proof of a resounding endorsement of Corbynism. “Given that no one thought Labour could possibly win, it was a massive protest vote,” says one of their number.”

Mattinson certainly can be, and ought to be, dismissed as a Tory stooge – Britain Thinks is closely connected to right wing entryist group Progress. But all of this speaks to a determination by the right to continue to argue that only right wing policies can win votes. You have to be against immigration, for Trident, for military action abroad, for privatisation, or you can’t win votes.

The truth is that Corbyn got more votes than New Labour ever did, except once in 1997 – and in 1997 Labour fought on a left wing manifesto (which Blair then betrayed). But the re-assertion of the myth of the unelectability of the left is the only weapon in the Blairite arsenal. All of which hinges on a portrayal of the “traditional working class” as Alf Garnett.

It is worth noting – and is a symptom of the Labour right’s hopeless state – that the immigrant knocking plan is at odds with the Chukka single market plan, which entails freedom of movement. It is also extremely peculiar that the sixty MPs who defied the whip to vote for the single market correlate very closely with the MPs who voted to launch bombing and destruction on Syria. You need a warped mind to reconcile those views.

Rather than being grateful for the very well paid job the Labour Party has landed them, Labour MPs remain convinced it is they who are important and they should have a key role in determining party policy. Years of determined Blairite/Progress activity has given them a firm grip on party machinery. Most of the party’s paid staff are very right wing indeed. Jeremy Corbyn, at the moment. is in a much more powerful position within the party than he was six months ago. But the right will be digging relentlessly to undermine him again, starting now. Corbyn and his supporters need now to show a ruthless streak in purging their party structure of the Blairites, asserting membership control of policy and executive power, and of course introducing compulsory deselection and reselection of MPs. Otherwise, I predict this Corbyn phenomenon will be looked back on as a brief spark of hope, soon snuffed out.

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Making Ruth Davidson Jealous

Almost ten years ago, when I was less obscure than I am now, I was at a country house party hosted by Michael Winterbottom at a rented mansion in Norfolk. Other guests included Steve Coogan, Stephen Fry, Rob Brydon – and Gillian Anderson.

It was a very wild party and as a result most people woke up very late. The first two people up and about for breakfast were Gillian Anderson and I. So we sat down together with our breakfast and chatted for quite a while before the next person appeared. She is very bright, and interested in other people and society, as I find so many good actors are.

Unfortunately the next person who appeared was my brother Stuart. Now Gillian Anderson has a very similar height, build and hair to Nadira, who was still asleep upstairs. Entering from a door right behind Gillian, and seeing her sitting opposite me chatting over breakfast, Stuart made the obvious assumption. He made two rapid strides to stand behind her, placed his hands suddenly on her chest, and shouted “Morning! Guess who?”

To her credit Gillian did not become hysterical, but this did take some calming down. The next person to appear was her husband, and I cannot say I liked him at all. He told me he owned NCP car parks and insisted on telling us how many hundreds of millions he was worth. In his terms I was a nobody, and he made that view plain. They seemed a very strange couple – she plainly did not measure people by their bank balance.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed my anecdote as much as I enjoyed all that name-dropping. And I do hope it makes Ruth Davidson jealous.

UPDATE

See comment from Sharp Ears below. Apparently he didn’t own NCP but a wheel clamping firm. See my response also.

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If the Banks Had Bust

This is an astonishing truth. Average real wages in the UK today are worth 5% less than they were precisely a decade ago. This chart is from the Office of National Statistics.

I often see wage stagnation referenced in the media. It is only stagnation if your baseline is post bank crash. If your baseline is a decade ago, it is not stagnation but collapse. This is the worst decade for real wages since at least 1814-24, and I would argue this is worse than that. It is also worth noting that sharp recession also was triggered by a reduction in public spending, albeit from much lower levels.

One constant theme from the Labour Party in the election campaign, which gained traction, is that the last Labour government did not overspend. It was the banking crisis which crashed the economy.

Up to a point. The last Labour government did in fact overspend disastrously. But not on public services. Brown and Darling overspent on pumping incredible amounts of public money into bailing out the banks. That is what caused the initial massive inflation of public debt. The huge irony is of course that the interest on the debt is paid to – the same bankers who received the money as a bailout.

It is fashionable for right wingers to argue that the bank bailouts somehow did not really happen, or did not really cost anything. That rewriting of history is gaining much strength in mainstream media narrative. But the National Debt was 36% of GDP in 2007 (and on a downward trend) but leapt to 60% of GDP by 2009. That was the bank bailout.

The bank crash bailout triggered the austerity policies designed to repair the public finances, but which stifled economic growth. The lack of growth allied to neo-liberal deregulation of the labour market, and in particular the massive diminution in the role of unions, have caused the collapse in wages.

The government is fond of claiming that in this period the income gap between the top 10% of earners and the bottom 10% has shrunk slightly. That does appear to be true. But it is not the key figure. The gap between the top 1% of earners and the bottom 99% of earners has more than doubled during this decade. What has happened is that society has returned towards a more Victorian model. One per cent are super rich, everybody else is getting poorer and differentials are slightly shrinking.

It particularly interests me that the income disaster for ordinary people has been worse and more sustained than it was following the financial disaster of the 1930’s.

I opposed the bank bailout at the time, and I am now convinced that I was right. The bad banks should have been allowed to crash.

For the government to give people and companies their cash under the deposit guarantee scheme would have cost the public purse less than 10% of the money spent on the bank bailout.

The property bubble would have collapsed, making property realistically valued in relation to earnings and avoiding the landlord/tenant society we are becoming.

Bad bankers would have lost their jobs and a salutary lesson have been learnt the hard way on banking practices – instead we have had the opposite effect where bankers now believe they can do anything and will always be bailed out. The bailout was a massive perverse incentive.

Crashed banks would have been taken over by other better run banks that had not crashed, or new banks would have arisen. This is how economies progress.

It is possible the immediate recession would have been deeper. Top end London property, Porsche sales, cocaine and lap dancing would all have taken big hits. But there would have followed the kind of strong and sustained recovery with real growth seen in all previous historical financial crashes, instead of this lengthy crippling pain.

There are of course many other factors affecting the economy, which makes it very hard to isolate the effect of the UK banking bailout. But in the same decade Germany, France and Italy have seen growth in real wages. Mistaken continuation of the attack on public spending has of course made the situation much worse. But given the disaster for ordinary people that has ensued and been with us so very long, I think it would be very difficult for anybody to argue that life would be worse had the bank bailout not happened.

It is remarkable to me that this root cause of so many of our woes is almost never referenced n the media nowadays.

New Labour were not only responsible for much of the financial deregulation that made the great crash possible. Policies such as the Public Finance Initiative were simply devices for pouring billions of pounds in public spending straight into the pockets of the bankers. To bail out their city friends with the money of everybody else required no thought from Darling and Brown. Lord Darling has of course been having a little money poured into his personal pocket from the bankers almost ever since. There is a special circle of Hell reserved for Brown and Darling.

Peculiarly, I have never seen the question asked anywhere. But please, knock yourself out with ideas. What do you think would have happened by now if the banks had been allowed to crash?

UPDATE

In response to a comment, I have looked at Icelandic real wage growth in this period. Iceland let banks fail. Of course its economy has different qualities to the UK, but there may nonetheless be some interest in the comparison. In fact, exactly as I postulated above might have happened in the UK, after a sharper initial downturn, real wages in Iceland then recovered extremely healthily, giving very strong overall real wage growth for the whole period.


source: tradingeconomics.com

NB this graph is measuring something different to the above UK graph. The UK graph is measuring the level of wages in constant 2015 real terms. The Iceland grow is measuring the rate of growth in real wages.

While the two economies not being entirely comparable, this cannot prove my thesis, it certainly does support it.

This is a very interesting posting from a blog which shares my belief that it is wrong to view globalisation and neo-liberal deregulation as tied together or part of the same process. Globalisation is good. Deregulation is bad.

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Nicola and IndyRef2

Whether Nicola’s speech today postpones Indyref2, and by how much, is the cause of much fevered speculation tonight across both social and mainstream media.

Ultimately, I do not think it is important provided that she genuinely meant what she said in this section of the speech, which is by far the most important section:

Over the past few months, the focus on the when and how of a referendum has, perhaps inevitably, been at the expense of setting out the many reasons why Scotland should be independent. 
The fact is we are only talking of another referendum so soon after the last one because of Brexit. And it is certainly the case that independence may well be the only way to protect Scotland from the impact of Brexit. 
But the case for an independent Scotland is not just about Brexit – it goes far beyond that. 
Many of us believe that independence is the right and best answer to the many, complex challenges we face as a country – and also the best way to seize and fully realise our many opportunities as a country. 
So the challenge for all of us who do believe that Scotland should be independent is to get on with the hard work of making and winning that case – on all of its merits – and in a way that is relevant to the changes, challenges and opportunities we face now and in the years ahead. That is what my party will do.
We won’t do it on our own – because the independence case is bigger than us too.
My party will engage openly and inclusively with, and work as part of, the wider independence movement.
And, together, we will build and win the case that governing ourselves is the best way to tackle the challenges we face as country – from building a better balanced and more sustainable economy, to growing our population, strengthening our democracy, and tackling deep seated problems of poverty and inequality.

This acknowledges a very important truth. The SNP has not campaigned for Independence since September 2014. I have never heard a senior member of the SNP attempt to argue coherently and at any length why Scotland should be independent, since the 2014 referendum campaign. The SNP has lost its focus on Independence, and become obsessed with gaining political position within the UK devolution settlement.

If Nicola really means it, the refocusing of the SNP on Independence would be the most important thing in today’s speech. But does she mean it? How is the SNP going to connect with the “Wider yes movement?” What is the mechanism by which this will operate?

Brexit is a disaster. Just two weeks ago, the EU Commission brought new rules into force ending telephone roaming charges within the EU. From now on you will pay anywhere within the EU just the price you pay for using your phone at home. Until of course the UK “takes back control” of the right for you to pay £1.50 a minute instead.

Today the EU Commission took on Google with a massive 2.4 billion Euro fine and an order to change the abusive practices by which it prioritises answers to search results to its own commercial advantage. Once the UK “takes back control”, we can be sure that will be the end of major US corporations being challenged on our behalf. You will be able in the UK to enjoy Google manipulating search results however it may wish. Those are just two of thousands of examples, and which happen to have arisen this last couple of weeks, which show how stupid Brexit is. Not to mention the petty bureaucratic attack impositions on EU residents here.

As it becomes more and more obvious how stupid Brexit is, as the UK economy heads towards a Brexit induced depression, and as Tory cuts bite harder and harder into communities, the case for Scottish Independence will become stronger, and eventually irresistible.

We have seen how very fast political sentiment changes in the modern age. Provided there is wholehearted and unequivocal Independence campaigning, the political mood will swing strongly behind Independence at some point in the next two years, and Sturgeon’s speech today leaves room to bring Indyref2 forward when that happens.

The ground may be fertile, but if you don’t sow the seed you will not reap. To win Independence all we have to do is campaign for it. Some of us have never stopped doing that, and the groundswell of support is growing across Scotland. The SNP leadership need to get on board now or they will be running to catch up.

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70,000 Tonnes of Hubris

There is no defensive purpose to an aircraft carrier. Its entire purpose is to move aircraft to a position where they can attack other countries. As soon as they are equipped with attack aircraft, these carriers will spend most of their time around the Middle East, including at the UK’s brand new naval base in the vicious despotism of Bahrain. Having spent £7 billion on these behemoths, politicians will seek to enhance their prestige and demonstrate that they control a nation which is a “major power”, by using them. The very fact of their existence will make bombing attacks such as those we saw on Syria, Libya and Iraq more likely.

Sirte, Libya, after NATO bombing

That further twist in the cycle of violence will lead to more terrorist attacks in the UK. There is no sense in which this aircraft carrier is anything to do with defending the United Kingdom. It is a device to attack foreign countries. The result is it makes us a lot less safe at home.

When they think about it, people understand that, as YouGov demonstrated during the recent election campaign. The politicians will be trying to whip up feelings of jingoism and national pride around this huge hunk of floating hubris, to stop us thinking about that.

There is no money for our schools and hospitals, but unlimited sums for the armaments industry. The United Kingdom is not just a dysfunctional state, it is a rogue state and a danger to the peace of the world.

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Pointless Cruelty is the Tory Policy

Today the government publishes to parliament its proposals on the residence rights of EU citizens in the UK post-Brexit. The EU has already , on 12 June, tabled the offer of full continuation of current residence rights to UK citizens in the EU after Brexit. This includes the right for British expats not only to remain in the EU country of current residence, but the right to continue to move residence around the EU.

By contrast May’s offer, which was amplified by David Davis with Marr yesterday, is peculiarly restricted. From a cut off date to be announced, EU citizens resident in the UK will be able to stay here, and after five years residence will qualify for a right of settlement.

What is the purpose of this mealy mouthed formulation, as opposed to matching the EU by immediately giving EU residents living here the right of abode? In effect, for the vast majority, it will mean precisely the same thing.

EU citizens resident here will in effect be able to remain permanently if they wish. But they will lose the entitlement if they move around. So a Polish man living here who, at some point in the next few years, has to return to Poland for a few months to tend to his sick mother, will lose his right abode in the UK. A French academic at a British university who leaves on sabbatical for a year’s teaching at Harvard will lose his right of abode in the UK. A Dutch employee of Shell posted out to Malaysia for a stint will lose his right of abode in the UK. Anybody who takes too extended a holiday abroad will lose their right of abode in the UK.

What on earth is the point of this?

The very large majority of EU citizens resident here will be able to qualify, and the small percentage being disqualified by moving abroad during the qualification period are likely to include the most economically active. The numbers penalised will be too small to have any substantial immigration impact. There is no result but pointless cruelty to a few.

Support for Brexit, and a massive percentage of the Tory vote, is motivated at base by a hatred of immigrants. May panders to these racists by inflicting otherwise pointless nastiness on a statistically insignificant number of foreigners, to disguise the fact that the Tories are accepting the reality; it is an economic necessity for the UK that EU citizens contributing massively to GDP can stay. The Tories cannot stomach the hated language the EU employs of “rights” of citizens. So the government rather adopts the language of immigration regulation, and qualifying criteria, where nobody has any “right” to anything.

Finally the Tories have to face the fact that a formal international agreement on reciprocal rights of abode between the EU and the UK, is not just a matter of domestic British jurisdiction. The international agreement will require an international judicial mechanism to oversee its enforcement. The xenophobic detestation of the – heavily British influenced – European Court of Justice means that the Tories will not accept the obvious body. David Davis conceded yesterday some international arbitration mechanism would be required, and seemed to postulate a new international tribunal including British judges. Exactly like the current ECJ before the UK leaves, in fact.

So that’s the Tories for you. Pointless new international organisations, pointless immigration bureaucracy, and pointless nastiness to foreigners to keep their knuckle-dragging tendency happy.

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Gordon Wilson

I am saddened by the death of my old friend and mentor, and predecessor as Rector of Dundee University, Gordon Wilson. It is nigh on 40 years ago that he converted me to the cause of Scottish Independence (though not then to the SNP), much aided by Edith’s magnificent potted Arbroath smokie. To this day I have never enjoyed a food more. The last time I spoke with him he was criticising a passage from Sikunder Burnes as insufficiently precise in its expression. I think every conversation I ever had with him contained a caution of some form or another. He was very – lawyerly.

But those who knew only his public persona did not realise how much fun he was in private. A permanent twinkle in his eye, a dry wit, and the ability to find the exact word about someone to be scathingly funny without being unfair. Some of his best stories related to running the pirate Radio Free Scotland station in the 60’s, moving the equipment from tenement to tenement in Edinburgh as detection drew near, and occasionally getting tip-offs from the odd secret nationalist in the police force. Radio transmission required bulky units in those days, and the techniques developed for strapping transmitters under coats were deployed to good effect when they liberated the stone of Scone from Westminster Abbey. I have written before that if I could have one evening of my life again, it might well be the dinner in Gordon and Edith’s house in Broughty Ferry with all those involved in that escapade.

Gordon took a religious turn in late life and I was saddened to see his comparatively recent stance against gay marriage. Certainly, to me as a student he was one of the most socially liberal of an older generation I had ever met, and he treated members of the gay student community exactly as he treated anyone else, at a time (and place) when that was not something you took for granted.

His commitment to Scottish Independence was absolute, on grounds of national self-determination. He was concerned that a central belt, socialist oriented nationalism would alienate the traditional supporters of the North East, and this actuated the bitter disputes in the party while he was leader. Sadly some of the bitterness of this lingered, and combined with his latter-day socially conservative views, the result was he was not given the personal respect by members of the greatly expanded SNP which he deserved. At a party conference in Perth a couple of years ago I was really saddened to join him for a while as he cut a rather forlorn and unacknowledged figure wandering in the fringes. This was a sorry return for a lifetime completely dedicated to the cause. He stood reference for me when I applied to be a SNP parliamentary candidate, and wryly remarked to me after my rejection that if it were anyone else, he would have fretted that it was his name that had caused the veto from the leadership, but in my case he did not have to worry!

I agreed with Gordon that the 2014 referendum campaign lacked an emotional charge from the leadership to counter the powerful Gordon Brown led unionist media onslaught of the closing week, and we should be less shy of rousing what he called cultural nationalism. I still think that is the case and that it is not incompatible with civic nationalism sometimes to stir the blood about our culture and our history.

I attended Gordon’s installation as Rector of the University of Dundee and I was delighted thirty years later that he attended mine. Edith and he danced at my first wedding. I shall look to pay my respects at his funeral to a great Scotsman, who kept the passion for Independence burning at some of its most difficult moments, and who was an integral part of its first big parliamentary breakthrough.

Here’s to you Gordon.

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Roll of Shame

These are the 15 countries which shamefully voted against a UN General Assembly Resolution on Thursday which proposed to seek an opinion from the International Court of Justice on Britain’s continued colonial possession of the Chagos Islands. In the most absolute example of ethnic cleansing in modern history, less than 50 years ago the UK deported by force the entire population of the Chagos Islands to make way for the US military base on Diego Garcia, and to this day refuses to allow them to return.

The Dirty 15

USA
UK
Israel
Australia
New Zealand

The above are of course arguably the five countries in the world most profoundly implicated in the usurpation and destruction of native populations

Afghanistan
Albania
Bulgaria
Croatia
Hungary
Japan
Lithuania
Maldives
Montenegro
South Korea

This second small group is dominated by countries with a particularly close security relationship with the United States on which they place particular reliance in relation to a perceived threat.

It must however be heartening that the US and UK could round up so very few supporters for their utterly immoral stance. It is particularly worth noting that none of the major players within the EU backed the UK.

The US and UK are also remarkably silent on the blockade of Qatar by their ally Saudi Arabia. The release of Saudi demands including the closing down of Al Jazeera TV and other media outlets including the excellent Middleeasteye.net show the Saudis’ true motives. Frankly I am shocked by the failure of the mainstream media in the West seriously to question the ludicrous Saudi claim that this attack on Qatar is over support for terrorism.

Mohammed Bin Salman was appointed by his father the King as Crown Prince in Saudi Arabia on 21 June. Bin Salman has been directing the major affairs of the state for the last three years. The ferocity of the prosecution of the war in Yemen is very much his baby. Bin Salman’s master plan, which he has driven through with much skill, is for a far more aggressive Saudi Arabia leading the conservative forces in the Middle East, above all in fierce opposition to Iran and Shia interests. To this end he has forged a conservative alliance incorporating Saudi Arabia, Israel, Egypt and the United States.

US and UK involvement in the war in Yemen goes beyond the enthusiastic supply of the bombs and aircraft which have killed thousands of children. Both have had special forces on the ground, and the CIA has yet again been deeply implicated in the detention, extreme torture and murder of opponents.

The Bin Salman plan is dressed up as “pro-Western” and media hacks paint him as a “reformer” because he wishes to expand a network of McDonalds in the Kingdom. But as Iran slowly does reform, and sticks meticulously to the terms of the internationally guaranteed nuclear agreement, Saudi paranoia towards its regional “rival” becomes ever more dangerous. The Iranians deserve respect for the moderation with which they reacted to the Saudi sponsored terror attack on their parliament itself. But such provocations will increase.

Saudi support for ISIL, Al Qaeda, Al Nusra and the numerous other jihadist groups will only increase as Saudi Arabia seeks to deploy them in its sectarian war against the Shia and their allies. For that reason there is no prospect of terrorist violence in Syria declining. Indeed the United States shooting down of a Syrian jet in “self-defence” was almost certainly an indication that the Syrians were at the time targeting jihadist forces reinforced by US special forces. Israeli bombing and missile sorties against Syrian regime targets in support of jihadist rebels are finally being regularly reported in mainstream media.

I do not hold up Qatar or its ruling aristocracy as a paragon of virtue. But it seeks a more pacific relationship with Iran, and has more developed economic relationships including on shared offshore fields. Qatar has also consistently shown greater interest in the plight of the Palestinians, and more scepticism towards Israel, than Bin Salman is happy with. Qatar also has problems with the brutal military dictatorship of Egypt.

Most worryingly to Saudi Arabia, these slightly more liberal attitudes are closer to the views of the “arab street”, where there is disquiet at Saudi Arabia’s obvious but officially denied relationship with Israel. Qatar also has a media which can reflect these views to a wider Arab audience. Even though, following previous Saudi threats, al Jazeera’s content has been toned down, the Saudis see the station as an intolerable direct threat.

There is public fatigue in the West with regard to the affairs of the Middle East. This is a mistake as the situation is more dangerous than ever. The UK and USA both look likely to support the Saudis and Israel in their determination for conflict with Iran. The EU and Russia – and anybody not harbouring a death wish – will be working to keep the Iranian nuclear deal together. Bin Salman has chosen his time well, with slightly crazed right wing regimes in Washington, London and Tel Aviv willing to back his adventurism. The blockade of Qatar is but a symptom of something much more dangerous.

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COLLECTED WORKS

A volume of speeches, writings and interviews from when I first turned whistleblower is now available on Amazon. Many thanks to Kirsten who conceived and carried through the idea. My contribution was the totally non-controversial title to broaden the appeal! It includes some of the very first articles on this blog, which were only read by about 1,000 people.inBin

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Mental Meltdown at the Mail

The terrorist attack on worshippers from Finsbury Park Mosque has led to a welcome, but I fear temporary, distancing from Islamophobia of its most ardent exponents. That is the background to this quite extraordinary leading article in today’s Daily Mail.

But it is difficult to understand what can have motivated the Mail to publish such a blatant lie which can bring nothing but immediate ridicule. Claims of a “different world view” are qualitative, although many will find them risible. The massive percentage of shared content is simple to verify. But the out and out lie is that the Mail Online and the Mail have a different publisher. Both are published by Associated Newspapers Ltd. This is an extract from their last published accounts:

I suspect there is more behind this peculiar meltdown at the Mail than just panic at their association with Katie Hopkins. But it would be a huge advance if the mainstream media as a whole were to re-assess the publicity and access they give to dedicated Islamophobes. Douglas Murray still features regularly, particularly on the BBC, despite statements like this one:

“It is late in the day, but Europe still has time to turn around the demographic time-bomb which will soon see a number of our largest cities fall to Muslim majorities. It has to. All immigration into Europe from Muslim countries must stop. In the case of a further genocide such as that in the Balkans, sanctuary would be given on a strictly temporary basis. This should also be enacted retrospectively… Conditions for Muslims in Europe must be made harder across the board: Europe must look like a less attractive proposition.”

The horrible killing at Finsbury Park has given us a few weeks’ pause. Next month, the media will be back to following an agenda on issues affecting the Muslim community which is dictated by the right wing shills of the Quilliam Foundation, Henry Jackson Society, Migration Watch and UKIP.

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Wikileaks – Choose Your Side of the Barricade

Today Julian reaches precisely five years of incarceration in the Ecuadorean Embassy and I am on the train down to London for events to mark the anniversary. Given that two days ago I couldn’t make it to my balcony, I feel quite chuffed with my powers of recovery.

Yesterday I wrote that Corbyn’s advance has removed the “unelectable policies” excuse from New Labour and they have now to decide whether they are actually socialist or have adopted neo-liberalism out of belief.

Precisely the same faux-left now face precisely the same challenge over Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. The “sexual allegations” never stood up to five minutes’ serious analysis, but they served their purpose brilliantly for some years. They enabled the “left” of the political establishment completely to evade the question of whether they supported whistleblowers on war crimes and corruption, or whether they supported official secrecy and the spiralling authoritarianism that defends the neo-liberals.

There is now only one active question with regard to Julian Assange. Do you think he should be extradited to the United States to face espionage charges and life imprisonment for publishing the Chelsea Manning Iraq war crime revelations, and for assisting Edward Snowden to escape? Because that is now the only legal jeopardy he faces.

All the faux-left who dodged that question now have to answer it.

Assange is wanted by the Metropolitan Police for what they themselves have called the “minor charge” of missing a bail appointment. It is indeed a minor charge, normally dealt with by a fine, particularly as the extradition request relating to the bail order is no longer in force. Assange’s defence is that he did not skip bail to run away, but to seek an alternative legal remedy – the political asylum process. That this latter has priority is proven by the fact that there are numerous people granted asylum in the UK who face “criminal” charges in their home country. Fear of persecution – often by unjust prosecution – is of course the basis of asylum.

But even ignoring this solid defence, there are many thousand people in the UK today who have missed bail. Julian Assange is the only one of those thousands with a permanent roster of plain clothes detectives keeping watch 24 hours a day. Why, when there are no longer any allegations for him to face? There is no open and honest logic to it.

The answer of course is that Theresa May and Amber Rudd have plans firmly in place for Assange to be arrested and incarcerated, while extradition to the United States is quickly arranged. That is why a man wanted on nothing but a “minor charge” has more police resources devoted to him than any murderer. Again I ask – which side are you on?

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The Tipping Point

The UK currently has a Prime Minister who is held in widespread contempt by the ordinary public. It follows that the power of the mainstream media to dictate public opinion has been broken. The broadcast media reached new levels of election campaign bias, and the print media was fanatical, during the election campaign in promoting May. But the Tories nonetheless lost their majority. The press is trying to cover up its loss of power by switching towards the anti-May camp, but it is running hopelessly behind. We have passed a key tipping point where the cloud power of social media is now more important than mainstream media in shaping public opinion.

That has been crucial in smashing the surrounds of the Overton window. There were a set of beliefs which the political and media Establishment believed it was essential to hold, or you would be “unelectable”. These basic beliefs included:

1) An unwavering commitment to nuclear weapons and an enthusiasm about their use
2) Privatisation of public services including natural monopolies
3) State funded services to be provided through intermediary private organisations
3) An untrammelled free market in rents, wages and the other major factors in the life of the poor
4) Low taxes on the wealthy and corporations
5) Ever greater deregulation
6) Neutered trades unions and removal of employee rights
7) Inequality of wealth as a consequence of a healthy economy
8) Unquestioning support for Britain’s retention of Imperial possessions and for military interventions abroad.
9) Politicians must talk tough on immigration to reassure “indigenous communities”
10) Unwavering support for Israel

There are more. Every single one of these were taken as absolutely fundamental to “accepted” political thought. Anybody questioning any of these was regarded as at best an amusing eccentric, at worst a dangerous fanatic. Portrayal of Corbyn was sometimes the former, during the election campaign overwhelmingly the latter.

It cannot be said too loudly or too often that New Labour subscribed absolutely and without question to 100% of the above political orthodoxy. It is what the large majority of Labour MPs have spent their lives believing.

It was the SNP who led the way in showing that attacking this “consensus” did not make you unelectable, and the SNP smashed New Labour in Scotland from the left. Precisely two years ago I wrote a post on why left wing politics do not make you unelectable, which was read by hundreds of thousands.

The terrible tragedy at Grenfell tower has reinforced understanding that benign state regulation is an essential factor in protecting the most vulnerable people in society. It adds to a national mood which was already swinging towards more economic regulation and a bigger role for the state. My last post I hope was nuanced in explaining the situation at Grenfell Tower. Nothing can bring back those who so needlessly lost their lives. But I do hope it may lead to a period of greater social housing provision by councils, working with direct labour forces and sweeping away the intermediary bodies which bedevil provision throughout the public sector.

I am not going to worry too much about the Tories at the moment as they appear to be plummeting to earth with no chance of medium term recovery. But where does Labour stand?

The most important question is whether the Blairites are going to abandon their belief in the neo-liberal consensus and actually support the policies in the Labour Party manifesto. A week ago Peter Mandelson, of all people, gave a television interview in which he said he had no moral problem with Corbyn’s policies, he had merely thought them unelectable. So the question arises: what do these people really believe in?

Some of them really are right wingers and find left wing policies unbearable. I believe that accounts for fifty to sixty of the Parliamentary Labour Party. About the same number are genuine left wingers. But the vast majority of the Blairite remnant are like Blair himself – morally pliable. If getting on board with the Corbyn programme looks good for their money-making prospects, they will do it. They are practising their new left wing vocabulary right now before their mirrors.

Corbyn’s hand is much strengthened, but he still has a major task to strengthen his grip on the party. Compulsory deselection is the obvious way forward but may prove difficult to force through. However pending very extensive constituency boundary changes may give the leverage required. To date, Corbyn has suffered from an inability to influence local constituency labour parties, where young activists are difficult to turn out for procedural meetings and old hacks manipulate arcane procedures. In addition, Labour’s entrenched full time staff is viciously anti-Corbyn, none more so than General Secretary Ian McNicol. The truth is that before the election Corbyn was not winning in the institutional battle within the Labour Party. He needs to exploit his current strength now ruthlessly in internal battles.

In Scotland, a dreadful and unpopular Tory government dependent on the DUP, and a lurch towards a disastrous Brexit which Scotland does not want, should provide a massive boost to the Independence movement. But the SNP is failing as a leadership vehicle for Independence. Having fought a pathetic general election campaign in which it prepared to accept that the very thought of Independence is a dirty little secret that should be hidden under the bed, the SNP appears in almost as great a crisis of confidence as the Tory Party. It needs now to come out and forcefully explain why Scotland would do much better as an independent country. The purpose of the SNP is not remunerative employment for Scotland’s political class. It is, however, beginning to look like it.

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Housing Regulation

There are two separate but linked questions arising from the terrible disaster at Ladbroke Grove. One is the efficacy of national building regulations on fire and safety. It is plainly true that, if Grenfell Tower met them, they are inadequate. The second is how Kensington and Chelsea Council in particular manage their housing.

To look at the second question, I do agree with David Lammy that there is potential criminal culpability here, but I am not quite sure that he is right to describe it as “corporate manslaughter”. It seems to me that responsibility rests more with government than with corporations (though I accept that the former is a tool of the latter).

One of the most retrograde developments of my lifetime has been the wholescale “outsourcing” of delivery of public services away from direct government provision. So rather than by council employees, your bins are probably emptied and your streets swept by a private company paid to do it. Just as your utilities are supplied, your trains run, civil servants get their stationery ordered, increasingly medical services are provided, international aid projects are administered, and literally thousands of other examples.

This development was driven by the ideological belief, often fanatically held, that people employed by government are less efficient than those employed by the private sector. That ideology also depended on a rejection of the very notion of altruism; which rejection of altruism was at the heart of Thatcherism. The idea that people are only motivated by personal gain is of course quite untrue. Firefighters, who are still employed by the public, have proved that just now, beyond anything I can say, by going well beyond their contractual duty to try to help. But even accepting for one moment, for the sake of argument, the doctrine that people are only motivated by money; it plainly does not follow that public services would be more efficiently delivered by the private sector. What does follow is that public services will suffer from profiteering if run by the private sector.

But this disastrous contracting out is not always to private for profit companies. It is sometimes to what Tories call the “third sector”, meaning charities and not for profit companies. Much of the aid budget is now spent this way. Not at all coincidental, the pumping of large amounts of public money into this sector has coincided with a quite incredible rise in the salaries and emoluments of senior charities staff.

We have ended up in the situation where executive staff of charities are on over £200,000 a year, where the chief executive of Save the Children gets twice the salary of the Head of DFID, and where people who occupy what were once public sector jobs in rail, water or housing can earn ten times what their public sector predecessors were getting. At the same time wages, employment protection, conditions and unionisation for the actual workers have all been cut.

This is important because the Kensington and Chelsea Tenants Management Organisation Ltd is a not for profit company. No shareholders get any profits from it, and it does not remunerate its directors. This is the body which manages Grenfell Towers and did the refurbishment. Some of the (rightly critical) comment has assumed that KCTMO Ltd is a profiteering private company and this is why it has skimped on possible safety features like sprinkler systems. But it is more complicated than that.

The majority of KCTMO directors, including the chairman, are themselves tenants of the council’s housing. Three more are council appointed. The philosophy behind KCTMO Ltd is on the face of it benign – the tenants are managing their own properties. Which leads to the question of why relationships had broken down so badly between KCTMO and those apparently speaking for the residents of Grenfell Tower, particularly over fire safety issues.

Some of the answer to that may relate to social hierarchy among different types of council tenant. I do not know if anyone on the KCTMO board lived in Grenfell Tower, but imagine we would have been told that if so.

My experience of other organisations would lead me to suspect that in practice KCTMO Ltd did not operate in the way that it does on paper, and that the Chief Executive and other officers had a disproportionate influence. I have seen enough decisions in enough public bodies with a supposedly democratic structure – including universities and councils – to know that the elected representatives often find it very difficult to challenge the “expertise” of the executive officers. This is particularly likely to be true in an area like housing, where there are architectural, construction and legal issues. You quickly end up in a situation where the elected representatives are not really making decisions but only rubber=stamping the decisions of the officers. I saw various tenants who had been involved in the complaints to KTCMO interviewed yesterday, and they all referenced the Chief Executive, Robert Black, and not the tenant representative Chairman.

KCTMO’s staff costs are just over £10 million per year. I can find nothing on wage structure and what the executive officers are paid. I hope that information will become available.

But I can see no reason to believe that Mr Black or anybody else could make any personal gain from not installing a sprinkler system, for example. It appears responsibility for providing funds for this kind of capital expenditure lies with Kensington and Chelsea Council and not with KCTMO. It happens I lived for three years in Shepherds Bush and know this area very well. Ladbroke Grove is 15 minutes walk from some of the most expensive houses in the world. The idea that people in social housing were not high on the priorities of the council rings to me entirely true. In fact there is plenty of evidence that councillors are in cahoots with developers looking to demolish the social housing and build yet more massive luxury developments primarily for sale to the global “elite” of the extremely wealthy.

So much for the local picture. Nationally, it appears beyond argument that the government has failed again and again to update regulations following similar fires both in the UK and elsewhere. Yet again this is ideologically driven. Deregulation is a key principle of neo-liberalism. The government has an intrinsic belief that anything that adds costs or restriction to corporate profit should be resisted, and the idea of adding new regulation is simply anathema to them. That background cannot be ignored. The more you dig into this terrible tragedy, the more lurid a light is thrown on Neo-Liberal Britain.

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A Series of Apologies

UPDATE I am happy to say paperbacks of both Murder in Samarkand and The Catholic Orangemen of Togo are now back available on Amazon again.

I am sorry I have not produced any serious articles for a few days. I have been catching up on a large number of tasks which were put back by the election. This includes a speaking engagement in Madrid I had needed to shift back and from which I returned this evening.

Allied to this, when I look at the Tory/DUP alliance, words fail me.

I have some more apologies to make. Technology has changed the publishing industry and authors have to do an awful lot of self-promotion, and even self-publishing, nowadays to try to make money from their books.

The problem is that if you are a writer and not a publisher things can go wrong with this DIY approach. Hence the following apologies.

Sikunder Burnes
. About half a dozen of the people who ordered signed copies through this website and paid with Paypal have not received their books, in a couple of cases for months. This is entirely due to a mistake by me and I will post them out tomorrow.

The Catholic Orangemen of Togo
. The new paperback edition of this through amazon self-publishing has too small a font size. I am not quite sure how this happened but it is quite hard to read. I am going to try to change it, which is quite complex. If anyone has bought one of the small font ones and is struggling, please contact me via the contact button at the top of the blog, and when a corrected version is available I will replace it for you at my expense.

Murder in Samarkand. The new paperback version of this has been pulled by Amazon who have asked me for evidence that the rights have reverted to me. I do have a letter of reversion from the publisher which I have sent them, but I don’t know how long this will take to clear.

Sorry about this general level of being rubbish!

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Murder in Samarkand Back in Print

I am delighted to say that Murder in Samarkand is once again available in print. The cover design was submitted by a reader in response to my appeal – I have not yet heard if they wish their identity revealed.

The publisher’s blurb is extremely flattering. This is perhaps unsurprising as I wrote it about myself!

Craig Murray’s classic bestselling memoir lifts the lid on extraordinary rendition and the war on terror and reveals the darkness at the heart of the Blair administration. Craig Murray’s tale of his Ambassadorship to Tashkent became an instant bestseller and is now a classic in several genres. Murray gives an unparalleled view of the British Foreign Office and gives a detailed and fascinating account of the life and work of an Ambassador. But he also thoroughly exposes the lies behind the Blair administration’s “War on Terror” and the ruthlessness of its operations. This is vital primary source material for the “extraordinary rendition” policy. But it is still more than that. This is a most detailed travel story and insight into Central Asian society. It is a narration of quite horrifying individual events. And it is the warts and all story of one man’s crisis as everything he has believed in crumbles about him. Murray makes no attempt to hide his own imperfections, which adds to the emotional impact of this quite extraordinary book.

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Locked In

Locked In Trailer 2017 from Nadira Murray on Vimeo.

I hope you enjoy this brief trailer. Nadira’s debut short film, Locked In, will be having its first screenings shortly. It is a drama which examines the plight of asylum seekers placed in immigration detention. The film is based on true stories, including in part Nadira’s own experiences. She also interviewed not only former detainees, but also NGO’s, lawyers and policemen to research the story. It is filmed in a Category 2 prison, which astonishingly some of the detention centres are.

I am proud of the film. Nadira has always supported my work, including on individual cases of asylum seekers. I have given evidence before immigration tribunals in many of these, and one in particular is the major inspiration of this work. My reaction to these cases is more legal and political, whereas Nadira’s is more personal and emotional, which is why the screenplay she has written is so powerful.

The film will be screened during an event in London for Help Refugees on 18 June at 6pm. This is organised by Musicians Against Racism and Apathy and sounds quite fun. Nadira will be among the speakers at the event, which also features Roxanne Tataei and Nithin Sawhney, who contributed their musical talents to Locked In, plus many others.

If you can’t make that, Locked In will also be screened at the Euro Shorts Film Festival on 15 June at 6pm at the Genesis Cinema, 93 Mile End Road, London.

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BBC Desperately Tries to Re-Assert Old Political Spectrum

SECOND UPDATE The BBC has celebrated the lifting of election fair reporting restrictions by giving us a full morning of broadcasting that genuinely is 85% Tory. I find this astonishing. Following the Tory commentariat conversation that opened the show (see below), Andrew Neil has now done long individual interviews with three Tory MPs in a row – the Chair of the 1922 Committee, Anna Soubry and the smarmy Dominic Raab.

ORIGINAL POST

The BBC is institutionally incapable of reacting to the shift in the political spectrum revealed by the last election.

Astonishingly on Marr the papers are being reviewed by Toby Young (far right), George Osborne (right) and Polly Toynbee (Blairite right ). The old politico/commentariat bubble is entirely intact as far as the BBC is concerned. We are going to have Michael Fallon in a minute.

Finally, Jeremy Corbyn will be invited on. He is the one person who articulates what half the country believes, and whose existence the BBC cannot entirely ignore. But the straining and stressing as the BBC try to heave the Overton window back into place is palpable.

UPDATE

Wow the BBC is really going for broke now with The Daily Politics and a review of events between “independent” commentators Andrew Neil (Tory) Julia Hartley Brewer (Tory) Tom Newton Dunn (Tory, Political Editor of Murdoch’s Sun) and Steve Richards (Blairite). Followed by an interview with a member of the Tory 1922 Committee. Followed by another Tory MP!

The Guardian/Observer on the other hand might be struggling to come up with some sort of readjustment towards the views of its readership and away from the worst of the truly obnoxious overpaid right-wingers who dominate the paper. They are, in their Sunday guise of the Observer, carrying another barking mad article from Nick Cohen attacking Jeremy Corbyn. Cohen of course to this day maintains the Iraq War was a good thing and is horrified anybody should prosper who does not agree with him. But, given the extraordinary amounts of money they pay him for these witterings, they are peculiarly hiding it. Their star columnist’s new column today appears nowhere at all on their massive website front page. It did fleetingly, but has been well and truly buried.

(I do realise you can’t read that. I just posted it to show I had looked through the entire thing).

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An Inspiring Day Fighting For Palestine

Eight years ago we had a massive demonstration in London of 200,000 people against the Israeli massacre of Palestinians in Gaza. I was particularly proud of my speech that day.

But I am bound to note that the friends I was speaking with have been rather more successful than me in going on to change history.

I don’t think anybody had watched these videos for seven years, but nice to look back. Rather amusing to note that the Craig Murray one had 2,049 views on YouTube while the Jeremy Corbyn one got 1,325 views! The world has somewhat changed!

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