Amnesty International Conference on Torture

by craig on February 15, 2015 in Uncategorized

Honoured to give the keynote speech at Amnesty’s conference on torture in London yesterday. Then dashed back to Edinburgh for a very romantic evening with Nadira – and Cameron!

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Wow

by craig on February 4, 2015 in Uncategorized

Bloody hell. Read this. Brilliant.

An Apology

by craig on February 4, 2015 in Uncategorized

I am so committed to getting my book finished I really don’t have time or energy to blog at the moment, and realise it has been very desultory the last few weeks. I am well and happy, it is just that writing a properly researched history is incredibly intensive. I realise there is much of great interest happening in the world, but I must sometimes cut myself off from it.

This is why I don’t ask for donations for the blog…

What About The English?

by craig on February 3, 2015 in Uncategorized

The Labour Party supports austerity in England but opposes it in Scotland. If Labour were to win the general election, and also find themselves in power in Scotland’s 2016 parliamentary elections, there would be “new and higher” benefits in Scotland, whereas sanctions and cuts would continue to oppress the ordinary people of England. Indeed, they have repeatedly promised to be tougher on benefits than the Tories – in England.

Now let us for a moment suspend all our critical faculties, and believe that Gordon Brown is sincere about the higher benefits in Scotland. Let us also ignore the fact that to be practical, that would require devolution of a vastly greater proportion of the tax base than anything Labour or the Smith Commission are suggesting. Let us, just for now, believe it is a sincere and practical offer. It is possible to understand why it could attract some people – the union without the cuts and austerity.

But why one earth would any left wing person in England want to vote for a party which, if in power in both England and Scotland, would pay higher benefits to Scots than to English? Why would the English vote for a continued retrenchment of the welfare state there but not in Scotland. Indeed, is there not liable to be some resentment in England at this rather strange proposition? When you add to this Labour’s absolute insistence that while English MPs may not vote on Scottish affairs, Scottish MP’s must be allowed to vote on English affairs, it seems to me you would have to be nuts to vote for Labour in England at present.

The BBC’s latest promotion of super-Brown and his new promises has caused much hilarity in Scotland. I cannot improve on this incisive comment I lifted from the Guardian, by MurphyUKOK:

What is it with the Labour Party and these 2 in particular? The sequencing of their ‘pledges’ on Home Rule so far had been
1) totally opposed to home rule – it is either yes or no
2) eh no actually, we are shitting ourselves, it looks like we might lose- we ‘vow’ home rule
3) we didn’t vow home rule
4) the smith commission has finalised its position- we have delivered home rule
5) eh no … that actually isn’t home rule but if you vote for us again we will give you home rule
A party of lying fucking idiots!!!

But I think the Greens, the Tories and UKIP in England must be those most amused and delighted by Labour’s latest incredible convolution. All of which reinforces my frequently repeated assertion that Labour are going to be nowhere near government after the general election, unless in coalition with the Tories.

Independence is so close now we can almost touch it.

Today’s Independence Rally

by craig on January 31, 2015 in Uncategorized

You can see me speaking 24 minutes in here. Can’t work out how to embed this one. It was literally freezing and the very small crowd was understandable. I think four hour rallies outdoors in Scotland in midwinter are somewhat optimistic. I think we also need to face that the high excitement of the referendum campaign, where you could just put something out on Facebook and 10,000 people would show up, is behind us. What we have now is a period of hard graft towards the general election.

I think what I say in this short speech will give comfort to those in the SNP who blocked me as a candidate, because as usual I am joyfully off message. Shortly after me there is an amazing speech from Tommy Sheridan; his physical voice projection alone is astonishing! It was bouncing back off Salisbury Crags and Holyrood Palace.

This really is under 100 yards from where we live. That view of Salisbury Crags is what I see every time I look out the window. The balcony will be great once it gets a bit warmer.

Brian Cox

by craig on January 29, 2015 in Uncategorized

My successor as Rector of the University of Dundee, Brian Cox, has left Labour and joined the SNP. Almost no mainstream media coverage – if it was the other way round, we would have Murphy and Cox wall to wall for weeks. I am delighted about Brian’s move as it is more evidence of genuinely radical voices coming in to the party. I was similarly happy yesterday to find that Tommy Sheppard, for whom I voted, has been selected to fight Edinburgh East, where I live. I think the SNP with its new membership is going to be a great deal more radical than it was before.

Long term readers may recall that in 2010 I stood down as Rector of Dundee University after only one term, as I did not feel I had been able to give it as much time as I would wish to do a really excellent job. Now I have moved back to Edinburgh, those problems no longer apply, and I shall be standing for election to take the post again next year, as Brian Cox completes his second (and final) term.

I cannot help but recall that on the polling day of my election as Rector in 2007, the Daily Record came out in Dundee with a full front page photo of my opponent, Andy Nicol (unionist rugby player), and a single front page headline “I was born to lead Dundee students”. The lengths to which the Establishment will go to try to ensure that whistleblowers stay down and stomped upon sometimes surprise even me.

There is a pro-Independence rally outside parliament from 11 am on Saturday. I shall be speaking. I am not sure how widely it has been publicised, but I do hope that it will show that the extraordinary spirit that has been awakened in Scotland is still alive and kicking.

Auschwitz

by craig on January 28, 2015 in Uncategorized

I was involved in the organisation of the 50th anniversary commemoration of the liberation of Auschwitz, while First Secretary at the British Embassy in Warsaw. The 50th did not receive anything like the media coverage given to the 70th, of which more later.

Senior British visitors to Poland invariably included a concentration camp on their itinerary, and from escorting people around I visited camps a great deal more often than I would have wished. I found the experience appalling and desolate. The first I ever saw was Majdanek and I recall that I just had to sit helpless and shivering for some time. One thing the experience left me with – including meeting survivors and both Polish and German eye-witnesses, and seeing the architects’ plans for camps – was a contempt for those who claim the whole thing did not happen, or was an accident, or was small scale.

It in no way diminishes the genocidal attack on the Jews to remember that a vast number of Poles also died in the camps, as well as gypsies, homosexuals, the disabled and disparate political prisoners. I tried sometimes to diminish the horror I felt at involvement with the camps, with attempts at humour. I was present at a meeting listing the guests of honour; the President of Lithuania was included. I whispered that he was coming to represent the camp guards. That was offensive, and I apologise. But there is a real problem that to this day Eastern Europe – including Poland itself – has not come to terms with historical truth about collaboration with anti-Jewish genocide and other attacks on minorities. I recommend this website, which tackles these issues very honestly and is well worth a lengthy browse.

It requires bigotry not to be able to understand why nationalist resistance movements against Russian occupation became allied with Germany during World War II. That would be reprehensible only in the same sense that allied collaboration with Stalin might be reprehensible, but for the added factor of enthusiastic collaboration with genocidal and master race programmes and fascist ideology. That is what makes the glorification of Eastern European nationalist figures from this period generally inappropriate.

I fear however that the real reason that the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz received so much more coverage than the 50th is a media desire to reinforce the narrative of the War on Terror and Western policy in the Middle East by invoking the spectre of massive anti-Semitism. There have been isolated but deplorable, apparently anti-Semitic attacks of a small-scale terrorist nature in France and Belgium in recent years. But to conflate this into stories of a wave of popular anti-Semitism in Europe is a nonsense. Maureen Lipman’s claim that she may have to leave the UK is not just silly but disingenuous. I do not believe she feels in personal danger of attack – there is absolutely no reason why she should – she is rather making a political point.

There are two factors which could exacerbate anti-Semitism at present. One is the appalling behaviour of Israel and its indefensible action in continually seizing Palestinian land and using its military superiority to dominate and occasionally massacre Palestinians. Regrettably, there are a very small minority of people who wrongly blame Jews in general for the actions of Israel.

The second factor is of course the terrible economic hardship wrought across the whole world by irresponsible banking practices, and the fact that the bankers luxury lifestyles were maintained at the cost of everybody else. There are still a tiny minority of people stuck in the medieval mindset associating banking with the Jewish community. There is in fact a very plausible argument that if any “race” has a disproportionate influence on the development and character of international banking since the mid eighteenth century, it is the Scots! But those who see banking as a racial issue are nutters.

You could construct an argument from these factors, and you could identify that anti-Semitic people do exist. They certainly do. They dominate the very small category of people who get banned even from this free speech blog. But are their opinions intellectually respectable, promoted in the mainstream or able to be expressed openly without fear of either social or legal consequences? No, no and no. Anti-semites are fortunately a tiny and strange minority. I might add that in my numerous and frequent social contacts in the British Muslim community, I have never encountered anti-Semitism (unlike, say, Poland and Russia where I encountered casual anti-Semitism quite frequently).

The final point, is of course, the conflation of anti-zionism with anti-Semitism. That seems to me the fundamental design of the media campaign exaggerating the scale of anti-Semitism at the moment. Yes, we must always remember the terrible warnings from history and it is right to remember those who died in the concentration camps, Jewish, Polish, Romany, Gay, Communist or any other category. But we should be aware of those who wish to manipulate the powerful emotions of horror thus evoked, for present objectives of the powerful.

Greece, London, Scotland and Europe

by craig on January 26, 2015 in Uncategorized

The entire purpose of this blog is to ask you to think outside the box. It therefore cuts across the lines of dogma of any group, and is formed purely by my own independent thought. As I have frequently stated, if anybody agrees with every point I make, something is wrong.

This is going to annoy both left on Greece and right on banks, and my own party on the SNP and Labour. Here goes.

The citizens of the United Kingdom gave 45,000 pounds each, every man woman and child of them, direct to the bankers in bailouts. We will be paying off that money in taxes – with vast sums in interest to the same bankers, from whom we borrowed virtual money they did not have, to give to them as real money – for generations to come. Quantitive easing gives yet more money to the bankers, cash in place of risky bonds they wish to dump.

When you add it all together including interest, every man, woman and child in the UK will pay over 100,000 pounds each to the bankers, to bail out the bankers from the mess their own extreme greed had created. Indeed it is possible to argue rationally that the payment will be infinite, as the debt incurred will never be repaid but continually rolled over, and interest payments continue.

We did not have to do this. We could have let the bad banks go bust, started new ones, and boosted the economy by spending just 20% of the money we have given the banks on crucially needed public infrastructure works – railways, renewable energy, housing, insulation, hospitals, schools etc. But Gordon Brown and New Labour decided just to give money to the bankers instead.

In Greece, the people have actually given much less to the bankers for bailout than people in the UK. It is important to acknowledge that the causes of the Greek financial collapse are different. Greece was rather a recipient of bad lending, a country which received loans it could not possibly afford. Due to corrupt networks of elite collusion embracing both government and private sector, much of this money was simply siphoned out of the country into overseas accounts in London and Cyprus. The British people are suffering from the banking collapse through being forced to bail out the bankers. Greece is more in the position of somebody in a huge house who could not afford the mortgage – except for the vital distinction that all the people in Greece were paying the mortgage, but the large majority living in sheds behind the mansion.

I welcome Syriza’s victory as an indication that people are not content just to accept the narrative given them by the mainstream media and the parties in the pocket of corporations. I hope that they negotiate hard and force the banks to take a huge haircut on Greek sovereign debt. I acknowledge their commitment to social justice. But I do hope they will be realistic with both themselves and their people on the amount of blood, sweat and tears that is going to need to go in to building a productive Greek economy. An example of Keynesian stimulus is much needed by the rest of Europe.

Gordon Brown’s bank bailout was probably the biggest single gift any politician has ever given his corporate masters in the entire history of the world. It is worth reminding ourselves just how very right wing the Red Tories are. Not to mention the fact their front bench remains littered with war criminals. I therefore have grave reservations about Nicola Sturgeon’s weekend interview indication that the People of Scotland want a Labour Government with SNP support. I don’t. I am not going to elect somebody to represent me as chief bag carrier to a war criminal.

The SNP leadership remain infected by managerialism. It is easy to convince yourself you are doing good things while not changing anything fundamental, and at the same time building a very well paid career and a personal powerbase. I don’t want devo-max, I don’t want more powers, I don’t want something “as close to federalism as possible”. I want freedom for my country. I want independence. I want to live in a country which does not illegally invade other countries, collude in torture, carry out mass surveillance of its citizens, or possess nuclear weapons. The idea of running the Union a little bit better, making it a teeny bit more humane and competent, does not interest me. Nor does dulling the edge of austerity, when it is going to behead us anyway.

Besides which I am absolutely convinced the Tories will win the election, which will make all this jostling for position look rather foolish.

Sam Adams Award

by craig on January 22, 2015 in Uncategorized

I am in Berlin for the annual Sam Adams Award – this time to William Binney, formerly Technical Director of the NSA. There will be an address by Edward Snowden (and a short contribution from me). It really is a tremendous event, with some very senior former intelligence professionals making revelations about the extent to which the security state is out of control, a tool of immoral governments dominated by corporate interests.

The event is at the Berlin-Moscow Venue, 52 Unter Den Linden, and starts at 7pm (6pm UK time). It will be livestreamed on the Sam Adams website.

7:00-7:05 Wilkommen by Joerg Dreger, Managing Partner, Dreger Group
7:05-7:12 Ray McGovern, veteran CIA senior intelligence officer (27 years) and presidential briefer; SAA cofounder and Master of Ceremonies: Moment of Silence for Ambassador Robert White; acknowledgement of David MacMichael, retired Senior Estimates Officer in National Intelligence Council; Overview of history/purpose of Sam Adams Award
7:12-7:15 Annie Machon, former M15 intelligence officer (speech + introduction of Katharine and Craig)
7:15-7:20 Katharine Gun*, former GCHQ intelligence officer
7:20-7:25 Craig Murray*, former British ambassador to Uzbekistan
7:25-7:28 Coleen Rowley*, former FBI Special Agent and Minneapolis Chief Division Counsel (brief remarks +introduction of Todd P., Jesselyn & Tom)
7:28-7:33 Jesselyn Radack*, former ethics adviser, US Department of Justice and National Security; Human Rights Adviser, Government Accountability Project (GAP)
7:33-7:37 Todd Pierce, Major, US Army Judge Advocate (ret.); Guantanamo Military Commissions Defense Counsel
7:37-7:45 Thomas Drake*, former senior intelligence service executive, National Security Agency (NSA) – (speech + introduction of Ed Snowden)
7:45-8:00 Edward Snowden* (by video link), former NSA contractor; former CIA systems administrator
8:00-8:05 Ray McGovern segue to SAA Award Announcement; Reading of SAAII citation by Annie M. & Elizabeth M.(English and German versions, respectively); conferral by Thomas Drake of Sam Adams Integrity in Intelligence Corner-Brightener Candlestick to William Binney, former National Security Agency (NSA) Technical Director, World Geopolitical and Military Analysis, NSA, and co-founder, Signals Intelligence Automation Research Center
8:05-8:20 Acceptance speech by William Binney, former Technical Director, World Geopolitical and Military Analysis, NSA, and co-founder, Signals Intelligence Automation Research Center; Q & A
8:20-8:25 Wrap-up by Ray McGovern
8:25-8:30 Closing remarks by Joerg Dreger
8:30-9:00 Reception
*denotes former Sam Adams Award recipient

BBC Make Me Vomit

by craig on January 21, 2015 in Uncategorized

The BBC led their 10 O’clock News today with a five minute piece on the delay to the Chilcot report. It gave a retrospective on the Iraq War that did not mention, once, Weapons of Mass Destruction as the raison d’etre but told us the war “removed a brutal dictator”. They said the dead of the war were in thousands – not hundreds of thousands, not even tens of thousands. “Thousands died”, they said. Literally true, but diminishing the scale. They could equally have said dozens died, also literally true – just an awful lot of dozens.

Then they allowed Blair unanswered and unquestioned to speak sincerely to camera about how much he wanted the report published, and the reporter stated without challenge that Blair had not delayed publication and had not objected to the publication of his correspondence with President Bush – both statements which are a very long way from the whole truth.

Even by recent BBC standards, it was the most vomit inducing production. They compounded it by finishing with Ed Miliband in parliament demanding publication, when he has a shadow cabinet packed with the very criminals who launched the illegal war – a fact they did not note. Anti-war opinion was briefly represented by – Nick Clegg!!!

I do not recognise what the British state has become. Or rather I do recognise precisely what kind of state it has become, and it bears no relation to the democracy it claims to be.

Inevitable Payback

by craig on January 21, 2015 in Uncategorized

In this globalised world, if we launch weapons of great destructive power into communities abroad, incinerating and shredding women and children, we cannot avoid the fact that those who identify with those communities – ethnically, culturally and religiously – will take revenge on people here. If we are lucky it will be revenge on combatants. If we are unlucky it will be on our innocents. But either way, the truth is this. We caused it.

We caused it by our invasions, occupations and bombings of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria, none of which had ever attacked the UK. We caused it by all the dead women and children that British bombs, missiles or bullets killed accidentally. We caused it by the terrible deaths of the people we killed deliberately, who were only defending their country from foreign invaders, just as most of us would do. We caused it by the detainees killed or tortured. As a country, the United Kingdom caused it.

This is not the 19th century. Imperialist aggression now brings a danger of retaliation from empathetic communities embedded in western societies. This is so obvious as not to need stating. The danger of terrorism from Islamic sources would be much reduced if we just minded our own business on the international scene.

All that is very obvious. It does not, however, seem to have occurred to John Sawers, immediate past head of MI6, who has no sensible thoughts at all of the causes of terrorism. The right wing like to think that anyone opposed to the West is, by definition, spontaneously evil. If only they could look in the mirror sometimes and ask why people hate us, that would be a major psychological breakthrough. I have known John Sawers a great many years, and he is somebody who looks in the mirror very often. Sadly, not for that purpose.

At least he has the intellectual honesty to admit an open advocacy of the extreme big brother society. Abandoning the notion of smart intelligence, he has come out with a justification of the mass surveillance society which Snowden revealed. We cannot prevent terrorism without spying on innocent people, he declares.

In a sense, that is a truism. I have very often argued that it is impossible to prevent all evil and daft to try. You have a far, far higher chance of being murdered by a member of your own family than you have by a terrorist. Over the last 10 years terrorists have been responsible for almost exactly 1% of all murders in the UK. Let me type that again. In the last ten years terrorists have been responsible for almost exactly 1% of all murders in the UK. And about 0.007% of woundings. It remains true that the most likely person to kill you is in your own family. It is worth remembering that the number of people who died in the Charlie Hebdo atrocity was the same number murdered in France on average every week.

Now assuming the aim is to prevent murder rather than make propaganda, let us concentrate for a moment on – don’t worry, you will never in your life be asked to do this again, unless by me – let us concentrate on the 99% of murders which are not by terrorists. To take the John Sawers system, if we had permanent CCTV monitoring of every kitchen in the UK, we could probably prevent quite a few of those murders and a vast amount of non-fatal violence. It would take an enormous police and security service, of course, but we are getting there anyway. Sawers’ point is completely correct in logic – you cannot prevent all murders without massive surveillance of the innocent. It would have been even more correct if you just stopped the sentence at you cannot prevent all murders. Precisely the same is true of the tiny risk to individuals that is murder by terrorism.

The surest way to reduce the terrorist threat in the UK is to stop bombing or invading other countries. That simple fact needs to be screamed from the rooftops. The next thing you can do is solid old fashioned evidence-based police and intelligence work. The least effective thing you can do is simply trawl the email and online chat of millions of people. That clogs up the intelligence system with a vast mound of undigestable information, and results in the conviction of fantasists and boastful men who, while unpleasant, are guilty of nothing but thought crime. It is exactly the same result as if you tackled murder by arresting everyone who in an email or chat wished harm to their husband or wife. It is wrong to express that, but the percentage who would have really gone on to murder would be vanishingly small.

The great worry is the presumption which is sneaking in to the mainstream media narrative that it is the responsibility of the state to prevent all crime before it happens. It is not, and that is not an achievable goal. The restrictions on liberty it would entail would do more damage to society than crime itself, which mankind has managed to live with since civilisation began. The entire debate around terrorism needs to be recalibrated. The answer is not the ultimate Big Brother surveillance state. The answer is to stop our hideous violence towards communities abroad.

Labour Arch Hypocrites Over Lansley

by craig on January 19, 2015 in Uncategorized

Andrew Lansley could be an improvement on Baroness Amos as UN humanitarian chief. That is not saying much. For Labour to complain about “cronyism” is breathtaking hypocrisy as Amos is the ultimate Blair crony. She rose to the top of UK politics – a full Cabinet minister – despite the fact that not one citizen has had the chance to vote for or against her, ever. At least Lansley had the guts to face the electorate. My two campaigns to stand as an Independent for parliament were failures, but the 3,000 votes I received were 3,000 more than Amos has ever got. Amos is the very symbol of the corruption of the UK political system. She is Red Tory through and through, so it is unsurprising that when Cameron became PM with her nomination process still in train, he was quite happy for it to continue to go through.

At the UN, Amos’ attention to humanitarian disaster differed according to where they stood on the neo-con agenda. When the BBC was in the midst of their campaign to promote war against Assad on behalf of the jihadists, she was continually all over the BBC saying something needed urgently to be done. When the Israelis were slaughtering innocents in Gaza, she was notably less prominent.

Her unelected career has been very lucrative. She has a web of company interests which have been significantly furthered by the positions she has held. And while at the UN, she has claimed exemption from declaring her business interests on the House of Lords register.

The following extract from my book The Catholic Orangemen of Togo may open some eyes about the way the senior levels of the Labour Party operate:

The concierge opened the door and the Nigerian detached himself from the rich leather upholstery of the sleek, silver, range-topping Mercedes. He stalked into the lounge of the Sheraton, as glossy as the sheen on his Italian silk suit and as smooth as the mirrored lenses of his designer spectacles. My heart sank as he headed towards our little group. I had taken on the chairmanship of a Ghanaian energy company to help out some Ghanaian friends. Our little venture had prospered and we were looking to expand across West Africa. In doing so I was determined to steer well clear of capital tainted with corruption or drugs. My surest guide to doing that was to avoid people who looked and dressed like this man whom my colleagues had arranged to talk with us.

West Africa is now the third largest centre in the World for money laundering and narcotics capital formation. But in terms of the percentage of total capital formation which drugs money forms, it is far ahead. Money laundering is the raison d’etre of many West African financial institutions. In Accra in March 2008 a World Bank sponsored conference held in Accra on money laundering heard an estimate that over 60% of the capital of the mushrooming private banking sector in Nigeria could be drugs money. Recently Nigerian banks have started taking out huge poster adverts all over the UK’s major airports. That is drugs money.

One consequence of this is that I have found it too easy to attract the wrong kind of capital to a legitimate business proposal in West Africa. These investors from West African banks and private equity firms are not even expecting the kind of high returns that a high risk market normally demands. With anti money-laundering regulations now so tight in the US and EU, their investors are looking to launder the money in the region before sending it to Europe. The proceeds of a legitimate energy company are accountable and clean; so we attract those wishing to put dirty money in to get clean money out. The actual bank executives and fund managers are of course not themselves necessarily involved in narcotics; they just fail to query adequately the source of their investor’s cash.

So when the new arrival introduced himself as a manager of a Nigerian private equity firm, I mentally switched off. I giggled inwardly as he named his company as “Travant”, because I thought he said “Trabant”, which given the car out of which he had just stepped, would have been wildly inappropriate. But I came to with a start when he said that his Nigerian private equity firm had access to DFID funds because Baroness Amos was a Director. To be clear, I asked whether Travant was an NGO or a governmental investment agency. He replied that it was not; it was a private, for-profit fund management company.

Baroness Amos was of course the Secretary of State for DFID until 2003 and until 2007 was Leader of the House of Lords. I though that it was impossible that DFID money would be given to a company of which she was Director. On the face of it, nobody could look further removed from the development aid ethos than the man in the designer suit. I went back to writing him off, deciding he was simply making it up about Baroness Amos and his access to DFID money. In West Africa among people who wear silk suits and are driven in Mercedes, the standards of truthfulness sadly leave in general a great deal to be desired.

I would have forgotten the incident, but in December 2008 I found myself sitting next to Baroness Amos on an airport bus heading for the plane to Accra. Once on board she moved to Business class while due to overbooking I was downgraded to Economy Plus. Baroness Amos was going out to Accra to head the Commonwealth monitoring team for the first round of the 2008 Ghanaian elections, as John Kufuor retired. Sending Baroness Amos to monitor an election seemed to me another tremendous example of British arrogance. Valerie Amos is the very antithesis of a democratic politician. One of the Blair inner circle, she rose to Cabinet rank despite never having faced the electorate. Never, ever, at any level of politics. Her entire career was based upon New Labour internal patronage after making a very good living out of complaining about discrimination against minorities in the UK. She opened up a substantial income gap between herself and those on whose behalf she was claiming to work, from a very early stage, and that gap has widened ever since.

All this came back to me as I looked at Baroness Amos quaffing champagne on that plane. So I did a bit of digging. Valerie Amos is indeed listed on their website as a non-executive director of Travant Private Equity, one of only five directors. There is nothing about developmental goals, ethics, or the environment on the website. There is a lot about real estate opportunities in West Africa (by which they do not mean housing for the urban poor), and a boast that they have “the largest fundraising from domestic investors in sub-Saharan Africa”. Remember what I said about the sources of local capital formation? Now Travant may have the most rigorous procedures for scrutinising the origin of the domestic money deposited with them. But if they do, they do not mention it on their website. Rather they emphasise that “we are deeply immersed in the business communities in which we invest”. Mmmm.

But have Travant received DFID money? On the face of it, Travant shouldn’t even want public money ? They are aggressive proponents of the capitalist ethos: “We believe that the private sector, with appropriate oversight and governance, is the best shepherd of Africa’s resources. We seek to empower entrepreneurs to pursue opportunities that they have identified, creating returns for investors, jobs and economic growth.” Yet in 2007 the British Government financed Travant with £15 million of funds, provided through CDC, the investment arm of DFID. CDC is owned 100% by DFID. At launch over one third of Travant’s first equity fund came from DFID. A few months afterwards Baroness Amos, ex minister in charge of DFID, joined the board of this profit-making firm.

It says everything about New Labour that CDC, which as the Commonwealth Development Corporation used to run agricultural projects to benefit the rural poor, was rebranded as CDC with a new remit to provide most of its funds to the financial services industry. It says even more about New Labour’s lack of the understanding of fundamental personal ethics, of their embrace of greed, that they see no reason why one of their former senior ministers should not move to benefit personally from the DFID money – even if through a 100% owned satellite – thus invested.

To turn this story full circle, let us turn back to Sierra Leone. 65% of the measured exports of this country come from its rutile mines. These were under guard by Sandline at the start of this memoir. Following the British invasion of Sierra Leone, it returned to its normal state of extreme corruption. Life is hard for most of its inhabitants, and UN donated food and pharmaceuticals, clearly marked “not for sale”, are only available to the local population for cash they do not have, as the result of collusion between corrupt UN officials, government officials, and mostly Lebanese traders. But the rutile mines are working full out, and extremely profitable, with armed white men again in charge of security. A major rutile miner, Titanium Resources Group of Sierra Leone says in its 2008 interim report: “the long term future of our markets is sound and the quality and scale of our mineral reserves underline our future prospects.” The Chairman of Titanium Resources Group is Walter Kansteiner III, George Bush’s former Assistant Secretary of Sate for Africa and a founding partner of the Scowcroft Group, led by Brent Scowcroft, George Bush’s National Security Adviser and architect of the CIA’s re-introduction of torture. The Scowcroft Group advisory consultancy did huge harm in Africa in the 1990s with their advocacy of privatisation and deregulation, particularly in the forestry sector, and with some influence advocated policies worldwide which contributed to the credit bubble and collapse of recent years.

But none of that prevented Kansteiner and Scowcroft from making money out of it, and Blair’s invasion secured Sierra Leone’s mineral resources to the neo-cons. Not everyone benefits. Titanium Resources’ Interim Report 2008 mentions the disruption in production as a result of the collapse of a dredger, without feeling the need even to mention the two Sierra Leoneans who died in the incident.

But New Labour believes in profit, especially for themselves, so it was no surprise to me when Titanium Resources announced in March 2008 the appointment of Baroness Amos as a non-executive director. For me that appointment [though she later resigned] sums up the cosiness of the alliance between Bush, Blair and their acolytes. It was an alliance based on the acquisition of mineral resources by any means possible. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are the most infamous example. I saw it close up operating by war in Sierra Leone, and by the diplomacy of repression in Uzbekistan.

John McNally

by craig on January 17, 2015 in Uncategorized

John McNally has been selected by the membership to fight Falkirk for the SNP. I was able to congratulate him yesterday and offer any assistance I can give in the campaign. I spent a total of ten hours locked in various small rooms with John as we waited to take our turn at each of the four hustings meetings in the constituency, and he is a genuinely decent man who will make an excellent MP. He was not just courteous, but markedly kind and helpful to me as a newcomer to the constituency. It was evident he was not only a Councillor, but a man deeply rooted in his community. There was nobody we met during the process of whom John could not tell me not just who they were, but about their family for several generations.

I will not pretend that I am not still stunned by the strength of hostility of the SNP highheidyins towards me, and my removal from the ballot. But to put that in context, here is the email I sent to the leader of the SNP group on Falkirk Council on 12 November:

Dear Cecil,

[Name deleted] …gave me your email address. I believe she mentioned to you that I am looking to stand as an SNP candidate at the forthcoming Westminster election, and very interested indeed in the prospect of campaigning in Falkirk, which I strongly believe we can win.

But I would like to make absolutely clear that if there is a hardworking and qualified local person who wishes to be the candidate and who would have a good chance to win, I would not want to come in from outside and spoil somebody else’s hopes. Does that make sense?

As you may know, I am a former British Ambassador and former Rector of the University of Dundee, and campaigned very hard during the referendum campaign both speaking at meetings and online. I have been an SNP member since 2011. Before that I was a Lib Dem but resigned in disgust! My application to be approved as a candidate is lodged with SNP HQ. I realise they are swamped at the moment and hope we will be able to find a way to get that dealt with in good time. I contacted [name deleted – a MSP] who suggested that if I could get definite interest from a constituency, that may help prioritise processing the application. That seems a bit chicken and egg as to which comes first (not a Jim Murphy reference)

Craig

The reply of the same date was:

Dear Craig,

Thanks for your e mail, it is good to know that there is interest in Falkirk, as it will in deed be a key seat.

We are in a very different position this time round for the Westminster Elections, and would not discourage giving members a choice of potential candidates

Cecil

I therefore went forward despite my strong reservation, on the express understanding that the members wanted to have a wide choice. But from the first time I met John McNally, I was having qualms of conscience about standing against someone who is the kind of local citizen, not a career politician, who ought to be an MP. That is why I can say, that irrespective of my continuing concerns about the values of some of the central SNP establishment, the local outcome is the right one for the people of Falkirk. I shall certainly be back there occasionally to campaign for John McNally.

PS By coincidence today is the anniversary of the victory of the great Lord George Murray against the Hanoverians in the Battle of Falkirk, 1746. I don’t think the family had been back since, until this campaign. :-) There is an old stained glass window installed in the shopping mall in the centre of Falkirk, one level down. It includes a large portrait of George Murray. The interesting thing is that this portrait, from the 1830’s – which is a fantastic piece of glasswork – shows in great detail his kilt, which is identical in absolutely every respect to the Murray of Atholl tartan in my own kilt. One of the anti-national myths perpetuated in Scotland is that kilts are a recent romantic invention. They are not, they date back at least seven hundred years and the modern “small kilt” at least 240 years. Part of the myth is that the clan tartans were invented by weaving mills in the 1890’s. This window is incontrovertible proof that is not true either.

Controlled Votes

by craig on January 16, 2015 in Uncategorized

Nationalisation is popular. I mention in every talk I give that a large majority of the population wish to see the railways re-nationalised, but neo-con dominance of the party machines makes sure there is nobody you can vote for, who in our buttoned-down party system might ever get elected, who supports that view. Wings Over Scotland has an opinion poll which shows massive majorities for nationalising both railways and energy companies, with no difference of opinion between Scotland and the rest of the UK. Yet even the SNP does not give the voters any way to assert their view on nationalisation. I am, for the first time, contemplating seriously the advantages of direct democracy.

The latest YouGov poll gives these UK voting attentions:
Conservatives 32% (n/c)
Labour 32% (-2)
UKIP 16% (+1)
Greens 8% (+1)
Liberal Democrats 6% (n/c)
SNP/Plaid Cymru 5% (+1)

There is no doubt that television debates do have a real influence on voting intentions during the election campaign. To include the Liberal Democrats but exclude the Greens and Nationalists is becoming increasingly indefensible – particularly as the SNP looks certain to have an absolute minimum of 20 MPs after the election, and possibly many more. I would put money on there being more SNP than Lib Dem MPs this time next year.

This is about the hard manipulation of power, pure and simple. The fact of the matter is that only the nationalists and the Greens have anything like a radical agenda. It is not just about the broadcasters favouring particular parties as institutions. It is about the broadcasters making sure that even mildly left wing sentiments are not seen as accepted in an establishment forum. They are terrified of letting the voters hear things with which they actually agree.

Immortal Irony

by craig on January 15, 2015 in Uncategorized

Having moved back to Scotland, for the first time in decades I haven’t been invited to do an Immortal Memory anywhere, after delivering it all round the World. That seems ironic. If anyone is short of a speaker, do get in touch via the contact button top right. I do reflect Burns’ bawdy side, so not for the prudish.

The Russian Empire

by craig on January 15, 2015 in Uncategorized

I am working very hard on getting Sikunder Burnes into shape for publication. Just ten weeks left to achieve that. Still hacking a lot of draft material out of the text. This passage on the Russian Empire was written before the tragic events in Ukraine.

I still reckon the solution for Ukraine is a series of internationally supervised referenda, in the Eastern districts and also in Crimea, with UN peacekeepers in charge of security. Putin needs a ladder to climb down. For the West to base its position solely on the sanctity of arbitrary borders is unimaginative and fruitless.

I would point out that what follows was a draft, not finished writing:

British people, myself included, have to concentrate their intellectual resources to get a clear conceptualisation of the Russian Empire, which can be obscured from our view by a number of factors.

Firstly, from British history and geography, we British tend to think of colonies as something reached exclusively by ship. The idea that colonies can be a contiguous land mass with the metropolitan is not a pre-received idea for us. Russia’s absorption of the entirely alien cultures of vast areas of Asia was undoubtedly a massive colonial expansion. In Central Asia today, political societal and economic developments can only be understood as a post-colonial situation. Crucially, the broad mass of people are themselves entirely of the view that they are former colonised.1. But I found in the FCO a great many western and particularly British officials had much trouble with the concept.

Secondly, the transmutation of the Russian Empire into the Soviet Union confused the issue, in bringing a spurious equality to the different Soviet Socialist Republics. In particular, this brought members of the political elite from the Asian areas within reach of holding political power at the centre. But that is not at all unusual for the history of Empires in general, particularly as they mature. The economic relationships within the Soviet Union, with the Asian regions very much operating as suppliers of raw commodity or goods with little value added, followed a well-worn colonial pattern even if operated by central planning rather than overt capitalism. But many did not realise the Soviet Union in itself was an Empire incorporating colonial structures.

Thirdly, particularly for those brought up like myself during the Cold War, the Russians were distant and feared figures and not perceived as altogether European. In fact, the Russian conquest of the the North and heart of Asia was a major part of a complete encirclement of Asia by Europeans from the late eighteenth to the end of the nineteenth century. This included the occupation by United States Europeans of the American Pacific Rim, and of Australia, New Zealand, East Africa, much of South East Asia and India by the British and occasionally others. Russian and British expansion into Asia were part of the exact same process, except the British often did not see it:

A long liberal tradition took a sceptical view of Russia’s European credentials, seeing Tsarist Russia as as “Asiatic despotism” too crude and too poor to be “one of us”…A more realistic view would see Russia, like Spain or the Hapsburg Empire, as one of the frontier states that played a vanguard role in Europe’s expansion…behind Russia’s expansion was in fact its European identity…the economic energy that flowed from Russia’s integration into the European economy; and the intellectual access that Russians enjoyed, from the sixteenth century onward, to the general pool of European ideas and culture. Russians, like other Europeans, claimed their conquests as a “civilizing mission.”2

Britain’s claim that Russia was excluded from the “civilizing mission” of Empire because it was a despotism, when British officials were arbitrarily blowing Indians from the muzzles of cannon while practising unabashed despotism, is something those of my age were educated not to question. The notion that the culture of Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Chekhov and Tchaikovsky is not European is self-evidently wrong. I found that walking around the 19th century Russian cantonments of Margilan in the Ferghana Valley, with its beautiful little theatre for amateur dramatics, its racecourse and mess hall, the architecture could have been a British hill station. It even has its Freemasons’ Lodge.

So Russia and Britain were expanding their colonial possessions in Asia, and their boundaries were pushing ever closer.

The Russophobes therefore were not talking absolute nonsense. Nobody knew how far North-west the British might push and how far South-east the Russians. Nor was it physically impossible for a Russian army to invade India through Afghanistan or Persia. Alexander, Mahmood, Tamerlane, Babur, Nadir Shah and Ahmed Shah had all done that. The logistics were difficult, but not impossible. The British were very aware that historically India was vulnerable to attack from the North West. In the marvellous prose of an end of Empire administrator, Kerr Fraser-Tytler:

“For upwards of 2,000 years the tide of conquest rose and fell, pouring in great cascades over the breakwater of these most vital mountains, seeping through the passes, or flowing round the exposed Western flank, to surge onwards to the south where it spread out, stayed and finally was absorbed in the great open spaces of India.”3

Where the Russophobes got it seriously wrong was their political analysis. A successful Russian invasion of India would have taken enormous resources and been a massive strain on the Russian state, and would certainly have precipitated a major European war. Russia’s economy was still recovering from Napoleonic devastation. Her foreign policy priorities were focused on the richer and more central lands of the Mediterranean and Caspian. Russia’s desire to divest Persia and Ottoman Turkey of vast provinces and to become a Mediterranean power was the consuming passion of the Tsar’s ministers, and Nesselrode in particular. Bringing Central Asia into play may occasionally be a useful bargaining chip with Britain, but was never more than that.

It is a peculiar fact that for two hundred years, fear of an attack by Russia has been a major factor in British foreign and above all defence policy, and was for much of my lifetime the factor that outweighed all others. Vast sums of the nation’s money have been squandered on guarding against this illusory threat, and that is still the unacknowledged purpose of the ruinously expensive and entirely redundant Trident missile system today. Yet on any rational analysis, Russia has never had any incentive to attack the United Kingdom, and historical research has never uncovered even a remote Russian intention actually to attack the United Kingdom. However an awful lot of arms manufacturers have become exceedingly wealthy, as have an awful lot of politicians, while the military have had enhanced careers.

Unionists – An Apology

by craig on January 12, 2015 in Uncategorized

I have been much criticised for referring to Unionists – and No voters are precisely Unionists – as evil or stupid. I have given this much thought, as a number of very well-intentioned people have urged me to apologise. After a great deal of angst, I have decided to offer a heartfelt apology. Not all Unionists are Evil or Stupid. Some are just Cowards. There, I think that covers it.

My analysis runs thus:

Evil

The United Kingdom has become a force for ill in the World. In invading Iraq against the express wishes of the UN Security Council, Blair and Bush did to the United Nations what Hitler and Mussolini did to the League of Nations. The UK was up to its neck in complicity with extraordinary rendition and torture. Its foreign policy is based on resource grabs for the benefit of a few wealthy corporations. Even this year it is in Court still defending the atrocious deportation of the entire population of Diego Garcia to make way for a US airbase, and still preventing their return. It is actively preparing to do the same to the Ascension Islanders. It supports the hideous dictatorship of Bahrain and was implicated in the overthrow of Egypt’s only elected government by the CIA’s General Sisi. It constantly works against the interests of the Palestinians at the UN.

This week the UK has been passing still more laws attacking fundamental liberties in the name of “counter-terrorism” and increasing surveillance. It has an economy dedicated entirely to the interests of very wealthy people in the City of London. Its wealth gap between rich and poor is massive and still growing. The UK has 100 billionaires, and malnourished children, living on a small island. It is dominated by corporations run on a low wage model and has systematically destroyed workers’ rights.

On balance, the government of the UK has become a force for evil in the world. not a force for good. To support it in full knowledge of the above is evil.

Stupid

Given the existence of the tremendous communications possibilities of the internet, and given the wide range of information available above all in Scotland where a new political consciousness has developed, there are few excuses for having been ill-informed in the referendum. The failure to inform oneself, given the resources available, was itself evidence of a lack of gumption.

Some people are Unionists not because they support the policies outlined under Evil, but because they fail to perceive them. This group overlaps heavily with those who do not believe the Labour Party is now a fully paid up neoconservative party subscribing to everything above, and with only a sham concern for social justice. Despite the Red Tories’ open pledges to be tougher on welfare reform and immigration than the Blue Tories, these stupid people believe social progress is possible within the UK under Labour. They also actually believed that The Vow on Devo-Max would be delivered. This group of Unionists are incapable of perceiving evil when they see it, even when it comes certified with membership of the Henry Jackson Society. These people are stupid.

Cowardly

I have added this last group. These are people who did perceive the evil of the UK, and thus weren’t entirely stupid, but were too scared of social change to abandon unionism. A substantial section of the cowards should in fact be grouped under evil, because the cause of their fear was entirely self-centred. They could see the evil the UK does, but cared rather more about their own pension, job, mortgage etc. than they cared about anything else in the world. This combination of selfishness and fear of social change is of course classically Tory. But not all cowards fell into the Tory category. Some were genuinely fearful that things might somehow get even worse for everybody. They would not have boarded the first trains in case their heads were blown off by the 30mph winds.

Conclusion

After four months of constant thought, I cannot think of any hypothetical unionist position which does not fall into one of those categories. I am grateful for the criticism which led me to realise that I had left out the cowards. Some of that criticism came from nationalists who do not like politics to be described in moral terms, and for whom national independence should rouse no more passion than a change in local council boundaries, being a simple question of the best technocratic management of broadly similar political systems. That is a position I wholeheartedly denounce. For me national independence for Scotland is a great ethical choice for good – and against evil.

Fortunately a great many of the stupid are realising their mistake – being slower on the uptake does not stop you getting there eventually. So now there is a definite majority, for Yes. I am pleased about this, and view Independence as absolutely inevitable in the near term. I shall certainly live to see it. I don’t see converting No voters as part of my personal mission in life. The Wizard of Oz could give the Coward a medal and the Stupid a diploma. I shall content myself with being the one who throws water over the Evil.

Finally, for those who cannot get their heads round the purpose, style and conventions of political polemic, plainly you don’t have to be a No voter to be stupid. I have No voters in my family and among very close friends, including some without whose assistance I couldn’t keep this blog going. An attempt to introduce intellectual rigour into political discussion and test positions as part of political debate in no sense equates to personal animosity. As I have repeatedly stated in the context of the hundreds of political issues this blog has debated over ten years, I do not choose my friends by their politics. Otherwise I guess I wouldn’t have any :-) !

The Great Mistake

by craig on January 11, 2015 in Uncategorized

The SNP risks a great loss in putting Independence on the back-burner. They have the huge energy of the street Yes campaign behind them. Shifting from fifth gear to reverse risks not only loss of momentum, but damage. “Go out and work for Independence!” is what 80,000 new members want to hear. “Go out and work for Devo-Max and a supply and confidence agreement with Labour at Westminster”, is not.

I was not too concerned at reports that Alex Salmond had said that Independence may not feature in the SNP’s coming Westminster manifesto, and it would be up to Nicola Sturgeon. It was just one interview, and the great man was possibly just musing, I thought. But then we had Nicola Sturgeon’s message to all members, repeated as adverts in the newspapers, setting out the stall for the General Election. This makes no mention of Independence at all.

I think there are two major mistakes here. The first is that rather than state its fundamental beliefs, the SNP is tailoring its message to be appropriate to a specific tactical situation – a hung parliament with the SNP able to sustain a Labour-led government, in return for certain demands. Tailoring the message to this circumstance is a mistake because it is a scenario which is entirely beyond the power of the SNP, or even Scotland, to bring about. And my very firm prediction is that it will not happen.

Labour and the Tories are neck and neck in recent polls, but I fully expect the Tories will make ground, as the incumbent government always does in the final months before a UK general election. They have the opportunity of a populist budget to boost them. UKIP support will dip, disproportionately returning to the Tories. Murdoch will back Cameron, along with the Mail, Express and Telegraph. The Tories have over twice the campaign funds of Labour. The LibDem vote will plummet but they will hold on to more of their own seats UK wide than a uniform swing would indicate. I am willing to bet that the Conservatives remain in power, probably still as the ConDems, after the General Election.

In this scenario, what happens in Scotland is irrelevant to who forms the UK government – as so often. Whether there are more Labour or more SNP on the opposition benches will make little difference to Cameron and Osborne. What will happen, however, is an increasingly urgent demand for Scottish Independence in the face of five more years of unwanted Tory rule in Scotland.

It is tactically essential that, in this scenario, the SNP MP’s can claim to have been elected on a clear mandate for Independence. The SNP may have a majority of Scottish MP’s after May. There will be a vote on whether the UK leaves the EU. Should the UK vote to leave the EU (which is not improbable), the demand for Scottish Independence may become overwhelming. If at that stage we have a majority of Scottish MP’s clearly elected for Independence, there are a number of possible options for achieving Independence. If however those MPs were elected only on a platform that prioritised Devo-Max, the arguments look very different.

The second major mistake is that Devo-Max is unobtainable. Whitehall and Westminster will never agree to hand over to Scotland its full oil or whisky revenues. It is in any event not possible for Scotland to run an expansive fiscal policy within the overall control of the Treasury and Bank of England. It is possible to get limited extra powers for the Scottish parliament. The Smith Commission is very close to the limit of what Westminster will ever agree within the Union. Even were Smith to be fully implemented (which like Calman it won’t) it is no substitute for Independence.

And as I have frequently stated, so long as our foreign and defence policy is still controlled by Westminster, so long as they can still send Scots to fight and die in illegal wars, so long as they can involve us in hideous torture and permanent conflict in the Middle East, we have not obtained ethical responsibility, and the rest means little.

Many No voters already regret their vote. The SNP does not need to pitch its message to appeal to continuing unionists. As the Independence vote is heavily behind the SNP, while the Unionist vote has more significant diversions between Labour, Tory, Liberal and UKIP, under first past the post the Yes voters alone will sweep the board – which is precisely what opinion polls show as happening.

The other thing we know from the Referendum is that a significant number of SNP voters, voted No. The truth is that not every supporter of the SNP is a fervent supporter of Independence. Certainly a great many members do not relate to the social radicalism and desire for sweeping societal change that motivated so much of the astonishing street Yes campaign.

The SNP has now a substantial professional class. It has MSP’s, Scottish ministers, MP’s and MEP’s, and all their research assistants, secretaries, constituency secretaries and SPADs. It has paid councillors, committee chairs, leaders of councils. It has a Chief Executive and HQ staff. If the process of gradualism has brought you a good income and a comfy living, it is a natural temptation to see the accretion of a few more powers, and the addition of a lot more jobs for MP’s and their staff, as all part of useful progress, without wanting to risk anything too radical. Independence can become a misty aspiration, lost in the day to day concerns of genuinely ultra-important stuff like running the NHS or schools or local transport.

The SNP is not the small band of noble rebellious souls it once was. It is now a major institution in itself, and part of the fabric of the British state. Institutions, even composed of the nicest people, always develop and protect their corporate interest.

I worry that the downplaying of the Independence goal for the General Election may drain the fire from those 80,000 Yes-oriented new members. I worry even more that this may not be an accident.

Terrorism and Nuance

by craig on January 7, 2015 in Uncategorized

There is no question to which the answer is to wander round killing people. It takes a few words or keystrokes for any right thinking person to condemn the killings in Paris today. But that really doesn’t take us very far.

It is impossible to stop evil from happening. Simple low tech attacks by individuals, a kind of DIY terrorism, cannot always be pre-empted. If you try to do so universally, you will end up even further down the line we have gone down in the UK, where people are continually arrested and harassed who have no connection to terrorism at all, often for bragging on websites. These non-existent foiled terrorist plots are a risible feature of British politics nowadays. Every now and then one hits the headlines, like the arrests just before Remembrance Day. Their defining characteristic is that none of those arrested have any means of terrorism – 99% of those arrested for terrorism in the UK in the last decade – possessed no weapon and no viable explosive device.

In fact the only terrorist in the last year convicted in the UK, who possessed an actual bomb – a very viable explosive device indeed, was not charged with terrorism. He was a fascist named Ryan McGee who had a swastika on his wall and hated Muslims. Hundreds of Muslims with no weapons are locked up for terrorism. A fanatical anti-Muslim with a bomb is by definition not a terrorist.

I am assuming that the narrative that Charlie Hebdo was attacked by Islamists is correct, though that remains to be proved. For argument, let us assume the official narrative is true and the killings were by Muslims outraged at the magazine’s depictions of the Prophet Mohammed.

It is essential to free speech that it includes the freedom to offend. That must include the freedom to offend religious belief. Without such freedoms, the values of societies would freeze. Much social progress has caused real anguish and offence to some people. To have stopped Charlie Hebdo by law would have been wrong. To stop them by bullets is beyond any mitigation.

But that doesn’t make the unfortunate deceased heroes, and President Hollande was wrong to characterise them as such. Being murdered does not make you a hero. And being offensive is not necessarily noble. People who are persistently and vociferously offensive are often neither noble nor well-motivated. Much of Charlie Hebdo‘s taunting of Muslims was really unpleasant. That they also had Christian and other targets did not make this any better. It is not Private Eye – it is a magazine with a much nastier edge. I defend the right of Charlie Hebdo to publish whatever it wants. But once the shock dies off, I do hope a more realistic assessment of whether Charlie Hebdo was entirely admirable or not may be possible. This in no way excuses the dreadful murders.

The ability to say things that offend is an important attribute of a free society. Richard Dawkins may offend believers. Peter Tatchell may offend homophobes. Pussy Riot offended Putin and the Orthodox Church. This must not be stopped.

But that must cut both ways. Abu Qatada broke no British laws in his lengthy stay in the UK, but was demonised for things he said (or even things newspapers invented he had said). Most of the French who are today in solidarity for freedom of expression, are against people being able to express themselves freely in what they wear. The security industry who are all over TV today want to respond to this attack on freedom of expression by more controls on the internet!

I condemn, you condemn, we all condemn, and so we should. But the amount of nuanced thought in the mainstream media is almost non-existent. What will now happen is that conservative commentators will rip individual phrases from this article and tweet them to show I support terrorism. The lack of nuanced thought is a reflection of a general atmosphere of anti-intellectualism which has poisoned public life in modern western society.

Berwick Upon Tweed

by craig on January 7, 2015 in Uncategorized

I am considering standing for Berwick upon Tweed on the platform of the constituency joining Scotland. This boundary adjustment would give the people access to free personal care, free prescriptions, no university tuition fees and the many other advantages of Scotland’s more society friendly government. It would give Scotland some thriving new communities and a more favourable future North Sea boundary.

I realise no Independent has been elected in modern times unless they were a sitting MP, or major parties stood down in their favour. In fact the 5% I obtained in Blackburn was the best showing since 1945 by an Independent where those conditions were absent. I realise this is a rather Quixotic reaction to my rejection by the SNP hierarchy, and would result in loss of time, energy and money. On the other hand, I understand quite a lot of people in Berwick wish the constituency to be in Scotland and it would be good to give them the chance to express that. As the seat is a Tory/Liberal marginal the alternatives are hopeless.

I think my friends really ought to talk me out of this.

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