There Is Another England 624

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

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

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

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

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A Longer View 277

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tempting Fate 270

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

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The Mills of God Grind Slowly. Particularly in Spain.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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Doune the Rabbit Hole Final Line-Up

I spent the morning at a Stirlng Council licensing panel organising the licenses for the Doune the Rabbit Hole Festival this year. Happy to say that the council – both officers and councillors – could not have been more conscientious or more helpful. I have been spending a fair bit of time on community engagement for the festival this year, and have also extended my activity to quite a heavy involvement in the more established Eden festival. Being with nice people organising something joyous helps keep me going, and if it requires the odd gap in blogging, it keeps me both sane enough and happy enough to plough on, and manages to be very hard work and immensely refreshing all at the same time.

The final line up for Doune the Rabbit Hole is now complete:

I will again see some of you there, either as punters or working as volunteers. We still need more volunteers for the Eden Festival also, which is on us quite soon (7 to 10 June), and specifically I need people to help me in the bar. For that one can you contact me initially through this blog’s contact button top right.

The existence of a counter-culture is as important to me in terms of personal motivation as clarity of intellectual critique of society, and can manifest in various ways. Music festivals have become very commercialised and anodyne; rip-off ones seem to multiply while festivals with an “alternative” vibe have been struggling to survive, a struggle in which I have actively immersed myself and my resources, such as they are.

But whether it is as one of the 90,000 people who marched through Glasgow lately, whether it was addressing “Occupy London” or several university sit-ins, or being part of the community at music festivals, the happiest and most intense experiences of my life, outside personal family moments, have come from occasions where I am temporarily part of a group of people acting outside normal governing political structures, even for short periods, and often openly in defiance of them, in self governing “pop-up communities”. It feels like a glimpse into another possible world, a society of horizontal solidarity where we do not exist to be exploited. It is the fun of escape, the aspiration of alternative, the realisation that freedom is plausible. If I did not feel like that occasionally, I would not be able to think like that, all the time.

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Yulia Skripal and the Salisbury WUT

It was happy to see Yulia alive and looking reasonably well yesterday, if understandably stressed. Notably, and in sharp contrast to Litvinenko, she leveled no accusations at Russia or anybody else for her poisoning. In Russian she spoke quite naturally. Of the Russian Embassy she said very simply “I am not ready, I do not want their help”. Strangely this is again translated in the Reuters subtitles by the strangulated officialese of “I do not wish to avail myself of their services”, as originally stated in the unnatural Metropolitan Police statement issued on her behalf weeks ago.

“I do not wish to avail myself of their services” is simply not a translation of what she says in Russian and totally misses the “I am not ready” opening phrase of that sentence. My conclusion is that Yulia’s statement was written by a British official and then translated to Russian for her to speak, rather than the other way round. Also that rather than translate what she said in Russian themselves for the subtitles, Reuters have subtitled using a British government script they have been given.

It would of course have been much more convincing had Sergei also been present. Duress cannot be ruled out when he is held by the British authorities. I remain extremely suspicious that, at the very first chance she got in hospital, Yulia managed to get hold of a telephone (we don’t know how, it was not her own and she has not had access to one since) and phone her cousin Viktoria, yet since then the Skripals have made no attempt to contact their family in Russia. That includes no contact to Sergei’s aged mum, Yulia’s grandmother, who Viktoria cares for. Sergei normally calles his mother – who is 89 – regularly. This lack of contact is a worrying sign that the Skripals may be prevented from free communication to the outside world. Yulia’s controlled and scripted performance makes that more rather than less likely.

It is to me particularly concerning that Yulia does not seem to have social media access. The security services have the ability to give her internet risk free through impenetrable VPN. But they appear not to have done that.

We know a little more about the Salisbury attack now:

Nobody – not Porton Down, not the OPCW – has been able to state that the nerve agent found was of Russian manufacture, a fact which the MSM continues to disgracefully fudge with “developed in Russia” phrasing. As is now well known and was reported by Iran in scientific literature, Iran synthesised five novichoks recently. More importantly, the German spying agency BND obtained novichok in the 1990s and it was studied and synthesised in several NATO countries, almost certainly including the UK and USA.

In 1998, chemical formulae for novichok were introduced into the United States NIST National Institute of Standards and Technologies Mass Spectrometry Library database by U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical and Biological Defense Command, but the entry was later deleted. In 2009 Hillary Clinton instructed US diplomats to feign ignorance of novichoks, as revealed by the last paragraph of this Wikileaks released diplomatic cable.

Most telling was the Sky News interview with the head of Porton Down. Interviewer Paul Kelso repeatedly pressed Aitkenhead directly on whether the novichok could have come from Porton Down. Aitkenhead replies “There is no way, anything like that could…leave these four walls. We deal with a number of toxic substances in the work that we do, we’ve got the highest levels of security and controls”. Asked again twice, he each times says the security is so tight “the substance” could not have come from Porton Down. What Aitkenhead does NOT say is “of course it could not have come from here, we have never made it”. Indeed Aitkenhead’s repeated assertion that the security would never have let it out, is tantamount to an admission Porton Down does produce novichok.

If somebody asked you whether the lion that savaged somebody came from your garden, would you reply “Don’t be stupid, I don’t have a lion in my garden” or would you say, repeatedly, “Of course not, I have a very strong lion cage?”. Here you can see Mr Aitkenhead explain repeatedly he has a big lion cage, from 2’25” in.

So the question of where the nerve agent was made remains unresolved. The MSM has continually attempted to lie about this and affirm that all novichok is Russian made. The worst of corporate and state journalism in the UK was exposed when they took the OPCW’s report that it confirmed the findings of Porton Down and presented that as confirming the Johnson/May assertion that it was Russia, whereas the findings of Porton Down were actually – as the Aitkenhead interview stated categorically – that they could not say where it was made.

The other relatively new development is the knowledge that Skripal had not retired but was active for MI6 on gigs briefing overseas intelligence agencies about Russia. This did not increase his threat to Russia, as he told everything he knows a decade ago. But it could provide an element of annoyance that would indeed increase Russian official desire to punish him further.

But the fact he was still very much active has a far greater significance. The government slapped a D(SMA) notice on the identity of Pablo Miller, Skripal’s former MI6 handler who lives close by in Salisbury and who worked for Christopher Steele’s Orbis Intelligence at the time that Orbis produced the extremely unreliable dossier on Trump/Russia. The fact that Skripal had not retired but was still briefing on Russia, to me raises to a near certainty the likelihood that Skripal worked with Miller on the Trump dossier.

I have to say that, as a former Ambassador in the former Soviet Union trained in intelligence analysis and familiar with MI6 intelligence out of Moscow, I agree with every word of this professional dissection of the Orbis Trump dossier by Paul Roderick Gregory, irrespective of Gregory’s politics. In particular this paragraph, which Gregory wrote more than a year before the Salisbury attack, certainly applies to much of the dossier.

I have picked out just a few excerpts from the Orbis report. It was written, in my opinion, not by an ex British intelligence officer but by a Russian trained in the KGB tradition. It is full of names, dates, meetings, quarrels, and events that are hearsay (one an overheard conversation). It is a collection of “this important person” said this to “another important person.” There is no record; no informant is identified by name or by more than a generic title. The report appears to fail the veracity test in the one instance of a purported meeting in which names, dates, and location are provided. Some of the stories are so bizarre (the Rosneft bribe) that they fail the laugh test. Yet, there appears to be a desire on the part of some media and Trump opponents on both sides of the aisle to picture the Orbis report as genuine but unverifiable.

The Russian ex-intelligence officer who we know was in extremely close contact with Orbis at the time the report was written, was Sergei Skripal.

The Orbis report is mince. Skripal knew it was mince and how it was written. Skripal has a history of selling secrets to the highest bidder. The Trump camp has a lot of money. My opinion is that as the Mueller investigation stutters towards ignominious failure, Skripal became a loose end that Orbis/MI6/CIA/Clinton (take your pick) wanted tied off. That seems to me at least as likely as a Russian state assassination. To say Russia is the only possible suspect is nonsense.

The Incompetence Factor

The contradiction between the claim that the nerve agent was so pure it could only be manufactured by a state agent, and yet that it failed because it was administered in an amateur and incompetent fashion, does not bother the mainstream media. Boris Johnson claimed that the UK had evidence that Russia had a ten year programme of stockpiling secret novichok and he had a copy of a Russian assassination manual specifying administration by doorknob. Yet we are asked to believe that the Russians failed to notice that administration by doorknob does not actually work, especially in the rain. How two people both touched the doorknob in closing the door is also unexplained, as is how one policeman became poisoned by the doorknob but numerous others did not.

The explanations by establishment stooges of how this “ten times more powerful than VX” nerve agent only works very slowly, but then very quickly, if it touches the skin, and still does not actually kill you, have struck me as simply desperate. They make May’s ringing claims of a weapon of mass destruction being used on British soil appear somewhat unjustified. Weapon of Upset Tummy does not sound quite so exciting.

To paint a doorknob with something that if it touches you can kill you requires great care and much protective gear. That no strangely dressed individual has been identified by the investigation – which seems to be getting nowhere in identifying the culprit – is the key fact here. None of us know who did this. The finger-pointing at Russia by corporate and state interests seeking to stoke the Cold War is disgusting.

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Philip Cross Madness Part IV

Mike Barson, keyboard player of the great ska group Madness, had his Wikipedia entry amended by “Philip Cross” to delete his membership of Momentum and interview with The Canary.

This apparently trivial incident raises an important question. How does the “Philip Cross” Wikipedia monitoring operation work? “Cross”‘s systematic attack on Momentum and The Canary is a matter of record, and his twitter feed proves it is motivated by a visceral hatred of the anti-war movement. But how would “Cross” discover that a reference to Momentum had turned up somewhere as improbable as the page of a member of Madness?

To get this by Google just would not work – try it yourself if you don’t know it relates to Barson, to Madness, or anything about them. To do a daily Wikipedia site specific Google search for the word Momentum might get you there after hours of effort. Are there tools within Wikipedia itself that could alert “Cross” to this sort of reference being added anywhere on Wikipedia, and if so are they available to the general public?

A number of people have opined in reply to my posts that the time spent to make all of Cross’s daily edits, as per the number of keystrokes, is not great. That ignores the colossal effort that goes into research and above all monitoring of Wikipedia by the “Philip Cross” operation.

Finally, this is an excellent example of the bias of Wikipedia. The information about Barson is totally true. He is a proud member of Momentum. It is also quite interesting and an important bit of his life. But according to Wikipedia’s pro-MSM rules, “Philip Cross” can indeed delete it because the information is not from an MSM source. In the unlikely event of the Times or Telegraph ever writing about Barson’s Momentum membership, it would of course be in a hostile attack to which “Philip Cross” could then link.

I hope you are understanding the Jimmy Wales methodology by now.

So, to add to the mysteries of how “Philip Cross” works every waking hour, never takes a single day off and is followed on Twitter by few people but including half of Fleet Street, we can add the mystery of how he has omniscience of left wing references appearing in unlikely places on Wikipedia. Go figure.

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The “Philip Cross” MSM Promotion Operation Part 3

“Philip Cross” has just 200 Twitter followers, but has more MSM journalists following him than are to be found among my 42,300 twitter followers. Despite the fact a large majority of “Philip Cross’s” tweets are mere retweets, with Oliver Kamm and Nick Cohen most frequently retweeted. “Philip Cross” has never broken a news story and the few tweets which are not retweets contain no gems of expression or shrewd observation. In short, his twitter feed is extremely banal; there is literally nothing in it that might interest a journalist in particular. Do not take my word for it, judge for yourself.

Why then does James LeMesurier, founder of the “White Helmets”, follow Philip Cross on twitter? Why does ex-minister Tristram Hunt follow Philip Cross on Twitter? Why does Sarah Brown, wife of Gordon, follow Philip Cross on twitter?

Why then do so the following corporate and state journalists follow “Philip Cross” on twitter?

Oliver Kamm, Leader Writer The Times
Nick Cohen, Columnist The Guardian/Observer
Joan Smith, Columnist The Independent
Leslie Felperin, Film Columnist The Guardian
Kate Connolly, Foreign Correspondent The Guardian/Observer
Lisa O’Carroll, Brexit Correspondent The Guardian
James Bloodorth, Columnist The Independent
Cristina Criddle, BBC Radio 4 Today Programme
Sarah Baxter, Deputy Editor, The Sunday Times
Iain Watson, Political Correspondent, The BBC
Caroline Wheeler, Deputy Political Editor, the Sunday Times
Jennifer Chevalier, CBC ex-BBC
Dani Garavelli, Scotland on Sunday

Prominent Freelancers

Bonnie Greer (frequently in The Guardian)
Mason Boycott-Owen (The Guardian, New Statesman)
Marko Attilla Hoare (The Guardian)
Kirsty Hughes
Guy Walters (BBC)
Paul Canning

Let me recap, The official story is that “Philip Cross” is an obscure and dedicated Wikipedia editor who edits every single day for five years. His twitter feed has never contained any “news”. Yet among the 160 followers he had last week before the media spotlight was turned upon him, were all these MSM journalists, many more than follow anyone but the most prominent individuals, more than follow an activist like me. Plus big figures like Sarah Brown, Tristram Hunt and James Le Mesurier. What does this tell us about who Philip Cross is.

The largest single category of Philip Cross’s historic 160 followers is anti-left and anti-Corbyn twitter accounts, especially those that specialise in making accusations of anti-semitism against left wing or anti-war figures. These include:

UK Media Watch “promoting accurate coverage of Israel”; ALT Putin’s Capitalist Wealth “@medialenswipe”; Antinat; Jeremy Corbin Prime Minister; Jewish News; Anti-Nazis Utd [which thinks I am a Nazi]; Labour Against Anti-Semitism; Jews Aganst Jeremy Corbyn. A very much larger number of individual followers of “Philip Cross” have twitter streams which predominantly consist of attacks on Jeremy Corbyn or the anti-war left in general, and of vociferous support for Israel. Of personal interest to me, there are at least seventeen of Philip Cross’s supporters who have made utterly unprovoked attacks on me on social media over the last twelve months.

So let us recap what we know. “Philip Cross” spends a quite astonishing amount of time on Wikipedia making malicious edits to the entries of anti-war or anti-corporate media figures, while at the same time polishing and protecting the Wikipedia profiles of corporate and state media figures. “Philip Cross” had done this obsessively for 13 years and not had a single day off, even at Christmas, for five years.

“Philip Cross” is not very active on twitter, mostly just retweeting, and as you would expect has therefore not had many followers. But an extraordinary percentage of that very limited number of followers are MSM journalists or senior Establishment figures. There is absolutely no reason on the face of his Twtter stream why Philip Cross would attract this particular type of following. His retweets are mostly of Nick Cohen and Oliver Kamm, and his followership is concentrated in the Guardian and Times, which nowadays have very similar neo-con agendas.

“Philip Cross”‘s own twitter stream makes no effort at all to hide the fact that he has the strongest of neo-conservative biases, hates the Left and anti-war movement, and strongly supports Israel. “He” is part of an active social media network trolling these views. The purpose of “his” continual Wikipedia editing could not be clearer. I suspect strongly that this particular Philip Cross twitter follower gives us a clue:

That is a twitter account founded by a collective of Guardian writers to attack MediaLens, whose Wikipedia entry “Philip Cross” has edited over 800 times. I suspect “Philip Cross” is a similar collective effort, which may hide behind the persona of a real life individual called Philip Cross. The intention of this effort to denigrate and demean alternative media and anti-war figures through their Wikipedia entries, and at the same time to burnish the Wikipedia entries of mainstream media figures, is proven without doubt, as is the continued complicity of Wikipedia in enabling and defending the long-term operation.

Analysis of “Philip Cross” tweets.

FOOTNOTE Since Philip Cross’s activity was brought into prominence throughout social media a few days ago, his Twitter followers have increased, mostly by people who dislike his activity wishing to keep an eye on him. I have disregarded these new followers, and it in no way diminishes my argument for trolls to point out that he now has left wing followers as well.

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Emma Barnett: A Classic “Philip Cross” Wikipedia Operation

High Tory, ex Daily Telegraph and Murdoch, expensive private school, Emma Barnett is BBC Politics’ rising star and stood in as host of the BBC flagship Marr programme on Sunday. She was there rude and aggressive to Labour’s Barry Gardiner. The “highlight” of her career so far was during the general election when on Radio 4 Women’s Hour she demanded instant top of the head recall of complicated figures from Jeremy Corbyn, a ploy the BBC never turns on the Tories.

The most interesting fact about Emma Barnett is that her exclusive private education was funded by her parents who were pimps and brothel keepers on a large scale, for which both were convicted.

I know of no compelling evidence as to whether Barnett was, or was not, complicit in her parents’ activities, which financed her education into adulthood. But that this background is interesting and unusual is not in doubt. However the MSM’s image protector, “Philip Cross”, has been assiduous in, again and again, deleting the information about Barnett’s parents from Wikipedia. Not only has Cross deleted the referenced information of her parents being brothel-keepers, he has repeatedly inserted the ludicrous euphemisms that her father was a “businessman” and her mother a “housewife”.

Cross has also deleted references to Barnett – who wrote for the Telegraph and then for Murdoch’s Times, being “right wing”. He has instead inserted claims that criticisms of Emma Barnett following her aggressive Corbyn interview were “anti-semitic”, in a classic Cross move to undermine any left-wing point. Naturally he had references from the Times and the Guardian – evidence free articles – to back up these claims – and naturally from journalists whose Wikipedia pages Cross curates. You get the circle?

On 21 June 2017 editor Alfonz-kiki complained that Cross’s continual whitewashing of Barnett’s entry was by “paid PR”. He pointed out that he had references on her parents’ brothels from the BBC and the Daily Telegraph. Alfonz-kiki is one of scores to have separately noticed and complained of Cross’s activities over years, but Cross has been defended by Wikipedia again and again and again.

Barnett is demonstrably right wing from her Murdoch and Telegraph columns. Her expensive private education – which got her where she is – was undeniably paid for by the proceeds of prostitution and by the trafficking in persons that led to the operation being closed down. But Philip Cross makes sure you can see none of that on Wikipedia.

In case you are saying that Cross is justified, Barnett’s parents activities were not her fault and ought not be on her Wikipedia page, let me remind you of one thing. The same “Philip Cross” edited my own Wikipedia page to state that my wife Nadira used to be a stripper, sourced to the Mail. Cross abuses family information, as all other information, to defame dissidents or to burnish Establishment defenders, not according to a moral code.

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The Philip Cross Affair 772

UPDATE “Philip Cross” has not had one single day off from editing Wikipedia in almost five years. “He” has edited every single day from 29 August 2013 to 14 May 2018. Including five Christmas Days. That’s 1,721 consecutive days of editing.

133,612 edits to Wikpedia have been made in the name of “Philip Cross” over 14 years. That’s over 30 edits per day, seven days a week. And I do not use that figuratively: Wikipedia edits are timed, and if you plot them, the timecard for “Philip Cross’s” Wikipedia activity is astonishing is astonishing if it is one individual:

The operation runs like clockwork, seven days a week, every waking hour, without significant variation. If Philip Cross genuinely is an individual, there is no denying he is morbidly obsessed. I am no psychiatrist, but to my entirely inexpert eyes this looks like the behaviour of a deranged psychotic with no regular social activities outside the home, no job (or an incredibly tolerant boss), living his life through a screen. I run what is arguably the most widely read single person political blog in the UK, and I do not spend nearly as much time on the internet as “Philip Cross”. My “timecard” would show where I watch football on Saturdays, go drinking on Fridays, go to the supermarket and for a walk or out with the family on Sundays, and generally relax much more and read books in the evenings. Cross does not have the patterns of activity of a normal and properly rounded human being.

There are three options here. “Philip Cross” is either a very strange person indeed, or is a false persona disguising a paid operation to control wikipedia content, or is a real front person for such an operation in his name.

Why does this – to take the official explanation – sad obsessive no friends nutter, matter?

Because the purpose of the “Philip Cross” operation is systematically to attack and undermine the reputations of those who are prominent in challenging the dominant corporate and state media narrative. particularly in foreign affairs. “Philip Cross” also systematically seeks to burnish the reputations of mainstream media journalists and other figures who are particularly prominent in pushing neo-con propaganda and in promoting the interests of Israel.

This matters because, an ordinary reader who comes across an article questioning (say) the official narrative on the Skripals, is very likely to turn to Wikipedia to get information on the author of the article. Simply put, the purpose of the “Philip Cross” operation is to make certain that if that reader looks up an anti-war person such as John Pilger, they will conclude they are thoroughly unreliable and untrustworthy, whereas if they look up a right wing MSM journalist, they will conclude they are a paragon of virtue and entirely to be trusted.

The “Philip Cross” treatment is meted out not just to left wingers, but to all sceptical of neo-conservatism and who oppose “wars of intervention”. A list of Cross’s victims includes Alex Salmond, Peter Oborne, John Pilger, Owen Jones, Jeremy Corbyn, Tim Hayward, Diane Abbott, Neil Clark, Lindsey German, Vanessa Beeley, and George Galloway. As you would expect “Philip Cross” is particularly active in making amendments to the Wikipedia articles of alternative media, and of MSM critique sites. “Philip Cross” has made 36 edits to the Wikipedia entry of The Canary and, staggeringly, over 800 edits on Media Lens. George Galloway remains the “Philip Cross” operation’s favourite target with a quite incredible 1,800 edits.

Just as revealing are the people who “Philip Cross” seeks to protect and promote. Sarah Smith, BBC Scotland’s uber-unionist, has had “Philip Cross” kindly delete references from her Wikipedia entry to family ties that (ahem) may have helped her career. Labour Friends of Israel’s Ruth Smeeth MP has had reference to the Wikileaks released US diplomatic cable that showed she was an informer to the US Embassy on the secrets of the Labour Party, deleted by “Philip Cross”. Right wing columnist Melanie Phillips had her embarrassing climate change denial excised by Cross.

“Philip Cross” not only carefully tends and protects the Wikipedia entry of Guardian editor Katherine Viner, who has taken the paper four square into the neo-con camp, Philip Cross actually wrote the original hagiographic entry. The Guardian’s MI6 contact, Luke Harding, is particularly looked after by Cross, as are their anti-Corbyn obsessives Nick Cohen and Jonathon Freedland. So are Murdoch hacks David Aaronovitch and Oliver Kamm.

There is no doubt that Kamm, leader wirter of Murdoch’s Times, is close the the “Philip Cross” operation. Many people believe that Kamm and Cross are the same person, or that Kamm is part of a multiple persona. Six times I have personally had hostile edits to my Wikipedia page by “Philip Cross” made in precise conjunction with attacks on me by Kamm, either on Twitter, in a Times editorial or in Prospect magazine. Altogether “Philip Cross” has made 275 edits to my Wikipedia page. These include calling my wife a stripper, deleting my photo, removing my reply to attacks made on me by Kamm and Harding among others, and deleting my refusal of all honours while a British diplomat.

Neil Clark and Peter Oborne are among many others who have suffered attacks on them by Philip Cross on Wikipedia simultaneously with attacks by Kamm on other media. Clark is taking Kamm to court for stalking – and “Philip Cross” has deleted all reference to that fact from Kamm’s Wikipedia page.

What is plain is that Kamm and Cross have extremely similar political views, and that the dividing line of those they attack and those they defend is based squarely on the principles of the Euston Manifesto. This may be obscure, but is in fact an important Blairite declaration of support for Israel and for neo-con wars of intervention, and was linked to the foundation of the Henry Jackson Society. Who do we find editing the Wikipedia entry for the Euston Manifesto? “Philip Cross”.

What is particularly interesting is that “Philip Cross”‘s views happen to be precisely the same political views as those of Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia. Jimmy Wales has been on twitter the last three days being actively rude and unpleasant to anybody questioning the activities of Philip Cross. His commitment to Cross’s freedom to operate on Wikipedia would be rather more impressive if the Cross operation were not promoting Wales’ own opinions. Jimmy Wales has actively spoken against Jeremy Corbyn, supports the bombing of Syria, supports Israel, is so much of a Blairite he married Blair’s secretary, and sits on the board of Guardian Media Group Ltd alongside Katherine Viner.

The extreme defensiveness and surliness of Wales’ twitter responses on the “Philip Cross” operation is very revealing. Why do you think he reacts like this? Interestingly enough. Wikipedia’s UK begging arm, Wikimedia UK, joined in with equal hostile responses to anyone questioning Cross.

In response many people sent Jimmy Wales evidence, which he ignored, while his “charity” got very upset with those questioning the Philip Cross operation.

Wikimedia had arrived uninvited into a twitter thread discussing the “Philip Cross” operation and had immediately started attacking people questioning Cross’s legitimacy. Can anybody else see anything “insulting” in my tweet?

I repeat, the coincidence of Philip Cross’s political views with those of Jimmy Wales, allied to Wales’ and Wikimedia’s immediate hostility to anybody questioning the Cross operation – without needing to look at any evidence – raises a large number of questions.

“Philip Cross” does not attempt to hide his motive or his hatred of those whose Wikipedia entries he attacks. He openly taunts them on twitter. The obvious unbalance of his edits is plain for anybody to see.

I have in the past exchanged messages with “Philip Cross”. He says he is a person, and that he edits in conjunction with Oliver Kamm tweets because he follows Kamm and his tweets inspire him to edit. He says he has met Kamm and admits to being in electronic communication with him. That excjange I had with Cross was some years ago. More recent communication with Cross (who has now changed his twitter ID to “Julian”

has been less forthcoming and he has not replied:

George Galloway has offered a reward of £1,000 for the name and address of “Cross” so he may also take legal action.

My view is that Philip Cross probably is a real person, but that he fronts for a group acting under his name. It is undeniably true, in fact the government has boasted, that both the MOD and GCHQ have “cyber-war” ops aiming to defend the “official” narrative against alternative news media, and that is precisely the purpose of the “Philip Cross” operation on Wikipedia. The extreme regularity of output argues against “Philip Cross” being either a one man or volunteer operation. I do not rule out however the possibility he genuinely is just a single extremely obsessed right wing fanatic.

Finally, it is worth noting that on Wikipedia, an operation to boost the mainstream media narrative and denigrate alternative sources has the massive advantage that only information from mainstream media sources is permitted in political articles.

In conclusion, some images from the edit pages of Wikipedia articles to give just a little flavour of what I am talking about:

I am slightly concerned lest I am myself getting obsessed. Do you find this as fascinating as I do?

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The Guardian Rejoices in the Silencing of Assange

The Guardian has today published a whole series of attack piece articles on Julian Assange which plainly exult in the fact he has now been silenced by the cutting of his communication with the outside world. They also include outright lies such as this one by Dan Collyns:

In fact Julian Assange was questioned for two days solid in the Embassy by Swedish procurators and police in November 2016. The statement he gave to them at that time I published in full. Following that questioning it was plain that there was no hope of a successful prosecution, particularly as the only physical evidence Swedish Police had was a condom Anna Ardin claimed he had worn but which had no trace of his DNA – a physical impossibility.

Dan Collyns is a freelance based in Peru, but the Guardian’s editors certainly know it is blatantly untrue that the investigation into Assange was dropped because he could not be questioned. They have knowingly published a lie. “Facts are sacred” there, apparently.

The Guardian article gives another complete lie, this time in the Harding penned section, where it says that “sources” reveal that Assange had hacked into the Embassy’s communications. That is completely untrue as are the “facts” given about Julian’s relationship with the Embassy staff, whom I know well. It is plain that these “sources” are separate from the Ecuadorean security dossier published in Focus Ecuador by the CIA. I would bet any money that these anonymous “sources” are as always Harding’s mates in the UK security services. That the Guardian should allow itself to be used in a security service disinformation campaign designed to provoke distrust between Assange and Embassy staff, is appalling.

I had a front row seat in 2010 when the Guardian suddenly switched from championing Assange to attacking him, in a deeply unedifying row about the rights and money from a projected autobiography. But they have sunk to a new low today in a collaboration between long term MI6 mouthpiece Luke Harding and the CIA financed neo-con propagandists of Focus Ecuador.

The Guardian pieces are full of truly startling revelations. Would you ever have guessed, for example, that Julian Assange was visited by his Wikileaks colleague Sarah Harrison, his friends Vaughn Smith and, err, me, and his lawyer Gareth Peirce?! This great scandal, Harding states in an assertion as evidence-free as his entire “Russia hacked the elections” book, “will interest Mueller”. Despite the fact none of these visits was secret and mine was broadcast live to the world by Wikileaks on Brexit referendum night.

The aim of the “Guardian” piece is of course to help urge Ecuador to expel Julian from the Embassy. There is no doubt that the actions of Lenin Moreno, under extreme pressure from the USA, have been severely disappointing, though I am more inclined to praise Ecuador for its courageous defiance of the US than blame it for eventually caving in to the vast resources the CIA is spending on undermining it. It is also worth noting that, post the Francoist human rights abuses in Catalonia, it was Spain and the EU joining in US pressure which tipped the balance.

Julian’s principled refusal to abandon the Catalan cause, against direct Ecuadorean threats to do precisely what they have now done, has not received the credit it deserves.

The same Blairites who supported the latest Israeli massacre will this morning be revelling in the Guardian’s celebration of the silencing of a key dissident voice. I have no wish to try and understand these people.

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Not Forgetting the Rohingyas

The news cycle moves on, and having had their fifteen minutes of Western compassion, whole peoples are left to struggle on with the wreck of their lives. Today the media suddenly recall again the terrible dispossession and oppression of the Palestinian people. In a couple of weeks time, they will be back to claiming that anybody who recalls that is an anti-semite. The fashion for worrying about the Rohingyas has entirely passed; the TV crews have gone and the Hollywood celebrities moved on to their next fad. But the plight of the dispossessed has still worsened.

The British conquest and occupation of what they knew as Burma met with some of the stiffest national resistance – characterised by the British as “fanatic” – the British ever encountered, as the invaders advanced up the rivers in a series of 19th century wars and were resisted from behind multiple fortified bamboo stockades. It is a very little known episode in British history, largely because it was so inglorious. The Burmese never did become docile under Imperial rule, and for that reason a high proportion of the ancestors of the present day Rohingya were employed as Imperial functionaries (not only military and police), in a classic British move of exploiting ethnic and religious tensions, which policy was absolutely conscious and deliberate at the time. The Rohingyas had themselves in large part been driven out of an expansionist Burma in the 1780’s, and the British returned a great many from Bengal, exploiting a pre-existing conflict in classic fashion. This background, which in no way justifies the recent ethnic cleansing of the Rohingyas, is essential to understanding the root of recent events; it is a perspective almost entirely absent from media narrative.

Nadira’s next film venture as co-Producer is a documentary on the Rohingya situation which will endeavour to explain what is happening in much more depth than simply the recital of individual atrocity stories, terrible though these are. The Director will be our friend Shahida Tulaganova. They are currently attempting to raise funds towards the production costs, and here is their fundraising appeal. Help would be much appreciated. I should add that I have no input to this at all, other than making cups of tea, and any views expressed will very probably not concur with my own, with which I am very comfortable. As I have always said, the entire purpose of this blog is not to make people think like me, it is just to make people think.

You can make a contribution through kickstarter. That site works on the premise that if the full donation target of £15,000 is not reached, then the money is not given and returns to the donors. To date they have raised £4,526 and have eleven days left.

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The Stomach-Churning Victim Blaming by “Labour Friends of Israel”

The true face of the organisation calling itself “Labour Friends of Israel” has been revealed today, in truly disgusting victim-blaming tweets reacting to the massacre of over fifty Palestinians – including yet more children – by the Israeli Defence Force in Gaza.

No Israelis were injured and no “border communities” attacked. This amplification of the worst extreme right wing zionist propaganda by the Likud government shows beyond doubt that “Labour Friends of Israel” is nothing whatsoever to do with the professed values of the Labour Party, but rather a well-funded entryist front solely intended to promote the interests of a violent, expansionist and aggressive foreign state.

I am not a Labour Party member and I do not know what institutional ties the “Labour Friends of Israel” has to the Labour Party, but whatever they are they should be cut off immediately.

The “Labour Friends of Israel” featured very prominently on our TV screens after the recent English local elections, beating the drum for their widespread accusations of anti-semitism within the Labour Party. They have been driving that agenda for many months. One would like to think that the mainstream media would, after today, cease to accept them as a genuine and well-motivated group and understand them for the hate-filled fanatics they truly are. Of course that will not happen, and they will be back on television shortly accusing yet more lifelong anti-racism campaigners who have the temerity to criticise Israel.

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When Is a Massacre Not a Massacre?

On the day the Israeli Defence Force massacred dozens of unarmed Palestinians in Gaza and maimed over 400 more, our media has carefully avoided the use of the word massacre. Here is a Google search of News I did five minutes ago on the word “massacre”.

A massacre occurred today in which more people were killed than at Glencoe. All of them were unarmed and the majority were well over a hundred yards from the border fence. It says everything about the kind of nightmare fascist state Israel now is, that if you look through those news results for “massacre”, the only mention you get of Palestinians is a claim by the Israeli Defence Force that the Palestinian Defence Forces were planning a massacre of Israelis.

The Turkish government have now come out with a statement condemning the massacre, and in the UK the Daily Express and the Daily Star have both reported that; but both have chosen to put the word “massacre” in the Turkish statement into inverted commas, as though it were not true.

The Western media far prefers the word “clashes” to “massacre”. Because those terrible Palestinians insist upon demonstrating against the continuing theft of all their land and resources, and keep attacking innocent Israeli bullets with their heads and bodies. If you look through the Google search of News this time for “clashes”, you discover that the western and Israeli media peculiarly have precisely the same preference for this entirely inappropriate word. That, again, is fascinating.

The gross injustice of the apartheid state of Israel appears immutable. The overwhelming force of the political and financial Establishment is behind Israel in the West, in the Russian oligarchy and even in most of the horribly corrupt leadership of Arab states. But the situation is not as dire as it seems, because the hold of those Establishment elites on the people they exploit has never been more shaky. Israel remains a touchstone issue. In order to help redress the terrible agony of the Palestinians, we must first effect a change in our own system of elite exploitation of the people at home. That change is coming.

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The Incredible Bias of the BBC

The right wing bias of BBC Question Time tonight staggers belief, even for the BBC. One Francoist, two Tories, the still more right wing Chukka Umunna, all “balanced” by Akala, who thankfully has more brains, and certainly more compassion, than the rest put together.

Esther McVey, Tory. Champion of the rape clause, minister implementing benefit cuts and promoting privatised benefits assessments, lobbyist against regulating gambling machines. One of the very nastiest of Tories.

Chloe Westley Another Tory. Here representing the tiny far right fringe group the “Taxpayers Alliance”. Proponent of fierce benefit cuts. Studying the rampantly Islamophobic counter-terrorism course at St Andrews University. Her twitter handle is “LowTaxChloe” which is all you need to know.

Alejandro Agag Another Tory, invited by the BBC as a “businessman”. Former MEP for the Francoist Spanish Popular Party – the current government in Spain which is busy jailing as many political prisoners in Catalonia as they can get their hands on, and is happy sending in paramilitary thugs to club old Catalan ladies waiting to vote.

Chuka Umunna Full time taxpayer-funded right wing campaigner against Jeremy Corbyn.

Akala Very decent guy. Performing this year at our Doune the Rabbit Hole festival for which you should pull your finger out and get buying tickets now.

Why is the BBC permitted, day after day after day, to pump out programming which actively promotes a political programme far to the right of where the British population actually stand? With the continual over-representation of nutty right wing groups like the Taxpayers’ Alliance and the Henry Jackson Society, while left wing groups of much larger membership such as Stop the War are completely ignored. Why low tax campaigners but no invitation ever to groups like Black Triangle who represent claimants interests? Not to mention the routine ignoring of the SNP, parliament’s third largest party.

I strongly urge you not to pay your TV license to fund this barrage of right wing propaganda. I and thousands of others in Scotland have refused to pay since 2014, and other than lots of silly threatening letters nothing has happened. Just stop paying for this nonsense.

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Half a Million Pounds of Taxpayers’ Money Bails Out Criminals Jack Straw and Sir Mark Allen

So the Belhaj family have accepted an apology and half a million pounds of our tax money to drop their legal action against HMG and against Jack Straw personally over their extraordinary rendition to torture in Libya.

The British establishment, whichever party is in power, continues to do everything possible to cover up the shameful history of its complicity in torture and extraordinary rendition, and in particular to hide the authorisation by Jack Straw and Tony Blair and the involvement of senior MI6 officials like Sir Mark Allen and Sir Richard Dearlove.

A judicial inquiry by Judge Gibson into British government complicity i torture was cancelled when he showed signs of being an honest and independent man, and was replaced by an inquiry in secret by the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament. I gave evidence to that inquiry but no report has ever issued.

Most tellingly, a police investigation into the Belhaj case and other cases was dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service ensuring that Jack Straw never stood trial. Senior policemen in the investigation had told me they believed they had sufficient evidence to prosecute. That evidence included my own sworn witness statement, taken by the Metropolitan Police over two days of interviews.

This is the crux of my sworn evidence, where I testify that the decision to use intelligence from torture came from Jack Straw and Richard Dearlove.

You can see my full evidence and an account of the circumstances of the CPS dropping the case here.

On the same issue of complicity in torture, in the US Gina Haspel, like Straw, Dearlove, and Allen here, has got away with her crimes, to the extent she has now been appointed head of the CIA. My good friend Ray McGovern yesterday made a protest over her very close involvement in authorising torture, at her confirmation hearing. As a result Ray, who is 78 years old, was brutally assaulted by six policemen who kept yelling “stop resisting” at this unresisting 78 year old man, as they dragged him around the floor, dislocating his shoulder.

Nobody has gone to jail in the UK for a complicity in torture which everybody knows occurred. Everybody also knows precisely who ought to have gone to jail, including Blair and Straw. The government spent over £4 million in legal battles to try to keep the evidence in the Belhaj case secret, before they settled out of court to avoid a public trial and to save the Establishment being exposed.

Never was there a plainer example of the neo-cons sticking together than the Tory protection of Blair and Straw.

I am personally not happy at this waste of taxpayer resources to keep Jack Straw out of jail. Are you?

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Trump’s Act of American Hubris

The United States is so far doing virtually no trade with Iran anyway. In 2017 total US exports to Iran were just 138 million dollars, and total imports a mere 63 million dollars, figures entirely insignificant to the US economy. By contrast, for the EU as a whole imports and exports to Iran were each a very much more substantial 8 billion dollars in 2017 and projected to rise to over 10 billion dollars in 2018.

There is one very significant US deal in the pipeline, for sale of Boeing aircraft, worth $18 billion dollars. It will now be cancelled.

Which brings us to the crux of the argument. Can America make its will hold? Airbus also has orders from Iran of over US$20 billion, and it is assumed those orders will be stopped too, because Airbus planes contain parts and technology licensed from the US. It is possible, but unlikely, that the US could grant a waiver to Airbus – highly unlikely because Boeing would be furious.

Now even a $20 billion order is probably in itself not quite big enough for Airbus to redevelop aircraft to be built without the US parts or technology (which constitute about 8% of the cost of an airbus). But the loss of a $20 billion order on such capricious grounds is certainly big enough for Airbus to look to future long term R & D to develop aircraft not vulnerable to US content blocking. And if Iran were to dangle the Boeing order towards Airbus too, a $38 billion order is certainly big enough for Airbus to think about what adaptations may be possible on a timescale of years not decades.

Read across from aircraft to many other industries. In seeking to impose unilateral sanctions against the express wishes of its “old” European allies, the USA is betting that it has sufficient global economic power, in alliance with its “new” Israeli and Saudi allies, to force the Europeans to bend to its will. This is plainly a very rash act of global geopolitics. It is perhaps an even more rash economic gamble.

We are yet to see the detail, but by all precedent Trump’s Iran sanctions will also sanction third country companies which trade with Iran, at the least through attacking their transactions through US financial institutions and by sanctioning their US affiliates. But at a time when US share of the world economy and world trade is steadily shrinking, this encouragement to European and Asian companies to firewall and minimise contact with the US is most unlikely to be long term beneficial to the US. In particular, in a period where it is already obvious that the years of the US dollar’s undisputed dominance as the world currency of reference are drawing to a close, the incentive to employ non-US linked means of financial transaction will add to an already highly significant global trend.

In short, if the US fails to prevent Europe and Asia’s burgeoning trade with Iran – and I think they will fail – this moment will be seen by historians as a key marker in US decline as a world power.

I have chosen not to focus on the more startling short term dangers of war in the Middle East, and the folly of encouraging Saudi Arabia and Israel in their promotion of sustained violence against Iranian interests throughout the region, as I have very written extensively on that subject. But the feeling of empowerment Trump will have given to his fellow sociopaths Netanyahu and Mohammed Bin Salman bodes very ill indeed for the world at present.

I shall be most surprised if we do not see increased US/Israeli/Saudi sponsored jihadist attacks in Syria, and in Lebanon following Hezbollah’s new national electoral victory. Hezbollah’s democratic advance has stunned and infuriated the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia but been reported very sparsely in the MSM, as it very much goes against the neo-con narrative. It does not alter the positions of President or Prime Minister, constitutionally allocated by religion, but it does increase Hezbollah’s power in the Lebanese state, and thus Iranian influence.

Iran is a difficult country to predict. I hope they will stick to the agreement and wait to see how Europe is able to adapt, before taking any rash decisions. They face, however, not only the provocation of Trump but the probability of a renewed wave of anti-Shia violence from Pakistan to Lebanon, designed to provoke Iran into reaction. These will be a tense few weeks. I do not think even Netanyahu is crazy enough to launch an early air strike on Iran itself, but I would not willingly bet my life on it.

The problem is, with Russia committed to holding a military balance in the Middle East, all of us are betting our lives on it.

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The Right to Stand in First Class

For every one mile one passenger travels, the British taxpayer pays an average 8 pence subsidy to the train operating company. That is an average of 8p per mile subsidy for every single journey for every single passenger. That is, of course, in addition to your train fare.

The train fare system in the UK is ridiculously complicated, so much so that it makes comparison to other countries difficult in searching for like for like fares. The simple methodology adopted by this site linked to finds the UK has the second most expensive train fares in Europe. This further site linked to finds Britain has the most expensive commuter fares of eight expensive comparators. This Sky News investigation found some stunning examples of comparable British tickets being around three to four times more expensive than comparable fares in France and Germany.

Since privatisation, taxpayers have paid much more money in real terms to the rail network that they gave to British Rail, as shown by official government statistics.

Much of that taxpayer money has simply gone to the profits of the subsidised train operating companies – which peculiarly are for the most part foreign state-owned railway companies. As trains get ever more filthy and overcrowded, the promised privatisation benefits of passenger experience remain elusive.

I attended a family funeral in Norfolk just before Easter. as such events are necessarily unplanned, and I would have to come home on Good Friday when trains are very busy, I bought a first class ticket from Peterborough to Edinburgh at great expense, but ended up standing from Peterborough to Berwick. My ticket was, from memory, £210. On arrival at Edinburgh I went to Virgin customer services to ask if I might have some refund. I was told that as I had an open ticket and no reservation, I was not guaranteed a seat. I pointed out that I had received no food and no drink, as entitled by a first class ticket. The lady replied that these were “complimentary” and that meant they were a gift and not an entitlement with the ticket.

I replied that I had received no benefit from my first class ticket, neither a seat nor any refreshment, so I should at least be refunded the difference between a first and second class ticket. No, the lady replied, I had the right to stand in a first class carriage. She really did say that.

Today Britain’s train operating companies are launching a consultation on rail fares, which precludes from the start the notion that fares should be cheaper. It sounds like their motive is an attempt to remove their legal obligation to issue discounted season tickets to commuters, dressed up in guff about “flexibility” and new technology.

The urgent need is the renationalisation of the railways and for Britain to catch up with the more enlightened world in the rolling out of high speed rail. I view HS2 as a minor idea, compared to the need to provide high speed rail all the way to Aberdeen and Inverness, with a high speed network connecting all the UK cities of over 500,000 people, and involving multiple direct links to a variety of European cities. This is the kind of public project which can have a revitalising economic effect. If the Victorians could undertake economic projects on that scale with a much inferior construction technology, then so can we.

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Jeremy Corbyn and Mhairi Black

There are very few people who support Irish re-unification but oppose Scottish Independence. I do not know of any. I have always, from my knowledge of Jeremy Corbyn and his general political philosophy and way of thinking, and that of many of his close associates, believed him to be sympathetic to Scottish Independence.

I do not claim to know Jeremy well. I have shared a Stop the War platform with him a few times and exchanged a few emails. He assisted this blog by asking some parliamentary questions I suggested on Fox/Werritty, and he successfully intervened with then Home Secretary Jacqui Smith at my request to stop the imminent deportation of an Uzbek asylum seeker.

His behaviour in all of those contacts was absolutely admirable. I like and admire Jeremy, something which is not popular with my fellow Scottish nationalists. One thing Jeremy Corbyn could never be described as is a unionist – he comes from a totally different political place. I also sympathise with his extremely difficult position in wrenching the Labour Party away from the Blairites and the fact that he cannot fight every battle simultaneously.

I therefore have no doubt Mhairi Black is telling the truth today, that Corbyn revealed to her that he privately supports Scottish Independence. I am sure that, like me, Corbyn sees it as part of the decolonisation process of burying the British Empire.

I also have enormous admiration for Mhairi, with whom I too have shared a platform several times. Like many, I am impatient for Mhairi’s leadership of the SNP to begin. But I am not quite certain it was wise to reveal Jeremy’s confidential comment. It is unlikely the current state of the Labour Party will leave him able at this moment to take a more forward stance on Scottish Independence.

I do understand and sympathise with Mhairi’s impatience. But as with Independence so with Trident. I have no doubt that Jeremy Corbyn is 100% and fundamentally opposed to nuclear weapons, and is an unilateralist. I also have no doubt that in power he would act on that. But at this stage on his road to power he cannot take that stance in the struggle for control of the Labour Party. I do not regard this as “selling out”, I regard it as realpolitik and I am prepared to withhold judgement for a few more years as his plan is worked through.

There is an important element that should not be missed. The Blairite leadership of Scottish Labour is increasingly unrepresentative of Labour Party grassroots in Scotland. There has not – despite the constant media propaganda – been a great surge in Tory support in Scotland, which has an iron ceiling around 25%.

What has happened is that many Labour Party supporters who switched to the SNP around the 2014 referendum, have gone back to Labour. But they still retain their belief in Independence; opinion polls regularly show that a quarter or more of Scottish Labour Party voters support Independence, and that support is steadily growing.

I know personally several 2015 SNP voters who have reverted to Labour, including members of my own family. In every case the reason is the same. They like Jeremy Corbyn and, while they would prioritise Scottish Independence, the SNP leadership has been downplaying Independence. Sturgeon very openly campaigned at the Westminster election on the basis that she wanted unionists to feel comfortable voting SNP, and that a vote for the SNP was specifically not a vote for Independence. Some people took her at her word and decided they might as well vote Labour, if a vote for the SNP was not a vote for Independence anyway.

The upshot of all this is that I believe we are seeing a historical trend against hardline unionism among Scottish Labour members and voters. I strongly believe Jeremy Corbyn is not an enemy of the Scottish people in the way that the Tories and the Blairites are. It is healthy that Mhairi has provided us with an opportunity to get this discussion a bit more open; breaking down the tribalism of Scottish politics is a long haul.

I should add that my personal view is that we should stick with the SNP. We are stuck in what I would call the Sturgeon Paradox; falling support for the SNP has hit the confidence of the leadership to go for Independence, but the lack of campaigning for Independence leads to falling support for the SNP. My view remains that getting behind the SNP, and strongly urging the MSP’s to call Indyref2, is a much better route to Independence at this moment than working through the Labour Party or through fringe parties.

I was astounded at the size of the march in Glasgow on Saturday – the biggest pro-Independence demonstration I have ever addressed. This horrendous Tory government and its relentless media propaganda has only strengthened the resolve of masses of ordinary Scots. I was also very happy to see SNP MP’s and MSP’s actively participate, something missing from pro-Indy gatherings the last few years. This needs to be the start of a huge summer of full on campaigning.

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