Geoffrey Cox’s New “Legal Advice” on Brexit Incentivises Unionist Violence 685

Brexit has revealed further the rottenness of the British political Establishment, but I am still truly shocked now to see the Government of the United Kingdom negotiating a major international treaty on the acknowledged, discussed and now published basis that it has every intention of breaking that treaty once it is in force. Officially published by the Attorney General, no less.

The Westminster Government’s contempt for international law was fully demonstrated just two weeks ago when it repudiated the International Court of Justice – an act which is the ultimate disavowal of the rule of international law – over the decolonisation of the Chagos Islands. So in one sense it is no shock that they are prepared to sign a treaty with no intention of honoring it.

But what is quite astonishing is that the discussions with the DUP and ERG on how to sign up to the backstop and then dishonour it, have been carried out fully in public, and with the potential other party to the treaty looking on.

I simply do not see how the EU can now sign the Withdrawal Agreement which was negotiated with May, when they have been given firm evidence that the UK intends to cheat on that Agreement.

I especially cannot understand the pusillanimous attitude of the government of Ireland to this development. The UK has published in advance that it is taking Ireland and the Irish people for fools and has no intention of keeping to the Irish backstop. The reaction of the Government of Ireland is to pretend not to notice. That is an astonishing dereliction of its duty to the people of Ireland, North and South.

The more so as Geoffrey Cox’s “advice” is an unsubtle hint to the DUP, should the backstop become effective, to restart the Loyalist violence with which they were for decades so closely associated, in order to provide the pretext for cancelling the backstop. In reading this, it is essential to remember that this legal advice was written, as a matter of definite fact, directly for the DUP audience to try and influence the DUP in the next “meaningful” vote. To signal to an organisation as steeped in blood as the DUP that the way out of the “Backstop” arrangement which they so hate, would be to demonstrate it is having a “socially destabilising effect in Northern Ireland”, clearly gives a very direct incentive to Loyalists to restart violence.

Anybody who knows anything about the history and politics of Northern Ireland must be aware that what I have just written is true. At the very best reading, Cox’s “advice” is grossly irresponsible and reckless.

It is also very poor legal advice. Unlike Geoffrey Cox, I have actually negotiated a number of international treaties, including most of the UK’s continental shelf boundary agreements, the Protocol on Deep Seabed Mining to UNCLOS and the Sierra Leone Peace Agreement. Cox’s interpretation of Article 62 of the Vienna Convention on Treaties is complete nonsense. To start with, Article 62 is designed not to facilitate but to prevent treaties being dishonoured under the excuse of “unforseen circumstances”. It reads:

Article 62
Fundamental change of circumstances
1. A fundamental change of circumstances which has occurred with regard to those existing at the
time of the conclusion of a treaty, and which was not foreseen by the parties, may not be invoked as a
ground for terminating or withdrawing from the treaty unless:
(a) the existence of those circumstances constituted an essential basis of the consent of the parties to
be bound by the treaty; and
21
(b) the effect of the change is radically to transform the extent of obligations still to be performed
under the treaty.
2. A fundamental change of circumstances may not be invoked as a ground for terminating or
withdrawing from a treaty:
(a) if the treaty establishes a boundary; or
(b) if the fundamental change is the result of a breach by the party invoking it either of an obligation
under the treaty or of any other international obligation owed to any other party to the treaty.
3. If, under the foregoing paragraphs, a party may invoke a fundamental change of circumstances
as a ground for terminating or withdrawing from a treaty it may also invoke the change as a ground for
suspending the operation of the treaty.

Very plainly indeed, neither 1 a) nor 1 b) apply to the situation Cox outlines. Just not working out the way you intended is not grounds to dishonor a treaty. Social discontent in Northern Ireland would not radically transform the obligations under the treaty nor is social content the essential basis of consent to the treaty.

The second, and frankly hilarious, point is that Cox’s advice is demonstrably nonsense. To permit the dishonoring of the treaty, a change in circumstance must not only be “fundamental” it must also be “unforeseen”. Yet in his legal advice Cox foresees and specifies the “unforeseen” event that might lead to cancellation!

I rest my case.

It is worth reminding you – as the MSM refuse to do – that the Tory Brexiteers oppose the Good Friday Agreement, and destroying it is to them a potential gain from Brexit rather than a disaster to be averted. Remember this by Michael Gove, asserting that the British military option would be better than the Good Friday Agreement?

Ulster’s future lies, ultimately, either as a Province of the United
Kingdom or a united Ireland. Attempts to fudge or finesse that
truth only create an ambiguity which those who profit by violence
will seek to exploit. Therefore, the best guarantee for stability is the
assertion by the Westminster Government that it will defend, with
all vigour, the right of the democratic majority in Northern Ireland
to remain in the United Kingdom. Ulster could then be governed
with an Assembly elected on the same basis as Wales, and an
administration constituted in the same way. Minority rights should
be protected by the same legal apparatus which exists across the
UK. The legislative framework which has guaranteed the rights and
freedoms of Roman Catholics and ethnic minorities in Liverpool
and London should apply equally in Belfast and Belleek…

In such circumstances, resolute security action, the use of
existing antiterrorist legislation and the careful application of
intelligence could reduce the IRA to operating as it did in the fifties
and sixties. Combining such security measures with a political
determination not to allow Ulster’s constitutional status to be altered
by force of arms would rob the republicans of hope.
It can be done. But does any Government have the will?

Interestingly enough, after I published an article on Gove’s 58 page pamphlet attacking the Good Friday Agreement, the Tory think tank which published it, the Centre for Policy Studies, immediately took it down from the web. I have, however, copied it to my own website.

By chance, my next couple of speaking engagements are in Northern Ireland. This is not the subject I was intending to discuss, but I never know what I am going to say when I stand up anyway. Happy to answer questions on anything.

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Brexit and Bad Faith 690

My long article on the Chagos Islands sat unfinished yesterday, despite my passion for the subject, as I was horribly fascinated by the Gothic twists and turns of the Brexit debates in the House of Commons. I seldom write on the subject, but some observations seem now called for.

The Westminster system of handling business is designed purely to handle binary questions disputed between two major parties. Where those parties are both themselves hopelessly riven by internal conflict, and the issues not simply reduced to a manageable number of binary choices, Erskine May just cannot cope.

Parliament thus ended up yesterday with a vote in which the majority of MPs who voted against May’s Withdrawal Agreement view its Irish Backstop provision as almost the only decent thing in it – an opinion with which I tend to concur. They however were egging on the antediluvian DUP/ERG faction to join them, on the basis of an argument that the Irish Backstop is terrible and could be permanent, neither of which anyone sensible really believes.

It says something about the insanity of UK politics that the debate quite seriously hinged around discussions of what happens if the EU acts in bad faith and used the “backstop” deliberately to trap the UK permanently in the Customs Union. The notion that the EU is acting in “bad faith” is frankly ludicrous. No trading partner has ever accused the EU, which has the most transparent negotiating process on trade deals of any country or trading bloc, of acting in bad faith. In its own interest, yes. In bad faith – ie lying and tricking – no.

The notion that the EU is like SPECTRE, and its leaders sit round a table headed by Blofeld Junker conjuring up evil plots to trap the UK in a customs union, is stark raving mad. It is an absolutely crazed conspiracy theory. Yet pro-EU MPs were pretending to share this conspiracy theory in order to encourage the ERG/DUP nutters to vote down May’s deal. That is madness.

Nobody should be perplexed that the EU has absolutely had enough of May and her government today, having watched yesterday Westminster hold a debate entirely centred on the premiss that the EU acts in bad faith.

The most important demonstration of bad faith now comes from Theresa May. She proposed a motion for debate this evening ruling out “no deal”, but – her cunning plan – specifically ruling out a no deal Brexit on 29 March, so the Government can argue No Deal has not been ruled out on any other date, and also with a clause re-asserting that No Deal remains the default position in law. In live parliamentary proceedings, Yvette Cooper – a person of whom I am not the least fond – appeared the only one immediately to pick up on what May was doing, though I gather amendments now show others have cottoned on.

May’s plan is to ask for a short extension after the next two days’ votes, then pretend to be renegotiating (again), and then bring back her same hard Brexit deal yet again to the Commons for yet another vote, this time with imminent and unstoppable No Deal as the only alternative, the EU having been pissed off to the point where it will not agree to any further extensions.

The truth is, there is a Commons majority for a soft Brexit with a Customs Union. In a free vote without party whips, that would sail through. But it is not what May wants personally as it breaks her “red lines”, all of which are entirely predicated on stopping Free Movement. Hatred of immigrants remains the defining motive of her entire career. Customs Union and Single Market access are not going to be obtainable without Free Movement.

The truth is, it is May who is acting in bad faith. She has no intention of negotiating anything other than her Red Lines with the EU, and has no intention of engaging in any kind of meaningful renegotiation, delay or no. A delay to Brexit is absolutely pointless while May remains Prime Minister. May rightly calculates that her ultra-hard Brexit red lines were required to keep the Tory Party together, and thus keep her in power. She cares much more for being in power than she does for a solution. The comparison with Robert Peel is very apt. He reached across the aisle whilst PM and split the Tory Party to repeal the Corn Laws. There are many statues to Peel around the country. There will never be any to Theresa May.

The party, parliamentary and political system of the UK has simply become dysfunctional. This is a symptom of the much wider fact that the UK is no longer a viable socio-political entity and will not continue to exist much longer. Its system of economic regulation promotes the accumulation of vast wealth by a tiny minority, while not providing a decent standard of living to millions. There is massive disillusion with its political leadership and distrust of its extremely narrow mainstream media.

What we are witnessing at Westminster is plainly not a functional political system. It is essential that the SNP now strike out decisively for Scottish Independence. Westminster will never be held in more contempt by the public, so there will never be a better time to assert the right of the Scottish people to decide for themselves on Independence without being blocked by Westminster. Ian Blackford was very good on this yesterday.

The rise of Jeremy Corbyn to lead the Labour Party is not a chance; it is based on popular reaction to the failure of the UK political system to satisfy the needs of, and deliver a fair society for, the general population. Despite desperate Establishment attempts to smear the Left, I suspect these underlying factors may still propel Corbyn to victory. He needs to come to terms rapidly with Scotland’s right to self-determination, and stop regarding Scots as an irritant.

In looking at yesterday’s events in grim despair, in regarding May’s devious plans and contempt for the wider interest with profound distate, be comforted. It is all a sign that the British Establishment has its coat on a very shoogly peg. It is not long now.

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A Tale of Two Incarcerated Women 520

On International Women’s Day yesterday Chelsea Manning was imprisoned yet again, this time for refusing to testify against Julian Assange before a Grand Jury. Chelsea has already suffered over seven years of total imprisonment – no American had ever previously spent more than three years in jail for releasing government secrets to the public, in a land which had historically valued free speech.

I am in awe of Chelsea’s courage in refusing to testify, and shocked at a system that imprisons somebody for contempt of court for maintaining dignified silence.

Chelsea has also done a great service in finally stripping away the last vestige of excuse from the figures who refuse to support Julian Assange, pretending that they do not believe he faces extradition to the United States, and that the legal issue is not about Wkileaks’ right to publish.

The potential charges in Sweden – always based on quite ludicrous accusations – were dropped years ago after he was finally interviewed in the Ecuadorean Embassy by Swedish police and prosecutors, and it became very plain indeed there was no viable case against him.

Chelsea has gone to prison for refusing to participate in the prosecution of Wikileaks for publishing materials that revealed war crimes in the American occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. Chelsea is a whistlebower, not a publisher. Assange is a pubisher, not a whistleblower. If Assange can be prosecuted for publishing official secrets, then so can every newspaper editor or television editor involved in the receipt of whistleblower material. There is a massive, a fundamental, media freedom issue at stake here. Even so, the MSM in the UK do not even have the guts to state the truth about what causes Julian to be confined to the Ecuadorean Embassy, let alone to support his right to publish.

Nazanin Zaghari Ratcliffe is in jail in Iran for spying for the British. She is certainly not an MI6 officer, and I can’t see that she would have sufficient access to information to make her of much use as an agent (as MI6 calls its informants). That she was involved in training Iranian journalists or citizen journalists in ways the Iranian government did not like is much more probable, but does not amount to espionage. Even if she were some kind of low level informant to MI6 (which I doubt), the Iranian authorities have sufficiently made their point and it is time to let her go.

The British government’s attitude to this case has been particularly interesting and extremely unusual. I cannot criticise them for the things they have done, because they are the things I used to get frustrated with them for never doing. But their handling of this case is truly out of the ordinary.

The UK allows dual citizenship. It has been longstanding Foreign Office policy that the UK does not give consular protection to UK dual nationals in the country where they are also a national. If the other state does not allow dual citizenship, it might not recognise any British standing in the matter. But there is another compelling reason for the standard policy of not assisting in these circumstances.

When working in Embassies, I used to get infuriated by cases where I wished to help people but was not allowed to, because they were dual citizens. It was explained to me, that if in Nigeria alone we accepted as consular cases all the British/Nigerian dual nationals in Nigerian jails, that would already double the FCO’s entire consular caseload worldwide. To accept dual nationals as consular cases everywhere in their other homeland would increase consular work by a large multiple and require a very large increase in FCO resources.

I nevertheless always felt we could do more. That the British government had, prior to yesterday, already done so much to try to help Nazanin Zagahari Ratcliffe, even though she was an Iranian dual national in Iran, was already extremely unusual. That the UK has now “adopted” the case, raising it to the level of a state dispute, is something not just unusual, but which I don’t think has happened since the First World War. Please note this is not the same process as granting Zaghari Ratcliffe herself diplomatic status, which has not been done.

Again, I can’t criticise the FCO for this, because adoption is something I had urged them to do in a past case while I was on the inside, (shout out to my friend John Carmichael), again being told by the FCO it was not possible as we never do it.

Whether the move is effective or wise in this case, is quite another question. It seems to me likely the Iranians will take it as confirmation that she is a spy. I would urge the Iranian government to take this course; they should now declare the the adoption of the case as a state dispute proves that Zaghari Ratcliffe is a spy, and having been proven right before the world, they will let her go as an example of mercy and compassion.

There are two fundamental points here. The first is that Iran has been subjected for years to crippling sanctions and an international campaign of hate spread by western government propaganda and their MSM. Western governments have aligned themselves with Saudi and Israeli sponsored brutal proxy wars against Shia communities across the Middle East, which look to Iran for protection. If the Iranian government is defensive and suspicious, is that really surprising? The week after the British government declare Hezbollah, the political and security organisation of Lebanese Shias, to be nothing but a terrorist organisation, do the Tories really think the Iranians will be looking kindly on them and their demands over Zaghari Ratcliffe?

The second point is that the entire purpose of the state “adopting” a case, is to make available the dispute resolution mechanisms which operate between states. But the UK only a few days ago repudiated the International Court of Justice, the final arbiter of such disputes, over the Chagos Islands. As the UK shows total contempt for international law, this attempt to access its remedies will be met with derision by the wider international community.

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Pure: Ten Points I Just Can’t Believe About the Official Skripal Narrative 887

I still do not know what happened in the Skripal saga, which perhaps might more respectfully be termed the Sturgess saga. I cannot believe the Russian account of Boshirov and Petrov, because if those were their real identities, those identities would have been firmly established and displayed by now. But that does not mean they attempted to kill the Skripals, and there are many key elements to the official British account which are also simply incredible.

Governments play dark games, and a dark game was played out in Salisbury which involved at least the British state, Russian agents (possibly on behalf of the state), Orbis Intelligence and the BBC. Anybody who believes it is simple to identify the “good guys” and the “bad guys” in this situation is a fool. When it comes to state actors and the intelligence services, frequently there are no “good guys”, as I personally witnessed from the inside over torture, extraordinary rendition and the illegal invasion of Iraq. But in the face of a massive media campaign to validate the British government story about the Skripals, here are ten of the things I do not believe in the official account:

1) PURE

This was the point that led me to return to the subject of the Skripals, even though it has brought me more abuse than I had received in my 15 year career as a whistleblower.

A few months ago, I was in truth demoralised by the amount of abuse I was receiving about the collapse of the Russian identity story of Boshirov and Petrov. I had never claimed the poisoning, if any, was not carried out by Russians, only that there were many other possibilities. I understood the case against the Russian state is still far from established, whoever Boshirov and Petrov really are, and I did not (and do not) accept Bellingcat’s conjectures and dodgy evidence as conclusive identification. But I did not enjoy at all the constant online taunts, and therefore was not inclined to take the subject further.

It is in this mood that I received more information from my original FCO source, who had told me, correctly, that Porton Down could not and would not attest that the “novichok” sample was made in Russia, and explained that the formulation “of a type developed by Russia” was an agreed Whitehall line to cover this up.

She wanted to explain to me that the British government was pulling a similar trick over the use of the word “pure”. The OPCW report had concluded that the sample provided to them by the British government was “of high purity” with an “almost complete absence of impurities”. This had been spun by the British government as evidence that the novichok was “military grade” and could only be produced by a state.

But actually that is not what the OPCW technical experts were attempting to signal. The sample provided to the OPCW had allegedly been swabbed from the Skripals’ door handle. It had been on that door handle for several days before it was allegedly discovered there. In that time it had been contacted allegedly by the hands of the Skripals and of DC Bailey, and the gloves of numerous investigators. It had of course been exposed to whatever film of dirt or dust was on the door handle. It had been exposed to whatever pollution was in the rain and whatever dust and pollen was blowing around. In these circumstances, it is incredible that the sample provided “had an almost complete absence of impurities”.

A sample cannot have a complete absence of impurities after being on a used doorknob, outdoors, for several days. The sample provided was, on the contrary, straight out of a laboratory.

The government’s contention that “almost complete absence of impurities” meant “military grade” was complete nonsense. There is no such thing as “military grade” novichok. It has never been issued to any military, anywhere. The novichok programme was designed to produce an organo-phosphate poison which could quickly be knocked up from readily available commercial ingredients. It was not part of an actual defence industry manufacturing programme.

There is a final problem with the “of high purity” angle. First we had the Theresa May story that the “novichok” was extremely deadly, many times more deadly than VX, in minute traces. Then, when the Skripals did not die, it was explained to us that this was because it had degraded in the rain. This was famously put forward by Dan Kaszeta, formerly of US Intelligence and the White House and self-proclaimed chemical weapons expert – which expertise has been strenuously denied by real experts.

What we did not know then, but we do know now, is that Kaszeta was secretly being paid to produce this propaganda by the British government via the Integrity Initiative.

So the first thing I cannot believe is that the British government produced a sample with an “almost complete absence of impurities” from several days on the Skripals’ doorknob. Nor can I believe that if “extremely pure” the substance therefore was not fatal to the Skripals.

2) Raising the Roof

Three days ago Sky News had an outside broadcast from the front of the Skripals’ house in Salisbury, where they explained that the roof had been removed and replaced due to contamination with “novichok”.

I cannot believe that a gel, allegedly smeared or painted onto the doorknob, migrated upwards to get into the roof of a two storey house, in such a manner that the roof had to be destroyed, but the house inbetween did not. As the MSM never questions the official narrative, there has never been an official answer as to how the gel got from the doorknob to the roof. Remember that traces of the “novichok” were allegedly found in a hotel room in Poplar, which is still in use as a hotel room and did not have to be destroyed, and an entire bottle of it was allegedly found in Charlie Rowley’s house, which has not had to be destroyed. Novichok was found in Zizzi’s restaurant, which did not have to be destroyed.

So we are talking about novichok in threatening quantities – more than the traces allegedly found in the hotel in Poplar – being in the Skripals’ roof. How could this happen?

As I said in the onset, I do not know what happened, I only know what I do not believe. There are theories that Skripal and his daughter might themselves have been involved with novichok in some way. On the face of it, its presence in their roof might support that theory.

The second thing I do not believe is that the Skripals’ roof became contaminated by gel on their doorknob so that the roof had to be destroyed, whereas no other affected properties, nor the rest of the Skripals’ house, had to be destroyed.

3) Nursing Care

The very first person to discover the Skripals ill on a park bench in Salisbury just happened to be the Chief Nurse of the British Army, who chanced to be walking past them on her way back from a birthday party. How lucky was that? The odds are about the same as the chance of my vacuum cleaner breaking down just before James Dyson knocks at my door to ask for directions. There are very few people indeed in the UK trained to give nursing care to victims of chemical weapon attack, and of all the people who might have walked past, it just happened to be the most senior of them!

The government is always trying to get good publicity for its armed forces, and you would think that the heroic role of its off-duty personnel in saving random poisoned Russian double agents they just happened to chance across, would have been proclaimed as a triumph for the British military. Yet it was kept secret for ten months. We were not told about the involvement of Colonel Alison McCourt until January of this year, when it came out by accident. Swollen with maternal pride, Col. McCourt nominated her daughter for an award from the local radio station for her role in helping give first aid to the Skripals, and young Abigail revealed her mother’s identity on local radio – and the fact her mother was there “with her” administering first aid.

Even then, the compliant MSM played along, with the Guardian and Sky News both among those running stories emphasising entirely the Enid Blyton narrative of “plucky teenager saves the Skripals”, and scarcely mentioning the Army’s Chief Nurse who was looking after the Skripals “with little Abigail”.

I want to emphasise again that Col. Alison McCourt is not the chief nurse of a particular unit or hospital, she is the Chief Nurse of the entire British Army. Her presence was kept entirely quiet by the media for ten months, when all sorts of stories were run in the MSM about who the first responders were – various doctors and police officers being mentioned.

If you believe that it is coincidence that the Chief Nurse of the British Army was the first person to discover the Skripals ill, you are a credulous fool. And why was it kept quiet?

4) Remarkable Metabolisms

This has been noted many times, but no satisfactory answer has ever been given. The official story is that the Skripals were poisoned by their door handle, but then well enough to go out to a pub, feed some ducks, and have a big lunch in Zizzi’s, before being instantly stricken and disabled, both at precisely the same time.

The Skripals were of very different ages, genders and weights. That an agent which took hours to act but then kicks in with immediate disabling effect, so they could not call for help, would affect two such entirely different metabolisms at precisely the same time, has never been satisfactorily explained. Dosage would have an effect and of course the doorknob method would give an uncontrolled dosage.

But that the two different random dosages were such that they affected each of these two very different people at just the same moment, so that neither could call for help, is an extreme coincidence. It is almost as unlikely as the person who walks by next being the Chief Nurse of the British Army.

5) 11 Days

After the poisoning of Charlie Rowley and Dawn Sturgess, the Police cordoned off Charlie Rowley’s home and began a search for “Novichok”, in an attitude of extreme urgency because it was believed this poison was out amidst the public. They were specifically searching for a small phial of liquid. Yet it took 11 days of the search before they allegedly discovered the “novichok” in a perfume bottle sitting in plain sight on the kitchen counter – and only after they had discovered the clue of the perfume bottle package in the bin the day before, after ten days of search.

The bottle was out of its packaging and “novichok”, of which the tiniest amount is deadly, had been squirted out of its nozzle at least twice, by both Rowley and Sturgess, and possibly more often. The exterior of the bottle/nozzle was therefore contaminated. Yet the house, unlike the Skripals’ roof space, has not had to be destroyed.

I do not believe it took the Police eleven days to find the very thing they were looking for, in plain sight as exactly the small bottle of liquid sought, on a kitchen bench. What else was happening?

6) Mark Urban/Pablo Miller

The BBC’s “Diplomatic Editor” is a regular conduit for the security services. He fronted much of the BBC’s original coverage of the Skripal story. Yet he concealed from the viewers the fact that he had been in regular contact with Sergei Skripal for months before the alleged poisoning, and had held several meetings with Skripal.

This is extraordinary behaviour. It was the biggest news story in the world, and news organisations, including the BBC, were scrambling to fill in the Skripals’ back story. Yet the journalist who had the inside info on the world’s biggest news story, and was actually reporting on it, kept that knowledge to himself. Why? Urban was not only passing up a career defining opportunity, it was unethical of him to continually report on the story without revealing to the viewers his extensive contacts with Skripal.

The British government had two immediate reactions to the Skripal incident. Within the first 48 hours, it blamed Russia, and it slapped a D(SMA) notice banning all media mention of Skripal’s MI6 handler, Pablo Miller. By yet another one of those extraordinary coincidences, Miller and Urban know each other well, having both been officers together in the Royal Tank Regiment, of the same rank and joining the Regiment the same year.

I have sent the following questions to Mark Urban, repeatedly. There has been no response:

To: [email protected]

Dear Mark,

As you may know, I am a journalist working in alternative media, a member of the NUJ, as well as a former British Ambassador. I am researching the Skripal case.

I wish to ask you the following questions.

1) When the Skripals were first poisoned, it was the largest news story in the entire World and you were uniquely positioned having held several meetings with Sergei Skripal the previous year. Yet faced with what should have been a massive career break, you withheld that unique information on a major story from the public for four months. Why?
2) You were an officer in the Royal Tank Regiment together with Skripal’s MI6 handler, Pablo Miller, who also lived in Salisbury. Have you maintained friendship with Miller over the years and how often do you communicate?
3) When you met Skripal in Salisbury, was Miller present all or part of the time, or did you meet Miller separately?
4) Was the BBC aware of your meetings with Miller and/or Skripal at the time?
5) When, four months later, you told the world about your meetings with Skripal after the Rowley/Sturgess incident, you said you had met him to research a book. Yet the only forthcoming book by you advertised is on the Skripal attack. What was the subject of your discussions with Skripal?
6) Pablo Miller worked for Orbis Intelligence. Do you know if Miller contributed to the Christopher Steele dossier on Trump/Russia?
7) Did you discuss the Trump dossier with Skripal and/or Miller?
8) Do you know whether Skripal contributed to the Trump dossier?
9) In your Newsnight piece following the Rowley/Sturgess incident, you stated that security service sources had told you that Yulia Skripal’s telephone may have been bugged. Since January 2017, how many security service briefings or discussions have you had on any of the matter above.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Craig Murray

The lack of openness of Urban in refusing to answer these questions, and the role played by the BBC and the MSM in general in marching in unquestioning lockstep with the British government narrative, plus the “coincidence” of Urban’s relationship with Pablo Miller, give further reason for scepticism of the official narrative.

7 Four Months

The official narrative insists that Boshirov and Petrov brought “novichok” into the country; that minute quantities could kill; that they disposed of the novichok that did kill Dawn Sturgess. It must therefore have been of the highest priority to inform the public of the movements of the suspects and the possible locations where deadly traces of “novichok” must be lurking.

Yet there was at least a four month gap between the police searching the Poplar hotel where Boshirov and Petrov were staying, allegedly discovering traces of novichok in the hotel room, and the police informing the hotel management, let alone the public, of the discovery. That is four months in which a cleaner might have fatally stumbled across more novichok in the hotel. Four months in which another guest in the same hotel might have had something lurking in their bag which they had picked up. Four months in which there might have been a container of novichok sitting in a hedge near the hotel. Yet for four months the police did not think any of this was urgent enough to tell anybody.

The astonishing thing is that it was a full three months after the death of Dawn Sturgess before the hotel were informed, the public were informed, or the pictures of “Boshirov” and “Petrov” in Salisbury released. There could be no clearer indication that the authorities did not actually believe that any threat from residual novichok was connected to the movements of Boshirov and Petrov.

Similarly the metadata on the famous CCTV images of Boshirov and Petrov in Salisbury, published in September by the Met Police, showed that all the stills were prepared by the Met on the morning of 9 May – a full four months before they were released to the public. But this makes no sense at all. Why wait a full four months for people’s memories to fade before issuing an appeal to the public for information? This makes no sense at all from an investigation viewpoint. It makes even less sense from a public health viewpoint.

If the authorities were genuinely worried about the possible presence of deadly novichok, and wished to track it down, why one earth would you wait for four months before you published the images showing the faces and clothing and the whereabouts of the people you believe were distributing it?

The only possible conclusion from the amazing four month delays both in informing the hotel, and in revealing the Boshirov and Petrov CCTV footage to the public, is that the Metropolitan Police did not actually believe there was a public health danger that the two had left a trail of novichok. Were the official story true, this extraordinary failure to take timely action in a public health emergency may have contributed to the death of Dawn Sturgess.

The metadat shows Police processed all the Salisbury CCTV images of Boshirov and Petrov a month before Charlie Rowley picked up the perfume. The authorities claim the CCTV images show they could have been to the charity bin to dump the novichok. Which begs the question, if the Police really believed they had CCTV of the movements of the men with the novichok, why did they not subsequently exhaustively search everywhere the CCTV shows they could have been, including that charity bin?

The far more probable conclusion appears to be that the lack of urgency is explained by the fact that the link between Boshirov and Petrov and “novichok” is a narrative those involved in the investigation do not take seriously.

8 The Bungling Spies

There are elements of the accepted narrative of Boshirov and Petrov’s movements that do not make sense. As the excellent local Salisbury blog the Blogmire points out, the CCTV footage shows Boshirov and Petrov, after they had allegedly coated the door handle with novichok, returning towards the railway station but walking straight past it, into the centre of Salisbury (and missing their first getaway train in the process). They then wander around Salisbury apparently aimlessly, famously window shopping which is caught on CCTV, and according to the official narrative disposing of the used but inexplicably still cellophane-sealed perfume/novichok in a charity donation bin, having walked past numerous potential disposal sites en route including the railway embankment and the bins at the Shell garage.

But the really interesting thing, highlighted by the blogmire, is that the closest CCTV ever caught them to the Skripals’ house is fully 500 metres, at the Shell garage, walking along the opposite side of the road from the turning to the Skripals. There is a second CCTV camera at the garage which would have caught them crossing the road and turning down towards the Skripals’ house, but no such video or still image – potentially the most important of all the CCTV footage – has ever been released.

However the 500 metres is not the closest the CCTV places the agents to the Skripals. From 13.45 to 13.48, on their saunter into town, Boshirov and Petrov were caught on CCTV at Dawaulders coinshop a maximum of 200 metres away from the Skripals, who at the same time were at Avon Playground. The bin at Avon playground became, over two days in the immediate aftermath of the Skripal “attack”, the scene of extremely intensive investigation. Yet the Boshirov and Petrov excursion – during their getaway from attempted murder – into Salisbury town centre has been treated as entirely pointless and unimportant by the official story.

Finally, the behaviour of Boshirov and Petrov in the early hours before the attack makes no sense whatsoever. On the one hand we are told these are highly trained, experienced and senior GRU agents; on the other hand, we are told they were partying in their room all night, drawing attention to themselves with loud noise, smoking weed and entertaining a prostitute in the room in which they were storing, and perhaps creating, the “novichok”.

The idea that, before an extremely delicate murder operation involving handling a poison, a tiny accident with which would kill them, professionals would stay up all night and drink heavily and take drugs is a nonsense. Apart from the obvious effect on their own metabolisms, they were risking authorities being called because of the noise and a search being instituted because of the drugs.

That they did this while in possession of the novichok and hours before they made the attack, is something I simply do not believe.

9 The Skripals’ Movements

Until the narrative changed to Boshirov and Petrov arriving in Salisbury just before lunchtime and painting the doorknob, the official story had been that the Skripals left home around 9am and had not returned. They had both switched off their mobile phones, an interesting and still unexplained point. As you would expect in a city as covered in CCTV as Salisbury, their early morning journey was easily traced and the position of their car at various times was given by the police.

Yet no evidence of their return journey has ever been offered. There is now a tiny window between Boshirov and Petrov arriving, painting the doorknob apparently with the Skripals now inexplicably back inside their home, and the Skripals leaving again by car, so quickly after the doorknob painting that they catch up with Boshirov and Petrov – or certainly being no more than 200 metres from them in Salisbury City Centre. There is undoubtedly a huge amount of CCTV video of the Skripals’ movements which has never been released. For example, the parents of one of the boys who Sergei was chatting with while feeding the ducks, was shown “clear” footage by the Police of the Skripals at the pond, yet this has never been released. This however is the moment at which the evidence puts Boshirov and Petrov at the closest to them. What does the concealed CCTV of the Skripals with the ducks show?

Why has so little detail of the Skripals’ movements that day been released? What do all the withheld CCTV images of the Skripals in Salisbury show?

10 The Sealed Bottle

Only in the last couple of days have the police finally admitted there is a real problem with the fact that Charlie Rowley insists that the perfume bottle was fully sealed, and the cellophane difficult to remove, when he discovered it. Why the charity collection bin had not been emptied for three months has never been explained either. Rowley’s recollection is supported by the fact that the entire packaging was discovered by the police in his bin – why would Boshirov and Petrov have been carrying the cellophane around with them if they had opened the package? Why – and how – would they reseal it outdoors in Salisbury before dumping it?

Furthermore, there was a gap of three months between the police finding the perfume bottle, and the police releasing details of the brand and photos of it, despite the fact the police believed there could be more out there. Again the news management agenda totally belies the official narrative of the need to protect the public in a public health emergency.

This part of the narrative is plainly nonsense.

Bonus Point – The Integrity Initiative

The Integrity Initiative specifically paid Dan Kaszeta to publish articles on the Skripal case. In the weekly collections of social media postings the Integrity Initiative sent to the FCO to show its activity, over 80% were about the Skripals.

Governments do not institute secret campaigns to put out covert propaganda in order to tell the truth. The Integrity Initiative, with secret FCO and MOD sourced subsidies to MSM figures to put out the government narrative, is very plainly a disinformation exercise. More bluntly, if the Integrity Initiative is promoting it, you know it is not true.

Most sinister of all is the Skripal Group convened by the Integrity Initiative. This group includes Pablo Miller, Skripal’s MI6 handler, and senior representatives of Porton Down, the BBC, the CIA, the FCO and the MOD. Even if all the other ludicrously weak points in the government narrative did not exist, the Integrity Initiative activity in itself would lead me to understand the British government is concealing something important.

Conclusion

I do not know what happened in Salisbury. Plainly spy games were being played between Russia and the UK, quite likely linked to the Skripals and/or the NATO chemical weapons exercise then taking place on Salisbury Plain yet another one of those astonishing coincidences.

What I do know is that major planks of the UK government narrative simply do not stand up to scrutiny.

Plainly the Russian authorities have lied about the identity of Boshirov and Petrov. What is astonishing is the alacrity with which the MSM and the political elite have rallied around the childish logical fallacy that because the Russian Government has lied, therefore the British Government must be telling the truth. It is abundantly plain to me that both governments are lying, and the spy games being played out that day were very much more complicated than a pointless revenge attack on the Skripals.

I do not believe the British Government. I have given you the key points where the official narrative completely fails to stand up. These are by no means exhaustive, and I much look forward to reading your own views.

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Sorry For the Silence 445

I am working on two big pieces: one on the Skripals and one on the Chagos Islands judgement. The Skripal piece in particular is occasioning a great deal of thought, so apologies for the delay. Nadira is away working so I am single parenting, which means very little Lagavulin, without which my brain synapses don’t connect properly. I hope however to get enough sparks flying and get the Skripal piece up today.

Sorry For the Silence

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UK Rejects International Court of Justice Opinion on the Chagos Islands

In parliament, Alan Duncan for the government has just rejected yesterday’s stunning result at the International Court of Justice, where British occupation of the Chagos Islands was found unlawful by a majority of 13 to 1, with all the judges from EU countries amongst those finding against the UK.

This represents a serious escalation in the UK’s rejection of multilateralism and international law and a move towards joining the US model of exceptionalism, standing outside the rule of international law. As such, it is arguably the most significant foreign policy development for generations. In the Iraq war, while Britain launched war without UN Security Council authority, it did so on a tenuous argument that it had Security Council authority from earlier resolutions. The UK was therefore not outright rejecting the international system. On Chagos it is now simply denying the authority of the International Court of Justice; this is utterly unprecedented.

Duncan put forward two arguments. Firstly that the ICJ opinion was “only” advisory to the General Assembly. Secondly, he argued that the ICJ had no jurisdiction as the case was a bilateral dispute with Mauritius (and thus could only go before the ICJ with UK consent, which is not given).

But here Duncan is – against all British precedent and past policy – defying a ruling of the ICJ. The British government argued strenuously in the present case against ICJ jurisdiction, on just the grounds Duncan cited. The ICJ considered the UK’s arguments, together with arguments from 32 other states and from the African Union. The ICJ ruled that it did have jurisdiction, because this was not a bilateral dispute but part of the UN ordained process of decolonisation.

The International Court of Justice’s ruling on this point is given at length in paras 83 to 91 of its Opinion. This is perhaps the key section:

88. The Court therefore concludes that the opinion has been requested on the matter of decolonization which is of particular concern to the United Nations. The issues raised by the request are located in the broader frame of reference of decolonization, including the General Assembly’s role therein, from which those issues are inseparable (Western Sahara, Advisory Opinion, I.C.J. Reports 1975, p. 26, para. 38; Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Advisory Opinion, I.C.J. Reports 2004 (I), p. 159, para. 50).
89. Moreover, the Court observes that there may be differences of views on legal questions in advisory proceedings (Legal Consequences for States of the Continued Presence of South Africa in Namibia (South West Africa) notwithstanding Security Council Resolution 276 (1970), Advisory Opinion, I.C.J. Reports 1971, p. 24, para. 34). However, the fact that the Court may have to pronounce on legal issues on which divergent views have been expressed by Mauritius and the United Kingdom does not mean that, by replying to the request, the Court is dealing with a bilateral dispute.
90. In these circumstances, the Court does not consider that to give the opinion requested would have the effect of circumventing the principle of consent by a State to the judicial settlement of its dispute with another State. The Court therefore cannot, in the exercise of its discretion, decline to give the opinion on that ground.
91. In light of the foregoing, the Court concludes that there are no compelling reasons for it to decline to give the opinion requested by the General Assembly.

As stated at para 183, that the court did have jurisdiction was agreed unanimously, with even the US judge (the sole dissenter on the main question) in accord. For the British government to reject the ICJ’s unanimous ruling on jurisdiction, and quote that in parliament as the reason for not following the ICJ Opinion, is an astonishing abrogation of international law by the UK. It really is unprecedented. The repudiation of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention over Julian Assange pointed the direction the UK is drifting, but that body does not have the prestige of the International Court of Justice.

The International Court of Justice represents the absolute pinnacle of, and embodies the principle of, international law. In 176 decisions, such as Nigeria vs Cameroon or Malaysia vs Indonesia, potentially disastrous conflicts have been averted by the states’ agreement to abide by the rule of law. The UK’s current attack on the ICJ is a truly disastrous new development.

I have taken it for granted that you know that the reason the UK refuses to decolonise the Chagos Islands is to provide an airbase for the US military on Diego Garcia. If Brexit goes ahead, the Chagos Islands will also lead to a major foreign policy disagreement between the UK and US on one side, and the EU on the other. The EU will be truly shocked by British repudiation of the ICJ.

I have studied the entire and lengthy ICJ Opinion on the Chagos Islands, together with its associated papers, and I will write further on this shortly.

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Has the Elite’s Slavish pro-Israel Agenda Finally Gone Too Far?

Hezbollah’s defeat of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in the July war of 2006 was heroic and an essential redress to the Middle East power balance. I supported Hezbollah’s entirely defensive action then and I continue to applaud it now. That, beyond any shadow of a doubt, makes me guilty ofn the criminal offence of “glorifying terrorism”, now that Sajid Javid has proscribed Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation. I am unrepentant and look forward to the prosecution.

A large majority of the public, and certainly almost everyone who remembers that 2006 invasion, would revolt from my being prosecuted on those grounds. The very absurdity of it is a sure measure that Sajid Javid has simply gone too far in naming Hezbollah – the legitimate political party representing in parliament the majority rural population in Southern Lebanon – as a terrorist organisation.

Together with the largely manufactured “Corbyn anti-semitism” row, Javid’s move is aimed at achieving in the UK the delegitimisation of political opposition to Israeli aggression and absorption of the occupied territories and the Golan Heights, in the way that has been achieved in the USA. However, there is a much better educated population in the UK and a great deal of popular awareness of decades of Israeli crimes. In fact, the continuing resilience of the Labour vote shows that at least over a third of the British population does not buy the “anti-semitism” tag applied to all those concerned at the continued plight of the Palestinians.

Hezbollah has never been implicated in any terrorist attack on the UK. Its military posture in Southern Lebanon vis a vis Israel is entirely defensive; it evolved as a military force in reaction to wave after wave of Israeli invasion of Lebanon, in which the Israeli “Defence” Force casually decimated Shia communities en route to attacking Palestinian refugee camps. Hezbollah has never invaded Israel. Hezbollas played an effective and laudable role in assisting the defeat of Isis and their Jihadist allies in Syria.

Oh look, I just “glorified terrorism” again.

Javid’s move is primarily aimed at pleasing Israel and looking to score political points over Jeremy Corbyn, whose past contacts with Hezbollah can now be deemed terrorist. But it is also a move to please the UK elite’s other paymaster, Mohammed Bin Salman, by further forwarding his attempt to delegitimise and to subjugate Arab Shia communities. Coupled with the irony of announcing DFID support of £200 million for Yemeni victims of our very own bombs and “military support”, this is a shameful week for British foreign policy.

I first became devoted to the Palestinian cause as a first year student at Dundee University, when I watched a film about Israeli destruction of Palestinian olive trees in the occupied territories, to devastate their economic base and force families to leave. That film made me cry.

It is a matter of despair that, 42 years later, this practice continues, and indeed has been ongoing for that entire time. I find this almost as heinous as the continuing killing and imprisonment of Palestinian children. I find it a useful exercise every morning to ask yourself this question:

How many children has the Israeli “Defence” Force killed since the MSM last reported one?

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The Funny Tinge Group Ltd is a Boon to the SNP

It did not take me long to be proved right about this tweet, as the Funny Tinge Group Ltd was immediately promoted to a seat on BBC Question Time, and are going to be there next week too.

The BBC no longer has Westminster’s third party on QT every week, or given much airtime on other news and current affairs programmes, on the grounds the SNP are a “regional body” and thus not entitled to the consideration the Lib Dems got as third party in Westminster. The Funny Tinge Independent Integrity Initiative Group Ltd (Dir. Shai Masot) are of course not a party at all, they are a limited company, and they have no members. One thing they most certainly are is a “regional body”. Not a single vote in Scotland or Wales has ever been cast for them. Though I can think of a disused factory near Auchtermuchty that might vote for them.

What do we know of their policies? Well we know that are very much against criticism of Israel. We know they think the Cameron coalition government did a very good job on austerity. We know they are against renationalisation of utilities and against abolition of tuition fees and against higher taxes on the rich. I am sure something will eventually distinguish them from the Tories other than Brexit, but they haven’t thought of it yet.

At some stage they will have to form a political party. Once the unbounded bias of the MSM is moderately constrained by general election rules, they will need to be a party to get broadcast time. If they enter into an alliance with the Lib Dems, they will have to split the Lib Dems broadcast time; I do not see that happening.

Has anybody heard any of the “Independent Group” ever mention Scotland, once, in the vast tsunami of media coverage they have been given? I presume at some stage, somebody will alert them to the existence of Scotland, and possibly even tell them how to come here.

The political landscape of Scotland is very different to that in England and Wales. A large majority of the left-wingers who flocked to Corbyn are, in Scotland, unavailable as they are committed to the Independence movement, myself included. Scottish Labour has therefore been led by a rump of unreconstructed Blairite careerists lurking in the branch office (that may be slightly unfair on Richard Leonard, but as I still have no idea who he is I cannot be sure). With no deselection pressures, the Labour MPs have little career incentive to move, except perhaps Ian Murray, elected very largely on Tory votes and a right winger of limited intellectual grasp anyway. The Independent Group plc is both right wing and fashionable, and therefore a perfect fit for Morningside.

Scotland’s Tory MPs are mostly, aside from the Ross Thomson testicle grabbing tendency (allegedly), on the wet side, with pro-EU voters. But their voters are rural and traditionalist and unlikely to be thrilled by the appeal of a wholly new group. It should be remembered too that, contrary to incessant MSM propaganda, the media-induced Davison “surge” peaked at 28% and is now around 25% and falling faster than a Hebridean barometer.

The Funny Tinge Corporation is nonetheless going to need to insert itself into Scotland. This cannot but be great news for the SNP. It is really simple. A unionist vote split three ways will now be split four ways which, under FPTP, is a disaster for the Unionists. The corollary is that it is more important than ever that the Yes movement stay united behind the SNP. And the further corollary of that is that the SNP must listen to the voice of the Yes movement, forget the devolution settlement and push on towards early Independence.

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When is a British Person Not British?

The attitude to immigrants which is betrayed by the stripping of citizenship from Shamima Begum is truly appalling. A British citizen, born in the UK, is deemed to be a citizen of another country they have never seen, because their immigrant parents came from there. To refuse to accept first generation Britons are Britons, as in Windrush, was bad enough. To claim that second generation Britons are not British, but rather citizens of where their ancestors “came from”, is racism pure and simple.

Begum is not a sympathetic figure. Savid Javid could not have found an easier target for his macho display of vindictiveness, guaranteed to win plaudits from the bigots whose votes Javid needs for his looming Tory leadership bid. Javid knows full well his decision will eventually be overturned by the courts, but he has already achieved his political objective of personal self-aggrandisement.

I do not know everything Begum has personally been doing in Syria and to what extent she has been culpable in any of the crimes of the Saudi backed jihadist group Daesh, originally launched by the CIA as a counterweight to Shia influence in Iraq. Begum, as with other members of the ISIS community in Syria, ought initially to be subject to any legal proceedings by the Syrian authorities on behalf of the Syrian people against whom such dreadful crimes were committed. If of no interest to the Syrian justice system or once any sentence has been completed, she should be returned to the UK and then subject to investigation as to whether any UK crimes were committed. All these processes need to take into account that she arrived in Syria as a minor, has been subject to indoctrination, and may well have severe mental health issues.

In a situation where the government is falling over itself to bring members of the UK-funded jihadist support group the White Helmets to the UK, having no claim to British citizenship; in a situation where jihadist activity in Syria was entirely dependent on finance, supplies and air support from the US, UK, and its Gulf State allies; in a situation where the Royal Navy had evacuated the Manchester bomber en route back to the UK after his Western backed terrorist jaunt in Libya; in a situation where the Manchester, Westminster and London Bridge terrorists all had extensive pre-existing relationships with the British security services; in all these circumstances, the decision to crack down to general applause on a bewildered East London child is a sickening example of the lack of ethics in modern politics.

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Democracy and the Corrupt Seven (Eight)

UPDATE

So now it is eight. If you want to understand that the UK truly is not a functioning democracy, consider this. Joan Ryan is all over the MSM this morning as being the eighth defector to the Independent Group. Yet astonishingly, while she is universally reported as citing anti-semitism as the reason she is leaving, it appears not one MSM journalist has asked her about her receipt of US$1 million from the Israeli Embassy for spreading Israeli influence. Not one. Nor has any mainstream media outlet cited the fact in its reporting today. Most, of course, never even mentioned it at the time.

ORIGINAL

I have heard it argued again and again on television this last 48 hours that it is deeply undemocratic for the electorate to be offered a choice that is any more complicated than between Red Tories and Blue Tories. It is apparently unthinkable and deeply wrong that Corbyn’s standard German style social democracy – which is routinely labeled “hard left” and “communist” – should be proffered to voters for them to support, or not.

The overwhelmingly Blairite MPs have put this case again and again to Labour Party members in repeated leadership elections, and have been roundly and repeatedly defeated. But now, according to no less a person than Tom Watson, Deputy Leader of the party, the losers’ policies must be embraced by the Party and adopted by its leadership, as to do otherwise is an affront to democracy. I confess I find this argument impossible to follow.

Corbyn has compromised already to a huge extent, even accepting that a Labour government will retain massive WMDs, in deference both to the imperialist pretensions of the Blairites and the personal greed of the demented Strangeloves who comprise the membership of the GMB Union. Labour’s pro-Trident stance will persist, until such time as enough Blairites join this forced march, or rather chauffeur driven drive, across their personal caviar and champagne strewn desert to their promised land of media contracts, massively remunerated charity executive jobs, and non-executive directorships.

Democracy is a strange thing. This episode has revealed that it is apparently a democratic necessity that we have another referendum on Brexit, while being a democratic necessity not to have another referendum on Scottish Independence, while the notion that the MPs, who now have abandoned the party and manifesto on which they stood, might face their electorates again, is so disregarded that none of the fawning MSM journalists are asking about it. In rejecting this option, the Corrupt Seven are managing the incredible feat of being less honorable than Tory MPs defecting to UKIP, who did have the basic decency to resign and fight again on their new prospectus.

Dick Taverne is a more directly relevant precedent, particularly as he was deselected as sitting Labour MP precisely because of his support for the EU. Taverne resigned, and fought and won his seat in a by-election in 1973, before losing it in the second 1974 election. There are also precedents for crossing the floor and not resigning and fighting under your new banner, but then there are also precedents for mugging old ladies. It is deeply dishonorable.

Luciana Berger is a one trick pony and it is worth noting that her complaints about anti-Semitism in the Labour Party date back to at least 2005, while Tony Blair was still Prime Minister. Berger had already by April 2005 spotted anti-Semitism in the National Union of Students, in the Labour Party and in her student union newspaper, those being merely the examples cited in this single Daily Telegraph article. I am extremely sorry and somewhat shocked to hear of the swamp of anti-semitism in which we were all already mired in 2005, but I do find it rather difficult to understand why the fault is therefore that of Jeremy Corbyn. And given that Tony Blair was at that time Prime Minister for eight years, I cannot understand why it is all Corbyn’s fault and responsibility now, but it was not Blair’s fault then.

On the contrary, the Telegraph puff piece states that Berger had met Blair several times and was Euan Blair’s girlfriend. This was of course before the privately educated Londoner was foisted on the unfortunate people of Liverpool Wavetree, doubtless completely unfacilitated by her relationship with Euan Blair.

The kind of abuse Berger has evidently been attracting since at least 2005 is of course a crime. Two people have quite rightly been convicted of it. Joshua Bonehill-Paine and John Nimmo sent a series of truly disgusting tweets and both were jailed. Both are committed long term neo-nazis. Yet I have repeatedly heard media references to the convictions squarely in the context of Labour Party anti-semitism. I have never heard on broadcast media it explained that neither had anything to do with the Labour Party. Like the left wing anti-semitism Berger has been reporting since at least 2005, this Nazi abuse too is all somehow Jeremy Corbyn’s fault.

It is further worth noting that in that 2005 article Berger claims a 47% increase in attacks on Jews, which is highly reminiscent of recent claims from community groups, such as the 44% increase claimed 2015 to 2017 or the 78% increase in violent crimes against Jews in the UK in 2017 alone claimed by the government of Israel.

One antisemitic attack is too many and all anti-semitism is to be deplored and rooted out. But if all these claims repeated again and again over decades of 30, 40, 50, 60 or 70% increases in attacks per year were true, then we would be now talking of at least 12,000 violent attacks on Jews per year, if we take Ms Berger’s 2005 claim as the baseline.

Yet we are not seeing that. The average number of convictions per year for violent, racially motivated attacks on Jewish people in the UK is less than one.

If we add in non-violent crimes, the number of people convicted per year for anti-semitic hate crime still remains under 20. And I am not aware of a single such conviction related in any way to the Labour Party.

Let me be perfectly plain. I want everybody convicted and imprisoned who is involved in anti-semitic hate crime. But the facts given above would cause any honest journalist to treat with more scepticism than they do, the repeated old chestnut claims of huge year on year increases in anti-semitic incidents.

There really are in logic only two choices; either anti-semitism is, contrary to all the hype, thankfully rare, or the entire British police, prosecutorial and judicial system must be systematically protecting the anti-semites. And I hardly see how they could blame Jeremy Corbyn for that.

None of this will stop the relentless promotion of the “Corbyn anti-semitism” theme, as the idea of a leader not completely behind the slow extirpation of the Palestinian people is unthinkable to the mainstream media class. The Corbyn anti-semitism meme is possibly the most remarkable example of evidence free journalism I have ever encountered.

Still more fascinating is the way the broadcasters are going to devote an astonishing amount of time to these political puppets. Of one thing I can assure you – these seven MPs will get more airtime than the 35 MPs of the SNP, with at least twice as many Question Time and Today programme appearances.

At some stage they will have to form a new party, in order to get airtime in elections. At what stage Blair declares for them is an interesting question. It is also a crucial test of just how horribly degraded the Lib Dems have now become. My old friend Charlie Kennedy will be spinning in his grave at an alliance with the Blairite warmonger faction, but the modern party appears bereft of any of the old Liberal values, cleared away by Clegg and his fellow orange Tories. If the party members do not revolt at association with Mike Gapes and Angela Smith, it really is time to wind the party up.

That the Corrupt Seven are some of the most unpleasant people in British politics is not entirely relevant, nor is the question of which interest groups are funding them. They are just an emission of pus, a symptom of the rottenness of the British body politic. They have nothing interesting to say and are feeble tools of the wealthy, thrown out as protection for a crumbling political system. The end of the UK is not pretty, and this is one of its uglier moments. It really is beyond time to crack on with Scottish Independence and the reunification of Ireland.

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The Blog That Reaches The Parts

Delighted to be back in Edinburgh after a fascinating three weeks in Pakistan. I left Pakistan two days after the Kashmir flare-up and just as Mohammed Bin Salman arrived, and you will be hearing my thoughts on this much neglected but vital country further over the next few days.

As I return, the Corrupt Seven are leaving the Labour Party and being much feted for their general Toryness, a quality they hold in common with the large majority of remaining Labour MPs, who calculate staying on is a better bet to preserve their incomes at present. I have missed an appalling official report from Frances Cairncross, who advocates that in order to ensure that we get our proper dose of official propaganda we should be obliged to pay with our taxes to subsidise newspapers which nobody wants to buy. This ties in with the report yesterday by MPs advocating more governmental control of Facebook to tighten the permitted narrative still further.

Much for me to get my teeth into; just give me a chance to unpack.

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

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From Karachi to Caracas

I am finding Karachi an interesting place from which to view the world. Four US Presidents have visited Pakistan – Eisenhower, Nixon, Clinton and Bush Jr. Each of them visited a military dictator, in the friendliest of terms. No American President has ever visited a civilian government of Pakistan. The Americans have always been far too busy plotting the next coup.

More recent neo-con practice has of course been to eschew open espousal of military dictatorship and to present CIA-organised coups as democratic revolutions. I was of course aware of their hand behind Juan Guaido in Venezuela, but I had not fully taken on board the extent to which Guaido is purely their creature. If you have not seen this superb article on Guaido’s history in Consortium News, please do read it. Guaido has been US-funded since 2005 specifically to undermine the socialist government of Venezuela. Notably the US sponsorship of this far right puppet started at a time when Chavez’ democratic and human rights credentials were impeccable, which rather undermines the current excuse for Guaido’s elevation.

In Caracas we are seeing an attempt at a colour revolution – quite literally. Here, from a US government propaganda website (not Bellingcat, another one), we have a photograph of the overwhelmingly white opposition group in the Venezuelan National Assembly.

And here, we have from the BBC a shot of Maduro’s new pro-Government citizens’ assembly – overwhelmingly of different ethnicity.

I should be plain, that I did not accept Maduro’s ruse to set up the Constituent Assembly. But neither do I accept the CIA’s ruse to overthrow the elected President. These photographs are helpful because they crystallise the fundamental issue – what is at stake is the West’s attempt to reimpose economic apartheid on the people of Venezuela.

Here in Pakistan, I am anxious to avoid the journalists’ disease of claiming expertise on a country after a few days. But it has been very instructive, and I am impressed by the start Imran Khan has made to addressing the complex and intractable problems that have hamstrung this state of 200 million talented people. Every Pakistani government has claimed to be making efforts to tackle corruption, and the colossal misapplication of state funds, and pretty well every government has been lying about that. But Imran Khan does seem to be fighting the hydra, and with an extraordinary level of application – I heard yesterday direct and separately from a Federal Minister and a Provincial Governor examples of how remarkably closely Khan is following their work.

Internationally, the move to open dialogue with the Taliban appears, coupled with Trump’s determination to pull out, to point the way to some hope of a settlement in Kabul which must inevitably include an element of power-sharing. The conundrum of accessing funds from Saudi Arabia and China without becoming a client is very well understood. Those funds help ward off over-dependence on the World Bank and IMF, whose vultures are already hovering around the usual demands for privatisations and vast hikes in utility prices to poor people. At the same time, a relationship with those institutions is unavoidable. It is an unenviable path to tread.

Attempts to reform Pakistan always encounter massively wealthy entrenched interests. If you are trying desperately hard to do good for your country, against opposition that is often viciously self-interested, it can be hard to remember that freedom of speech must also extend to the ill-intentioned and malign. Equally, while the government may feel this is hardly the time for fissiparous forces to be given play, those with secessionist views should be allowed to express them. Where there is terrorism and political violence, it can be easy for the line to be blurred between when force is and is not legitimate, and between violent extremists and peaceful dissenters advocating similar end goals. It is particularly not easy to tackle these questions where intelligence and military have enjoyed and abused excessive long term autonomy. Getting a grip on fundamental human rights is not easy, but it has to be done.

So the government faces massive challenges in making progress in areas where Pakistan has rightly been criticised in the past, but I feel much more confident they will make progress than I did before I came. I should also say that the overwhelming kindness and hospitality I have received from people at all levels has been very touching. It is a fascinating country to visit and in the next few days I shall be seeing a large number of historical sites, following in the footsteps of Alexander Burnes.

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Adab Festival Pakistan

Am giving a talk in Karachi on Sunday, and very much looking forward to it. Entry is free. This blog has a number of regular readers and two donating subscribers in Karachi, and it would be a great pleasure if they can introduce themselves. I am speaking primarily on Sikunder Burnes, (after whom Karachi’s famous Burnes Road is named), but shall happily wander off into the vicious folly of modern western military interference in Afghanistan, the illegality of drone strikes, the two century long history of western exploitation and exacerbation of the Sunni/Shia divide, and the great work of Julian Assange.

As always, I shall also be talking about why Scottish Independence, just like Irish, should be seen in the context of decolonisation, despite the eventual co-option of Scots to the Imperial project. As I have explained till I am blue in the face, the domestic law of the metropolitan country is utterly irrelevant to the legality of secession; the only determining factor is international recognition.

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The Vultures of Caracas

We are frequently told that people in Venezuela have no food, clothing or toilet paper, and that popular discontent with the left wing government is driven by real hunger. There are elements of truth in this story, though the causes of economic dislocation are far more complex than the media would have us believe.

But I ask you to look at this photo of supporters of CIA poster-boy, the West’s puppet unelected “President” Juan Guaido, taken at a Guaido rally in Caracas two days ago and published yesterday in security services house journal The Guardian. Please take a really close look at the photo. Blow it up as big as you can. Scan individual people in the crowd, one by one.

These are not the poor and most certainly not the starving. As it chances I have a great deal of life experience working amongst seriously deprived, hungry and despairing people. I know the gaunt face of want and the desperate glance of need. Look at these Guaido supporters, one by one by one. This designer spectacled, well-coiffed, elegantly dressed, sleekly jowled group does not know hunger. This group does not know want. This is a proper right wing gathering, a gathering of the nicely off section of society. This is a group of those who have corruptly been siphoning Venezuela’s great wealth for decades and who want to make sure the gravy train flows properly in their direction again. It is, in short, a group of exactly the kind of people you would expect to support a CIA coup.

Those manicured hands raised in the air will never throw rocks, or get involved in violence unless against a peasant strapped to a chair for them. It is not this crowd which will suffer as public disorder is manipulated and directed by the CIA. These wealthy ones are immune, just as Davos serves as nothing but an annual reminder of how very poorly God aims avalanches.

There is real suffering in Venezuela. The CIA is working hard to stoke violence, and the genuine poor will soon start to die, both in those egged on to riot and in the security services. But do not get taken in by the complete nonsense that this is a popular, democratic revolution. It is not. It is yet another barefaced CIA regime change coup.

UPDATE Such wisdom as this blog finds is often crowd-source, and with thanks to a commenter below here is some useful information from Jill Stein.

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Burns Night Disgrace

As Robert Burns lay dying, he was plagued by his debts and creditors and worried about the future of his family. He wrote an anguished letter to Montrose to his first cousin James Burnes, begging him to send £20 to pay off, among other things, the tailor for Robert’s customs officer uniform. James, not for the first time, sent the money uncomplainingly to his beloved cousin.

Robert (who was christened Robert Burnes) had visited James at least twice in Montrose. The family home which James built was later the birthplace of his grandson Alexander Burnes, the great explorer, spy and diplomat whose biography I have written, and of his almost equally remarkable brother James. Alexander’s father, also James Burnes, was the first of four successive generations of Burnes born in the family house to become Provost of Montrose.

I detailed in my book Sikunder Burnes that, when I visited the house ten years ago, it was derelict and most of the features had been robbed out. It has continued to deteriorate. This has been quite deliberate and the owner, an auctioneer, had been systematically robbing it of fireplaces, cornices, the provost lamp, and other items of value and auctioning them off. Shocking new photos reveal that he completed this work of destruction to an astonishing degree, and the items of interest – like some amazing Victorian baths and sinks – that remained in the property when I saw it a decade ago have also gone.

The work of destruction complete, this historic building, built by one of Scotland’s most truly remarkable families, is now a shell and up for auction to a property developer. I had contacted Historic Environment Scotland, Angus Council and the Scottish Government to attempt to have something done, but with no result.

So tonight as we recite those great poems, remember a life full of humanity, and get maudlin drunk, let us consider how much we really care about Burns and his heritage. I am an emotional old fool I know, and got attached to Alexander when researching his life, but these images made me cry.


If anybody still has not read my biography of Alexander Burnes, if you can afford to do so please buy it, otherwise your local library will be able to get it for you.

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The Coup in Venezuela Must Be Resisted

Venezuela has elections. Juan Guaido has never even been a Presidential candidate. Despite massive CIA opposition funding and interference over years as Big Oil tries to regain control of the World’s largest oil reserves, Nicolas Maduro was democratically re-elected in 2018 as President of Venezuela.

The coup now under way is illegitimate. I opposed Maduro’s move to replace the elected National Assembly. Sometimes I read back things I wrote in the past and decide I was wrong. Sometimes I think the article was right, but a bit of a potboiler. Occasionally I am proud, and I am proud of my analysis on Venezuela written on 3 August 2017. I believe it is still valid.

Hugo Chavez’ revolutionary politics were founded on two very simple tenets:

1) People ought not to be starving in dreadful slums in the world’s most oil rich state
2) The CIA ought not to control Venezuela

Over the years, Chavez racked up real achievements in improving living standards for the poor and in providing health and education facilities. He was widely popular and both he and his successor, Nicolas Maduro, also racked up very genuine election victories. Maduro remains the democratically elected President.

But the dream went sour. In particular it fell foul of the tendency of centrally planned economies to fail to get the commodities people want onto shop shelves, and to the corruption that goes with centralisation. The latter was certainly not worse than the right wing corruption it replaced, but that does not diminish its existence.

Every revolution will always displace an existing elite who are by definition the best educated and most articulate section of the population, with most access to resources including media – and to CIA secret backing, which has continued throughout at an increasing rate. Chavez did not solve this problem in the way Robespierre, Stalin, Trotsky or Mao would have done. He embraced democracy, let them be – and largely left their private offshore billions, and thus their power, untouched.

Inevitably the day came when economic and administrative failings cracked the solidity of support from the poor for the revolution. The right then stepped up their opposition with a campaign led by corrupt billionaires, which the western media has failed to acknowledge has been throughout murderously violent.

The problem with revolutionary millenarianism is that its failure to achieve utopia is viewed as disaster by its proponents. Maduro ought to have accepted that it is the nature of life that political tides ebb and flow, ceded power to the opposition gains in parliament, maintained the principles of democracy, and waited for the tide to turn back his way – taking the risk that the CIA might not give him the chance. Instead he has resorted to a constitutional fix which dilutes democracy, a precedent which will delight the right who in the long term have most to fear from the populace. Given the extreme violence of the opposition, I am less inclined to view arrests as unquestionably a straightforward human rights matter, than are some pro-western alleged human rights groups. But that Maduro has stepped off the democratic path I fear is true. He has, bluntly, gone wrong, however difficult the circumstances. I condemn both the departures from human rights best practice and the attempt to use a part indirectly elected body to subvert the elected parliament.

But, even today, Venezuela is still vastly more of a democracy than Saudi Arabia, and a far greater respecter of human rights than Israel in its dreadful repression of the Palestinians. Yet support for Israel and for Saudi Arabia are keystones of the foreign policy of those who today are incessant in their demands that we on the “left” condemn Venezuela. The BBC has given massively more news coverage to human rights abuse in Venezuela this last month than in a score of much worse countries I could name – than a score put together.

Human rights abuse should be condemned everywhere. But it only hits the headlines when practised by a country which is on the wrong side of the neo-con agenda.

Anybody who believes that a country’s internal democracy is the determining factor in whether the West decides to move for violent regime change in that country, is a complete idiot. Any journalist or politician who makes that claim is more likely to be a complete charlatan than a complete idiot. In recent years, possession of hydrocarbon reserves is very obviously a major factor in western regime change actions.

In Latin America over the last century, the presence of internal democracy has been much more likely to lead to external regime change than its absence, as maintenance of US imperialist hegemony has been the defining factor. That combines with oil reserves to make the current move a double whammy.

It is disheartening to see the Western “democracies” so universally supporting the coup in Venezuela. The EU in particular has leapt in to support Donald Trump in the quite ludicrous act of recognising corrupt Big Oil puppet Guaido as “President”. The change of the EU into full neo-con mode -so starkly represented in its bold support for Francoist violence in Catalonia – is what led me to reconcile with Brexit and a Norway style relationship.

When I was in the FCO, the rule on recognition was very plain and very openly stated – the UK recognised the government which had “effective control of the territory”, whatever the attributes of that government. This is a very well established principle of international law. There were very rare exceptions involving continuing to support ousted governments. The pre-1939 Polish government in exile was the most obvious example, though once Nazism was defeated Britain moved to recognise the Communist government actually in charge, to the fury of exiled Poles. I was involved in the question of the continued recognition of President Kabbah of Sierra Leone during the period in which he was ousted by military coup.

But I can think of no precedent at all for recognising a President who does not have and has never had control of the country – and has never been a candidate for President. This idea of the West simply trying to impose a suitably corrupt and biddable leader is really a very startling development. It is astonishing the MSM commentariat and political class appear to see no problem with it. It is a quite extraordinary precedent, and doubtless will lead to many new imperialist adventures.

One final thought. The right wing Government of Ecuador has been one of the first and most vocal in doing the West’s bidding. The Ecuadorean government has been colluding with the United States over the efforts to imprison Julian Assange, and at this very time has arranged for FBI and CIA personnel in Quito to take false and malicious statements manufactured by the Ecuador government in collaboration with the CIA, about Julian Assange’s activities in the Embassy in London.

Ecuadorean government documents had already been produced out of Quito, and shown to MI6 and CIA outlets like the Guardian and New York Times, purporting to show the diplomatic appointment of Julian Assange to Moscow in December 2017. I have believed throughout that these fake documents were most likely produced by Ecuador’s new CIA influenced government itself.

Today Ecuador, once a key part of the Bolivarian revolution, is simply a puppet of the CIA, voicing support for a US coup in Venezuela and working to produce fake testimony against Assange. I warn you firmly against giving credence to Luke Harding’s next “scoop” which will doubtless shortly emerge from this process.

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Why Leslie Evans Must Resign

Scotland’s retention of its own legal system, based on an entirely different legal inheritance to the Anglo-Saxon one, is an important part of its national heritage. Senior judiciary and lawyers held a unique social status in national life for many centuries, as joint custodians with the Church of the residual national autonomy. The lawyers of Edinburgh are still a formidable, and broadly conservative, caste. That caste is collectively astonished by the revelations in the Alex Salmond case, and especially by the Scottish Government’s brazen reaction to the judgement of Lord Pentland and the inexplicable failure of Leslie Evans to resign. Secrets that are sealed and kept from the public are shared in whispers amongst the legal brotherhood. In the corridors of the Court of Session, in the robing rooms, in the Signet Library, in the Bow Bar, in the fine restaurants concealed behind medieval facades in the Old Town, in the New Club, the facts whirl round and round, in an atmosphere approaching indignation.

I think now you should share in some of those facts.

The Scottish Government’s version of events was that in December 2017 a new civil service code was adopted which allowed complaints to be made against former ministers. That new code was published to staff on the Scottish Government intranet, which resulted in two complaints against Alex Salmond being received in January of 2018.

Neither I, nor the collective consciousness of legal Edinburgh, can recall any example in history of a government being caught in a more systematic and egregious lie by a judge, but yet continuing to insist it is in the right and will continue on the same course. Every point of the above official government story was proven not just to be wrong, but to be a lie, because Lord Pentland called a Commission on Diligence.

This is a little known and little used process in Scots Law where one party challenges whether the other party has really produced all the important evidence in disclosure. A Commissioner is appointed who, in closed session, hears evidence on oath as to what documents are available and their meaning.

The Scottish Government had opposed before Lord Pentland the setting up of the Commission on Diligence, on the grounds that there was no more relevant documentation – which turned out in itself to be a massive lie.

Over the Festive period, the Commission in the Salmond case obtained quite astonishing evidence that proved the Scottish Government was lying through its teeth and attempting to hide a great many key documents. The oral evidence under oath, particularly from Leslie Evans given on 23 December 2018, was even more jaw-dropping. It is because of what was revealed behind closed doors in the Commission on Evidence that legal Edinburgh cannot believe Leslie Evans has not resigned.

The truth is that Judith Mackinnon, the “Investigating Officer” in this case, was closely involved in the new and unprecedented procedure for complaints against “former ministers” from at the latest 7 November and had multiple direct contacts with the complainants against Salmond at the very latest from early December 2017 – just three months after Mackinnon took up her job as “Head of People Advice”. On or shortly after 7 November 2017, Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans was briefed about the complaint, which fact was minuted, in a manner that very definitely made Evans acutely aware of Mackinnon’s involvement. Evans claimed on 23 December 2018 under oath to have not noticed this, or to have forgotten it.

Evans being informed of the potential complaint against Salmond on or shortly after 7 November, coincided very closely with the initiation within the Civil Service in Scotland of the drafting of a new Civil Service Code enabling complaints against former ministers. This Civil Service activity included seeking the views of the Cabinet Office in London on creating a code enabling complaints against ex-ministers. The Cabinet Office in London did not support the idea. Nevertheless on 22 November 2017 the First Minister agreed the change in principle, as in line with the aims of the MeToo movement.

Judith Mackinnon’s preparation of the complainants against Salmond then entered a higher gear. She had numerous meetings and communications with both complainants in early December 2017. At the same time, she was continuing to be actively involved in the drafting of the new Code to enable the case she was working on. Astonishingly, the two complainants were themselves actually sent the draft Former Ministers Procedure for comment by Judith Mackinnon, before it was adopted! One of them, who had left the Civil Service, also appeared from the records to be potentially encouraged by another senior civil servant with the suggestion of the prospect of employment. Both were told by Mackinnon that she was likely to be the chosen “investigator”.

The Former Ministers Procedure in final form was not adopted and active until 20 December 2017, when it was signed off by Nicola Sturgeon, wweks after Mackinnon initiated action to proceed with complaints against Salmond. The new procedure was not advertised on the Intranet to staff until 8 February 2018, two months after Mackinnon’s first meeting with at least one of the complainants.

Contrary to the lies of the Scottish Government, zero complaints against Alex Salmond were received from staff following the publication to staff of the new former ministers procedure on the Intranet. The only two complaints had both been canvassed and encouraged a minimum of three months earlier.

Leslie Evans was aware of Judith Mackinnon’s role in the process at least from November 7 2017. Evans was repeatedly informed throughout December 2017 of the development of the complaints and of Mackinnon’s – and other civil servants’ -contacts with the complainants. The complaints against Salmond were being developed in parallel with the drafting of the Code which would retrospectively cover them, and being developed by the same people doing the drafting, and even the complainants were consulted on the draft Code. It was not until January 2018 that Mackinnon was appointed as “Investigating Officer” despite the fact that the Civil Service Code stipulated that the Investigating Officer must have “no prior involvement with any aspect of the matter”. She had in fact had intensive contact with the complainers over two months and had been active in the development of the procedure for three months. There is no indication that Mackinnon was keeping that secret from her senior colleagues or the Permanent Secretary, Evans.

Nicola Sturgeon, reacting to her Government’s court defeat, disingenuously described to Holyrood Mackinnon’s contacts with the complainants as merely “welfare support and guidance”. Sturgeon knows for a fact that is not true. The documents the Scottish Government was forced by the Commission to disclose prove that Mackinnon’s involvement comprised, as described in open court:

the substance of the complaint, evidence to support the complaints, circumstances in which they arose, the manner in which they could go on to make formal complaints and a significant decree of assistance to the complainers bordering on encouragement to proceed with their complaints.

Still more of a lie is Leslie Evans’ astonishing and unrepentant statement after the humiliating capitulation of the Government case before Lord Pentland. It is a statement woven through with falsehood and deceit, but the most obviously untrue point of all is her refusal to acknowledge what the documents show, that she knew full well all this was happening at the time.

After reassessing all the materials available, I have concluded that an impression of partiality could have been created based on one specific point – contact between the Investigating Officer and the two complainants around the time of their complaints being made in January 2018.
The full picture only became evident in December 2018 as a result of the work being undertaken to produce relevant documents in advance of the hearing.

Evans’ blatant attempt to pretend she knew nothing, and thus throw Mackinnon under the bus alone, is morally disgusting. Still more so is her utterly false claim that, the case having fallen after she conceded it on the basis Mackinnon ought not to have been appointed Investigating Officer, all Alex Salmond’s other legal points fell. Evans’ statement reads:

All the other grounds of Mr Salmond’s challenge have been dismissed.

That is a total untruth. It was made perfectly plain in Lord Pentland’s Court that, the Scottish Government having conceded the case, there was no point in hearing all the other grounds. This was made specific in court, where the other points were described as “now academic”.

I hope I have managed to make plain to you that Mackinnon’s appointment as Investigating Officer was the least of the many dreadful things of which the Scottish Government was guilty in this case. They naturally conceded on the least embarrassing. In fact, the entire matter is an orchestrated stitch-up.

Finally, I am obliged to consider the role of the First Minister and her subsequent defence of Evans and Mackinnon. I do so with the heaviest of hearts, because I know that any criticism at all of Nicola Sturgeon is considered utterly inadmissible by many of my fellow campaigners for Scottish Independence. Believe me, if I did not feel a strong obligation to truth I would much prefer not to speak of it.

But consider this, with as open a mind as you can muster.

Sturgeon’s defence of Mackinnon, as doing no more in the instigation of the complaints than provide welfare counselling and advice, is completely untrue. Sturgeon knows very well that it is untrue.

Consider this as well. Had the Scottish Government not thrown in the towel, Nicola’s Chief of Staff Liz Lloyd would that day have been questioned under oath about documents that she would have had to produce to the Court. Lloyd may well also not be anxious to be questioned about the leak of salacious details of one of the allegations, to David Clegg of the Daily Record. Lloyd knows Clegg well.

It really is very difficult to look through all the facts – including some I have not given here as they have not been referred to in open court – and conclude that Nicola was unaware of the stitch-up. I have spoken to dozens of sources this last three weeks, including many elected SNP figures, a couple of civil servants, and others who know Nicola personally. This is my conclusion, based on their extensive observations.

It is no secret that feminism is Nicola’s passion. A gender-balanced Cabinet, all-female shortlists for SNP Holyrood candidates, gender balance on boards of public authorities, these and many more are results of Nicola’s feminist activism in government, much of it admirable. Leslie Evans is close to her and a key ally in driving forward that agenda.

Leslie Evans has built a career out of promoting PC identity politics within local authorities and the civil service. In this story of her dishonesty when an officer at Edinburgh City Council, that appears to be her motivation against the project she sought to penalise. Evans frequently states her feminist principles.

And my gender politics too – my feminism – and I am a feminist – dates back to learning about Elizabeth 1st’s speech at Tilbury (‘I know I have the body of a weak, feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king’)…
Most Permanent Secretaries are male and the product of private schooling and the Oxbridge system. You might have noticed I’m none of these things. In fact I am only the 30th female Perm Sec in whole history of the UKCS and the first female Perm Sec in Scotland has ever seen.

She was chosen, from a shortlist, to head the Civil Service in Scotland by Nicola. I am quite certain that the fact she was a woman with a history of promoting gender issues was a major factor in Nicola’s choice. Precisely the same factors also characterise Judith Mackinnon’s career in human resources, as I previously reported. Here is Leslie Evans on gender equality throughout Scottish government:

There’s another key difference between Scotland’s government and the UK’s – for Holyrood’s a world leader in gender diversity. Not only are the perm sec and the leaders of the three biggest parties women, but also half the cabinet, half the directors general, and 46% of the senior civil service.

As in all fields of diversity, Evans warns, this parity’s fragile: “It only takes one or two people to leave, and you’ve got a completely different balance again. You can never have the luxury of thinking you’ve done it.” And does achieving that balance change how government operates? She’s cautious. “I’d be foolish to say that this government feels very different from others, or that the cabinet operates in a markedly different way,” she replies. “I do think there are some broad themes that I can pick out. I think women tend to be a bit more collaborative; sometimes they’re a bit more thoughtful, and less likely to jump to conclusions. But I’m sure that people would challenge me on some of that thinking.”

This key ITV News article from 2015 was headlined “Sturgeon’s Women Power vs Cameron’s Man Power”

But Ms Sturgeon has also made her mark at the heart of government.
Women now occupy the three most important jobs in Scottish politics.
That’s in marked contrast to the big jobs in Downing Street, all held by men.
As it happens there are also significant educational differences too.
In Scotland the top three women were all state educated.
South of the Border they all went to public (in other words private) schools.
Here’s the roll call:
There’s Ms Sturgeon herself who went to Greenwood Academy in Ayrshire, and on to Glasgow University.
Her chief of staff and senior political adviser, Liz Lloyd, went to Gosforth High School in Newcastle, a state school, and Edinburgh University.
Leslie Evans, newly appointed as the Permanent Secretary to the Scottish government, the most senior civil servant in Scotland, went to High Storrs school in Sheffield and Liverpool University.

That article was briefed by Sturgeon’s office and Nicola sees Lloyd, Evans and Mackinnon as performing key roles in driving her gender equality policies in Scotland. That is why she leaps to defend them. That is her here and now, and has become more real to her than the time before she was First Minister, campaigning for Independence with Alex. She is emotionally attached to Lloyd, Evans and Mackinnon on that basis, to the extent that she is prepared to defend the indefensible.

Nicola sees the criticism of the attack on Alex, an attack made under her MeToo inspired Former Ministers Procedure, as a slur on the integrity of the gender policies which Nicola sees as cementing her place in history. It is also a direct attack on the female team which she hand-picked to implement those policies. It is not irrelevant to the MeToo context that Alex Salmond has been described frequently as, solely in a political sense, being a father figure to Nicola, and perhaps is thus easily associated in her mind with the abusive patriarchy as characterised by the feminist movement. Despite the obvious fishiness of both the allegations against Alex and the way they were dredged up, they fit Nicola’s most valued agenda. In pursuing that agenda, Nicola has simply lost all sight of the notion of fairness to Alex Salmond.

It should be noted that after Lord Pentland’s ruling, Nicola rightly apologised to the complainants for the mishandling. She remarkably did not apologise to Alex Salmond, who was actually the person Lord Pentland had ruled her Government had treated unfairly. That was not an accidental omission.

If Alex Salmond goes ahead to sue the Scottish Government for damages, which I certainly hope that he does, the Scottish Government cannot oblige him to settle and will find it very difficult to stop both the documents to which I refer, and the key evidence on oath, from coming out in open court. I am very confident that anybody who now scoffs or rails at me will look very stupid when that happens.

In conclusion, a senior judge does not describe the Government’s proceedings as “unlawful”, “unfair” and “tainted by apparent bias” without extreme care. Those words carry full weight. That Nicola Sturgeon has simply sought to ignore them is astonishing.

UPDATE at 20.06: This article led to a number of people contacting me to offer more information, or in some cases correction, on various points, plus two lawyers who contacted me with legal advice. I have therefore made a number of relatively minor changes to detail including some dates, but they in no way alter the thrust of the narrative or the argument. If further information comes in, there may be more changes. I will let you know.

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*In a previous article I had written that Mackinnon started contact with the complainants in January 2018. It was in fact still earlier, November 2017.

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A Question of Loyalty

I was just talking to an old friend in the European Commission about Scottish Independence. He said within the Commission there would now be overwhelming support for it and for immediate Scottish membership of the EU. He then added “But please can you leave Dr Fox with the English?”.

He was joking, but it led me to think about the loyalties of Unionist politicians. I don’t doubt Dr Fox would stay with the English – there will be no power in prospect for Tories in Scotland.

When asked in an interview during the last Indyref where his loyalty would lie if Independence won, then Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael replied without hesitation that of course he was a Scot and he would be loyal to Scotland. Where, I wonder, would Fluffy Mundell’s loyalties lie? The border is a short hop for him. Colonel Ruthie Davison has always had her eyes on high office at Westminster, and I expect she would be quickly down the A1. As for Labour, I don’t suppose anyone in England especially wants Richard Leonard. To be fair, I suspect Gordon Brown is not going anywhere and would reconcile himself to being the Scot who, in his own mind, saved the World. Wouldn’t it be lovely if J K Rowling upped sticks and went to be closer to her beloved Tony Blair?

With Scotland in the EU and England outside, would Andrew Neil be allowed to “queue jump” and stay as a top Tory at the England and Wales Broadcasting Corporation? Or would he fall victim to a hostile environment? Surely the mighty Laura Kuenssberg would demand a larger field for her snide right wing jibes than her home country?

I offer the “which way would the unionists jump” game to those of you whose minds have been frazzled by the banal spectacle of the results of British hubris, as relayed to us from Westminster all week. The game works much better with a few drams of Caol Ila.

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