Search Results for : Lord Taylor

Lord Taylor and Tessa Jowell, Long Term Crooks

So for offering to change legislation for cash, and then for lying to the committee investigating it with a story they called “Wholly implausible”, Lord Scumbag Taylor of Blackburn has been suspended for a whole six months – for 50% of which the Lords is on holdiay anyway!!

It is another symptom of the failure of the Establishment to understand that the public really are furous at their easy tolerance of corruption among their number.

Taylor has been doing this for years, making millions of pounds as a “Consultant” and “Director” for numerous companies which depend on government contracts, particularly in the defence industry, but he also has a major financial interest in the government’s crazed authoritarian ID card scheme.

So in the autumn Taylor will be back in the Lords, peddling Jack Straw’s influence again.

It has been a comparatively good couple of days. While there is little justice, at least there is exposure of some of the criminals that this blog has been pursuing for years. Tessa Jowell paid off her mortgage – three times – with money given to her husband by Blair’s friend Berlusconi, as a reward for lying for him in court.

That is undoubtedly true, and has been again confirmed by Italian judges.

The fact that Jowell is still a minister is quite astonishing, and again says a great deal about New Labour’s toleration of corruption. She still maintains a pretence of having separated from Mills. Berlusconi is no doubt engaged in his normal bribery and threats of the Italian judiciary to keep Mills from having to serve his sentence. I do hope that he fails, and that the Jowells are genuinely separated, for the four and a half year jail term at least.

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Corruption Condoned: Lord Taylor’s Risible Punishment

Anybody who doubts the deep, deep corruption of our parliament need only refer to the laughably light punishment given to Lord Taylor of Blackburn. He was caught red-handed offering to get legislation changed for money. He went into detail on his methodology.

He then, with typical New Labour arrogance, brought upon himself official criticism for the “Disdain” he showed the investigation.

His disdain was justified. They couldn’t touch him, and they didn’t. A measly one year’s suspension? Bollocks!!

Nobody outside the inane village of Westminster will think that a year’s suspension is sufficient. A year in prison would not be sufficient.

Lord Scumbag has been peddling influence for cash for decades. He has been the highest paid parliamentary “Lobbyist” for the defence industry. This site wes detailing it for two years before the Sunday Times’ investigation.

The modus operandus of this government, again and again, is to institute an inquiry into a scandal, with terms of reference so limited as to pre-determine the outcome. Sleazebag criminal Taylor has only been invesitgated for his willingness to go along with the Sunday Times’ fake scam.

Nobody has asked the vastly more important questions.

What did scumbag crook Taylor do for the very real millions of pounds he trousered for all those consultancies and directorships in the Defence industry since New Labour came to power?

Which of the methodologies he outlined to the disguised Sunday Times reporter did he actually use on behalf of his real defence and security clients?

Why was it worth the while of the defence and security agencies to employ this retired expert in the theory of primary school education?

How much of the influence he was peddling was actually his partner Jack Straw’s influence? How much of the proceeds did Jack Straw see apart from the admitted payment by Lord Taylor of his election expenses and by companies of hospitality events in his constituency?

We have only scratched the surface of this scandal so far.

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Jack Straw’s Corrupt Partner, Lord Taylor of Blackburn, Demands £120,000 to “Bend the Rules”

The disgusting Lord Taylor of Blackburn, who together with Justice Secretary Jack Straw forms the chief parliamentary support for the stinkingly corrupt BAE arms company, has been caught out demanding £120,000 to peddle his New Labour influence in the House of Lords.

As ever, this blog was there first – eighteen months ago. We have in fact been all over Lord Scumbag like a rash. These are essential reading as background to the current scandal:

I think this passage I wrote in 2007 has been roundly vindicated:

Straw’s links with BAE are partly conducted through Lord Taylor of Blackburn, the former leader of the Blackburn with Darwen Council that includes Straw’s Blackburn constituency. Lord Taylor, an archetypal New Labour apparatchik from Straw’s constituency machine, has lived off the taxpayer in Labour Party appointed posts all his life. He is now chiefly known as the second highest claimer of expenses in the House of Lords. In 2005 Lord Taylor claimed over ‘57,000 of tax-free expenses, over three times the average claim of under ‘19,000. he spoke 15 times in the year.

But he doesn’t really need that public money anymore, as the grasping creep Taylor is the primary conduit between the defence industry and New Labour. He has been a highly paid “Consultant” to BAE for over a decade. He also has used some of that money to make major contributions to Jack Straw’s election expenses in his Blackburn constituency, declared by Straw in the Register of Member’s interests. Lord Taylor also regularly makes large contributions to fund Blackburn New Labour. When I stood against Straw in Blackburn at the last election, Taylor was present with Straw at a black tie event hosted by BAE in the constituency said to be “unrelated to the election”.

Interestingly, this year in the House of Lords’ Register of Members’ interests, BAE has disappeared from Taylor’s list of eleven paid consultancies and two paid directorships. It might be interesting to dig for links between these companies and BAE. Some are certainly arms firms – including the highly sinister Electronic Data Systems.

EDS is another of the arms companies that has made many billions from the Iraq war. Among their many current defence contracts is a $12 billion project on electronic systems for the US armed forces. Presumably a well-plugged in New Labour apparatchik like Lord Taylor was of no hindrance to EDS in March 2005 when they landed a ‘2.5 billion contract from the UK MOD for a similar project. Indeed, if Lord Taylor cannot help swing that kind of contract, why are EDS paying him?

I do not have power of words sufficiently to condemn the institutional sleaze of a system where a scumbag like Lord Taylor can be put, unelected, by Labour into a seat for life in the national legislature. There, while a legislator, he can act as a well paid and highly connected lobbyist for the arms industry. As someone who has been deeply patriotic, I must now say that I find myself unable to have any pride in my own country any longer.

I do hope the old war profiteer finally gets put away behind bars. But with his long term partner Jack Straw as so-called Minister of Justice…

Allowing influence to party hacks like Taylor is of course exactly why New Labour is 100% against democratic reform of the House of Lords. Now your essay question: examine the facts about Lord Taylor in the light of the analysis of the control of policy by specific interests by J A Hobson in the blog entry below.

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More Lord Scumbag

My article below detailed how some have done very well out of the war, particularly British Aerospace, with their unique hold over New Labour, their enforcer Jack Straw and his henchman Lord Taylor of Blackburn.

I noted that since the BAE scandal, their name had been dropped from Lord Scumbag’s extensive list of paid consultancies and directorships in the House of Lords’ Register of Members’ Interests, but postulated that some of his many other contracts might be from/for BAE.

With hust an hour’s googling, one of us (who will be known as “V”) has sent me the following:

Here’s the list of companies Lord Taylor of Blackburn has a registered interest with.

Non-parliamentary consultant

Adviser, Initial Electronic Security Systems Limited

Adviser, Electronic Data Systems Limited

Adviser, Drax Power Limited

Adviser, Experian Limited

Adviser, NPL Estates

Adviser, Lucent Technologies

Adviser, Fujitsu Services

Adviser, Canatxx Energy Ventures Limited

Adviser, LogicaCMG UK Limited

Adviser, BT plc

President, Wrens Hotel Group

Remunerated directorships Non-executive Director, A Division Holdings Limited

Non-executive Director, Eisis Limited

1: Initial Electronic Security Systems Limited

Initial Electronic Security Systems was purchased by UTC Fire & Security in July, 2007

The following is from the news section of their own website:

Monday, August 13, 2007

Flying High

High flyers Initial Fire Systems flew into action when BAE SYSTEMS awarded the fire company ‘Phase one’, the first stage in a complete refurbishment programme of fire protection at the defence manufacturer’s huge Warton facility.

The 750 acre site, where over 9000 people are employed is a final assembly site for BAE SYSTEMS – a major international company and one of this country’s leading exporters. Warton leads the world in systems integration and engineering for military aircraft, such as the Nimrod, Tornado, Eurofighter and Harrier.

The contract, one of the largest fire installations undertaken by Initial Fire’s Blackburn branch, involved the design and installation of 31 smoke detection and fire extinguishing systems, monitored and controlled by the British Aerospace Fire Station on sophisticated PC based NT graphics software, again designed and installed by Initial Fire Systems.

2: Electronic Data Systems Limited

From BAE’s website news archive:

BAE SYSTEMS Awarded Major Sub-Contract For Royal Navy Messaging Enhancements

07 Jan 2003

BAE Systems C4ISR has been awarded a major sub-contract by EDS Defence within the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence’s Naval Afloat Messaging Coherency (NAMC) programme. This will provide a coherent formal military messaging facility to Royal Navy vessels at sea and enable access to Information Exchange services provided by the shore-based Defence Message Handling Systems (Navy) [DMHS(N)], which was also supplied by BAE Systems.

BAE Systems will be supplying its Summit-iX Information Exchange software product to EDS Defence for incorporation into the NAMC solution. Summit-iX is also employed within the DMHS(N) and is currently being delivered to the Royal Navy’s new Type 45 destroyers.

Summit-iX represents the United Kingdom’s first implementation of NATO’s new messaging standard STANAG 4406 Edition 1 and, to ensure inter-operability with ships and submarines using the existing older standard, features the proven BAE Systems’ MPS2000 product integrated within it.

NAMC is a key element in the process of rolling out a consistent information infrastructure into the Royal Navy. Supporting the creation of network-enhanced capability, it will be fitted to current Royal Navy aircraft carriers, Type 42 destroyers, Type 23 and Type 22 frigates, and to some Royal Fleet Auxiliaries, replacing a number of legacy systems. This will allow the Royal Navy to gain the benefits of coherence with its existing systems, planned future systems and under-pinning shore based support infrastructures.

The BAE Systems C4ISR Communications & Defence Infrastructure team based at Portsmouth will be supporting EDS Defence’s activities, which are focused on completing fleet-wide rollout by the middle of 2007.

BAE Systems awarded contract for new Royal Navy Warfare Operator Training programme

13 Jan 2006 | Ref. 014/2005

BAE Systems has been awarded a contract by the Defence Logistics Organisation (DLO) for the Maritime Composite Training System (MCTS) Phase 1 programme, valued at approximately ‘100M.

This will provide the Royal Navy with a new shore-based Warfare Operator Training capability to meet the needs of the Type 45 Ready for Training later this decade and current in-service surface platforms.

MCTS offers a more flexible approach to training than is currently available and supports the aims of the Navy’s Versatile Maritime Training concept. Flexibility is achieved through the use of generic Classroom Based Skills Training for early training requirements ensuring that allocation to platform type can be deferred to the latest possible point in the training pipeline. High functional fidelity training is used where platform specific Individual Skills and Warfare Team Training are required. MCTS facilities will be situated at both the Maritime Warfare School Collingwood and the Devonport Waterfront.

Captain Mark Darlington, FLEET Assistant Chief of Staff (Naval Training and Education), said: “The SEABRIDGE partners bring a unique blend of expertise to this project. Their combined experience in the field of maritime operations and the training needed to support it, together with the already proven hardware and simulation software will better assist the RN produce capable, motivated and highly trained sailors primed to take their new skills into a highly demanding operational environment. The signing of this contract represents a very important step in bringing to life the concept of Versatile Maritime Training to support the Royal Navy of the 21st Century. The successful delivery of the MCTS project is vital to both individual and collective team performance.’

BAE Systems Integrated System Technologies (Insyte) leads the SEABRIDGE team with its partners Aerosystems International, EDS, Flagship Training, MDA and Serco.

Clive Richardson, Managing Director, BAE Systems Integrated System Technologies (Insyte), said: ‘BAE Systems, with our partners in the SEABRIDGE consortium, is delighted to have been selected to deliver the Maritime Composite Training System. We have used our deep experience in maritime operations to develop a cutting-edge, versatile training environment for Royal Navy personnel to develop and practice their skills. BAE Systems regards MCTS as an early step in the strategy to deliver coherent, timely and effective training to meet all the Royal Navy’s emerging requirements and to form the foundation of realisable joint training’.

Work on MCTS has started and facilities will be situated at the Maritime Warfare School Collingwood, Portsmouth and the Devonport Waterfront, Plymouth.

3: Fujitsu Services

Eurofighter Typhoon

We are working with Bae Systems and CASA on the European Eurofighter programme and Ground Support Systems for the aircraft. Fujitsu’s UK, Spanish, German and Italian arms are providing fixed and deployable IT infrastructures to their airforces. These run both engineering and mission support systems essential to the aircraft’s operation.

Source (

Also Fujitsu seem to have been working with BAE on some sort of software for Joint Operations/battlefield situational awareness. I can’t really work out what this is apart from its military, its communications and it’s something to do with BAE, take a look at the pdf and see if it makes any sense to you.

4: LogicaCMG UK Limited

This is an old news story from BAE’s own archives.

BAE SYSTEMS awards contract for security evaluation of royal navy’s type 45 destroyer communications system

06 Jun 2002

BAE Systems has awarded a contract for the security evaluation of the Royal Navy’s Type 45 Destroyer’s Fully Integrated Communications System (FICS) to Logica UK Ltd of Leatherhead, Surrey, United Kingdom, acting in the role of a CommerciaL Evaluation Facility (CLEF).

This represents a further significant phase in the fulfilment of the FICS programme – in February 2001, the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence awarded a contract for the development and installation of the FICS to Thales Communications Ltd. The latter is working in partnership with the BAE Systems C4ISR’s Communications & Defence Infrastructure team, based at Christchurch, United Kingdom, and Raytheon Inc, USA, to fulfil the requirement.

The contract award for security evaluation for Type 45 FICS follows closely upon the completion of the security clearance of the integrated internal and external communications systems being installed by Thales, in partnership with the BAE Systems team, on the Royal Navy’s new Landing Platform Dock (Replacement) platforms, HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark.

The contract complements Logica UK Ltd’s other commitments within the Type 45 programme. These include providing security evaluation services on the Data Transfer and Combat Management Systems, and supplying consultancy services for security evaluation to the BAE Systems Prime Contract Office.

5: Non-executive Director, A Division Holdings Limited

From their own website:

Our history

The establishment of the A Division Group of companies was the culmination of many years of expertise and experience in education ,health and information technology on the part of the core members of our team, which resulted in the formation of the A Division Group in London, England in April 2001.

Although the Group has wide ranging international activities ,interests and operations and indeed, global ambitions, the Groups primary activities are centred upon the educational field, where A Division Learning Systems Limited is a primary sub-contractor to BAE Systems plc ,one of the World’s leading Defence contractors, for the delivery of education based projects worldwide.

To date A Division Learning Systems Limited has successfully delivered and continues to support IT based educational systems and programmes ‘ including Smart Learning and CAD-CAM, in Brunei, Kuwait, Malaysia and Thailand.

6: Non-executive Director, Eisis Limited

Eisis Limited is a subsidiary of EDS Electronic Data Systems Limited which owns 50% of Eisis


This is the only thing I could find about Eisis, couldn’t confirm it from any other source as yet.

As Rector of the University of Dundee, one thing that shocked me was the way that New Labour have packed their apparatchiks on to University Courts (as on every other Board and Quango in the land.)

It therefore comes as no surprise to find that Lord Scumbag of Death, aka Lord Taylor of Blackburn, a man doing very nicely out of the war, is a life member of the Court of the University of Lancaster – where I am now an Honorary Research Fellow in the School of Law. I think I know some of the direction my research might take.

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There is Another World

Resigning minister Mark Simmonds earnt 417 pounds an hour for his “consultancy” work for Circle Healthcare, a group looking to profit from the massive privatisation of NHS services and functions. He had to give it up during his time as Minsiter, but presumably can now go back to it. Simmonds gets 50,000 a year from Circle, broken down into 12,500 payments once a quarter, for ten hours a month. That is 417 pounds an hour.

This is blatant corruption. Simmonds has no great expertise worth that money, it is simply that the private healthcare industry is buying the MPs who will vote to privatise areas of the NHS to them. New Labour are just as bad as the Tories. Alistair Darling received 12,000 pounds for one after dinner speech to Cinven Ltd, a firm which does nothing but benefit from privatisation of NHS services. Was it because Alistair Darling is just the entertainment people want after a good dinner? No, they were buying his vote. New Labour and Tory MPs are both up to their eyeballs in NHS privatisation money.

It is the same with defence spending. Lord Taylor of Blackburn epitomises the rampant corruption in this area the professional in infant education who earned hundreds of thousands of pounds as a “consultant” to British Aerospace. This blog now has ten times more regular readers than it did when I wrote this article, and I beg of you to click the link and read it. It may open some eyes.

Simmonds has come into the spotlight by resigning on the pretext that his total salary and expenses as an MP in 2012-13 of 271,000 pounds – including a 25,000 for his “secretary” wife and 32,500 in rental allowance – were not enough for him to be able to live a family life in London. This man voted for the benefit cap that limits the total income of families on benefits to 26,000 pounds – that is under ten per cent of the amount which is inadequate for his family to live on. These bastards really do live in another world.

In their world, however, all is good and foodbanks are a sign of a healthy society. This will take your breath away.


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Free UK Entry for Illegals Only

I am furious to learn that Israeli settlers resident illegally in the occupied territories are allowed visa free entry to the UK, whereas Palestinians living legally in those territories require a visa (and won’t usually get one).

From Hansard
Asked by Lord Warner

To ask Her Majesty’s Government why Palestinians from the Occupied Palestinian Territories require a visa before travelling to the United Kingdom, but Israeli citizens living in the Occupied Palestinian Territories do not require a visa to come to the United Kingdom for six months or less.[HL59]
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what consideration has been given to changing immigration rules to restrict access to the United Kingdom by all Israeli citizens who live in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.[HL60]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Taylor of Holbeach):

Visa regimes are based on nationality, not place of residence. Palestinians are required to obtain a visa before travelling to the United Kingdom. Israeli citizens, regardless of where they reside, are able to visit the United Kingdom visa free for up to six months.
No consideration has been given to changing the Immigration Rules to restrict access to the United Kingdom by Israeli citizens who live in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Visa regimes are kept under regular review.

In immigration cases, evidence of continuing engagement in illegal activity should normally lead to denial of entry to the UK. That is the supposed general policy. The Israeli settlements are illegal under international law, a fact not in serious dispute even by arch-Zionists Hague and May. On top of which, Israeli settlers should be denied entry because they have demonstrated a clear propensity to settle where it is illegal for them to settle. That plainly gives reasonable grounds to suppose that they will not leave the UK at then end of their visa validity.

90% of West Bank Palestinians refused a visa, are refused on the grounds that they may seek to remain and live illegally in the UK – despite the fact they have never lived illegally anywhere. Illegal Israeli settlers, on the other hand, can waltz into the UK without a visa.

It is hard to imagine a more stark double standard and abuse of power.

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A Most Peculiar Triumph

According to the ebuzzing (formerly wikio) rankings, this is the third most influential political blog in the UK – and the fifth most influential blog of any kind. It beats, hands down, the heavily funded ConservativeHome and Labourlist propaganda operations.

Of the two political blogs ahead of it, Guido Fawkes has permanent paid staff, whereas Liberal Conspiracy is a collective of 32 high profile ultra politically correct guardianistas; many of whom are paid by mainstream media.

Yet this blog has total funding of precisely nil and is only me, an ageing and disillusioned man sickened by the growing gap between rich and poor, the domination of mainstream political parties by corporate interests, and the continual promotion of aggressive war.

This blog does everything wrong. There are frequent gaps between posts, sometimes of weeks on end, because I get too depressed at instances of the callous disregard of the powerful for ordinary people.

I do not tweet, except that the start of each blog entry automatically gets tweeted, which someone set up for me.

This is an SNP supporting blog based in Ramsgate, Kent, written by a manic depressive sacked diplomat of eclectic views, whose guiding lights are the deeply unfashionable John Stuart Mill and William Hazlitt, whose favourite book was written by Michael Foot, and who is still metaphorically on his knees begging forgiveness for advising people to put Nick Clegg into government.

This blog, like all the other top blogs, could make substantial money from advertising, but is the only one not to carry advertising because it does not desire money.

It is webhosted for free, and kept running by a team of techies and moderators who do it for free also, not because they support a party or policy line or everything I say, but because they like the blog. It has the most free, well nigh anarchic moderation policy of any major blog. You can say what you like, including being very critical of me. Racism is pretty well the only red line. Opposing voices are very welcome.

I don’t do political correctness.

Even more heretically, this blog succeeds despite the fact the ebuzzing rankings show the majority of its posts are about international relations. Not only is it interested in foreigners, it tends to concentrate on Africa, Central Asia and other places the mainstream media scarcely believe exist. This blog succeeds so well because the mainstream media leaves unmet an active desire for information by very large numbers of people who are not as stupid as they think.

I have been lucky to have led a fascinating and varied life and as a result not only have a large number of high level contacts who would be the envy of any journalist, but am prepared to publish facts that mainstream political discourse finds uncomfortable.

To give just a few examples, this blog made public that Adam Werritty and Liam Fox had eight meetings with Matthew Gould, now British Ambassador to Israel, not the two reported in Gus O’Donnell’s whitewash “report”. At least two included Mossad, and the purpose throughout was to coordinate on the ramping up of official support for an attack on Iran.

This blog made public the deal whereby the US obtained Arab League support for the attack on Libya in return for US support for the Saudi invasion of Bahrain.

This blog revealed Lord Taylor of Blackburn’s role as bagman for New Labour, and for Jack Straw personally, in collecting from the defence industries, and BAE in particular.

This blog revealed the dirty deal between the British government and the Karimov regime to resume arms supplies and military training in return for logistic support for Afghanistan.

You would be surprised by how many people actually embedded in the establishment, including Members of Parliament and very senior mainstream media journalists, have told me they regularly read this blog to see what is really happening. it is an antidote to the model of single propaganda narrative that now characterises mainstream media.

The stratospheric rise of this blog up the industry rankings is not actually caused by a sudden increase in popularity. That popularity has been there for years. But at last it is being measured.

The old wikio rankings measured the number of links from other blogs; in the case of political blogs, only from other political blogs. So clusters of New Labour, Tory and Lib Dem blogs, by constantly linking to each other, could collectively drive themselves up the rankings.

But over 70% of incoming links to this blog are from outside the UK; they did not count for anything at all in the rankings. Nor did the frequent links to this blog from the sites of major newspapers and broadcast companies in the UK and around the globe.

Ebuzzing now has abandoned the old wikio algorithm in favour of a much wider measurement, which draws on more reference sources, including twitter and newspaper sites. The result reflects much more the actual readership and influence of a blog than did the old wikio rankings:

More than 2 million sources are catalogued and analysed. The semantic content ranking is performed automatically. Blog and article popularity are calculated using our algorithm, which takes into account content shares and recommendations on Twitter, Facebook and the primary content exchange platforms.

I think it is hilarious that the huge wedges of cash put by Lord Ashcroft or Unite into the Tory and New War Criminal blogging propaganda arms cannot see off this old chap with his ancient laptop.

The internet remains a great leveller, and that remains reason to hope.

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Jack Straw Faces Disbarment From Parliament and One Year in Jail

Jack Straw is guilty of the criminal offence of treating – offering food and drink to electors as an induucement to vote – under the Representation of the People’s Act 1983, Clause 114 (2). The maximum penalty is one year in prison. As a corrupt electoral practice it brings disbarment from parliament for life – including the House of Lords.

The evidence against Straw is overwhelming. Free food was given to hundreds of Blackburn Muslim voters at a rally in his constituency on Sunday 25 April 2010. Speeches were made specifically calling on the recipients of the free food to vote for Jack Straw in Blackburn. He also made a speech urging them to vote for him, and he approached voters individually to ask for their votes in the hall where the free food was being given out.

Affidavits have been sworn to this effect and handed to the police. You can see them here:

Download file

A complaint about him has been formally made to Blackburn Police and given police report ref LC-201004271237.

Treating is not an obscure offence. It is number 2 in the Electoral Commission guidebook for police officers

It is also detailed in the Association of Chief Police Officers “Guidance on Preventing and Detecting Electoral Malpractice” .

Download file

At Page 22 of the ACPO guide, there is important information on how Blackburn Police should be conducting this investigation:

1.1Suggested action for all cases:

preserve evidence

respect the secrecy of sealed documents and seek advice before opening

when election documents become evidence in a potential crime, the method of preservation by the police should include consultation with the elections office to agree a mutually beneficial way forward

invite the suspected party for interview under caution or consider Section 24(e) of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) 1984 (as amended by the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005)

consider advice from the Special Crime Division of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)

inform the Returning Officer and the Electoral Commission via police SPOC

advise Police National Information and Computer Centre (PNICC) in scheduled return of all allegations and outcomes or immediately if there is a major allegation

In fact I expect them to avoid telling the Police National Information and Computer Centre – the authorities will try to bury this quickly and corruptly in Blackburn. There is a plaque proudly displayed in the entrance of the police station where I reported this treating. It states that the station was opened by Lord Taylor of Blackburn – the highly crooked Labour Party politician who was last year suspended from the House of Lords for Corruption –

The police station plaque bears another name also – Lord Adam Patel of Blackburn, who was put in the House of Lords because of his work as an “enforcer” of the Blackburn Muslim vote for Jack Straw, and who was himself present and implicated in the present instance of massive treating – see the affidavits above.

I am therefore sending copies of the dossier to the Independent Police Complaints Commission to be sure it is investigated properly, and the full rigour of the law applied to Mr Straw.

Christopher Hope of the Telegraph contacted Jack Straw’s constituency office, who gave one lie and two irrelevancies in reply to this accusation of treating. Straw’s defence is:

1) That people were asked to make a voluntary contribution to the cost of the food.

That appears to be a simple lie by Straw. All of the witnesses to whom I spoke – and I interviewed many others who were too scared to swear an affidavit – said they were never asked to make any contribution.

2) That the Returning Officer had approved the arrangements in advance.

He can’t. Straw’s people are, to say the least, very chummy with the Returning Officer. But Treating is a criminal offence and the Returning Officer can no more OK it than he can OK burglary. The Returnng Officer has no role at all in determining whether treating has taken place, which is solely a matter for the police, crown prosecution service and courts. Mr Tom Hawthorn of Electoral Commission HQ in London has confirmed this to me. It is also made very clear here:

3) That the advertisements for the event did not mention that free food will be provided

This is a complete irrelevance introduced by Jack Straw. Prior advertisement is nowhere a condition of the offence. The offence is of offering food and drink to influence someone to vote. Crimes are not mitigated because you do not advertise them in advance.

As I see it, the Police now have to act. Either Straw has to be charged under Representation of the People Act 1983, 114(2), or I have to be charged under the Representation of the People Act 1983, 106 – for making a false statement about a candidate.

If no action is taken against Straw, I shall be advertising free meals for anybody in Blackburn who wishes to vote against him.

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In Memory of Ed Teague, Postman Patel

One of the best and most original voices on this British blogosphere has fallen silent with the death this morning of my friend Ed Teague, better known to many as the blogger “Lord Patel”.

I will be forever in Ed’s debt. When I pitched up in Blackburn, cold and friendless, to make a stand against Jack Straw, he read about me in the local paper, turned up and became my campaign manager. He had enormous dynamism and fantastic managerial skills. If we managed as independents to prise out 2,000 votes from this most corrupt of NuLab rotten boroughs, which has officially the third lowest educational achievement in England, it was entirely due to Ed’s ingenuity.

We were both stunned by the obstacles put in our way. I was not aloowed to take part in candidates’ hustings hosted by the Churches. I was banned from a Radio 4 Blackburn candidates’ debate. I was not given the legally obliged access to public owned meeting rooms. The local Post Office didn’t start delivering my electoral addresses until the day before polling. I could go on. Ed fought and fought with relentless energy, and never let it depress him.

The full name of his blog – Postman Patel and His Dog Jack – was a reference to Lord Patel, Jack Straw’s other corrupt Blackburn peer besides Lord Taylor of Blackburn. Lord Patel was dubbed “Postman Patel” by Ed because of his tight gripped control over Blackburn’s Muslim Community, used to farm postal ballots for New Labour. Blackburn had the highest incidence of postal voting in the UK – three times the UK average. That is why Lord Patel is a Lord.

The reward system for corrupt cronies is of course why Gordon Brown is so adamantly against a democratic House of Lords. The suspension of Lord Taylor for corruption was not an aberration. Corruption is the purpose of the unelected chamber, as far as New Labour are concerned.

So that is why Ed was Postman Patel – and his dog Jack should be obvious to you now too (though he seems to have dropped off the blog heading latterly).

So please, go to Ed’s blog and just savour for a while a unique and courageous voice. Much missed, I hope by all the blogosphere, of whatever political view.

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New Labour Postal Ballot Fraud NOW in Blackburn

I posted recently about the monumental scale of postal ballot fraud organised by New Labour in 2005 in Blackburn.

I have irrefutable evidence that this is happening again, and New Labour are engaged yet again in criminal electoral activity in Jack Straw’s constituency.

Michael Poultney, New Labour sub-agent for the North West Region Euro Election, has written to the Electoral Commission to complain that the rules governing the discarding ot torn ballots inadvertently favour the BNP.

In doing so, Poultney reveals he has been looking at the postal ballots and seeing how people voted.

I have noticed that a few postal voters have cut or torn their ballot papers only submitting the portion of each paper in line with their marked X.

But party scrutineers are specifically banned from seeing where the “marked X” is when postal ballots are opened.

The rules on this are very strict and could not be clearer. Nobody is allowed to see how the postal ballots are cast until they are counted with the others – not least because at the opening of postal ballots, they are accompanied by signed forms identifying the voter.

This is the rule on opening postal ballots. It could not possibly be clearer:

candidates and agents should not make any attempt to see how any individual ballot paper is marked, nor make any attempt to take notes on how ballot papers are marked. In any event, all ballot papers will be kept with the voting side face down and so it will not be possible to see how the postal voters have voted

See Chapter 5 para 15 of the Electoral Commission’s Guide.

How then did Poultney know where the vote was on these ballot papers?

That is the law, and plainly Poultney – and very probably the Blackburn returning officer – has broken the law. I know from experience as a candidate in Blackburn that if you are not New Labour, you certainly won’t get to see how postal ballots are cast. The local returning officer is, of course, the New Labour chief executive of the New Labour borough council and the people actually opening the ballots are employees of the New Labour borough council.

Anybody who thinks that deep political corruption begins only at Westminster is a fool.


In response to New Labour commenters trying to defend this, look at Poultney’s letter quoted above again and read it carefully.

I have noticed that a few postal voters have cut or torn their ballot papers only submitting the portion of each paper in line with their marked X.

It is obvious that he has been looking at a number of ballot papers, and knows where the X is and that they have torn the paper in line with it – ie, rather than for example tear the paper in half a good way below their X. So he is definitely looking at who postal voters are voting for, (and not just the BNP voters). That is simply illegal – you can’t spin it away.

For goodness sake, New Labour have had Blackburn councillors jailed for postal vote fraud. The place stinks of corruption. The ex council leader, Lord Taylor of Blackburn, has just been suspended from the House of Lords for corruption. Stop acting all innocent.


Having been exposed, Poultney has now hurriedly added this lie in comments after his letter:

I have not referred to marks made by voters, only to the ‘official mark’. This is an icon at the top of the ballot to ensure that it has been printed properly. This is completely different from the marks made by voters to indicate their choice of candidate.

As lies go, that is completely unconvincing. Poulter wrote originally:

I have noticed that a few postal voters have cut or torn their ballot papers only submitting the portion of each paper in line with their marked X.

In that sentence, “their” plainly does refer to the voters, and we all know what “Their marked X” refers to on a ballot paper. On top of which, the official icon he now says he was referring to is not an X.

Michael Poultney. New Labour electoral cheat and transparent liar.


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What Links Expenses and Torture: New Labour’s Total Immorality.

It is good that details of MPs expenses have got out. I am sad if they were sold rather than leaked in the public interest, but they should have been available, unredacted, anyway.

Having said that, the Telegraph has made a massive pig’s ear of its big scoop. It majors on Gordon Brown paying his cleaner through his brother. That sounds to me unwise of Brown, but really not a huge front page story. I am not convinced Gordon Brown fiddled anything.

On the other hand, Hazel Blears changing her official second home designation three times in a year, in order to get the taxpayer to pay for furnishing all her homes, is simply crooked. As are Hoon’s multiple home arrangements. Jack Straw only paid back his “accidental” excessive claims for mortgage and council tax after the Freedom of Information Act ruling that expenses would be published. The Telegraph throws away the really crooked transactions in the odd phrase.

Straw’s expenses are particularly interesting. He has lived in a series of London government mansions ever since 1997. The taxpayer pays for his Blackburn flat, but his real home is his £1million plus Cotswolds property. Just where Straw gets all his money is an interesting question. Some real investigative journalism into Straw’s relationship with his bagman, Lord Taylor of Blackburn, and the peddling of influence for the defence industry, would be more interesting than anything the Telegraph reports today.

But I am struck by the continued government mantra of “It was all within the rules”, which Harriet Harman is being trotted round the television studios to spout this morning. Harriet has the job because she hasn’t made dodgy claims. She is old money. Her family don’t even notice the odd £100,000.

But this idea that it is OK to stretch the rules to the limit – with no worry whether it is right or wrong – is not a minor point. It is done for advantage, so it is immoral, not amoral.

It is an issue which has been heavily on my mind since I gave evidence on ministerial complicity in torture to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights last week. Nobody except me and possibly Cranley Onslow showed any horror at torture. There was instead a discussion on the finest details of whether there was any possible way this may be declared legal, “within the rules”.

Even on an issue like torture, right and wrong seems to have disappeared completely from our national political discourse. Is it any wonder they are fiddling their expenses?

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People Who Really Don’t Like Me

I had a rather peculiar happy thought today, caused by a somewhat aggressive phone call I received yesterday. The happy thought is that, while I am generally regarded as a pleasant and amusing fellow, there are a small but definite number of people who absolutely detest me.

How can that be a happy thought? Well, let me list them. I do not include people I surmise may dislike me, but only those I know for sure are aware of my existence and have said very nasty things about me:

Islam Karimov

Tony Blair

Jerry Rawlings

Gordon Brown

Tim Spicer

Jack Straw

Alisher Usmanov

Peter Mandelson

Gulnara Karimova

Baroness Amos

Lord Taylor of Blackburn

David Aaronovitch

That really is a collection of deeply unlovely people. If I have managed to do anything to protect anyone else from the effects of their relentlessly succesful and acquisitive lives, then I have achieved something in my life after all.

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There’s Good Money in Death

In posts below I outlined the theory, first put forward in JA Hobson’s Imperialism: A Study, that imperial adventures abroad impoverish a nation but enrich certain powerful interest groups within it. I applied this to the Iraq war. Market events of the last few days bear out my description of the fragility of the United States’ current financial architecture. Gordon Brown has loyally bought $125 billion of US Treasury Bonds in the last few months to help shore up his ally, with my money. Brown is a man who prides himself on economic prudence, that is a move he will come to rue.

When I give talks on Murder in Samarkand , I am keen to emphasise that the driver behind US Central Asian policy was the meeting between Bush, Enron and the Uzbek Ambassador in 1997. From twenty years experience as a diplomat I can tell you that the idea that big companies drive foreign policy is not an abstract concept, but comes down to very real contracts, very real money and very real, and often very nasty, people.

The same point was made last week by a BBC report that the arms manufacturer British Aerospace has made record profits due to the War in Iraq. The BBC, for once, deserves some credit for the frankness of this report, which begins:

BAE profits soar on Iraq conflict

Work to re-equip UK and US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan has helped profits to soar at defence group BAE Systems.

The UK’s largest defence firm, BAE made a pre-tax profit of ‘657m ($1.4bn), compared with ‘378m a year earlier.

BAE said the “high tempo” of UK and US military operations was increasing demand for land systems to support armed forces overseas. BAE, which is facing an anti-corruption probe by US authorities, saw its half-year revenues rise by 10%. The firm said its sales had benefited from its US operations, which achieved organic sales growth of 12% during the period.

Overall sales at BAE’s Land & Armaments business, which includes everything from tanks to munitions, rose 43%.

British Aerospace is of course the company that provided $1.2 billion in bribes for Saudi Princes, as well as trafficking in sex for them, and had Tony Blair decide that an investigation into the crime should be dropped “In the national interest”.

British Aerospace has the closest relationship with New Labour. When Robin Cook became Foreign Secretary in 1997, he announced that he intended to institute an “Ethical Foreign Policy”. Blair was determined to scupper this, particularly as it was known in the FCO and Downing St that Robin Cook planned to block a substantial sale of British Aerospce Hawk jets to Indonesia, a country which had a record of using air power against civilian populations in internal dissident areas.

Before Cook was ready, Blair ambushed him on the issue at one of New Labour’s very first Cabinet meetings. Jack Straw led the attack speaking in favour of BAE, strongly supported by Gordon Brown. In the first few weeks of Blair’s premiership, nobody was prepared to speak against him at Cabinet, and Cook was not just defeated, but deliberately humiliated by Blair. I have had an eyewitness account of this meeting from a then Cabinet Minister.

Cook was later to say that:

“I came to learn that the chairman of BAE appeared to have the key to the garden door to No 10. Certainly I never knew No 10 to come up with any decision that would be incommoding to BAE.”

Jack Straw has always been the most pervasive and insidious supporter of BAE in the Cabinet. It was Straw who lobbied hardest against Cook’s plans to limit BAE arms sales, and when Blair sacked Cook it was Straw who replaced him as Foreign Secretary. It was Straw who lobbied hardest for the investigation into the BAE bribes to be dropped, and it is Straw who now has become, supreme irony, Minister of Justice.

When Straw escorted Condoleeza Rice around the North West of England in March 2006, a BAE arms factory was the highlight of the trip.

Straw’s links with BAE are partly conducted through Lord Taylor of Blackburn, the former leader of the Blackburn with Darwen Council that includes Straw’s Blackburn constituency. Lord Taylor, an archetypal New Labour apparatchik from Straw’s constituency machine, has lived off the taxpayer in Labour Party appointed posts all his life. He is now chiefly known as the second highest claimer of expenses in the House of Lords. In 2005 Lord Taylor claimed over ‘57,000 of tax-free expenses, over three times the average claim of under ‘19,000. he spoke 15 times in the year.

But he doesn’t really need that public money anymore, as the grasping creep Taylor is the primary conduit between the defence industry and New Labour. He has been a highly paid “Consultant” to BAE for over a decade. He also has used some of that money to make major contributions to Jack Straw’s election expenses in his Blackburn constituency, declared by Straw in the Register of Member’s interests. Lord Taylor also regularly makes large contributions to fund Blackburn New Labour. When I stood against Straw in Blackburn at the last election, Taylor was present with Straw at a black tie event hosted by BAE in the constituency said to be “unrelated to the election”.

Interestingly, this year in the House of Lords’ Register of Members’ interests, BAE has disappeared from Taylor’s list of eleven paid consultancies and two paid directorships. It might be interesting to dig for links between these companies and BAE. Some are certainly arms firms – including the highly sinister Electronic Data Systems.

EDS is another of the arms companies that has made many billions from the Iraq war. Among their many current defence contracts is a $12 billion project on electronic systems for the US armed forces. Presumably a well-plugged in New Labour apparatchik like Lord Taylor was of no hindrance to EDS in March 2005 when they landed a ‘2.5 billion contract from the UK MOD for a similar project. Indeed, if Lord Taylor cannot help swing that kind of contract, why are EDS paying him?

I do not have power of words sufficiently to condemn the institutional sleaze of a system where a scumbag like Lord Taylor can be put, unelected, by Labour into a seat for life in the national legislature. There, while a legislator, he can act as a well paid and highly connected lobbyist for the arms industry. As someone who has been deeply patriotic, I must now say that I find myself unable to have any pride in my own country any longer.

What are our soldiers dying for again?,,2091253,00.html

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“Those of us who believe freedom is important, face a huge battle over many years, and against great odds. We have lost our best leader” – Craig Murray on the death of Robin Cook

I turned on my television to watch the news, and when it warmed into life, was surprised to see myself looking at a picture of Raigmore Hospital in Inverness.

For many years my parents lived close to Raigmore, at Incheswood, and that was the road from which the BBC were taking their picture. I have many happy memories of Inverness, and the hospital itself is a wonderful facility with cheerful and helpful staff. But I visited both my father and my grandfather in that hospital shortly before their deaths, and a chill enters my heart when I see it.

I now learnt of the death of Robin Cook, and felt a real sorrow.

I was one of a few enthusiasts in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office who welcomed the arrival of Robin Cook as Foreign Secretary and his declaration of an ‘Ethical foreign policy’. The majority were hostile and cynical, but not nearly so much as was Tony Blair.

Within a very few weeks, Blair arranged Robin Cook’s defeat at Cabinet when Cook wanted to stop the export of British Aerospace Hawk jets to the Suharto regime of Indonesia, which has a strong history of vicious repression of its disparate peoples. I was told by a Cabinet Minister who sided with Cook, that Blair managed Cook’s cabinet defeat in as confrontational and humiliating a manner as possible.

Plainly there would be no ethical foreign policy under Blair, and ‘New Labour’ would be even snugger in bed with the arms industry than the old version. One of Blair’s lead men on Hawks to Indonesia was Jack Straw, who declared in the register of members’ interests that 50% of his election expenses had been paid by Lord Taylor, a Director of British Aerospace.

By one of life’s sad ironies I was closely involved in an episode which held the ethical foreign policy up to media ridicule, from which it never recovered. A mercenary outfit called Sandline claimed to have been given the go-ahead by the FCO to ship weapons to Sierra Leone, to help President Kabbah recover his country from rebels. The problem was this breached a UN arms embargo. Both the Tory media and the pro-Blair Murdoch media had a frenzy, attacking Cook for claiming to be ethical while breaching UN law.

In fact, while Sandline had close connections with the British High Commission in Sierra Leone, they were simply lying about being given permission to ship arms. I can say that with certainty, because it was I they claimed gave the permission.

The storm passed, but ethical foreign policy disappeared as a term of art. The crisis brought me into closer and more intense personal contact with Robin Cook than I might normally have expected, and for that I am grateful.

His famous gnomic and ginger appearance is much commented upon, but I have never seen anyone describe his eyes, which is a pity. He had really startling eyes, of an extraordinarily light, bright, limpid blue. They absolutely held you, and as you spoke they were searching you out. I found him both funny and kind.

He had his faults. Very self-obsessed, the first time I ever met him I was kept waiting in his outer office for over three hours. No respecter of persons, he famously once did much the same to Princess Diana (well, maybe not three hours, but a lot longer than she was used to).

I met him again in Ghana, when he accompanied the Queen on a State Visit. He got so deeply into a conversation with a journalist that he missed the convoy as it departed from a Durbar, and had to be rescued from the massive crowds, having apparently lost interest in what the Queen and the Government of Ghana might be doing.

At that time, he was interviewing for a new Private Secretary. Deciding that this would be a useful way to fill out the hours spent as a courtier, he had the candidates flown out to Ghana at public expense to be interviewed ‘ including at least one candidate, then Head of the FCO’s United Nations Department, whose London office was a thirty second walk from his.

So I observed him as self-centred and irascible, but at the same time kind, witty and deeply intelligent. I agreed with him on ethical foreign policy, and on the Iraq war. But where we will now miss his influence most of all, was his passionate commitment to individual liberty and balanced democracy.

Cook was the country’s most influential advocate of proportional representation, the surest safeguard against abuse of power by narrow and unrepresentative government. He also wanted to see executive authority checked by a powerful and fully elected House of Lords. This was the great work of his second ministerial post, as Leader of the House. It should not be forgotten that just as Blair deliberately blocked Cook over ethical foreign policy, so he blocked an elected House of Lords. And Blair blocked it for exactly the reason Cook wanted it, because it would be a brake on the Prime Minister’s authority.

It amazes me that, when Blair made clear he wanted a largely appointed House of Lords, most people still didn’t tumble to just how power-mad the man is. Now we face proposals to hold people for three months without charge, and to deport people for entering the wrong bookshop or visiting the wrong website. We are to accept ‘assurances’ from murderous regimes that they won’t torture or kill dissidents we hand over to them.

Blair bangs on as if it wasn’t already illegal to be a terrorist, to kill people, to make or supply bombs or assist those who do. It is noteworthy that the alleged London bomber now charged is facing longstanding laws, like murder and conspiracy to murder, without any need for the raft of new legislation already in place, let alone Blair’s latest proposals.

What kind of society are we turning into? Blair talks of designating suspect bookshops, and I have just received my fourth official letter from the government reminding me that my own book, which I haven’t even finished yet, is banned from being published.

Robin Cook was a man of principle and lover of liberty, and he hated all of this. The last, brilliant, Guardian article I read by him was arguing against purchasing a replacement for trident missiles, while claiming that Blair had already taken that decision. He also stated baldly that the policy of Bush and Blair was creating terrorism, not defeating it.

These are the most dangerous times for liberty in the UK since the government of Lord Liverpool. Those of us who believe freedom is important, face a huge battle over many years, and against great odds. We have lost our best leader.

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Young Alexander Burnes

Here are two letters written by the 15 year old Alexander Burnes shortly before he sailed for India, one to his mother and one to his father. They are a biographer’s dream in terms of the information and an incredible amount can be extrapolated from them, about the family, their milieu and the times. But they are also very poignant indeed.

They have never been transcribed or published and I dug them from the archives and transcribed them myself. My publisher will be furious at my giving away research before publication, but I think it is important to get this sort of material online and available to researchers.

The first letter, to Burnes’ mother, contains the text of another letter in the middle, which is slightly confusing.

National Library of Scotland
MS 3813 f112-3

Mrs Burnes
James Burnes Esq

London March 1821

My Dear Mother,

According to a promise given in my last letter I will sit down to write you. I have spent a week in Chingford in Uncle David’s small cot; instead of being only ten miles from London you would rather suppose a hundred, for after we had left the coach at Walthamstow we did not meet a huma soul until we arrived at Uncle David’s house, in the parish of Chingford there is neither schoolmaster, doctor, lawyer, banker, taylor or any other business except farmers and vintners – uncle David performs the office of Mr Rintoul and Aunt Glegg, that of Mr Beattiie, their children’s progress is really astonishing for I heard little Fanny who is only three years old repeat “Pity the sorrows of a poor old man” along with the Lord’s prayer and creeds.

My nature would not allow me to stop in the house, for I explored all the surrounding neighbourhood in which I found a hunting seat of Queen Elizabeth’s near Epping Forest, now inhabited by the forester “O the futility of human affairs”. Another extraordinary thing was Walthamstow Abbey built by Harrold II, the King immediately preceding William I, but except one wing it is so modernised that a person would scarcely believe its antiquity.

My detention and that of James for two months would perhaps astonish you, and more so on account of my sudden departure, but the advice which we have received, and the advantages which will accrue from my attending Dr Gilchrist, I have no doubt will satisfy you.

James introduced me to Dr Gilchrist on Friday, and I am to commence attending his classes on Tuesday first. He informs me that his pupils instead of going back and forth to one another’s house have taken a room in The Strand where they meet on the days which he does not lecture and study the language by themselves, to this society he is to introduce me, and by so doing, in this country I may acquire the principles of the language and in India how to speak it.

James and I dined at Mr Hume’s on Sunday last. What had induced you all to think I had a rough passage up I know not, for there was never a more pleasant passage performed and I would be perfectly satisfied with such weather in our passages out, but that cannot be expected because the fate of poor Paterson’s vessel off the Cape shews what weather we have to expect – the wreck of the Emma is truly distressing and one would really imagine that distress is never far from that family – it will vex his father much.

There is one fortunate thing which I had almost forgot to mention and that is that a vessel is set to sail for Bombay about the middle of May, commanded as Dr Gilchrist told us by a friend of his – and Mr and Mrs Gilchrist will be able to get James appointed surgeon, and as the passage money is moderate, we should perhaps be able to save all now living in London.

On Saturday we received through Mr Hume a letter from Lord Gillies, enclosing one to Governor Elphinstone I here send you a copy of his Lordship’s letter

Edin Mar 21 1821

My Dear Sir,

I have the pleasure of sending you enclosed a letter of introduction in favour of you and your brother from Admiral Fleming to his brother Mr Elphinstone, the Governor of Bombay:- I sincerely hope this letter will be of service to you and your brother have my best wishes for your welfare and prosperity.

I applied to Admiral Fleming in consequence of a letter from your father, asking me whether I had any friends at Bombay to recommend you to them. I have no friends there and have not the honour of knowing Gov. Elphinstone but his brother the Admiral is a friend of mine. This letter I trust will be useful.

Believe me yours very truly,

Ad. Gillies
To James Burnes
Assistant Surgeon in the service of the East India Company

So if we do not get forward it will not be for want of recommendatory letters, but to them I shall trust as little as possible. We will do without Jimmie Leighton’s letter of introduction, tho by the bye his letter would have been the means of introducing us to the officers, but by being introduced to the governor will perhaps suffice, in hopes of soon hearing from you

Believe me
Your Truly Affectionate Son
Alex Burnes

PS I hope you make them feed the hawk and crow and also take care of the tulips and other flowers I had
NB William Ross has my Greek dictionary which you can get from him when he’s done with it but not till then for you know well the circumstances of his father.

London April 1st 1821

My Dear Father,

This being your birthday I take up my pen to express James’s wishes and mine for your health and happiness – and as the four of your sons are now separated from you, your health was not here and I suppose not at home omitted – would that my birthday had come for from that day I hope bever to be a burden to anyone.

Fortunately my birthday happens on Wednesday which is account day so I will be entitled to pay the very day I am sixteen. Remember Burns when my birthday comes
“That request permit me here
When yearly ye assemble
One sound I ask it with a tear
To him the son that’s favoured”

I am astonished by your silence for except a few lines from [Shannon?] and a letter from you returning the certificates, I have not received a scrap from father, mother or brother.

Mr Hume has given me a state of James’ expenditure in London which I now transmit you as also the gross amount of our equipment.

James amounts to £84 and mine to £101 odd, but the reason for the disparity is my getting all my accoutrements such as sword, cap and so in London, which James had not. This is really a great sum, but the amount which you intended to send up for James alone makes me suppose you will think this moderate. I cannot yet tell you exactly how much it will cost to land us in India as there may yet be some things required here, but by the statement you sent there appear to be in the hands of Mr Hume about £145 so our equipment will amount to £40 more. £200 will equip us both, after which the expense of our living in London since I arrived (for James paid Mr Scroggie about a week ago all demands) and the passage money (which we do not yet know but will be informed of it as soon as James sees the captain of the Sarah) must be paid – these demands (alth’o comparatively speaking moderate) will perhaps startle you. Should ever the fickle goddess Fortune shine upon me it will also afford me much pleasure to repay you all my expenses.

From a book, called The Cadet’s Guide to India which was presented to me by Mr Shand, it appears that a cadet (which I do not hope to be for long) can live comfortably and yet save £120 per annum, but my desire in going to India never was a lust after money, but to lead a comfortable and happy life in a delightful country from which I hope to return after some years with a competency.

It would give me very much pleasure if it were in your power to assist Mr Christian in getting a situation of the same kind he is now trying for if he is unsuccesful at getting the school at [illegible], for he is a very clever, deserving young man, and I am sure will give satisfaction to whatever situation he is appointed.

On Tuesday I went for the first time to Dr Gilchrist, and from the little insight I have already got into the language it doesn’t appear so difficult as I was at first led to imagine – the only European language it has any analogy to is the Scottish [phrase illegible]

On account of the great distance Mr Scroggie’s is from Dr Gilchrist’s classroom, Dr Gilchrist and Mr Hume have both recommended me to remove to No. 8 Buckingham St, Strand, where Dr Gilchrist’s pupils meet daily and where I am boarded for 25s per week so that all letters you send me thro’ Mr Hume can be directed as above. Are you to send the Montrose newspaper while I am in London or only when I go to India? I should like it in both places. Mr Hume says when you send them to India they should go in parcels.

Expecting soon to hear from you,
Believe me,
Your Truly Affectionate Son,

Alex Burnes
I will write my mother soon.
Write how Robert likes his situation. I wrote to Adam, but have as yet received no answer.

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On Being a Government Supporter

It appears very probable now we will have a Tory/Lib Dem coalition. That would put me in the extraordinary position of supporting the government, for the first time in my life.

I would still much prefer the Lib Dems to remain in opposition. To a large extent that is for pragmatic reasons – I very much fear a coalition with the Tories will be electorally disastrous for the Lib Dems. But will I resign from the party? No, I won’t.

Part of the reason for this is my revulsion at the list of dreadful authoritarian New Labour figures who have been coming forward to rubbish any Lib/Lab deal. David Blunkett, John Reid, Jack Straw – these people truly are enemies of liberty and I find them more repulsive than any of the Tories, even Jacob Rees Mogg.

The proof, of course, will be in what the new government actually does. I do not view AV as an improvement on FTPT, and it appears the Tories will not touch the real reform of STV. But there are other areas of democratic reform that would be real achievements – fixed term parliaments appear on the cards.

But what about an elected House of Lords? A House of Lords fully elected by STV might be a way of breaking the negotiating deadlock, with the Commons remaining on FTPT for now. But just how attached are the Tories to the patronage of appointing their donors to the House of Lords? Pretty attached, I imagine.

On the economy, I tend to the libertarian side myself and favour spending cuts more radical than anything we are likely to get, particularly in local government where bureaucracy and useless departments proliferate and pay scales are much higher than equivalent jobs in the national civil service.

You may be surprised, for example, that my views of the Sharon Shoesmith affair are that she was unfairly treated, that it is ludicrous that we should imagine government can stop all murder and evil, that the large majority of social welfare, youth and community oriented jobs in local government should simply be cut as they do no good, and that the real scandal is that the woman was on a remuneration package similar to that of the Permanent Under Secretary of the Treasury.

If you ask me how to rein back the deficit, I would say that you can make a start by looking at the career of Bill Taylor, a full time Labour Party apparatchik who made a fat living his entire career out of various Polly Toynbee type aspects of taxpayer funded bullshit – and rakes in even more now by doing it on a consultancy basis. Read through Taylor’s career, and then abolish throughout the UK all public spending in any area in any way related to any sector he worked in.

So you will gather I am not moved by the argument that the Tories must be resisted at all costs because of spending cuts. I like spending cuts. What to cut is, of course, the area of dispute. The Tories appear to be wedded to Trident, but will they kick it back a bit through a defence review?

It will be novel to see liberal ministers in office, but hard lessons have taught me not to expect too much from that. When the FCO was embarking on its positive policy of encouraging the gaining of intelligence through torture,

Peter Hain and Bill Rammell were both FCO ministers – and both have a genuine commitment to human rights. But somehow the system takes good men prisoner.

So, I wait to see if the coalition comes, and if so what it does. As I said before, if they halt the extradition of Gary McKinnon to the US, that would be a good early sign.

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The Price of Ermine

I see that “Lord” Alan Sugar, the unpleasant bully of employees, has donated four hundred thousand pounds to the New Labour campaign. All part of why New Labour will never give us a democratic upper chamber. Having promised it three times in their election manifesto and broken the promise every time, i am stunned they have the temerity to offer it again.

Jack Straw is of course in charge of Lords “reform”. Probably the most corrupt man in the House of Lords – and one of the few to be suspended for corruption – is Straw’s bagman, “Lord” Taylor of Blackburn, the “parliamentary consultant” to at least ten big defence firms including BAE. Another is “Lord” Adam Patel, chief organiser of postal ballot abuse in Straw’s Blackburn constituency, immortalised in the famous blog “Postman Patel and his dog Jack”.

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British Elections Neither Free Nor Fair

Am posting my CiF article here – with my own original heading – just to safeguard it for eternity.

I was very pleased with the comments on CiF – 73 positive and 3 negative. But less pleased with the Guardian’s treatment of the article. It was never referenced on any of the main pages. It was linked from the CiF front page for only 14 hours – 11 of which hours were between 10pm and 9am.

By contrast, for example, a rubbish right wing article from Charles Crawford claiming that David Cameron’s East European allied parties are not really objectionable, was on the front page of Cif simulatenously and for a total of over 48 hours. Until it was whisked off and hidden at 9.48am, my article was garnering comments quicker than any other.

Here is the article again:

In my diplomatic career, I spent a great deal of time assessing the democratic merit of elections in various countries abroad. That gives me a peculiar perspective in looking at elections in the UK, and wondering what a foreign observer would make of them. I can do this also with the insight of having twice run as an independent parliamentary candidate.

Against international standards, British elections leave a great deal to be desired. The first crucial failing is the lack of an independent administration of the elections. In each constituency, the election is not run by the Electoral Commission, but by the local authority. The national Electoral Commission has only an advisory role and cannot even monitor or instruct local returning officers. The returning officer is almost always the chief executive officer of the local authority.

The problem is that, de facto, those chief executives are party-political appointments. Particularly in the long-term New Labour rotten boroughs of the north, local government appointments are a New Labour nexus. Bluntly put, the New Labour council of a northern town is almost never going to appoint a Tory chief executive.

In fact, the lines between council appointments and party appointments are often blurred. Bill Taylor was Jack Straw’s agent and full-time organiser in Blackburn in 2005. His pay came as a youth organiser for a neighbouring New Labour-controlled council. It would have been illegal for him to be thus employed by Blackburn itself and to campaign in the constituency. Reciprocal agreements between New Labour councils to provide full-time party staff ?” at the council taxpayer’s expense ?” are not uncommon.

There was a time when honesty in public life was such that the party allegiance of a local authority and its staff would not affect confidence in its ability to conduct a free and fair election. The parliamentary expenses scandal has killed the myth that our politics are honest and well motivated. I do not accept local authority chief executives as genuinely independent returning officers.

I will continue to use Blackburn as an illustration, because I have an intimate knowledge, having stood there in 2005. An independent candidate standing against Jack Straw in the coming election, Bushra Irfan, has already been told by the local election office that she will not be able to exercise her right to place her own seals on the ballot boxes, as the hasp only has room for the council’s seals.

She has just erected an election banner on her own property. Within hours, council officials arrived to dismantle it on the grounds that it did not have planning permission. This ignores the fact that election advertising for a “pending election” is specifically exempted from need for planning permission. But aside from that, one wonders whether other planning issues in Blackburn draw the same instant hit-squad response from the council?

Postal voting is a further major area of concern ?” and again, that concern principally centres on the northern cities. New Labour deliberately brought in a massive expansion in the use of postal voting, which was previously available only to the infirm or to those with other legitimate reason for not making it to the polling booth.

The polling booth is the vital question here. Those bits of board that prevent anyone from seeing how you vote, are an essential element of the secret ballot. New Labour has, in effect, deliberately removed it. Any vote made at home is a vote that may be filled in under the coercive eye of an individual able to enter your home and intimidate you ?” something nobody can do in the polling booth.

I am not theorising. Particularly among some patriarchal Asian communities, community leaders and heads of extended families can and do demand to see the postal ballot of those under their sway, before it is posted. Belated “safeguards”, like having to sign the accompanying form, do nothing to stop this domestic intimidation. It is widely recognised that one result of this postal ballot system has been the effective disenfranchisement of hundreds of thousands of Asian women. Just as bad, it has also disenfranchised lower-status men in many Asian communities.

Again, I speak from experience, having listened to many first-hand accounts from intimidated people in Blackburn ?” and, in every case, the intimidation was to vote New Labour. In the Blackburn constituency in 2005, an incredible 12,000 postal ballots were cast: that represented 29% of the vote, compared to a national average of under 13%. What does that suggest?

But it is still more blatant than that. You will find this next fact astonishing. The regulations have been designed specifically to prevent the exposure of postal ballot fraud. By law, the postal ballots have to be mixed undetectably with the polling booth ballots before they are counted. Therefore, there is no way to prove if, as I suspect happened in Blackburn, a candidate received 25% of secret ballots but 80% of postal ballots.

It is this compulsory destruction of the voting evidence that convinces me that the motivation for extending the use of the postal ballot can only have been a self-serving act by the New Labour government.

But there is a still more fundamental point, which raises doubts about the democratic validity of Britain’s elections ?” and that is the question of whether a real choice is being presented to the voters.

International electoral monitoring bodies pay a great deal of attention to this. For example, in December’s parliamentary elections in Uzbekistan, it was the lack of real choice between five official parties, all supporting President Karimov’s programme, on which the OSCE focused its criticism.

How different is the UK, really? For example, I want to see an immediate start to withdrawal of British troops from Afghanistan; I am increasingly sceptical of the EU; and I do not want to see a replacement for the vastly expensive Trident nuclear missile system. On each one of those major policy points, I am in agreement with at least 40% of the UK population, but on none of those points is my view represented by any of the three major political parties. And remember, only those three major political parties will be represented in the televised leaders’ debates that will play such a key part in the election.

Those debates will take place between three representatives of a professional political class whose ideological differences do not span a single colour of the wider political spectrum. Voters in Wales and Scotland are luckier, but for most people, there is little really meaningful choice available.

The Lib Dems are the nearest most people have to a viable alternative. At the last election under Charles Kennedy, they reflected public opinion in opposing the Iraq war, but under Nick Clegg they have become less radical than at any point in my lifetime.

The media limitation of debate to a narrow establishment consensus is not merely a problem at the national level. When I was a candidate in both Norwich North and Blackburn, the BBC broadcast candidates’ debates, but on each occasion I was not allowed to take part ?” even though I was a candidate ?” because the BBC was terrified their audience might hear something interesting. The Electoral Commission specifically recommends that all candidates be invited to take part in all hustings and candidates’ debates ?” but the Electoral Commission is a paper tiger with no powers of enforcement.

Censorship extends far beyond that. A traditional feature of British elections is the electoral communication, under which each candidate can send out a copy of their electoral address, delivered to every voter free by Royal Mail. Under another bit of Kafka-esque New Labour legislation, the Royal Mail now vets the content of every electoral address. The text must be seen and approved by a central Post Office unit before the leaflet can be printed and prepared for delivery.

So much for freedom of speech. The New Labour rationale for this is that the Royal Mail is checking the candidates’ election address does not fall foul of Britain’s notorious libel laws ?” the harshest and most restrictive of any western country. It also has to be cleared for many other laws restricting free speech, many of them introduced by New Labour ?” for example, that it does not “glorify” terrorism, or incite racism or homophobia.

So, if a candidate were to say in their election address that they believe Tony Blair and Jack Straw are war criminals, or (to take a topical example) that Christian bed and breakfast owners ought to be allowed to refuse gay couples, then their election address would be locked by the Royal Mail.

This is crazy. The Royal Mail delivers millions of letters every day. Some of them doubtless contain libellous and even racist statements. The Royal Mail does not open them all and check they are “legal”.

Actually, whisper that softly, we don’t want to give New Labour ideas.

Furthermore, in this case, it is not a court that decides if a statement is libellous, it is the Royal Mail. This is censorship of candidates during an election and without any court injunction. It says yet more about the cosy establishment clique that governs us that none of the major parties is up in arms about this.

Now, we come to the most fundamentally undemocratic aspect of British elections: the electoral system. It delivers massively disproportionate results with minority parties virtually unrepresented in parliament. At the last election, it delivered a good majority to an unpopular Tony Blair, even though New Labour received only 36% of votes cast ?” which represented just 22% of those entitled to vote.

But it does not favour the big parties evenly. New Labour can get a working majority with 34% of votes cast, while the Tories need 39%. If New Labour and the Tories both got 36%, New Labour would probably have almost 50 more seats. The Lib Dems could get 34%, yet win under half the seats that New Labour would get with the same percentage.

On top of which, we will see the irony of politicians rejected by the electorate being given comfy, paying seats in the House of Lords.

So, there we have British elections today: an unfair electoral system, censorship of candidates’ electoral addresses, little real political choice for voters, widespread postal ballot-rigging and elections administered by partisan council officials in a corrupt political climate.

Don’t be surprised if New Labour do that little bit better, when the votes are counted, than you might expect. As Joseph Stalin said, it is not who votes that counts, but who counts the votes.

So are British elections still free and fair? If this were a foreign election I was observing, I have no doubt that my answer would be no.

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Official Secrets Act Convictions

From Richard Norton Taylor in the Guardian:

An Old Bailey judge has imposed unprecedented gagging orders preventing the British media from reporting information which is published today in newspapers and websites around the world.

The orders were imposed by Mr Justice Aikens during discussions in the court which Lewis Carroll would have delighted in hearing. At times, we were truly living in Wonderland. The discussions took place after David Keogh, a Whitehall communications officer, and Leo O’Connor, researcher to a former Labour MP, were found guilty of breaching the Official Secrets Act and jailed.

Their crime was to disclose the contents of an official minute of a meeting between Tony Blair and George Bush in the White House on April 16 2004. Keogh disclosed the document to O’Connor who passed it on to Tony Clarke, his boss who was MP for Northampton South at the time.

We cannot report allegations about what the document contains even though they have been reported time and time again – “recycled” was the word the judges preferred – by the media, including British newspapers.

That’s not strictly true. The judge said we can repeat those allegations but only if they appear on a different page of a newspaper than any reference to the trial or the document which was at the centre of it. We can also report, since it was said in open court, that the Guardian’s counsel, Anthony Hudson, argued that it would be inappropriate to restrain publication of the allegation already in the public domain claiming that President Bush suggested that the Arabic TV station al-Jazeera should be bombed.

Whenever the document and its contents were discussed, the media and the public were barred from the court. The trial then continued behind closed doors.

The judge imposed his contempt of court – gagging – orders after the prosecution stressed the importance the attorney general (AG), Lord Goldsmith, was personally attaching to the case. Official Secrets Act prosecutions always require the consent of the AG.

He, and the government as a whole, seemed particularly concerned about the need to protect Bush from embarrassment, (the prosecution conceded that no “actual damage” had been caused by the leak) and to show the White House that Whitehall is determined to try and keep secrets even though Washington cannot.

But the judge did more. Not only did he prevent the media from repeating allegations already well and truly in the public domain; he imposed a gagging order on a remark made by Keogh during his evidence in open court when he was asked why the contents of the document preyed on his mind so much.

This is an unprecedented attempt to use the contempt of court act to impose secrecy on something said in the open.

The Guardian, Time, BBC, and Index on Censorship, will appeal against these orders next week.

This savage sentencing of good men to prison – for being good men – underlines just how illiberal the Blair/Brown Britain is. The farcical attempts by the court to continue to hush up the fact that Bush suggested bombing Al Jazeera, simply underline this.

The judge, Mr Justice Aikens, is clearly a complete wanker. Let me say that again just in case anybody misses this opportunity to jail me. Mr Justice Aikens is a complete wanker. In sentencing, he said that by leaking the document, Keogh had put British lives at risk. The argument apparently being that, if Iraqis knew just how violent and unprincipled George Bush is, they might fight still harder.

One worrying aspect of this case is that the jury convicted. There has been a historic reluctance of juries to convict in OSA cases, because they tend to sympathise with the defendants and not with the draconian legislation. This conviction might encourage the government to make more OSA prosecutions. It did not dare prosecute me, even though I very openly released many classified documents related to our policy of using intelligence from torture. There remains, of course, the stinking fact that “Top Secret” intelligence is regularly leaked by the ministers and special advisers in the Home Office to the media whenever they wish to start a new terror scare.

Finally, what a terrible shame that the would-be leakers decided to try to use the newspapers rather than the Net. Our pusillanimous newspapers are still controllable by the courts. Despite Norton Taylor’s huffing and puffing, the Guardian will obey Justice Aikens (did I mention he is a wanker) ? The Net, however, is unstoppable. The documents we leaked are on hundreds of sites all over the World.

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Nick Cohen and the Effects of Alcohol

The Observer publish a column by me in their “My week” series.,,2052388,00.html

It is interesting to compare what they published with what I submitted. Shortened for length, obviously, but the editing makes it look like my comments on alcohol were a jibe at Muslims, when in fact they were a jibe at Nick Cohen. It is perhaps understandable that the Observer have taken out criticism of their long-standing columnist and new neo-con pin-up. Slightly more worrying that they didn’t think my attack on the appointment of an appalling New Labour hack as chairman of the BBC was worth printing:

Anyway, here is what I originally wrote:

Nadira is studying a postgraduate acting course at Drama Studio London, an acting school of very high reputation. They have just broken up for Easter, and I go along to their end of term karaoke party. I feel inspirited by these young people. I would like to sing but Nadira only took me along after I promised I wouldn’t. Interestingly they all choose songs from my generation, not theirs. I learn that a song I have heard on a hundred radios, but didn’t know the title, is called ‘La Isla Bonita’ or sometimes, on this karaoke machine, ‘La Isla Bontia’. Does the Guardian do karaoke machines? Anyway one line in this song had always startled me. ‘I fell in love with some dago’ had always seemed a strange thing to sing, even in less politically correct times. I now see on the machine it was San Pedro she fell in love with: presumably a place not a holy old fisherman.

I also discovered that the Abba line from Super Trouper is not the improbable ‘Since I called you last night from Tesco’ but rather ‘Glasgow’.

Which is, of course, even less romantic.

I have spent a great deal of the week dashing between television and radio studios to give interviews about the Iran captives. I used to be head of the Maritime Section of the Foreign Office. In the first Gulf War I lived, quite literally, in an underground bunker working in the Embargo Surveillance Centre. I worked with Naval staff and was very heavily involved in the real time direction of Gulf interdiction operations. So I really know about this stuff.

There were farcical elements to the whole incident. Neither the British, Iraqis nor Iranians could say whose waters they were in, as the boundaries have never been agreed outside the Shatt-al-Arab. The military failure was due to the fact we have nothing in the area between a warship and a rubber dinghy; it reminded me of the Cod War with Iceland all over again (we lost that one too). Still less can I understand why we have warships attempting to collect Iraqi vehicle excise duty. These patrols, maintained at enormous expense to the British taxpayer, have made precisely zero seizures of significant quantities of explosives or guns. Up the Gulf by ship is not how the insurgents are supplied. The looting of thousands of tonnes of munitions from the disbanded Iraqi army was enough to keep them going for many years.

An extraordinary thing is the disconnect between the BBC presentation and what ordinary people can see. I think I can honestly claim that, unless you happened to catch me being interviewed, nothing else in hundreds of hours of BBC TV coverage would give a stranger the slightest clue that the majority of British people do not think our troops and Navy should be there in the first place. I am genuinely sorry for the ideal of these young people, but nobody can pretend it was a patch on extraordinary rendition to an Uzbek dungeon, on Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib or the regular beating of Iraqi prisoners by British troops, of which the hideous murder of Baha Musa is just one very bad example. There was infinitely more focus on the rejoicing families of our returned captives than there was thought for the grieving families of the four men and women just killed. Having sent those young people to their useless deaths, Blair’s only thought was to use them to bang the drum further for war against Iran,

Ask yourself – when is the last time you saw an anti-war voice, as opposed to a pro-war “military” or “security” expert, asked by the BBC to comment on a Middle East development? Yet the majority of people in this country are against the war. If they want an ex-diplomat, they go for pro war cheerleaders Pauline Neville Jones or Christopher Meyer, even though eight out of ten ex British Ambassadors are against the war.

Amazingly, Sky News is much more open to dissent, and gives much fairer representation to anti-war voices, than the BBC. I see that a New Labour apparatchik and mate of Gordon Brown has just been appointed to chair that august body. There would be no danger now of any unfortunate outbreak of the truth on the BBC, as when Andrew Gilligan told the nation there were no Iraqi WMD.

Lunch with Michael Winterbottom and Andrew Eaton to discuss the latest developments in producing the film of Murder in Samarkand, the book of my time in Uzbekistan. Paramount are funding the project and it is good to discuss filming locations and casting with a pretty open budget. There has been a change of writer since we last met, and Michael himself has drawn up the ‘treatment.’ We agree that the drama has to be griping, the sex erotic and the humour hilarious. Michael has a passion for authenticity which could cause problems. He is very insistent, for example, that Uzbeks should play Uzbeks and Russians play Russians. I point out that this is no problem provided we can find actors with no objection to be executed or murdered by their governments once the film is shown.

Steve Coogan is to play me. He is, of course, not nearly good looking enough. But then, who is?

This week I read ‘An Honourable Deception’ by Clare Short, and ‘What’s Left’ by Nick Cohen. I confess to being a fan of Clare Short. Unfortunately her on/off resignation did huge damage to her standing, and probably to the sales of this book. That is a great pity because what it has to say about the sickness at the heart of New Labour is quite devastating.

Let me summarise Nick Cohen’s book for you. ‘If you are against eating Muslim babies, you are a supporter of Islamofascism. If you are perturbed by Guantanamo Bay, you would not have fought in the Spanish Civil War, are probably a fan of Hitler and have no right to call yourself a Liberal. Neo-Conservatism is the New Left.’

There, now you don’t have to read it. Believe me, I have done you a favour.

I have never been much attracted to Islam myself as my hobbies are drinking whisky and chasing women. Contrary to Cohen’s argument, the very many British Muslims I know, some of them very radical, have no problems with my lifestyle or any intention of imposing their religion on the rest of the UK.

I think the fight against neo-puritanism is very important. The mineral water at lunch crew are a fundamental threat to civilisation. I have always maintained stoutly that it is possible to drink a great deal without any impairment of the mental faculties. I fear Cohen’s book may be disproving that.

I am making arrangements to get to Ghana for the funeral of my friend, Hawa Yakubu. Hawa was a woman of quite extraordinary influence across West Africa. She was on the closest terms with almost every major African Head of State over thirty years. I recall late one night we were struggling with ideas in the negotiations for the Sierra Leone peace treaty, and she simply phoned President Obasanjo of Nigeria at 2am to ask him to put pressure on Charles Taylor. It says volumes about Hawa that he was delighted to be awoken by his old friend.

Hawa did huge amounts for women’s development, for African integration, for conservation, and for the poverty-stricken West African Savannah Belt. She was completely non-corrupt and leaves no personal fortune. Her influence was absolutely vital in helping Ghana become a democracy after Rawlings. She never held more than junior ministerial office because she found it too limiting. One of the most positive influences bringing hope to modern Africa, she is mourned by an extraordinary number of powerful people on several continents. It says much of our modern remoteness from African affairs that no British media have noted her passing.

Good Friday is Nadira’s birthday. Foxy, our cat, gave birth to four kittens. Last year on Nadira’s birthday Foxy gave birth to one, Chocolate, who we still have. Nadira goes all gooey-eyed on me and insists we must keep the kittens. I point out that our long-suffering landlord, Mr Dash, has already put up with two cats when our lease clearly states that we are allowed no pets.

‘But you don’t have any money to pay the rent anyway, so why would he worry about a few kittens?’ Nadira asks. I don’t see how to argue with that.

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