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The Strange Case of Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and the McCanns 439

I have a confession to make. Back in 2014 I posted that I was going to write something further on the subject of the McCanns. In the end I did not, because I was surprised by the strong emotional reaction I received, from a number of decent people, who were enraged that I might be prepared to write something not to the McCanns’ advantage. But I regret being so pusillanimous, particularly as so much discussion has been suppressed by the extremely aggressive stance taken on threats of libel action on this story.

So in the full knowledge that some decent people will be outraged, here it is.

This week there have been two more developments. The Home Office has announced that it will fund still further the police investigation into Madeleine’s disappearance, on which £10 million has already been spent. Plus the appeals court in Lisbon has overturned the libel verdict against the Portuguese detective Goncalo Amaral, who led the case and formed his own firm convictions at to what happened. The 500,000 euro libel award to the McCanns is now cancelled.

None of these sums of money would matter in the least, and practically nobody would grudge any expense, to have Madeleine McCann alive, safe and happy. There can be nothing worse for a parent than the loss of a child, whatever the circumstances. If the McCanns genuinely do not know what happened, that must be agonising beyond belief. My grandparents had a nineteen year old son, an uncle I never knew, missing in action in World War 2 and the pain never left them, even when his fate was resolved.

And yet, and yet… It is because our children are so precious to us that we treat them as such. I recall an incident on Jamie’s first birthday, which we spent in a hotel in Italy. I was in the room with Jamie. My then wife had gone out to the car. The birthday cake was delivered to reception and had to be paid for. Jamie was fast asleep. I dashed out of the hotel room, down two flights of steps to reception, literally threw the money at them and ran back up the stairs. I was away under two minutes but have never experienced such adrenalin, nor would wish to again. An overwhelming instinct had kicked in telling me I had done wrong in leaving the baby unattended, even so briefly.

I find the McCanns’ behaviour indefensible. There appears to be a disconnect in the public mind in the UK which prevents people from realising just how far the McCanns were from their children. This is a useful graphic just to see the layout, (do not worry about the other info on it).

maddie2_09_map

The McCanns could not actually see their apartment from the tapas bar due to the wall around the pool. To get back there, they had to use the gate and walk around that wall, which made it a 75 yard hike. And the apartment had double doors onto the street on the opposite side of the block from that facing the pool.

I do not see how anybody understanding this geography can consider that it was normal parenting for the McCanns to leave two one year olds and a three year old, alone in the apartment in these circumstances – for hours, and repeatedly several days running. It is something I would absolutely never dream of doing with my own children. If nothing else, had any of the children been crying and in distress – and the chances of that with three tiny children are pretty high – there was no way they could hear them.

The claimed abduction is not the only thing that could have happened. Cholic. Vomiting. Sore nappies. Coughing. Choking. Bad dreams. Overheating. All kinds of thing can distress children. So far as I can judge, it is not that I am weird in my own views, rather it is absolutely accepted in British society that you do not leave 1 year olds without care of an adult. Why are the McCanns an exception?

Which leads me on to the question of why they received such exceptional treatment from British authorities, directed straight from No. 10, to the extent that Blair and Brown eventually gave them a PR representative? I used at one stage to be Resident Clerk in the FCO, a now abolished post effectively of night duty officer. I can tell you from horrible personal experience that the FCO deals with gut-wrenching cases of lost or dead children abroad frequently. I spent one of the most terrible three hours of my life, through to a cold dawn, on the phone with a hysterical bereaved mother desperate to explore any avenue that might give a possibility that the boy who had just drowned in Brazil was misidentified as her son. On average, I am afraid such tragedies get substantially less than 1% of the public resources that were devoted to the McCanns.

I am going to come straight out with this. British diplomatic staff were under direct instruction to support the McCanns far beyond the usual and to put pressure on the Portuguese authorities over the case. I have direct information that more than one of those diplomatic staff found the McCanns less than convincing and their stories inconsistent. Embassy staff were perturbed to be ordered that British authorities were to be present at every contact between the McCanns and Portuguese police.

This again is absolutely not the norm. On a daily basis more British citizens have contact with foreign authorities than the total staff of the FCO. It would be simply impossible to give that level of support to everybody. Plus, against jingoistic presumption, a great many Brits who have contact with foreign police are actually criminals.

The British Ambassador in Portugal, John Buck, had been my direct boss in the FCO. he was Deputy Head of Southern European Department when I was Head of Cyprus Section. He and his staff were concerned by contradictions in the McCann’s story. The Embassy warned, in writing, that being perceived as too close to the McCanns might not prove wise. They demanded the instruction from London be reconfirmed. It was.

I know of people’s misgivings because I was told directly. But material was also leaked to a Belgian newspaper confirming what I have said. It was published by the Express, but like so much other material which is not supportive of the McCanns, it got taken down. Fortunately that last link preserved it. It also shows that the FCO continues to refuse Freedom of Information requests for the material on the interesting grounds that it might damage relations with Portugal.

For the avoidance of doubt, I do not believe there was a high level paedophile ring involved. I make no such argument. Nor do I claim to know what happened to Madeleine McCann. But I do believe that the McCanns were less than exemplary parents. I believe that New Labour’s No.10 saw, in typical Blair fashion, a highly photogenic tragedy which there might be popularity in appearing to work on.

And I believe there is a genuine danger that the high profile support from the top of the British government might have put some psychological pressure on the Portuguese investigators and prosecuting officers in their determinations.

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The Appalling Pottingers

One wealthy family through generations has been a pillar of the British establishment, and at the same time responsible for an astonishing amount of harm. Yet you have probably never heard of the Pottingers. Their history can almost make you believe in Grand Guginol stories that a capacity for evil can be genetically inherited. The Bell Pottinger scandal in South Africa, where the PR firm has been found to have deliberately exacerbated racial tension in collusion with corrupt billionaires, is only the latest episode. Here is a glimpse into the astonishing story of the Pottingers.

Purely by chance I have stumbled in three entirely different ways on the activities of the Pottingers in different generations, which is how I can tell this story, and nobody else can.

Sir Henry Pottinger 1789-1856 Protagonist of the Opium War – Tiberius Like Imperial Ruler Steeped in Sexual Exploitation

In researching Sikunder Burnes, I encountered Sir Henry Pottinger, pillar of the British establishment and Burnes’ boss, who features prominently throughout the book. As a very young man Henry undertook one of those heroic journeys in disguise that were a staple of Raj exploration, across the Baloch lands to Persia. But he developed into an extremely bellicose imperialist, craving the annexation of the territory of modern Pakistan. He also developed a pathological hatred of Burnes. This caused him to contradict Burnes’ advice to disembark Sir John Keane’s Bombay Army at Karachi in 1839, instead choosing a completely unsuitable beach. He also overruled Burnes’ personally reconnoitred supply line through the Thatta desert. Both decisions were wrong and based on intense jealousy of Burnes, and caused major delays and losses to the army.

Henry Pottinger found the outlet for his Imperial aggression in the Opium War, as breathtakingly immoral a war as any in the history of all Empire, in which Britain forced China to accept the flow of opium from the East India Company. After killing Chinese with brutal efficiency, Pottinger was responsible for the forced cession by lease of Hong Kong as a UK colony. He became the first Governor of Hong Kong.

The history books are coy on the circumstances which led to his tenure of Hong Kong being cut short, and this being beyond the scope of my Burnes book I did not get into manuscript research on it, but it involved a dispute with the British merchants and involved both Henry Pottinger’s personal money-making schemes and his relationship with “pretty Mrs Morgan.” Removed to South Africa as Governor of Cape Colony, the history books are more explicit about why he did not last long there. G M Theal’s History of South Africa recounts:

No other Governor of his colony ever lived in such open licentiousness as he. His amours would have been scandalous in a young man, in one approaching his sixtieth anniversary they were inexcusable… a cold, calculating, sneering, unsympathetic demeanour prevented men of virtue being attached to him.

Eldred Pottinger 1811-43 Imperial Fraud

Henry’s nephew Eldred became famous to Victorians as “The Hero of Herat”. It is a great story of the British Empire. On shooting leave, Eldred Pottinger was indulging in the favourite heroic occupation of exploring the North West Frontier of the Raj in disguise. He chanced to be in Herat when this Afghan city came under lengthy siege from a Russian-officered Persian army. The cowardly Afghan rulers would have been overwhelmed but fortunately the lone plucky Brit in the City organised the defences and held the Russian hordes at bay, preventing their marching on India. Famously, at one point when Persian troops had breached the defences, Pottinger drove the cowardly fleeing Wazir, Yar Mohammed Khan, back to fight with the flat of his sword.

Except it is all utter bullshit. Surviving manuscript letters of Alexander Burnes make plain Pottinger was in Herat on Burnes’ orders, and Burnes explicitly states that Eldred Pottinger’s presence in the city being “on leave” was a ruse because Britain was breaking its explicit treaty obligation to be neutral in a conflict between Afghanistan and Persia. Yet no British historian has ever published this until I published Sikunder Burnes – even Peter Hopkirk and William Dalrymple repeat the lie of Eldred being there accidentally.

Furthermore the idea that the Afghans were cowards inspired by a true Brit is total nonsense. Pottinger was by no means the only European involved in the city’s defence. The entire story of the “Hero of Herat”, including the bit about driving the Wazir to the breach with his sword, was concocted by the Raj’s great Victorian propagandist, Sir John Kaye. The only evidence for it was said to be in Pottinger’s own journals, which were “accidentally” destroyed in a fire in Kaye’s study. To be fair to Eldred Pottinger, Burnes (who knew the Wazir well and doubted the story) records that Eldred never spoke of his famous exploits, and became embarrassed when they were mentioned. Eldred Pottinger survived captivity in the First Afghan War but died during the Opium War, possibly by suicide.

Sir Frederick Pottinger 1831-65 – Australian Villain

Henry Pottinger’s son Frederick occupies a position in Australian folklore akin to the Sheriff of Nottingham in England, as the ruthless enforcer of harsh British rule and enemy of the Bushrangers. While the latter are unfairly romanticised, there is no doubt Fred was a nasty piece of work.

Eton educated, Frederick whored and gambled his way through much of the family estate, and although his father was a senior Imperial governor, Fred was cut off and sent to a lowly position in the New South Wales police. All of Henry’s ruthlessness in the Opium War was displayed by Fred in law enforcement in Australia. In March 1863 a young boy accused of being a gang lookout died in detention under Fred Pottinger and his notoriety spread. In 1865 Pottinger was dismissed for his violent conduct in pursuing fugitives, and died shortly thereafter in a gun accident, again possibly a suicide.

William George Pottinger 1906-98- Scotland’s Corrupt Civil Service Chief

The Pottingers continued right at the heart of the British political establishment, and I skip several generations – but assure you it is the same family – to come to William Pottinger. The most disgusting example of a modern corrupt civil servant imaginable, William was right up there in the monarchical pecking order, awarded by the Queen as a Companion of the Royal Victorian Order and Companion of the Order of the Bath. While Permanent Secretary at the Scottish Office, Pottinger corruptly handed the architect George Poulson a contract to design the Aviemore Centre. Poulson’s bribes to Pottinger included £20,000 cash, cars and Savile Row suits. William Pottinger was sentenced to seven years in jail, reduced to four on his flashing his royal awards and establishment connections. Oh sorry, I meant on appeal.

This was the second time I came into contact with the baleful Pottinger story, my own father having a relationship with Poulson and Pottinger through T Dan Smith, my father serving for years as a manager at the Aviemore Centre where I also worked throughout my teens.

After jail William published, under his middle name George Pottinger, execrable biographies of his ancestors Henry and Eldred Pottinger, which elide pretty well all I have told you here.

Piers Julian Dominic Pottinger 1954-present – Right Wing Propagandist

The son of the disgusting criminal William George Pottinger is Piers Pottinger, and I wish to make plain that I do not believe that psychotic behaviour can be inherited and that in no way is this blog intended to imply that Piers Pottinger, Chairman of MySquar Ltd registered in Tortola in the entirely respectable British Virgin Islands, is in any way connected with anything dodgy. Mr Pottinger is a highly accepted pillar of the British establishment just like all his ancestors.

Piers currently chairs the Asian wing of Bell Pottinger, which he co-founded with Tim Bell. They were famously propagandists for Thatcher and also Tory Party donors. Until the current massive corruption scandal in South Africa led to suspension of operations, Bell Pottinger had represented an entirely respectable slate of clients including:

Dictator President Augusto Pinochet of Chile
Dictator Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus
The vicious torturing monarchy of Bahrain
Oscar Pistorius
Kate & Gerry McCann
Rolf Harris
Trafigura
Coca Cola

I could go on.

This current manifestation of this “remarkable” family was the subject of my third personal stumbling on information. In about (from memory) 2006, Uzbek opposition leader Mohammed Solih visited Britain, after I had helped campaign to get him a visa. While here, one businessman took him to a meeting in a grand board room in the City of London. There an astonishing presentation was made to him, and an astonishing proposition put.

Solih could be made President of Uzbekistan in a year. Substantial money would be invested upfront to undermine President Karimov. Key named leaders in the Uzbek security services and defence forces would be bought up. The media narrative to the Uzbek public would be secured. Financial sector activity would isolate Karimov’s access to his money in the UK and Europe. A revolution could successfully be procured. In return, all Solih had to do was to sign contracts to deliver Uzbekistan’s oil, gas, gold and uranium to certain Western companies – special purpose vehicles which disguised who really would benefit.

Solih was astonished. “Just who are you?” he joked “are you MI6 or the Illuminati?”

No, came the reply, we are Bell Pottinger.

Solih of course refused to sell his country down the river. The story sounded amazing when he first told me, but in the light of what we now hear from South Africa it makes perfect sense.

The Pottingers. A key cog in the evil ways of the British establishment, down the centuries. Understanding the history of this family gives an essential glimpse into just how the British establishment really works.

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Clement Freud, My Part in his Downfall

Commenters on this blog directly caused the exposure of Clement Freud in the ITV story. I published an anodyne obituary in 2009 giving my memories of Freud. One commenter wrote:

He was a notorious old goat and his pursuit of young women could verge on the sinister. I met one of his young ‘victims’ who told me about a job interview with him turning into a very traumatic experience.

And a second wrote the startling

Writing as one of his 1000s of sexual ‘victims’,
still surviving, terrified as I write for fear he is not yet quite yet dead – the man was an evil, conniving,
ruthless user for his own bottomless ego of all he came into contact with.
Our children – boys and girls are all that much safer for his demise.
And that is just the tip of an iceberg of political and media dirty dealings that reaches into the heart of the broken Britain he has left behind him.
His family will now, unfortunately, reap the rage and revenge of those he destroyed and their much needed justice for his many heinous – still untold – actions.

Six years later I was contacted by a journalist working for ITV who had leads on Freud and looking for more evidence. He had dug up those comments on my blog. Using the magic of the internet, I was able to trace the last commenter and put them in touch, with their permission, with the ITV team.

I also told them an anecdote I myself recalled. I was a young First Year Rep on Dundee University Students Association Council while Clement Freud was Rector. One day the then President of the Students Association, Ian Morris, came out of his office in a terrible mood after a phone call from Freud, saying that Freud had asked him to line up female students for him and was trying to use him as “a pimp”. This was not paedophilia but it was unpleasant – Freud was 35 years older than the students he was targeting.

It then all went quiet for a year before ITV contacted me this morning to tell me the story was running.

It is hard to know what to make of Freud owning a holiday villa close to where Madeleine McCann disappeared. Clement was apparently not in Portugal at the time. When you add in the fact that the McCanns’ sleazy “spokesman”, Clarence Mitchell, works for Freud’s son Matthew, the coincidences do add up. I am not jumping to any conclusions at present. But I found the following fascinating.

Clement Freud assured Kate McCann she had nothing to fear from the cadaver dogs giving a positive response inside the McCann’s hire car, hired after Madeleine “disappeared”. They had no evidential value. “So what are they going to do? One bark for yes, two barks for no?” asked Freud.

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Thoughts on the SNP Conference

I am campaigning for the SNP in this general election. As I am still locked away finishing my book for 95% of my waking moments, that campaigning has been desultory so far, but will shortly be more lively. I am vain enough to think that my talents stretch beyond canvassing and delivering leaflets, but as the SNP show no desire to ask me to do anything else, that is what I shall be doing.

I did however emerge from my cocoon at the weekend to attend the SNP conference. Here are some very brief thoughts.

Firstly, it was great to be at the conference speech of the leader of a mainstream party, in which she pledged to no replacement for Trident, no more benefit cuts and the abolition of the House of Lords. The last got the biggest cheer of the whole Conference. I was wondering just how many people in England would like the chance to vote for the SNP.

I had a counterbalancing doubt at the back of my mind about this enthusiasm for – as Nicola Sturgeon put it – “Improving” the UK. I don’t want to improve the Union, I want to end it. Power has a fatal attraction to politicians, and I think I detected that exercising power in the United Kingdom is today gleaming brighter in the dreams of some professional SNP politicians than is independence for Scotland.

The other thing I did not like was the machine politics and management of it all. The entire first day there was not a motion that was passed other than by acclaim, and there was not a single speech against anything, though there were a couple of attempts at referral back. The only item permitted on to the conference agenda, in closed session on day 2, that was in the least likely to cause controversy was the adoption of all women shortlists – and the only reason that was on the agenda was that the leader made it abundantly plain she wanted it. I incline to the view that as a short term measure it is justified, but I abstained because I did not like what I saw of the way it was managed.

It was the only debate the leader sat through, and it was very plain she was watching carefully how people were voting. There was a definite claque of paid party apparatchiks and organised feminists occupying front centre of the hall. There was a strong suspicion, voiced by Christine Graham, that deliberately weak and left field speakers had been chosen against women shortlists. And for the vote, party functionaries including Angus Robertson and Ian McCann stood at the side of the hall very ostensibly noting who voted which way and making sure that the payroll vote performed. I was right next to where Angus Robertson stood as he did this. He moved into position just before the vote, made it very obvious indeed what he was doing, and left immediately after. I found myself regarding the prospect of a whole raft of new MPs, their research assistants and secretaries providing 200 more payroll votes, as depressing.

Coming back to the plus side, I was delighted by the content of many of the resolutions passed, including on the right to return of the Chagos islanders and the inequity of financial tests used by the Home Office to keep immigrant families apart. I left pretty convinced that if we can get the abolition of the monarchy, leaving NATO, and an independent Scotland abandoning the pound sterling onto the agenda, we will pass them. But how to get past the agenda gatekeepers? The party is completely sewn up.

I had intended to speak against the new standing orders for Westminster MPs, which contain eleven draconian clauses on whipping and discipline, as against three more liberal ones in the old standing orders. I confess I did not get to speak because the item was called at 9.05 on Sunday morning, on the morning the clocks went forward, and I was commuting from Edinburgh. The spirit was willing but the flesh is pretty knackered.

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Disbarred

Upset and depressed after being barred from the SNP candidates’ register by the hierarchy for “lack of commitment to group discipline”.

I was asked at assessment whether, as part of a Westminster deal with another party, I would agree to vote for the bedroom tax if instructed by the Party. I replied “No.” End of SNP political career. Problem is, I really believed we were building a different kind of politics in Scotland. I also knew that a simple lie would get me in, but I couldn’t bring myself to utter it.

I had very, very strong support from ordinary members to be the candidate in Falkirk or in Airdrie, and had 17 requests to stand from other constituencies, several from branch meetings. I wonder what the SNP new membership will think of this?

I had intended to keep this a private grief if possible, but I was phoned at 8am this morning by the Scotsman, who had plainly been briefed in some detail from within the party hierarchy. I was also phoned by the Sunday Herald, who were coming from a different direction, having picked up a whiff of Tammany Hall about the SNP selection process in several constituencies.

In the interests of full openness, these are the complete communications I have been sent regarding my rejection as a candidate:

Craig
Thanks for coming along to the Assessment Day on 6 December and apologies for not being able to get back to you before now.
I’m afraid to say that the Panel did not feel able to recommend you for approval as a potential parliamentary candidate at this time. While you showed excellent qualities, you could not give a full commitment on group discipline issues, and for that reason the Panel could not recommend approval.
There is scope to appeal this decision, and if you wish to do so then contact my colleague Susan Ruddick – (email address deleted) – who will be able to put that process in train.
Best wishes
Ian
Ian McCann
Corporate Governance and Compliance Manager
Scottish National Party

Then:

Dear Craig,
Thank you for attending the Appeals Panel yesterday.
Unfortunately your Appeal was not upheld.
I wish you luck in your future endeavours.
Sue

That is it. I have asked for more detail of why I was refused, but been given none. All I have is “you could not give a full commitment on group discipline issues”, and the only question to which I gave an answer that could possibly be interpreted that way, was the one above on the bedroom tax. There was, incidentally, no corresponding question designed to test the loyalty of right wing people.

I should note that I was astonished by the hostility of the appeals board, chaired by Ian Hudghton MEP and flanked by two MSPs. They could not have been more personally unfriendly towards me if I were Jim Murphy: their demeanour was bullying. They were less pleasant to me than was Jack Straw or anybody in the Foreign Office when they were sacking me for blowing the whistle on extraordinary rendition and torture. It was a really weird exercise in which these highly taxpayer paid professional politicians attempted to twist every word I said to find an excuse to disqualify me. I found it a truly unpleasant experience.

My analysis is that those in the SNP who make a fat living out of it are terrified the energy of the Yes campaign may come to threaten their comfy position. I think there is an important debate here on how the 80% of the SNP who are new members can affect its existing gatekeeping structures. No new members were involved in deciding if I was a fit candidate, and the 1500 new members in each of Falkirk and Airdrie were denied any chance to vote for me as their preferred candidate.

This also makes a complete nonsense of the SNP’s much publicised move at the Perth conference to allow non-members to stand as SNP candidates in an “opening out” to the wider Yes campaign.

I do worry that the idea of Whitehall ministerial limousines in a coalition is of more interest to some in the SNP than independence. I also am really concerned that the SNP has become, like other parties, a source of lots of taxpayer-funded careers. A significant proportion of those that do pass the vetting process are Special Advisers or work in SNP MP’s, MSP’s or MEP’s offices. The SNP is developing its own “political class” which is the opposite of the citizen activism of the Yes campaign. It became clear to me that a lot of SNP insider thought around the selection process is not about furthering independence, but about jobs for the boys (and girls).

Every candidate for selection is allowed a 350 word statement including cv to be given to members with their ballot paper. This is the 350 word statement which I had submitted to HQ for distribution to SNP members in Falkirk, prior to my disqualification. It has never been distributed, but I would like every SNP member to read it. If you know one, send it to them:

My aim is to achieve Independence.  The Smith Commission shows we will never be given the control of our own economic resources required to achieve our aims of social justice, or to stimulate the economy, within the Union. 

I think we have to avoid the trap of managerialism – of being just another political party but a little more competent and fair.  We should maintain a firm thrust towards the goal of national freedom.

I will vote with the SNP group, but my voice within the party will be against any coalition agreement with Labour or Tories.

I want to defeat Labour, not sustain them. I want to end the Union, not to run it.

Within the SNP we must guard against success leading us to develop our own careerists. Professional politicians in Westminster have become a parasitic class with interchangeable beliefs, out for themselves. There are too many of them – Special Advisers, research assistants etc. The number of politicians paid for by the taxpayer has quadrupled in 30 years.

The best MPs contribute from a wide variety of life experience.

I want the dynamic citizen activism we saw in the Yes campaign to lead to a new kind of politics in Scotland. Bubbling up from ordinary folk. And I want that energy from the people to defeat the forces of the mainstream media and the unionists here in the coming election.

Together, we can do it.

If selected as our candidate I will immediately move my family home to Falkirk and begin campaigning. Once elected MP, my home will become my constituency office and open to all, and no MP will work harder for his constituents. No Scottish MP will have lower expenses. I shall regularly attend the Commons and speak in debate.

Craig Murray
Writer, Human Rights Activist.
Chairman, Atholl Energy Ltd
Rector, Dundee University 2007-10
Honorary Research Fellow, University of Lancaster School of Law 2006-10
British Ambassador Uzbekistan 2002-4
HM Diplomatic Service 1984-2005
MA 1st Class Hons Modern History

Declined LVO, OBE and CVO as a Scottish nationalist and republican

Maybe that statement is what really got me disqualified?

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Control Orders

Control Orders remain a cruel act of degradation of people who have never been convicted of anything, utterly incompatible with human rights. Parliament will today vote to renew them again – expect the parties to compete in their gravitas as they underline the threat to our very existence and way of life (sic) from terrorism.

In fact, as has been so roundly denounced by our most senior judges recently, the real threat to our way of life comes from politicians and the security services.

The arguments in this letter are extremely strong:

Open letter to Home Secretary Alan Johnson MP

Dear Home Secretary,

We write to urge you not to renew the control order provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005, introduced in haste in March 2005 following the House of Lords Judicial Committee’s condemnation of indefinite detention of foreign terrorist suspects. In the five years of their operation, control orders have attracted criticism from national bodies including the Joint Committee on Human Rights, Justice, Liberty and Amnesty International UK, and eminent international bodies including the International Commission of Jurists, the UN Human Rights Committee and Human Rights Watch. This has focussed on the inherent unfairness of the orders, their reliance on secret evidence, and the devastating impact they have on those subject to them.

Impact

You will be aware (through reports presented during litigation and press coverage) of the severe impact of the orders on family and private life, and on the mental health of those subjected to them. This is acknowledged by Lord Carlile in his fifth annual review of control orders [PDF]. Partial house arrest, confinement to a restricted geographical area, wearing a tag, and the constant need to report, to seek permission, to have visitors (even medical visitors) vetted, and the stigma associated with being targeted in this way, takes a severe toll not only on controlled persons but on their families. Children’s school performance is badly affected by denial of internet access (making homework very difficult), by restriction of visitors, by fathers being unable to take their children out freely, by the disruption and fear caused by frequent house searches, and by children witnessing the humiliation and despair caused to their parents by these measures. The detrimental impact of the orders is even worse since, although in theory time-limited to a year, in reality, renewal of orders means that subjection to these draconian restrictions is endless.

The fact that there have been so few control orders in the five years of their operation ?” 44 in total according to Lord Carlile ?” gives the misleading impression that those controlled must be truly dangerous. But the small number of orders does not necessarily mean that the intelligence behind them is accurate. Not many people were hanged for murder when the UK had capital punishment ?” but a significant proportion turn out to have been innocent.

Unfairness

Major sources of unfairness are the use of secret evidence and the lack of real advance judicial scrutiny. Permission to make a non-derogating order can only be denied by a High Court judge if the decision to make the order, or the grounds for making it, are ‘obviously flawed’. This, and the lack of input from the proposed subject of the order, would not be such a problem if the review process was not subject to such delays, but at present the full review hearing rarely takes place within 12 months. During all this time, of course, the controlled person is subject to the full rigours of the control order.

The judge may quash the order at the full review stage, but only if there is no reasonable suspicion of involvement in terrorist activities. It is a very low threshold for the Home Office, and is frequently satisfied by evidence that neither the controlled person nor his advocate has had an opportunity to test in cross-examination. This remains the case despite the Judicial Committee’s ruling in June 2009 (in AF and another v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2009] UKHL 28) that the controlled person is entitled to enough disclosure to be able to answer allegations [this is the Law Lords’ ruling from June 2008, referred to above]; the Committee was referring to the amount of detail in the allegation, and not to the evidential foundation for the allegations, which generally remains closed. As Human Rights Watch has observed, the control order regime undermines the right to an effective defence, the principle of equality of arms, and the presumption of innocence.

Cost

Although it would be inappropriate to judge the control order regime by its cost-effectiveness as a principal criterion, it is reasonable to note that implementation of the orders has cost a fortune in litigation; the Joint Committee on Human Rights has calculated that total legal costs from 2006 to date are likely to exceed £20 million (taking into account the costs of legal aid and judicial sitting time), which is almost half a million pounds for each controlled person. Litigation has also seriously diminished the utility of the orders as a tool for controlling and disrupting terrorist activity, to the point where there must be very serious doubts as to their cost-effectiveness (compared with more targeted surveillance and effective use of the criminal justice system).

Reputation

The fact that British citizens and residents can be subjected indefinitely to such extraordinary measures, with no effective means of challenge, contravening in important respects common-law guarantees of fairness as well as Article 6 of the ECHR, has damaged the reputation of the United Kingdom and done irreparable harm to the fabric of justice in this country. In addition, public trust in the security services and the government is eroded, and communities whose co-operation is vital in the fight against terrorism are intimidated and alienated. In the words of solicitor Gareth Peirce, ‘This may affect only a small group of people but in terms of its contribution to what one might call the folklore of injustice it is colossal.’

For these reasons we urge you not to renew this legislation.

Yours sincerely

Mike Mansfield QC, criminal defence barrister, Tooks Chambers

Craig Murray, writer, broadcaster, human rights activist, former British Ambassador

Sir Geoffrey Bindman, solicitor

Lord Rea

Clare Short MP

John McDonnell MP

Victoria Brittain, writer and journalist

Dafydd Iwan, LL.D., President of Plaid Cymru, Party of Wales

Bruce Kent, Vice-President, Pax Christi

Louise Christian, human rights lawyer

Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP

Caroline Lucas MEP

Jean Lambert MEP

Frances Webber, human rights lawyer

Liz Fekete, Institute of Race Relation (IRR)

Carla Ferstman, Director, Redress

Ben Hayes, Statewatch

Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner

Prof. Chris Frost, Head of Journalism, Liverpool John Moores University

Hilary Wainright, Co-editor, Red Pepper

Cori Crider, Legal Director, Reprieve

Paddy Hillyard, Emeritus Professor, QUB

Bob Jeffrey, University of Salford

Amrit Wilson, writer

Dr Richard Wild, University of Greenwich

Dr. Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, Executive Director, Institute of Public Policy Research.

Andy Worthington, journalist and author of The Guantanamo Files

Lord Gifford QC, barrister and Vice-President of the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers

Liz Davies, barrister and Chair, Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers

Anna Morris, barrister and Vice-Chair, Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers

Professor Bill Bowring, barrister and International Secretary, Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers

Dr Victoria Sentas, School of Law, King’s College London

Margaret Owen, Director WPD, international human rights lawyer

Phil Shiner, Public Interest Lawyers

Sam Jacobs, Public Interest Lawyers

Daniel Carey, Public Interest Lawyers

Tessa Gregory, Public Interest Lawyers

Moazzam Begg, Director, Cageprisoners

Massoud Shadjareh, Chair, Islamic Human Rights Commission

Aamer Anwar, human rights lawyer

Nick Hildyard, Sarah Sexton, Larry Lohmann, The Corner House

Desmond Fernandes, policy analyst and author

Dinah Livingstone, writer, translator, editor

Tim Gopsill, journalist, Editor of Free Press

Paul Donovan, journalist

Estelle du Boulay, The Newham Monitoring Project

Suresh Grover, Director of The Monitoring Group

George Binette, UNISON Camden

Arzu Pesmen, Kurdish Federation UK

David Morgan, Peace in Kurdistan Campaign

Alex Fitch, Peace in Kurdistan Campaign

Matt Foot, solicitor

Hugo Charlton, barrister

Dr Kalpana Wilson, London School of Economics

Jonathan Bloch, Lib Dem Councillor and author

Michael Seifert, solicitor and Vice-President of the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers

Kat Craig, solicitor and Vice-Chair, Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers

Khatchatur I. Pilikian, Professor of Music & Art

Dr Alana Lentin, Senior Lecturer, Sociology, University of Sussex

Dr Christina Pantazis, University of Bristol

Professor Steve Tombs, Liverpool John Moore University

Claire Hamilton, Dublin Institute of Technology, Dublin

Professor Phil Scraton, School of Law, Queen’s University, Belfast

Dr Theodore Gabriel, University of Gloucestershire, Cheltenham

Dr Jan Gordon, University of Lincoln, Exeter

Dr Tina Patel, University of Salford

Professor Penny Green, Kings College, London

John Moore, University of West of England, Bristol

Professor Joe Sim, Liverpool John Moore University

Dr David Whyte, University of Liverpool

Dr Stephanie Petrie, University of Liverpool

Dr Dianne Frost, University of Liverpool

Martin Ralph, (UCU Committee), University of Liverpool

Dr Anandi Ramamurthy, University of Central Lancashire

Professor Jawed Siddiqui, Sheffield Hallam University

Dr Silvia Posocco, Birkbeck College, University of London

Dr Muzammil Quraishi, University of Salford

Dr Adi Kuntsman, University of Manchester

Professor Lynne Segal, Birkbeck College, University of London

Dr Joanne Milner, University of Salford

Dr Yasmeen Narayan, Birkbeck College, University of London

Professor Scott Poynting, Manchester Metropolitan University

Dr Liam McCann, University of Lincoln

Dr Pritam Singh, Oxford Brookes University

Sophie Khan, solicitor

Simon Behrman

Owen Greenhall

Martha Jean Baker

Russell Fraser

Ripon Ray

Stephen Marsh, barrister

Declan Owens

Rheian Davies, solicitor

Richard Harvey barrister

Deborah Smith, solicitor

Alastair Lyons, solicitor, Birnberg Peirce

Hossain Zahir , barrister

Chantal Refahi , barrister

Anna Mazzola, solicitor

Zareena Mustafa, solicitor

Lochlinn Parker, solicitor

Anne Gray, CAMPACC

Saleh Mamon, CAMPACC

Estella Schmid, CAMPACC

Dr Saleyha Ahsan, No More Secrets-Respect Article 5, film maker

Mohamed Nur, Kentish Town Community Organisation

Abshir Mohamed, Kentish Town Community Organisation

Samarendra Das, filmmaker and writer

Rebecca Oliner, artist

Rebekah Carrier, solicitor

Dr Smarajit Roy, PPC Green Party Candidate for Mitcham and Morden

PM Forbes, The Green Party, Sandhurst, Berkshire

Jayne Forbes, Chair, Green Party

Adrian Cruden, Green Party PPC Newsbury

Lesley Hedges, Green Party PPC Colne Valley

Sarah Cope, Green Party PPC Stroud Green

A Bragga, Green Party PPC for Stroud Green

Graham Wroe, lecturer, Sheffield Green Parry

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Oprah Winfrey’s Heart Broke

Just heard on Sky News:

“Oprah Winfrey has revealed how her heart broke when she interviewed Kate and Gerry McCann.”

Great News! Oprah Winfrey’s dead! How did she reveal it though? In a seance? At the post mortem when her diaphragm was opened?

This disgusting McCann couple at the very most charitable interpretation, left tiny children all alone in a foreign hotel room while they were off having fun. More than once. I can think of much worse possibilities. When will the media stop promoting them?

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Incredible Coincidences

On Thursday 30 April, this blog had 2,849 unique visitors. That brought the total number of unique visitors for all of April to precisely 74,000. The chances of that being an exact thousand are, of course, just one in a thousand.

Which set my mind thinking on the following incredible coincidence of numbers in recent news headlines. I wonder if we might make a film about it, like that really boring one “The Number 23” with Jim Carrey. We could call it “The Number Nil”.

Number of People Dead in the UK in the Great Pig Plague – Nil

Number of people charged in Gordon Brown’s Manchester “Very big terror plot” – Nil

Number of responsible caring parents of Madeleine McCann – Nil

Number of the 117,000 people stopped and searched by police in 2007/8 under section 44 of the Terrorism Act, who were then convicted of a terrorism offence – Nil

The trebling in a year of the number of people stopped and searched under anti-terror laws, is another example of the massive growth and abuse of police power under New Labour. Nobody was convicted of a terrorist offence after being stopped and searched. 0.06% were charged with a terrorist offence. Just under 1% were charged with a non-terror related offence.

In London the police have been using these stop and search powers to set up cordons, particularly on tube stations in high immigrant areas. The idea is that if they search enough immigrants they are bound to find a few carrying drugs or knives, and it helps them meet their New Labour arrest, charging and conviction (clearup) targets.

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While I was Away

I thought I might give a quick round up of views on some of the stuff that happened while I was off the web. These might each have got a full article had I been able. But for those who have been missing some eclecticism:

Brown dithers over general election. I really don’t care. Four year fixed terms, abolishing the duck and weave potential of the Prime Minister on this issue, are a necessary constitutional change – one of many.

Boris for London Mayor I am seriously considering voting Boris, mostly because of his high profile stance against the calamitous bendy buses which are eternally preventing me from crossing when there is a little green man. I also strongly approve of his stance on bonking. Doubt it will happen as have never voted Tory, but another candidate needs at least as strong a bendy bus stance to get my vote. Bonking more optional.

Iraq – the long defeat Gordon perfects the art of dithering with his plans for prolonged pull-out from Iraq. While various competing thug militias in different Iraqi “security force” uniforms divide up Basra and the other Southern provinces, dwindling numbers of our lads will occupy a bit of the airport. Why?

Do we really believe all Europeans are stupid and inherently comic? I have resisted commenting on the terrible case of poor little Madeleine McCann, but have been driven past endurance by the rash of spin produced since the suspects took on a PR man from the Cabinet Office. The Portuguese police are foreign and (amazement) funny foreigners have different systems and laws to us! They must be wrong and the Brits must be persecuted.

I have no idea what happened to the poor little girl. I do know that the restaurant where her parents were dining was much further from their apartment than the compliant British media indicated, across a lawn, a swimming pool, another lawn and a wall and not within earshot if the children were crying. As a parent there is absolutely no way I would have left my children at those ages unattended and out of contact for two minutes, let alone several hours.

I comment at all against my better judgement, but the PR campaign has sickened me and drives me to it.

Non-domiciles and Private Equity Tax the rich tax-dodging bastards!

Inheritance Tax Ditto!

Memoirs I have signed a contract for the next volume – a prequel. Yippee! Sadly the publisher has not yet coughed up the money for the advance, which is now overdue.

Mobile Phone Lost it again, and all my phone numbers with it. If I used to have your phone number or you think I should do, please email it to me on [email protected] or text it from Friday to 07979 691085. Don’t be shy – rather have too many than be searching for them. This could be a cunning dating ploy, of course. Speaking of which, am now on Facebook.

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