The incredible disappearing Jim Murphy. At 18.50 on the front (home) page of the Guardian, top left, appeared a story by Libby Brooks entitled “Scottish Labour Leader Criticised Over Proposal to end Football Alcohol Ban”. I clicked and read the story briefly, in which domestic abuse organisations and the police were criticising Murphy for proposing to allow alcohol at football again. I saw the article a minute after it went up, and as yet there were no comments.
I then returned to the home page to see what else was in the paper, and my eye was caught by the normally welcome absence of Jim Murphy. Within three minutes of being put on the front page, the story had been taken off. By clicking back I could get to it again; it was still there. But there was no link to it any more on the home page and no way to find it if you did not know it was there.
There are two points here. One is The Guardian, which with the BBC has been telling us for a week solid that Jim Murphy is the Messiah, could not have a story revealing what a plonker Murphy is, up for three minutes, without burying it.
The second point is Murphy’s dangerous populism. He has already announced he would repeal the Scottish Parliament’s anti-sectarian measures. He now wants to reintroduce alcohol fuelling of football rivalries. It seems that Murphy has correctly identified the level of core Labour support and is pandering to it. The efforts to rectify some of the more glaring social problems in Scotland have been politically brave in the past few years. For a nasty lowest common denominator rabble rouser like Murphy to start trying to drum up Neanderthal appeal, is deeply unedifying.
One war criminal writing about another. Nice chums you have, Rusbridger*.
For once there was something worth reading in the Guardian, an article by my friend Coleen Rowley. But the Guardian cut out the most important paragraph in the article. As Coleen put it in an email:
Unfortunately, the paper edited out the politically incorrect paragraph pointing out that the British Parliament committee inquiry totally ignored why Islamic terrorist recruitment is rising exponentially. So an even more important opinion piece needs to be written as to the factor swelling the numbers joining and affiliating with “terrorist” groups. Although the two issues are related as people’s naïve belief in the national security complex’s magical data-mining serves as cover to keep the more important debate from happening. Similar to Helen Thomas’ politically incorrect question: “why do they hate us?” or put more gently: “why can’t our bombs and exceptionalism win hearts and minds?” No longer will anyone in mainstream even ask if the US-NATO-Israel’s reliance on perpetual war, drone assassination and regime changes is working to reduce terrorism. I fear the Guardian would be unlikely to publish such an op-ed but it needs to be attempted nonetheless.
*By appointment to Her Majesty the Queen, smasher of hard drives
Rusbridger’s Guardian has become an unrepentant unionist, zionist, and neo-con New Labour propaganda vehicle. Particularly deceitful is their attitude to the security services and the “war on terror”, where Rusbridger stands revealed as a handmaiden to power. He was, a very senior Guardian source told me, particularly upset when I described him as “Tony Blair’s catamite”. Let me say it again.
Let me give you a specific case to illustrate my point.
On 2 August the Guardian published a piece by Jamie Doward and Ian Cobain which, on the face of it, exposed the British Foreign Office for lobbying against the publication of the US Senate report on extraordinary rendition, lest details of British complicity become public.
On the face of it, a worthy piece of journalism exposing deeply shady government behaviour.
Except that I had published precisely the same story a full 15 weeks earlier, on April 14 2014, having been urgently contacted by a whistleblower.
What is more, immediately I heard from the whistleblower I made several urgent phone calls to Ian Cobain. He neither took nor returned my calls. I therefore left detailed messages, referring to the story which I had now published on my website.
In fact, the Guardian only published this story after William Hague had written to Reprieve to confirm that this lobbying had happened. In other words the Guardian published only after disclosure had been authorised by Government.
Furthermore, in publishing the government authorised story, the Guardian omitted the absolutely key point – that the purpose of the UK lobbying was to affect court cases under way and in prospect in the UK. Both in civil cases of compensation for victims, and in potential criminal cases for complicity in torture against Blair, Straw et al, British judges have (disgracefully) accepted the argument that evidence of the torture cannot be used because the American do not want it revealed, and may curtail future intelligence sharing. Obviously, if the Americans publish the material themselves, this defence falls.
As this defence is the major factor keeping Blair, Straw and numerous still senior civil servants out of the dock, this sparked the crucial British lobbying to suppress the Feinstein report – which has indeed succeeded in causing a huge amount of redaction by the White House.
My mole was absolutely adamant this was what was happening, and it is what I published. Yet Cobain in publishing the government authorised version does not refer to the impact on trials at all – despite the fact that this was 100% the subject of the letter from Reprieve to which Hague was replying, and that the letter from Reprieve mentioned me and my blog by name.
Instead of giving the true story, the government authorised version published by Cobain misdirects the entire subject towards Diego Garcia. The truth is that Diego Garcia is pretty incidental in the whole rendition story. On UK soil there was actually a great deal more done at Wick airport (yes, I do mean Wick, not Prestwick). That is something the government is still keeping tight closed, so don’t expect a mention from Cobain.
I was fooled by Cobain for a long time. What I now realise is that his role is to codify and render safe information which had already leaked. He packages it and sends it off in a useless direction – away from Blair and Straw in this instance. He rigorously excludes material which is too hot for the establishment to handle. The great trick is, that the Guardian persuades its loyal readers that it is keeping tabs on the security services when in fact it is sweeping up after them.
Which is a precise description of why the Guardian fell out with Assange and WikiLeaks.
I suppose I should expect no better of the newspaper which happily sent the extremely noble Sara Tisdall to prison, but we should have learnt a lot from Rusbridger’s agreement with the security services to smash the Snowden hard drives. The Guardian argues that other copies of the drives existed. That is scarcely the point. Would you participate in a book-burning because other copies of books exist? The Guardian never stands up to the security services or the establishment. It just wants you to believe that it does.
Good grief!! This is absolutely beyond parody!! There is yet another terrible puff piece in the Guardian – the fifteenth in the last month now I think – about how Gordon Brown will save the union and what a great and respected sage Brown is. This one claims that Brown is the only man to have perceived that the independence referendum must be about the future of Scotland.
No, really, it does, read it through.
I think Rusbridger must be on heroin. Of course I realised something is seriously wrong for anybody to wear that bad a wig in public, but I really had not quite understood just how bad things actually are at the Guardian. I do now.
Freedland is at his most execrable in this piece in the absolute lie that Brown is speaking to packed out halls up and down Scotland. Completely untrue. Actually they might be less empty were it not for the fact that these meetings are strictly no entry except by invite. Not to mention that – and the fact no questions are allowed – shows as if we did not know that Freedland has no claims at all to journalistic integrity, and is just writing pure propaganda.
Alan Rusbridger, by royal appointment destroyer of hard drives, astonishingly has yet again given space to Gordon Brown’s witterings on Scottish Independence. That is at least twelve articles puffing Brown in the last month.
This one is quite probably the most stupid yet. Brown opines that Scotland will not be a more equal or progressive society after independence. It is a great shame that these Cassandra like powers of predicting the future were not working when his own policies of creating an economic bubble, based on massive boosting of irresponsive speculation in the City of London, led to a crash which has impoverished us all for generations.
Brown’s prognostication is based on his analysis that Alex Salmond’s policies are not progressive. The evidence that the SNP is to the left of the Labour Party is overwhelming. Leaving that aside, Brown makes the presumption that the SNP will be the government in an independent Scotland. It is much more probable that, independence settled, there will be a realignment of Scottish party politics. It will certainly not be a one party state. Pretty well the one thing we can be sure of is that a Conservative government is unlikely – and as that is what the UK is heading for in 2015, I think we can expect an independent Scotland to be at any rate less regressive.
Tuition fees, Academy schools, PFI, NHS prescriptions, bedroom tax – these are all areas where Gordon Brown and New Labour advance the full neo-con agenda and which have been stoutly resisted by the Scottish government. Genuinely left parties and the Greens have consistent representation in the Scottish parliament and are listened to, not openly mocked and abused as Caroline Lucas is when she speaks in parliament.
This nonsense from Gordon Brown is perhaps to be expected. But why on earth does the Guardian keep publishing it?
The actions of the Guardian in complying with the demands of the security services to destroy the computers containing Snowden’s revelations were cowardly in the extreme. There was a principle at stake here. The existence of other copies elsewhere is not the point. That does not make the hard drive destruction better, any more than Nazi book-burning was made OK by the existence of other copies of the books.
Freedom of the press has only ever been won by extremely brave journalists willing to be beaten, imprisoned or jailed for it. If editors had always given in to legal threat, there would be no freedom of the press now. That is why the Guardian’s pathetic excuse that it was legally compelled to destroy the hard drives is of the essence. States always have the sanction of law: standing to advance freedom has always meant not being intimidated by law.
I was threatened with the Official Secrets Act if I insisted on exposing the use of intelligence from torture. I considered and decided it was worth going to jail for. I published. Jack Straw backed down. The difference between Alan Rusbridger and I is that one of us is not an abject sniveling coward.*
The Guardian not only destroyed the Snowden hard drives, but spent an entire month hiding the fact from the public. They only came clean and published after the arrest of David Miranda led Glenn Greenwald to refuse to keep it quiet any longer. Remember this is the same newspaper which sent the young and extremely brave whistleblower Sarah Tisdall to prison rather than protect their source.
Now Rusbridger p0ses as though smashing the computers was an act of defiance. I couldn’t resist a comment on this appalling piece of hypocrisy in the Guardian thread below that link.
Then something extraordinary happened. A reply defending the Guardian was posted to my comment, and this reply extremely quickly gathered 232 recommends. Now the next highest number of recommends for any comment on that thread is just 57. That 57 recommend comment is on the main subject of the article – the fall in the UK’s rating for freedom of the press. My comment is tangential to the article, and the reply to it is somewhat banal. The vastly disproportionate “recommends” for that reply are as believable as the 97% vote in the Crimea!
There was a time when the Guardian was something more than just another neo-con mouthpiece. Now its business model depends entirely on racking up internet clicks in the United States and this influences its content. It has run, for example, over two dozen extremely one-sided articles in praise of the vicious American murderess Amanda Knox. It seems increasingly devoted to Israel. I was at the time genuinely shocked by The Guardian’s refusal to publish the true facts of all the meetings between Liam Fox, Matthew Gould and Adam Werritty.
I understand now that Rusbridger is entirely a neo-con tool, and that their efforts with Assange, Snowden and Greenwald were no more than control and channeling, and broke down when that became obvious.
*There are other differences. I don’t wear a wig, and I was not implicated in promoting and defending Tony Blair.
Judging by his picture in today’s Guardian, Alan Rusbridger has invested in a new wig which plumbs new depths of unconvincingness, even by Rusbridger standards. He is moving past Donald Trump territory in the direction of Danny La Rue.
The great mortification of my own life is that Nadira insists upon dyeing my hair – there are evident cultural differences over the acceptability of the practice, to the extent that Nadir’s distress at a white-haired partner even exceeds my own shame and embarassment over the dyeing.
But what, you ask, does my or Rusbridger’s hair dishonesty have to do with our work or opinions? Nothing, really. But the Guardian seems to prize such pointless character assassination, like this from Polydor Airhead on Julian Assange:
But when Assange appears, he seems more like an in-patient than an interviewee, his opening words slow and hesitant, the voice so cracked as to be barely audible. If you have ever visited someone convalescing after a breakdown, his demeanour would be instantly recognisable. Admirers cast him as the new Jason Bourne, but in these first few minutes I worry he may be heading more towards Miss Havisham.
Which is an untrue description to the point of being an absolute lie. I have spent a lot more time, including insude the Ecuadorean Embassy, with Julian than Ms Airhead, and I can assure you that the most striking thing about Julian is he is very normal. Intelligent and interesting, but normal. These attempts to dehumanise him by portraying him as a weirdo are deeply sinister. It is also completely untrue that he does not meet many people in the Embassy. I am willing to bet he sees more visitors than Ms Airhead. And her speculation on who he is sleeping with is disgusting.
Today’s Guardian editorial quotes directly from my speech at the Ecuadorean Embassy, in a sneering way:
their remarks concerned western Europe’s “neocon juntas”
The Guardian editorial makes the direct claim that I, and the other speakers, omitted all mention of the sexual allegations against Julian Assange in Sweden. That is a direct lie by the Guardian. In fact over half my speech – 23 sentences to be precise – were dedicated to the allegations against Assange and putting them in the context of the irrefutable evidence of the serial use of such allegations against various whistleblowers, including myself, in order to damage their reputation and brand them as criminals unconnected to whistleblowing.
Despite quoting my speech in its editorial, and mentioning it three times in its liveblog of the rally, the Guardian at no stage made any attempt to indicate the gist of what I actually said. Even the New York Times, without giving any of my explanation, at least got the point when it reported that:
a former British diplomat, Craig Murray, asserted that Mr. Assange had been “fitted up with criminal offenses” as a pretext
Of course the Guardian did not overlook what the NYT picked up. You could not overlook all 23 sentences of it. But simply the Guardian wished to run an editorial arguing that the Swedish allegations had been completely ignored. The facts did not suit Rusbridger’s comment. So Rusbridger’s comment remained free and lies were sacred.
The Guardian’s shrill and vitriolic campaign against Assange is extraordinary in its ferocity, persistence and pointless repetition.. The sad truth is that its origins lie in the frustration of the Guardian’s hopes to make a great deal of cash from involvement in Assange’s putative memoirs. That such a once great paper should fall sway to such a mean-minded little neo-con lickspittle as Rusbridger and his Blair supporting coterie is a great tragedy.
This is what, contrary to Rusbridger’s lies, I actually said:
Anybody with time and patience might like to keep posting links to it under the Guardian editorial once they open comments on it tomorrow morning.
At the very beginning of the of the Skripal incident, the security services blocked by D(SMA) notice any media mention of Pablo Miller and told the media not to look at Orbis and the Steele dossier on Trump, acting immediately to get out their message via trusties in the BBC and Guardian. Gordon Corera, “BBC Security Correspondent”, did not name the source who told him to say this, but helpfully illustrated his tweet with a nice picture of MI6 Headquarters.
MI6’s most important media conduit (after Frank Gardner) is Luke Harding of the Guardian.
A number of people replied to Harding’s tweet to point out that this was demonstrably untrue, and Pablo Miller had listed his employment by Orbis Business Intelligence on his Linkedin profile. That profile had just been deleted, but a google search for “Pablo Miller” plus “Orbis Business Intelligence”, without Linkedin as a search term, brought up Miller’s Linkedin profile as the first result (although there are twelve other Pablo Millers on Linkedin and the search brought up none of them). Plus a 2017 forum discussed Pablo Miller’s Orbis connection and it both cited and linked to his Linkedin entry.
You might think that any journalist worth his salt would want to consider this interesting counter-evidence. But Harding merely tweeted again the blank denials of the security services, without question.
This is an important trait of Harding. Last year we both appeared, separately, at the Jaipur Literature Festival. Harding was promoting a book and putting the boot into Wikileaks and Snowden. After his talk, I approached him in an entirely friendly manner, and told him there were a couple of factual errors in his presentation on matters to which I was an eye-witness, and I should be very happy to brief him, off the record, but we could discuss which bits he might use. He said he would talk later, and dashed off. Later I saw him in the author’s lounge, and as I walked towards him he hurriedly got up and left, looking at me.
Of course, nobody is obliged to talk to me. But at that period I had journalists from every major news agency contacting me daily wishing to interview me about Wikileaks, all of whom I was turning down, and there was no doubt of my inside knowledge and direct involvement with a number of the matters of which Harding was writing and speaking. A journalist who positively avoids knowledge of his subject is an interesting phenomenon.
But then Harding is that. From a wealthy family background, privately educated at Atlantic College and then Oxford, Harding became the editor of Oxford University’s Cherwell magazine without showing any leftwing or rebel characteristics. It was not a surprise to those who knew him as a student when he was employed at the very right wing “Daily Mail”. From there he moved to the Guardian. In 2003 Harding was embedded with US forces in Iraq and filing breathless reports of US special forces operations.
Moving to Moscow in 2007 as the Guardian’s Moscow correspondent, others in the Moscow press corps and in the British expatriate community found him to be a man of strongly hawkish neo-con views, extremely pro-British establishment, and much closer to the British Embassy and to MI6 than anybody else in the press corps. It was for this reason Harding was the only resident British journalist, to my knowledge, whose visa the Russians under Putin have refused to renew. They suspected he is actually an MI6 officer, although he is not.
With this background, people who knew Harding were dumbfounded when Harding appeared to be the supporter and insider of first Assange and then Snowden. The reason for this dichotomy is that Harding was not – he wrote books on Wikileaks and on Snowden that claimed to be insider accounts, but in fact just carried on Harding’s long history of plagiarism, as Julian Assange makes clear. Harding’s books were just careful hatchet jobs pretending to be inside accounts. The Guardian’s historical reputation for radicalism was already a sham under the editorship of Rusbridger, and has completely vanished under Viner, in favour of hardcore Clinton identity politics failing to disguise unbending neo-conservatism. The Guardian smashed the hard drives containing the Snowden files under GCHQ supervision, having already undertaken “not to even look at” the information on Iraq and Afghanistan. The fact the hard drives were not the only copies in the world does not excuse their cravenness.
We know, of course, what MI6 have fed to Harding, because it is reflected every day in his output. What we do not know, but may surmise, is what Harding fed back to the security services that he gleaned from the Guardian’s association with Wikileaks and Snowden.
Harding has since made his living from peddling a stream of anti-Assange, anti-Snowden and above all, anti-Russian books, with great commercial success, puffed by the entire mainstream media. But when challenged by the non-mainstream media about the numerous fact free assertions on behalf of the security services to be found in his books, Harding is not altogether convincing. You can watch this video, in which Harding outlines how emoticons convinced him someone was a Russian agent, together with this fascinating analysis which really is a must-read study of anti-Russian paranoia. There is a similar analysis here.
Perhaps still more revealing is this 2014 interview with his old student newspaper Cherwell, where he obvously felt comfortable enough to let the full extent of his monstrous boggle-eyed Russophobia become plain:
His analogies span the bulk of the 20th century and his predictions for the future are equally far-reaching. “This is the biggest crisis in Europe since the Cold War. It’s not the break-up of Yugoslavia, but the strategic consensus since 1945 has been ripped up. We now have an authoritarian state, with armies on the march.” What next?
“It’s clear to me that Putin intends to dismember Ukraine and join it up with Transnistria, then perhaps he’ll go as far as Moldova in one way or another,” Harding says. This is part of what he deems Putin’s over-arching project: an expansionist attempt to gather Russo-phones together under one yoke, which he terms ‘scary and Eurasian-ist’, and which he notes is darkly reminiscent of “another dictator of short stature” who concocted “a similarly irredentist project in the 1930s”.
But actually I think you can garner everything you want to know about Harding from looking at his twitter feed over the last two months. He has obsessively retweeted scores of stories churning out the government’s increasingly strained propaganda line on what occurred in Salisbury. Not one time had Harding ever questioned, even in the mildest way, a single one of the multiple inconsistencies in the government account or referred to anybody who does. He has acted, purely and simply, as a conduit for government propaganda, while abandoning all notion of a journalistic duty to investigate.
We still have no idea of who attacked Sergei Skripal and why. But the fact that, right from the start, the government blocked the media from mentioning Pablo Miller, and put out denials that this has anything to do with Christopher Steele and Orbis, including lying that Miller had never been connected to Orbis, convinces me that this is the most promising direction in which to look.
It never seemed likely to me that the Russians had decided to assassinate an inactive spy who they let out of prison many years ago, over something that happened in Moscow over a decade ago. It seemed even less likely when Boris Johnson claimed intelligence showed this was the result of a decade long novichok programme involving training in secret assassination techniques. Why would they blow all that effort on old Skripal?
That the motive is the connection to the hottest issue in US politics today, and not something in Moscow a decade ago, always seemed to me much more probable. Having now reviewed matters and seen that the government actively tried to shut down this line of inquiry, makes it still more probable this is right.
This does not tell us who did it. Possibly the Russians did, annoyed that Skripal was feeding information to the Steele dossier, against the terms of his release.
Given that the Steele dossier is demonstrably in large degree nonsense, it seems to me more probable the idea was to silence Skripal to close the danger that he would reveal his part in the concoction of this fraud. Remember he had sold out Russian agents to the British for cash and was a man of elastic loyalties. It is also worth noting that Luke Harding has a bestselling book currently on sale, in large part predicated on the truth of the Steele Dossier.
Steele, MI6 and the elements of the CIA which are out to get Trump, all would have a powerful motive to have the Skripal loose end tied.
Rule number one of real investigative journalism: look where they tell you not to look.
For a decade, this blog has argued that democracy in the UK is dysfunctional because an entrenched party system offers no real choice. The major parties offer political programmes which are virtually indistinguishable. As I put it in lectures, if the range of possible political programmes were placed on a linear scale from 1 to 100, the Labour and Conservative parties offer you the choice between 81 and 84.
This exclusion of political possibility is reinforced by a corporate media structure, led by the BBC, in which ideas outside the narrow band of establishment consensus are ridiculed and denigrated. Therefore even political ideas which have the consistent support of the majority of the population, such as nationalisation of railways and other natural monopolies including utilities, simply cannot get an airing. Of all the broadcast coverage of the Iraq War, less than 3% gave time to anti-war voices, despite a majority opinion against the war.
This phenomenon explains why a large majority of both Conservative and Labour MPs are members of the Friends of Israel when public opinion consistently sympathises more with Palestine. It also explains the quite extraordinary media onslaught against Scottish independence.
I pointed out that Nicola Sturgeon’s appearance in the TV leadership debates was the first major airing of an anti-Trident argument on broadcast media in England for a decade. Actually hearing anti-austerity arguments led to a huge surge in support for the SNP in England as well as Scotland.
Now Jeremy Corbyn, having obtained a platform where on occasion he has been able to have his views broadcast direct without media mediation, is experiencing a massive surge of support. Ed Miliband’s lasting achievement is that he managed to put the ordinary people who marched against the Iraq War in charge of the Labour Party, not the careerist Blairite committee manipulators. The result is stunning.
The sheer panic gripping the London elite now is hilarious to behold. Those on the favoured side of Britain’s enormous wealth gap are terrified by the idea that there may be a genuine electoral challenge to neo-liberalism, embodied in one of the main party structures. This is especially terrifying to those who became wealthy by hijacking the representation of the working class to the neo-liberal cause. The fundamental anti-democracy of the Blairites is plainly exposed, and the panic-driven hysterical hate-fest campaign against Corbyn by the Guardian would be unbelievable, if we hadn’t just seen exactly the same campaign by the same paper against the rejection of neo-liberalism in Scotland.
I think I am entitled to say I told you so. Many people appear shocked to have discovered the Guardian is so anti-left wing. I have been explaining this in detail for years. It is good to feel vindicated, and even better that the people I have repeatedly shared platforms with, like Jeremy and Mhairi, are suddenly able to have the genuinely popular case they make listened to. Do I feel a little left behind, personally? Probably, but I would claim to have contributed a little to the mood, and particularly my article on the manufactured myth that the left is unelectable has been extremely widely shared – by hundreds of thousands – in the social media storm that is propelling the Corbyn campaign.
There has been very little comment on the impact a Corbyn victory would have on the SNP. Indeed, despite being unbendingly unionist, the Scottish media have been unable to avoid representing by omission the fact that the Labour leadership contest is taking place almost entirely in another country with another political culture. But there is no doubt that a Corbyn-led Labour Party would be more attractive in Scotland than the Tory lite version, although the paucity of Labour’s Scottish leadership would be a constant factor. Much would depend on the wider question of how the careerists who make up most Labour MPs and MSPs would react to a Corbyn victory.
At Westminster, I can see no reason at all why Liz Kendall, Chuka Umunna and their like cannot simply cross the floor and become Tories. Cameron is astute enough to find junior ministerial positions for them and the Tory ranks would be elated enough to swallow it. But most of the careerists will look at their new constituency members and suddenly discover left wing principles. It will be less bloody than people expect.
In Scotland, a Corbyn victory will bring some swing back to Labour from the SNP, but most of the old Labour demographic have now set their hearts on independence. Should Corbyn actually look set to win a UK general election in 2020, that would very possibly dent the enthusiasm for independence at the margins. It would in no sense reduce my own desire for independence, but even I would feel it less urgent. A Corbyn led UK would not cause the same feeling of moral revulsion. All of which is a good argument for having the next referendum early.
Should Corbyn not win the Labour leadership, the effect will be opposite. The SNP will be boosted by the death of the last hope that the Labour Party might actually mean something again, rather than be a vehicle for soulless careerists spouting management-manual jargon. If Corbyn loses, the Labour Party in Scotland really might as well wind up. The cause of independence will be furthered.
So what do I want to happen? I want Jeremy to win, of course, deeply and sincerely. I am an internationalist and not a Machiavellian. I want the chance of a just society and an ethical foreign policy for England and Wales. Like me, Jeremy wants to see Ireland eventually united. I have never discussed Scottish independence with him, but I am quite sure his opposition is not of the Britnat imperialist variety.
You can be sure that the security services are heavily targeted on the Corbyn campaign. Allow me one last “I told you so”. I came in for much ridicule when I stated, from certain knowledge, that MI5 were targeted on Scottish Nationalists (I had actually been shown the tasking). This comes into the category of obvious truths which the media and political consensus seeks to deny. The ridicule even came from some within the SNP – which, like any other organisation deemed a threat to the UK, is itself penetrated by the security services. Well, now that truth has become mainstream too. I do not anticipate any apologies.
There is a good and balanced article in the Guardian on the SNP MPs by Carole Cadwalladr. Thank goodness Severin Carrell and Libby Brooks must have been unavailable. I am struck that of those she chose to interview, Tommy Sheppard (my MP), Mhairi Black, Chris Law, Michelle Thomson, John Nicolson, Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh are all people I am on first name terms with and almost all of whom I have shared platforms with. It is quite a small community (though until the selection panel I hadn’t seen John Nicolson for 30 years).
Cadwalladr’s worry that the MPs will become seduced by Westminster has worried me too. But I don’t think it will happen. These are exceptionally strong characters and there is a self-reinforcing group of them, and they have a very active base of supporters with eagle eyes.
Naturally Cadwalladr’s article relays as fact ludicrous Labour claims that the SNP in Scotland does not implement progressive social policies (ignoring no tuition fees, free prescriptions, free geriatric personal care, land reform etc). Given it’s lack of control of fiscal and benefits policy, they could hardly do more. But the general tone of the Cadwalladr article is so far away from the simplistic “SNP evil” line which we normally see from the Guardian, that I shall hope for a while that the departure of the Blair-worshipping clown Rusbridger and his wig may see the paper return to some kind of journalistic values.
What comes out to me from the “Black Spider letter” correspondence of Prince Charles published today is how utterly obsequious Tony Blair and New Labour ministers were to him. No sign whatsoever of radicalism from the former “People’s Party” as they fell over to ingratiate themselves with the heir to the throne. I rather enjoyed Charles quite sharp tone to Blair.
I am fundamentally opposed to the existence of the monarchy. It will hopefully be replaced by a better system, but no human system is perfect. Given that we have a monarchy at present, you will perhaps be surprised to learn that I do not see anything wrong in Charles’ letters, which put forward views which are much what we would have expected him to hold. Of course there is interaction between the monarchy and government, and of course we should get rid of this hereditary element. But Charles’ lobbying is hugely less damaging and pernicious than the corporate lobbying I witnessed throughout my Whitehall career. At least Charles is not lobbying them for corporate advantage and giving large political donations at the same time.
While in my view he did nothing wrong in writing the letters, he and government are both very wrong in arguing they should be private. It is when it is secret that such attempts to wield influence between two branches of government – and monarchy is a branch of government – can be most simply perverted to ill ends. That such publication will not occur again because government has legislated to keep it secret, is an example of the privileged arrogance that prevents this from being a genuine democracy.
Altogether not that big a story and it gives Rusbridger and the Guardian the chance to pose as radical. I find the fact that what is published is so anodyne and unobjectionable rather suspicious – what has not been published? Rusbridger is of course the editor who complied enthusiastically with a GCHQ instruction to smash the Snowden hard drives. The existence of other copies does not justify this any more than it justifies book-burning.
By coincidence, a very worthwhile article by Michael Gillard that had been excised from the net has recently been republished, setting out how Rusbridger in 2002 conspired with Andy Hayman of the Met to bury an investigation into police corruption, including the burglary of the Stephen Lawrence inquiry. By a further coincidence I was having a pint with Laurie Flynn in Sandy Bell’s four days ago.
Hayman went on to be the promoter of the stream of lies about the murder of Jean Charles De Menezes and the publicist of numerous fake terrorist plots, before having to resign in a scandal involving nubile police officers at public expense in tropical islands.
Rusbridger and his extraordinary wig go on and on as a pretend opposition outlet, their reputation much dented by recent hysterical unionist output which exceeds the Daily Express. But Rusbridger’s continued usefulness to the establishment is not in doubt. The pose of publishing the most harmless of Prince Charles’ letters does little to help a threadbare disguise.
I was about to go into my box at the Lyceum Theatre last night when I received a text that there was a pro-independence demo on at Holyrood. So I abandoned my hosts (I did not feel quite as bad about this as I had stood for pre-theatre supper), fled the theatre and positively jogged down to parliament. I passed most of the demonstrators leaving on their way home, saltires draped over shoulders and Guido masks on top of heads. But there were still a few hundred there when I arrived, listening to unpractised speakers telling their very real stories: the independence cause continues to be a genuinely popular movement. One young demonstrator told me how proud they had been as they marched down the Royal Mile, with pedestrians homeward bound after a day’s work spontaneously stepping off the pavement to join the march, and the bars emptying. I then watched the fireworks bursting over Edinburgh.
I said a while back that if we won independence, I would move back to Scotland. Well, independence is now so inevitable I am indeed moving back, and have been flat-hunting. This is now an Edinburgh blog, and I hope from this weekend will have its Edinburgh home.
Lewes has been much in the news lately. Yesterday they were going to burn an effigy of Alex Salmond, and then didn’t. It is a conundrum why a town which genuinely retains the most radical popular political traditions in England, also is the most fervent place of practice of the reactionary art of catholic effigy burning. They vary this now by burning protestants, too. Cameron and Clegg have been done. I think my fellow Scottish Nationalists who got very upset about the potential Salmond burning were perhaps overreacting. The mistake of the members of the Lewes Waterloo Society was to fail to realise that Salmond is not merely another self-serving member of the political class; the selection was not based on race.
The tradition of burning Guy Fawkes reflects the undeniable fact that there used to be a genuine popular enthusiasm for parliament, which was seen as a bastion against Papal despotism, even long before the large majority of the population had a vote. Nowadays Parliament has become a very different kind of symbol. It symbolises an highly oppressive, authoritarian, narrow political class which shamelessly makes money at our expense, while furthering the interests of vast corporations which enforce the low wage economy and astonishing, ever growing, wealth gap.
The natural instincts of most people today lie with the man who tried to blow up parliament.
It is truly remarkable that, while the BBC and rest of the mainstream media gave hour by hour coverage of the democracy movement protests in Hong Kong, there was virtually no coverage of the violent and brutal treatment, over days, of the Occupy Democracy protest in Parliament Square in London. Nor any mention that there was far less democracy in Hong Kong under British rule than Chinese.
In Lewes, I once spoke to a flourishing political society which claims a direct descent from one founded by Thomas Paine himself- a vivid reminder to us in Scotland that there is a native radical tradition in Southern England, deep underground and waiting to be rediscovered. Lewes also has as its MP Norman Baker, one of the most decent men in politics, who recently resigned as a junior minister over the government’s entirely illogical “war on drugs” – illogical not least because of the drug habits of so many MPs. My current host, Hugh Kerr, when an MEP once made a speech in the European Parliament where he pointed out that many members were voting against drug liberalisation with whom he had personally participated in drug taking. An example of the excessive honesty that led to Hugh being forced out of the Labour Party.
Norman Baker was the subject of many vicious pieces in the mainstream media following his resignation. The crime of daring to think outside the box on drugs, and even worse crime of disagreeing with right wing nutjob and media darling Theresa May, meant that Baker had to be thoroughly monstored. But the most disgraceful and cowardly of all these attacks came from the Guardian of state stooge Alan Rusbridger. This is simply an appalling piece of journalism.
I have met Norman Baker a couple of times, and had a very entertaining conversation with him about Murder in Samarkand on Lewes railway station. The subject of UFO’s never came up. Indeed, if you google “Norman Baker, UFO” you get hundreds of media stories, all of them put out following Baker’s resignation and very evidently put about by Theresa May, for whom the Guardian is but a sounding board. In fact Norman Baker did once suggest in parliament that UFO cases deserved proper official investigation, which seems a perfectly rational view – and as the British government has, over decades, amassed thousands of files on UFO sightings, a view clearly widely held.
Baker’s other great sin is to believe David Kelly was murdered. Well, I think it is very probable indeed that David Kelly was murdered, and so, I suspect, do a very large percentage of the population. If the establishment is truly so confident that David Kelly was not murdered, it is remarkable that they refuse to have an inquest and allow a jury to decide the question in the normal way.
Norman Baker’s true crime was not to be a fully paid up member of the political class. He had never been a special adviser or political assistant. he had some hinterland, other interests, and did not confine his thinking within the tiny sphere of neo-con orthodoxy beyond which the corporate media will declare you a nutter. Politicians must all look the same, and Theresa May and Nigel Farage are now the only acceptable templates.
So we are back with a vengeance to notions of the undeserving poor. Electronic cards are to ensure that the poor can only spend their benefits on basic necessities like food and clothing, and not on a lifestyle of alcohol and illegal drugs.
Having lived a rather spectacular life encompassing both ends of the social spectrum, I can state with utter conviction that consumption of illegal pleasure-giving stimulants is far higher among the very wealthy than among the very poor. The notion that only the rich should be allowed to have any enjoyment in life is deeply offensive. It is fine for the Bullingdon Club to get plastered on Krug and cocaine and smash up restaurants. That is all jolly japes and high spirits. For a desperate man to seek solace in four cans of Tennant’s strongest or a bottle of Buckfast is however a dreadful sin and sign of social irresponsibility.
The high streets of our poorest towns are strewn with betting shops, bargain booze outlets, pawnbrokers and payday lenders. For anybody to believe that state compulsion of the patrons is the answer to the problem is the ultimate counsel of despair. Forget giving people a better hope, a greater chance, more socially useful pleasures. Just ban the little solace they have now. We have a government which holds a large section of the population in contempt; which cannot imagine that given a different birth, these people might have been sitting next to them in the Bullingdon Club; in short, which has no notion whatsoever of human dignity.
This latest move against benefits claimants is consistent with the entire development of the modern British economy. High wage economies generate a self-sustaining high domestic demand which keeps the economy growing. Our three main political parties postulate a low wage economy, with a minimum wage below the level which can sustain a family. The low wage economy is defended as a guarantee of strong international competitiveness and thus export performance. In fact Britain’s low wage model is entirely different, and the vast majority of those on low wages have no relation to exports. What Britain has developed is a model where a thin layer at the top are on extremely high remuneration. This of course includes bankers and the financial services industry, but also through the cult of managerialism, CEOs and directors have vastly increased their remuneration. For the multiple between the highest and lowest paid in a company to be 70 – the cleaner on 15,000, the core level majority on 20,000 and the CEO on 3,000,000- is now absolutely routine.
Even the public sector is ruled by this pretence that executive work is harder, more stressful, more uniquely difficult than core work. Well, I have been an Ambassador and a barman, and I can tell you which was hardest work. University vice chancellors are on over 300,000. Local councils regularly have a score of people on over 100,000.
We have no media willing to take on the triumph of greed. The most “left wing” of British newspapers, the Guardian, pays its editor total remuneration of over half a million per year and “star” columnists 300,000, while exploiting interns and junior staff, and squandering 35 million pounds a year of C P Scott’s great endowment in losses – straight into its senior staff’s pockets.
Britain has developed a new kind of low wage economy – one where the bulk of those on low wages work to provide services to those on very, very high remuneration. In a sense it is very old. We have become a helot society. It should be stressed that low wage is a deliberate policy. There is absolutely no reason why those in work could not be paid more. The economy would not crash. In Norway the median wage of the lowest 10 percentile is over 20,000 pounds, while the multiple between the lowest ten percentile and the top ten percentile is less than one third what it is in Britain. The UK’s astonishing and accelerating wealth gap is a result of deliberate ideological policy, founded on a notion that those at the top are possessed of rare and extraordinary abilities – whereas in truth, in the UK more than anywhere, their main achievement was usually to be born into the right family.
The concomitant of that worship of the rich is the belief that money measures worth; that if you have a low income then you are scum. That is the attitude that underlies these benefit smart cards. It is truly disgusting.
The Guardian’s Michael White is a revolting liar. He writes today in The Guardian:
Why so few “no thanks” posters or union flags? “Because we don’t want our windows smashed or tyres slashed,” some no voters reply.
That is a plain lie, Michael White. No “No voters” said that to you. You made it up. Nor has there been a single instance reported of any No voter having their windows or car trashed.
White also retails a story that a woman allegedly told him on hearsay about somebody else who was “seized by the throat” on canvassing because of their English accent. Well I have lived more than eight years of my adult life in Scotland and never once had any adverse reaction of any kind to my very English accent, including while canvassing in some very deprived areas. This incident is also an invention.
White has always been revolting, his constant snide support for Tony Blair and his wars, covered by that horrible false bonhommie, is repulsive. But the move into straightforward lies disguised as reportage to please his New Labour masters (and their creature Rusbridger) cannot be allowed to pass. Michael White is a disgrace to the profession of journalism.
The Tony Blair House Journal (editor Alan Rusbridger) reports on Kanye West’s disgusting private performance for the Kazakh dictator and his family, and takes a sideswipe at David Cameron for visiting that country.
But peculiarly they fail to mention that Tony Blair receives US $4 million a year as a consultant to the worker murdering Kazakh dictator, and that Alistair Campbell and Jonathon Powell as well as Blair visit to give this support – which has included a behind the scenes campaign to help Nazarbaev win the Nobel Peace Prize, fortunately with no result to date.
A week ago Wikileaks released the transcript of a meeting between Julian Assange and Google CEO Eric Schmidt, together with a number of other liberal establishment figures from the USA. This transcript is an important read. Assange has been portrayed in the media as a crazed pantomime villain. The reflective and thoughtful person who emerges from these transcripts is not perhaps what people accept. I also find it encouraging that a major CEO like Schmidt himself comes over as a genuine thinker, with liberal instincts.
But I want to focus rather narrowly on one point. Assange talks at length of his disappointment at the presentation of the State Department cables by Wikileaks’ mainstream media partners. In relation to the Guardian, among other things he says this:
“The Guardian redacted two thirds of a cable about Bulgarian crime, removed all the names of the people who had infiltrated – the mafioso – who had infiltrated the Bulgarian government. Removed a description of the Kazakstan elite, which said that the Kazakstan elite in general were corrupt, not even a particular name, just in general! Removed a description that a an energy company out of Italy operating in Kazakhstan was corrupt, so they have redacted for naming of individual names of people who might be unfairly put at risk, just like we do–that is what we require of them. They have redacted the names of mafioso, individual mafioso because they are worried that they might get sued for libel in London by this mafioso. They have redacted the names… they have redacted the description of a class of Kazakhstan elite, a class has been corrupt, and they have redacted descriptions of individual companies being corrupt because they don’t want to expose themselves to any risk at all.”
This is true, but not the whole story. At that time, I was trying without success to persuade Wikileaks to let me in to the cables in my are of expertise pre-publication, to assist with editing those on Africa and Central Asia to remove any risk to individuals. I was not able to do this because of Wikileaks’ exclusive deal with the newspapers, whom I thought they trusted to a remarkable degree.
A very senior figure ar the Guardian once said to me that “It should not be underestimated how far Rusbridger saw himself as an intrinsic part of The Project ” – The Project being Tony Blair’s plan to move the old Labour Party to a neo-con position and continue the Thatcher revolution (not that they called it that, even to themselves. Modernisation, Third Way etc.) Rusbridger, Michael White, Polly Toynbee, Andrew Rawnsley remain to this day fully paid up Blairites, and the Guardian continually, to this day, give a platform to Blair and Alistair Campbell, and publish article after article about how great is his legacy and how much he still has to contribute. I can’t bring myself to the emetic task of looking any of the offending articles up – perhaps people can kindly link to some in comments!
For several years now, a major stream of the massive Blair income has come from advisory and PR work for the murderous dictatorship of Kazakhstan – a government which massacres striking miners, which might be of interest to Blair’s former constituents. When I met Alistair Campbell in November he had recently come back from Kazahstan.
Julian Assange was quite right to infer that protecting themselves from possible libel suits had caused The Guardian to redact accounts of corrupt individuals. But that can hardly have accounted for the Guardian redacting a US Embassy observation that the ruling elite of Kazakhstan are corrupt as a class. Now what concern for the image of Kazakhstan might have led Alan Rusbridger to do that?
I have arrived back in the UK from Ghana, and catching up on an unforgivably tendentious series of articles on Europe and governance in the Guardian. They are predicated on a Eurobarometer poll that showed, according to the Guardian, that:
Public confidence in the European Union has fallen to historically low levels in the six biggest EU countries, raising fundamental questions about its democratic legitimacy more than three years into the union’s worst ever crisis, new data shows.
That is not an unfair characterisation. In the UK, for example, 69% of the population disagreed with the proposition that they trust the EU as am institution. What is totally and tendentiously unfair, given the construct the Guardian puts on this information in a whole series of articles. is that the same poll shows that in the UK, 77% of the population disagreed with the proposition that they trust the UK government as an institution.
So the Guardian would have been on even stronger ground to assert:
Public confidence in the Westminster government has fallen to historically low levels, raising fundamental questions about its democratic legitimacy more than three years into the coalition, new data shows.
But it didn’t assert that, because it seeks to reassure us that the answer to our woes is to bring in Ed Balls and the red neo-cons who bailed out the banks, introduced tuition fees in England and Wales and started privatising the NHS, rather than George Osborne and the blue neo-cons who continued the process. In fact Westminster is not the answer to any question, in the eyes of the public.
Simon Jenkins article on the subject appears directly to be channelling the spirit of Thatcher. I can’t see a phrase here which could not have been penned by Thatcher, especially where he gets all sonorous:
“Treaties are not for ever, but nation states are”
The modern concept of a nation state accepted as the worldwide standard unit of government is essentially a nineteenth century construct, and a great many states have fallen apart recently. Besides which, Mr Jenkins is not keen on Scotland, which arguably was the nation which first articulated many of the properties of the modern idea of a nation state in the Declaration of Arbroath. He doesn’t want Scotland to prove him right about nation states being forever and thus irrepressible. He actually doesn’t believe what he writes himself. But I divert.
Jenkins’ ultra-conservative view is best summed up by his assertion that a major problem of the European Parliament is that it has “no governing party discipline and reflects no identifiable interest”. In other words, it is not like Westminster.
But party discipline is precisely what is wrong with Westminster. MPs are “whipped” – a most appropriate word, into voting in favour of the commercial interests, which are overwhelmingly, in the UK, City of London financial interests with the only major competition being arms industry interests, which support their party structures and promote the leadership of their parties. It makes no difference at all which party gets elected. If a party leader emerges who might actually make any difference, Murdoch and the establishment can be relied on to destroy him, witness Michael Foot and Charlie Kennedy, the two most decent – and talented – men to lead parties in my lifetime.
Jenkins thinks the problem with the European Parliament is the lack of this systematic domination of darkness. In truth, the problem of the European Parliament is that it lacks the power to bring the European Union under democratic control, but that is a defect capable of remedy.
Here are some more details of the Eurobarometer poll the Guardian omitted in its total misrepresentation. 70% wish to see a stronger EU role in regulating the financial services industry (p.28) and on the same page, 76% want to see stronger EU coordination of economic policy.
Large majorities across Europe support:
the introduction of a tax on financial transactions (71%)
tighter rules for credit rating agencies (79%)
a tax on profits made by banks (83%)
tighter rules on tax avoidance and tax havens (61%)
These are all areas where the Tory government has been among those blocking effective EU action, against the will of the people of the EU.
85% agreed that the EU would have to work close together as a result of the economic crisis, and 53% agreed the EU would emerge from it stronger in the long run. (p. 40).
The European public are Keynesian. Tellingly only 39% of the population believe that reducing public deficits and debt are the answer to the economic crisis (p. 25). Which shows what kind of place a truly democratic Europe would be.
The final nail in the Rusbridger/Jenkins/Thatcher argument is that 23% believe the European Union is the most important body for dealing with the economic crisis, as opposed to 20% who thought their national government or 13% who thought the IMF (p.17).
Rusbridger and Jenkins each accepts a salary many times that of the Prime Minister from the Guardian Trust, at the same time the Guardian is making strong cuts in staff numbers to reduce costs and reorienting its online content to the preferences and prejudices of a US audience to try and improve its online revenue stream. I presume they produce this UKIP friendly bilge because its popular with the very right wing audience that, judging by their comments sections, they have succeeded in attracting to click and boost those advertising counters.
It was once a good newspaper. As Rusbridger, war criminal cheerleader Michael White, super-rich Simon Jenkins and the others all seem determined to go on as long as Mugabe, I expect soon very few will remember the days when the Guardian was a good newspaper.
The Guardian hit a new low in Amelia Hill’s report on Julian Assange’s appearance at the Oxford Union. Hill moved beyond propaganda to downright lies.
This is easy to show. Read through Hill’s “report”. Then zip to 20 minutes and 55 seconds of the recording of Assange speaking at the event Hill misreports, and simply listen to the applause from the Oxford Union after Assange stops speaking.
Just that hearty applause is sufficient to show that the entire thrust and argument of Amelia Hill’s article moves beyong distortion or misreprentation – in themselves dreadful sins in a journalist – and into the field of outright lies. Her entire piece is intended to give the impression that the event was a failure and the audience were hostile to Assange. That is completely untrue.
Much of what Hill wrote is not journalism at all. What does this actually mean?
“His critics were reasoned, those who queued for over an hour in the snow to hear him speak were thoughtful. It was Julian Assange – the man at the centre of controversy – who refused to be gracious.”
Hill manages to quote five full sentences of the organiser of the anti-Assange demonstration (which I counted at 37 people) while giving us not one single sentence of Assange’s twenty minute address. Nor a single sentence of Tom Fingar, the senior US security official who was receiving the Sam Adams award. Even more remarkably, all three students Hill could find to interview were hostile to Assange. In a hall of 450 students who applauded Assange enthusiastically and many of whom crowded round to shake my hand after the event, Hill was apparently unable to find a single person who did not share the Rusbridger line on Julian Assange.
Hill is not a journalist – she is a pathetic grovelling lickspittle who should be deeply, deeply ashamed.
Here is the answer to the question about cyber-terrorism of which Amelia Hill writes:
“A question about cyber-terrorism was greeted with verbose warmth”
As you can see, Assange’s answer is serious, detailed, thoughtful and not patronising to the student. Hill’s characterisation – again without giving a word of Assange’s actual answer – is not one that could genuinely be maintained. Can anybody – and I mean this as a real question – can anybody look at that answer and believe that “Verbose warmth” is a fair and reasonable way to communicate what had been said to an audience who had not seen it? Or is it just an appalling piece of hostile propaganda by Hill?
The night before Assange’s contribution at the union, John Bolton had been there as guest speaker. John Bolton is a war criminal whose actions deliberately and directly contributed to the launching of an illegal war which killed hundreds of thousands of people. Yet there had not been one single Oxford student picketing the hosting of John Bolton, and Amelia Hill did not turn up to vilify him. My main contribution to the Sam Adams event was to point to this as an example of the way people are manipulated by the mainstream media into adopting seriously warped moral values.
Amelia Hill is one of the warpers, the distorters of reality. The Guardian calls her a “Special Investigative Correspondent.” She is actually a degraded purveyor of lies on behalf of the establishment. Sickening.