***Call the Craig Murray Campaign on 07979 691085, or drop by our Blackburn office on 15 Railway Road to find out how you can help us Sack Jack!***
The Guardian– Our man in Blackburn: St George’s Day is a big thing in Blackburn. England flags sprout from all the shops, and there is a small fair in the town centre, with knights on horseback and a rather cuddly dragon getting slain. Red roses are distributed from a brewer’s dray. The Labour party in Blackburn is a rather more fearsome adversary. I noted with some amusement that the main road into town is the A666 – the number of the Beast. Let’s hope St George is a good omen.
Politics is banned in the town centre, which on balance is probably OK as it avoids the danger of a BNP takeover of this Englandfest. But it does disappoint a crowd of media people which has gathered in anticipation of Jack Straw and I on rival soapboxes. Maybe next Saturday.
Jack sets up his stall by the rotunda on the other side of the shopping centre. Some of my supporters get the Green Goddess into the multi-storey car park just above his head and start blasting out “Hit the Road Jack Straw”. I am down by Jack, doing a Channel 4 interview and, by an acoustic fluke, the sound seems to come from the ground all around us. Great consternation ensues; Labour party hacks bark into mobile phones, and two policemen come running.
The shopping centre security staff eventually find the Green Goddess, climb in and start ripping out the speaker equipment. Some argy-bargy with my team ensues, but eventually it all dusts down quietly.
I have mixed feelings about this kind of thing. A little bit is a good joke, but I don’t really approve of trying to drown someone out. On Sunday many of my team go off again to picket a Straw meeting at Jan’s conference centre. They enjoy the yelling and venting of fury. I tend to the view that Jack is entitled to run his campaign, but most of my people think he’s a war criminal and not entitled to anything but a small cell.
The media circus is getting overwhelming. I have done 11 interviews this morning. But we seem to be blacked by the BBC. On Monday the Ten O’Clock news carried a constituency profile on Blackburn which interviewed the three major party candidates but ignored me. The last mention I had on the BBC was Newsnight a fortnight ago, when Jeremy Paxman read out a highly tendentious statement from the FCO “correcting” a report on the circumstances in which I left my post – something I had not commented on in the first place.
Two days ago someone from Radio 2 called and rather tersely cancelled a Simon Mayo interview. Then Radio 5 Live called about a candidates’ debate from Blackburn tomorrow. I was now not to participate in the one-hour debate, but was offered an interview of up to five minutes beforehand. I declined.
The Newsnight “correction” had come from FCO civil servants. Clearly, the BBC has been under some pressure. I sent an email to Helen Boaden, head of BBC News and Current Affairs, and asked whether there had been a central decision to downgrade coverage of our campaign, or if these were all programme-producer decisions. I received a reply referring me to the public complaints department.
Meanwhile the campaign goes on. We have now delivered more than 60,000 leaflets to homes in Blackburn. I now feel strongly on one issue: I would support a refusal by postmen to deliver mail to postboxes two inches off the ground. Who on earth came up with that idea?
One further infringement of our liberties under New Labour, and a serious threat to free speech. Every candidate has the right to have an electoral communication delivered free of charge. These have to be pre-vetted by the Post Office for, inter alia, libel. Since when has the Post Office, as opposed to a court of law, been qualified to decide what a candidate may or may not say? I feel rather insulted it found nothing wrong with my electoral communication. I am obviously not being radical enough.
The signs continue to look good. We held a meeting on Monday at the 120-capacity Daisyfields community centre. Three hundred people turned up, and we had to have speakers in a garden for the overflow. We had a webcast audience of more than 500, and two satellite channels were filming. I had so many lapel mic transmitters clipped to my belt that as I spoke my trousers kept falling down. I kept leaning with my hands in my pockets, hoping I looked casual as I struggled to get them back up. I got rapturous applause, so I might try to replicate the effect next time.