I went yesterday to the Stop the War demonstration at Trafalgar Square, largely because the police had given notice that they were banning it under the Vagrancy Act 1824. This was an appalling attack on free speech, and they were using that Act because Gordon Brown had promised the repeal of the hated SOCPA (Serious Organised Crime Prevention Act), which the government of which he was Chancellor had introduced. In a marvellous piece of Orwellian doublespeak, it sought to prevent “Serious organised crime” by curbing freedom of speech, including banning demonstrations within a mile of parliament.
Just in case people thought Brown’s promise to repeal these SOCPA provisions signalled an end to New Labour’s rollback of liberty, the police blew the dust off the Vagrancy Act (1824) instead.
I couldn’t miss the chance to be arrested for “vagrancy”, it sounded so deliciously Dickensian, and I think it would give me a rock solid case for putting “Occupation: vagrant” in my passport. But half an hour before the march started, the police backed down and unbanned it.
Nevertheless, they had a trick up their sleeve. They split the band of 3,000 demonstrators up into three parts, on College Green, Parliament Square and Whitehall, where they confined them to pens, with a wildly excessive number of policemen herding them like cattle. People were kept crushed in small fenced areas for up to two hours and not allowed to go to the loo. When people sat down (understandable in the circumstances) they were arrested.
What a depressing country.
Which brings me to the state of Higher Education. I was formally “Installed” as Rector of the University of Dundee on September 26. The University refused to publish my Rectorial Address, or give it out to the press, because they “do not agree with it”.
What are we coming to in this country, where even a University seeks to censor out contrary opinion? I do urge you to read the Address, because beyond the in-jokes I made some points I believe are extremely important.
ADDRESS GIVEN UPON THE OCCASION OF HIS INSTALLATION
AS RECTOR OF THE UNIVERSITY OF DUNDEE
CRAIG J MURRAY Esq, MA(Hons)
BONAR HALL, DUNDEE
26 September 2007
Under the Title of:
WHY LONDON SHOULD STOP WORRYING ABOUT SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE – WE CAN STILL RULE ENGLAND FROM BRUSSELS
Vice-Chancellor, My Dear Friends,
It is most kind of you to come along here today as I receive the singular honour of being made Rector of my own University.
I arrive here following our tradition of an idiosyncratic pub crawl known as the Rectorial Drag. That sounds like an occasion for which I should be picking out a nice skirt and blouse – which as some of my former student colleagues here will tell you would not be the first time. The Rectorial Drag however is an occasion where the students pull their new Rector through the streets in a carriage, from City Hall to University, entering the pubs on the way. I can honestly say it is the first time I have ever been dragged to a pub. Dragged out, yes. Chucked out, frequently. Dragged in is a new one.
By chance it is thirty years almost to the day since I arrived, bewildered, into freshers’ week, clutching everything I owned in one cardboard box and a battered BOAC flight bag.
Little did I dream that thirty years later I would become Rector of the place. Certainly not – I expected to be much too busy being Prime Minister.
In that distant first week I attended the Rectorial Installation of Sir Clement Freud. He was a man of great wit and perspicacity, and his installation address was hilarious. Sadly, as we all know, decline and decay is the natural order of things, and with the passing years Sir Clement declined to the extent that he eventually became Rector of St Andrews.
These occasions traditionally involve a certain amount of knockabout humour, and I am sure that no offence will be taken. We look in fact with fond regard to our sister institution south of the Tay Estuary, marking with sadness the scent of her senile decline, as we might an elderly relative whom we care about but are grateful we don’t have to live with.
I believe that Clement Freud was the only one of my predecessors to have made that particular error. Stephen Fry was invited to stand at St Andrews but sensibly declined. They can always try again when he’s 70.
All of which brings me to note what a tremendously talented bunch my predecessors as Rector have been. Here I give the obligatory tip of the hat to Sir Peter Ustinov.
I am biased in the case of two of them, George Mackie and Gordon Wilson, because I was the seconder of one and proposer of the other. That made my own election my third successful rectorial campaign, and I claim the record, to be beaten when I am re-elected in 2010.
Getting elected is of course the difficult bit. My own election was fiercely contested and the result was close. I would like to pay a sincere tribute to Andy Nicol, a real gentleman, for his well-fought and constructive campaign, and for being such a good loser. Though, of course, as a former captain of the British Lions rugby team he did have a great deal of practice.
One excellent piece of electioneering by my opponent was securing the entire front page of the election day Dundee edition of the Daily Record. Most of the page was taken up by a picture of Andy and the headline screamed “I was born to lead Dundee Students”. The Daily Record is a paper which is at least consistent in its standard of accuracy.
The flaw in this great ploy, achieved with considerable effort, was of course that not many of our electorate are Daily Record readers. Some folk surmised that this mistake came about because Scottish Labour HQ were under the impression the election was at the University of Abertay.
Anyway, it was a good bit of electioneering, and made even better by the fact that in this special edition of the Daily Record, my two immediate predecessors, not without some encouragement from within the University hierarchy, chose to endorse the candidature of my opponent.
The Record told us “Outgoing Rector Lorraine Kelly and comedian Fred Macaulay threw their weight behind Nicol as the former Scotland captain urged the University’s Record readers to vote for him in the polls today.”
I believe the University’s Record readers both did.
I don’t regard former Rectors campaigning for a candidate – and thus perforce campaigning against a candidate – as quite the done thing. But it is still potentially effective electioneering. The only downside I see is that, should the ploy fail and someone else get elected, and were that person in the least bit vindictive, that person would then have a great platform in front of the entire University to get his own back. I do see that potential danger, don’t you?
Some of you will be relieved, and some disappointed, to hear that I do not intend to do this. I am very glad that my predecessor, Lorraine Kelly, was Rector of this University. Otherwise she might have gone her entire life without ever seeing the inside of an institute of higher education.
The other ex-Rector involved was Fred Macaulay, apparently a local comedian, though that is not obvious from reading his rectorial address. In the most striking passage, Fred tells us he does a great impression of Sean Connery, adding “Hey, I’m bald and Scottish, how hard can it be?”
Very hard, Fred, very hard. Sean Connery is bald, Scottish and immensely talented. Fred, however, is more like this egg: bald, Scottish and easily crushed. (Breaks egg).
I did say we should have some knockabout stuff, and seriously Fred was a hard-working and popular Rector. I am sure he’ll come up with some much better jokes about me.
Now this is going to be a very dull afternoon if I just ramble on like this and you just gawp at me. We need some atmospherics – feel free to laugh and cheer, or clap or shout “Rubbish” when you want to. Above all do heckle. Heckling is a fine tradition. The very word comes from Dundee.
Heckling is a process in the jute industry. To heckle is to comb out the jute prior to spinning. It was a tough, manual job and the heckling shops were murky with dust that choked the lungs. The hecklers were famous for their radicalism, probably a reaction to their terrible working conditions, and would turn up and yell at politicians. I think that’s quite right – present company accepted I don’t recall ever meeting a politician who did not ought to be shouted at. Thus the hecklers yelled, and the verb “To heckle” jumped from a textile process to a political barracking. Uniquely, as far as I know, what other student unions call election hustings, DUSA called election hecklings.
One appalling development in modern politics is the death of heckling.
Nowadays politicians deliver their sound-bites to a pathetically complacent and complicit media, in front of a carefully selected and vetted audience of the faithful. Just try getting close enough to a politician to heckle them. I mean that literally – please do try. When someone does manage, like Walter Wolfgang, the eighty year old who shouted “Rubbish” at Jack Straw, they are likely to be manhandled and arrested under the laughably named Prevention of Terrorism Act.
Jack Straw, incidentally, is a man who should have “Rubbish” shouted at him from the moment he steps out of the shower in the morning until the moment he retires with his evening cocoa.
The peculiar criminalisation of heckling is part of the most extraordinary onslaught on our civil liberties. Here in Dundee a woman was arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act for walking on a cycle path. That is true – Google it. And last year we had the extraordinary incident of the Special Branch walking around Fresher’s Fayre. That is something which I promise you will not happen again. A university is no place for the thought police. We have no terrorists here; what our students are thinking is our students’ business. That is why they are here: to think.
It is good to be blogging again. Many thanks to everyone for your tremendous support while I was down, and especially all those bloggers who protested against this censorship, achieved just by the layout of cash, with nothing being tested in court. I have still had no contact at any time from Usmanov or the shysters of Schillings.
We are back on craigmurray.org.uk. We hope that craigmurray.co.uk will be back too very soon. I have a plan for dealing with Usmanov and getting this matter into court, but am holding fire for a couple of days until we get the co.uk address back, where most people look for me. Meanwhile anyone remember this?
Alisher Usmanov, potential Arsenal* chairman, is a Vicious Thug,
Criminal, Racketeer, Heroin Trafficker and Accused Rapist
by Craig Murray
I thought I should make my views on Alisher Usmanov quite plain to you.
You are unlikely to see much plain talking on Usmanov elsewhere in the
media becuase he has already used his billions and his lawyers in a
pre-emptive strike. They have written to all major UK newspapers,
including the latter:
“Mr Usmanov was imprisoned for various offences under the old Soviet
regime. We wish to make it clear our client did not commit any of the
offences with which he was charged. He was fully pardoned after
President Mikhail Gorbachev took office. All references to these
matters have now been expunged from police records . . . Mr Usmanov
does not have any criminal record.”
Let me make it quite clear that Alisher Usmanov is a criminal. He was
in no sense a political prisoner, but a gangster and racketeer who
rightly did six years in jail. The lawyers cunningly evoke “Gorbachev”,
a name respected in the West, to make us think that justice prevailed.
That is completely untrue.
Usmanov’s pardon was nothing to do with Gorbachev. It was achieved
through the growing autonomy of another thug, President Karimov, at
first President of the Uzbek Soviet Socilist Republic and from 1991
President of Uzbekistan. Karimov ordered the “Pardon” because of his
alliance with Usmanov’s mentor, Uzbek mafia boss and major
international heroin overlord Gafur Rakimov. Far from being on
Gorbachev’s side, Karimov was one of the Politburo hardliners who had
Gorbachev arrested in the attempted coup that was thwarted by Yeltsin
standing on the tanks outside the White House.
Usmanov is just a criminal whose gangster connections with one of the
World’s most corrupt regimes got him out of jail. He then plunged into
the “privatisation” process at a time when gangster muscle was used to
secure physical control of assets, and the alliance between the Russian
Mafia and Russian security services was being formed.
Usmanov has two key alliances. he is very close indeed to President
Karimov, and especially to his daughter Gulnara. It was Usmanov who
engineered the 2005 diplomatic reversal in which the United States was
kicked out of its airbase in Uzbekistan and Gazprom took over the
country’s natural gas assets. Usmanov, as chairman of Gazprom
Investholdings paid a bribe of $88 million to Gulnara Karimova to
secure this. This is set out on page 366 of Murder in Samarkand.
Alisher Usmanov had risen to chair of Gazprom Investholdings because of
his close personal friendship with Putin, He had accessed Putin through
Putin’s long time secretary and now chef de cabinet, Piotr Jastrzebski.
Usmanov and Jastrzebski were roommates at college.
Gazprominvestholdings is the group that handles Gazproms interests
outside Russia, Usmanov’s role is, in effect, to handle Gazprom’s
bribery and sleaze on the international arena, and the use of gas
supply cuts as a threat to uncooperative satellite states.
Gazprom has also been the tool which Putin has used to attack internal
democracy and close down the independent media in Russia. Gazprom has
bought out – with the owners having no choice – the only independent
national TV station and numerous rgional TV stations, several radio
stations and two formerly independent national newspapers. These have
been changed into slavish adulation of Putin. Usmanov helped accomplish
this through Gazprom. The major financial newspaper, Kommersant, he
bought personally. He immediately replaced the editor-in-chief with a
pro-Putin hack, and three months later the long-serving campaigning
defence correspondent, Ivan Safronov, mysteriously fell to his death
from a window.
All this, both on Gazprom and the journalist’s death, is set out in
great detail here:
Usmanov is also dogged by the widespread belief in Uzbekistan that he
was guilty of a particularly atrocious rape, which was covered up and
the victim and others in the know disappeared. The sad thing is that
this is not particularly remarkable. Rape by the powerful is an
everyday hazard in Uzbekistan, again as outlined in Murder in Samarkand
page 120. If anyone has more detail on the specific case involving
Usmanov please add a comment.
I reported back in 2002 or 2003 in an Ambassadorial top secret telegram
to the Foreign Office that Usmanov was the most likely favoured
successor of President Karimov as totalitarian leader of Uzbekistan. I
also outlined the Gazprom deal (before it happened) and the present by
Usmanov to Putin (though in Jastrzebski’s name) of half of Mapobank, a
Russian commercial bank owned by Usmanov. I will never forget the
priceless reply from our Embassy in Moscow. They said that they had
never even heard of Alisher Usmanov, and that Jastrzebski was a jolly
nice friend of the Ambassador who would never do anything crooked.
Sadly, I expect the football authorities will be as purblind. Football
now is about nothing but money, and even Arsenal supporters – as
tight-knit and homespun a football community as any – can be heard
saying they don’t care where the money comes from as long as they can
compete with Chelsea*.
I fear that is very wrong. Letting as diseased a figure as Alisher
Usmanov into your club can only do harm in the long term.
* I withdraw this – the majority of Arsenal fans turn out to have values that shame supporters at many other clubs.