Harry Barnes’ Critique 3

Certainly one of the most interesting and thoughtful critiques of Murder in Samarkand has been posted by Harry Barnes on his blog. For those who don’t know, Harry is a recently retired, long-serving Labour MP. He represents strongly the origins of that party as an organisation dedicated to improving the lot of working people, both in the UK and worldwide. His perspective casts new light across several aspects of the book, including this extract:

In particular, I found Craig’s description of Claire Short’s visit to Tashkent when she went to Chair a conference of the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development to be highly revealing.

Claire did a fine job in standing up for human rights against the Uzbek regime. As soon as she returned home she resigned her post as Secretary of State of Overseas Development over the Government’s involvement in the invasion of Iraq.

I had been amongst those who criticized Claire for not resigning earlier when Robin Cook went. Yet what she stood out for in Uzbekistan was of great importance and is a justification in itself for the delayed resignation. Her period at Overseas Development was also one of the limited avenues of achievement of the Blair Government.


A comment on a couple of Harry’s points. yes, of course I oppose political violence by state and other terrorists. I am not a closet al-Qaida supporter, or even al-Qaida denier.

Secondly, I am indeed no socialist. But I am only “the strongest possible advocate of privatisation” in the context of Uzbekistan, where state ownership of pretty well everything is a device used ruthlessly by the elite to exploit an enslaved population. In a developed economy like ours, I believe that natural monopolies should be in public hands, as should essential services like health and education.

Direct observation has convinced me that public services are best delivered by public organisations. The so-called efficiencies of privatised provision of public services are a myth, with any beneficial effect more than outweighed by the removal of public resources as private profit, and the skimping and shoddiness on the service designed to increase those profits.

In developing economies, I am completely opposed, for example, to IFI pressure to privatise and charge for water and other essential human needs. But I think purely commerial activity is best conducted by individuals and companies in market conditions, and there should be plenty of space for it..

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3 thoughts on “Harry Barnes’ Critique

  • Uzbek

    This is a comment which I was not able to paste into Harry Barnes web blog.

    A Human Rights stance is one that in logic and emotion is opposed to both Imperial aggression and Terror Group tactics. Perhaps there is enough on Craig's Web-Site to show that he has a foot in both Human Rights' Camps. If not, we still need to accept that he did more for the cause of human rights in a couple of years in Uzbekistan than the rest of us achieve in a lifetime.

    Yes, it is absolutely true. I have honour to know Mr Murray personally and admire everything he did for uzbek people and is still doing. While Mr Murray in office uzbek people knew a lot of good about Britain. It was the only person who spoke true without any hypocrisy without any hesitation. He showed uzbek people that it is possible to fight for rights and freedom. He also showed that not every so called "free democratic countries" are supporting evil karimov, that UK was actually as we thought that time on our, uzbek people side. It was difficult to believe in it because we all saw how so called "heart of democracy, leader of free world" I mean US was constantly backing karimov and his bloody murderers in exchange of his support in military operation in Afghanistan. Of course we (I mean Uzbeks) did not know that Mr Murray was actually acting in controversy with British government and that at the end he will ruin his career and part of his life for us.

    After all, when I knew true about all of this I admire Mr Murray's actions even more. Because of Mr Murray British Embassy in Tashkent gained very huge support and popularity among uzbek people. It became sort of last resort for the most desperate people, for those seeking justice. It should be Ombudsman I suppose, but Ombudsman in Uzbekistan is controlled by uzbek government and it means it is part of terror machine. I remember when we all were shocked after Mr Murray's speech in Freedom House in Tashkent, when he was the first person ever criticised uzbek official policy in public. I also remember when people were shocked to hear criticism about all happening in Uzbekistan during EBRD session in Tashkent. It was broadcasted live and there was no chance for uzbek government to switch transmission and made some cuts.

    After all of these we started to believe that we can strike against regime and we can protect our rights and that we are actually not slaves, that we are people, we are citizens. But after Mr Murray's departure from Tashkent UK Embassy became a shadow of what it was during his time in office. British Embassy became the same as it was once before Craig Murray tried to do something to brighten that dark part of the world.

    Uzbek refugee in the UK

  • Tom


    It's odd that your view on public/private provision should be so obviously sensible and middle-of-the-road, and yet so alien from the policies of any of the main parties (particularly if Clegg gets the LD job).

    If you think about it, the nearest advocate for such a non-ideological approach in UK life would be the SNP or Ken Livingstone, I suspect, both of whom are usually portrayed as dangerous loose cannons and a threat to the British way of life.

  • Craig

    Hopefully we've fixed the problem that was making it hard to log in for comments. Meantime Harry put this on his own blog, after reposting my entry here:

    I have been unable to find my way into Craig's comment box, but just wished to add that I am more than happy to accept his above two points which take away my only two feeble attempts to find some means of providing semi-criticisms of his book. There is, of course, a distinction between us in that I am a democratic socialist and he isn't. But I can't just criticise material because it doesn't come fully from out of my own political perspective – for I would then probably end up only enjoying my own efforts!

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