Monthly archives: February 2009

Andrew Mackinlay is Magnificent

My previous attempts to explain that Andrew Mackinlay is the greatest man in Parliament have been met with some scepticism by my readers.

But nobody can deny that this week he was absolutely magnificent against Jack Straw’s continued efforts to hide behind a wall of lies over the invasion of Iraq:

Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock) (Lab): Has the Justice Secretary looked behind him to see that there are only two office holders?”a Parliamentary Private Secretary and the Church Commissioner?”who support him? Not a single one of his hon. Friends is here endorsing him today. Could it be that they are ashamed and embarrassed by this announcement? Will he not reflect on the fact, which really is breathtaking, that he, who clearly was one of the people who piloted this policy and persuaded us?”I remember him, as it is photographed on my mind, promising that we would get the second UN resolution?”should also decide that those documents should not be available? It is appalling.

It is also a bad day for Parliament when we get synthetic anger from the Opposition, who are cosying up?”the Privy Council club closing down debate and discussion on things that must be revealed.

I bear the scars of having trusted the Prime Minister on this matter and I shall take to the grave the fact that I regret having listened to the porky pies and the stories of the Intelligence and Security Committee and of the Prime Minister. I shall regret it to the day I die. I should never, ever have trusted them.

Mr. Straw rose?”

Andrew Mackinlay: And I never will again!

The closing of ranks by New Labour and the Conservatives to frustrate the Information Tribunal’s decision to release the Cabinet discussion that led us to war, simply illustrates the astonishing democratic deficit in the UK which enabled bellicose politicians to launch an illegal war in the first place.

I was deeply frustrated last night watching Question Time, where there was again a general closing of ranks by Labour, Tories and the Political editor of the Sun, offset only by a nice but inarticulate Lib-Dem non-entity. Everyone sagely agreed that it was necessary for participants to be assured of secrecy, or they would not be able to give their best advice.

Nobody countered this argument, which has been rolled out by almost the entire mainstream media. But it is nonsense. Is advice which of which somebody might be ashamed and which cannot stand up to public scrutiny always the best advice? Does the best government really thrive only in the darkest of corners, operating by subterfuge? I worked in government for over twenty years, including in some pretty senior positions working with intelligence and military affairs. I never gave any advice that I would not have been prepared to defend robustly and openly.

Indeed advice which you would not be prepared to defend robustly seems axiomatically more likely to be flawed.

The obsession of the British establishment with the view that the best government is hidden government must be challenged. What it does of course is to permit government for motives and interests they don’t want the rest of us to know about.

View with comments

One Law for New Labour

Texting death crash peer jailed for 12 weeks and banned for one year

Texting death crash woman jailed for 21 months and banned for three years

Note that in neither case is it true – contrary to propaganda – that the texting was several minutes before the crash. In the case of the woman, the prosecution is appealing because the sentence was too lenient!

With thanks to Alaric.

View with comments

What Is A Student Union?

The recent wave of student occupations over Gaza has spread truly across the whole country, and constitutes a most welcome return of student interest in international issues. I attended University Court in Dundee yeaterday, and without any opposition the University divested from BAE Systems as the start of an ethical investment policy. This was a student-led initiative.

But I also walked into a furore which for me carried strong echoes of my own student days. An extraordinary general meeting of Dundee University Students Association had passed motions on BAE and on Palestine, but the student executive were refusing to implement the motion on Palestine. They had obtained a legal opinion that, as a registered charity, the Students Association could not take political stances.

This question of whether students unions could take an interest in the outside world – known as the ultra vires debate – recurred frequently when I was a student. The legal principles remain unchanged, although the precise legislation has altered. The generally accepted view was that the students association was quite entitled to express strongly held views on behalf of its members, but it would be wrong for it to spend any of its charitable funds for extraneous purposes.

That seems to me still a sensible position now. The bogey that the Students Union may lose its charitable status over a pro-Palestinian declaration is a nonsense. For one thing DUSA already has existing and longstanding pro-Palestinian policy that still applies. Student bodies have been making declarations on the state of the World for over a hundred years at least, and no students union has ever lost charitable status because of it.

The threat is a fiction, and the suspicion must be that pro-Israeli supporters – not one of whom turned up to oppose the motion democratically – have resorted to legal subterfuge.

Much more dangerous is the idea that the executive can ignore the will of the students expressed by a general meeting. The notion that students are not trustworthy in democratic process, and that the executive know better when guided by professionals, is something that actually is inimical to the whole idea of a students union.

The sad thing is that the Executive are under great pressure from “the Establishment” and are being told that they would act illegally if they acted on the resolution passed. It is very hard for them not to bow to the general move to dumb down and restrict student activity. It takes courage to rebel – but that is why we have youth. If not now, when?

As it happens, for the first time in many years DUSA has an executive who are genuinely active, altruistic and concerned, and doing a pretty good job. Then they found themselve faced with this situation, which puts them under pressure.

The Executive must act on the letter of what the General Meeting passed, until and unless they get it overturned by another general meeting or referendum (and interestingly it appears that what the general meeting passed may include seeking advice from the Scottish charities commissioners). That they have to obey the general meeting really should go without saying, but DUSA has become so unused to student activity and democracy that it is disturbingly not being taken as axiomatic.

The charities commission in Scotland is, of course, a New Labour body, as witnessed by its scandalous indulgence of the Smith Insitute.

The idea that it tolerates the fake charity that is part and parcel of Scottish New Labour, but would remove charitable status from DUSA over a few words on the massacre of Palestinians, is appalling.

I do hope our students find their backbone.

View with comments

Tessa Jowell Should Be Charged With Money Laundering

David Mills has been given a jail sentence in Italy for corruption, though sadly he will probably escape jail as the rich and well connected normally do.

Tessa Jowell actively participated in the laundering of the corrupt payments from Silvio Berlusconi, given to her husband David Mills in return for false testimony in court to cover up some of Berlusconi’s endless crooked dealings. Tessa Jowell participated as a full partner in the three time remortgaging of her home, paying off the mortgage with cash and then remortgaging. She has stated that there was “Nothing unusual” in this.

Most people would think it was very unusual to be able to pay off a large mortgage with cash at all. To do it twice and remortgage again each time would strike most of us as very weird indeed.

Which illustrates the gap between the hierarchy of “New Labour” and the “Hard working families” who are Gordon Brown’s favourite soundbite. This is illustrated by Mills’ description of £500,000 as “not very much”.

This is of a piece with Jacqui Smith’s ripping off the taxpayer of £150,000 by pretending her sister’s home is her main residence, then wondering what the fuss is about. That would be ten year’s salary for the British soldier killed today in Afghanistan.

Nobody who reads Mills’ letter to his accountant (above link) can doubt that he is a crook. This particular Berlusconi deal was just one part of his bent practice, which included the financial arrangements for organised crime in Italy to sell on infected and condemned human blood from the USA into transfusion services in Europe. Tessa Jowell lived off these criminal earnings for decades and actively participated in laundering the cash.

Either Jowell did not notice she was living with a major criminal – in which case she is far too stupid to be a minister – or she was complicit – in which case she is far too corrupt to be a minister.

No ifs or buts are possible.

Only when Mills was exposed to the media did Jowell abandon her husband – sacrificing her marriage for her political career. If she had remained loyal to him it would have at least been some slight saving grace. In fact the woman is a total disgrace.

View with comments


Nadira talks here about why she is taking part in The Vagina Monologues in aid of V-Day.

Being a male fuddy-duddy I worry a bit about the stresses of stage performance for someone six months pregnant! She seems to be relishing it though, and looks great to me.

Nadira has developed a whole life of involvement with women’s issues and charities quite separate from me, and still continues to surprise me after six pretty dramatic years together.

I see from the same site that Deep Cut is coming to the Tricicle Theatre from 11 March. I couldn’t get a ticket for it in Edinburgh, but those who saw it tell me it is riveting theatre, as well as an expose of one of the weirdest cover-ups of the New Labour years.

View with comments

In Development Hell

Steve Coogan has just described the position of the film of Murder in Samarkand as “Stuck in development hell”.

Actually it is probably worse than that. Meantime, with no income from the putative film and my discovering just how near impossible it is to publish a book yourself and get bookshops to take it, my lack of funds is becoming positively terrifying, with a new baby due to arrive shortly. Do you know those moments when you feel like a checkmated king, with nothing to do but fall over?

Anyway, I shall boost my almost vanished store of feelings of self-worth by exhibiting some erudition you probably don’t know. Checkmate has nothing to do with the board being chequered, unless the word chequered comes from the game. Chess originated in Central Asia. Russian for chess is “Shakhmati” (normally in Cyrillic) which is perfectly straightforward everyday Uzbek meaning “The King is stuck”. Shakh of course being the same word as sheikh in other Muslim cultures.

So now I feel poorer than you yet in an obscure way slightly superior. But sadly still checkmated.

View with comments

Does Anybody Out There Still Believe in Liberty?

There is no doubt that New Labour gives not a fig for individual liberty, so the banning by the money-grabbing Jacqui Smith of Geert Wilders is run-of-the-mill – but it is still both wrong and dangerous, and has whipped up precisely the kind of frenzy about his Melanie Phillips like gibberings which Smith claimed to be trying to avoid.

It was equally wrong to ban Yusuf al-Qaradawi. I just heard the BBC World Service conduct some unusually good interviews with political figures, where those who opposed the banning of Wilders (eg Baroness Cox) supported the banning of al-Qaradwi, while those who opposed the banning of al-Qaradwi (eg Ken Livingstone) supported the banning of Wilders. Both sides argue, equally unconvincingly, that the man they dislike may incite to violence.

The BBC appeared unable to find any supporter of the principle of freedon of expression.

There was no reason to suppose that either Wilders or al-Qaradwi planned any unlawful activity in the UK, and had they done so they might properly have been arrested. But the gut instincts of New Labour are viciously authoritarian. Those of all views who value liberty should unite to resist them. The problem is, the number of people who really do believe in liberty for those with whom they disagree, appears to have grown exceedingly small.

View with comments

Some Good News, For a Change

A group believe that a God created the whole universe, then decided for some reason having the ability to make anything and anyone he wanted that he would father a child, just once, at a pretty random time some millions of years after he did all that creating, and from the whole universe chose a girl in Palestine, who God decided to make pregnant without impairing her virginity, resultant child being God too and later being killed before coming back to life again. Well, one of the heads of this group has announced that Darwinism is not incompatible with this belief.

This is a kind of improvement. That is in itself kind of strange because plainly they are actually incompatible, one being scientific fact, the other obvious tosh.

View with comments

Apologies for Absence

Sorry for protracted intermission – I forgot how very hard work moving house is, not to mention that it leaves you without an internet connection for weeks.

I am in any event so stunned by the monumental arrogance and incompetence of this government that I find myself at a loss where to start back. Anyone care to suggest a topic? The extraordinary reliance of Brown on merchant bankers as his advisers and ministers on the financial disaster is a possibility, but it is so appalling I dissolve into helpless giggles just thinking about it,

View with comments

The Most Rancid Hypocrisy

It is four years now since I was sacked as Ambassador for opposing MI6’s use of intelligence gained from torture and passed to MI6 by the CIA under the UK/US intelligence sharing agreement.

Yet with incredible hypocrisy, four years after I exposed the whole evidence, David Miliband continues to trot out the barefaced lie that the UK does not support or condone torture.

even while referring to yet another case that proves beyond doubt that the UK receives torture intelligence from the CIA.

Meanwhile parliament continues to behave as though this is a terrible thing they knew nothing about. I am still furious that I was called to testify before both the European Parliament and the Council of Europe, while the British parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee refused to accept my evidence.

None so blind as those who will not see. The stinking hypocrisy on this issue extends beyond New Labour.

View with comments

Fiddling While Rome Burns

The nauseating smugness of the Davos gathering is sickening enough at the best of times. In these very bad times, it is unbearable. The idea that we just need to recover confidence and get credit moving again, was precisely what the promoters of the South Seas and Darien schemes said when those schemes collapsed. The Church of England were quite right to characterise New Labour’s proposed remedies as “An addict returning to his drug”.

Brown’s extraordinary reliance on paid advisers from the merchant banks themselves to devise the way forward is laughable – not to mention the hideously unpleasant Baroness Vedera, one of the endless stream of democratically unaccountable Brown cronies parachuted into the Lords as ministers. And if one more penny of public money gets put into the banks without all bank bosses and staff being put on civil service pay rates, I am organising a tax strike.

Am in the middle of moving house, so no more from me until the end of the week.

View with comments