Daily archives: May 15, 2009

Petition The Queen To Dissolve Parliament and Summon a New One

Gordon Brown will not leave Downing St until the last permitted date, which is June 2010, and then will leave his fingernails in the carpet. It is no good petitioning him to resign.

It is becoming plain that all the political parties are clinging on to the speeding gravy train together and have reached a mutual agreement not to call for any of their number to resign as an MP, even if they give up the odd apointment.

This parliament has to go. We have to work with the unwritten constitution we have. The only person who can dissolve a parliament is the Queen.

The UK constitution constantly evolves. There is no recent precedent for the current total loss of public confidence in parliament. The constitution now needs to evolve to cope with the age of new media. Such a request if strongly supported would become an important political fact in itself.

This is not about whether or not you are a monarchist. (I am not). This is about channeling the unfocused public anger with Parliament into action.


(The language of the petition is respectful towards the Queen but not traditional. There is no language which would suit all shades of opinion on the monarchy. I know the Queen personally, enough to know she is not going to be insulted).

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Worse Than Expenses Fiddles: British Ministers Complicit In Torture

This is the uncorrected transcript of my evidence to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights

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I believe these excerpts give the key points in my evidence:

Q77 Chairman: To summarise where we are, we were not directly involved in torturing anybody in Uzbekistan, but effectively there was a chain that ended up with you in Tashkent via the CIA and MI6 in London. It is not like the allegations we have received regarding Pakistan, for example, where basically we are in the prison cell asking the questions and somebody may have been tortured. This is a much more remote chain of circumstances. Your argument is that because Uzbekistan is a country where torture is almost a way of life in that country evidence was being obtained by the CIA indirectly from the Uzbeks and then supplied to MI6 and the sum totality must have been known to ministers. Although we were not directly involved through that chain that is sufficient in your view to create an allegation of complicity by the UK in torture in Uzbekistan?

Mr Murray: I would agree with that.

Q78 Chairman: That is a summary of your case?

Mr Murray: I would add one point. My case is that because as an ambassador I was fortunately a member of the senior civil service and I was arguing against this I was able to be given high-level policy direction and be told that ministers had decided we would get intelligence from torture. The fact that ministers made that decision was the background to what was happening in Pakistan, for example. It is not that MI5 operatives were acting independently; they were pursuing a policy framework set ministerially.

Q79 Chairman: So, ministers specifically used the words “torture”, “evidence from the CIA” and “no questions: turn a blind eye”?

Mr Murray: Ministers certainly had before them and read my telegrams which said that this was torture and detailed the type of torture involved.

Q80 Chairman: What you just said was that ministers said it was okay to use torture?

Mr Murray: No; I think I said that ministers said it was okay to use intelligence from torture.

Q81 Chairman: Therefore, the inference is that it is not just turning a blind eye or “ask no questions, tell no lies”; it is specific knowledge?

Mr Murray: Nobody argued to me once that the Uzbek intelligence we were discussing did not come from torture; everyone accepted that it came from torture and the question was whether or not we accepted it. Nobody said that it was not actually torture.


Mr Murray: That is a reasonable way to express it. The telegrams that I wrote at the end of 2002 and beginning of 2003 were expressed quite specifically in terms of my concern that British government ministers were acting illegally by receiving this material under UNCAT. My telegrams said that the secretary of state might be acting illegally by being in receipt of that material.

Q77 Dr Harris: Can you clarify why you think they described those telegrams as unwise? You do not quote but say that they reported in that conversation that such sensitive questions were best not discussed on paper.

Mr Murray: It is always difficult to answer why somebody said something. You can say what they said, but obviously I am not inside their minds.

Q78 Dr Harris: Did you ask why?

Mr Murray: I would like to put this to you: two telegrams were sent by a British ambassador stating that the secretary of state might be acting illegally. I did not receive any written answer to those two telegrams. It would be extremely unusual for a Foreign Office ambassador to write back on any serious policy problem and not receive any reply from the department. To send two telegrams which actually allege illegality by your own secretary of state and not get a written refutation is quite extraordinary. Instead, I was summoned to a meeting at which I was told that these things were better not put in writing. I was able to get the Sir

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The Quality of MPs

We are increasingly hearing the argument from our MPs that if you pay rubbish, you will get rubbish.

There are two problems with that argument. The first is that Nadira and Cameron yesterday left the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, where the nurses and midwives are indeed paid rubbish, but were still absolutely brilliant.

They were motivated by something alien to so many of our MPs, a genuine care for people. They were also, for the most part, a standing rebuke to UKIP, BNP and others who knock immigrants and the role they play in our society.

The second and clinching argument is that our MPs have been looking after themselves extremely well, but they are for the most part of abysmal quality. (The same could be said of our top bankers).

In fact, the reverse of the argument is true. If you make it a gravy train, you get people who are primarily interested in gravy. Like Malik and Moran.

I was reminded forcibly on this when writing my recent post about Michael Foot. I noted that his biography of Byron, The Politics of Paradise, is one of my favourite books. He sat in a Parliament which contained scholars of the highest order. Enoch Powell, Robert Rhodes James, Roy Jenkins, Tony Crosland and Michael Foot are only some of the politicians of that generation who wrote books which retain academic authority. (Don’t choke. Powell was arguably the World’s leading authority on Herodotus).

In the current parliament I can only think of lowbrow effusions. Brown’s curious ghost-written monographs “On courage” are, I think, meant to point up his own courage in overcoming his (genuine) misfortunes. Michael Gove’s mad Melanie Phillips style anti-Islamic rants are astonishingly ill-researched and of no academic use except as a study in prejudice.

In fact for the vast majority of MP’s, it is hard to imagine them reading a book. let alone writing one.

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