Iain Dale’s Bracknell Campaign 46

If I were a resident of Bracknell, I would not vote in the Tory Open Primary as I think the concept of choosing candidates of your political opponents is silly. Taken as given that I am not a Conservative and disagree with him on many points, I would hope that they choose Iain Dale, who is harmless by Tory standards and can be fun.

One person I would not vote for is the crusading neo-Conservative Rory Stewart. It is particularly annoying that he is constantly referred to as a former diplomat. Stewart was an MI6 officer and not a member of the FCO.

Three years ago I received a message from the FCO asking me not to mention this as, at that time, Stewart was still very active for MI6 in Afghanistan and his life could have been endangered. I agreed, and even removed a reference from my blog. However now that he is safely and lucratively ensconsed at Harvard, I see no reason to conceal the truth. I is necessary to reveal this so that people can correctly evaluate his political pronouncements on Iraq and Afghanistan, and his motives in making them.

In putting himself forward for election, Stewart has forfeited the right to conceal his background from the electorate.

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46 thoughts on “Iain Dale’s Bracknell Campaign

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  • James D

    I think you underestimate the good someone like Iain can do. He’s not just “harmless”, although that’s a good quality for any politician to have.

    Interesting that Mr Stewart is lying to his selectorate. That’s just not decent.

  • corelad

    Interesting comment on Rory Stewart. About a year ago I met a high ranking ex-SAS officer and brought up Rory Stewart’s name as someone with an interesting perspective on Iraq and Afghanistan. The ex-officer was absolutely dismissive, making the bald retort, “he’s a spook”. I was taken aback and somewhat disbelieving but your post confirms my acquaintances comment.

  • Craig


    Your acquaintance was right. Let me confirm I am speaking from certain knowledge and not speculating. He is MI6.

  • Craig


    you know jolly well that different governments have their own interests and agendas. The spooks especially. To pretend otherwise is silly.


    I think you can expect genuine human rights enthusiasts like me to be legitimately sickened by the appointment of Stewart to head Harvard’s human rights unit – from the service that brought torture back into British public policy.

  • Morus

    But Craig, isn’t that a Private-Eye-esque “guilt by association” attack? Unless you have evidence that Stewart was somehow complicit in torture, then MI6’s alleged use of it is irrelevant in him being given the job at Harvard.

    I am not supporting Stewart, but it is unreasonable to damn someone for what their organisation may have done when they were a member. You were, as an ambassador, employed by the FCO until 2005 or so but it would be wrong for me to hold you responsible for British policy towards Iraq in 2002/03.

    If you have reasons that he personally shouldn’t hold the Harvard post, then I’d be interested to hear them, but the case you make in your reply to Plato is, I think, weak.

  • Craig

    Morus -0

    Well, except that I left the FCO in protest against these policies and I outed them. Stewart has not done so, and worked for the occupations in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

  • Duncan McFarlane

    I’m surprised to hear that about Rory Stewart. His book “Occupational Hazards” didnt give me the impression he was a neo-con and the couple of articles i’ve read by him on Afghanistan and Iraq, while i didn’t agree with them entirely, seemed a lot more reasonable than the Bush or Blair approach. I could be wrong though.

  • Duncan McFarlane

    As for Iain Dale, he seems to have no knowledge whatsoever of what Conservative or Labour policies in government have been, no new ideas and nothing of any real importance to say. He’s one of the most boring ‘political commentators’ alive and I don’t understand why anyone would bother to read his blog much less give him any airtime on the BBC or anywhere else (though i suppose the BBC is just a mouthpiece for the two main parties, as its purging over daring to report Kelly, a globally acknowledged expert on WMD, trashing the propaganda line on Iraq, shows. The empty justification was that Gilligan didn’t quote Kelly’s exact words – even though he didn’t change the meaning of what Kelly said at all)

  • Watching Them, Watching Us

    “Three years ago I received a message from the FCO asking me not to mention this as, at that time, Stewart was still very active for MI6 in Afghanistan and his life could have been endangered. I agreed, and even removed a reference from my blog.”

    Are you therefore partly responsible for this Labour government’s recent controversial amendment to the Terrorism Act 2000, which also applies to *former* members of SIS / MI6 ?


    “58A Eliciting, publishing or communicating information about members of armed forces etc

    (1) A person commits an offence who?”

    (a) elicits or attempts to elicit information about an individual who is or has been?”

    (i) a member of Her Majesty’s forces,

    (ii) a member of any of the intelligence services, or

    (iii) a constable,

    which is of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism, or

    (b) publishes or communicates any such information.

    (2) It is a defence for a person charged with an offence under this section to prove that they had a reasonable excuse for their action.”

  • Morus

    Craig – thanks for the response.

    That was sort of my point thought – you were at the FCO during the Iraq War, but left afterwards and now campaign against it.

    On your account, Stewart was a member of an organisation which may have engaged in human rights abuses, but left and now works for a Human Rights organisation.

    You have chosen to be very open in your repudiation of your previous employer’s conduct – I imagine the bond of secrecy imposed when leaving the Secret Service does not permit him the same licence.

    It may be your view that, if the Iraq War (involving killing many civilians etc) was itself an abuse of human rights, then anyone (like Stewart) who supports it is unsuitable for the job.

    I disagree (plenty of people who cared about human rights supported Iraq whilst recognising Blair and Bush were not acting virtuously, but wanted Saddam gone at all costs), but can accept that point of view.

    However, that is very different to the case you made in your comment – that he was unsuitable because he had worked for MI6, which may have done wrong.

    If Stewart is unsuitable for that job for some personal reason, I’d be open to hearing your take on it, but I’d want to be clearer on your reasons, and I’m loathe to accept it simply because he either worked for an organisation where people did bad things (which of us could survive that test) or because he supported the Iraq War (I’m assuming there’s at least some nuance as to why he did).

    Is that fair?



  • S

    Out of interest, do you also disagree with the policy preventing the disclosure of present, former and even dead members of the special forces?

  • Craig


    I didn’t leave after I left during, which is different. Amd I did everything I could internally to expose the excesses of the War on Terror – Stewart did not. He was not working quietly in Belguim or somewhere, but in Afghanistan. If you knew what MI6 are complicit in in Baghram your hairs would stand.


    I don’t think you should lightly “out” people engaged in covert activity, for a number of reasons. But when they seek to engage in the political process without telling the truth about their backgrounds, that is a different thing.

    I don’t quite see why the fuss. Everybody knows that Paddy Ashdown is ex MI6.

  • Ed

    Think it is quite fair for Rory Stewart’s background to be revealed if he wants to run for public office – at the very least, it seems obvious voters should know whether he is still in the pay of MI6.

    But interesting news nonetheless – whilst I enjoyed “The Places in Between”, the idea that Stewart suddenly developed a passion for Central Asian archeology and set up a foundation in Kabul to this end seemed very fishy. So thank you for confirming my suspicions.

  • alan campbell

    Oh come on Craig, you’re just jealous because he’s sexier, writes like an angel, and has a more interesting tale to tell than you.

  • Craig


    i accept the sexier. For the rest, have you actually read both his books and both my books? 🙂

  • stephen

    So you don’t want the military or intelligence officers involved in Iraq or Afghanistan. So what exactly would you do to deal with militant Islamists who perhaps don’t have as many qualms about operating across borders.

    You have made it pretty clear what you consider unaccdeptable – but perhaps you should give a little more thought as to what are legitimate ways of dealing with the problem – or perhaps you don’t believe that there is any problem?

  • alan campbell

    Funnily enough, I have. Well actually both of yours and one of his. And I enjoyed all three. But he’s hardly a foaming, swivel-eyed loon. A bit odd, perhaps. But more Thesiger than Cheney.

  • Will

    Craig – I respect your decision and reasons to out him. However I think your characterisation of him as a neo-con is to misrepresent his position – I’m currently taking his class on ‘war, states and intervention’ at harvard and have found his approach challenging and deeply sceptical of the Western interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Just watch him giving evidence on capital hill. He is one of the sharpest thinkers of his generation and (even if I disagree with him on much, and he’s a tory) he would be a great asset to parliament.

  • Craig


    He appears to me to support both wars, but want them done differently. In particular, in Afghanistan he seems to want us to commit less western troops and to supply the warlords, principally Dostum and the Northern Alliance. Which is hardly compatible with an interest in human rights…

    If you have a different impression of his views, genuinely interested to hear.

    I have no objection to his standing for election. I just think he should be honest about who he is.

    Stephen, I don’t think we should have attacked Iraq or invaded Afghanistan. I think we are creating terrorism as a result, not suppressing it.

  • stephen

    But there was Islamic terrorism before we attacked Iraq or invaded Afghanistan – and whatever the impact of those actions on its level it still exists and has to be dealt with. You seem to want to rule out the use of intelligence to deal with the problem as well as military means – so what do you want to do instead.

    I wouldn’t start from here doesn’t really answer anything.

  • Jeannie Armstrong

    By posting this you are acting as a traitor to my country and show yourself to be a hindrance not a help to our national security and to individuals working for us.

    You should be arrested and put somewhere where you can’t damage national security.


  • derek

    Jeannie Armstrong @3:32 pm

    And Dick Cheney outed Valerie Plame as a serving CIA agent.

    What would you like to do to him?

  • Craig


    There were no really major incidents of Islamic terrorism in Western Europe before we invaded Iraq.

    Of course there is a terrorist threat and of couse intelligence is important to countering it. Which is why it is a terrible shame that MI6 got into deliberately crediting false intelligence, and collusion with torture. The two being obviously linked.

    Jeannie Armstrong

    How precisely has national security been endangered?

  • Caroline Gurney

    As a former member of the Dip Service I am disgusted that you have done this. You know perfectly well that by outing a member of MI6 you endanger not the officer himself but the foreign nationals with whom he has worked in a variety of countries over the years. As someone who once served behind the Iron Curtain, I know how serious that can be.

  • stephen

    So you agree intelligence is important to countering terrorism? So as well as the inappropriate activities that MI6 carry out which you detail – it follows logically that they may also be undertaking some legitimate ones?

    If this is the case – then your naming of Stewart is pretty despicable I’m afraid. It isn’t fair to tar all MI6 officers with the same brush. My all means highlight proper evidence of wrongdoing – but this isn’t right.

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