Traditional New Year Thoughts 28

My blogging has been intermittent for the last few months, and this reflects a continued angst since the Norwich by-election about what I am doing, and why I am doing it. It is traditional to take stock at this time of year, so here are a few thoughts on 2009.

Two wonderful old radicals left us in 2009. Ed Teague and Gerard Mulholland both fell firmly into the “Cantankerous old git” category. Ed was well known in the blogosphere as Postman Patel:

Gerard didn’t run a blog but you found him all over the place:

I had some arguments with both of them, but continual interaction with both these larger than life personalities helped keep up my morale. I miss them.

Cameron’s arrival has been the most significant and wonderful event of the year. I am extraordinarily lucky to have Nadira, Jamie, Emily and Cameron, and that my first children have been not just accepting but loving of their new family. My home life is really happy.

I have no selfish need to take an interest in public policy. I derive no income from it – indeed it costs me money. I do it because I believe that politics is in the grip of a rapacious and warmongering elite who need to be countered. I have just finished reading Peter Oborne’s The Triumph of the Political Class, and I must recommend it as an essential work. His basic thesis that modern professional politicians are bereft of concern for the common good – of any but their own good – is devastatingly accurate.

Which brings us to the MPs’ expenses scandal. It is a symptom of an underlying rottenness in our politics, and it revealed for all to see just what kind of contemptible people so many of our politicians are. Which is why I hoped that the Norwich North by-election would provide an opportunity for the public to express their disgust at the party system by voting for an independent candidate.

I was by no means insistent that I should be the candidate – indeed as Ingo can testify, I put some effort into contacting other possible independent candidates who might do better. But the by-election showed that the political parties have an unbreakable grip on the electoral system – not least through their monopoly of media access.

In fact, independent candidates only ever win – or even score over 5% – when one or more of the major parties stands down in their favour. Only Reg Keys has made it over 10% as an independent against all parties, and my own Blackburn result was the second best.

The circumstances could hardly get more auspicious for an independent than they were in Norwich, with the expenses scandal plus all the main parties supporting an unpopular war. I cannot imagine the circumstances in which I would stand as an independent again. I am considering whether the only way to have any practical impact on politics in the UK is to join a political party.

The tremendous plus about the Norwich campaign was the wonderful group of people who turned up to help – both locally and from a distance. Ingo, Steve, Iain, Owen, Stuart, John, Duncan, Alan, Keith – I shouldn’t have started to list names as there are scores and those not mentioned will be disappointed. I am feeling guilty at not keeping in touch with everyone.

The Norwich result was the lowest point of the year for me – I really did think we would do better than that – perhaps equalled as worst by the moment when the nice Iranian couple left saying they just didn’t find me a very warm and welcoming person.

The Chilcot Inquiry has been deeply depressing, with his panel of carefully chosen Iraq War supporters failing to ask relevant questions of a stream of witnesses. It is of course more interesting to me than to many people, as I actually know a lot of the witnesses. Bill Patey, Jeremy Greenstock and Christopher Meyer I am sure would all have liked to say more, given the chance by the panel. Scarlett looked like Faust just before midnight. David Manning and John Sawers, on the other hand, were lying through their teeth throughout.

There were some high points. On the wall in my lounge is a rather striking photograph of Milan cathedral, which I took myself. I had stopped seeing it, through familiarity, but now it makes me smile several times a day. I wonder if the spire of Salisbury or the sheer weight of Durham would be best for Blair?

But we still have a political leadership of all important parties committed to continuing the disastrous occupation of Afghanistan and attacks on Pakistan. Universities are subject to philistine attack by Mandelson, while all “major” parties are committed to the ruinously expensive upgrading of the British paid arm of the US nuclear deterrent. British families all carry a huge burden of debt because their money has been given to the bankers; the full ramifications of that have not yet entered public consciousness. What political debate there is, takes place at a trivial level and the under-educated public are kept happy with a major overdose of manipulated “Reality TV”.

Blogging about it all is like throwing a banana at a nuclear explosion in an attempt to counteract the blast.

Happy New Year!

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28 thoughts on “Traditional New Year Thoughts

  • lwtc247

    Glad you mentioned Chilcot Craig. I was thinking that a summary of the year gone – as has become commonplace in the festive season, all without reference to pantomime, would have been rather how to say… missing something.

    I’ve heard it said in the past regarding rape victims ‘while in the process’, to just sit back and enjoy it. All(!) emcompassed in that expression seems strangely applicable.

  • The Judge


    Keep giving us your insights and your anger, if only as an essential counterweight to the lying pols and their embedded media.

    A satisfying 2010 to you all.

  • C T Russel

    The only time I have ever been arsed to vote was when you stood in the Norwich North by-election.

    Don’t keep beating yourself up over it.

  • Chumbawowonda

    Craig, I read, but don’t comment to often.

    Keep going, EXPOSE them !

    I’m not a rich man, but if you choose to stand again, contact me and I’ll donate to your campagin, enough for the deposit, hopefully.

  • Jaded.

    Being realistic, have you thought about joining UKIP? It’s our best shot to make the ‘initial break’ from this tyranny.

  • Richard Gadsden

    Craig, we in the Liberal Democrats would love to have you back. We’re not a perfect party, but there’s still a real group of liberal radicals here and we’d love to add your weight to ours.

    We got within 50 votes (ie we lost about 550-500) of getting a policy in favour of unlateral nuclear disarmament – and that was with Ming as leader, who was much more hostile than Nick is.

    Are we the old Liberal Party that both you and I were members of? No. But we’re a whole hell of a lot closer than anything else. The more people like you that join, the more likely we are to get that back.

  • Rob Lewis

    The Oborne book is indeed a cracker.

    Nick Davies’ media-focussed Flat Earth News overlaps slightly subject-wise and is just as good, should you have the time. It makes a great accompanying read.

  • lwtc247

    The Liberals, just like the Tories and just like NeoLabour have their biggest lobby group as being FRIENDS OF ISRAYHELL. I was sickened with the protoZionist rot on the LDFI website.

    I’m sure they would love to have you join the Liberal party.

    Whose that singing beautifully in the background. Oh, it’s Jenny Tongue.

    Craig I appeal to you not to join ANY party where the Israyhelli lobby has ANY influence, and certainly not a party that has a strong influence like ‘the big three’. If you do decide to join one of them please research their Israyhelii lobby.

    Why not form a coalition party of ALL independents whereby each candidate is a member of the party (for recognition and media purposes) yet the constitution of the party ensures no hierarchy can impost its will on members i.e. a whip-less party.

    I like the idea of that.

    One last thing. Independents have won before. Galloway was essentially an independent. Martin Bell was certainly an independent. They can win you know.

    If you want to stand again, and I really think you should learn from your mistakes.

    1) Get yourself a bout a bit more. The Criminalise war Conference and Global Peace Perdana (Malaysia) and Iraq war international tribunals are excellent platforms for the world to get to know you ?” I still think you are too low profile. You can get endorsement from dear people like Cynthia McKinney, Dr Mahatir Mohammed, Denis Halliday, Hans Von Sponeck Dirk Adriaensens, Hana Bayaty, Michel Chossudovsky, John Pilger, Dhar Jamal, Chomsky, Paul Craig Roberts etc…

    2) Begin campaigning LONG before the election is called. There is a reason why ‘snap’ elections occur ?” to snap people like you! I’m sure if you had a decent preparation more of the your readers would have been able to get through to the public better.

    3) Choose a constituency that is looking for someone like you to represent them, like Galloways supporters were looking in Bow and Bethnal Green.

    4) Get your independent funding channel open EARLY ?” you left it FAR too late!

    5) The DVD was a good idea. Build on that.

    6) Do the rounds on whatever decent media you can. Dance with the devil and push further with MSM. Standing beside daleks as a form of protest was silly, banging on the doors and bursting onto the stage was probably a much better tactic.

    7) Made a documentary about the state of Britain and your experience in the FO. It will go global.

    It’s just a pity the strength of ones argument plays only a minor role in whether one is elected. It should be, but it isn’t ?” not by a long chalk.

  • Barbara

    Craig, I was covering the Norwich North by-election for HOPE not hate, and enjoyed your campaign, particularly the way you spoke at Norwich City Hall hustings.

    You were applauded for your remarks on Afghanistan, but on the whole the people of Norwich North that I spoke to would have preferred some indication that you were familiar with local issues. What were your positions on local education, health, pensions, taxes, transport, industries? Nobody really knew, and you cannot keep blaming the BBC for that.

  • Martin Budden

    Bob Dylan has some questions that should be asked at the Chilcot Inquiry:

    “…How much do I know

    To talk out of turn

    You might say that I’m young

    You might say I’m unlearned

    But there’s one thing I know

    Though I’m younger than you

    That even Jesus would never

    Forgive what you do.

    Let me ask you one question

    Is your money that good

    Will it buy you forgiveness

    Do you think that it could

    I think you will find

    When your death takes its toll

    All the money you made

    Will never buy back your soul…”

    The song is worth revisiting in current times. You can listen to it at:

    It won’t cheer you up, but it may help you take stock.

  • Craig


    fair point, except that those are the questions the BBC locally should have been asking me, then you would know the answers. I seem to recall answering questions on a very wide range of issues at the City Hall meeting and the eleven other public meetings I did.

  • kathz

    As a friend of Gerard Mulholland, I know he’d have been pleased that you mentioned him in your blog. While he didn’t always agree with you, he admired your courage and the stand you take on human rights. As you must know, he frequently drew attention to your blog in communications with friends all over the world.

    I hope you continue to campaign – and happy new year to you and your family.

  • Anonymous

    I would love you to stand and win. I can’t imagine a better man to have in Westminster.

    But seriously, you need to find some better pictures of yourself and market yourself better (erm, yeah, I know – that sounds like ‘spin’).

    You just didn’t ‘feel’ like a potential MP – and, sadly, most people are voting on some random picture/poster/sound bite rather than the actual policies.

  • Bugger (The Panda)

    wonder if the spire of Salisbury or the sheer weight of Durham would be best for Blair?

    Durham would seem appropriate and as for weight, only in a stoning. Rather a propos I would think for a true keffir?

  • Ingo

    I took the opportunity to thank the office staff yesterday for indulging us with their acceptance, a motly crew of helpers from some ten different countries, all supporting your effort. Stuart was not there, I shall ring him today.

    When I first stood for the Greens, I got a paltry 34 votes, your entrance into the Norwich cauldron was an adequate percentage, we tried our best to cut through all that bias.

    Barbara, you could not possibly know how much we were shunned by media bias, especially the BBC, which specifically excluded us from the education debate at the Norman centre, with the kanivance of Rupert Read, a fellow UCLU member and candidate who stood by and said nothing in support of a free and open debate. They also excluded us from another TV debate at the Magdalen Street studio, they knew that if Craig would get wider coverage, that he would throw a spanner in the works and get the popular vote, the Greens would not have done as well as they have.

    Richard Gadsden, the Lib dems are closer to the Greens than the Conservatives ever will be and strenuous efforts should be made to agree on a ten point pre election coalition plan, offering the british -public a real third choice. I would not advise anyone to side with a Europhobic UKIP. The lunbacy of Greens standing against Norman Lamb, a decent MP who’s done a splendid job, will let the Conservative take this seat again and if both the Grens and Lib Dems want PR , then they both have to get used to coalitions and the required accomodations.

    I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those international helpers for their hard work in Norwich North, it was dleightfull to meet you all and engage in some intelligent debates.

    Yes I did forget the nomination papers on the bus, too eager to read the papers about the opponents campaign, sadly the First bus company and its employees did not feel fit to recover them, instead they gave the info to the UKIP. It took me merely three hours to get a new set of signatures and with a day to spare, it was not the calamity its was made out to be.

    I would like to take this opportunity to thank Craig and his wife, children and friends for making us all feel at home in the cam-paign, at times it must have been hard.

    I loved the little interactions with young Cameron, he has an extraordinary ability to talk with his eyes and I hope that one day I will see him again, he must be getting big now.

    lastly, sorry for this epic, I want to wish you all a happy new year by saying’ guten rutsch ins neue Jahr’

    keep happy and healthy, nowt matters more.

  • Mike Cobley

    Good to see you back on the blogtrail, Craig. I can understand why you might think that blogging is like throwing a banana, but the upside is that a blog allows you to say what has to be said.

    Here’s a GK Chesterton quote for you – “The world will never be safe for democracy – it is a dangerous trade.” – and a story. Many a moon ago I was living in Hillhead, Glasgow, and was a member of the SDP just prior to Roy Jenkins winning the Hillhead seat. After the merger with the Liberal party the Hillhead local party held a do (might have been the Xmas beano-banquet) at which the guest of honour was Woy hisself. It fell to me to sort out the layout and printing of copies of the menu for all the table placings, and on the menu, in a flash of inspiration, I put the above quotation. At the event, during the speeches before the meal, RJ mentioned my inserted quotation and then went on to deliver a great extempore speech on that theme.

    Well, it is now many years on from then and I am still a member of the Liberal Democrats. However, I find my own position increasingly divergent from some of the Clegg leadership’s policies (eg Afghanistan, or the stealth privatisation of the NHS, or utility prices, or that whole RMail debacle, or UK foreign policy as an adjunct of Washington’s global scheming). Its become increasingly clear that Clegg needs to be shifted, that the party has a responsibility and a duty to present to the people a genuine left-of-centre alternative to that of the Business Party (acting thru its pink and blue wings).

    Anyway, while I can echo Richard Gadsden above, I must point out that the name of the party is the Liberal Democrats – NOT the Liberal party of old. Personally I think of myself as a social democrat – no, wait, I’ll be honest, I am a radical democrat, in that I can defend democracy from attack no matter what direction the attack comes from. To me, government and its bureacracy is a tool to be used, not a boogyman to be defanged and dismantled. We musn’t forget that, ideally, the government IS us. After all, what other institution has the power to resist the arrogant, overweening influence of transnational corporations?

    I’ll end this with another quote, by Henry Rollins who said that he didn’t think that democracy is dead – “I’ll be giving it mouth-to-mouth till the day I die.” Yeah, that just about nails it.

    Have a great new year, Craig, and may you and yours have a better 2010.

  • Chris Dooley

    Chin up Craig. If enough people throw a banana at that blast, then maybe it will be deflected. Your blog is one of the best sources of learning how to throw the banana correctly.

    May 2010 bring all that you wish, for you and your family.

  • Abe Rene

    Peter Oborne makes the important and sobering point that the prevailing political political class are not better than the people they serve. Which raises the question: what are the qualifications and virtues required of politicians, and how should the culture of society be influenced or transformed, so that politicians possessing them are more likely to be elected?

  • Al

    Please keep blogging. You are so well-informed, as well as being right-on. You are a really great help (to the slow but inevitable process of evolution).

    Happy New Year!

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