Monthly archives: March 2010

Let Blair Pay For His Own Protection

The newspapers today carry the unsurprising news that Blair’s business affairs are routed through a multiplicity of companies operating in tax havens. He is raking in over £5 million per year, aside from his official job of chief Zionist – sorry, I mean Middle East Peace Envoy.

But I was more struck by the information in Michael White’s Blair puff piece that, before his arrival in the Sedgefield constituency yesterday, six policemen blocked off the roads around the venue with trafic cones.

Why? I am not making a petty or petulant point, I mean it. Why? This was a Labour Party event, not a government event. Blair holds no executive office in this country. The election has not been called. Even if it had been, he is not a candidate. Why do the police cone off the roads for a Blair New Labour speech?

How much did the six policemen cost? And they were just the bottom of the pile, the road coning bobbies. Blair arrived in a huge entourage of cars, at least some of which were taxpayer provided. There was a large police car and motorcycle escort. Not to mention the close protection officers. How much did all that cost?

Thatcher and Major move around with no blues and twos and a single close protection officer when required. The Duke of Edinburgh moves around privately with much less security than Blair. As a taxpayer I object fundamentally to footing the bill for protecting this war criminal. He should get a single close protection officer and fund anything else himself. He can certainly afford it.

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The Incredibly Talentless Patrick Wintour

It is amazing just how far you can get with the right family connections plus a slavish devotion to licking the arse of the powers that be. Ladies and gentleman, I give you Patrick Wintour, as talentless a piece of servile scum as ever disgraced the once fine profession of journailsm.

Here we have quite possibly the worst piece of political journalism in British history. Even given that it is supposed to be a puff piece by someone as openly critical of New Labour as Himmler was of Hitler, it is pathetic. What information precisely is it meant to convey?

The astonishing thing is that the completely intellect free Wintour is actually the political editor of the Guardian. I get so angry about the Guardian because it was once – within my lifetime – truly a great newspaper.

I offer £100 cash to anyone who can show me a piece of genuine journalism by Wintour – and to make it fair, commenters on the blog can vote whether it is genuine or not. On the debit side, allow me m’lud to enter this atrocious Blair apologia:

Tony Blair to tell Chilcot inquiry: war stopped Saddam building WMDsFormer PM expected to tell inquiry that without military action Saddam would have built WMD using the team of scientists he had assembled for the task

Not a single word of scepticism about the bonkers Blair narrative from Wintour.

In fact, I should be fascinated to know if anyone can unearth any evidence that lickarse Wintour has ever asked any New Labour politician a sensibly critical question.

Why precisely is Wintour’s £220k a year salary and expenses paid by the C P Scott trust and not by New Labour?

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That Cameron Gay Gaffe

David Cameron’s hilarious fight against his better self on gay rights issues was wonderful entertainment. But the cause of his embarassment was not really gay rights, but Europe.

Cameron’s decision that in the European Parliament the Tories whould ally with the far right homophobe and racist grouping centred on Poland and the Baltic Republics, was always going to be a timebomb. Persecuting homosexuals in Eastern Europe was entirely predictable as the issue which would trigger it. Thoroughly deserved.

What kind of party can’t ally any more with the parties of Angela Merkel, Jacques Chirac and Silvio Berlusconi because they are too left wing? If that question doesn’t give pause to any sensible person considering voting Tory, then I don’t know what will.

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Class Does Matter – And Should

The media and political classes like to tell us that we are now a classless society. Class should no longer be a factor in politics. Measures aimed at fairness are a sign of “the politics of envy”. Everybody should realise that fatcat bankers stashing away their £100 million pa incomes in tax havens magically benefit everybody.

Yet of course class does exist and really does matter. For a lesson in class in Britain I only have to walk out of leaf lined Whitehall Gardens, down the hill and into the South Acton estate. Four hundred yards but an entirely different world. With entirely different voting patterns, too. Class remains an important factor in the election. The working class – much of which has no prospect of work – still clings to New Labour.

Not only does class matter, it is more rigid than ever. The UK has the lowest social mobility of any developed country.

It also has the biggest gap between rich and poor of any developed country except the United States. The gap between wealth and poor grew larger under New Labour at an accelerating rate. In fact we are catching the US up, and the wealth gap under New Labour grew much faster than under Thatcher, indeed at the fastest rate since it has been possible to measure it. When Mandelson said he was “Extremely relaxed about the filthy rich” he really meant it. The government’s enslavement to the city, deregulation and worship of Mammon has had spectacular ill results.

This lack of social mobility is a product of social attitude as much as structure. Anybody who has moved around the higher echelons of the City and of government will know that there is a nexus of family, school, and Oxbridge college relationships that greases the path of commercial and political transaction. Similar systems work in every country, but it is stronger here. To get the finance for my African project, I used the services of a man whose entire value was that he was at Oxford, a minor aristocrat, dines at the Wolseley and knows everybody. He could get me in the door of the merchant banks and seen at decision making level. He had no other qualification and had never done any succesful business himself. He lives off introduction fees. Others are able to make better use of their opportunities but I tell the story to illustrate a simple truth about this country. It is who you know that counts.

With such a huge wealth gap and with almost no social mobility, class resentment in the UK is not just natural, it is needed. The irony is that it is the Conservatives who are set to suffer and New Labour to benefit. The only desire of the New Labour leadership was to insert themselves into the gilded circle – into which Blair was anyway born – and get troughing. But New Labour voters still do not see that, not least because they are kept in such a pit of poorly schooled, reality TV-fed ignorance.

Cameron has made the crucial mistake of surrounding himself with fellow toffs. Thatcher was not one and had Tebbit as her self evidently non upper class attack dog. Major was not one either and was backed up by blokey Ken Clarke. I can only imagine that Cameron surrounded himself by an entire front bench of public school yaahs because that is the company in which he feels comfortable. But most people like their subservience to a ruling class they cannot join not to be rubbed in their faces quite so obviously.

Huge puzzlement is being expressed all over the media and blogosphere about how the Tory lead can have narrowed so much. There is your answer.

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Hoon Kicked Out of NATO

Not only were MPs lining up to sell their parliamentary influence to the highest bidder on the recent Dispatches programme. Geoff Hoon offered to sell to defence companies inside knowledge of future defence trends from his insider position as a member of a NATO advisory committee – and to help US defence companies take over European ones.

It is modestly comforting to see that Hoon has now been unceremoniously kicked out by NATO.

The problem of course is that this kind of corrupt influence peddling goes on all the time, and will in general be neither delayed nor dented. Our politics are deeply sick – Hoon is but a particularly repulsive symptom.

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Newsnight Spoiler: Islam Channel Islamic Propagandists Shock Horror!!

With support for the ludicrous occupation of Afghanistan flagging, government efforts to ramp up Islamophobia become ncreasingly febrile. Now we have the deeply unlovely taxpayer funded Quilliam Foundation

being paid by Newsnight to produce a piece exposing the Islam Channel as a biased and unbalanced source of Islamic propaganda. It will be hitting our screens sometime in the next week.

I am really glad the government funds the Quilliam Foundation. Without their sterling work, we might all have been taken in – I am sure that I for one thought the Islam Channel was Movies for Men plus one hour.

Just as with Andrew Gilligan’s execrable piece on the East London Mosque,

I have no doubt that we will learn that the Islam Channel contains people who are homophobic, have regressive views about women, want to impose sharia law on the UK, etc.

Nobody deplores theocratic government more than I do. Faith may motivate individuals but religious dogma should not be imposed on society. But many good Muslims believe that, for the proper order of society, the laws established by Mohammed to govern Medina 1500 years ago should be imposed universally now.

They are quite entitled to believe that, just as I am quite entitled to disagree. Probably a majority of British Muslims would agree with Quilliam that precise laws need to be updated for modern times and maybe it is unrealistic anyway to want to impose Islamic law in a country with 3% Muslims. But some deeply religious Muslims want to proselytise and impose, just as Livingstone wanted to impart Christianity and Christian values on an Africa where Christians were at the time a tiny minority. We are more than entitled to think they are wrong, but the proponents of sharia law are in their own eyes trying to save us from our sins.

What we have seen in the “War on Terror” is a growing intolerance of this Islamic proselytising, and increasing efforts to ban groups or outlaw activity which seeks to campaign for fundamentalist Islam. Yet at the same time we are urging young Muslims to eschew political violence and engage in the political process. If we forbid the outlet of political organisation and activity such as campaigning and broadcasting to the tiny groups of extreme Muslims, we grant them more publicity than they merit (as Newsnight is about to) and appear to justify those among them who argue that there is no freedom in the West and the way forward is violence.

Still there’s good money in it for the Quilliam Foundation and hacks like Gilligan. And it all feeds in to the ridiculous line that killing Afghan civilians keeps us safe in the UK.

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The Budget

That was such a damp squib it is hard to find the energy to discuss it. The usual New Labour con, built on wildly optimistic growth forecasts. Their budget growth forecast for 2009 proved in fact an astonishig 1.9% too optimistic.

Yes, we should be tackiling the budget deficit now.

The budget in fact did very little, and was much more notable for what it did not do. Nothing at all to split high street from casino banking, nothing to stop banks paying over 70% of their profits to their fatcats in good years and then expecting the taxpayer to fund them in bad years.

Tax information agreements with tax havens are a good thing, but would not normally merit a mention in the budget statement. The fact that the big government benches cheer came from an irrelevant attack on Lord Ashcroft – in what is meant to be the national budget, for God’s sake – reflected just how tawdry this government is and how cheap our politics have become.

What elese was tawdry? Announcement of £270 million to universities to fund “20,000 more students” when the universities were told a couple of weeks ago their budgets were cut £250 million for “efficiency savings”. Net result – universities are supposed somehow to educate 20,000 more students for nothing.

More tawdry gimmicks – announcement of £60 million to fund loans for renewable energy industry infrastructure development, especially wind turbines, when the government had just let the actual Vestas wind turbine plant go bust for lack of £20 million. Most tawdry of all? The plan to raise money and boost the government’s banker mates by selling the student loan portfolio to the private sector.

I could go on, but I can’t be bothered. Sickening.

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Netanyahu’s Lies About Jerusalem’s History

Netanyahu’s speech to a frenzied mob of crazed American Zionists was quite appalling to behold. Juan Cole dissects with a steely brilliance Netanyahu’s wildly unhistorical claims. This should be compulsory reading for all people interested in politics anywhere:

Netanyahu mixed together Romantic-nationalist cliches with a series of historically false assertions. But even more important was everything he left out of the history, and his citation of his warped and inaccurate history instead of considering laws, rights or common human decency toward others not of his ethnic group.

So here are the reasons that Netanyahu is profoundly wrong, and East Jerusalem does not belong to him.

What modern Israel most closely resembles is apartheid South Africa. Those who deny that Israel is a racist state should read this – just one of hundreds of thousands of such personal stories:

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Mossad Murder Forgery Statement

Miliband did his level best today, in his parliamentary statement on the expulsion of the Israeli “diplomat” over forged British passports, to avoid mentioning the murder in Dubai at all. For those who criticised my decision to rejoin the Lib-Dems as “Zionist”, I point out that it was Lib Dem spokesman Ed Davey who first introduced the oppression of the Palestinians of Gaza into the debate.

William Hague also deserves congratulations for pointing out that formal assurances given by Israel in 1987 that such document forgery would never happen again, had been broken. He failed to press home the obvious point that it was therefore otiose of Miliband to ask for a further such assurance now. But in general the Tories have been less blindly pro-Zionist than Labour. I still recall the passion of David Mellor when an FCO minister, on seeing the suffering of Palestinians at first hand. There was a man with the same approach diplomatic as me!

Which brings me back on a stream of consciousness to the moment a few weeks ago that started me towards rejoining the Lib Dems.

Nick Clegg was speaking at Prime Minister’s questions in disgust that Kraft’s takeover of Cadbury was financed by a massive loan from the British taxpayer owned Royal Bank of Scotland. Clegg was visibly moved by real passion on the issue – a feeling I share. The sight of an MP moved by real emotion about the national interest, as opposed to how to make money for himself from expenses and consultancies, was viewed as so risible by both Tory and Labour MPs that they sought to drown him out with catcalls and gusts of forced laughter.

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Civil War Certain as “Afghan National Army” Now Over 60% Tajik

There are any number of “Big lies” put forward by the USA in Afghanistan and slavishly repeated by our politicians and media. Here are a few of the “Big lies”:

– The Karzai government is democratically elected

– The Afghan anti-occupation fighters are all Taliban supporters

– Most opium is produced in Taliban controlled areas

– Women’s rights are now respected in Afghanistan

But I want today to tackle this particular “Big lie”:

– The Afghan National Army is ethnically balanced.

There has been a consistent parroting by the Western media of the line that NATO troops operate “in support of” the Afghan National Army, and that this is a genuine force reflecting the whole nation. This propaganda has gone as far as releasing falsified figures of the ethnic composition of the Afghan National Army. These false figures have reflected the “Eikenberry Rule” set out by the Americans.

Under General Karl Eikenberry’s rule, the Afghan army should be 38 percent Pashtun, 25 percent Tajik, 19 percent Hazara and eight percent Uzbek. That would bring it much closer to reflecting the nation’s ethnic composition.

But a very concerned serving British officer of some seniority has just leaked to me that the truth is that the Afghan National Army is now over 60% Tajik, and that figure is increasing. The Pashtun figure is hovering below 20% and may have been overtaken by the Uzbeks.

In other words the “Afghan National Army” is just the Northern Alliance in very expensive NATO provided uniforms.

By carrying the northern alliance with our troops into the solid Pashtun tribal areas as an alien occupying force, we are stoking still further the ferocity of a future civil war. Karzai of course will be safe in Switzerland counting his looted cash by then.

Don’t expect to see this in the mainstream media any time soon. Instead you will hear the “Eikenberry rule” figures repeated as if they were reality rather than a spectacularly failed target.

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On Being A Liberal Democrat

In my week without blogging, sorting out much personal detritus, I have been taking stock of the past and contemplating the future.

I have decided to rejoin the Liberal Democrats. I know that will disappoint some readers, but as I said after Norwich North, I was forced to conclude that it was impossible to make any worthwhile impact as an independent in British politics. No matter how good a candidate you are, and no matter how hard you and your supporters campaign, the combination of voter party loyalties and media exclusion are killing. Indeed, I find I get much more media exposure when I am not a candidate.

Politics is about the governance of society, and that entails people working together and collaborating their views. It is by definition a social pursuit, so to attempt to pursue it entirely alone to avoid compromising any of your opinions is not politics but futility. Why should I ever expect anybody to agree with me on absolutely every point? Probably nobody genuinely agrees with absolutely every word of the programme of any political party.

I was a member of the National Council of the Liberal Party when I was just sixteen years old. I was in student politics as a Liberal then a Lib Dem, and remained a party member right up until I stood against Jack Straw as an indpendent in Blackburn. I wanted to stand against Straw to highlight hs role in rendition and torture, and would have stood against him as a Lib Dem given the chance.

I am very sad that under Clegg the Lib Dems have not come out more strongly against the Afghan War and against replacing Trident. There is a disconnect here between the party leadership and the members. I spoke to a fringe meeting at the Scottish Lib Dem conference in Dunfermline in November. We took a straw poll after my talk, and out of forty five only two were against immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan – which was less that the number of MPs and MSPs present.

I have never made any bones about my strong support for Scottish independence, and on this issue as well as on Trident and on Afghanistan it is my intention to try to influence Lib Dem policy. I am very attracted by the Lib Dem proposal of a £10,000 tax allowance, to be paid for by a tax on houses worth over £2 million and by raising the rate of Capital Gains Tax to equal the rate of income tax paid by the individual benefiting.

That is a far more radical and egalitarian proposal than anything New Labour have on offer, and would enormously benefit the less well off, make work more attractive against benefits and stimulate the domestic economy through consumer demand.

So I shall not be standing in the general election, but will be actively campaigning for the Lib Dems. That does not indicate any hostility at all towards the Greens, SNP, Plaid Cymru or Respect, all of whom I hope do well.

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New Labour Bastards

I shall watch Dispatches tonight to see yet more evidence that New Labour epitomise the takeover of British politics by those simply seeking personal financial gain through promoting corporate interests.

But none of it compares in horror to Blair’s multi millions, made especially from those whose interests he forwarded in Iraq by the horrible deaths of hundreds of thousands.

If anything can have been more sickening that that, it was Brown’s thwarting of government controls over hedge funds and prtivate equity bubbles that cost ordinary taxpayers billions, put thosands out of work and make a small number in the City of London mega-rich.

I cannot for the life of me conceive how anybody in their right mind, other than their corporate backers, can even consider voting New Labour, let alone the working people whose hopes they have betrayed.

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A Life Saved

The good news is that Alisher Khakimjanov was granted asylum by a judge yesterday after being refused by the Home Office and scheduled for deportation to Uzbekistan.

One interesting facet of the original Home Office decision was that they explicitly stated that they would not accept evidence from opponents of the Uzbek regime – including me – as it is not “Objective”.

Whereas evidence from the Uzbek regime itself and its supporters is objective, according to the Home Office.

I am involved in another case which has been refused by both Home Office and judge and which is now going to the European Court of Human Rights. In that case the Home Office states that the British Embassy has consulted a Tashkent law firm who say there is no human rights problem in Uzbekistan.

This is the equivalent of “We have taken advice from a Berlin law firm who say that there is no danger to individuals from Herr Hitler and his government”. I am genuinely stupefied by the refusal of the Home Office to accept what the entire world knows is the nature of the Uzbek regime. I actually have sympathy for the argument that many asylum seekers from many countries are economic migrants with weak claims. But the tiny number – less than 50 – of Uzbek asylum seekers who have escaped (Uzbekistan still has exit visas) and made it here, are victims of blind unreasoned Home Office hostility.

The policy is so unreasonable I can only believe it is conditioned by our desire to butter up Karimov to maintain the military alliance with him over Afghanistan. This is yet another terrible shame on this British government, which has betrayed in so many ways the many good people who built up the Labour Party.

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A La Recherche Du Temps Perdu

I haven’t been taken ill, or shut down by unfriendly fire from governments or lawyers.

In 2003 my life collapsed around my ears; I was hopitalised several times and I had neither time nor capacity for personal administration. Over the next couple of years I lost job, income, home and marriage. I was simply unable to face the mountain of correspondence those crises generated. Unless the address was handwritten, I didn’t open it, and sometimes not then. Being bipolar, one of my problems in depressive periods has always been a terror – and I use the word carefully – of opening mail. Then I moved into a tiny flat with nowhere anyway to file anything.

The upshot is that 90% of seven years of correspondence lay in almost thirty cardboard boxes, perhaps a third of it unopened. Much of it is indeed very unpleasant. To give just the example of life insurance policies, 27 different letters saying direct debit payments were missed, and subsequent letters detailing the cancellation of these policies. Plus matching letters from the bank detailing payments not made and fines imposed for “administration”. 17 letters from British Gas threatening disconnection, 11 from Thames Water. 54 letters from debt collection agencies threatening court action. 62 letters from the Inland Revenue, who pursue me with a zeal they never display about Lord Ashcroft or David Mills.

Then there are the 48 solicitors’ letters about the divorce, the letters from the Foreign Office about my sacking, the letters from the Treasury solicitors trying to stop publication of Murder in Samarkand…

You will have gathered that, my life being very much together again, and finally having some filing cabinets and somewhere to put them, I have spent the last week ploughing through the whole lot, sorting it and chucking or filing it as appropriate. I shut myself off from the world and got down to it. It has been tough, as of course it evokes starkly some very, very hard times and difficult emotions.

There is of course also stuff which brings a warm glow. Memories of Nadira’s support in times of despair, little bits and pieces belonging to my children. The loving emotions are the most disabling of all.

Anyway, good news is I am almost finished. It will be a huge weight off my mind.

Most cheering of all were the over 400 letters of support, mostly from complete strangers, many of whom outlined their own experience of injustice and persecution. Many real apologies to the large majority, to whom I did not reply. They have all now been read.

Back to blogging by the weekend, I hope.

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CIA Attacked French Civilians with LSD

For all those nutters who cry “Conspiracy theory” whenever it is stated that the CIA have ever done anything wrong, here is a story from that impeccably conservative source, the Daily Telegraph:

A 50-year mystery over the ‘cursed bread’ of Pont-Saint-Esprit, which left residents suffering hallucinations, has been solved after a writer discovered the US had spiked the bread with LSD as part of an experiment.

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Camberley Mosque

As someone who devotes much energy to battling Islamophobia, it is important equally to oppose false cries of Islamophobia whenever any Muslim group is thwarted. Otherwise “Islamophobic” will become a meaningless pejorative just as “Anti-semitic” is thrown at any rational critic of Israel.

Having looked at the dispute over Camberley Mosque, I feel that it is the Bengali community which is acting with gross insensitivity. They wish to pull down a listed Victorian building to build a mosque. I would oppose that were the proposed replacement a mosque, synagogue, church or Tesco.

The old scholl has in fact been in use for many years as an Islamic centre. There is no threat to that. It is demolition of the building which is objected to.

It strikes me that the very large and sturdy building looks ideal for sympathetic internal conversion to make it a better mosque. Failing that, the community can do what anybody else has to do whose needs have outgrown a listed building, and move the mosque elsewhere.

I encountered a similar arrogance and insensitivity from some members of the Muslim community while campaigning on Whalley Range in Blackburn, when I was faced with a demand that a pub close to a mosque be closed down. I replied that the pub had been there for over a hundred years before the mosque.

The deliberate spread of fear and hatred of Muslims by politicians, media and security services is a real problem. But what we must insist is that Muslims are treated both no worse and no better than anybody else.

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Guardian on Manningham Buller

There is a good article in the Guardian by Vikram Dodd on Eliza Manningham Buller’s professed ignorance. Some kind people in the comments thread have pointed out that my testimony and documentary evidence directly contradicts Manningham Buller.

Some commenters then bemoaned the fact that the Guardian no longer invites me to write on these issues, which provoked a response from Matt Seaton of the Guardian that it is I who refuses to write for them. That is untrue and I have posted this comment, which I repeat here as the dreaded moderators will probably get it.

It is certainly true that I formally warned in a diplomatic telegram as early as November 2002 that we were receiving intelligence from torture from the CIA, and this was illegal. I was called back to a meeting in March 2003 to be told it was legal and policy, as decided by Jack Straw. Documents on my webiste.

Matt, for the record I should be delighted to write for Guardian cif. Sadly the Michael White Jack Straw fan club at the Guardian have blackballed me – as I am sure you know.

I remain attracted to the idea – which I believe genuinely ought to work – of taking the trustees of the C P Scott trust to court for acting ultra vires. The trust stipulates that the Guardian must support liberal values. But New Labour have been the most illiberal government since Castlereagh, and the Guardian has cheerled for them. It would be a wonderful opportunity for a discussion in a court of law of New Labour’s attacks on civil liberties and the legality of New Labour’s wars.

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